Sunday, December 8, 2013

On my Fascination with Insects: Part Two

I found one of these guys on my walk the other day.  I had thought they were mostly a southern North America thing, but apparently mole crickets can be found on every continent but Antarctica.  In Australia they have an arch enemy, the Blue Ant wasp, which uses the mole cricket as food for its larva.  The Blue Ant is actually far more interesting, but I didn't come across one of those.  This particular mole cricket is the Gryllotalpa Monanka, found in North America.  It is also known as the Dark Night Mole Cricket, which is actually the coolest thing about this particular insect, aside from the fact that it looks horrifying.

The mole cricket usually is a subterranean species, which means it isn't seen very often above ground.  So, I guess I was pretty lucky to see it in the first place.  My picture isn't very good, for example, you can't tell that this thing is nearly two inches long.  Also, its front legs aren't visible, and they are pretty cool looking; hooked and claw-like for tunneling.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Back to Charlotte

 To expand on my other logo design posts, the Charlotte Bobcats (i.e. worst expansion team in the history of the NBA) will be allowed to change their name to the Hornets after this season, as that name was abandoned by the New Orleans club.  This makes perfect sense for a team that has struggled for identity since it's debut in 2004.  The original Hornets franchise left Charlotte in 2002 for New Orleans, and although the city of Charlotte was awarded a new franchise, the fan base hasn't been the same.

So, the Hornets will return to Charlotte next year.  The club has already pledged to bring back the original teal and purple colors.  The question I have is whether the club will use a new logo, or just bring back the old cartoon logo used by the original Charlotte Hornets, and then by the New Orleans Hornets.  Just in case everyone forgot... the old logo looks like this:

The hornet's name is Hugo, and he looks a little jittery.  Too many sodas, perhaps?  I hate logos like this for professional teams.  It's the mascot.  The Red Sox don't have a picture of Wally the Green Monster as a primary logo.  Minor league teams have cartoony logos like this.  Worst logo in NBA history?  probably.  I'm glad it's currently retired.  

Here are some concepts that I consider far more respectable and professional for a major league club: 

vote here
a more abstract hornet that has more of an insect-like vibe as opposed to a saturday morning disney cartoon from thje '90s feel.  This one also alludes to a representation of the basketball without actually showing a basketball.
This is part of a concept that promotes the use of the old logo as a primary, and this logo as a secondary, and patch.  However, I think it would do nicely as a primary.  It bridges the old Bobcats identity with the new Hornets rename and colors.  

full concept
Hornets are pretty difficult for designers to do without looking like comic books, apparently.  But if the club really felt it necessary to have a logo that sells to children, then I'd rather go with this modernized and toughened up hornet.  He's sleeker and dangerous looking, and not as minor league as Hugo.

This is another one from a bigger concept that focuses on the Hugo logo.  Also pitched as a secondary and patch, the honey comb shape idea is intriguing, even though hornets don't make honey.  But it is a departure from the circle logos used by everyone else.  

99 Designs submission
99 Designs showcases design contests.  This one is from designer Eren G.  Also submitted was the same design with an orange basketball replacing the purple one above.  The design concept incorporates the Queen City and Hornets Nest nicknames for Charlotte and puts to rest the ridiculous Hugo logo, replacing it with an elegant insect design that can be taken seriously, and still appeal to children.  Best design so far, sure.

Of course, they could revert back to the true original logo, used only for the 1988 draft.  It is similar to the Canadien's red and white Canadian Hockey logo, but I think it is different enough to not have to worry about copyright infringement or brand confusion.  The original original logo looked like this: 

Sunday, November 24, 2013

It's a Mania!

The Beatles
(White Album)
1968 Apple
produced by George Martin, Chris Thomas

John Lennon - guitars, bass, vocals, keyboards, percussion, harmonica, saxophone
Paul McCartney - bass, guitars, vocals, keyboards, percussion, flugle horn
George Harrison - guitars, bass, vocals, organ, percussion
Ringo Starr - drums, percussion, piano, vocals

  • Hey Jude/Revolution
  • Ob la Di Ob la Da/While my Guitar Gently Weeps
This may not be the "best" Beatles album, but it may be my favorite. The diversity in this project is incredible. It has rock n roll, it has the blues, it has folk and country, and big band. Apparently the turmoil in the band caused all four member to create individually, as infighting led to seclusion.  Ringo even quit the band for quite some time during the sessions. 16 of the 30 tracks actually featured all four members. Much like Jefferson Airplane's live performances later in their career, this album brings some of the best of the band's material because it is created in such dischord and chaos.

Being a double album, there are many songs to experience. This particular album has many of my favorite Beatles songs such as While my Guitar Gently Weeps, Rocky Racoon, Happiness is a Warm Gun, Black Bird, Why Don't we do it in the Road, and Helter Skelter.  

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Be an Honest Puck

I like folk music. It's simplicity, it's story telling properties, it's importance within the oral tradition are all appealing. This post is about another traditional folk song.

Fairies are a big deal in the traditions of Britain, Scotland, and Ireland. Shakespeare, Drayton, Alexander Pope, and Sir Walter Scott all wrote about them. There are countless myths and stories concerning fairies that have been passed down through folk traditions for centuries.

The Ballad of Tam Lin is one of these traditional tales.
Stephanie Law's Tam Lin
The tale is of a character named Tam Lin, who is able to either steal from, or impregnate any maid who comes across his path in the forest of Carterhaugh (somewhere in the Cheviot Hills along the Scottish/English border). When a girl named Janet (or Margaret) returns to the forest to find an herb to end her pregnancy, Tam Lin reappears to her and tells her his story of being held in bondage by the Fairy Queen. He tells her how she can set him free.

There have been many versions of the story written lyrically and set to music. Most well known are the versions by Frankie Armstrong, Cast Iron Filter, Fairport Convention, and Anne Briggs.

Below are the lyrics used by Fairport Convention, which is the first version of the song I heard as a kid.
I forbid you maidens all that wear gold in your hair 
To travel to Carterhaugh for young Tam Lin is there 
None that go by Carterhaugh but they leave him a pledge
Either their mantles of green or else their maidenhead 
Janet tied her kirtle green a bit above her knee 
And she's gone to Carterhaugh as fast as go can she 
She'd not pulled a double rose, a rose but only two 
When up there came young Tam Lin, says "Lady, pull no more" 
"And why come you to Carterhaugh without command from me?" 
"I'll come and go", young Janet said, "and ask no leave of thee" 
Janet tied her kirtle green a bit above her knee 
And she's gone to her father as fast as go can she 
Well, up then spoke her father dear and he spoke meek and mild 
"Oh, and alas, Janet," he said, "I think you go with child"
 "Well, if that be so," Janet said, "myself shall bear the blame 
There's not a knight in all your hall shall get the baby's name”
 For if my love were an earthly knight as he is an elfin grey 
I'd not change my own true love for any knight you have" 
Janet tied her kirtle green a bit above her knee 
And she's gone to Carterhaugh as fast as go can she 
"Oh, tell to me, Tam Lin," she said, "why came you here to dwell?"
 "The Queen of Faeries caught me when from my horse I fell 
And at the end of seven years she pays a tithe to Hell
I so fair and full of flesh and feared it be myself 
But tonight is Hallowe'en and the faerie folk ride 
Those that would their true love win at Miles Cross they must buy 
First let past the horses black and then let past the brown 
Quickly run to the white steed and pull the rider down 
For I'll ride on the white steed, the nearest to the town 
For I was an earthly knight, they give me that renown 
Oh, they will turn me in your arms to a newt or a snake 
But hold me tight and fear not, I am your baby's father 
And they will turn me in your arms into a lion bold
But hold me tight and fear not and you will love your child 
And they will turn me in your arms into a naked knight 
But cloak me in your mantle and keep me out of sight" 
In the middle of the night she heard the bridle ring 
She heeded what he did say and young Tam Lin did win 
Then up spoke the Faerie Queen, an angry queen was she
 ”Woe betide her ill-fought face, an I'll death may she die” 
"Oh, had I known, Tam Lin," she said, "what this night
I did see I'd have looked him in the eyes and turned him to a tree”

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Whats in a Name Change Part Two: Dead by Racism

I like graphic design, specifically logo design, and especially the concepts that didn't make it.  I posted some designs before when the New Orleans Hornets changed their name and image to the New Orleans Pelicans at the end of the last NBA season.  Sports teams seem to lend themselves easily to reimaginings and redesigns.

The Washington football team is taking heat from many places recently, aside from the usual disgruntled American Indians.  recently the 99designs community held a contest for Washington football team designs.  Please go to the linky link to see them all, below are my favorites.  

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Social Change on the Airwaves

Football season has started again.  Of course this means that every week for the next 19 weeks all sports networks will be doing nothing but talking about what happened on Sunday, and what may happen next Sunday.  Also, we should be talking about racism in athletics.
click me
The Oneida Nation has paid for a radio campaign aimed at the Washington football team with the goal of getting the mascot changed.  a full story can be read here on USA Today's site.  But a quick Google of Oneida Radio Ad will give many different links to similar stories.

click for article

Click the linky links below to hear the radio ads.  So far there are two spots.

click for first ad
click for second ad

Monday, September 16, 2013

Put this Sponge on Your Head, Please

Ride the Lightning
1984, MegaForce
produced by Flemming Rasmussen and Mark Whitaker

James Hetfield- rhythmn guitar, vocals
Kirk Hammet- lead guitar
Cliff Burton- bass
Lars Ulrich- drums

  • Creeping Death/Am I Evil/Blitzkrieg
  • For Whom the Bell Tolls
  • Fade to Black
This is my favorite Metallica album. To this day, every time I hear bells on the radio, I wait, hoping. After three bells, I get dissapointed, because that means the song is Hells Bells by ACDC and not For Whom the Bell Tolls, which I'd so much rather hear.  

I listened to this album the other day for the first time in years, and marveled at how much Hetfield doesn't sound like Hetfield. Compared to contemporary Metallica, it sounds like they have a completely different singer.

This album has many of my all time favorite Metallica songs. Ride the Lightning, Fade to Black, For Whom the Bell Tolls, Creeping Death, and Call of the Ktulu (Cthulhu, idiots) are each pretty fantastic, Trapped Under Ice isn't a bad song either. In fact, that only leaves Fight Fire with Fire, and Escape on the list of songs that make me go "meh". If only two out of eight tracks are unremarkable, that's a pretty great album.  

Also, this album was pressed as vinyl records (1984 was still two early for CDs to dominate the business) and created some cool collectors items. 500 pressings were packaged in green sleeves instead of the blue cover shown above. Also, the Fade to Black promo single was pressed in glow in the dark green vinyl. These both go up for auction once in a while and bring in 200 to 400 dollars.  Not as much as the clear pressing of NoFX's The Decline... that's ridiculous.  

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Chris Cornell with his Head in the Oven

1994, A&M
produced by Michael Beinhorn

Chris Cornell - vocals, guitars
Ben Sheppard - bass
Kim Thayll - guitars
Matt Cameron - drums
Artis the Spoonman - spoons

  • Day I Tried to Live/ Like Suicide/ Kickstand
  • Spoonman/ Cold Bitch
  • Black Hole Sun/ Like Suicide/ Kickstand
  • My Wave/ Spoonman/ Birth Ritual
  • Fell on Black Days/ Kyle Petty, Son of Richard
This came out when I was in Middle School, like most of the must have grunge, and post-grunge "alternative" music from the 90s. Soundgarden hit it big with this album. Although some hipster fans prefer Badmotorfinger, no one can deny the number of hit singles, good reviews, and Billboard #1 debut. Superunknown recieved 5 out of 5 stars from Allmusic, Q, and Rolling Stone. They definitely hit their stride here, it is a much more complete and diverse album.

The things the band had stated were influences on this album are interesting also. Aside from Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath, which permeate throughout all their work, Ringo Starr, Sylvia Plath, and druids were also counted among influences, according to band members. I guess if your major influence is Led Zeppelin, druids make sense. And if you're going to write lyrics from a dark and miserable place, Sylvia Plath is probably your best friend.  

The band was marketed as a Grunge band like Nirvana, and Alice in Chains, which I never understood. Actually, I never understood the genre Grunge to begin with. None of the famous Seattle grunge bands sounded anything alike. Nirvana was far more punk rock than Pearl Jam or Soundgarden, Alice in Chains was far more miserable and muddled and actually sounded like something grunge ought to sound like, like that crap you find behind the washer at the laundromat. Soundgarden was a metal band with a melody, and a singer right out of the Judas Priest line of 80's metal singers. But, they were creative enough to feature a jug band spoon player on Spoonman, and delve into some psychedelic sounds on Black Hole Sun.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Summer Camp and the Oral Tradition

It's summer time again, as evident by the recent 90 plus degree heat wave.  And summer time makes me think of summer camp, which makes me think of campfires.  Campfires, as everyone knows, are a staple of summer camp programming.  It doesn't matter if you went to boy scout camp, or a performing arts camp, a camp for one week, or four, or eight, or even Camp Anawanna, or Camp Firewood, there were always campfires.  Summer camp campfire always features the same things: there are a few camper/counselor skits which are usually one of several traditional skits done at summer camp dating back to the beginning of time, and there are a few songs sung on an acoustic guitar, at least one by the same dude who insists on performing last every time because his song is chill and sets the mood for the end.  Throw in a couple of juggling tricks, and a few interactive songs and chants and call it a night... but not before the storyteller.

The campfire has become the last bastion of the oral tradition in this country.  Everything that happens in the campfire is unrecorded, mostly from memory, and shared from one generation of camp people (counselors/older campers) to another generation of camp people (younger counselors/younger campers).  The storyteller was always my favorite part of the campfire event.

Usually the storyteller went last (unless that one dude didn't insist on singing his sappy, mood crushing love song last).  Sometimes the story had a moral, sometimes it was just a funny folk tale.  Eventually, when I worked at camp, I became the storyteller, which is something I learned how to do from other storytellers (hence the whole oral tradition thing).
He's going to play another Ben Gibbard song

The way I tell stories has been influenced by three separate people.

My father has been secretly teaching me how to tell stories since I was a kid.  From the pulpit, my dad has been telling tales, anecdotes, and analogies to better connect scripture to modern people's lives my entire life.  I learned from him that the plot is the easy part of the telling.  It's the details and language that make the story interesting.  For example, anyone can tell the basic plot of Pyramus and Thisbe, but only Shakespeare was able to write Romeo and Juliet and stretch it out to five acts.

There was a counselor at the camp I went to, and not only was he the storyteller, but also the campfire MC.  Seeing him tell stories was amazing.  From the first time I watched him perform (and it was a performance truly) I decided I wanted to do that too.  I learned from him that a good story is told not just by telling the story, but through enthusiasm, pantomime, changes in volume, pitch, accents, etc.  It wasn't enough to just tell the story, showing the story is a must.

this is how I picture myself when I tell stories
Thirdly, there was another counselor who also told stories.  The lessons I learned from him were more about what not to do.  The way he told stories highlighted his arrogant, self righteous personality.  Most of his stories had morals, and he delivered them mostly in a way that made everyone feel he was talking down to them.  When this particular counselor stood up to tell his story, there were barely audible groans, the rolling eyes, and the whispered not-agains that accompany campfire acts that no one wants to see.  I decided that when I tell stories, it would be done in ways that weren't heavy handed, or obviously message-laden.

My favorite story to tell was one I learned originally from my father.  It's called the stone-cutter.  It goes something like this:

There was once a stonecutter, who was dissatisfied with himself and with his position in life.

One day, he passed a wealthy merchant's house, and through the open gateway, saw many fine possessions and important visitors. "How powerful that merchant must be!" thought the stonecutter. He became very envious, and wished that he could be like the merchant. Then he would no longer have to live the life of a mere stonecutter.

To his great surprise, he suddenly became the merchant, enjoying more luxuries and power than he had ever dreamed of, envied and detested by those less wealthy than himself. But soon a high official passed by, carried in a sedan chair, accompanied by attendants, and escorted by soldiers beating gongs. Everyone, no matter how wealthy, had to bow low before the procession. "How powerful that official is!" he thought. "I wish that I could be a high official!"

Then he became the high official, carried everywhere in his embroidered sedan chair, feared and hated by the people all around, who had to bow down before him as he passed. It was a hot summer day, and the official felt very uncomfortable in the sticky sedan chair. He looked up at the sun. It shone proudly in the sky, unaffected by his presence. "How powerful the sun is!" he thought. "I wish that I could be the sun!"

Then he became the sun, shining fiercely down on everyone, scorching the fields, cursed by the farmers and laborers. But a huge black cloud moved between him and the earth, so that his light could no longer shine on everything below. "How powerful that storm cloud is!" he thought. "I wish that I could be a cloud!"

Then he became the cloud, flooding the fields and villages, shouted at by everyone. But soon he found that he was being pushed away by some great force, and realized that it was the wind. "How powerful it is!" he thought. "I wish that I could be the wind!"

Then he became the wind, blowing tiles off the roofs of houses, uprooting trees, hated and feared by all below him. But after a while, he ran up against something that would not move, no matter how forcefully he blew against it — a huge, towering stone. "How powerful that stone is!" he thought. "I wish that I could be a stone!" he thought. "I wish that I could be a stone!"

Then he became the stone, more powerful than anything else on earth. But as he stood there, he heard the sound of a hammer pounding a chisel into the solid rock, and felt himself being changed. "What could be more powerful than I, the stone?" he thought. He looked down and saw far below him the figure of a stonecutter.

Of course, I tell things a little differently, adding details, changing some things, but the basic progression of the plot remains the same, and it always ends where it began, on the mountain. There is clearly some sort of moral/value to be learned here, but I liked to leave the whole "and the moral is..." piece out, allowing everyone to interpret it their own way.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Selfish Freedom of Religion

click me to read the article

This is quite possibly the best article I've read on the Religious Right lobby in America.  So much domestic policy seems to be held up by this fear of putting "religious freedom" in jeopardy.  However, as this article points out pretty intelligently, religious freedom is really a term used to further an agenda of conservative Christian values.

The focus is on an ongoing lawsuit by the Hobby Lobby, a conservative Christian owned hobby store chain (the Chik-fil-a of the arts and crafts world).  Hobby Lobby refuses to offer health care to employees if that health care system offers contraceptives as part of it's plan.  The Hobby Lobby wants the same exceptions that religious non-profits receive.  The problem is, they aren't a non-profit organization.  They are a for-profit corporation.  At least this isn't about homosexuality and marriage.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

What a Jive Turkey

Another post to file in cool things seen while working category... the other day I watched as this giant bird landed on the top of this woman's house.  I wasn't able to get the best pictures possible, as anyone with a keen eye for photography can tell... nature doesn't always cooperate.

I'm not sure if turkey vultures are bad omens or not.  I enjoyed watching it settle on the roof and chill out for a bit before taking off.  Apparently, turkey vultures are one of 7 species in the family Cathartidai, which includes the King Vulture of Brazil, and the Californian Condor.  

Up close, it looks like this: 

This is certainly the coolest thing I've seen at work yet.  Nature is pretty awesome.  I need a better camera.  

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Ska in Gainsville

Less Than Jake
Hello Rockview
1998: Capitol Records
produced by Howard Benson

Chris Demakes - Guitar, Vocals
Roger Manganelli - Bass, Vocals
Vinnie Fiorello - Drums
Buddy Schaub - Trombone
Pete Anna - Trombone
Derron Nuhfer - Barri Sax

  • All my Friends are Metalheads/Help Save the Youth of America from Exploding/Rock and Roll Pizzeria
  • History of a Boring Town
This album came with a booklet that had each song illustrated like a Dick Tracy comic book. Pretty awesome. It is one of my favorite ska fueled punk albums, second only to NoFX's So Long and Thanks for all the Shoes. Punk with a horn section was the new thing in the mid to late 90s, and as soon as it exploded, it disappeared. This album will hold a special place for me, as it reminds me of those angsty high school and anxiety filled college years. Last One out of Liberty City starts the album out with a bang, a great way to begin an album full of face paced, melodic punk, punctuated by trombone harmonies. This is actually the only thing from Florida that is worth my time.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Butterfly Effect

Another installment of Cool Things I See at Work:  

This is a butterfly of the Nymphalidai family, genus Speyeria, a species of Fritillary butterfly.   As far as I can tell, by looking at other pictures and reading descriptions, this particular butterfly is the Aphrodite Fritillary.  

Once again, this is pretty cool, as according to Butterflies of Massachusetts dot com, this particular species of Fritillary has become pretty uncommon in the New England area, supplanted by the Great Spangled Fritillary.  Although, because I'm not very good at this, what I found could very well be a Great Spangled Fritillary.  

It's About Dichotomy!

Beyond Heaven/Above Hell
2010: Rebel Monster
produced by Jacob Hansen

Michael Poulsen- guitar, vocals
Thomas Bredahl- lead guitar
Jon Larsen- drums
Anders Kjolholm- bass

  • Fallen/A Warrior's Call/Rebel Angel
  • Heaven nor Hell/Carolina Leaving
  • Still Counting
  • The Mirror and the Ripper
  • A Warrior's Call
The album can be classified, I suppose, as a concept album, but everything this band releases is one giant concept, and this album is just one link in the chain of the concept that spans several albums.  I've never heard of any other band doing this sort of thing, either, which makes it pretty interesting.

The concept appeals to me in a big way, as I'm a huge dork when it comes to demonology, Faust myth, and Judeo/Christian superstition.  This particular story line is, essentially a deal with the devil with a twist.  The cover art kind of gives away the themes of good and evil, redemption, circular story telling...

The music shows moments of brilliance, as with the use of a harmonica solo in their big single Heaven nor Hell.  The sound blends and changes between Metallica-esque thrash, a little Motorhead inspired garage rock, some blues, rockabilly, and of course Danish death metal (they are from Copenhagen, after all).  

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Surprise! Living a Lie Sucks

So, this is happening today.  The organization Exodus International has closed, and the president of this "Christian" ministry, Alan Chambers, is doing interviews apologizing for his very damaging and unchristian-like ministry which has hurt many people.

Exodus International focused on healing homosexuals, turning them straight through reparative therapy and prayer.  Chambers has gone on record, most famously with Oprah, to denounce this idea of homosexuality as a choice and lifestyle that can be treated through psychological therapy.  Basically, he has realized that brainwashing does more harm than good.  The Huffington Post has an article in more detail.

I'm not sure, but I hope someone else somewhere has drawn parallels between this anti-gay movement and the Inquisition's use of torture to illicit and secure oaths of undying devotion to the Faith.  Frankly, this Evangelical war on homosexuality is disgusting, and I'm glad to see a leader and true believer of this madness flip his position...  how very Saint Paul of him, what a revelation this must have been.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Falling on Deaf Ears?

An open letter to Dan Snyder has been posted by Grantland, the super cool sports/pop culture blog headed up by the immortal Bill Simmons. Changing culturally insensitive, and mostly outright racist Indian mascots is something I've supported for quite a while, so... this is a repost?  reblog? something?

click me to go to the article
I do find this interesting, as it is the first time I've seen professional (semi professional?) sport writers make any sort of public statement regarding this issue in support of American Indians. Most of the time writers, the NFL, and fans play the "too much history" card, or the "dignified honor" excuse like the franchise is doing the Indian people a favor by naming themselves after them.

Anyway, I doubt this will change Snyder's mind, if he even sees it at all. More importantly, many other sports fans will see it. This will help change the mainstream opinion concerning American Indian imagery in sports. Hopefully the NFL will feel pressure to change its stance. The part of this article that made me the most angry was learning how Goodell feels about the issue. Clearly appeasing the owner of one of his franchises is far more important than doing the right thing.  

Snaaaaaake! Snaaaaaake!

I almost stepped on this little guy the other day.  He was nice enough to sit still so I could take a picture.

Milk snakes are one of the 14 snakes found in my area.  Milk snakes, like most of the other 14 snakes, are mostly harmless.  Usually the snake of choice around here is the boring garter snake, but sometimes more interesting snakes show up, like the very long black racer, or even a copperhead or eastern rattler if you aren't so lucky.  This post can be filed in the "cool shit I see at work" category.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

If Only There was a Band More Emo than Billy Corgan...

Silversun Pickups
Neck of the Woods
2012. Dangerbird Records
produced by Jacknife Lee

Brian Aubert - guitar, vocals
Nikki Monninger - bass, vocals
Joe Lester - keyboards
Christopher Guanlao - drums

  • Bloody Mary (Nerve Endings)
  • The Pit
  • Here We Are (Chancer)
I like this band.  Pitchfork, of course, gave this album a bad review.  But, in true Pitchfork fashion, the reviewer comes off as just another music snob, hipster douche who only gave the album one, half-ass listen.  Not every album can be In the Aeroplane Over the Sea, or Jeff Buckley's Grace.  Get over yourself.

This album is their third release.  I discovered the band after hearing their single Lazy Eye somewhere, and thinking, "wow, that chick can sing", and then realizing that it was a dude the whole time.  They have a sound very reminiscent of Billy Corgan when he's being depressed.  The similarities don't stop there, either.  They also have a female bass player.  If you enjoyed the Smashing Pumpkin's "shoegazing" melancoly sound made famous by songs like 1979 and Disarm, the Silversun Pickups fully explore their own airy, eerily creepy desperateness on this album.  

While Bloody Mary is a good track, and definitely a good choice for a single, the band missed an opportunity to showcase Mean Spirits as a single.  It is by far the best track on the album, and I recommend giving it a listen, or two.  

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Picking the Wrong City

This past week has been an incredible roller coaster of emotions for the United States, especially the Northeast, and more specifically the greater Boston area. I am from the area, living in parts of New England my entire life. This post seemed fitting for this week, and all of the fall out from the Boston marathon attack and the subsequent manhunt. The phrase used the most this week, aside from the new trendy Boston Strong fundraiser catch phrase, is "these guys picked the wrong city". My friend writes for Newsweek and in a recent response to the attacks on Patriots Day said this: "You don't fuck with Boston, because Boston fucks back".

This statement could be tossed aside as bravado, unable to be backed up by facts, but... all of you who have watched movies like the Departed, Good Will Hunting, The Brinks Job, Mystic River, The Town, or even Ted need to understand that all of the grit and toughness expressed by characters in those films are influenced by and express how people who actually live in this area think and act. and with that... I give you the best compilation album of all time, and quite possibly the finest American Hardcore punk album ever recorded.

Gang Green, The Groinoids, Jerry's Kids, The Freeze, The Proletariats, Decadence, The FUs
This is Boston Not LA
1982, Modern Method
Produced by Jimmy Dufour, Mark McKay, Sean Sweeney

In the late '70s and early '80s a new kind of punk started out in LA and moved to DC. This scene had a harder, dirtier sound than British and New York punk bands like the Buzzcocks, Sex Pistols, The Clash, and Ramones. Lead by the LA based Black Flag, and the DC based Bad Brains, this American Hardcore punk scene infiltrated many other cities along both coasts, including San Francisco, New York, and, of course, Boston.

This comp helped to promote the Boston sound and scene and distinguish them from the DC scene on the east coast. The title was initially supposed to be a rallying cry for Boston area bands to be themselves, instead of copying what LA groups like Black Flag, Fear, and the Germs were doing. Since then, it has become more of a statement that Boston, it's city and people, are harder than the soft citizens of the warmer, more luxurious cities of California.

This comp, and these bands would go on to influence a Boston music scene that would cultivate groups like The Unseen, The Lemonheads, Ten Yard Fight, Slapshot, The Mighty Mighty Bosstones, Big D and the Kids Table, the Dropkick Murphys, and even Godsmack. NoFX frontman, and punk rock historian, Fat Mike has said this album is the best of all time (which he says about everything), and references it in his song 2 Jealous Agains, which is all about iconic punk records.

Trouble if You Hide is a track by the Freeze that seems pretty appropriate to the events of the past week. The lyric "please come forth with clues to confide, because there will be trouble if you hide" highlights the tenacity of the Boston spirit.

Friday, April 12, 2013

An Open Letter to my Favorite Radio Station

I still listen to radio.

Let that sink in for a second. Despite all the new technology available to me, like iPods, and satellite radio that rely on frequencies sent from space, and the internet, I use technology that was discovered and invented in 1872 and made popular in the 1920s. I choose to do this, mostly because it is far simpler to turn the dial in my car than to figure out how to sync an iPod, or learn how to stream an internet radio service.  

Most of the time, rock radio doesn't disappoint. I've learned which stations are good, and play what I like, and which stations are clown shoes (I'm looking at you Pop/Hip Hop radio). I change channels between three or four stations, mostly because I hate commercials.  

Recently, one of my go-to stations changed their format, sort of. I say sort of, because it was a rock station, and it still is a rock station. No one went and burned the rock collection and bought a bunch of country records from the local yard sales. The station decided to expand their offering of rock music to incorporate "all rock". Previously, they played mostly hard rock from the '80s, '90s, and '00s, focusing on newer rock and metal. Now, they've added what many would call "classic" rock, and span rock music from the late '60s all the way until the present.

Of course, this change was met with a ridiculous amount of hostility as evident on their Facebook page. Some people just don't like change, or appreciate the old school. I felt pretty awful for the employees of the station, as many of the comments were brutally worded, and mostly unfair.

Personally, I love the fact that the station has realized that the older bands and artists can still rock. It can be a great idea, and could showcase a bridge between old classic rockers and the newer bands that they influenced.

However, the execution of this really great idea is where the station fell flat.

They could have added to their playlist seamlessly with groups like Iggy and the Stooges, the MC5, Cream, Mountain, Deep Purple, Alice Cooper and Steppenwolf, and expand their genre to include punk rock and play groups like Bad Religion, Black Flag, Minor Threat, The Sex Pistols, and the Misfits. No other station plays stuff like that.

Instead, the station decided groups from the '80s like the Damn Yankees, Tom Keifer, Warrant, Cinderella, and LA Guns were better additions. Also, instead of classic groups that compliment their hard rock identity, they play Neil Young, Tom Petty, and the Barenaked Ladies. These are good musicians, excellent music, but not really what one looks for from a hard rock radio station.

I'd love to request more solid rock music, and less girly, feather and spandex wearing, '80s emasculating cock rock nonsense. I know every rose has a thorn, stop crying, you're mascara is running.

Also, Nickleback is unnecessary. There is only enough room on the radio for one band of cocky, douchebags, and Van Halen has it covered.

I say, keep the old stuff that actually rocks (ZZ Top, Led Zeppelin, the Stones, Hendrix, The Who) and dump the folk rock, and all the pansy-ass glam ballads that make men gag and women swoon. I miss the Tool, Manson, Godsmack, Chevelle, and Monster Magnet tracks I used to hear.

Friday, March 22, 2013

It Will Go Over Like a Lead Balloon

According to Rolling Stone magazine, Led Zeppelin is the 14th best musical group of all time. NBC news ranked them #6 all time in a piece by Eric Olsen. AVR ranked them #1 overall.  Polls and lists created by most musical sites and publications have ranked this band close to their top ten, and for good reason. It is, after all, a hard rocking, blues based band that has influenced countless musicians since their debut, as well as many of their own contemporaries. I, like many people who like music, have a few of their albums.

Led Zeppelin
Led Zeppelin II
1969, Atlantic
produced by Jimmy Page
Robert Plant - vocals, harmonica
Jimmy Page - guitars
John Paul Jones - bass, organ
John Bonham - drums, percussion

singles -
  • Whole Lotta Love/ Living Loving Maid
  • Heart Breaker/ Bring it on Home
  • Living Loving Maid/ Bring it on Home
The Brown Bomber album is my favorite Zeppelin album. This is one of those albums I picked up when I was younger because I wanted to know more about a band that everyone talked about.  My dad didn't really play Zeppelin in the house, and I heard stuff on the radio, but radio play only gives a little window into a band.  So, I asked for this album, and received it as a gift, for a birthday or Christmas, or something.

This album made me appreciate Jimmy Page as a guitar player. Many people talked about how great he was, but discovering things for myself was always the best plan.  I still don't think Eddie Van Halen was such a great player, since I haven't heard a shred of evidence to tell me otherwise. There has been no "holy crap" moment like I've had many times listening to Page.

The bluesiness (I'm sure that's a word) on this album has made it my favorite. Whole Lotta Love, of course, is an epic song, full of rocking guitar rifts, and a crazy feedback induced breakdown in the middle. The Lemon Song, Ramble On, and Bring it on Home are my favorite tracks.

Led Zeppelin
Led Zeppelin III
1970, Atlantic
produced by Jimmy Page
singles -
  • Immigrant Song/ Hey Hey What can I do?
I think, the biggest issue I have with this album, is the best song was left off. Hey Hey What can I Do? still gets radio play, more than the A side of the single. Anyway, this album is good regardless, I suppose.  Most of the album has a softer, folkier type of sound to it, which is a contrast to other Zeppelin stuff of the past, and future. This album is definitely worth buying, if only for the song Tangerine. There are a few traditional cover pieces done also. This album incorporates the band's folk influences, and starts to show their weird wiccan/occult/mythology psuedo religious beliefs.  Live Magazine called this album "the best of all time" in 2007.

Led Zeppelin
Led Zeppelin IV
1971, Atlantic
produced by Jimmy Page
  • Black Dog/ Misty Mountain Hop
  • Rock and Roll/ Four Sticks
Some people refer to this album as Zoso, or the four symbols album, or whatever. I think these people are dumb. The whole point of the album was to not call it anything, not even the name of the band appears on the cover. It is Led Zeppelin's fourth album, though, and since the last three were numbered, and the Zoso symbol refers to Jimmy Page only, I call this one Led Zeppelin 4. Deal with it.

This is probably the hardest rocking, most well known album by the band. Most tracks receive radio play, and it incorporates just about everything the band was and had been into. There is blues, there is folk, there is traditional Celtic/Wiccan mythos, and there is just good loud rock.  

It is amazing to me what one can be subjected to without even realizing it. I saw Wayne's World back in the day, before I really understood who Led Zeppelin was... and that scene about not being allowed to play Stairway in the music shop was funny, but I didn't know what Stairway was. At least, I didn't think I did. But when a friend played it for me, I realized that I had heard it before, a lot, on the radio. Radio doesn't always tell you what they play, you know.

Speaking of knowing things I thought I didn't know... Battle for Evermore features Sandy Denny. I knew who she was before I heard this album, because I knew Fairport Convention and their album Liege and Lief. This was the first time I realized that musicians from different genres can and do hang out together.

I learned so much when I was 12 because of music!  
As a side note, my favorite track on this album is When the Levee Breaks.  

Led Zeppelin
Houses of the Holy
1973, Atlantic
produced by Jimmy Page
singles - 
  • Over the Hills and Far Away/ Dancing Days
  • D'yer Maker/ The Crunge
This album is so strange. Comparing it to the four previous albums, it is just plain weird. First of all, it is the first album they release with an actual title. Second, where did the blues go? The entire album is different than anything else the band has done before. Sometimes different is good. Sometimes it is just strange. And sometimes, when you realize where the band goes after this record, it isn't really that big of a surprise. This one is worth it, if only for the funkiness of certain tracks, and the melodic song writing. I still can't find that confounded bridge, but I'm okay with that.