Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Great Reviews

Earlier today, someone forwarded me this very blunt, to the point review of the new Nine Inch Nails record. Brilliant. It reminded me of a recent pitchfork review of the latest Jet album. The entire review was simply "NSFW".

Sometimes I'll be reading an article in MOJO magazine, and it's so colorful, that I'll find myself wanting to buy a record by some band I never even liked in the first place! Seriously. I could care less about Dexy's Midnight Runners.

Reading a great, passionate, well-written review can totally move me. It can remind me why I love music in the first place. Reading Lester Bangs writing about TB Sheets can bring a tear to your eye. With that said, encapsulating all your thoughts about a record in a mere sentence is surely a gift as well.

Who can forget the scene in Spinal Tap, where the band is read their reviews and given a chance to respond? Sure it's made up, but can there be a more on the nose review for the album "Shark Sandwich" than "Shit Sandwich"? (Actually the review of "Intravenus de Milo" was pretty damn good: "The musical growth rate of the band cannot even be charted---they are treading water in a sea of retarded sexuality and bad poetry."

One of my all-time favorite reviews was in a local zine - probably about 15 years ago. The band Tender Fury had just released an album (horribly) called "If Anger Were Soul, I'd Be James Brown". The review: "If shit were money, Tender Fury would be rich."

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Random Ticket Stub of the Week

I have a huge jar full of ticketstubs, and I thought every week I would just grab a random one, and write about my memories. This week, I picked KISS at the Luisiana Superdome. Tuesday, July 19, 1996. The ticket price was $28.50.

Over the last several years, I've had the opportunity to see a lot of bands that I never thought I'd see again. A lot of them I'd seen the first time around, and was happy to dive into the nostaligia of it all - The Pixies; Janes Addiction; Dinosaur Jr. Others I was excited to see for the first time, and genuinely blown away by how vital and inspiring their performances could be - The Stooges; Television; Mission of Burma; Rocket From The Tombs.

I was a huge KISS fan growing up, and was fortunate enough to see them a handful of times as a kid. (When I was too young to realize that songs like "Rocket Ride" had more than one meaning.) When the original lineup finally reunited (with makeup!!!) I immediately looked up the tour dates to figure out the first possible moment that I could see them. As it turned out, very early in the tour, they were gonna be in New Orleans - one of my favorite cities.

On the plane ride to the Big Easy, I read an article about the reunion. In the article, they asked Peter Criss what was the highlight of his entire Kiss expereince. He answered "playing Anaheim Stadium in 1976". Because that's when he realized they'd made it big.

Now, the night before the concert, I happened to be in a bar, and Peter Criss walked in. I went up to him and said something smooth, like "Dude, you fuckin' rock." But then I added that I was in the audience at Anaheim stadium in 1976. "Of course," I told him, "I was just a kid." "When you were just a kid?" he asked. "What's your point? Are you trying to tell me I'm old?" Taken aback by his antagonistic tone, I thought for a second, then answered, "Well compared to me, you are very old."

The night of the concert, I was out of my mind. I felt like a kid again. Because of the makeup, the band looked the same as they ever did. The stage show benefitted from modern technology, and was phenomenal. The band played tighter, and sounded better than they ever did. I screamed myself hoarse as they roared through any fan's dream setlist.

I saw them probably ten more times over the next couple years, but nothing came close to the excitement I felt that first night.

Monday, July 31, 2006

Taco Fiesta - The Lost Mixtape Vol. One

The idea behind Radio Blueman was to produce an imaginary radio broadcast. I figured whenever I was inspired, I could write about stuff, and maybe post a few songs. I thought it would be like putting together a weekly mixtape.

To me, the mixtape was always much more than just a random collection of songs. I labored over the song selections. There was so much to consider. The running order, the vibe. The finished product was a vehicle of personal expression. Sometimes, it was a love letter.

Thurston Moore put together a great book on the subject last year. There is also a great passage on mixtapes in Nick Hornby's High Fidelity...

So, anyway, here's the reason I've been babbling on and on about mixtapes. We had a nice little shindig here Saturday night. Tacos, tequila, and good music. Getting ready for the party, I remembered that I'd made a bunch of mixed cds for another party a few years ago, and sought them out. It turns out that I'd made 11 full discs of music. The tracklistings are pretty arbitrary. I remember I just kept grabbing stuff from my collection and sticking on songs that moved me at the moment. Part of the idea was to not be too self-conscious or second guess anything.

Here is the tracklisting for discs one and two:

Disc One:

Bam Thwok - The Pixies
Next Big Thing - The Dictators
Queen Bitch - David Bowie
Chinese Rocks - The Heartbreakers
Friction - Television
Judy Is A Punk - The Ramones
Sexy MF - Prince
Sonic Reducer - Dead Boys
Monday - The Jam
Hang On To Yourself - David Bowie
Highway To Hell - ACDC
Color Me Impressed - The Replacements
Antmusic - Adam & The Ants
Amoeba - The Adolescents
Rats In The Cellar - Aerosmith
You Would If You Loved Me - Biblical Proof of UFOs
Sexy Bride - Air
Tipp City - The Amps
You Stupid Asshole - Angry Samoans
Dance This Mess Around - B52's
Down By The Water - PJ Harvey
Reignition - Bad Brains
Sabotage - Beastie Boys

Disc Two:

She Said - The Beatles
Devil's Haircut - Beck
Back of a Car - Big Star
New Radio - Bikini Kill
Playground Twist - Siouxsie & The Banshees
Little Fury - The Breeders
Rise Above - Black Flag
Passive Agressive - Biblical Proof of UFOs
Sex & Drugs & Rock 'N Roll - Ian Dury & The Blockheads
Another Girl, Another Planet - The Only Ones
100% - Sonic Youth
Rapture - Blondie
Picturebook - The Kinks
Girls and Boys - Blur
No Aloha - The Breeders
Why Can't I Touch It? - The Buzzcocks
Where Diamonds Are Halos - Sugar
12xU - The Subdebs
No More Mr. Nice Guy - Alice Cooper
I Am The Cosmos - Chris Bell
This Is Radio Clash - The Clash
Naked - Clawhammer
Breaking Glass - David Bowie

By the end of the evening, the party actually divided up into 2 groups... People singing karaoke in the back room, and a handful of us singing songs and playing instruments in the living room. We managed to mangle dozens of tunes, including several Big Star, Bowie, Kinks, and Who songs. You haven't lived until you've heard a guitar, mandolin, piano version of Roky Erickson's "Bloody Hammer" performed by loud, drunk people who can't remember any of the lyrics.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

The Top 100,000 Records Of All Time!


Joyce - eponymous

Just kiding, I don't have time to compile a list like this, but if anyone wants to run with it, feel free.

Really, it won't be long before some magazine puts together a list like that. Hell, people love lists. Maybe VH1 can do a weekend countdown. "Comedians" can chime in with witty "off the cuff' comments. "When I want to hear some kick-ass rock with great flute solos, Jethro Tull is definitely in my top 3."

The new issue of UNCUT features "The 100 Greatest Debut Albums" You can tell it's a British magazine, because The Stone Roses are really high up there. I give 'em props for putting Television at #2.

Here are the Top #25:

25. The Mothers Of Invention - Freak Out!
24. Big Star - #1 Record
23. The Flying Burrito Brothers - The Gilded Palace Of Sin
22. R.E.M. - Murmur
21. The Smiths - The Smiths
20. The Specials - The Specials
19. The Sex Pistols - Never Mind The Bollocks...
18. Patti Smith - Horses
17. The Beatles - Please Please Me
16. New York Dolls - New York Dolls
15. The Rolling Stones - The Rolling Stones
14. Pink Floyd - The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn
13. The Byrds - Mr Tambourine Man
12. Ramones - Ramones
11. The Who - My Generation

10. The Stooges - The Stooges
9. Roxy Music - Roxy Music
8. Joy Division - Unknown Pleasures
7. Led Zeppelin - Led Zeppelin
6. The Clash - The Clash
5. The Band - Music From Big Pink
4. The Stone Roses - The Stone Roses
3. The Jimi Hendrix Experience - Are You Experienced
2. Televsion - Marquee Moon
1. The Velvet Underground & Nico - The Velvet Underground & Nico

You can read the whole list here:

Rolling Stone followed up their own web article on the Best Debut Albums with this list:

"The Best Second Albums Of All Time"

11. Public Enemy - It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back
10. Talking Heads - More Songs About Buildings and Food
9. Eminem - The Marshall Mathers LP
8. Blondie - Parallel Lines
7. Oasis - What’s the Story Morning Glory
6. Radiohead - The Bends
5. Bruce Springsteen - The Wild, The Innocent, The E Street Shuffle
4. Led Zeppelin - II
3. Elvis Costello - This Year’s Model
2. The Stooges - Fun House
1. Nirvana - Nevermind

There are a few things I find interesting about this list.

First of all, why did they decide to list eleven albums? They couldn't think of 9 more to make it a top 20? They couldn't agree on one to eliminate to make it a clean Top Ten?

I also find it interesting that more than half of the artists listed here also appear on Uncut's Best Debut List. Rolling Stone's criteria that their list feature albums that show significant improvement from the artist's debut. To me, this implies that the artist's first records either aren't very good, or don't tip just how great these artists are going to become. I suppose you could make a case for putting The Stooges, or Elvis Costello on both lists. But, in most cases, I would think that being included on one list would preclude you from appearing on the other.

You can read the Rolling Stone list and the reader's responses here:

So, naturally, these lists beg the question...

What are the best Third Albums of All Time?!

Now, I've always maintained that an artist's third release was really the signpost of where the band was headed, and would provide great insight into whether or not they were the real deal.
Of course, there are always exceptions, but think about it... Bands might spend years and years writing songs and honing their sound before they release that first record. Are they out of ideas by the time they get to the third record? I think the greatest bands of all time always have remarkable third albums. A lot of them have career-defining third records.

Here are some of my favorite Third Albums:

The Clash - London Calling
Radiohead - OK Computer
Big Star - Big Star's Third/Sister Lovers
Neil Young - After The Gold Rush
Patti Smith - Radio Ethiopia
Minutemen - Buzz Or Howl Under The Influence Of Heat
X - Under The Big Black Sun
Public Enemy - Fear of a Black Planet
Metallica - Master of Puppets
The Jam - All Mod Cons

The Pixies - Doolittle
Nirvana - In Utero
The Ramones - Rocket To Russia
The Who - Sell Out
PJ Harvey - To Bring You My Love
David Bowie - The Man Who Sold The World
Wilco - Yankee Hotel Foxtrot
The Stooges - Raw Power
Alex Chilton - Like Flies On Sherbert
The Velvet Underground - The Velvet Underground

...and of course who can forget Joyce's Third Album!

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

"Talkin' about it and bein' it are two different things."

- Easy Rider

"You say we're manufactured / to that we all agree / so make a choice, and we'll rejoice in never being free."

- Head

On the nation's birthday I randomly chose a double feature of "Easy Rider" and the Monkees flick "Head". I was surprised to discover that, watched back to back, the films complement each other well.

In a lot of ways, both are about a counterculture at odds with the state of the good 'ol US of A.

Whether it's Peter Fonda, draped in American flags, travelling the open road, chasing down the American dream (in this case New Orleans Mardi Gras), or a near death Mickey Dolenz happening upon a Coke machine in the middle of the desert, both films are clearly commenting on the vibe of their times.

Both are clearly filtered through the eye of disillusionment with the government and the war; and both are hyperaware of the increasing tensions between the old guard and The Youth. In "Easy Rider", the heroes are brutally murdered by some intolerant good 'ol boys. In Mickey's case, the Coke machine turns out to be empty. You can interpret the symbolism.

Oddly enough, in the case of the Monkees, the meanings in their film struck me as multi-layered and complex. The Coke machine can represent the emptiness beneath the surface in modern America or it can reflect the lack of substance beneath the manufactured facade of The Monkees.

In fact, whether it's turning into mannequins, or being trapped in a black box taking orders, the bulk of "Head" is focused on deconstructing the mythology of the Monkees as contrived puppets. Things are constantly not what they seem. A sassy waitress is revealed to be a balding man. Footage of girls screaming at a concert is interspersed with footage of war victims. In the middle of one scene, the group declares it can't go on and walks off the set. Over the course of the film, the carefully cultivated personality of each band member is explored and destroyed - from Davy Jones, ladies man, to Peter Tork, "the dumb one". (The band actually has an argument about which of them is the dumb one.)

Without thinking too hard, there are a few other nice moments of synergy between the two films. When the Monkees walk off the set in the scene I mentioned earlier, they walk past Head screenwriter Jack Nicholson and his Easy Rider co-star Dennis Hopper! Jack Nicholson puts on a gold football helmet instead of a motorcycle helmet to go riding. One of the Monkees puts on a gold football helmet instead of a soldier's helmet to go fight in the war. Toni Basil choreographed and appears in both. Jimi Hendrix opened for the Monkees, and there's a Hendrix song in Easy Rider... Okay that last one is stretching it.

The truth is, though, that both films rely heavily on great sountracks to sell their message.

As soon as I figure out how to do it, I'll post a few MP3s here to prove my point.

Holy shit. I just wrote a lot about the Monkees.