Saturday, June 30, 2007

These guys are a riot

So one more post before I call it a night. My wife and I have very similar tastes when it comes to comedy. We both throughouly enjoyed shows such as ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT, SCRUBS, and THE KNIGHTS OF PROSPERIETY (which was cancelled way before it could find an audience). So you can imagine why we would enjoy FLIGHT OF THE CONCHORDS. Kind of like a folkier version of Tenacious D (only much smarter and more subtle) these two guys haev a new HBO show that is really funny. Here are a couple of their videos to give you a taste. Check it out, you won't be sorry.

Video for "Inner City Pressure -- This could have been a lost PET SHOP BOYS song. I love the robotic voice kills me.

Video for "She's So Hot, BOOM" -- Nothing like white boy rap. Even the Reggae call outs in the middle of the song are spot on parody brilliance.

Looking for Some New Music

I realized that I had gotten a bit fixated on older material recently. Although reminiscing is fun every once and a while its good to see if there is anything out there worthwhile I hadn't heard before. So I surfed around PUREVOLUME for some unsigned California bands. Here is a sampling.

CONTROLLING THE FAMOUS are from nearby Echo Park (in LA) and have a nice groovy sound that relies heavily on bass lines and dual vocals. They kind of sound the way LA looks, a little off key from what you would expect. "Highway Parking Lot" is probably best thing I heard, a nice little guitar riff and a simple bass line give the song a real drive to it. They have one song for download and you can order a couple of their ep's of the site.

FUTURE OF FORESTRY caught my eye becuase I liked the band name, their record was produced by the guy from FAILURE, and they are from San Diego, which has produced a lot of interesting music over time. I have to say that my initial listen was a little underwhelming. I mean they sound like every other alternative band that started out liking COUNTING CROWS and LIVE, then bought a copy of "OK Computer" and said, "screw it we can be like that too". Which is too bad because I wanted to like them, they look like well meaning boys. Maybe with more listens I will appreciate them more.

THE SPORES are an intriguing little three piece outfit out of LA. Fronted by Molly McGuire (who according to her bio has worked with about everyone cool in LA) the band could be what Juliana Hatfield had doen if she had allowed synths in her trio. McGuire has a nice voice and the music is rock with some 80's synth touches. "(Don't) Kill Yourself" is a trsight up modern rock song that would be right at home on the radio, the other two are more experimental (with hints of Laurie Anderson style spoken word). I was really impressed by this and and certainly going to look into these guys more.
So I'll play this little game again next month or so just to try to stay hip to what is out there right now.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Random Ned's Atomic Dustbin Post

You ever have bands that, as you peruse your collection you stumble across and go, "Wow, I totally forgot how much I like them?" This seems to be happening to me more and more. Case in point is NED'S ATOMIC DUSTBIN (a serious candidate for best ridiculous band name). When I first came across these guys they looked like the California skaters who hung out at Venice beach because they had nothing better to do then skate and drink. But then I found a copy of their first record "Bite " (later reworked and called God Fodder) and I really dug the whole two bass player thing. "Grey Cell Green" and "Kill Your Television" had great hooks and a nice, vaguely political passion to them. (Kinda like a teenager who wants to get involved in politics by going door to door with a petition because they think it will make a difference).

It wasn't until their tour in support of the record ARE YOU NORMAL? that I got to see them in their real element. The band had such energy and a real connection with the audiance that I really left impressed by the band as a whole. Unfortunately the band couldn't get a real foothold in US radio and was forced to change their sound to meet more commercial desires. By the time they released BRAINBLOODVOLUME the band had lost most of the two bass sound and adopted a more traditional rock sound (even going as far as to use acoustic guitars!!) The only saving grace of that record was "All I Ask Of Myself Is That I Hold Together" which retained some of the orignal fire of the early days. Rumor has it that they are working on a new record so maybe their will be something else to add to my collection that I can overlook and underappreciate.

(m4a) Ned's Atomic Dustbin -- Grey Cell Green (from Bite)
(m4a) Ned's Atomic Dustbin -- Kill Your Television (from Bite)
(m4a) Ned's Atomic Dustbin -- Intact (from Are You Normal?)
(m4a) Ned's Atomic Dustbin -- All I ask of Myself is that I hold Together (from

ADDENDUM: This post was conceived about a week and a half ago and it is a mere coincidence that Song, by Toad namechecked them in his recent post. I am not trying to copy him in any way shape or form. It's just that we apparently have the exactly same record collection...sorry about that man.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

If at first you don't succeed...

So in an effort to procrastinate to the point of mental instability I recorded a second podcast. I hope this one is better than the last, at least the music is a little more upbeat. Anyway, short post since I have to go prepare to teach tomorrow. You can either download the cast or listen to it on the right. Enjoy!

Faithless - Mass Destruction
Kasabian - Club Foot
Dj Shadow vs. Keane - We Might As Well Be Strangers
RJD2 - Since We Last Spoke
Tricky - Antimatter
Massive Attack - Safe From Harm
Avalanches - Flight Tonight
Thom Yorke - The Clock (Surgeon Remix)

Monday, June 25, 2007

When The Soundtrack is Better Than The Movie

I have a ton of soundtracks. I'm a bit of a soundtrack junky. Music and film go hand in hand to the point that most of us can remember a film simply by hearing a song on the radio (Peter Gabriel's "In Your Eyes" anyone?). For a time in college I actually made films solely around pieces of music. I made a short film on fear just to use Nine Inch Nails version of the Joy Division "Dead Souls" because it fit so well with what I saw and heard in my head. (This last statement should not be taken as a refernedum on my relative sanity during college...come on we all had a dark period!!!) Anyway, I even have soundtracks to movies I never saw simply because they had a nice collection of songs that I thought would be worth having. So here are two examples of this phenomenon.

The film TWIN TOWN was released in 1997 and from what I gather (having never actually seen the film) it might be the Welsh verison of Trainspotting (which came out around the same time and also had a brilliant soundtrack). All I do know is that any collection with PETULA CLARK'S "Downtown", MUNGO JERRY'S "In the Summertime", and STEREOLAB is something I had to experience. Then I found the DODGY track "Good Enough". I had been familiar with them but never found anything of theirs that I enjoyed. But this song was brilliant. It is so bouncy and catchy. It had summer written all over it. I have no idea how it fits within the context of the film but I always go back to this song every so often when the weather turns warm.

On the other end of the emotive scale is the soundtrack to PERMANENT MIDNIGHT. The film is probably best known as the one time Ben Stiller tried to be serious. Again, I never saw the film but my understanding is that it's about a writer with a drug problem who went on to write the series ALF (and who says the drugs don't work!!) The soundtrack is an odd mix of mopy alternative rock and high energy trance music that makes for a weird duality to it. It's very uneven but has good stuff from THE CRYSTAL METHOD, MOBY, and GOMEZ. The most intiguing track here is a song by GIRLS AGAINST BOYS called "EPR". I found the whole two bass players thing very cool at the time and I actually bought a record of theirs based solely on this song.

So soundtracks can be great places to find music, even if the movie is a piece of crap.
(m4a) Dodgy -- Good Enough (from the Twin Town Soundtrack
(m4a) Girls vs. Boys -- EPR (from the Permanent Midnight Soundtrack)

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Imitation is the Sincerest Form of Flattery

It is well documented that I have very few original ideas. After listening to the wonderful work of Song, By Toad's initial podcast I felt like it was high time that I dipped my virutal toe into the Podcasting waters to see what might happen. The result for me at least is a little underwhelming. After all, its been about 10 years since I was a college radio dj so those skills will take time to find again. But I hope you enjoy the music at least. I promise next time I will do better. You can either download it or listen in the player on the right hand side of this page.

Bloc Party -- Kreuzberg
Heatmeiser -- Get Lucky
Jens Lekman -- Jens Lekman's Farewell Song
The Decemberists -- Here I Dreamt I Was An Architect
Pernice Brothers -- Saddest Quo
Votxtrot -- The Start of Something

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

I Miss The Prentension in Rock

Music today is way to humble. Everyone seems so content to just make a couple of records, goof off on the road and then call it a day. This is not how it's supposed to be. Rock musicians are supposed to be bigger than life. I came to this conclusion when I went back through may catalog and stopped on THE SMASHING PUMPKINS. Everything about Billy Corgan and Co. was prententious. They claimed to be outcasts and misfits in the world but ended up being as famous as some movie stars (I mean they were on the Simpsons for Christ's Sake) Corgan claimed to be awkward and shy but dated Courtney Love. All the while they made music that was over the top and bombastic and yet with an undercurrent of doubt about their place. They were sonically more adventurous then NIRVANA or PEARL JAM, but still melodic enough to be able to score more than a few commercial radio hits.

The band fell in the VH1 Behind the Music trap as drugs, broken relationships and infighting tore it apart to the point where their so-called reunion album out soon is only a shell of the original band (mostly Corgan trying to cash in on the name to make up for his sorry solo album). But at their height they were certainly influential. You can hear elements of "Gish" in a lot of the shoegazer rock out now. Their albums could be a heavy as anything the QUEENS OF THE STONE AGE can muster. All in all, a very versatile and quality band who werer certainly full of themselves...and that's okay.

(m4a) Smashing Pumpkins -- Siva (from Gish)
The first thing I heard from them and still one of the best. Just a perfect mix of a wall of guitar and Corgan's nasal whine (which became more pronounced in his singing as he got older). I love the quiet interlude in the middle of the song and then the sudden blast back.

(m4a) Smashing Pumpkins -- Rocket (from Siamese Dream)
Although not the greatest song on this record (that would go to Cherub Rock), live the song shows its true power. The refrain "I shall be free" sung over and over by a crowd is something to hear.

Yes it's the Depeche Mode song. But I love what they do with it, turning it into a quiet meditation rather than a dance song. It takes guts to remake something so radically and the result is worth it.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Australia's Answer to U2

It's hard to remember but INXS were probably as big as U2 and REM at the height of the 80's alternative tock movement. Here was a group that seemingly had the entire package to bring above gloal superstardom. Beginning in 1982 the band released a string of records that contained radio friendly rock songs fueled by the presence of lead singer Michael Hutchence who rapidly became a huge sex symbol and iconic figure in the MTV era. By the late 80's INXS were on the top of the world with their album KICK but restlessness began to set in. I actually saw these guys on the following album's tour, X, and was blown away by the combination of energy and yet an all business approach to the music (not unlike what U2 experienced around RATTLE AND HUM). In fact there are a lot of comparisons to both bands creative arcs. While U2 went off to record ACHTUNG BABY, INXS tried to augment their sound with the slightly more adventurous WELCOME TO WHEREVER YOU ARE. But while U2 continued to succeed in the US, INXS struggled for most of the 90's to remain relevant. Hutchence became something of a tabloid regular and eventually committed suicide in 1997. From there the band seemed to fade away (I refuse to admit the exsistence of the reincarnation of the band recently where Hutchence was replaced by a singer selected like "American Idol". It's just not right)

What INXS left was a suprsingly diverse catalogue. Going back into their material you see a band that had an affiinity for pop, rock and blues tendencies. Most people are familiar with songs like "New Sensation", "Never Tear Us Apart" and "Original Sim" but the entie catalogue shows a band that liked to experminent with horns and keyboards along with the traditional guitar attack. I think these guys were vastly underrated and upon reflection can be placed with all the big name acts of the time.

(mp3) INXS -- This Time (from Listen Like Thieves)
A good example of an overlooked song from their first really big album. I love how simple the chorus is and yet becomes instantly memorable.
(mp3) INXS -- Communication (from Welcome To Wherever You Are)
Faced with the creative leap by U2, INXS tries to expand their sound and lyrical vision. You can hear a bit of desperation but after listening to it now I appreciate the attempt to stretch.
(m4a) INXS -- The Stairs (from X)
When I saw them live this was the song that transforemd the show from a simple rock concert to something communal and special (this only happens with large arena shows). The song just keeps building and building and Hutchence plays the tension of the lyrics beautifully. It was here that I realized they were more then just pretty faces. (highly recommended)

Friday, June 08, 2007

What the Hell happened to...Jimmy Eat World

I have to admit I was very skeptical when I received JIMMY EAT WORLD's 2001 album BLEED AMERICAN (later changed to just a self-titled album due to 9/11 paranoia). I never gave them much attention because they were in the whole "emo" crowd that I truly hated. It got worse when the band actually had a radio hit ("The Middle"). Then a funny thing happened. After trying to ignore the band I actually listened to the whole record one evening driving in my car from school to my house. That is when I discovered how much this band rocked. The songs just kept coming with one hook after another. This was the ultimate toe tap record. Every song seemed to cause involuntary toe tapping and fake drumming on the steering wheel. For the next couple of weeks I listened to it over and over and got more and more hooked by the band. These guys were the best flat out power pop group since the Posies (who they owe a great debt to in sound and lyrical similarity) Besides, any band that name checks Jesus and Mary Chain as a danceable band gets bonus points in my book.

So when the band released their follow up, FUTURES, I was understandably psyched. Although the album had its moments, it just wasn't the same. The band seemed to be trying to hard this time out. The songs didn't have the same bit and hooks that the previous record did. It was too polished, too radio friendly. It did not pass the toe tap test. Then the band seemed to disappear.
I'm sure they are working on some new material and have been out on the road previewing their stuff. I hope it's as good as BLEED AMERICAN. The world needs more music to drive by.

What every drunken guy has said to a girl at 3am in the morning he has wronged either physically or emotionally. Musically a very sunny song, but underneath there is some real heartache.

Just a pop gem. It's like some sort of indie sock hop anthem. Probably my favorite song on the record. Should have been a huge hit but commercial radio is run by idiots who know nothing.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

The Unmitigated Genius of Leonard Cohen

There are some artists that simply cannot be categorized or put into a neat little package. As I was fully absorbing the new THE NATIONAL CD I found myself drifitng towards a comparison to LEONARD COHEN (moslty due to the similarities in vocal style) but the comparison isn't quite apt. Cohen has been writing and singing for about 40 years and has penned more than a couple of classic songs. Known primarily for his lyrics (and his dry sense of humor), Cohen has the sound of a late night bar that is just about to close for the night. The music of his best work has a sensual quality to it that is jsut a little dirty. You can almost see the smoke and the glass of scotch next to him as he sings.
My first exposure to his work was through the film "Pump Up The Volume", an overlooked teen rebel story that used his song "Everybody Knows" as kind of an anthem of dissaffected youth. I actually have found his later work having a little more depth and variation in theme and style. "Hallelujah" is proabably better known for the Jeff Buckley version but the original more than holds it's weight as a plea for fogiveness from a lover who has been wronged. "Tower of Song" (also the benficiary of a great cover by The Jesus and Mary Chain) has started to take on a new lyrical significance as I get older (particularly the line "I ache in the places where I used to play..."). Do yourself a favor and take a moment, poor a glass of your favorite beverage and enjoy the sheer brilliance of a poet and a true lyricist.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Killing Time with The Shout Out Louds

Had a few minutes of work to kill on a Saturday so I started poking around the net and fell upon the newest single from THE SHOUT OUT LOUDS. I really liked their last record, HOWL HOWL GAFF GAFF, and so I was pleasantly surpised to see new stuff. Apparently, they were dropped by their label and just signed with Merge so the record will be delayed for awhile here in the States. (lucky Europeans, always getting cool stuff to buy first!!)

The first single, "Tonight I Have To Leave It", does sound an awful lot like "In Between Days" the THE CURE (not that that's a bad thing) and the rest of the tracks I heard do seem very Cure-esque. But since the last Cure record kinda sucked then this is a fitting substitute. I guess it pays to procastinate at work after all.

(mp3) The Shout Out Louds -- Tonight I Have to Leave It (from Our Ill Wills)