Friday, December 30, 2005

the hardcore gangs that don't listen to NWA...

Megan Seling wrote this piece on The Stranger website about the violence spawned by the FSU gang at hardcore shows, which begs the question: did we learn nothing from "Edge of Quarrel"?

Thursday, December 29, 2005

go ahead and drink the mercury...

Mercury Radio Theater
"The Blue-Eyed Model"

Usually instrumental bands have to have a certain spark to stand out from lyric-heavy rock and rollers. I don't think The Cure could be a successful band without the Robert Smith's gut-wrenching stanzas, not because they're not competant musicians, but over time lyrics have essentially become a separate band member. From time to time, instrumental bands such as Explosions in the Sky or Godspeed You Black Emperor will break out, but it seldom happens.

Mercury Radio Theater is not like most instrumental rock bands. For one thing, they're stripped down to three members who play simple surf rock. And while that doesn't look so great on paper, it's actually quite enjoyable.

Like Seattle's Joules, Mercury Radio Theater plays music that's suited for a spy movie. It's thematic, yet few things spoken. On "The Blue-Eyed Model," the album's concept is centered around a man named Gregor who is attempting to build the perfect human being. The liner notes, which doubles as a comic book, tells the story, and there's also a narrator bringing the story together within the album's interludes. It's like reading an opera of sorts.

"The Blue-Eyed Model" is a great album and not bogged down by Palahniuk-esque meanderings about broken hearts and violent tendencies. It stands on its own feet without the aid of cheap lyrics and that's the sign of a real rock and roll band.

against me signs to a major label!!! punx get angry! the rest of the world doesn't care!

By now the news of Against Me signing the dotted line to Sire/Warner Bros. is pretty old news. I waited a few days to write about it to see how I felt...and to be honest, I don't give a fuck. In fact, nobody should really care.

It's good that a self-proclaimed anarchist band like Against Me get signed to a major record label. It means that these labels and corporations that punk kids (real punks, not the poser mall punks) fight so often can be destroyed within. The idea that the next Against Me album may no doubt talk shit about the system, yet uses the system's money to fund and release these ideas puts a smile on my jaded heart.

Also, they signed to Sire. You know who else was on Sire? Morrissey, Talking Heads and Madonna, suckers. It's not as if they signed to the punk label du jour, Island/Def Jam, started partying with Jay-Z and Beanie Siegel, and putting out a half-assed release.

I think this signing will be problematic for the band if they start sounding like Sum 41 or The Starting Line, which, given their track record, I don't really see happening.

So in closing, good for Against Me and bad for you if you're 29 years old and still living out your SLC Punk fantasy.

[Related Links]
Against Me Official Site Thread
The Problem With Music By Steve Albini

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

when suburban kids attack!

When I wrote my best of/worst of list for the passing year, it dawned on me that although there were some albums that I enjoyed, there was nothing that really popped out as being an album that would reach classic status. Then I started thinking about albums that were being heralded such as Fall Out Boy's "From Under the Cork Tree" and The Bravery's self-titled debut, which led me to think of Orange County hardcore, which led me to think about a question from an old co-worker of mine. He once asked me if I thought he listened to too much "white music." I suppose I never thought much of it because I thought he listened to a lot of pop(ular) music, which had nothing to do with race or ethnicity. But I started thinking about how he grew up and the kind of life he was living at the time and I started to understand why Dave Matthews, Ryan Adams and John Mayer appealed to him so much. In fact, to be truthful, I could always see the appeal of the modern suburban jam troubadors such as the man people refer to as "Dave." The guy's tunes can be boiled down to (mostly) two things: drugs and sex. When I thought about the kind of contempt I had for fans of Dave Matthews, I started to realize that I probably have the same dislike of fans of contemporary pop-punk/screamo/emo.

Generally, Dave's fans are easy to figure out. They have human emotion and issues like everybody else, but rather than dwell on them, they use the power 15 minute saxophone solos during an already extended song about getting fucked up to emote. Newbie pop-punk kids are a whole different story. As mulled over in Andy Greenwald's book, "Nothing Feels Good: Punk Rock, Teenagers and Emo," punk has gone from a politically defiant genre to a sappy-boo-hoo marketing tool. I guess what really bothers me about this obvious difference is that kids allow themselves to be lied and sold to (an issue I've stressed numerous times on this site).

But I guess that's the suburban burden. Most of these bands such as Fall Out Boy, Bleeding Through, The Starting Line, Gatsby's American Dream hail from places where there are no problems.

Gatsby's American Dream is from Kirkland, WA, a wealthy Eastside suburb of Seattle, where there are no visible problems with the homeless, employment, or rampant violence. They sing songs about girls because that's what they know. Even their half-assed concept album, "Ribbons and Sugar," is trite because they're just repeating Orwellian ideals and not their own. They've done nothing but further the problem that there are too many suburban kids with record deals who are saying nothing and feeding into a generation of children who don't know any better.

This generation of kids are wildly obsessive with the aforementioned bands in addition to Dashboard Confessional and horrid new bands such as Valencia and Forgive Durden. These are the kind of kids who don't have real problems so they listen to music that makes them feel like shit. Do I think this is the case for every fan of Chris Carrabba and Pete Wentz? No, but I think for the majority of them, it certainly is the case.

The consensus from the fans is that these bands make music that they can relate to, and that's fine. But how many times can you listen to the same message before it goes from relation to lack of diversity. Here are lyrics from a Fall Out Boy song:

"Am I more than you bargained for yet/I've been dying to tell you anything you want to hear/Cause that's just who I am this week/Lie in the grass, next to the mausoleum/I'm just a notch in your bedpost/But you're just a line in a song."

And from Hawthorne Heights:

"And I can't make it on my own/Because my heart is in Ohio/So cut my wrists and black my eyes/So I can fall asleep tonight, or die/Because you kill me/You know you do, you kill me well/You like it too, and I can tell/You never stop until my final breath is gone."

Both convey similar images of death while comparing and contrasting it to love and lonliness. I think there are grade school children who can come up with better literary allusions.

Some may argue that I place older bands such as Lifetime, Weezer, and the Promise Ring on this pedistal of legend, yet I often criticize bands who are derivative of their style of music. We live in a time where kids are obsessed with how the wealthy live, even if they are well off themselves. Kids in suburbia have nothing to talk about other than what happened on "Laguna Beach," "The O.C." and "The Real World." These shows weren't around, or were played on a much smaller scale in the pop culture spectrum, when early Jade Tree bands were gaining traction. And given that these were also the mid-90's, this kind of music seemed fresh. These bands are a reflection of America's teenage obsession with suburban reality. Shows such as "Laguna Beach" do so well because kids want to emulate this wasteful and ridiculous lifestyle. The new pop-punk shows that as well. Nobody is trying to write anything new and everybody wants to be like each other.

When one producer does well for a band such as Neal Avron, Howard Benson, or Ed Rose, then you have 50 more bands reaching those same producers trying to make their version of "Sticks and Stone" or "Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge." There hasn't been a band in that genre to redefine it in almost three or four years (or maybe more depending on who you ask). Now it seems as though everybody and their grandmothers have screaming choruses and keyboard players.

Another part of the suburban burden is sporting gear from your favorite band. These kids have taken something like a band t-shirt, which used to symbolize that you've helped a small rock band make it to the next town, to becoming this beast of fashion and trend. Everybody is about selling merch. Websites such as deliberately post messages such like "Say Anything has new merch!" as if it were real news. But it's not to the general public, only to suburbanites who have no problem dropping $35 for a hoodie. These days it's about being a walking billboard for a band whose probably gotten so much money in sponsorships from clothing companies such as Atticus or Heartcore (ugh), that all kids are doing is supplying them with coke and whore money. And don't even get me started on the trenches the mall punks call Hot Topic.

Jesse Lacey and Andy Greenwald were right to liken screamo/emo to hair metal. There's an abundance of these shitty little bands everywhere, all vying for a record deal from a two-bit label. Now all we need is a Nirvana to save the day. Or even a Dave Matthews.

movie o' the day

Starring: Nick Cannon, Orlando Jones, and the hot girl from the Britney Spears movie who's not Taryn Manning.

There's nothing new about "Drumline," it's your basic Hollywood boy-finds-blank-and-uses-blank-to-triumph-over-adversity. We've seen it in "Karate Kid," "Hook," and "Meet the Feebles." In this case, the blank in question are the drums. I can't really articulate why I like this movie so much, but know that it's one of the most underrated movies in the last ten years, not unlike the Ed Lover and Doctor Dre tour de force, "Who's the Man?"

Friday, December 23, 2005

An Interview with Nick Harmer of Death Cab for Cutie

[This interview is from the Fall 2003 issue of Halftime. Heather Sorrentino assissted in the writing of questions and I transcribed the whole thing, which took a very, very long time. Given that it's an older interview, you'll notice the mention of Michael Schorr and not Jason McGerr.]

Taxis Are Not Coffins. by Heather S. and Ryan P.

Pack it up, pack it in, let me begin: Death Cab for Cutie is one of the best bands in America right now. Though arguable, it’s clearly unquestionable. In the group’s short history, they’ve ridden a wave of 7" singles, a million performances and three full-length records that culminated in last year’s opus, "The Photo Album."

Regardless of their success, the boys of Death Cab – guitarists Ben Gibbard and Chris Walla, bassist Nick Harmer, and drummer Michael Schorr – are nice, and therefore, approachable guys. It’s not too uncommon to find Gibbard at a Sonic Boom in-store, where Nick can be found at the register, probably shooting the proverbial shit about metal or about how Weezer stole his Muppet idea. Recently, Nick sat down and played a game of 20 questions with us. Here are the terrifying results:

1. Where did you go to high school?

I went to Rogers High School in Puyallup, Washington. I don’t want to talk about the details, but you can imagine what my younger years must have been like.

2. Do you believe that Pabst is the new King of Beers?

I have always believed that Pabst is the benevolent dictator of beers.

3. Why did you want to play bass instead of a six string like other sex machines?

I am going to let you in on a little secret…the bass players have always and will always be the sex machines…guitar players are all show…it’s the quiet ones you gotta watch out for…and I am not a very good guitar player, so switching from six tiny strings to four big fat ones seemed easier to navigate musically…

4. Would you let Andrew WK give you dance lessons? Why or Why not?

Absolutely. What Andrew lacks in style or grace, he more than makes up for in energy and doing something with shit loads of energy can make the easiest, dullest task look kinda cool. Like shopping for groceries…imagine what it would be like if people bought groceries like Andrew WK danced…or we all raced around the store like it was a competition not unlike the Tour de France.

5. What do you look for in a groupie?

The ability to make me blush.

6. Who do you think would win in a fight, Muppets or Fraggles?

Fraggles. Without a doubt. The Fraggles are the working class, blue collar puppets of the puppeteering world. There is no doubt in my mind that they could knock the stuffing out of the soft urban bellies of the Muppets any day or night.

7. Would you ever consider having Bruce Willis do guest harmonica on a Death Cab song?

I would love to see my old pal Bruce again…shit, it’s been what? Fifteen years since I told him to his face that Hudson Hawk sucked after he told me to fuck off for asking his autograph…seriously, true story, I was like twelve or thirteen.

8. Are you involved with any other bands besides DCFC?

I play with Juno, and I am trying to get a metal band off the ground…I want to be called MOLTEN LAVA…

9. How do you feel about having your video on MTV2 and

If it helps in any way to meet Britney Spears or Pink, I am so down….

10. What is the best tour you’ve ever been on?

Hands down, the Death Cab VS. The Dismemberment Plan tour earlier this year was amazing. So much fun and great shows to boot…I will always remember that one.

11. How does the word "emo" make you feel?


12. Where do you see Death Cab in the next five years? (musically, individually, etc.)

I hope that in five years we will all, both collectively and individually, be in a place of creative security…What I mean by that is, I long for [a] day that we are all able to provide for our responsibilities and needs in our adult lives, while still being able to live creative lives centered in the arts….I long for a time when I don’t keep waking up in cold sweats thinking, "Shit, what am I gonna do next? And what am I doing now?" American culture/society has been extremely efficient at convincing citizens that artistic endeavors are by nature irresponsible and full of hot air; that in order to be a true contributing member of our world, you need a "real job" and a "mature life"…I would love to find myself in five years, still without a "real job" and yet able to provide for myself and friends without worry. A pipe dream, I know.

13. Given that you had a bigger contribution on "The Photo Album" compared to past records, do you feel that this trend will continue on as you record more records?

I really hope so. Up until "The Photo Album," Ben has been responsible for the majority of creative input into the band, but I feel that in order for Death Cab to continue to grow and explore newer musical territory, we need to tap everyone’s creative input and work harder at synthesizing all our musical visions…we are in such a good place right now, personally and creatively that I do not think that it is a question of "will more of us get to contribute more in the coming albums," but instead, "what form will our contributions take?"

14. Name your top 5 bands to tour with on your dream tour?

a. Radiohead
b. Low
c. Botch
d. Godspeed You Black Emperor
e. Iron Madien

15. Who are your top 5 favorite bands that have inspired you to make music?

a. Low
b. Pixies
c. Talk Talk
d. OLD Metallica
e. REM

16. What are your favorite restaurants or sightseeing stops when you’re on tour?

I love to eat at Taco Johns, which is this great taco fast food join that mysteriously seems to stop at the Rocky Mountains…Death Cab eats there as much as we can, in fact, on one tour, we ate there for four meals in a row – dinner one night, breakfast, lunch and dinner the next day…suffice to say I puked in the parking lot after my third meal…also, I/we love the Waffle House chain…nothing cures a hangover better than a plate of their waffles, eggs, and two strips of bacon…other than that, we don’t do too much sightseeing or roadside attraction stops…unless of course it is just too weird to skip.

17. Where are your favorite places to play?

I love playing New York City, Boston, Chicago, Austin, and San Francisco…the crowds there seem to be the coolest and most friendly…plus, I just love wandering around those cities; so much to do and see…I wish I could live in all of them simultaneously…

18. If you weren’t playing music, what do you think you’d be doing?

I would be living in Los Angeles trying to make it as an actor. Seriously. Acting is my other secret love and I would die to be a part of the "Hollywood magic" that fills so much of my life…but that is what I like to think I’d be doing, in reality, I would probably be doing something lame, staring out of the window, wishing I was in a rock band….

19. Walla has been mooned by someone I know, have you ever been mooned, mooned someone else, or been flashed by a fanatic member of the audience?

Damn I wish. I think people are scared of me. People are all like, "Damn, Ben and Chris are so cute, I am going to flash them, but that guy over there on bass is kinda evil looking and scary." I have never mooned anyone myself, but I sometimes have an uncontrollable urge to take all my clothes off and run around naked on stage…thankfully to date, I haven’t…but you never know, someday I might just snap….

20. And finally, why are you so cool?

Awww, get outta town. Maybe what makes me cool is that I own my geekiness. I readily admit to collecting comic books, action figures, and 1950’s toasters…I admit that I have never been cool or stylish or sexy, yet I really would like to be someday….when I was young, my mom said that I was like a good wine that was going to get better with age….I don’t know if I am getting better, but I am secure and confident being the dork that I have always been.

burning the loose ends (or et tu, pitchfork?)

i've been writing an essay for the coolness, but i keep rewriting it, so don't expect to read it until the new year.

i am, however, posting a couple of halftime interviews to keep you at bay until next week.

additionally, here are some cool factoids:

* i bought groove theory's debut album for $.99! (actually, i think they only have one album)

* the emcee from gym class heroes sounds like shifty shellshock from crazytown and that's why gym class heroes is wack.

* to correct some lists i made earlier this month, the best hip-hop album of the year is actually little brother's "the minstrel show."

* pitchfork gave lil' kim's "the naked truth" a higher rating than "the minstrel show." i call bullshit.

so a quick recap:

1. groove theory is good
2. gym class heroes = crazy town
3. little brother is better than any of the rap music that pitchfork typically reviews.

see you in the new year...

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

laughs at the expense of your childhood and musical tastes

ready for some cheap guffaws?

four four revisits a beloved holiday classic: a he-man and she-ra christmas special.

andrew mathias makes an animated version of the kidz bop favorite "sugar we're goin' down" by fall out boy.

...and an old school hit from 2003,'s "the scene still sucks: christmas edition."

be back later today we some real text.

merry whatever you celebrate if you celebrate at all.

Monday, December 19, 2005

i ain't 'fraid of no ghosts

tidbits, etc:

  • i am have not done a heavy update in a while because i am still finishing up my contributions to the latest issue of redefine (sorry i'm late, vivian). but i promise some kick ass tales and reviews for el coolness.

  • i'm learning that myspace is a strange place where you find out that ex-girlfriends have hooked up with guys who used to be your best friends and girls that you've dated end up with local rock stars.

  • my friend joel's very underrated old band, the dandelion method, has some christmas tunes for download on their site to lift up your holiday spirits and remind you that it's not really about presents or the benjamins.

  • santa is a scary gentleman.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

saturday morning breakfast read

set aside the paper and check this out.


Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Pedro Vs. Headphones: The Conflict of David Bazan's Fans

David Bazan is one of my favorite songwriters in the last 10 years. His work in Pedro the Lion is often overshadowed by other Seattle contemporaries such as Death Cab For Cutie, The Long Winters, The Divorce, Rocky Votolato, etc. If you ask anybody who is a marginal Pedro fan what their favorite song is, the typical answer is "Big Trucks" from 1998's "It's Hard To Find A Friend."

After releasing a couple concept albums, "Winners Never Quit (a murder-suicide tale)," and "Control (a failing marriage)," the last Pedro the Lion album, "Achilles Heel," abandoned the rock sound of "Winners" and the experimental nature of "Control" for a journey back to the bare bones, psuedo-Christian days of "Whole" and "Friend." Unlike his two previous works, Bazan's "Heel," wasn't as consistant and, in some ways, can be looked as "It's Hard To Find A Friend Pt. 2."

During the summer, Bazan, frequent Pedro the Lion collaborator TW Walsh, and Frank Lenz of Starflyer 59 formed Headphones, a band that features Bazan's signature soft-spoken lyrics but backed with keyboards. Postal Service comparisions are mistaken since Headphones is far more political and probably shares more commonality with Dead Kennedys. In the middle of their self-titled album is "Natural Disaster," an indictment of George W. Bush and American people who found God after September 11th.

I suppose the reason why I'm writing about this band months after their debut dropped is based around that song. Last week, I had a conversation with a friend who is a devout Christian (and I dare not use those words lightly) and he expressed his disappointment with David Bazan because of "Achilles Heel" and "Headphones."

We discussed that "Heel" is probably one of his more faith-inspired works in some time and, as if almost to juxtapose it, "Headphones" is a politically leftist album. He was explaining that many Christian bookstores carry the Pedro the Lion catalog (no doubt because of his early EP "Whole," which was released on Tooth and Nail) and that he felt that "Headphones" betrayed that particular fanbase. I told him that just because you believe in God doesn't mean that you can't criticize the president, or the country for that matter.

I was a little surprised by his feelings since Pedro the Lion has crafted songs about murder, suicide, adultery and violent America. To put down Bazan as a songwriter now seems sudden. In "Backwoods Nation," an unreleased track from "Control," Bazan sings: "Calling all rednecks to put down their sluggers...pick up machine guns and kill camel fuckers." If you don't know anything about the band, you could write off that statement as a call from the KKK to Wal-Mart-fed Pro-Americans, but if you are familiar with Pedro the Lion, then you'd realize that the man is merely singing about the feelings of Americans, post-9/11, and the reality of the rural and Midwest United States.

I guess what I am most uneasy about is that many of these kids want David Bazan and Pedro the Lion to reflect their beliefs so badly that they shun any chink in his armor. Or anything that they may disagree with is dismissed as Bazan "losing his mind (my friend's take on "Headphones")." So an inherently racist song such as "Backwoods Nation" is taken with a grain of salt, yet a song like "Natural Disaster" that features lyrics like "Maybe a couple of airplanes could crash into buildings/and put the fear of God in you" is lambasted because it is critical of the President who has blurred the line of separation between church and state.

I suppose Bazan is probably used to this sort of reaction. There are times when I've seen Pedro the Lion play and it's been more like a press conference than an actual show. During their set, the band will often have an impromptu Q&A and the most popular question is "Are you saved?" Bazan usually responds with a witty remark such as "Saved from what?" Almost always, in my head, I picture him adding, "From idiots?" but it never happens.

I'm not suggesting that Bazan is only shot down by Christians, however, I've met many secular people who've said that they would like Pedro the Lion, if they weren't a Christian band. Though I can't say I ever been to one of their shows and witnessed them inviting someone from the audience to get saved, unlike Emery, who do inform people of the promises of being saved and continue their Bible-thumping at the bar.

It's apparent that Headphones is an entirely different band than Pedro, not only in name and in sound, but the messages in Headphones songs are personal. They do not have the stigma of God attached to their band, but David Bazan does.

It's just a sad state of affairs that "Headphones" actually may open a person's eyes, whether they are believers or not, but they'll probably disregard it since they can't decide for themselves whether an arbitrary thing such as Bazan's personal faith exists or not.

Related Links:
Pedro the Lion

Monday, December 12, 2005

The Worst Albums of The Year: 2005 Edition

As every year passes, I have a minor breakdown where I seriously can't believe that the record industry released some of the most awful things. It should be considered genocide because they're allowing the public's taste to be slaughtered by really horrible music. Any angry emotion I have is usually stored up for this part of the year. It's been that way since I was 9. Well, without further adieu....


Aiden, "Nightmare Anatomy" (Victory)
Ooh, I'm so scared of vampires! Oh no Aiden, don't bite my neck! Aiden is a band that's all image and no rock. Fuck off you damn hacks.
Panic! At The Disco, "Stupid Title" (Fueled By Ramen)
A 15 year old's sad attempt to make a Depeche Mode album and having it sound like a drunk ass fool doing "Just Can't Get Enough" at a karaoke bar.
The Fall Of Troy, "Doppelganger" (Equal Vision)
Basically, these dudes rerecorded the good songs (hence the title "Doppelganger") from their self-titled debut and put it out on another label. What the fuck? I'm not buying the same shit twice and neither should the public.
Will Smith, "Lost And Found" (Interscope)
Hollyhood? You suck Will! I hope you have Jazzy Jeff's number on speed dial.
Idiot Pilot, "Strange We Should Meet Here (Reissue)" (Reprise)
To be truthful, this record wasn't completely horrible. Trite, yes, but it didn't get bad until the rap midway through the album. That was on the Crazytown-Shifty Shellshock-Bloodhound Gang tip. Who can take Idiot Pilot seriously after they kicked a dumb rap in the middle of their record?
Tony Yayo, "Thoughts Of A Predicate Felon" (G-Unit)
This dude got a deal because he was in prison and 50 shouted him out a bunch. But that's kind of like Pol Pot shouting you out.
50 Cent, "The Massacre" (G-Unit/Shady/Aftermath/Interscope)
Stupid cover, terrible songs. The edited version of this sounds better because they replace swearing with gun shot sound effects.
Hawthorne Heights, "The Silence In Black & White (Reissue)" (Victory)
Reissues are so dumb, especially if you sell 500,000 units the first time around. Anyway, this is a rerelease of a previously crappy album, so it's like taking another shit right after you had some bad diarrhea.
Atreyu, "The Curse (Reissue)" (Victory)
See above comment.
Avenged Sevenfold, "Lame Ass Metal Album" (Warner Bros.)
They have a song called "Bat Country." Bat fucking country. If metal could get any more stupid....
Finch, "Say Hello To Sunshine" (Geffen)
Finch pays tribute to Faith No More/Mr. Bungle frontman Mike Patton and fails in what I'd like to call "The Worst Album Since MC Hammer's 'The Funky Headhunter.'"
MxPx, "Panic" (Side One Dummy)
Not as bad as the disaster that was "Before Everything And After," but it still sucks enough to get on this list.
Acceptance, "Phantoms" (Columbia)
I'm gonna let the cat out of the bag here: Acceptance kicked out their former drummer because he was gay. Does that sound so accepting? The end result is a lackluster record that sounds like watered down Further Seems Forever for the Good Charlotte crowd. No wonder this record bombed.
The Starting Line, "Based On A True Story" (Geffen)
So apparently, these assholes did a bunch of interviews (check A.P. and Law Of Inertia) where they kept talking about how this album is influenced by indie rock bands such as Death Cab for Cutie. Where? It sounds like some bitchy brat leading a pop-punk band singing about sex and money.
Weezer, "Make Believe" (Interscope)
Rivers rapping? Generic songs about drugs? Hey guys, thanks for shitting on the legacy of Pinkerton. This steaming pile is supposedly the Weez's last record. "The Green Album" should've been their swan song.
Coldplay, "X&Y" (Capitol)
"Rock" music for people who buy their coffee from Starbucks and don't like Rock music.
Mon Frere, "Real Vampires EP" (Cake/RED)
A few years after they broke, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs finally have a tribute band! But unlike Karen O. and company, these children are not very good. Actually, I would liken Mon Frere to having your eyeballs ripped out of its sockets by a coathanger attached to a moving vehicle going to Wal-Mart to buy the latest Toby Keith CD.

Other bad bands worth mentioning, but not worth writing about in detail:
The Audition
August Burns Red
I Declare War
The Lashes
A Chance Without
Daphne Loves Derby
Gym Class Heroes
The Classic Crime (formerly known as Orizon)
The Academy Is...

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Sinking Ships? Signed? World Explosion?

Collin Horn, who used to play drums in Breathless Mahoney, and his band Sinking Ships were recently signed to Revelation. Finally, Revelation has two good bands on their roster (Since By Man is the other one). Now they can start putting out rockin' releases again.

Related Links:
Sinking Ships
Breathless Mahoney

Friday, December 09, 2005

Imagine Me Shaking My Fist At Your Grammy...

I'm a bit late on this because it's been (as the kids say) mad hella busy. Nevertheless, I've pulled away for a spell to talk smack about the Grammy nominations this year.

I've always maintained that music awards, particularly the MTV VMAs, are of very little value. Who cares if you get a statue? It doesn't validate your musics, especially if it's awful. These days, Grammys aren't worth shit. They give them out to anybody. Hell, Glassjaw once had a Grammy-nominated album (for best artwork!). Think of all the musicians who won Grammys and never did anything of substance again: No Doubt, Milli Vanilli, Erykah Badu, Dirty Vegas, etc. Nelly has won a Grammy and I hardly think that puts him in the same universe as Kool Herc, Crazy Legs, or Rakim. The only award that ever matters is the Nobel Prize because I'm personally gunning for that. I don't know for what yet, but I'm still in my early 20's, so I have some time to think about it.

Record of the Year:
Mariah Carey: "We Belong Together" (She's still around?)
Gorillaz Featuring De La Soul: "Feel Good Inc."
Green Day: "Boulevard Of Broken Dreams" (Haven't they won enough? Regardless, I'm pretty tired of hearing anything from Green Day)
Gwen Stefani: "Hollaback Girl" (This song had a legion of white sorority girls telling the world to "Hollaback," the world responded by mailing out millions of applications to Applebees)
Kanye West: "Gold Digger" (Not the best song on the album)

Hopeful: "Feel Good Inc." (The song ruled. It was the strongest cut from "Demon Days" and it has some of the best De La verses on it)

Album of the Year:
Mariah Carey: "The Emancipation Of Mimi"
Paul McCartney: "Chaos And Creation In The Backyard" (He hasn't made a good album since "Band on the Run.")
Gwen Stefani: "Love. Angel. Music. Baby." (This is THE worst piece of shit ever committed to plastic. Just as bad as Aiden's "Nightmare Anatomy.")
U2: "How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb" (Hey U2, your album came out in November of 2004, therefore, your shit shouldn't qualify.)
Kanye West: "Late Registration"

Hopeful: "Late Registration" (It's a bit more well-rounded than "College Dropout." West trades the rawness of his debut for a less annoying flow.)

Song of the Year:
Rascal Flatts: "Bless The Broken Road" (Meh)
Bruce Springsteen: "Devils & Dust"
John Legend: "Ordinary People" (Like Kanye, John Legend was all over the place this year, needless to say I got pretty tired of this song fast.)
U2: "Sometimes You Can't Make It On Your Own"
Mariah Carey: "We Belong Together" (Anything Jermaine Dupri touches is grounds for wackness)

Hopeful: "Devils & Dust" (Removing the fact that it's only song on this list that didn't piss me off, Springsteen should get an award for standing up to corporate giants like Starbucks and looking good well into his 50's)

Best New Artist:
Fall Out Boy (Grammy's have been like TRL for the past few years, so I wouldn't be shocked if Fall Out Boy won for the terrible album "From Under the Cork Tree.")
John Legend
Ciara (Didn't her album come out last year, too?)
SugarLand (This pop-country shit has gotta stop. Shooter Jennings needs to be on this list, not Sugarland)

Hopeful: Keane (While I dug John Legend, Keane is clearly ready to be the next Travis, meaning that they'll grow and progress with time and will be completely ignored by the general public)

Best Female Pop Vocal Performance:
Mariah Carey: "It's Like That"
Kelly Clarkson: "Since U Been Gone" (I guess American Idol has to be good for something)
Sheryl Crow: "Good Is Good" (Sheryl Crow had a record out this year?)
Bonnie Raitt: "I Will Not Be Broken"
Gwen Stefani: "Hollaback Girl" (I'll Hollaback alright. My fist will holla to your face, you hack)

Hopeful: Kelly Clarkson (Her songwriters gave her some pretty catchy tunes for her sophomore album)

Best Male Pop Vocal Performance:
Jack Johnson: "Sitting, Waiting, Wishing" (Just because millions of frat boys buy your records doesn't mean that you're not ripping of Dave Matthews)
Paul McCartney: "Fine Line"
Seal: "Walk On By" (Seal had a record out this year?)
Rob Thomas: "Lonely No More" (You can't spell chump without this guy)
Stevie Wonder: "From The Bottom Of My Heart"

Hopeful: "From The Bottom Of My Heart" (Stevie Wonder should win this by default. The people he's pitted up against are not worthy to shine his shoes, and that includes Sir Paul.)

Best Rock Performance By Group or Duo:
Coldplay: "Speed Of Sound" (Boring, trite and dull. Shouldn't even be considered)
Foo Fighters: "Best Of You"
Franz Ferdinand: "Do You Want To"
The Killers: "All These Things That I've Done" (This band is the end result of detox and those "I Love the 80's" specials)
U2: "Sometimes You Can't Make It On Your Own" (I know this song is about cancer, but seriously....)

Hopeful: "Best of You" (Foo Fighters are the only ROCK band on this list)

Best Rap Album:
Common: "Be"
Missy Elliott: "The Cookbook" (This album is pretty horrible, even by Missy standards)
Eminem: "Encore" (Has there been a year since 2000 where Eminem didn't have a Grammy nod?)
50 Cent: "The Massacre" (BS...still the edited version rules because they replace swearing with gunshots)
Kanye West: "Late Registration"

Hopeful: "Be" (It's that good)

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

A (Not So) Brand New Interview

I've been busy finishing up my contributions for the upcoming issue of Redefine, so funny reviews and my nudges to pop culture have been set aside. I found an old site that compiled interviews that I was going to put into a book when Season of Death/Breathless Mahoney went on tour; the idea for the book died, butI wanted to put some of the interviews up on Chasing Coolness. All of the interviews are culled from Halftime, a zine that I started with numerous friends. I stopped doing it to focus on school and the band.

This interview with Brand New's Jesse Lacey took place in June of 2003, just as their sophomore album "Deja Entendu" was breaking. Removing the fact I wrote it, it's a good read. You actually start to feel how bothered he was at the time and tired of "the scene." In a later interview with "Spin," he said that the current emo-craze was not unlike the hair metal explosion of the 80's, rather than the punk/grunge phase of the 90's. So there it is. Jesse Lacey is a prophet.

Prior to the last couple years, all Long Island, NY had to offer the rest of the world was hip-hop’s most non-threatening group, De La Soul and an alcoholic iced tea that shared its namesake. Within the passing year or so, we’ve been treated to Strong Island’s best kept secret: emo. MTV2 and Absolute darlings Taking Back Sunday, Coheed and Cambria and Brand New have all come from the shores of the famed LI. But it is only the latter that have thrown a middle finger at the face of commercial emo and punk in their latest release, “Deja Entendu.” (Triple Crown/Razor and Tie)

After releasing the ultra-poppy “Your Favorite Weapon,” Brand New spent much of 2001 and 2002 playing to crowds who frequent Hot Topic and sing along to Good Charlotte and New Found Glory. Now at the height of pop-punk’s return to commercial glory, Brand New have said goodbye to their ties with the punk world as they enter the universe of indie rock.

“Deja’s” rich, and mostly acoustic, sound is derivative of Bright Eyes, Built to Spill and Cursive. Even the poppiest songs on the record have a ring of early Sunny Day. Recently frontman Jesse Lacey sat down with Halftime to discuss the big changes occurring with the band.

In brief, how did the band come about to its current lineup?

Me, Garrett and Brian have known each other for a while. Garrett grew up around the block from me. We met Brian about seven years ago through a friend of a friend. Vin kinda rounded it out about three years ago when we met him. It was really natural. Me, Garrett and Brian had all been in a band together already, we just played together and it kinda grew into what it is.

Deja Entendu sounds different from Your Favorite Weapon. It’s a really big progression when you compare the two. How did the change come about?

It was kinda like a time-lapse thing, where some of songs off of “Your Favorite Weapon” were written when I was 18 or 17, this record I wrote last year and I was 24, so that six-year difference is a big deal. And honestly after we recorded “…Weapon,” a lot of doing that record had to do with getting those songs out of our system.

Stuff that I had written and I knew was good and I knew people needed to hear. After we were done recording it, we were ready to move on. I wouldn’t be surprised if we could have done “Deja Entendu” two or three years ago, really.

Do you ever feel that you’re in danger of pigeon holing yourself by touring with bands like Rufio or other pop-punk bands?

Not that I thought we were, but we are. It’s already to a point where we kinda have to dig ourselves out of a hole a little bit. And there’s pros and cons to it, too, because there’s a lot of great people coming to shows like that and fans of that music and that scene, and they’re our fans. Without them, we really wouldn’t be where we are today, but at the same time, it’s a little bit secluded and it tends to make other people not want to listen to it and not give it a chance.

Now we’re kinda struggling with this tide of all these bands that we’re touring with. Honestly, I don’t think we sound like any of these bands (at press time, Brand New was touring with Senses Fail, Moneen and the Beautiful Mistake). And if we do, then we’re completely deluded, basically.

I know what we have and I know our potential and it’s beyond where we are now. We’re hoping to get there. It’s stupid that anyone would judge you by who you tour with, it’s ridiculous; but at the same time you have to deal with it.

There’s been this huge growth, where last year you might not have had this kind of audience on the west coast, is this something you ever expected?

No. I remember the first time we ever hit the west coast was right here at Graceland with Starting Line and Finch and that was a year and a half ago, two years ago. I was so surprised to see how many people knew who we were, knew the record and right then it had already surpassed everything we thought was going to happen. And now, we’re headlining these shows; there’s 100 or 200 kids left outside. It’s amazing. I’m so glad that we’re able to mean something that many people, I guess.

It’s like it almost doesn’t matter what happens from here. We wanna be the biggest band in the world, but we’re already past the goal that we set for ourselves.

What would you say are the key influences on Deja?

It’s really hard [to describe]. I was talking to my friend John about this because he mentioned to me after he listened to it, that he heard more of our influences more so on this record than he’s ever heard. He mentioned Modest Mouse, Neil Young, Nirvana and definitely he’s not wrong on any of those, but I don’t know where it came from.

That’s such a strange question. I have no idea; I guess they’re right. I was listening to a lot of the Talking Heads almost exclusively in the studio. But Modest Mouse and Built to Spill and lyrically, Elvis Costello, Morrissey, and Robert Smith from the Cure. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t striving to live up to a standard that they have set.

Do you feel with Deja and records that may follow it, your audience may grow with you? Maybe it’s not out of the ballpark to think that Brand New may tour with Death Cab for Cutie or Pedro the Lion?

No, not at all. I think that’s more of the reality now that we’re going to face more than anything. If I had to tour with another one of these bands…(laughs). That’s what these bands have been doing. I really don’t want to offend someone personally, but it’s just getting so stale to me. We’re partially to blame; I don’t want to not point the finger at us, but everyone could be so much better than what they’re doing right now. It’s so boring, so many of these shows. I feel bad because I don’t think anyone is getting what they deserve.

I was just talking about Nada Surf and they had that hit on MTV in 96 and put out three records since then and no one’s really taken notice of. And they just put out “Let Go” on Barsuk and I heard that record and [thought] this is probably either the first, second or third best record of this year. No one’s put out something like this in so long. It’s just so honest and so good. It’s so good to see a band reinvent themselves like that and not be scared to be like “Hey, we could write songs that are better than anything we’ve ever written before.”

There are so many bands that are unwilling to do that, they just keep putting out the same record over and over again. I can understand if it has something to do with them being totally uncreative or them just wanting to make some money. I can’t blame anyone for wanting to make money.

There’s those bands on TV right now, on TRL and they have a formula – and they’re playing to 22,000 people a night and playing the pop punk that I was playing when I was 19 or 20 and that’s great because more kids are listening to that. Which means that more kids are gonna listen to my band, eventually, because of them. But at the same time, I feel we owe it – and everyone – owes it to their fans to respect them and to know that they’re gonna grow. Those kids who are listening to Rufio are gonna grow, they’re gonna listen to something new in three years, four years. Whatever I was listening to when I was 21, 20, 19, isn’t what I’m listening to now. It’s a constant change and I think the band should change with the fans. Or you’re gonna disappear.

Wow. Do you ever feel because you’re pursuing music as art, as opposed to music as commerce, people might feel that you’re betraying Your Favorite Weapon?

Of course. When we recorded [Deja], we didn’t know what we were doing. It wasn’t a conscious decision to change, or you know, do a 180 from “Your Favorite Weapon”…. It just kinda came out. When we listened to it after it was done, we realized the changes we made and how much we “matured.” Some people are gonna hate us. It was like we knew it right off the bat, some of these kids are just not gonna get it, whether it’s because they’re young or just because they don’t like what we’re doing now.

It’s kinda like a count your losses thing, because you’re taking a risk and you’re hoping that you’re gonna reach more people. That you’re gonna get new fans. You have to lose some to get some. We can’t [cater] to every single person; we’re trying to write songs that everyone will like. We’re trying to write the best songs we can that pleases as many people as possible, while still pleasing ourselves. If some people don’t like them, then there’s nothing we can do about it.

You talk about honesty on this record and in “I Will Play My Game Beneath the Spin Light” you make mention of touring and cutting yourself, your feelings, on stage…

…The line’s about cutting myself open and spilling myself on stage, basically. It was kind of a graphic, physical reference to what I feel like I have to do. Not so much emotionally, but no one really wants to hear do I put this? People want the blood, they want the guts; they want the graphic hurt and pain. They want to know what’s really going on, they want to see everything you tell – or it’s boring.

Unfortunately, or fortunately, the more honest I am or the specific I am about the things that I’m writing about, the better people respond to it. And that’s understood because I feel the same way about the stuff that I listen to. When I listen to Morrissey and he talks about bashing someone’s skull in, but he’s singing it in a way that makes him seem like the victim – which is the most genius thing I can think of. How do you be the killer and come off like the one that got hurt?

People just want to know that someone feels exactly the same way that they do, and whether if it’s they’ve been hurt in the same way or someone’s been just as bad as they have, someone’s done just as much hurting…and just as ashamed as they are. That’s what gets people and that’s the only way I find I could write, otherwise, the songs don’t really mean much to me….

Along with the stylistic changes, I read somewhere that you guys offered the idea of playing some of the Warped Tour dates this year acoustic….

Yeah, that was funny. Computers are an amazing thing. Mention it to two people and next thing you know it shows up in an interview I do the next day.

It was just an idea we had in passing. Just because in some aspects we don’t fit very well on the Warped Tour…. We thought that playing a quieter set and giving something [a little different]. Instead of something that kids jump around to and get dirty to, they could just sit and listen and enjoy.

We talked about the hopes and growth of this band in the next few years, where do you see yourself as a songwriter in the future? You write these brutally honest songs at 24, at 30, how far can you take it?

Wow, that’s a good question. I was watching the Eminem “Driven” on VH-1 and actually I was thinking about that today because he’s taken some of his songs really, really far. Really far, like mentioning Sonny Bono and they way he died and Christopher Reeve and the way he was paralyzed, that’s really touching on some bases that are just untouchable.

But look at Eminem, look at his status, like I said, that’s what people respond to. If you can be as (pauses). I don’t agree with that, that has nothing to do with me or my life or anything, but it goes to show you that there’s something to shock, blood and gore and all that stuff. Saying something that no one else wants to say. I believe in that part; I believe in saying something that no one else wants to say, as long as it’s honest. As long as it’s something that I’m thinking, other people are probably thinking it, but no one wants to admit it. That really appeals to me in a lot of ways because everyone hides behind it. Everyone wants to be the victim. I want to be that, too, but I’m not. That’s the problem, I’m me and I can’t deny the other parts of me. It’s kinda getting old the way that everyone wants to come across like that and write songs about it. Some of the greatest rock songs ever are written about that kind of hurt. Especially the bands that we play with in the scene that we’re in or come from, they’re just watering it down. No one’s saying anything that’s good, or saying anything.

It’s cool to say something that’s already been said if you’re saying it in a new way or in an interesting way but it’s gonna be stale and old. Some of the stuff on our first record and a few instances on our second record, I’m ashamed of a little bit. I could’ve said some things so much better than that, lyrically. I could’ve written something better and blown people off their feet, but instead I took the easy way out of it and rhymed or something stupid like that. I get on myself so much for that, it just annoys the hell out of me.

All I could do is just hope that technically, I become a better writer and the technical side has a lot to do with it. There’s a lot to say about literary technique whether it be rhyming or rhythm or alliteration, I try to incorporate all that high school stuff that you thought you’d never use into it. And it tends to work. If I can combine that with what I’m trying to say or say I what I want to.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

comic book fans rejoice!

Another example of why there is a God:

A replica of the helmet Billy Campbell wore in "The Rocketeer" is available at Sky Mall for $399. Man, it's moments like this when I wish I was swimming in some of that Scrooge McDuck money.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Hip-Hop Essentials, Indeed

Various Artists
Hip-Hop Essentials 1979-1991: Volume One
(Tommy Boy)

The Tracklisting:
Fearless Four "Rockin' It"
Beastie Boys "Hey Ladies"
B.D.P. "South Bronx"
Egyptian Lover "Egypt Egypt"
Salt-N-Pepa "Tramp"
Marley Marl/The Juice Crew All-Stars "The Symphony"
Doug E. Fresh/Slick Rick "La Di Da Di"
Sugar Hill Gang "Rapper's Delight"
Dr. Jeckel "Genius Rap"
Too Short "The Ghetto"
Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five "Scorpio"
JJ Fad "Supersonic"

Even with a trite track like "Rapper's Delight" you should still buy this. NOW!!!!!

two things on this friday morning...

First thing: I'm DJing tonight. Come one, come all. For all the trash I talk about "fake" DJs, come and join the fun and check out what I'm talking about when I say "the art of DJing."

Second thing: I STILL can't believe that Jayla got kicked off of America's Next Top Model! What the crap.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

laughing with daggers

Seriously, more people should listen to JR Ewing. If those dudes in the Mars Volta were able to catch on, why aren't you? Huh?

There are some peeps who've been posting their favorite tunes of the 90's, well for the lack of actually wanting to sit down and write something well thoughtout, here's my list, enjoy!

1. Another Bad Creation: Iesha
2. Snap!: The Power (Anybody who's ever seen the movie "The Perfect Weapon" understands why this song is so great)
3. Smashing Pumpkins: 1979
4. Lifetime: Rodeo Clown
5. Large Professor: Ijuswannachill
6. Pete Rock and CL Smooth: I Got A Love
7. Nirvana: Rape Me
8. 702: Steelo
9. The Click: Hurricane
10. Luniz: I Got 5 On It
11. Mary J. Blige: Reminisce (CL Smooth Remix)
12. The Riverdales: Back To You
13. Toad The Wet Sprocket: All I Want
14. Radiohead: Karma Police
15. The Roots: Silent Treatment
16. Ice Cube: It Was A Good Day (Remix)
17. Rappin' 4-Tay: Playaz Club
18. Hi-Five: Quality Time
19. Built To Spill: Carry The Zero
20. Mos Def: Universal Magnetic
21. Brand Nubian: Punks Jump Up To Get Beat Down
22. Tribe Called Quest: Award Tour
23. Jodeci: Times We Shared
24. Beatnuts: Do You Believe?
25. Notorious B.I.G.: The What
26. Murder City Devils: Left Hand Right Hand
27. Raekwon/Ghostface Killah: Glaciers Of Ice
28. Mobb Deep: Shook Ones Pt. II
29. Drive Like Jehu: Here Come The Rome Plows
30. Jimmy Eat World: Your New Aesthetic
31. DJ Jazzy Jeff & the Fresh Prince: Summertime
32. Shanice: I Love Your Smile
33. De La Soul: Ego Trippin'
34. Nas: N.Y. State Of Mind
35. Weezer: Pink Triangle
36. Bone Thugs-N-Harmony: Days Of Our Livez
37. Get Up Kids: Woodson
38. Rasco: The Unassisted
39. Queen Latifah: Ladies First
40. Face To Face: I Won't Lie Down
41. Tom Petty: Into the Great Wide Open
42. Morrissey: Used To Be A Sweet Boy
43. Beastie Boys: Root Down (Prince Paul Remix)
44. Snow: Informer
45. Red House Painters: Have You Forgotten
46. Portishead: Only You
47. DJ Shadow: Midnight In A Perfect World
48. Botch: Frequenting Mass Transit
49. Tha Alkaholiks: Mary Jane
50. Ras Kass: Soul On Ice (Diamond D Remix)

That's all I have for now. These will probably change tomorrow, so don't bet on me doing another list like this...but if I do, I'll break it up into genres. Crap. I probably should've done that in the first place.