Thursday, September 30, 2004

 

Fat City vs. Late Night With David Letterman: No Contest

The Black Keys played Babylon last night and though I missed the show (they're part of my Popmontreal plans this weekend) I'm told there was no need for me to write anything threatening. Rather than acting like me-first rock stars, the boys told the audience that they'd turned down a gig on David Letterman to ensure they didn't have to cancel out on the Capital for a third time. Well done, fellahs.
 

The 'Maiden link works now

I will always test the link before heading to the pool. I will always test the link before heading to the pool. I will always test the . . .

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

 

Iron Maiden: Aces High (Go! Buy the Rekkid!)

A couple of firsts today (to cover for the fact that I haven't posted in nearly a week . . .) 1) The first "book review" and 2) The first "guest blogger" my buddy Kenny Shinkel who has a few choice words on Spin writer (and Billy Joel Lover) Chuck Klosterman's first book, Fargo Rock City. The "review" started as an e-mail to me that I had so much fun reading I had to run here. Kenny has said you can send the hate mail/love letters to him here. Finished the Klosterman tonight, thanks very much for lending it to me. I hate to say this, but I don't know that I actually enjoyed it. I guess I'm glad I read it and it did make me laugh, but there were so many things about it that just plain bugged me. Some of it was his dismissive attitude towards other styles of music, some of it was the general sloppiness, and some of it was the overall inanity - like someone writing a book about why the McDLT was THE thing to eat in 1986 and then slagging people who liked Ponderosa (for the record, both suck). It seems to me that if you're going to go out on a limb and write your little heart out about Poison, you'd better be prepared to cut every (and I mean every) musical genre a pretty hefty break. Yes, these bands he loved had tremendous sales and a tremendous impact on countless fans, but so what. In the words of Peter Buck, a '45 is essentially a piece of crap usually purchased by teenagers. Perhaps it was growing up... 1. With an older sibling who was into music 2. In a large metropolitan area 3. With a TV that featured both MuchMusic and the New Music ...But I innately knew that Poison and all those related hairbands sucked donkey cock. Hell, I knew Kiss had jumped the shark after they put out Dynasty (I was made for loving you?!? C'mon) One of my other issues with the book is just how sloppy it is. Essays open on one topic and they just teeter and totter all over the page. I mean it's a fun read, but I have no idea where he's going and by the end of the chapter I feel like I've just finished one of those 45 minute conversations with my father where you suddenly realize you've spent the whole time discussing gas valves. And for a pop culture junkie, he has some strange misses. He cites GNR for their continuing saga/trilogy video with no mention of Richard Marx and his bizarro black and white murder mystery series of videos about Hazard. That's like a Canadian talking about the miracle on ice without ranting over the Russians playing Myshkin. The further you get into the book, the less insight and analysis there is and the more it becomes, "I was a drunk" or "I nearly ripped off the bank." I'm not sure what that has to do with liking a repellant band like Poison or trying to defend Winger. He also has some stunningly contradictory things to say. On page 69 he opens by saying: "The concept of rock music being tied to glamour is incredibly predictable and - in some respects - essential. Except for those Sarah McLachlan-esque idiots who insist they "need" to make music, it's really the only reason anyone gets into rock and roll." Then he writes on page 71 (what's that, 400 words later?) "The ultimate goal for Bob Dylan, the Beatles, Foghat, Uriah Heep, the Clash, Bon Jovi and Sonic Youth was all ultimately the same: They wanted to make music that other people wanted to hear." HUH? I thought glamour was the only reason people got into Rock N' Roll?!? I thought only McLahlan-esque idiots...you get the picture. Three more reasons why Klosterman's wrong about the glamour-rock n' roll relationship: 1. Access to chicks, the lure of money, adulation, ego, and avoiding a day job are all more compelling and realistic than glamour 2. I have a hard time seeing just about anyone I respect in the music industry saying it was glamour that made them...buy their first guitar...sing into the mirror...climb up on stage for the first time...write Rosalita (Come Out Tonight)...aspire to be Mike Reno. 3. The Clash would never wear spandex Ok, I know Chuck grew up in the middle of nowhere. So did you. So did my pal Emma who digs the d-plan, Ani DiFranco and Pavement. So did my in-bred cousins who cashed in on Kiss when Lick it Up was the best that band could do...geography ain't the issue here. For me, and admittedly I could be way off here, I think music fandom comes down to 1.5 things: 1. A visceral response: My year-old daughter is the perfect case - she doesn't have any comprehension of how these bands look, what they symbolize, or even what they're singing about. She just knows when she wants to shake-it. Be it Banghra, the Beasties or Gillian Welch. If she digs it, the head, ass and feet follow. 2 Socio-economics/ peer groups If you're a frat boy in the late 90s, it's Fred Durst. No matter what the visceral response, it aint gonna be Pet Shop Boys and Erasure. If you're a college boy in the mid 90s, it's pavement. Even if you want to shake it to Ace of Bass, it's gotta be something related to Lou Barlow. The music you like says a LOT about you so it better say the right things. Bands have become brands (this may always have been so) and just as there are Honda folks and chevy folks; pepsi drinkers, bud drinkers and single malt scotch men, so it goes with music. If it weren't so, there would be no such thing as a guilty pleasure - we could all rock out to Air Supply, wear our Haircut 100 T-shirts and lead-off our mixed cds with Waiting for a Girl Like You with no fear of being mocked. So, If you're a small-town midwesterner in the 80s, it's likely hairbands that you'll love and defend as that's what gets your toes tapping and it's what your fellow mullet wearing, mouth breathing, right thinking peer group expect. You can write all you want about why bands matter, and believe me they do - I can't hear Pleased to Meet Me, Hatful of Hollow or Rattlesnakes without being transported back some 15 years - and I can't underplay the importance of the albums to my youth (I can't even bite my @*&(!# tongue when my wife pulls my chain about the Clash!). But I honestly believe that 99% of it comes down to demographics/psychographics and toe tapping. One last thing. Klosterman pans Iron Maiden and that just ain't right. When I was in Edmonton this July, I heard Aces High on the radio and sang along with a great big shit-eating grin on my face. Maiden and Motorhead kick ass. Buy Powerslave.

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

 

Update on Explosions in the Sky

Turns out the Explosion's show in Montreal is on October 9 and, as such, not during Popmontreal. Go, enjoy some pre-turkeyday rock!
 

Songs: Ohia: Lioness (Go! Buy the Rekkid!)

Zulu Records is not content with being the best record store in Canada*. I think they wanna be your cool older brother. You know, the one only some of us were lucky enough to have. The one who bought you Television, Clash and Ramones records for your twelfth birthday? Did you have that guy in your life? Me neither. No, unfortunately, there was no Fatseniorcitizen. Left to my own devices, I bought Huey Lewis and the News albums and spent thousands of hours locked in my room listening to small town radio on a cheap, single-speaker tape deck I bought from the Sears Catalogue. I've been scarred by the experience in many ways. I still know all the words to On Desert Moon, The Warrior and Let's Go All The Way. I used to idolize Fish. The listening posts at Zulu are a beacon of hope for today's youth. They reach out to teens who, without better guidance, may have ended up like me. They're like Kid's Help Phone for fans of Puddle of Mudd, Hoobastank and Yellowcard. They also introduced me to Jason Molina. Molina - who has recorded under the names Songs: Ohia, Songs: Unitas, Songs: Radix and Magnolia Electric Company - writes tunes that are, to put it lightly, the Bizarro world's answer to xanax or The Polyphonic Spree. They're living testament to the power of the LASH Principle. They're also languid, smooth and full of sexy. The silence that surrounds the spare monotone of Molina's guitar draws you in. Once you're hooked, you realize the mix is spare but the songs sound huge. Buy Lioness * With much respect to Rotate This in T-dot which - to my experience - has much friendlier staff and Cheap Thrills in Montreal which has a selection of used CDs as good, if not better, than Zulu's.

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

 

Viva la post-rock!

Sigur Ros Untitled Track 1 from the album ( ) (Go! Buy the Rekkid) Top Five Bands from a Planet other than Earth 5: Gwar 4: Parliament ("Comin' to you directly from the mothership") 3: Sigur Ros 2: Sigur Ros 1: Sigur Ros Granted, Iceland isn't precisely another planet but these guys sure don't sound like much else being recorded here on the big blue marble. In addition to being otherworldly, Sigur Ros may be the most pretentious act in the world (at least on paper). Their last full length album didn't have a real title, (I mean . . . ( ) . . . seriously?) none of the songs had titles either. Their most recent recorded output is a 20-minute-long single called Ba Ba Ti Ki Di Do recorded with Radiohead this summer. "Ba ba" was written to accompany choreography by Merce Cunningham. As such, the instruments used on the recording include - wait for it - miked ballet shoes. But wait! Before you trample your friends and loved ones in the stampede to the windows to get a breath of some less rarified air, consider the words of my good friend Simp. "Sigur Ros? (he pronounces the name to rhyme with "Bigger Dose" which was as good a guess as any until I read the pronouncication guide on their web site. Turns out the "g" is - of course - silent. Damn you Icelanders and your silent "G"s Damn! You! Anyway, now back to Simp . . . ) Love em. They're from Iceland, they sing in a made up language and play their Fenders with violin bows. Sure it's pretentious as fuck, but it sounds great." Buy Sigur Ros's ( ) (And while you're there, check out the eighth user review down. Well done!) Explosions In The Sky Snow & Lights (Go! Buy the Rekkid!) While we're talking about post-rock instrumentalists . . . I have to tip my PWI trucker cap (it's so over, it's Post Post Post Ironic) to my neighbour "Number 3" who, it seems, has great taste in music. I was sitting around PWI HQ recently, listening to Iron & Wine's The Creek Drank the Cradle when I heard a knock on the door. I fully intended to ignore the knocker - if I don't know you're coming, you're likely selling something - but he was persistent. I opened the door to find Number 3 in the hallway with a friend. They were both beaming. "Is that Iron & Wine?" Number 3 asked, gesturing in the general direction of my stereo. "Yeah," I replied. "Sorry, is it too loud?" "No, it's awesome! I just wanted to stop by and tell you." With an attitude that positive, taste that good, and an approach that friendly I had no choice but to listen when he recommended Explosions in the Sky, Austin-based instrumentalists who write sprawling, complex and beautiful instrumental songs . . . without pro-tools. Explosions are playing the Pop Montreal festival October 2. If, like me, you snoozed and lost out on Franz Ferdinand tickets, you might wanna check em out. Number 3 and me'll be there. Buy Explosions In The Sky's Earth Is Not a Cold Dead Place

Thursday, September 16, 2004

 

Thee Michelle Gun Elephant: Plasma Dive (Go! Buy the Rekkid!)

One of Dennis Miller's funniest lines on Saturday Night Live's Weekend Update had nothing to do with the news. The Pogues' Shane McGowan had just crushmumbled through an absolutely Dylanesque rendition of Sunday Morning Albert Bridge (if memory serves, he may well have been drinking from a large bottle of Tanq during the song) . We then cut to Miller looking at the camera deadpan, but slightly askance as he says: You know, I love the Pogues, but I've always been a sucker for lyrics. I mention this story because Thee Michelle Gun Elephant only nominally sing in English (as if their random word generator of a name didn't give that away) and are very lovable besides. TMGE are from Japan, but their sound is very old-school Detroit (they kick you in the nethers like the Stooges). Just don't ask me what a Plasma Dive is. Buy a copy of The Plasma Dive EP (somehow called "Plasma Live" by the Amazoners)

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

 

Richard Buckner: Ariel Ramirez (Go! Buy the Rekkid!)

There's a debate out there that doesn't interest me a whole ton. It's not the battle over whether dubbyah's bad report card was done in MS word. (Though this is funny - it should have been signed "Sincerely Michael Moor. . . I mean, Bushy's superior officer.") The debate is this: Some folks think Richard Buckner is whoring himself by selling a slightly- edited version of Ariel Ramirez to Volkswagen (notice how Buck singin' "when we're killed or cured, and barely hurt" somehow didn't make the car ad?) Other folks think he could use the cash and can't be blamed for taking it. Still others wonder if he'll even see a dime for the commercial anyway. (Ariel Ramirez was released on 1998's Since, by MCA. Do majors actually PAY royalties to anyone not named Velvet Revolver?) Debate all you want, people. I have a more important question. Why the hell aren't more people in awe of the man? Let's look at the facts. First, he writes amazing, Townes-Van-Sandt-quality songs. Second, he's got a voice that sounds like someone trying to put out the embers of a bonfire full of broken hearts with a hose full of whiskey. And third, when he had a long hair and a beard, he kinda looked like Jesus. Hopefully Buck hawkin' VWs will result in more people being interested in his music. Just look what happened to Nick Drake. Twenty-six years after he died he ended up posthumously selling Cabrios. In the year that followed, his record company sold thousands of greatest hits packages to folks who wouldn't have heard the music if it weren't for the commercial. Since Buck isn't dead, and since he has a new record coming out in October on Merge this is likely a good thing, no? Now if we could just get Paul at the Black Sheep to book him for another live show. He hasn't been to Fat City in years . . . Buy a copy of the (truly excellent) Since LP

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

 

James Brown: I Need Your Key (to turn me on) (Go! Buy the Rekkid!)

The question I get asked the most, well a lot . . . enough that I’d remark on it. People come up to me and they say: “Fatcitizen, what would it sound like if James Brown, some time in 1970 decided he wanted to front Count Basie’s band? What if he decided to hire Buddy Collette, Ray Brown and Joe Romano and record a bunch of big band sounds? Then, what if - as a breakdown in the middle of one of those big band tracks - he decided to give a combo sermon/spelling lesson/kung-fu sensei of love speech?” Well, folks, wonder no longer. Sure, it’s more foreshadowing of the PCP-fueled multi-state police chases to come . . . but this mother swings. (And, after 15 or so listens I still can’t tell if he misspells “key” in the big finish.) Buy a copy of Soul on Top

Monday, September 06, 2004

 

The Joel Plaskett Emergency: Extraordinary (Go! Buy the Rekkid!)

Some people just don't take good advice when it's offered to them. My good friend Scam has a massive, and carefully assembled record collection. He's one of those guys who still buys lots and lots of vinyl. We don't see eye to eye on everything (he thinks that other band from Minneapolis was better than the Replacements) but we come together more often than not. In 2003, when I was compiling my top ten list for the year, I asked Scam for his picks. "I can't pick ten off the top of my head," he replied. "But the new Joel Plaskett is definitely the best record. You should check it out." Unfortunately, I waited nearly six months to pick up The Joel Plaskett Emergency's Truthfully, Truthfully. I can't help but think how much happier those six months would have been had I followed his advice earlier. In waiting, I missed out on a phenomenal guided tour through seventies and eighties guitar rock. It's like an amazing frosh party. Pete Townsend is practicing his windmills on the speaker stacks while David Lee Roth is impressing the chicks with scissor kicks. Steve Miller and the Police are handing out beers at the keg and Bob n' Doug keep bogartting the mike to tell jokes. Good times, rock and roll lovers. Good times. Visit The Joel Plaskett Emergency on the web. Buy The Joel Plaskett Emergency's Truthfully, Truthfully

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