Sunday, November 22, 2015

Around Another Bend, The Giant Drivers Roll

A few weeks ago, I had an opportunity do some railfan photography; and planned to get trackside after paying a brief visit to my grandfather. He was in residence for physical therapy for two weeks at an area nursing home, and when I visited he had just come back from the gym. I didn't want to overtax him, so we chatted for a little while and I got rolling. 

My plan was to photograph some of the locations along the Bessemer & Lake Erie, especially some things that might be going away soon. I planned on making my start at the north signal protecting the siding near Ivywood. I pulled up to the spot, where there's a place to pull off of the road next to the signal. I got my camera ready, and as I was opening the door of the car, I heard a noise I didn't expect. I turned to look up the tracks and there was a southbound coming right then and there!

I grabbed the above shot and dashed to the south end of the siding. I actually had to wait for them to come in sight, briefly; and then took the next couple shots. Coming...

...and going.

After another dash south, to Culmerville, I found a decent vantage point on the bridge crossing the Bessemer line in town. This turned out to be a fantastic shot, I think.

Last but not least, I was able to get to Harmarville, and get these two photos of the train crossing the bridge over the Allegheny River. A zoom lens would have been nice here. Have to save up.

I could have used a better vantage point I found while poking around after the train disappeared, incidentally. Crossing the Gulf Lab Road bridge over the Turnpike would have given a clearer shot. Next time!

Also I was just in time to catch Norfolk Southern passing the PPG paint plant and the Cheswick power plant.

Quite a full day.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Old Man, Look At My Life

Hey, guess what? Neil Young turns 70 today! You know what that means? Neil Young is OLD.

Happy ironic birthday, Neil!

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Friday, October 16, 2015

You Can't Blame The Cynic's Pride

From 2006 until earlier this year, Brooklyn-based quartet Obits had a raucous, surf-tinged punk sound. With Rick Froberg - formerly of post-hardcore bands Hot Snakes and Drive Like Jehu - as frontman, that should come as no surprise. So how does Moody, Standard And Poor stack up?

What I Liked:
Let me dispel one prejudice you may have about this album: it's definitely not a pegged-dial hardcore album. It's pretty hard-hitting, but it's not extreme. I'd say it's really no harder than early Ramones records, and it's generally more melodic, actually. Froberg and Sohrab Habibion are on rhythm and lead guitar, respectively; Greg Simpson hammers out the bass; and Scott Gursky rounds out on drums. It's a very simple sound; with garage rock and punk beats and riffs (more on that later). The most memorable song is 'Shift Operator', with a Pixies-like attack/retreat for a melody and one of two vocals by Habibion. A high-voltage bass, catchy surf-style riffage, a sweet backbeat, and a plaintive vocal make a nicely dark track that I keep getting stuck in my head - this is everything they do right. 'Naked To The World' is a brighter track that contends for second place. 'Spot The Pikey' is an instrumental that sounds randomly tossed off, but still manages to be a fun ride - and when the band shouts the title in the middle, it just makes me smile. I like 'New August' too, getting a little more sinister and with a real edge. It's also cool how it builds from the long instrumental intro to the verses. 'Standards', the other Habibion vocal, works well despite a cookie-cutter setup.

What I Didn't Like:
The sound is somewhat tinny! It's one of the few records I've heard that I can say was too underproduced, of all things. The force of the music is borne by Froberg's vocals and his and Habibion's guitars and that's not quite strong enough. There's no presence from the rhythm section; Gursky pounds out his part all right despite a pretty stock performance in general, but there's certainly not enough thud from Simpson. It ends up sounding somewhat lo-fi, but without the lighthearted charm that made Guided By Voices fun to listen to. This record sounds sloppy in some other ways; there's some overly loose changes in melody and riff, even in 'Shift Operator' (although it kinda works there). Riffage tends to sound underdeveloped or simplistic or unoriginal somewhat often. Of the songs not mentioned above, they tend to sound very similar, especially Froberg's vocals. He almost never lets up in belting it out. I do find myself getting weary of his voice after too long.

In Conclusion:
It's not too bad an album, but I think in places it tries too hard to be a hard-fi locore album (if that is such a thing). If you're not feeling brave or ready for a challenge, you could just cherry-pick the best songs.

Last year saw the release of The New Pornographers' sixth album, Brill Bruisers. I've heard key Pornographer A. C. Newman call it a 'celebration record' - that he wrote much of it without anything in his life dragging him down. And I have to say that it lives up to such a description! How so, exactly?

What I Liked:
The New Pornographers seem to have a talent for hooky and simply beautiful pop harmonies and melodies, and it shows in spades on Brill Bruisers. The production is bright and very smooth; it makes the record sound genuinely fun! Virtually the whole album is great; so I'm just going to pick out my personal favorite tracks. With a wonderfully bombastic title track as an opener, the album starts really well. The slower beat does nothing to indicate the high energy pop that's coming later on, but it's funky and fun. 'Champions Of Red Wine' is dreamy and delightful but energetic; 'Fantasy Fools' is great bright power pop. The track that has managed to become my favorite on the album is 'War On The East Coast'; it's energetic, bombastic, soaring superpower pop with a subtly sinister undertone. You wouldn't think that a harmonica would find a place in a song like this, but here it works nicely!And the first single and the track that keyed me into the band, 'Dancehall Domine', simply is fun frantic danceable pop; it's got a killer riff, a killer hook, a funky instrumental bridge and honestly, I just can't help but enjoy it!

What I Didn't Like:
Very little. Side B does slow down, relatively speaking, but that's tempered by the presence of 'Dancehall Domine' and the comparatively soaring power pop-octane content of Side A in general! I really don't know what to complain about - nothing about this album really bothers me in any way.

In Conclusion:
This is a fantastic album. It's the most fun I've heard committed to vinyl in a very long time! Does that sound good to you? Seriously, check it out!

Saturday, August 29, 2015

I Don't Care If It Rains, Let's All Go To The Bar

So I decided that, for my 29th birthday, I was going to get as many of my friends together and take them to the South Side. So we got a pretty good group together and started out at Dee's. I got a quick photo of the bunch there.

No, that's not it. 

That's definitely not it!

Ah, there we go. Sam was there earlier, but took off for Lava Lounge to meet an old college roomie who lives on the South Side now. We, in fact, caught up with them.

Thank you to Matt for driving, and everyone else for coming! Ray liked the music, Mike & Lauren recommended a couple of bars I'd never thought to try (Carmella's and Acacia - I was in Carmella's a couple times when it was still Inn-termission, but that was a while ago), Jonathan didn't get as drunk as we hoped expected, and a good time was had all around.

Oh, and we stopped at Lesvos for food. Obligatory pic of my friends eating, lol.

Let's do this again sometime!