Monday, December 17, 2012

Clams Have Feelings Too

The Decline
1999, Fat Wreck Chords
produced by Fat Mike?
Fat Mike - vocals, bass
Eric Melvin - guitar
Eric Smelly - drums
El Hefe - guitar, trumpet
Lars Nylander - trombone

If this isn't the best punk rock EP of all time, it is certainly the most epic.  After putting out the Fuck the Kids 7" EP earlier in the '90s that tried to recapture the old school sloppy '80s hardcore sound, NoFX decided to go the complete opposite direction and record one super long song.  The 2 minutes or less tracks on Fuck the Kids (1996) and later on Surfer (2001) were written by Fat Mike in 2 minutes or less and recorded by the band without rehearsal in one take.  In comparison, The Decline took time and consideration to write, practice, record and perfect, culminating in 3 trips to the studio, and 4 remasterings before it was finally finished.

This is the Thick as a Brick of punk rock.  The EP is one track, 18 minutes and 19 seconds long.  Only Crass wrote a punk song longer when they released Yes Sir, I Will at 20 minutes in 1983.  However, Fat Mike stated they got the idea from the Subhumans song From the Cradle to the Grave.  

The band rocks out to lyrical themes of the decline of values and constitutional rights in favor of capitalism, complacency and conformity.  There are horn parts, including a trombone solo by Lars Nylander from Skankin' Pickle.  Fat Mike called this song a "total nightmare", and they almost never play it live.

This is worth listening to just for curiosity's sake.  Fans of NoFX probably consider it a must own, especially on vinyl.  There is an extra b-side track on the vinyl version.  I agree with the note on the back sleeve of the album that states not to pay more than $11.00.  It is one track, regardless of how long it is.  iTunes charges $7.99, which I think is still too high.  You can probably pick it up for around $5 or less on Amazon or eBay. The limited edition clear vinyl pressing goes for around $1000 when put up for auction, which is insane.  

Friday, December 14, 2012

Bought and Sold Out in the USA

No Doubt
Tragic Kingdom
1995, Trauma
produced by Matthew Wilder

Gwen Stefani - vocals
Eric Stefani - keyboards
Tom Dumont - guitar
Tony Kanal - bass
Adrian Young - drums
Phil Jordan - trumpet
Gabrial McNair - trombone
Stephen Bradley - trumpet

  • Just a Girl/ Different People
  • Spiderwebs/ Sailin' On/ Just a Girl
  • Don't Speak/ Greener Pastures/ Hey You
  • Excuse Me, Mr. 
  • Happy Now?/ Oi to the World
  • Sunday Morning/ Oi to the World/ By the Way
  • Hey You
There are a few things to say about this album.  Say what you want about Gwen Stefani and No Doubt recently, but this particular album that started their pop career is very very well done.  The number of chart topping singles alone give a clue as to the response to the album.  What is popular on the radio in relation to actual talent can be debated, but sometimes pop music gets it right.

Part of the success of this particular album is the involvement of founding member Eric Stefani.  Gwen Stefani's older brother did most of the writing.  He left the band during the recording of the album, and eventually made a career of animation, most famously on the Simpsons.  His break with the group has been described as being very Brian Wilson-like, complete with depression and creative control issues.  

This album is a great example of the beginning of the end of Ska music as a genre in pop music.  No Doubt would never be the same again, as Eric Stefani was no longer in the band.  They would continue to blend their pop punk sound with other genres like hip hop and funk, but could not keep themselves from sounding like a gimmick band.  

This is the only No Doubt album I own, and there is a reason.  

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Drawing in Miniature

When people ask me if I have any hobbies, I usually hem and haw and end up saying things like, "I read a lot", or "not really, but I play softball".  What I don't say is probably closer to the truth, that I really don't have any hobbies, and I'm pretty boring.  The real truth is that I like to draw, but I don't believe I'm good or talented enough for this interest to qualify as a hobby, or even a very good skill.

I like to draw things small scale.  Some call this thumbnail sketching, which is a practice used by real artists to conceptualize for larger scale drawings, designs, and compositions.  I haven't really ever expanded my thumbnails into bigger things, because I don't have any real talent, and the smaller scale hides this fact pretty well.

Mythologies have always fascinated me.  Greek mythology specifically, because there is so much recorded information that has been retained over the centuries.  Compared to Norse and Egyptian, and Assyrian mythologies, the Greek mythologies much more depth because of all of these preserved sources.

I put many hours of time and research into a project meant to creating an illustrated genealogy for Greek myth.  It turned out to be a bigger project than I had intended.  The website proved to be invaluable.  Below are some photos.

three 30"x20" panels equal a 90"x20" tree. it's long
left panel
center panel

these pictures give pretty good, clear detail. I tried so hard to get a clear detailed picture of all three panels today, but its so long that I couldn't get a clear, clean shot. All illustrations are done in pencil and ink, colored with pencils and ink, on inch and half circles cut out of bristol. They are mounted on black presentation board. I put too much detail into these to completely describe it here and do it justice, if I don't say so myself.  But here is are a few close up examples: 

 The first picture is from the central pane. I used silver and gold ink to display the names of each character, which are all done with the Greek spellings. As you can see, there are symbols also which denote certain types of deities. Gaia and Ouranos both have a symbol for the Protogenoi, the first gods. I used an Alpha/Omega combo. Next to Kronos is the symbol I used for the Titans, which is a symbol used in astrology for the planet Uranus, the father of the Titans. The Olympians are wreathed in a representation of an olive branch.

After this project, I started to put together similar trees for Norse mythologies, and recently, Egyptian mythologies. These have proven to be more difficult, as there is less information compiled that makes any discernible sense. Below is my smaller Egyptian tree, extrapolated from several sources of Egyptian mythology, some of it creative fill in the blanks, and connections that may not be fact. But I did my best to organize the missing pieces.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Science Fiction Rocks

Sci-Fi Crimes
2009, Epic
produced by Brian Virtue

Pete Loeffler - guitars, vocals
Sam Loeffler - drums
Dean Bernardini - bass

  • Jars/ The Clincher/ This Circus
  • Letter From a Thief
  • Shameful Metaphors
This group is from the Chicago area, a power trio, much like Alkaline Trio, only less macabre and punky, and more metal.  This band falls into the category of bands like the Who, Motorhead, and Cream that have a sound so big, it is difficult to believe it comes from only three people.

This album has a theme, which is evident from the cover art and title.  Although not every track is about aliens and spaaaaace, they still all have a weird other-worldly vibe to them that ties the whole album together, which is in itself pretty impressive.  So, strap on your aluminum foil helmets, and prepare to phone home.  This album is good from beginning to end.