Friday, May 28, 2010

Not Poetic but Married

Des Moines is where recorded music goes to die. (is it better grammar to say, Recorded music goes to Des Moines to die?) or maybe not die, but rather to sit in an unexplained sideways world where it waits with other musical companions before it moves into the golden light. They should put it on the signposts when you are entering the city:

Des Moines: CD, Vinyl, Cassette and 8 track Landfill.

Not good, not bad. Just is. All formats die, kiddo.


Hectic and stressful month. I needed to get out of Dodge (but ended up almost going to (Fort) Dodge). So I decided to do what any other self-respecting moderately middle class individual looking at a long weekend of good weather and free time would do. Road trip!

I rented a car (the AC on my car kinda blows…….tepid air) and headed out on a grand rounds kinda thing, with the intent of picking some out of print music. Mapped it all out (even called ahead to some stores to make sure they were still there). Des Moines, Omaha (somewhere in the middle America), Sioux Falls (laugh if you like, but I found cool stuff there last year when I went to the badlands and black hills) and anywhere in between that looked appealing.

I won’t bore you with too many travel details. Suffice to say 6’o clock comes early (even for me) and surprisingly bright. Tracey Thorn (Love and Its Opposite) started the journey (best lyric writing of her career? Discuss……) Mostly unremarkable travel except for a gas stop in Hampton Iowa. Corn fed looks good. And friendly. Or friendly? Dunno, but nice. (and for those keeping count, only one dew on the way and one on the way back)

Arrived in Des Moines around 10.30. first stop was Jay’s CD and Hobby and a CD Warehouse on the southeast side of DSM. Except the CD Warehouse was closed (economy? Medium? Bad business sense?). Luckily, Jay’s CD shop was next block up. Got harassed by a couple kids out in front of the store. “Hey man, can you sell our video games for us? They guy won’t buy our stuff. Whaddya mean ‘no’, why not? Can’t you help us out? CREEP!” nice kids. Way too early for this kind of crap. I guess this is what happens when Iowegians lose their pig. So I escape inside. Kinda grungey, but 2 walls of cds. Let’s see what they got. Hmmmmmm. Lots of guns and roses. Lots of bon jovi, lots of belly. As a matter of fact, lots of couldn’t get a dollar for this crap at a thrift sale kind of stuff. Big name artists, but super common and lots of it, all priced a little high (in rough shape). Store is pretty much clearly a bust, but I look through all of it. Maybe no flipping, but I might find something cool for me. I keep the faith through the last of the cut out compilation stuff, but alas, empty on all counts. Not that I’m drawing any conclusions on the make up of Des Moines folk on the basis of one cd store, but sheesh. Monster truck rally city. I can smell the aerosmith from here (and it’s mostly Geffen era) This collection will out live cockroaches.

Ok. No worries. Onto the next store. And did I mention homo don’t need no map. One look on mapquest the day before is enough. (ok, I lie, I wrote down rudimentary directions on my travel itinerary, but they were sucky directions)

Now approaching, ZZZ records (after a minor overshoot, and by the way, the capitol dome looks lovely in the morning sunlight). A bunch of bins of cds greeted me upon arrival, with huge racks of vinyl to the back of the (barely) one room store. And are they running a day care in there too? Dunno, but definitely has character. Some interesting finds on the cd side. Picked up the first Christians cd. Not really worth anything, but I love “Ideal World”. An import Flock of Seagulls (with bonus tracks) tempted me, but I refrained, especially as the system (which is totally one sided in my favor I know) broke down (get out of the meeting already!). Missed out on a pretty rare (but probably crappy) import, but there are remedies for that. And I’d have passed on the Marshall Crenshaw anyway (although I love his live version of “I Fought the Law.”

But whilst I am waiting for someone to confirm a pick, I start looking through the vinyl. And yes, I laugh at the folks who fondly remember vinyl….i like the bigger artwork and there are still records not on cd, but warmer sound? Really? And I hated the nicks and pops and skips at the time for as much as I fondly reminisce about them now. It’s a fad, a way for the backpack kids to have something tangible to hold onto while they are listening to their ipods. They don’t REALLY love the vinyl. That’s marketing and status.

BUT Ohmigod….Charlie Dore? Lipps Inc (Pucker Up), Alan O’Day? Gino Vanelli (Vanilli...hahaha) Benny Mardones? Has someone been collecting vinyl since they were a sperm? I’ll admit, I spent an hour riffling through this stuff. Not really looking to buy (although there are lots that aren’t on cd) but just retracing memory lane. I won’t bore you with details (poco) but very fun and I can pretty much say that had at least one copy from each of the artists entrenched in my youthful (70’s) memories. No idea where all the vinyl came from, but damn fun collection of stuff. And a couple coolish purchases, the PLAYING FOR KEEPS soundtrack (love that pete townshend song) and MARRIED TO THE MOB (which I have on pretty good authority, is quite desirable, mostly for that awesome “Goodbye Horses” tune from THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS. Great store and the clerks (babysitters) were great, even giving me addresses of a couple other stores that weren’t on my radar.

Next up was another CD Warehouse, but damn if that one isn’t there either (I did research, but that consisted of calling on local cd warehouse store….i figured if one was open, they all were….ya ya…I’m an LED bulb, long lasting but not particularly bright). Not saying I exactly got lost, but I did end up at a half price books. Now I’m not a huge fan of HPB (even though I found a sheena Easton remaster at one of them for $4), mostly, they know what they have and price accordingly. But I figured, what the heck, when in Des Moines…..(and they were having a 20% off sale)

Too bad, I wasn’t there 6 months ago…they had a lot of beach boys remasters, which would have fed my late winter BB mania. But I’m over that now. There were a couple decent finds E’s BROKEN TOY SHOP (for 8 minus 20%) and the fame monster by lady gaga (this is, I am almost ashamed to say it, entirely for me…) but that’s it. Slim pickings (probably more akin to very picked) E was good though. I didn’t look at vinyl. It was already 1pm (I’m suddenly skeptical of my Omaha destination later in the day, this is already taking longer than I had allotted)

So next is another Jay’s CD and Hobby. Very skeptical, but this is in the Merle Hay Mall and if anywhere……besides, they have a taco johns in the mall and I’m getting hungry. Quite a few less cds here that SE DSM store. But not quite as vanhalen-esque either. Lots of near misses here. A couple Jennifer warnes from the 70’s (but not THE WELL), an early steve winwood, but scratch beyond buffable belief. Not as GnR, BJ, Aero centric as the one is SE DSM, but still a lot of very common stuff, scattered among some serious cut out crap. They don’t seem to serious about the cd, or they pick the gems out and ebay them. Except for…what do I see here? Andy Taylor’s THUNDER? Oooh, nice one that. Taco Johns and a good pick. That’ll do, pig, that’ll do. (beef meat and potato burrito, btw)

Ok, now I have two CD warehouses left to rummage through (and don’t even ask me why I’m going through CD warehouses….it’s the no stone left unturned deal, even though I 99% know that they aren’t going to produce) There’s probably another entry on the history (as I know it) of CD warehouse. At this point, the chain has got to be on its last legs. To further mix my metaphors, the meat has been pretty much picked off the bones, the bloom is off the rose, the blank is blank blank. But they still lumber on in places (I expect better in some than others) Quite frankly, I was kinda counting on this last days of the century dynamic when I was planning my trip. Nothing like a forgotten pool of water to hide surprises.

And to be honest, both stores (merle hay and valley view) had tons and tons of cds in the racks. They even had a rack of closeout cassette tapes and 8 tracks (styx, journey, Kansas, michael omartian, oh my) But man…..we are really talking landfill material across the board. If they are washed up and forgotten, cut out or super overstock, either of these two stores had it. I bet I looked at 1000 titles in each store at least, and bought three. And none of the three were flappable (although I could have probably flipped the Donnie iris King Cool cd, but it just didn’t seem worth it), all of the cds I found were just for fun stuff (the clean, human league and one other one that only a real music fan would ever have even heard of).

Oh the musical humanity! These stores really were the graveyards for cds. There were copies of cds that probably haven’t been played since 1988 (yes, that would be you Lloyd cole) and some that were probably never even played (was not was….who would even buy that?) if it was cut out, it was here, if it was boring 80’s/90’s light metal (warrant, ratt, white lion, etc) it was here. Over there is your light alternative rock (basically your 90’s cities 97 music), over there your little girl power, your debbie gibsons, your tiffanies, plus your alternas, your soul coughings, your lionel ritchies, your spears. Ok, so there was a grizzly bear too, but that was clearly an anomaly not likely to be repeated. Mostly it was the past, the forgotten ignored, barely remembered it when it was there past all out in display of row upon row of useless cds.

And it was there, going through the grimy greasy spines (my back aching, my eyes watering) that I i'm wondering about the future of the compact disc. I felt i was looking at cd carcasses (carcassi?) the way I used to look at vinyl after the advent of the cd. There’s no hope here. This is what the end of the world looks like. A dark record store filled with racks of cds that you can mark down all you like, and music hounds can spend hours scouring the heaps and find almost nothing of interest.

I dug through the racks until 4pm. 3 cds. I bought 3 cds. All used was super cheap and I only could find 3 cds (I should have gotten the Lloyd cole debut….guess I forgot about that one) I guess it discouraged me some, so instead of heading off to Omaha (I was already way behind schedule and I’ll need another reason to go to Omaha, cos I’m not too optimistic about the music picking.) I turned around and headed home again.

The drive home was nice and as uneventful as the ride down. It was fun to crank the tunes if nothing else and I got tons of stuff re-listened to:

Tracey thorn love and its opposite
Avett brothers I and love and you
Charlotte gainsbourg IRM
Shearwater golden archipelago
National high violet
Broken Social Scene Forgiveness Rock Record(meet me in the basement has become my favorite off this album)
Minus the bear omni

Some random play, john cale, Madonna, lady gaga, nick lowe, grizzly bear, mgmt (oracular tracks not congratulations for those keeping count)

Human league hysteria
Frightened rabbit winter of mixed drinks
Black keys brothers

Auspicious Beginnings

Did a quick EF run. Andy Gibb's greatest hits for 1.99? hello and thank you, jebus. and the second stealer's wheel on import? (surprisingly, no upside to this one, but definitely fun to hear) and a mitch sighting! (and yes, definitely on the all day cd shopping)

btw, gerry rafferty isn't missing (or wasn't a year ago) he was at his Tuscan village counting his 80,000 pounds a year in royalties from Baker Street. the alcoholism (if true...and it seems pretty well documented) is pretty sad.

Taste This, Fair That

jeez. Janelle Monae at Taste of Minnesota (i've mentioned how much i love, love, LOVE the ArchAndroid, right? now i'm gonna have to go. and i'm sure she be playing on the night sammy hagar plays, or the night counting crows plays, or the night bare naked ladies plays (errr, wait, are they here or the Basilica----i can't keep my washed up acts where and when straight). ah least taste of minnesota has that incredible food.

and roseanne cash at the state fair, leiny's stage. damn. i was gonna go state fair free this year (although i'll still get the t-shirts from work....those babies are pretty cool, although not as cool as the Wear Your Fair t-shirts)

next thing you know, i'll be heading off to the zoo to see a show there too. oh damn. what's this? crowded house tickets in the mail. blurgh.

(and baby, you know i was kidding about the food at taste of minnesota, right?)

Until You Can't See Land

Frightened Rabbit (not to be confused with frightened Eddie Rabbit)
Varsity (Hadn't been in there since the remodel, very very nice, although i worry about the people on the catwalk)
May 10, 2010 (damn...this month has been hectic)

Funny story about FR. A few years ago, they were the opening act for a Fineline (blech) Pinback (sorta blech) show that was the payback for the Elvis Perkins show (opening for CYHASY) that we missed because 1)superfan insisted on another drink 2)posted showtimes apparently mean nothing. And we only caught the tail end of the show (is this irony, a bummer or just plain stupidity?; after alanis i'm never really sure anymore) so, they were etched in my mind (enough so that i went out and bought Sing the Greys) but i forgot the genesis of my appreciation.

Ratchet the clock ahead 2 more releases and now i'm paying attention. And was super stoked (is that phrase even allowed anymore?)

And i'm a little underwhelmed. Liked the show, didn't love it. And i was the only one there who wouldn't have married the band during or after the show. (and of course, multiple folks would marry Scott in a hearbeat...some even if it wasn't legal)

I'm not 100% sure why i'm still single on the show.

I really love the new album and i really loved Sing the Greys (even though it's only really got an ep's worth of songs) I could sorta do without Midnight Organ Flight, but I don't hate it. So it's not the songs.

The anthemic, sorta U2 ish (and can we agree that U2 is getting more ish-ish all the time?) folky undertones, bleeding hands acoustic guitar strummy thing is definitely my bag. Get the catharsis out of here approach is fine enough (although i was sweating just seeing Scott and the gang sweating). There was a little same-ness to the presentation (slow build to aforementioned scream therapy, even on the acoustic solo song) but meh. Whatever samey-ness they had in style, they more than made up for with energy and sincerity. so it ain't that.

and the crowd. oh, my goodness, was that ever a great crowd, full of fans. scott was so blown away (i know i'm not allowed to use that phrase, but i'm a rebel) by the appreciative audience, that i was blown away by his blown away-ness, especially when you compare that to that evil Julian Casablancas...."you're my favorite crowd (checks itinerary taped to floor) minneapolis" and yeah, of course, there was a backpedaling tall guy right in front of us, but really, great crowd for a sold out show. (and i was definitely charmed by the pair of girls in front of us; there's something extraordinarily beautiful about friendships that sort of render couple-dom, sexuality determinations moot---they held hands, they hugged, they bought each other beers, they sung badly off key to each other----and they both wanted sweaty scott in their arms.) so clearly the crowd didn't dull the show for me. and of course, company for me was great as always.

and no, sleigh bells (am i wrong about them? should i try them again?) didn't open, nor did a place to bury strangers. the first act didn't really thrill me, but it was short. and the second act, Maps and Atlases was very good in a proggy, punky, math rock kind of way. (i'll take your foals and raise you a phish---take that superfan!) so, i my mind was set right (well sorta maybe other externals, but i'm in denial about that so i wouldn't say that either)

dunno. good not great to me. i'm gonna stop pondering and just blame it on the rain.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Catching Up With

Titus Andronicus-The Monitor: If the Pogues had grown up in New Jersey and if Bright Eyes were fronting this band, this is what you'd have. (especially if time meant nothing and they were fed on a diet of B.S. and Paul Westerberg.) I like it well enough, but i wouldn't want to go to the prom with it.

Hold Steady-Heaven is Whenever: Craig Finn sings. Franz Nicolay, and his swirling piano fills, has left the band. The band is older, wiser (maybe), and a little more removed (economically, philosophically, and in status) from the characters about which they write (and they don't so much write about characters this time, much more---but really less---meta this time out). Nothing really jumps out at me here ("The Sweet Part of the City" is the closest to a compulsive listen for me and not even really). Don't hate it, just don't love it like i did Separation and Boys and Girls. Two shrugs in a row now. Albums won't save you, but maybe the b sides will.

Broken Social Scene-Forgiveness Rock: Just get it and listen. Only quibble would be more Feist, but i know on which side of the bread the butter lay.

The New Pornographers-Together: If the NPs are Fleetwood Mac, this is definitely their Mirage. I dentifiable and serviceable, but mostly forgettable. Lindsey (A.C. Newman) tries his best but used his best stuff on his solo work. Stevie (Neko) is in the band, but too busy with her solo career to really step forward and own anything (and definitely becoming a stereotype), and Ms. Perfect (Destroyer) is pretty much stuck in a holding pattern (weirly though, Bejar's songs usually seemed out of place on the NPs albums, here, they are much more homogenous to the mix, but unfortunately, kinda boring as well). Here's hoping for some drug fueled break ups before the next one.

Hole-Nobdy's Daughter: I keep waiting for Courtney Love to have a Marianne Faithfull-like transformation(god knows her voice is 73.2% of the way there) and dazzle us all with some soulful, powerful revaltory work. Or barring that, I would wish she would at least buy a vowel, solve the puzzle and move onto the bonus round in life. But no. Ms. Hole stick to her rut and insists that it's 1996. I guess there's nothing wrong with being stuck in the past, especially if you have no better option (and as long as you know the returns are going to exponentially diminish each time out). And there are a couple moments here that recall those days (Pacific Coast Highway and Samantha) for those that want that kind of thing. For the rest of us, this isn't any kind of necessary.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Where It All Went Wrong (Part One)

Listened to the new Kate Nash cd (My Best Friend Is You) last week. I enjoyed Made of Bricks, with its smart and smart alecky pop chops, and was pretty curious to see what she would do this time around. I can definitively say I don't like the new one. Oh sure, i appreciate that she pushes the rap and riot girrrrl thing more, but the thing is, she's totally unconvincing at it, even bad (very bad) at it. And the songs suck (not even thinking she's written any fun lily allen like songs on this one. Not gonna say i'm bummed cos i wasn't lighting a candle for her, but i think her commercial days (if she had such aspirations) are over.

got me thinking of other pop music suicides and where it all went wrong (and feel free to add your own):

MGMT: Oracular Spectacular was a bit overrated, but the singles Kids and Time to Pretend are genius. So why does Congratulations suck so much? Drugs? Replacements syndrome? Dunno, but, i won't be holding my breaf for the next one.

Tracy Chapman- Hard to tell exactly where this happened cos the debut was so good and Crossroads was also excellent, albeit a bit of a carbon copy. But i'm gonna lay the blame on Matter of the Heart. Her earnestness exceeded her experience.

Sinead O' Connor: You knew she had to be here right? Am I Not Your Girl? in 1992, right after I Do Not Want What I Haven't Got (still one of my personal faves, btw) A covers album of standards for the burgeoning indie girl? Not sure that would fly today (even Jenny Lewis didn't try that), it sure didn't fly then. and it's kind of awful to listen too. love her voice, but it's not the right voice for these songs, and the throwback production doesn't work as homage nor irony.

Smashing Pumpkins: I love Adore (and that outdoor show on the block e parking lot was pretty special), but that was the end for them. (i could be generous and blame the Batman & Robin song, but that would be wrong). I guess we'll never know what James and D'arcy didn't do in the band (rage muse perhaps?), but when they were gone, so was the band. (I don't buy that Jimmy Chamberlin crap. He's not nearly the muse Billy liked to think he was.)

Wilco: A Ghost is Born. And a band dies a little bit (and a lot more on SkyBlueSky). Argue about Jay Bennett all you like, but the band has been crap ever since Jeff kicked him out of the band. (and they can sell all the records they like and sell out all the shows they like, but we know, we know)

Jay Farrar: Turnabout is fair play here. There's really been no point in resurrecting Son Volt. They aren't doing anything Jay didn't do with Son Volt Mark I. I blame the Sebastopol album, which seemed like a response to the wild success of Yankee Hotel Foxtrot ("see, I can weird it up too?". I kinda like it, but it isn't YHF. no where close. and who the hell is Jay Farrar? Why kill the band you made your (second) name with, son?

Weezer: jeez. i might try to piss off all the backpack kids and say it happened with Pinkerton, but i'm gonna grant a dispensation on something i don't understand and say Make Believe is were it all went so horribly horribly wrong. the nerd at the playboy mansion? no.

Decemberists: Hazards of Love. Jury still out, cos they could blow me away with the next one. but sheesh; I hate this album. i could barely get through it onces, but made myself listen again just so i could be sure. sure that it's the worst heavy metal indie progressive rock symphony ever! i could easily see this as being something from which they never recover.

Radiohead: this is probably an act against god (and probably belongs in another post) but to paraphrase my aggravation guru, tiny kornheiser, "Kid A stinks." Granted, i'm glad that this isn't Still Got the Bends or Really Really Good Computer disaffected guitar rock (you can always go back to that in 10 years when you really need a U2), and that you are willing to take a chance. And it's not so much that there aren't any songs (eno did that for years and it never bothered me), or that too many people talk about how original this is (and if you've listened to music for more than 4 years you know how derivative this is) or the fact that the second half (where there are some songs) is incredibly boring. No, what really makes this disc stink, is that every kid over the age of 25 and under the age of 35 (yes, mr. superfan, i'm talking to you) thinks this is the bomb, their generation's grand statement, and use it at their touchstone. Well, i gotta tell ya, big statements aren't age specific (see beatles, see stones, see even the bends) and this disc has got nothin' to say. Nothin'!

Dog Something (or it’s all in how you look at it)

Fine Line (Yuck) April 17, 2010

No, i didn’t make a set list for this one either. I didn’t make that potential resolution until yesterday (whenever yesterday is). And although i’ve listened to Shame, Shame and (especially) Fate a bunch of times, I’ve long since quit scouring the liner notes and I don’t really look at song titles. So even if I was writing down songs, my list would pretty much consist of 1) that black eye song, 2) the doot doot song, 3) song four on the 5th album, or the songs that sounds just like the beatles or the band (25% of their work). So i dunno what good that list would be to anyone. However, my intrepid concert companion (who is much more detail oriented that i) assures me that they played all of Shame, Shame (including two of the three bonus tracks floating around, “What a Strange Day” and “On Man”) and a bunch of Fate (still my favorite), with perhaps 3 songs from the various previous 3 albums (I recognized one of the We All Belong tunes….song 5?).

List be damned anyway, all I need to say was that this was a smoking good show!

Love the band on album (or cd or download per your particular wont), but live, they are way more muscular sounding, rocking the heck out of the somewhat low key recorded tunes (especially on the Shame, Shame tracks). As I’ve probably mentioned, I’m not really fond of the audience singalong, but Toby Leaman come out of the gate a little hoarse. The audience participation in this case was a pleasant boost to his vocals. (his vox improved during the course of the show.) I’m a little more partial to the vocals of co-singer Scott McMicken, who always sounds a little wobbly and rough around the edges (band reference for sure), but his vocals were stellar throughout. And of course, being the seasoned road warriors they are, the band sounded fantastic. Lots of dynamics, nice musical touches, and even though the production backed off the layered sound of the recordings, there was texture aplenty to be heard. The band were great showmen, very energetic (the term precise pogoing comes to mind), charismatic (not thinking the lead singer is as attractive as someone else does, but he’s definitely attention grabbing) and powerful with lots of interplay between band members. They are almost a jam band that doesn’t bore the audience with a lot of long and pointless jams (yes, DMB, I mean you and your anonymous spawn) And entertain the audience they definitely did. They had the crowd going from the first track (song on from the new one) and pretty much didn’t let up through the end of the extended encore. And I didn’t get nearly trampled during the encore (hooray).
Great show, definitely a band to catch (and I’m kicking myself for not catching the record store day show)