Wednesday, September 26, 2007

The Best Laid Plans...

So a few days ago it was gloomy and rainy here in Pasadena. So I dove into the collection to look for something musically appropriate for the weather. I pulled out a couple of CD's from the New York group BAND OF SUSANS. These guys were a minor obsession of mine years ago because they were making records that sounded a lot like MY BLOODY VALENTINE (and let's face it, MBV wasn't coming out with anything new at the time...or now for that matter). But then I got sidetracked and didn't post them that day. So of course what happens...the DAMN SUN COMES OUT!!! All of a sudden it's 90 degrees and people are back to the beach. So posting these songs seemed like it would kill the weather renaissance and I don't want to be accused of stealing the sunshine from SOCAL.

But I digress. This band is noteworthy in my life for three reasons. 1) It used to feature Page Hamilton (later to found the ridiculously good band HELMET) on guitars. 2) The lyrics had that vaguely political/ slightly depressed vibe that made me seem a little cooler than everyone else who was busy listening to Stone Temple Pilots. 3) This was the first band I actually interviewed. I was so nervous about this phone interview that I read the press kit the label sent me four times. I prepped something like 40 questions to ask. The lead singer, a very nice guy by the name of Robert Poss, must have thought I was an absolute freak. Later, after several other band interviews where I realized that you should really only ask like two questions, have them do a couple of radio ID's for your station then get the hell out of the way, I reeled in horror at what I complete dork I must have been to that guy. But I still dig their music on rainy days.
(probably my favorite song of theirs. Just an absolute wall of noise that hearkens back to Spaceman 3 and MBV)
(more subdued and a little more mellow but still has a nice guitar bite to it)
(it was a toss up between this one and their version of Paint it Black, but this was live so it gets the nod)

Sunday, September 23, 2007


There are few moments that a sports fan can truly rejoice. When you team wins something big, it almost validates the hours you put in watching the games, swearing at the radio in disgust, or pouring over the newspaper for useless tidbits of minutiae (injuries, locker room altercations, minor league batting averages, etc.) So when the Los Angeles Angels won today to clinch their 3rd American League West in the past four year I celebrated. I yelled and pumped my fist in joy. Now I realize that I had nothing to do with the team winning. I did not strike anyone out or hit a game tying home run along the way, but I did root, cheer and support the team as hard as I could. My wife and I have literally sacrificed a good portion of our summer to watching the games. It's just part of the routine of the sports fanatic. So as the playoffs loom I once again break out my vintage Angels jersey and outfit my boys in the latest Angel fashion for the long playoff drive to a World Series Title.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Driver Eight -- The band not the song

Tooth and Nail Records was this fun little record label out of Seattle that specialized in pop and punk records in the mid 1990's. Not the hardcore punk stuff coming out of NY and LA but the softer edge stuff (MxPx and the like). Then they shifted gears to more of a traditional indie rock fare and sent me this little gem of a record called "Watermelon" by the band DRIVER EIGHT. Now any band that uses one of my all time favorite R.E.M. songs as it's name automatically got at least a cursory listen but the more I listened to the record the more I fell in love with it.

The band is nothing really special; just a typical three piece rock group. Their songs had all the markings of REM and other Alt Rock heroes. The best analogy I could come up with at the time was BUFFALO TOM. I just kept thinking to myself, wow I really dig this record and can't really say why. I must have played it a hundred times and was still entranced by the simple yet direct musicianship and the conviction of the music. Whether it was the fuzzed up guitars of "Getting This Thing To Go" or the sunny poppiness of "Waiting for Godot", the record was just contagious.

I hadn't listened to it for a long time but as I was pulling things out of the collection I dropped it into the pile and now I am re-listening to it again. It still has that same feel. Good records rarely get worse with age.

p.s. The lead singer, Matt McCartie, seems to have continued to record music under the name THEFT. Check out some of his new work here.

(mp3) Driver Eight -- Sunbitten (love the way this one keeps building and building to it practically explodes from the speakers)

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Songs for Doing Dishes Part Two

So I'm kind of devoid of any real thoughts or ideas tonight so a few random selections from my Ipod that were playing tonight as I cleaned the kitchen:

This was taken from the second UNKLE CD (after DJ Shadow left the group) and features the vocals of former Stone Roses lead singer Brown. I like this song mostly for it's way over the top melodramatic string usage behind a driving techno beat. I remember it took me forever to track this album down because it wasn't available in the US for like a year after it's release...but it was worth the wait. I can't say the same for the groups latest which is not nearly as good as their first two albums.

Got this the other day from the excellent blog 17 SECONDS mainly because it has the great Robert Smith from the Cure doing the vocals to what might as well be a lost Orbital song (since Hartnoll is one half of that duo). A great song that I will probably listen to another dozen or so times in the next 48 hours.

Hype is a funny thing. Suede was about as hyped a band coming out of England as I could remember. They were supposed to be the new Smiths. They were supposed to be as big as the Stones. They weren't either. About two years ago the lead singer and the guitarist got back together and formed a new band (why they didn't use the old name I have no idea) called the Tears. Alas they are still over hyped and not very good. I downloaded this record and can honestly say I have only listened to the whole thing twice. But this song is alright.

Tomorrow I should be back on the creative beam...goodnight all!!

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Zencast #7 (Acoustically Speaking)

This episode of the Your Moment of Zen zencast is dedicated to the acoustic guitar in all its glory. A long time ago I bought an acoustic guitar, back when I still entertained notions of rock stardom (or at least coffee house anonymity) and tried to learn to play. But unlike Bryan Adams, I did not play till my fingers bled, and therefore did not master the instrument. Today it sits quietly in the hallway, mocking me and what might have been. So in honor of my unplayed acoustic guitar I bring your Episode lucky #7...


1. Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova -- Falling Slowly
2. Joseph Arthur -- Honey and the Moon
3. Billy Bragg -- Northern Industrial Town
4. Black Rebel Motorcycle Club -- Complicated Situation
5. Bright Eyes -- From A Balance Beam
6. Cat Stevens -- Moonshadow
7. Coldplay -- Till Kingdom Come
8. Goo Goo Dolls -- Acoustic #3
9. Josh Ritter -- Snow is Gone (Live)
10. The Hereafter -- Eulogy

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

I'm In Heaven

It's my 100th post!!! (Okay so it took me a little longer to get here than some others but still I think it's quite an achievement)

To celebrate we have the new ROGUE WAVE record "Asleep At Heaven's Gate". Continuing where the brilliant "Descended Like Vultures" left off, Rogue Wave have continued to refine their Beatles influenced lofi pop sound into a smooth and catchy blend. Zach Rogue has continued to use his slightly hushed falsetto to good use given that this time out the tone of the record seems a bit darker and more reflective in nature. At first listen it appears that any real change to the sound seems to be very subtle which should please long time fans (myself included). As I listen more I can see the depth and breadth that has been added. The songs, particularly the single "Lake Michigan" and the upbeat "Like I Needed" have a nice sing song quality to them that should translate well live. Elsewhere, Matthew Caws of Nada Surf (another fave around here ), pops up to sing vocals on "Chicago x12". The back half of the record finds the band slipping into a more somber tone to finish with the simply gorgeous "Missed" and the more epic "Phonytown" (although I would have probably switched them to close the album with a slower pace...but it's a small quibble on my part.)

No doubt this will be one of the biggest and best records for me this year. I can't wait to dive into it in greater detail.

(mp3) Rogue Wave -- Chicago x12 (Care of an excellent Blog "The World Forgot")

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Random Soundgarden Post

I was big into the Seattle Grunge movement of the 1990's. I loved the energy and raw emotion of the music and the apparent genuine nature of the artists. It seemed that the bands that came out at that time were pure and undoctored. They didn't care about their image, which unfortunately became just as big a deal as their sound. Despite the images of long hair, flannel shirts and disheveled hair, the music was about the freshest collection of sounds to come around since the punk movement of the 70's. Each band had a part to play. Nirvana lead the pack with their punk ethos and rock star charisma. Pearl Jam played the role (somewhat reluctantly) of stadium stars. Alice In Chains cornered the market on the spiral of drugs and self destruction. Then there was Soundgarden.

If Nirvana was the Beatles and Pearl Jam the Stones, then Soundgarden was Led Zeppelin. More metal than any other Seattle band, Soundgarden hit you over the head with thick distorted guitars and pounding rhythms and bass lines. There was nothing subtle about this quartet. Chris Cornell even sounded a bit like Robert Plant (with more testosterone). With their two major releases, "Badmotorfinger" and "Superunknown", the band staked their claim to the label of the thinking man's metal band. Where the songs on "Badmotorfinger" were more akin to the early material, with their constant barrage of guitars and screaming vocals, "Superunknown" was more melodic and more song oriented. Both records showcase a band immersed in their own work, not caring about what others where doing or if their music would be accepted by the public. As with all the Seattle bands, Soundgarden seemed almost surprised by their success and after one more album they broke up. Cornell did some solo work and worked with members of the Rage Against the Machine (under the name Audioslave) but has never really sounded as good as he did with his original band. I think it's probably best that they did break up when they did, their place in music history was already secured and they could have only damaged their sterling record.

(mp3) Soundgarden -- Outshined (from Badmotorfinger)
(mp3) Soundgarden -- Rusty Cage (from Badmotorfinger)
(mp3) Soundgarden -- Spoonman (from Superunknown)
(mp3) Soundgarden -- My Wave (from Superunknown)

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

So That's Who That Was

A few days back I posted a song I heard on a children's show Yo Gabba Gabba but an artist I could not identify. Through some cunning research (read:reading the credits at the end of the show) I discovered that the song was written by Mark Kozelek but I couldn't figure out where I had heard that name before. Then it finally hit me, he's the principle member of THE RED HOUSE PAINTERS. Another one of my 4AD bands from college, the Painters worked in the melancholy shades of acoustic guitars, minor chords and hushed vocals. Kozelek has recorded solo albums and with other musicians under the name SUN KIL MOON, but in all his incarnations he has stayed somewhat true to this folksy style of music. Often the songs extend into rhythmic dirges that can be a bit much to bear, but when he keep things relatively short and tight the impact of his voice and music is really quite powerful. Artists like M. Ward and Low certainly owe a lot of their sound to this guy.

Certainly music for a hazy, kinda dark day.

(mp3) Red House Painters -- Lord Kill The Pain (from Down Colorful Hill)
(mp3) Red House Painters -- Michael (from Down Colorful Hill)
(mp3) Red House Painters -- I Am A Rock (from Red House Painters)...yes it's the Simon and Garfunkel song but with a very different spin.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Zencast #6 (Music From The Left Of Center)

Note: this is a pic of my brother the last time he went to Iraq

I have tried to stay away from politics on this blog. I like to find lighter things to speak of but with my brother about to be deployed to Iraq sometime in the next few months I seem to be thinking about heavier things lately. So I compiled this podcast with songs that have a message about either war or revolution. I have no real political statement to make but I do feel that we have to take a hard look at what we are doing in the Middle East and why we are there. So here are songs that make a statement and ask questions about America's place in the world.

Zencast #6 (Music From The Left Of Center)


1. Husker Du -- Makes No Sense At All
2. Billy Bragg -- Price Of Oil
3. Pearl Jam -- Army Reserve
4. Micheal Franti and Spearhead -- Yell Fire!
5. REM -- Orange Crush
6. Rage Against The Machine -- Killing In The Name Of (Live)
7. Son Volt -- Jet Pilot
8. Warren Zevon -- The Envoy
9. Joe Strummer -- Redemption Song