Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Is She Promised To The Night, And Her Head Has No Room?

I just realized something. We're using a word in two surprisingly opposed senses, given that both senses involve gender. We're talking about racks, people.

We refer to these as such:


It's the antlers that we're concerned with. Antlers, or horns in sheep and cattle, are a giveaway that the animal is a mature male. Meanwhile, we also refer to this with the same term:

Thanks, Wikipedia...

Yes, we're talking about boobs. Again, they're a sure biological sign that we're looking at (and quite distractedly, I must add) a mature woman. So somehow, we took the term the term for the second most distinctive male physical characteristic in the animal kingdom and used it as a slang term for the second most distinctive indication of human femininity. 

Is this a current thing? Is the meaning of rack as slang-for-breasts a recent development, or does it have more of a history than I would guess? The internet doesn't have a clear answer so for the time being I'm at a loss. 

This confuses me, if I think too much:

Uh... nice rack(s)?

Now I Don't Know How To Feel, I've Got Bulldog Skin

I don't understand it.

I'm vacillating - oscillating, really, between two sets of feelings - One shining and pure, the other a sense of waste on many levels and in many interpretations. In order, the last few books I've read (and this might give a clue as to the source of my emotional pinballing) are: The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, The Girl Who Played With Fire, The Hobbit, The Fellowship Of The Ring (only so far as Frodo's arrival in Rivendell), and Generation X by Douglas Coupland. The last I just picked up today for 99 cents in a thrift store on the South Side (along with a fistful of oldies on their original labels, natch) and interrupted my revisit to Middle-Earth to check it out. I'm still not finished with the novel, but it's a strange tale of Southern California hipsterism, apparently published just before it was cool. And it's a vividly shitty and emotionally empty view of the world.

My reading list has turned into the emotional equivalent of the liar paradox, almost; and I sit here emotionally supertasking for almost no discernable reason. I can only guess that the sense of depression I got from reading the first Larsson novel and following up a few days later with the second needed healed with Tolkien's fantasy world, about as richly and glowingly conceived as the Sweden of Lisbeth Salander and Mikael Blomkvist seems to be dulled and darkened by filth and sex, the SoCal of Dag, Andy and Claire weatherbeaten and warmed-over (or cleverly hand-distressed to appear as such?). I'm bewildered and depressed, yet again, by Coupland and his knack for picking apart the lives of twentysomethings who feel equal parts smothered and abandoned by the (post-)modern world. Strangely, I feel as though Tolkien gives to the hobbits returning home at the end of The Return Of The King the same chance to remake their world in their own image as the disaffected youth of Coupland's novel seem to long for. Saruman as mass marketer? A strange instance of applicability, especially as opposed to the disavowed allegory alluded to in Fellowship's foreword.

Cut away the garbage, the hype, the careers, the fads and the fast food, and you get to what makes people, well, human. Somehow, tragedy and challenge make characters, make strong and real ones; and comfort and plenty and reward, bizarrely, will in like fashion unmake them. I still don't get it, but I think I know what it is I'm not getting.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Mystery Train, Three Way Plane, And Expressway To Your Skull

Number seven shows the influence of Guitar Hero and Rock Band, as well as some of my deeper delving into current weird alternative music. This one should be from late 2008 or early 2009.

1. All The Small Things – Blink-182
2. Watch Us Work It – Devo
3. Around The Bend – Asteroids Galaxy Tour
4. Rebel Girl – Bikini Kill
5. Kids In America – The Muffs
6. Pretend We’re Dead – L7
7. A Jagged Gorgeous Winter – The Main Drag
8. Float On – Modest Mouse
9. Golden Touch – Razorlight
10. Feel The Pain – Dinosaur Jr.
11. Twice As Hard – The Black Crowes
12. Even Flow – Pearl Jam
13. Radio Nowhere – Bruce Springsteen
14. Almost Easy- Avenged Sevenfold
15. Through The Fire And The Flames – Dragonforce
16. Little Sister – Queens Of The Stone Age
17. Harmonise – Ipso Facto
18. Expressway To Yr. Skull – Sonic Youth
19. De-luxe – Lush

Thursday, December 19, 2013

They'll Be Too Drunk To Know

So like I went down to Dee's Cafe tonight and dang if tonight wasn't the most awesome I've had in so long it's not even funny and I totally owe Max a drink for inviting me to hang with his crowd and like you guys are awesome and I wish Max and Heather the best, and Kate you were cool too, and Heather don't service jobs suck amirite? and I'm so jealous of the dude Max and I lost at darts to cause dang man your holiday sweater was actually cool, like totes? and I was so drunk and that was the most fun I've had at the bar in a long time guys let's do this again sometime?

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Welcome To My Christmas Song, I'd Like To Thank You For The Year

Like I did last year, I'm going to post my Christmas list here so that a) some of you have an idea of what to get me and b) so that the rest can point and laugh.

Thickfreakness - The Black Keys
Rubber Factory - The Black Keys
Tempest - Bob Dylan
Up From Below - Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeroes
Psychedelic Pill - Neil Young

The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet's Nest - Stieg Larsson

Like, some more underwear? Since mine is wearing out?
Maybe a pair or two of long johns, now that it's friggin' cold?
A new pair of Chuck Taylors might be a good idea. Preferably in a different color, like maybe green.
This shirt. (XL)

Friday, November 29, 2013

Landed Just A Little South Of Moline

Okay, so it's been months. Whatever. It's time to post my photos from Portersville. Don't worry though - even though my camera battery died well before the tractor pull itself, there's plenty to see!

I'd never seen a traction engine do a load test before. This was pretty impressive when he had it up to full power!

On the day we visited, the sawmill was powered by steam, instead of the diesel motor in the center background; you can just see the boiler in the far right of the photo. The sawmill is fully functional, and I believe they actually do use the wood they cut for exhibit construction and repair. 

A working - working! - Linotype machine in the print shop. One of the Portersville organization members who had some experience with on of these machines demonstrated how the machine worked. He also explained that the Linotype machine was far from obsolete; many smaller newspapers and other organizations rely on them. As a result, there's still money to be made from repairing them; and a gentleman had just been in to check the association's example over. I wish I'd taken video of it in operation. 

Some more printing miscellania. I really like how nothing modern appears in this photograph. It's perfectly vintage.

A very nice Ford. 

I really like this Oliver Super 88. I was hoping 'Injun Joe' would bring his ridiculous (and loud!) Oliver 99 to the pull, but he's been absent for a year or two. 

Hey Mike - you still want one of these? This is a Rokon all-wheel-drive off-road motorbike. There's a unique chain system driving the front wheel; and I believe both wheels are hollow, but I do not recall offhand for what purposes - either buoyancy or liquid storage (such as fuel?).

An interesting later model Farmall. Can't say I've seen one from this era, that I know of. 

Case row. The second tractor from camera did pretty darn good in the early rounds of the pull. 

A World War II Jeep.  It's been restored very nicely. 

This Dodge pickup, whose stakebed was inexplicably full of Lawn Boy lawnmowers. 

The Portersville group also displays some preserved steam and natural gas stationary engines. This photo is in the steam building. These would have seen use in their heyday in factories or workshops with an overhead pulley system. The museum does have a tool shop that is powered just so, but my camera battery had run out by the time we popped in. Also not photographed: tractor-powered ice cream!

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Like An Ocean Being Warmed By The Sun

Naturally, my vinyl list has grown. And in many ways, not shrunk.

Untamed Beast - Sallie Ford & The Sound Outside
Shulamith - Poliça
Up From Below - Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros
Mechanical Bull - Kings Of Leon
Port Of Morrow - The Shins
New Moon - The Men
Torches - Foster The People
Heartthrob - Tegan & Sara
Hummingbird - Local Natives*
The Suburbs - The Arcade Fire*
Reflektor - The Arcade Fire
Blunderbuss - Jack White
Clockwork Angels - Rush*
Vapor Trails Remixed - Rush

3 - Gamma
Lights Out - UFO
Drums & Wires - XTC
Crystal Logic - Manilla Road*

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Put Another Nickel In The Jukebox

Best drunken jukebox mistakes ever!

ABBA's 'Dancing Queen' instead of Led Zeppelin's 'Dancing Days'*

The Osmonds' 'Down By The Lazy River' instead of Neil Young & Crazy Horse's 'Down By The River'

Pink Floyd's 'One Of These Days' instead of The Eagles' 'One Of These Nights'

Olivia Newton-John's 'Xanadu' instead of Rush's 'Xanadu'

Justin Bieber's 'Baby' instead of Styx's 'Lady'

Peaches instead of Peaches & Herb

Kenny Chesney's 'She Thinks My Tractor's Sexy' instead of Guided By Voices' 'Tractor Rape Chain'**

Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds' 'We No Who U R' instead of Neil Young's 'We R In Control'

Rick Astley's 'Never Gonna Give You Up' instead of The Black Keys' 'Never Gonna Give You Up'

The Flaming Lips instead of The Fiery Furnaces (or vice-versa)

* This happened to me once. No lie. It was awkward.
**Your mileage may vary.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Don't Hesitate To Give Us a Call

It's actually somewhat notable that Neil Young has recorded on only one record label for almost his entire career - Reprise. What I only just learned is that the label was created by Frank Sinatra and later sold to Warner Brothers. In 1976 almost all of the artists signed to Reprise were transferred to Warner's main label except Sinatra, who would effectively have Reprise as his own vanity label.

Oh, and also Neil Young, who simply would not leave. He is rumored to have protested the phase-out decision until apparently giving in after 1981's Re*Ac*Tor. Signing with Geffen Records, where he was promised artistic freedom, Neil embarked on what is often regarded as the most bewildering and out-of-character phase of his career. Electronica, rockabilly, straight-up country, and even New Wave got a workout at Neil's hands - and David Geffen would not be pleased, suing Neil in 1983 for making 'unrepresentative music'. Well, whatever, Dave. You don't know what you had in 80's Neil, and we're going to examine two of those gems - Trans and Landing On Water.

So in 1982 Neil started work on a new album for Geffen. Originally, the album was to be a Crazy Horse backed effort with a hard rock sound, but Neil made major alterations to the album with synths and a vocoder. As a result, the album took on a bizarre, nigh-upon-robotic sound. Personnel included all the Crazy Horse regulars - Billy Talbot, Ralph Molina and Frank Sampedro; as well as Neil buds Nils Lofgren and Ben Keith, and session men Joe Lala and Bruce Palmer. 

What I Liked:
Well, I can't really get too enthused or descriptive about the instrumental performances; it's all masked by a digital filter, really. But even so, it's very nicely melodic. Neil can still write a tune, even when he's pushing buttons on a machine. The vocal timing is good, and it alone could make the album; and even with the vocoders, Neil's typically plaintive delivery still calls to my ear, especially on the heartbreaking 'Transformer Man' and the thickly-veiled-digi-lust of 'Sample And Hold'. Best yet, the almost-unintelligible lyrics, if your ear is keen enough to pick them out, often deal with communication, especially the vain efforts to communicate with those that can't receive the message. And here, incidentally is the core of Trans and the reason that 'Transformer Man' is such a tearjerker: Trans was Neil's attempt to express his frustration and all the time and energy and soul spent trying to communicate with his son, Ben; who is handicapped due to severe cerebral palsy. Neil, despite using the seeming coldness of of electronic instruments, captures an amazing range of emotion; other themes he touches on are, presciently, cybercrime; the explosion of technology at the time (which enabled him to make the album!); and, in a sense, nostalgia reimagined, if you consider the cover of 'Mr. Soul'. Of the handful of non-electronic songs on the album, 'Like an Inca' is the best, being a surprisingly interesting counterpoint to the powerful display of technology that the core of the album represents; instead it idealizes the ancient kingdoms of South America. The main villain, however, is The Bomb, rather than the internet. Best songs? Everything except the first track on each side. 

What I Didn't Like:
Bizarrely, Neil includes three songs from an aborted album inspired by Hawaii. These are the outliers, and despite bookending the electronic strangeness, they sound far more out of place here than Trans itself does in Neil's catalog. 'A Little Thing Called Love' and 'Hold On To Your Love' - despite being well-executed, they sound empty and somewhat vapid, for Neil material. 'Like An Inca' is good enough to escape this problem, but goes on longer than necessary. And the key takeaway about the album's failings is that you need to know the story in order to fully appreciate it. That's not a failure of the music itself; even Neil had trouble getting the full message across, in a sadly ironic turn of events. 

In Conclusion:
A surprisingly classic album, despite it's oddities, with a genuine story behind it and solid songwriting to boot. Neil diehards should give this one a second look, if they haven't yet, and anyone who likes electronic music should check out this as a footnote, if nothing else. 

In 1986, Neil released an album that began with a failed Crazy Horse session in 1984 and was completed by Neil as a solo album. Fully embracing New Wave, Neil made a disc almost as bewildering as Trans, and this would be his next-to-last release for Geffen. 

What I Liked:
It's less robotic than Trans...or not. The performances are all fairly cookie-cutter, but well-done. It's extremely polished, and it's not really suffering from that approach. On a couple tracks there's a choir providing some backing vocals, and Neil sounds pretty good both singing and playing. The songs are generally well-written, and tuneful; Neil can't keep his own feelings from leaking onto a record either, despite how much a product of its time Landing On Water might sound like. I like how Neil can still bring a hard rock crunch to some of the songs, despite the New Wave backdrop. He handles pop well enough while he's at it. Best songs have to be 'Weight Of The World', where Neil distills New Wave to its essence; 'Bad News Beat'; 'Touch The Night', and it's TV news aesthetic (and music video); 'Hard Luck Stories'; and 'Pressure'. 

What I Didn't Like:
Probably the general sterility of the album. It's not a complete failing, but it doesn't let Neil break out and pull all the stops; he's kind of restrained. It's like he's holding himself back. (Perhaps a wise move, since Freedom and Ragged Glory came out in '89 and '93 respectively?) Some of the songs get a bit pointlessly sugary, like 'Violent Side' (!) and 'Hard Luck Stories', while others have an overly analyzed feel to them, almost autistic or blindly accepting. In general, the shorter (and comparatively more spontaneous) the song, the better, I'd say: case in point, 'Drifter', the album's mediocre closer, seems to drag, and does, at 5:05, the longest on the album. Last but not least is the only thing that could have truly broken the album for me, and that would be Neil's voice; but in this instance it's this particular context in which it appears. He's not the ideal New Wave lead singer. 

In Conclusion:
I'd recommend this to fans of Ric Ocasek's solo career; as Neil takes the same approach on this disc. Neil diehards should at least hear this once; casual fans should wait. If you need 80's music for something, it would be hard to place this album as anything but a product thereof. 

Rock and Roll Can Never Die

Counting some draft posts I've been working on, here are all of the artists I've quoted for my post titles:

Guided By Voices: 9
This is actually not a big surprise, but nonetheless I have caught myself off guard with how very much I seem to like Guided By Voices.

Neil Young; Rush: 5
Also not a surprise, since Neil occupied the place that GBV did before I knew about them. I'm kind of surprised to see Rush as Neil's only companion in this category, but it makes sense.

The Monkees; Yeah Yeah Yeahs: 4
Very weird to see two bands so damn different in third place.

The Beatles; The Black Keys; The Doors; Jethro Tull; Johnny Marr; Pink Floyd: 3
I'll take it, but i thought I'd quoted the Black Keys more than that.

Billy Joel; Bloc Party; Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band; Don McLean; Elton John; Emerson, Lake & Palmer; Jet; The Rolling Stones; 'Weird Al' Yankovic; The Who: 2
Sounds good to me.

And the long list of, as it were, one-hit-wonders:
Creedence Clearwater Revival; The Donnas; Johnny Cash; The Arcade Fire; Band Of Horses; Silversun Pickups; Wild Flag; The Desperate Bicycles; Tom Waits; Mission Of Burma; Manilla Road; David Bowie; Coldplay; The Five Man Electrical Band; Donnie Iris; The Mike Curb Congregation; Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds; Joe Walsh; Tom Vek; Lynyrd Skynyrd; XTC; Toto; The Mooney Suzuki; Camper Van Beethoven; The Mamas & The Papas; Dragonforce; Arlo Guthrie; The Like; ZZ Topp; Ok Go; Charlie Daniels; The Darkness; The Breeders; Dinosaur Jr.; We Are Scientists; The Jam; Raconteurs; Archers Of Loaf; Blue Oyster Cult ; Johnny Preston, oddly enough; Ramones; The Grateful Dead; Chuck Berry; Dire Straits; Misissippi Fred MacDowell; Pat Travers Band; The Walkmen; Elvis Presley; Aldo Nova; George Thorogood; Sleigh Bells; The MC5; Blondie; Paul McCartney & Wings; Hank Snow; Talking Heads; Gamma; Beck; Replacements; Led Zeppelin; Donovan; Def Leppard; Younha; McFadden's Parachute; The Von Bondies.

Plus there's one song whose artist is unknown, and one traditional whose rendition I had in mind was by Boxcar Willie.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

For The King, For The Dread, Animated, Freed And Fed

Karen Carpenter?

K. C. and The Sunshine Band?

Electric Light Orchestra?

The Who?

The Ramones?

I Am A Lost Soul, I Shoot Myself With Rock'N'Roll

Number six, from sometime in 2008. This one isn't so notable, aside from its overall quality. The Pixies, Guided By Voices, John Doe, Raconteurs, Spoon, The Strokes, Silversun Pickups, all very good groups.

1. Too Much, Too Young, Too Fast – Airbourne
2. Golden State – John Doe
3. Funplex – The B-52’s
4. This Ol Wheel – Shooter Jennings
5. Wave Of Mutilation – The Pixies
6. Gone Gone Gone (Done Moved On) – Robert Plant & Allison Kraus
7. I Am A Scientist – Guided By Voices
8. Orange Crush – R.E.M.
9. Ojos Asi – Shakira
10. Crushcrushcrush – Paramore
11. Black Hole Sun – Soundgarden
12. Balls To The Wall – Accept
13. Broken Boy Soldier – The Raconteurs
14. Of Montreal – The Stills
15. Rusted Wheel – Silversun Pickups
16. I Turn My Camera On – Spoon
17. Comb Your Beard At Night – Toothpaste For Dinner
18. Reptilia – The Strokes
19. Outside – Tribe
20. Ride On Shooting Star – The Pillows

Friday, October 18, 2013

I Will Choose Freewill

Forever 21 Is Now Selling a Shirt With an Ayn Rand Quote On It Ok, as much as the libertarian in me is totes stoked about this, why did Time run the article with a title that sounds like it was written by a scandalized fifth-grader? Better yet, why does the tag line read 'But do the chain's customers even know what objectivism means?'

Amazon: The Pop-Up Book Of Phobias Not to mention The Pop-Up Book Of Nightmares, and The Pop-Up Book Of Sex. I'll stick with the Rev. Awdry for now, thanks.

The Hipsterfication Of America Any true hipster would implode after reading this. Since I'm still here, I must not be one. Hooray, maybe? Also, shouldn't that be hipsterification?

You Thought We Wouldn't Notice...  but somebody did. Documenting artistic and graphical ripoffs of the most thoughtless kind.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Train Of Love's A-Leavin', Leavin' My Heart Grievin'

As an addendum to the previous post on the animesque anthropomorphic personifications of the iron horse...

I'm especially intrigued by the incorporation of the headlight as the 'cleavage window' on her shirt, and the marker light mounts with painted stripe as the epaulets of the jacket. Her belt also appears to be patterned after the pilot truck. 

Japan is weird. 

Monday, October 14, 2013

We Shield Our Eyes From The Police Lights

Not to rain on anyone's parade, but I'm pretty sure it's a better way to spend the evening listening to a Donnie Iris album (in your preferred format), as opposed to watching Real Policewomen Of Dallas or Beyond Scared Straight. When did other peoples' failures, dysfunctions, abuses and displays of outright lunacy become entertainment? What is happening to the concept of our own business? Are our problems really everyone else's problem too? I really don't think so.

This is a large part of why I don't watch television anymore. I look to entertainment and media to inspire, to educate, to relax, to get lost in. I don't want to endure the fuckwits I deal with in real life any longer than I have to - why would I then go home and feel even the slightest desire to see them on the boob tube?

Of His Honor And His Glory The People Did Sing

So I still have to post some photos from yesterday's raifan venture down to Sand Patch Grade, and I haven't yet gotten around to posting my Portersville photos of tractors, boy howdy.

Instead I'm posting tonight's venture: the folks and I went to see the duck. Florentijn Hofman is a wizard.

First sighting from the North Shore river walk. Incidentally, it's a pretty nice piece of urban, public riverfront park in front of the stadiums. There was even a boat moored there, which you can totally do. I don't know whether there are mooring meters, however. (Does the meter reader come along in scuba gear? If you're tied up too long, do they hook a huge anchor to your vessel instead of 'the boot'?)

If you had any doubts about the size of the sculpture, cast them away. The girls that I accidentally caught posing for someone else's camera appear to be average height.

He's surprisingly relaxing to stare at. And the crowd was bigger than this photo conveys; the park remained busy until we left after sunset.

Duck and the Fort Duquesne Bridge.

Some actual ducks for comparison. The geese were not invited.

Also good to see: the Point Park Fountain, operational and fountaining once again, with the Fort Pitt Bridge in the background. The landmark had been shut down between 2009 and 2013 for an extensive restoration.

I see you lurking in the mists...

The Gateway Clipper Fleet and Station Square, framed by the Fort Pitt Bridge.

A very nice skyline shot of dahntahn captured in the setting sun. I'm personally impressed with this shot in particular.

I still see you lurking in the beautifully-lit mists... Duck and fountain at night.

And a dusk version of duck and Duquesne.

Also, the entrance to the park beneath the 376/279 connector between the Fort Pitt and Fort Duquesne Bridges is very nicely done. I didn't really take a close look during the afternoon, but the lighting struck me as very elegant as we left the park in the evening. 

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Found My Way Downstairs And Drank A Cup

Finally got vitamins today. Guess what I decided to take one with?

An energy drink.

Healthiest thing I ever did.

Looks like it may be a few days before getting to go down to the city and check out the duck, among other things. Was hoping for a record store day with Matt and Jeremy, but Jeremy had plans and all of a sudden Matt and I may as well. Johnathan called us to ask if we might be free for a railfan trip. Considering that it's been a while since the last one, this might be the better option.

Deciding on switching to smoking a pipe. I used to enjoy cigarettes, but you might say that all the pleasure has somehow been sucked right out of them (as it were). Besides, pipe tobacco seems more interesting and the government hasn't yet arbitrarily banned flavored pipe tobaccos or cigars.

Trying to listen through my backlog of vinyl. I've decided to listen to an album a night until I can say I'm reasonably caught up. Just listened to the first two sides of Django Django and side two of Emerson, Lake & Palmer. It's a night for self-titling, I guess.

And now I'd better get something that resembles rest.

EDIT: By the way, I just found out, when I went to post the requisite link to the new post on Facebook, that Sleigh Bells has a new album out. It's titled, appropriately, Bitter Rivals. Must investigate.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

I Want A New Duck, A Mallard I Think

Giant rubber ducky quacking tonight in Pittsburgh

It's the wrong end of the year for April Fool's, so it must be true. This is actually pretty cool, in my opinion. I'd like to go down to see it, and it's here until October 20. Anyone up for a road trip?

Best line of the article: Lt. Cmdr. John Dittmar, the executive officer for the U.S. Coast Guard in Pittsburgh, said his office had issued safety advisories to commercial and pleasure craft on the area's rivers to essentially "keep their eyes out for a big rubber duck." 

That shouldn't be difficult. "It's not something you see every day," he deadpanned.

Pirouette Down Palsied Paths, With Pennies For The Vendor

I think it was Thursday that I had two dreams in the morning. The first I'm not going to relate here; as it was too bizarre for me to be comfortable sharing it. When you're both the protagonist and the audience at the same time, it gets a little disconcerting.

The second is still very strange, but better by the telling, and I watched this one like a movie trailer. Way easier to describe. Apparently evil wizards and evil hackers teamed up to take over the world, and as a result good wizards and Interpol, or Scotland Yard, or la Sûreté had to take them down. It was all incomprehensibly Harry Potter-meets-Harry Callahan and then shit goes BANG action.

I'm still not sure why there was a 90's-body Dodge Ram being driven through the facade of Waterloo Station. Do they even sell the Ram in the U.K.?

Friday, September 20, 2013

It's Nice To Know You Work Alone

all work and no play still manages to take up all my time and money somehow

To borrow a quick idea from another blogger, here are ten free album titles. If you use one of these, send me a copy (on vinyl).


X-rated B-movie

Armchair Gandydancer

Dr. Emulsifier (possibly better as a band name)

Weld My Heart Back Together

Taking The Cat For A Drag

Gets You Right Where You Stop For Coffee And Smokes

Great Romantic Songs On The ALCo 251

Fully Laundromatic

Hieroglyphic Telegraphy

I'm pretty sure those are all actually terrible. 

Sunday, August 18, 2013

You Don't Have To Confess To Sleeping In The Lions' Den

So I randomly heard about Wild Flag and their debut LP after discovering that Sleater-Kinney broke up. I really don't know much about Sleater-Kinney, but I decided to see what one of their successor bands sounded like (the other is The Corin Tucker Band, founded by ex-S-K guitarist Corin Tucker [duh]).

Sleater-Kinney's lineup is ex-S-K guitarist Carrie Brownstein and drummer Janet Weiss; ex-Helium guitarist Mary Timony; and ex-Minders drummer Rebecca Cole, now on keyboards for Wild Flag. These girls have built an impressive sound for themselves; and I feel that, with a few minor headscratcher sounds, it's as close to a perfect disc as you can get from a modern band. This is destined to be, if not an outright classic, one of those lost gems that everyone just needs to hear.

What I Liked:
Every song has their unquenchable energy, even when the pace is slower than average. A great knack for rock riffs and meoldies is inescapable. Their lyrics are very good for a punk band, even with a slight feminine undertone (keep in mind here that Sleater-Kinney was one of the later bands in the riot grrrl movement). Carrie's voice is well-suited for their styleas well. I really like her delivery almost all of the time (we'll talk about this later). Mary and Carrie's guitar work (I'm not sure who does which part but I would guess that Carrie handles lead while Mary takes rhythm full-time) are very good, and more complex than expected for a rock band rooted heavily in punk. I'm enjoying Rebecca's subtle approach to the keyboards, but think that eventually she should occupy a more prominent place in the mix. Janet is a solid drummer, nothing flashy, and no solos; but holds the band together. Best songs would have to be 'Romance', an upbeat rocker to open the album; 'Black Tiles', a restrained punk smash to close it out with a catchy discordant riff; the nigh-psychedelic 'Glass Tambourine'; the drawn-out anthem 'Racehorse'; and 'Electric Band', a very classic-sound pop/rocker. The other tracks are almost as good, though; every track on the disc feels like it belongs without every song seeming indistinguishable.

What I Didn't Like:
Not very much. The only track that gave me problems was 'Boom', a fast-paced if gloomy punk selection, and the only real thing that bothered me was Carrie's vocal. She occasionally delves into what I call the 'pathetic vocal', and I'm a bit bothered by her seemingly overplaying it. Also discussed before was Rebecca's relative lack of presence on the disc; but relatively, it's not that serious. It's more of a nitpick.

In Conclusion:
Great album, with a few flaws. One of the albums I would recommend to anyone who enjoys rock and punk, and pretty much anyone who likes good music. Why aren't the hipsters all atwitter about this band? Possibly their age. Believe it or not, Carrie Brownstein is the youngest member, turning 39 this coming September, and Janet Weiss is all of 47! I must say in all honesty that when I first listened to the disc that I thought I was listening to a much younger group than they really are. I say good for them! Rock on, ladies! These kids nowadays have nothing on you!

On a very different note (ha), the Yeah yeah yeahs have finally released their fourth album, Mosquito. A year late on their three-year album cycle, the disc has nonetheless been almost entirely worth the wait. Maintaining the same lineup for 11 years (Karen O on vocals, Nick Zinner on guitar, and Brian Chase drumming), Yeah Yeah Yeahs have gained a reputation for a sexually charged, arty, punky style and have generally lived up to it. Releasing Mosquito in 2013, I feel, has maintained that arty, sometimes trashy, feel that their best music posesses. Even with some hangups, their latest is a good vehicle for keeping the band current and relevant a decade after their first release.

What I Liked:
The best things about The Yeah Yeah Yeahs has always been their raw, sometimes trashy sound, and while this record is more polished production-wise than their first two releases, the delivery recalls their early work very well. Karen is in excellent form, occasionally channeling her sexually raw delivery of those days, but often with a Debbie Harry-style gloss/grace. This is not a problem for me at all. Nick plays his guitars and tickles some e-ivorys with his typical skill, and Brian is a solid drummer, delivering his typical quality performance. The melodies and riffs are good here, and even a few hooks show up (see 'Subway', in particular). The record has a darkness to it; not the making-out-in-the-worst-lit-corner-of-the-dive-bar darkness of Fever To Tell, but a more sinister darkness, like a zombie movie darkness, done well. The last quarter opf the record is much lighter and brighter; like a happy ending. And this brings up my main strange feeling about the disc: I could have sworn that this was a concept album. Everything feels extremely cohesive; to the point where I want there to be some storyline that weaves every part of the album together. Best songs are the excellent 'Sacrilege', 'Subway', and 'Mosquito', the latter channeling that early fuck-me-now sexuality almost perfectly; the B-movie theme-ish 'Area 52'; and the ethereal 'Always' and 'Wedding Song'. The rest of the disc sounds good too, buuut...

What I Didn't Like:
That said, I must take issue with some things; firstly, I've always felt that Karen's voice is one of the hottest things ever committed to vinyl. So why is her voice subjected to so many effects and types of processing on this disc? There are some tracks where it fits perfectly (see 'These Paths' and 'Under The Earth', the latter needing it very much), but generally, it's in the way for me. Plus, as great a song as 'Sacrilege' is, I don't like that Karen see,ms to disappear from the last 3/4 of a minute from the track, leaving the chorus to finish up. And on a related note, why are the lyrics so repetitive? A lot of the disc has almost mantra-like lyrics. In particular, 'Under The Earth', 'Always'  and 'Despair' feel very repetitive. I'm also still not sold on Dr. Octagon rapping on 'Buried Alive'; it sounds ok, but I'm not exactly a fan of rap in general so it doesn't do much for me. I'd also have been more interested if Karen and the good Doctor had been given more lyrical interplay. And possibly my biggest hangup-the specific lyrics of 'These Paths': I love this song, until Karen sings the line 'these pants/come off/against, against'. Whaaa??? What the hell? I really, really do not get it. I just can't understand why this lyric was so important to the song, despite its awkwardness. It's like a forced attempt at the early sexuality. I'm legit bothered by it.

In Conclusion:
A very good album, one that I would certainly recommend to fans of the band, who haven't taken the plunge, or prefer Fever To Tell to  It's Blitz. To non-fans, it might be a harder sell, but it's still not a bad place to get acquainted with the band.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

One Day I Feel I'm Ahead Of The Wheel

This was actually published. This letter was actually published by the Valley News Dispatch on Monday, August 5.

That means that someone had to think these thoughts, write them down on paper or pixels, and then send them to the editor. 

Said editor surely read, proofread, and ruminated upon this submission and as a result decided it was worthy of publication. 

Somewhere along this chain of events, a failure of some sort of judgment certainly must have occurred. My evidence:

As a result, I am forced to make this formal reply to send to same editorial staff:

And by the way, here is my informal reply, composed (verbally) immediately after reading the original submission at top:



Thursday, August 8, 2013

Cut It, Press It, Distribute It

Yes, I'm still on the vinyl kick. Here's what I'm looking for in new stuff.

Up From Below - Edward Sharpe And The Magnetic Zeroes*
Songs For Slim EP - The Replacements
Untamed Beast - Sallie Ford & The Sound Outside
Push The Sky Away - Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds
Port Of Morrow - The Shins
New Moon - The Men
Torches - Foster The People
The House That Dirt Built - The Heavy*
Kings Of Leon - Mechanical Bull

And just for the hell of it, I'm listing some of the classic stuff I'm also looking for.

3 - Gamma
Lights Out - UFO
Drums & Wires - XTC
King Cool - Donnie Iris
Crystal Logic - Manilla Road*

* I already have both of these albums in digital format, but a vinyl copy would be nice to have.


Black Moth Super Rainbow - Cobra Juicy (side 2)
Black Rebel Motorcycle Club - Howl (sides 3 and 4)
DJANGO DJANGO (sides 2, 3, and 4)
The Flaming Lips - The Terror
Foo Fighters - In Your Honor
Foo Fighters - Wasting Light (listened to MP3 copy)
Poliça - Give You The Ghost (side 2)
Roger Miller - Golden Hits
ALDO NOVA (side 2)
Laura Branigan - Self Control
The Best Of Bread
Jimmy Buffett - Volcano (scratched as hell)
THE CARS (listened to CD)
Dave Clark Five - Greatest Hits
The Everly Brothers - 15 Everly Hits
Donnie Iris - Back On The Streets (side 2)
Donnie Iris - King Cool (wrong disc in sleeve)
Donnie Iris - The High And The Mighty (side 1, somehow)
Donnie Iris - Fortune 410 (sealed!)
Joan Jett - Bad Reputation (scratched as hell)
Billy Joel - 52nd Street (side 2)
Rod Stewart - Foot Loose & Fancy Free
Three Dog Night - Naturally
UFO - Phenomenon
The Who - Who's Next (listened to CD)
The Who - Who Are You
Neil Young - Journey Through The Past
Neil Young & Crazy Horse - Rust Never Sleeps (listened to CD)
Neil Young & Crazy Horse - Live Rust (listened to CD)
Neil Young & Crazy Horse - Re*Ac*Tor
Warren Zevon - A Quiet Normal Life (side 2)
John Cafferty And The Beaver Brown band - Eddie And The Cruisers Soundtrack
Chet Atkins - And His Guitar
Alabama - Feels So Right
Boxcar Willie - Sings Hank Williams And Jimmie Rodgers
The Best Of Conway & Loretta
Arlo Guthrie - Running Down The Road
Waylon Jennings - Just To Satisfy You
Kris Kristofferson - Who's To Bless And Who's To Blame
Willie Nelson - Phases & Stages
Willie Nelson & Family - Honeysuckle Rose Soundtrack
Willie Nelson - Always On My mind
Willie Nelson - Half Nelson
The Best Of Jerry Reed
The Best Of Charlie Rich
Two different Kenny Rogers Greatest Hits albums, somehow
22 Highballin' Hits! (sides 2, 3, and 4)
Songs With A Railroad Ring
Nat King Cole - Unforgettable
Nat King Cole - Love Is A Many Splendored Thing
Ray Eberle Plays Glenn Miller Favorites
Henry Mancini - Six Hours Past Sunset
Pieces Of A Dream - We Are One
Frank Sinatra - Ol' Blue Eyes Is back
The Mills Brothers - 14 Karat Gold
The Platters - Encore Of Golden Hits
The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly Motion picture Soundtrack

Shit, I better get listening. Don't even get me started on singles, by the way.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

The Cracked Bell Rings As The Ghost Bird Sings

Here's CD number 5. This was certainly done after moving to State College, but before moving in with Brian, Scott and Tim. Late 2006 or early 2007, which was when I lived at State College Park.

1. I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles) – The Proclaimers
2. Some Party – The Constantines
3. Happiness – Built To Spill
4. Tangerine – The Flaming Lips
5. Little House Of Savages – The Walkmen
6. Korobeiniki (Tetris Theme) – Ozma
7. Black Horse And The Cherry Tree – KT Tunstall
8. Saving Grace – Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers
9. Hoist That Rag – Tom Waits
10. These Are The Times – Styx
11. War Eagle – Early Man
12. I Don’t Wanna Stop – Ozzy Osbourne
13. SEASON’S CALL – Hyde
14. Thunder & Lightning – The Unicorns
15. Now It’s On - Grandaddy
16. The Killing Moon – Pavement
17. Mercury – The Clarks
18. Your Touch – The Black Keys
19. Original Fire – Audioslave
20. Little Black Dress – Donnie Iris

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Down That Long Twin Silver Line

At the end of May, the Norfolk Southern Middle Division (specifically between Gallitzin and Lewistown) hosted a steam special led by Nickel Plate Road 765. This trip was chartered for a run over Horseshoe Curve. It's been almost 40 years since steam operated over the Curve - specifically, a trouble-ridden steam doubleheader in 1977 seemingly earned steam trips a ban on the difficult mountain route. Last year's employee specials saw steam return to the Curve for the ferry move between Conway and Enola, also with 765 on the point.

Some friends and I (Matt, Ray and Jonathan) went out to catch the action. I had my 'new' DSLR in tow, and got some really good photographs. No video this trip; but here are some of the best shots.

Leaving Tyrone, Pa. The charter had to stop here, by the Amshack to clear the daily Amtrak train for its own stop. 

Going away shot in Tyrone. 

Stopping at the top of the grade on the New Portage Tunnel line after storming up Horseshoe Curve. 

I like these two shots to show the crowd that 765 drew to herself. A working steam locomotive, especially as the Fort Wayne Society presents in 765, is quite the spectacle in this day and age. 

Looking good. 

A study of the massive running gear.

Entering Altoona, passing the now-closed ALTO tower. 

On the return trip to Lewistown, at Spruce Creek Tunnel. 

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Who Wants To Be A Messenger?

Rhinestone shades, or cheap sunglasses? The 25 Most Memorable Sunglasses On Film

I normally prefer not to get into politics on the blog; but I am an Epiphone player, whom Gibson owns and this is not right. Op-ed Says Raid On Gibson Guitars Another Case Of Obama Targeting Conservatives

From TYWKIWDBI, something old (A Nice Memorial) and something new (Sunbathers Shelter Themselves From The Wind).

Also thanks to TYWKIWDBI, this:

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Planet Earth Is Blue, And There's Nothing I Can Do

I stumbled across this amazingly poignant video of Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield; who, after handing over command of the International Space Station, recorded a slightly modified version of David Bowie's classic 'Space Oddity'. Watch below.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Under The Great North Star, Try To Work Out Where You Are

And now for CD number four. I think I may be off on my dates, but this CD must be from 2005 or 2006. I forget.

1. Sleazy Little Blues Trip – Freaks Of A Feather*
2. Who Did You Think I Was – John Mayer
3. All Star – Smash Mouth
4. One Week – Barenaked Ladies
5. Misfit – Elefant
6. Start Wearing Purple – Gogol Bordello
7. Bandages – Hot Hot Heat
8. Strict Machine – Goldfrapp
9. Take It Off – The Donnas
10. Plush – Stone Temple Pilots
11. Piece Of Crap – Neil Young
12. Kryptonite – Three Doors Down**
13. Monsters – Matchbook Romance**
14. Girl On The Wing – The Shins
15. Talk – Coldplay***
16. Wake Up – The Arcade Fire
17. Island In The Sun – Weezer
18. Move Along – All-American Rejects
19. All These Things That I’ve Done – The Killers
20. Harder Better Faster Stronger – Daft Punk

* More local music.
** Glarg. No longer a fan of either band.
*** Funny story about this song - Coldplay actually re-recorded X&Y, the album this was on; but not before someone leaked the original version to the internets. I ended up getting the early version of 'Talk' and was confused as hell for a long time about why the version I later purchased sounded like an entirely different song.

I'm Shining Just For You

Let me be your everlasting light... Thanks to Matt Sutej for the photo.
Well, the 2013 visit to the Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh by the Black Keys (and The Flaming Lips) has come and gone, but my post-show glow has not been dampened yet. I was eagerly anticipating this show from the moment I heard about it. I've been a major Black Keys fan since I heard 'Your Touch' off Magic Potion and fell in love with their hard-boiled brand of blues-rock. Hell, I even have four of their albums on vinyl now. As it says on the back of The Big Come Up, their debut, it truly is amazing that two guys from Ohio could make music with the sound they do so well at in this day and age.

The show was a double-bill with The Flaming Lips, and I knew very little about them except that for a long time in the mid-2000s they were indie rock darlings (in a career that goes from about 1986 to the present day) and that that 'Tangerine' song was actually titled 'She Don't Use Jelly' (and a very curious piece of pop songwriting to boot).

So we went in (me, Sammy Joyce, Matt Sutej, and Jeremy Shaw) and boy were we in for a treat. First up was the Flaming Lips' set. Like I said, I really had little idea what to expect, but we had heard that the Lips' stage show was damn awesome. Wayne Coyne running around in a giant hamster ball over the crowd, half-nude women splashing paint on each other, and all manner of strange and fascinating sights. We would not be let down.

I still remain bewildered by the Lips' set; it was, in a word, mindblowing. Sadly, none in the crew thought to get any photos of the set: the creepiness of Coyne cradling a limp baby (certainly a doll) in his arms as he sang; the psychedelic visions of nude dancing women in technicolor display; the revolving images of the world from space, the human eye and the nude vulva (sometimes in color inversion); tendrils of light that crept across the stage; and I still don't know what the 'fighting kite' that pulsed with the music was supposed to represent, but I was very much impressed and blindsided by the bizarre visions that The Flaming Lips elected to accompany their set. The music was primarily from their new album, The Terror, and I had not heard anything from it before the show. I was very intrigued  and I do have it now, on vinyl; though I haven't found a moment to listen to it.

That said, when The Black Keys came on for the main attraction, I knew exactly what was going to happen  Almost. You know what they say about some bands that their studio material doesn't do the live show justice? E.G. Deep Purple - they were all tight and perfect in the studio, but when it came time to go on tour, they pulled out every stop possible and rocked the hell out of their audiences. I am glad to report that The Black Keys are a member of this club!

I was surprised when they opened with 'Howlin' For You' from Brothers; this is a favorite of mine, and I'm now guessing that it's a fan favorite. Most of the material was the full band stuff from Attack & Release, Brothers, and El Camino. I had secretly been hoping they might go way back in their catalog and play some older stuff, and for a few songs in the middle of the set they stripped down to just Patrick and Dan and played 'Thickfreakness', 'Girl Is On My Mind' and 'Your Touch' (which they rocked up a lot, instead of just playing it like it was from the album). Visuals were limited to them on stage with some accent footage of broken-down industrial towns like their hometown of Akron and driving shots. Neat stuff, but just an accent to the music.

The photo is from the encore: they played 'Everlasting Light' and 'I Got Mine', and during the former they lowered this HUGE disco ball from the ceiling; I swear it must have been nine feet across! That was a really cool moment, and they saved a lightboard that spelled out 'The Black Keys' for no ther reason than to drop it during 'I Got Mine'. Daaang. They are a powerful live act, and seeing them beofre they got big must have been very interesting, in smaller venues than the Consol.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Friday, May 10, 2013

Blocking Up The Scenery, Breaking My Mind

A few signs I've seen around that I thought were, to say the least, interesting.

Here's the name of a road that runs a couple miles away from the new place, and its photograph for proof.

What waters? We're in the desert.
You read that right. Sandune. Not sand dune. It's like it goes by the spelling rules of 50's marketing, as in 'drive-thru' or 'tonite'.

Heh. Drive-thru Sandune tonite!

Here's a good double take for you. This was taken on Murray Avenue in Squirrel Hill, in front of a gas station.

What if I wasn't using it in the first place?
The intent is to prevent people walking along the road from cutting through the gas station and possibly getting run over. At least that's my guess.

Then there's this one from the South Side.

Yinz guys stop litterin' n'at. 
Am I the only one who finds official city signage that uses a regional expression (for cleaning, for those of you from other states) very amusing?

2015 update: with the changeover to Bill Peduto as mayor, these signs have vanished since one line reads 'Luke Ravenstahl, Mayor'.

Here's one that's pretty straightforward.

Confusing US presidents since 1948

Well, except for the fact that it begs the question: what the hell is a prothonotary?