Saturday, October 31, 2009

Playlist: Halloween, part 2

[Playlist is an attempt to distill my favorite artists to 80-minute compilations. If someone asked me to burn them a mix of the bands featured here, I would give them this collection. This week, Picasso Blue will be running Halloween-centric playlists. Here's the final Halloween playlist, courtesy of contributing writer Michelle Byrne.]

Up until a few years ago, All Hallow’s Eve was my favorite holiday. As a child, I dressed up in costumes mostly created by my father. As a teen and (young) adult, I have designed my own costumes. About four years ago, after a divorce, a friendship gone awry, and a general crumbling of my (young) adult life, Halloween sucked. I spent way too much money on a Corpse Bride costume one year, not because I hated the movie like everyone else who mocked my costume, but due to the fact that I got home too late from work to give out candy to the spoiled rich brats in my neighborhood (who end their trick-or-treat festivities at 6:30 p.m.) and no one was in the mood to trick-or-treat. I had a quarter-life crisis, and I stood in the street, alone, looking like an ass, and realized that I was too old for trick-or-treating.

Last year, I tried to change my attitude, but again I felt out of place. I created my own (AWESOME!) Miss Piggy costume to stand around at a party that everyone my age (or younger) was clearly having so much fun at and feel awkward. I don’t much like crowds, loud noises, and being around drunk people. I knew I should be having fun, but I was just exhausted from work and ill at ease being social. Again, I am too old to trick-or-treat. And maybe I’m too old for parties (/fun?). I am at that weird in-between stage where I am not a kid but I’m not a mom.

Thus, the only solution was to become a mom. Okay, a fake mom, because I’m not ready for that yet either. Also, it’s still alright to act like a kid sometimes.

This year, I am taking back Halloween. Like my childhood, I asked my dad to design my costume. I am being the child-appropriate Eve, from Wall-E. But, I pretended to be a mom as I decorated the house more than we have in years. And all my family joined in on the decorating, which made me feel like a kid again. Like a mom, I decided to stay home and give out candy to the little kids so I can “ooh” and “ahh” over their adorable costumes. So, I have the costume, the decorations, the age-appropriate role (as candy giver)... then, I realized that I was missing something. We used to have this tape that we set up in our boom box to play Halloween music and creepy sounds. I almost went out to buy another one of these tapes, or CDs (since it is the 2000s now) until I realized that it would be a lot more fun to make my own mix.

Halloween Playlist

1. Tracy Jordan – “Werewolf Bar Mitzvah,” 30 Rock [This song is from my current favorite TV show. It never gets old even though the whole premise is “sweaty.” And the kids probably won’t get it.]

2. Shivaree – “Goodnight Moon,” I Oughtta Give You a Shot in the Head for Making Me Live in This Dump [I love Ambrosia Parsley’s spooky voice, and Quentin Tarantino even uses “Goodnight Moon” in Kill Bill: Volume 2 because its so scary.]

3. Cat Power – “Cross Bones Style,” Moon Pix

4. Mazzy Star – “Ghost Highway,” She Hangs Brightly [It has the word “Ghost” in the title.]

5. The Detroit Cobras – “Midnight Blues,” Mink, Rat or Cobra [Detroit Cobras songs use the surf rock sound common in most Halloween songs.]

6. The Bird And The Bee – “Witch,” Ray Guns are Not Just the Future [This song is the word “Witch.”]

7. Say Hi To Your Mom – “Sad, But Endearingly So,” Impeccable Blahs [This song is about vampires! This whole album is, which makes it completely awesome.]

8. Bloc Party – “Hunting For Witches,” A Weekend in the City [Witch[es]!!!!]

9. Metric – “Monster Hospital,” Live It Out

10. Elliot Goldenthal – “A Batman Overture,” Batman and Robin [One must have Batman.]

11. The Kills – “Black Balloon,” Midnight Boom

12. PJ Harvey – “The Devil,” White Chalk

13. Band Of Horses – “Is There A Ghost,” Cease to Begin [This song has the word “Ghost” in it.]

14. Eels – “My Beloved Monster,” Beautiful Freak [Monster.]

15. Smashing Pumpkins – “We Only Come Out At Night,” Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness [This song is about bats.]

16. The Cranberries – “Zombie,” No Need to Argue [“Zo-om-bie!”]

17. Prevail – “Michael Jackson Sounds Better On Vinyl,” Pandamonium [The thunderstorm at the beginning sounds spooky. But, according to small children who are related to me, Scott Muir (vocalist) sounds like a “Grizzly Bear”, which is really scary.]

18. Karen O & Squeak E. Clean - “Hello Tommorrow” [This is a perfect end to every mix, particularly one about Halloween, because Karen O sings, “The light are golden, off,” signifying the end or your death.]

Friday, October 30, 2009

Playlist: Halloween, part 1

[Playlist is an attempt to distill my favorite artists to 80-minute compilations. If someone asked me to burn them a mix of the bands featured here, I would give them this collection. This week, Picasso Blue will be running Halloween-centric playlists. Here's one of two playlists meant for the Devil's Day of Candy 2009.]

Gosh dang it all I loves me some Halloween. A youth spent overindulging in candy (and throwing up on two consecutive Nov. 1s) was fairly delicious. Minus the vomit part. That was gross. High school found me skipping on the outdoor activities due to sickness/anti-social tendencies. I had gotten used to staying in and watching horror movies by myself by the time college kicked in, but my roommates had different ideas. Like trick-or-treating La Salle University's campus (which was more fruitful than you would think). I was going through some old photos of costumes passed, and I think the surest sign that my college years kicked ass is that I honestly don't know if any of these photos are from Halloween. Like this:

FUN FACT: Nicholas Charles Elmer, of world-renown, can kill a man in three power bombs or less.

This year, my girlfriend are trying to find a balance for Halloween: Give out candy to the youngins and watch a horror flick or two, then hit up a party for booze. Also, hopefully candy. Milky Ways are always appreciated, ya'll.

Why do I love Halloween? Is it because it's an excuse to listen to The Cure's complete discography? Or a chance to watch scary movies? Or perhaps because it's a celebration of all the things I thought were cool as a kid, namely vampires and werewolves and witches and S-A-T-A-N? I love holidays - Thanksgiving is consistently my favorite family gathering - but Halloween is back on top for me. Hey, any excuse to dress like a ghostbuster and shake it to The Head on the Door is welcome.

1. The Simpsons - "George Caldron1," The Simpsons [I may have sprinkled this list with my favorite horror quotes.]
2. Michael Jackson - "Thriller," Thriller [Obvious? Yes, but in today's economy, somebody had to do it. And the video is still totes awesome.]
3. Tracy Jordan - "Werewolf Bar Mitzvah," 30 Rock [My goal is for my kids to grow up thinking this is a real, totally legit song. Which it is.]
4. "Faaaaather, come to freeeeeeeedoommmm," Prince of Darkness
5. Electric Six - "Devil Nights," Senor Smoke
6. Metric - "Monster Hospital," Live It Out
7. M83 - "Graveyard Girl," Saturdays = Youth
8. Nine Inch Nails - "Dead Souls," The Crow [One of two songs ripped from das Crow.]
9. Torgo - "I am Torgo. I take care of the place while the master is away," Manos: The Hands of Fate
10. Rob Zombie - "Dragula," Past, Present & Future
11. Face to Face - "The Devil You Know (God is a Man)," Ignorance is Bliss
12. The Mountain Goats - "Satanic Messiah," Satanic Messiah
13.PJ Harvey - "The Devil," White Chalk
14. Jason Segel - "Dracula's Lament," Forgetting Sarah Marshall [Soundtrack was such a good buy.]
15. Bela Lugosi - "The children of the night. What music they make...!", Dracula
16. The Cure - "Burn," The Crow
17. Bruno Coulais - "End Credits," Coraline
18. Creedence Clearwater Revival - "I Put a Spell On You," Chronicle, Vol. 1
19. Pearl Jam - "Satan's Bed," Vitalogy
20. Grandpa Simpson - "That doll is evil!", The Simpsons
21. X - "Devil Doll," More Fun in the New World
22. Flogging Molly - "Devil's Dance Floor," Swagger
23. Devils Brigade - "Vampire Girl," Give 'Em the Boot, Vol. 3
24. "They're coming to get your, Barbara," Night of the Living Dead
25. Rancid - "Ghost Band," Indestructible [If you told me back in 2003 that this was going to be one of the Rancid songs I sang the most, I would have called you a liar. But bad Rancid is sometimes just as good as good Rancid.]
26. Bouncing Souls - "Candy," The Good, The Bad, and The Argyle
27. AFI - "Halloween," All Hallows Ep
28. Leftover Crack - "Interlude," Mediocre Generica
29. Antsy Pants - "Vampire," Juno
30. The Simpsons - "More George Caldron jokes" [It all ties together!]

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Vinyl Vednesday 10/28

[Vinyl Vednesday is a weekly feature about three favorite vinyl finds. It’s not meant to be a dick-measuring contest, but it kinda is. This week’s installment focuses on spoOoOoky releases, in honor of our Lord Satan and the coming of All Hallow’s Eve. E-mail with your own big finds!]

Records: The Cure’s Pornography (1982) on black, The Mountain Goats’ Satanic Messiah double seven-inch (2008) on black, and AFI’s Decemberunderground seven-inch box set (2006) on clear.

Place of Purchase: Pornography was snatched up at Siren Records. Satanic Messiah was a tour-only, self-released record that I picked up when I saw the band play with Kaki King on “The Last Happy Night of Your Life” tour. Decemberunderground was a Hot Topic exclusive.

Quality: All three of these albums have gotten play this month, with special attention given to Pornography. With 13 full-lengths and counting, I can never truly decide what my favorite Cure release is, although Pornography is always near the top. It’s arguably their darkest and most nihilistic release, and it’s an album I generally associate with addiction. Maybe it’s because the first time I heard it was around the time my cousin overdosed. I stayed up one night playing it over and over on a walkman while I sat on my roof, completely freaked out. As the sky burned from black to orange, I finally packed it in, but I’ll always remember that night.

Satanic Messiah, by contrast, has no choice but to carry a happier story. See, I’m a bit of a Mountain Goats fanatic, so when the band followed up their seminal work Heretic Pride with Satanic Messiah just a few months later, I squealed with joy. What’s more, they gave the record away for free, although donations were/are certainly welcome. I was lucky to get a physical release on tour, though, as the record is extremely shiny. SO. SHINY. Like this year’s The Life of the World to Come, Satanic Messiah is an understated piano-based collection. It features four tasty tunes, one of which is about the wonderful coming of the Antichrist, even though you could mistake it for being about Jesus, which is part of the reason why the song is so effective.

Ah, but the most joyful of noises are reserved for Decemberunderground. Oh sure, the lyrics talk about bleeding and suicide and stuff. But the music made the album into a gothic/glam rock/techno party. My roommate Eric and I danced a fit to this record quite thoroughly in 2006. I listened to it again last week in honor of the Morningstar, and I fell in love with it all over again. “Miss Murder” totally cops a feel off of Depeche Mode’s “Personal Jesus,” and I love it all the more for it. Plus, the box set comes with a sweet bonus track, “Fallen Like the Sky,” and a poster.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Mean Jeans - 'Are You Serious'

Ramones Ramones Mean Jeans Ramones new album Are You Serious Ramones pop punk Ramones. The trio (Ramones!!!) tears through 13 raucous tunes in 25 minutes (’mones), calling to mind bands like Teenage Bottlerocket and Screeching Weasel (by which I mean, the Ramones). With song titles like “Lets Pogo B4 U Gogo” and “Total Creep,” Mean Jeans are keeping Ramones-core alive.

While the Oregon act clearly goes out of its way to recall Joey’s vocals and Dee Dee’s bass lines (and count-offs), there are subtle differences, like guitar solos. “Slime Time” even segues into a totally random electronic slow jam. Closing track “Lets Pogo B4 U Gogo” clocks in at over four minutes in length, although it’s one of only two songs that exceed the 2:30 mark.

OK, OK, so these are small stretches. Are You Serious is a total Rocket to Russia tribute album. But it’s so got-damned fun. Here’s a band that thrashes through their instruments as quickly as possible while still executing stellar vocals. Give me a fast beat and a couple dozen “whoa-oh”s anytime. Songs like “Space Trash” and opener “Born on a Saturday Night” rip and roar to life; they cannot be denied.

Of course, it’s these same points that I triumph that some might loathe. Frontman Billy Jeans really does try to do a Joey Ramone impersonation, so much so that I wonder if I dig this album because it’s catchy, or because it reminds me of one of my favorite bands. The songs aren’t terribly deep – drinking, drugs, comics, and the occasional lady friend are the dominant topics. And, depending on which side of the fun spectrum you fall under, “Lets Pogo B4 U Gogo” is either pandering or deliciously cheesy.

But darn it all, these songs are glorious. “I’m a no brainer,” the band sings on the appropriately titled “No Brainer.” It’s true. With tunes this blistering, joyous, and awesome, I don’t have to think much about throwing on some Mean Jeans.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Playlist: The Dresden Dolls

[Playlist is an attempt to distill my favorite artists to 80-minute compilations. If someone asked me to burn them a mix of the bands featured here, I would give them this collection. This week, Picasso Blue will be running Halloween-centric playlists, starting today with The Dresden Dolls.]

Despite having only two studio albums to their credit, the self-described "punk rock cabaret" duo Dresden Dolls (pianist/lead singer Amanda Palmer and drummer/guitarist/back-up vocalist Brian Viglione) has generated tons of odds 'n' ends in their years together. Though the group is currently on hiatus (and pursuing bands that basically fulfill the exact same sonic style. Just sayin'), I'm hoping they reunite soon. As much as I love their self-titled record, I love them live even more. I've seen the band in concert five times, and each set was different, with the group pulling out rarities, covers, performance pieces, and the occasional crowd interaction trick each time. To that end, I've tossed in a couple of covers and live takes, in addition to choice cuts from The Dresden Dolls and Yes, Virginia....

In truth, this playlist was both a joy and a pain to make. See, the Dolls have a host of non-album tracks I tried to cram in. Their output has also been a little spotty, as Yes, Virginia... and its outtakes companion No, Virginia... have plenty of glaring weak spots. Palmer's lyrics occupy a hyperspecific, personal level, and her word choices sometimes go too crass for my taste. But when she's on, like on the epic tracks "Half Jack" and "Delilah," Palmer is an electrifying force.

There's still plenty of stuff I wanted to include, as I had to cut some picks from the live album A is for Accident after I realized I had accidentally left off "Delilah." And the band's cover of PJ Harvey's "Rid of Me" is so kickass that I added and subtracted it from this list several times. Finally, the band's biggest hit, "Coin-Operated Boy," got cut because, honestly, I'm sick of that song. But here's what I was able to fit in: 16 songs, some original and some not, that comprise the Dolls' patented blend gothic emotion, rock 'n' roll abandon, and Rocky Horror Picture Show theatrics.

[EDIT: So, I was listening to my Dresden Dolls discography over the weekend and realized I left off two crucial cuts. So, I'm removing the U2 cover in favor of "Bad Habit" and "Sorry Bunch."]

How Fast This Plane Can Go
1. "Good Day," The Dresden Dolls
2. "Girl Anarchonism," The Dresden Dolls [Same two-hit combo as the original album. You just don't fuck with certain things.]
3. "Dirty Business," Yes, Virginia...
4. "Half Jack," The Dresden Dolls
5. "A Night at the Roses," "Good Day" seven-inch [One of my favorite Dolls tunes. It's a shame it was relegated as a download-only bonus track for the rarities comp.]
6. "The Jeep Song," The Dresden Dolls
7. "Shores of California," Yes, Virginia...
8. "Pretty in Pink," High School Reunion - A Tribute to Those Great 80's Films! [Psychedlic Furs comp. Also available on No, Virginia...]
9. "Backstabber," Yes, Virginia...
10. "Modern Moonlight," Yes, Virginia...
11. "Dear Jenny," No, Virginia...
12. "Bad Habbit," The Dresden Dolls
13. "Sorry Bunch," No, Virginia...
14. "Delilah," Yes, Virginia...
15. "Ballad of a Teenage Queen," All Aboard: A Tribute To Johnny Cash [Johnny Cash cover with Franz Nicolay]
16. "Truce," The Dresden Dolls
17. "Such Great Heights," live bootleg [I spent about a year listening to this song every night before going to bed. It was also the sountrack to my first kiss with my girlfriend. So, thanks, Amanda.]

Japanther - 'Tut Tut, Now Shake Ya Butt'

You might call Japanther a fuzzy Brooklyn bass-n-drums hipster combo, but I call it good ol’ fashioned pop punk. Underneath that NYC cool are simple, fun songs (like The Ramones!). Some of the tracks on the album Tut Tut, Now Shake Ya Butt are broken up by humorous samples (like Dillinger Four!). It’s a catchy collection of rapid fire lo-fi jams (like The Dead Milkmen!). Just skip the lengthy spoken word pieces by Penny Rimbaud of Crass ’cause they’re just not fun or funny (unlike Anti-Flag’s “This is Not a Crass Song!”).

That’s right, Rimbaud, who also execute produced Tut Tut, dominates over half of the record’s running time, emceeing the intro and outro, as well as two really boring, really long spoken word tracks about “huh dja buh huh” and “Who shot who in the what now?”. This guy can talk. Goodness gracious, he can just talk and talk on and on about any little thing in a great cavalcade perhaps the greatest cavalcade like it could literally bury you in an avalanche of pronouns and verbs and tenses that get confused about the truth for days without commas to guide them like a Shepard of Punctuation and you think if you could sleep yes sleeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee-… you get the idea. Quite the ranter, he is. Rimbaud’s distracting presence makes the album more of a split than a true full-length, as listeners actually only get seven Japanther jams that add up to about 15 minutes (of a 37-minute running time).

But man are they catchy, skuzzed out two-piece tunes. Opening salvo “Um Like Your Smile is Totally Ruling Me Right Now” has a loose, rollicking quality that is second only to its successor, “Bumpin’ Rap Tapes.” That baby is one of the premiere love songs of the decade, asking the listener to call the band up any hour of the day, even if he or she “feel[s] like a creepy doll,” so long as they tell Japanther those crucial, life-affirming words: “I love you.”

Tut Tut isn’t the best starting point for Japanther (Skuffed Up My Huffy requires way less skipping), but with the right amount of sequencing, it can make for a solid EP.

Barricade - 'Demons'

On their colorful disc Demons, the Pa. hardcore thrashers in Barricade beat and berate for a little less than a half-hour, turning over well-worn tough guy topics like honor, pride, and profanity along the way. Music-wise, it’s a soundtrack for mooks’ spin kicks. It’s pretty brainless, monotonous stuff, although I suppose the band deserves credit for trying to keep the tone as pummeling as possible. If you dig shows where meatballs flail their arms as violently as possible for no discernible reason, then this might serve as your soundtrack for violence.

Still, the band did a good job self-recording, as Demons avoids overprocessing the tunes in favor of a dirtier, thicker sound. The snare sounds muddy in a good way, while the vox come off extra forceful yet still discernible. The result: Demons sounds like a top-notch live record. It just happens to be a record for which I have little patience.

While Demons comes out strong on opening number “Harvey Dent,” its homogenous, all-encompassing crunch leaves little to the imagination. Forget experimentation or variety; this puppy is all about killing time until the breakdowns and two-steps kick in. It’s big on the “us vs. them” story, regaling listeners with tale after tale of egotistical phonies and worthless traitors who keep trying to keep Barricade down. And as they’ll be the first to tell you, they super-duper-aggro-terra-ultra-Crag don’t give a fudge. Only they don’t say fudge. Like, ever. If you think songs that couple the value of pride’s supreme dominance with double-bass kicks sum up your life, then uh, have at it. Just don’t hit me, you hyped-up lil devil.

Friday, October 23, 2009

regarding the new Lawrence Arms.

Soya Milk Zine is streaming two tunes from the upcoming Lawrence Arms seven-inch Buttsweat and Tears. A few thoughts...

-My only real complaint is that these songs end before I'm ready. See, I kind of wish "The Slowest Drink at the Saddest Bar on the Snowiest Day in the Greatest City" lasted forever. Like, I'd wake up and BAM there's another kickass verse. And every time something good happens in my life, the chorus comes around. I WANT THIS SONG TO PLAY WHEN I HOLD MY FIRSTBORN FOR THE FIRST TIME.

-The vocals sound weird. Not bad, but different. Chris McCaughan sounds really clean, but then he always was the prettier singer in the band. Brendan Kelly sounds old/raspier.

-I can't wait for this to drop next Tuesday. Welcome back, guys. Please don't ever leave me again.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

The Rentals - 'The Future'

As the year winds down, so too does the Rentals’ Songs About Time multimedia project. While fans can still expect a few more Films About Weeks installments and plenty more Photographs About Days updates now through December, the music portion of the artistic endeavor concludes with this month’s release of The Future. Part three of a trio of EPs already filled with mellow songs, The Future might be the most subdued, understated Rentals release yet.

It’s also their most electronic. On tracks like “A Rose is a Rose” and “Irrational Thing,” the band adds a stuttering artificial drum rhythm and a children’s chorus to its trademark use of synths, strings, and frontman Matt Sharp’s smooth, soft voice. Despite the EP’s title, it feels awfully retro – think Talk Talk Talk or Naked Eyes, only much, much quieter. “Traces of Our Tears” continues the ’80s flashback before “The Future” gently takes the listener out.

On a certain level, The Future is the worst Rentals release yet. The mini-album lacks any major sticking points – at this point, I’d settle for another “Story of a Thousand Seasons Past,” let alone another “Waiting” or “Getting By.” The Future opts for something murkier, more contemplative. The result is something that elevates ambience over cohesive structure. It’s not bad, but it’s definitely hyperspecific mood music to come down on, which is appropriate enough for fall nights. Still, it seems like an anticlimactic end to the collection. Worse still, it’s come to my attention that the physical release has been pushed back to March 2010. As if I don’t already (kind of) regret my decision to put down $125 for a box set, now I have to wait almost a full year from the original purchase date to even get my hand on this sucker. I thought the Internet was supposed to speed up my access to music?

Higher Giant - 'Al's Moustache'

Just a few months after dropping The First Five, High Giant returns with Al’s Moustache, a four-song sampling of the band’s patented pop-punk stomp. That means more fun a la CIV, Bouncing Souls, and Armalite. Also, the record cover. The cover is fun. Al is all like, “I have a moustache for the fair women, but you sir, shall have only fists! Have at thee!”

Listeners get two songs per side on colored wax (Mine’s translucent orange). The tunes are either about driving (the dream road trip of “See You Later, Chopstick,” the traffic patterns of “Just Go!”), old friendships (the sour “The Bad Investment”), or both (“Union Square” is nostalgic for both old buds and even older rides). It’s a neat little theme, and it gives the band some interesting imagery to work with.

Of course, it helps that the band has some catchy hooks to serve with the lyrics. Frontman Ernie Parada shouts and shreds like the dickens (The dickens!) while Jason Lehrhoff lays down gnarly leads. Underneath it all is drummer Dave Wagenschutz, pounding as only he can. His Set Your Goals-style marching band beat on “The Bad Investment” alone makes that song worth spinning.

Stream it here.

regarding Craig Finn adapting Chuck Klosterman's book.

The Hold Steady's Craig Finn is co-writing a script for a film adaptation of Chuck Klosterman's seminal first work Fargo Rock City with Late Show With David Letterman writer Tom Ruprecht.

Here's why that might be awesome: If Boys and Girls in America is any indication, Finn has a knack for pretty words. Ruprecht in turn brings over a decade of writing experience. They could prolly get this done. And they're adapting Chuck flippin' Klosterman. He's my favorite author and biggest influence on my writing, if only because he gave me the courage to even consider conjugatin' and adjective-slingin' in the first place. And Fargo Rock City is a hilarious book about growing up in a small town (a really, really small, rural town) and feeling isolated and also loving metal. Critics who write about Radiohead are a dime a dozen; only Klosterman writes about something as uncritically acclaimed as '80s pop-metal with such skill and unironic love.

Here's why it might crush my soul: The book doesn't exactly have a central narrative. Oh sure, it's about Klosterman's life, much in the same way his other books like Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs and Killing Yourself to Live are about his life. But all three books are essay collections, snapshots of musical obsession and how that obsession provides a lens for viewing life. That doesn't necessarily translate to a movie, or at least not the one Finn mentions in the interview linked above.

“Seventeen or eighteen is the perfect age for characters in a movie like this, because it’s at that age that you have drivers licenses and a certain amount of independence, but you’re still young enough that you can totally make terrible decisions,” Finn says in the article. “And you’re still young enough that you can have a two-hour argument over whether Motley Crue would beat Guns ‘N Roses in a fight.”

That's cool. Here's where it gets scary: "Heavy metal is kind of a common bond among a group of friends,” Ruprecht says. “It’s the language they speak. But this will also be a universal story of dorky kids trying to be cool.”

The book is about metal. It's also about adolescence, but it's so tied to metal that separating the two would make the story something else entirely. Granted, Klosterman is going to have a certain amount of control over the property, and the first draft isn't even finished anyway, but Ruprecht's quote still has me spooked. Taking the metal out Fargo Rock City defeats the purpose of adapting it in the first place. Please don't let this become another Juno.

Is it fitting that I'm listening to Black Sabbath's Mob Rules as I type this very sentence?

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Vinyl Vednesday 10/21

[Vinyl Vednesday is a new weekly feature about three favorite vinyl finds. It’s not meant to be a dick-measuring contest, but it kinda is. This week's entry comes from Michelle "Killdozer." She is my special lady friend. Also, she is super cute.

Ahem... E-mail with your own big finds!]

Records: The Mountain Goats & Kaki King’s Black Pear Tree EP (2008) on black vinyl, Tom Jones featuring Tori Amos’ “I Wanna Get Back With You” (1994 (P)/1995 (C)) on black vinyl, and a remastered and expanded version of Minus the Bear’s They Make Beer Commercials Like This (2008) on rainbow vinyl.

Place of Purchase: Black Pear Tree EP was purchased on The Mountain Goats and Kaki King’s “The Last Happy Night of Your Life” tour Fri., Nov. 7, 2008 at the TLA in Philadelphia. The “I Wanna Get Back With You” single was a gift from my significant other, Joe Pelone. They Make Beer Commercials Like This was purchased at Repo Records.

Quality: There is absolutely nothing more divine then playing Black Pear Tree EP on your record player on an overcast, cold, and rainy Saturday morning. The vocal quality is impeccable. I love the haunting and sad sounds of the piano, organ, bells, and lesser guitars, which at times echo like you are sitting in a big cold room with John Darnielle. I love the sound of keys being pressed and the organ taking breaths. (I have created my own photograph for the making of “Black Pear Tree.”) Then, when Kaki King plays, really rocking only on “Mosquito Repellant” (still acoustically) I can hear her fingers progressing to each new string. I kind of hope that John Darnielle will use Scott Solter and Baucom Road in Monroe, North Carolina forever. Note: If you dislike TMG, you will still love this EP. And if you dislike Kaki King, as I did, you will still love this EP.

I get excited every time I take They Make Beer Commercials Like This out of its sleeve. I have to admit this is mostly for aesthetic reasons as this album is my least favorite Minus the Bear release. It’s just so damn pretty on rainbow vinyl! I’m not certain the remastering makes this record significantly better, but maybe that’s because I’m spoiled by digitally remastered music often (and by my favorite artists). I can say on track one, “Fine + 2 Points,” I do notice a low end I did not previously hear and still cannot really hear on the digital version of this song. The guitars, electronics, and keyboards still sound very Minus the Bear; that is, they sound generally exquisite. I can appreciate the intricacy of their music more on tracks like “I’m Totally Not Down With Rob’s Alien” and “Pony Up!”. Last, it’s always cool to get a bonus track from an artist you adore.

I could have easily picked the “God” single Joe got me as my favorite single for this list. But, instead I picked Tom Jones’ “I Wanna Get Back With You” featuring Tori Amos because this has a much more interesting story. I knew about the “God” single on vinyl, and thought I knew everything about every one of Tori’s releases (or releases on which Tori is featured. I have two versions of the “Blue Skies” single by BT featuring Tori Amos!). Yet, Joe totally blew my socks off with this one. I had no idea that she sang a song with Tom Jones in ’94 or’95! Honestly, when I listen to this single, I only listen to the Tori Amos track because I think Tom Jones is laughable. It’s kind of a lot of effort to go to when you play just one track from a vinyl album, but totally worth it because it’s so rare and has such meaning for me that Joe would find this for me.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Satellite Tragedy - 'New Beautiful'

Dark. Ethereal. Kind of boring. That’s pretty much how I’d describe New Beautiful, the debut album from Vancouver, Canada’s Satellite Tragedy. The synth-y alt-rock duo is at their best when at their weirdest, which sadly doesn’t come into play until the record’s second half or so. The album’s first half, meanwhile, goes for more traditional rock fare, like on the Nirvana-esque “Ethanol,” which makes Nevermind sound that much better.

Not that I’m going to slag Satellite Tragedy for trying out different ideas. New Beautiful is an eclectic mix with a slightly lacking success ratio. The fanfare of intro track “New Beautiful” is attention-grabbing, but squandered on mild rocker “In My Head Again.” “Inside Your Skin” feels like a more natural approach for the band, opening with a static-y beat and whispered vocals before exploding into a huge chorus. It’s far from great, but it’s promising, even if “Gone” recycles the approach with weaker results.

But things do start to turn around by the 60-second sixth track, “Out of My Mind.” It’s another Nirvana homage with a shade of Big Black, but the punk aggression is executed better. What makes it weird is that the record starts to get interesting after that, but does so by completely ignoring any semblance of adrenaline. “Tonight,” which the band dedicated to Deftones bassist and coma victim Chi Cheng, has a slinking, spacey vibe that envelops the listener, while “SP-117” slowly focuses that ambience. “This Unknown” and “Interference” continue this feeling. As far as I’m concerned, that’s where New Beautiful ends, as the real concluding track, “Goodbye,” is kind of a drip.

Satellite Tragedy’s most successful songs are generally their most lethargic ones, and even that happens too infrequently. I can’t recommend Satellite Tragedy to anyone, but I’m not exactly going to write the group off either. The band could go a few ways, be it more brainless grunge or perhaps some sort of Dntel electronic route, or even into spacier territory. Or hey, there’s always a free form jazz odyssey. With a new album already in the can, Satellite Tragedy might just be getting started. So here I am, ya canuckleheads. Entertain me.

Los Difuntos - s/t

While a bit long at 40 minutes, Los Difuntos’ self-titled album generally comes off as a stirring love letter to Hellcat Records, combining Rancid’s attitude (and vocals) with Tiger Army’s psychobilly stomp. Spanish for “The Deceased,” Los Difuntos don’t reinvent the wheel so much as take it for a joyride, skirting the edges of goth, rockabilly, and punk without overindulging in any one direction.

I wasn’t kidding about the Hellcat love letter, by the way. Check out track eight, “Memories.” Frontman Christian Torres sings, “You’re my inspiration like yours is Strummer.” Later he says, “Well now that I know you and you know me / My music and my main goals are complete.” Given that Rancid Records released the band’s EP Born, Raised and Passed Away… there is no doubt that Torres is singing straight to Rancid mastermind Tim Armstrong. Which is totally cool. That guy wrote “Ruby Soho.”

For further Rancid romance, hit up track two, “Lucy.” Arguably the strongest track on Los Difuntos, “Lucy” features a duet between Torres and Rancid/Operation Ivy/Devils Brigade bassist/vocalist Matt freakin’ Freeman. The song is about a gal who makes a few dozen poor life decisions, so it’s a little weird when Freeman starts singing in the first person about making mistakes. I guess Lucy smokes 10 packs a day. Still, it’s always awesome to hear Freeman on the mic.

Musically, the record bears a bit in common with Tiger Army as well. The only thing missing from intro track “Rise of the Deceased” are the words “Tiger Army never die.” Surf rock jam “Dirge” is a pretty cool showcase of the band’s musical chops, and the use of theremin sounds deliciously spooky.

Lyrically, though, Los Difuntos come off as a little juvenile at times. “Poseur Josh” really takes this Josh guy to task for, oddly enough, liking psychobilly more than punk rock. “You Don’t Know Me” gets weirdly specific about another douche nozzle (Sample lyric: “Kramer look-alike, you got nothing on me”). And I could do without the gang violence of “Born, Raised, Passed Away (In East L.A.),” although I do get a kick out of the accidentally meta line “Trying to survive in this rancid place.”

Still, fans of psychobilly (also Rancid, Rancid, and Transplants. I mean Rancid) should dig Los Difuntos. The tunes are fun overall, although I’d love to see what the band is capable of once they get passed their Rancid worship. Sure, Armstrong still talks up his love of the Clash, but he also had the cojones and skill to out-Sandinista! that band with Life Won’t Wait.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Esprit de Corps - 'Under Constant Influence'

Colorado’s Esprit de Corps’ new-ish EP Under Constant Influence combines Brand New’s vitriol, the Blackout Pact’s freewheeling spirit, and Pistolita’s, uh, simultaneous use of keys and screams. It also comes on hand screened cardboard with black ink, which was awfully nice and/or DIY of them. Esprit de Corps (or the fuckin’ EDC as they like to be called) churns out five emotional hardcore songs in 14 minutes, taking on bitter ex-lovers all along the way. It’s very cathartic, and even a wee bit rocking.

“Mild Herb” starts the rant-fest, with frontman Chris Gardner in full-on nihilist mode, promising a girl two things: 1) “I’m not even here / I’m not even anywhere” and 2) “You’ll never find a boy quite like me / I promise you that.” Dude’s got a decent set of screamin’ pipes; he never goes too Botch-y, opting for a more intelligible, occasionally wounded approach. “Black Gold” adds a slight dance-punk element to the band’s repertoire, with Gardner turn his venom on himself. The music is fine, though Gardner throws too many clich├ęs into the mix (“We crushed our bones for making bread,” “I pray my soul to keep,” etc.). It’s a decent tune, though at best it’s still only the second greatest song called “Black Gold” (Soul Asylum, I still loves you).

“On Conquering” and “Way Too Rowdy” follow the same angsty formula with solid results. At 4:24, “Forget the Titanic, We Sink Faster” feels downright epic compared to the other two-minutes-and-some-change tunes on Under Constant Influence. The song is pretty straightforward: “We’re fucked and this ship is going down.” Gardner sells the lines with great tenacity, especially when he gets to the crux of the matter – it’s not that they’re breaking up so much as his lady promised she loved him. Gardner acknowledges their youth, but it’s not enough when he put all his faith in three words (those words of course being “I tolerate you”). It’s a good ending to a good EP, making Under Constant Influence a worthwhile investment for those who enjoy hardcore that is emotional, maybe even occasionally screamingly so.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Self Made Soul - 'The Future Belongs to Us'

Slick and efficient, Self Made Soul is the ultimate killing machine, by which I mean their workmanlike full-length The Future Belongs to Us churns out vaguely emo, vaguely alt-rock tunes with grim precision. Passably resembling Emery, Mae, Switchfoot, and other, blander bands, Self Made Soul’s songs are calculated to be as safe as possible. Tunes like “The Real You” aim to rock you right down the middle of the road. While there’s nothing truly awful about the record, The Future Belongs to Us is so homogenous that I feel really lame crapping out 400 words about it. Here goes:

The production on The Future Belongs to Us is toothless. Drum sounds come off flat and mechanical, while the guitars and vocals sound overcompressed, even artificial in places. Worse, the band doesn’t even have the cajones to end their songs, opting for the occasional slow fadeout. It’s like the worst of ’80s pop all over again. Whenever the band tries to break out of its safe adult alternative cocoon, like on the spontaneously screamo “Your Favorite Hiding Place,” failure abounds.

But hey, give the band credit for sticking to their sound and concept. The 10 songs that constitute The Future Belongs to Us are arranged like a book – tracks one and 10 are the prologue and epilogue, respectively, while the remaining tracks allegedly fill in eight chapters of… I don’t know, love and the human spirit? To sarcastically quote Org reader Tom_Delonge, “It’s a circular narrative in many ways, where it kind of sums up the human race in a time capsule.”

Self Made Soul is a boring band, a modern day wishy washy soft rock quartet for the Warped Tour set. In some ways, that’s worse than if the band was, say, racist or homophobic, or even just annoying. At least then there would be something to react against, whether it be personally, socially, or artistically. As is, The Future Belongs to Us is a great record to listen to if you want to feel nothing. And I don’t mean that in a “my parents don’t understand me/I want to listen to The Cure’s Pornography and watch the sun come up” way. I mean it in the most literal sense: This music will mean nothing to you. It will not inspire joy. It will not inspire hate. It will, however, inspire nothing.