It's been awhile - sorry. A combination of nothing to say and laziness have kept my thoughts hostage. So where are we?
- The Braves. The GD Braves. Why do I continue to allow this team to blueball me year after year after year? I love Bobby Cox and I'll miss him, but dammit if this team doesn't lift my hopes and dreams only to destroy them with a swift backslap to the face. I'm done. Thank God for...
- The Tide. An absolute magnum force of a program right now, even with the current team's drawbacks. Just four years ago I wondered if we'd ever crawl out of the quicksand pit of mediocrity, and look at us now. Nick Saban is the embodiment of badassery. He has chunks of opposing coaches and dumbass beat reporters in his stool.
- New music is practically dead. I didn't put out a Top 10 list at the end of last year because I couldn't come up with 10 albums I even liked. That being said, Crowded House put out one of their finest works this summer, and I saw a "band" the other night (The Black Keys) that really cranked my tractor. I use quotation marks because it really only consists of two members. The guitar/drums duo trend has really become annoying, but the Keys impressed me with their chops and creativity (plus, the fact that I'm a bass player means that I get offended by any band who doesn't feel the need to have one themselves).
- I'm really sick of dudes wearing the Jason Mraz fedora hats. I really don't understand how anyone can look in the mirror and then walk out of the house wearing one of those things. Just completely dorky.
- Yogurt, yogurt everywhere. One day there's a creamery here and a TCBY there, and now all of a sudden there are Yogurt Labs, Yogurt Mountains and Yogurt Whatevers all over the damn place. When did we as a society become so obsessed with DIY yogurt?
This week marks the 25th anniversary of the release of my personal #1 favorite album of all time - Fables Of The Reconstruction by R.E.M. Wow - 25 years. The summer of 1985 was possibly the darkest period of my life. My parental units were going through a separation, and I had gone away to camp for 6 weeks to be a CIT. I was 15 and already a confused enough kid as it was without throwing in the whole divorce issue. You folks are gonna have to bear with me if you want to get to the end of this post, because it represents what might be the most critical time of my life, albeit not necessarily a happy one.
I knew that Fables was going to be released shortly after my arrival at camp, so I made a buddy promise to record it onto a cassette and mail it to me when it came out (keep in mind that this a long time before downloading music and/or even the advent of CD's). When I finally got my hands on the tape, it never left my Sony Walkman for the rest of the summer. I walked around aimlessly listening to it over and over, mesmerized by the dark and murky sound that I heard (despite this, I did a good enough job for them to ask me back the next summer as a junior counselor). Later on, through interviews with the band, I came to find out that the recording of the album was a dark period for them as well. This certainly came through in the music. R.E.M. had arrived in England to record the album, just a scant few months after coming off the road after 4 years of non-stop touring. Like the band, I felt detached, scared and alone, and Fables either helped or enhanced my mood, depending on the day. Either way, it got me through that summer and many more.
Unlike their previous releases, Fables did not open with a bouncy, upbeat rocker. "Feeling Gravitys Pull" (apostrophe intentionally omitted by the band) was eerie and disjointed, setting the tone for the album with Peter Buck's creepy guitar in the forefront - and topped off by a string quartet, of all things. Next was "Maps And Legends", a brooding, meandering midtempo number that drew inspiration from the legendary GA folk artist, Howard Finster. Where was this album going anyway? Then came the classic one-two punch of "Driver 8" and "Life And How To Live It". "Driver 8" was a quintessential R.E.M. song, complete with minor chords, vivid imagery and "WTF is Michael talking about" lyrics.
Many people have asked me over the years what my favorite song is, and I usually give them a look of disdain, as if they were asking someone to choose their favorite child. But, in all honesty, there's always been one song that I really would have to put above all others, and that is "Life And How To Live It". This song is just it for me. If I had to live the rest of my life with this song looping over and over in my head, I wouldn't complain. The mysterious guitar intro, the melody, the tempo, the lyrics, the background vocals, the looping bass line, the breakdown in the middle, the ending - the whole song struck a chord deep inside of me and has never let go. It is as perfect a song - for me - that has ever been. And, naturally, I had no clue at the time what Michael Stipe was singing about. But, like so many of their other songs, that fact actually worked in my favor, because I interpreted and got exactly what I needed out of that song to apply to what I was feeling and experiencing at the time. I felt, through the few words and phrases I could understand (this was also years before you could just look up lyrics online), that Stipe was speaking to me - that it described a man and his life that had run amok.
"Old Man Kensey" is a dark legend intertwined with an eerie rhythm track. The next song, which kicked off Side 2, came out of left field. At first listen, "Can't Get There From Here" became the band's first "HUH?" song. Here we find R.E.M. gettin' down with some Memphis soul - a coulda/shoulda been hit. "Green Grow The Rushes" is a beautiful song with one of Peter Buck's signature two note guitar melodies (a la "7 Chinese Bros." and "Letter Never Sent" off of Reckoning"). It also contains another signature bit: Michael Stipes "la la la's" leading into a what is best described as a "hanging from the mic for dear life" vocal plea of desperation at the end, which was fairly common back then.
From here, things get interesting. "Kohoutek" is quite a confusing song to listen to without staring at a lyric sheet, as Stipe's vocals are buried deeper in the track than they had ever been before or since. The most murky, dark and mysterious tune on the album, "Kohoutek" causes significant brain swell, especially when listened to in the dark. Next is an almost punk song, at least in terms of tempo. "Auctioneer (Another Engine)", moves at a high speed train's pace before suddenly halting at the stop of a dime. But it's fun as hell to listen to.
If the aforementioned "Life And How To Live It" is my #1-a, then the penultimate track, "Good Advices" is my #1-b. Even though the lyrics were written before the band's trek to England for the album's recording, Stipe wrote of a longing sense of home. The few snippets that I could comprehend, I took to heart: "Home is a long way away...I'd like it here if I could leave and see you from a long way away...At the end of the day, when there are no friends, when there are no lovers, who are you going to call for". Ironically, I didn't want to go home at the time - I wanted to stay where I was. To me, camp was home, and I knew IT would feel like a long way away when I got back to my real home.
The final track is "Wendell Gee", a simple, country-rock song that brings an interesting, yet appropriate closure to what would become the most important album of my life. I've probably listened to this album a thousand times through in the 25 years since its release, and it never gets old. Never. But the fact of the matter is that this album probably ranks as the least favorite for most R.E.M. fans, which has always rankled me. As far as I'm concerned, these folks can take their "Losing My Religion" CD singles and go jump off a cliff. Thanks for indulging me, and I beg your pardon for getting WAY too personal.
Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers are on my personal Mount Everest of legendary artists. They've written and recorded some of the greatest songs and albums in rock history, and are still relevant while making music on their own terms. Not many bands have sustained that kind of career. I've seen them so many times over the years that I've lost count, and they've rocked every time. Now they have a new album and new tour, and I was excited to hear about both. Not so much anymore.
First, I bought/downloaded the new album, Mojo. I immediately thought it sounded pretty cool. But then, as the album unfolded, I thought to myself, "where are the songs?" Almost every song is a long, bluesy jam with little or no real substance. Don't get me wrong, the musicianship is outstanding as always. It's just that the songs weren't very good, at least by Petty's standards. And what surprises me are the overwhelmingly positive reviews from critics and fans alike who are hailing Mojo as Petty's album in years. Huh? I read that TP has listened to a lot of blues overr the last couple of years, which has influenced his writing. Fine. I've immersed myself in jazz over the years, but that doesn't mean I'm trying to re-write Steely Dan's Aja. I just don't get it.
Then I got online to check out the set lists from the first few shows of the tour. Along with a handful of new tunes, the set was sprinkled with songs that have now become annoyingly repetitive (I know this because I've been to at least one show on every tour since '89, except for the last one) - "Free Fallin'", "I Won't Back Down", "Runnin' Down A Dream", "Need To Know", "American Girl", "Breakdown", "Mary Jane's Last Dance", "Don't Come Around Here No More", "You Don't Know How It Feels", etc. Unfortunately, most fans in attendance will expect to hear these classics and cheer like a pack of school girls at a Justin Bieber concert. I, for one, won't be because I'm sitting out this tour. Oh sure, they spit out a "Too Much Ain't Enough" every once in awhile, but these are the same songs that have been played at every show for 20+ years, and I've had enough.
I'm not saying they have to go all obscure on us, but they can at least dig into their massive catalog of hits and mix it up a little. So, Tom, here's a list of songs I propose for this or any future tour, in no particular order:
"Jammin' Me" "Here Comes My Girl" "Don't Do Me Like That" "You Got Lucky" "Rebels" "Woman In Love" "Yer So Bad" "The Apartment Song" "Letting You Go" "Change Of Heart" "Honey Bee" "Wake Up Time" "Into The Great Wide Open" "Southern Accents" "Shadow Of A Doubt" "Swingin'" "Walls"
I'm sorry, but your product sucks. After losing my iPhone to a hot tub a few weeks ago, I've been using a Blackberry temporarily until the new iPhone 4 comes out in 168 hours. For years, I've heard "Crackberry" users sing the praises of what they claim is a superior device to all others, especially the iPhone. Having now used both, I must say that the comparing the two is like comparing Pong to a Wii - there is no comparison.
I will go ahead and disclose that I am indeed an Apple snob. Say what you want to about the company's editorial policies or how it limits users to its own native hardware/software, but the bottom line is functionality and ease of use, and the damn Blackberry doesn't come close. It's slow, the apps suck, the scroll ball is annoying, the interface makes no sense, and I can't seem to be able to use a normal browser. I can't tell you how many times I've wanted to throw this object against a wall. If anyone can offer me an intelligent argument about why the Blackberry is better, I'll be happy to listen. And then have you committed.
One of the many annoyances I have with northerners is their licentious use of the word "barbecue". When you cook something on the grill, you are not barbecuing it...you are grilling it. Barbecue is what you get after you cook pork for many hours over low heat. In other words, "barbecue" is a noun, NOT a verb. If you disagree with that, take your tofu-eating ass back to Michigan.
The word "jackassery" may have been coined at some point in our history, but Id' like to think of myself as the genius who came up with it, or at least responsible for its revision. There are many, many elements of jackassery in everyday life, and I'd like to use this forum to point out some of these examples.
Today, I'd like to focus on jackassery at the gym. You've seen, or rather, heard, these guys - the weightlifter who feels the need to grunt rather loudly with every rep./exhale There's nothing more distracting than hearing an "UNGGHH!!" and/or a heavy inhale of air every 5 seconds while you're concentrating on your own workout. I keep looking up, expecting to see either porn or a women's tennis match on the corner TV. I know what you're thinking - "why don't you listen to your iPod to drown out the grunting?" Well, why should I have to do that? These jackasses should take their fellow man into consideration before trying out their best Peter North impression. And to make matters worse, these are the same jackasses who like to lift an inordinate amount of weight while checking themselves out in the mirror.
So chew on that for awhile til next time. Peace out bitches.
Last week I attended my umpteenth dental trade show, this time in Atlanta. I don't normally go to these things and I don't particularly enjoy them, but the people watching factor is always at a premium. What has always fascinated me is how everyone seems to knows each other and has their collective finger on the pulse of every tidbit regarding the latest personnel gossip in the industry. It's like a giant traveling circus that migrates from city to city on a regular basis, with everyone in each others business.
Every morning, sales reps from every booth meander up and down the aisles and chronicle the previous night's debauchery out on the town to anyone who will listen. There's also no shortage of strong perfume worn by the ladies as well as hair product placed upon the lids of almost every male that descends upon these shows, presumably in order to cover up the stench and hangover hair of the aforementioned nightly exploits.
Like an amateur 17 year-old drinker, "Dude, I so wasted last night" is a common theme that is overheard from every cheese ball within earshot. And each time, I just stand there and take it all in, gaining wisdom and enlightenment with each listen. Here's to you, tools of the trade shows. May you never wear thin or wear down.