Monday, September 1, 2014

About My Older Brother

The irony of the name of my site is that I don't actually have an older brother.

The name plays off the idea of your older brother who is in high school or college and been around a little, and who introduces their younger siblings to cool new music. Whether through direct excitement: "You gotta listen to this! This is the best!"; or through indirect osmosis - it's just what music he's playing all the time. You see band posters tacked to his wall. You sneak into his room and slip on his headphones while he's taking out the trash. That song he played that you couldn't stand last fall is now your favorite song. However it happens, you are exposed to different genres and come to certain styles of music organically, not because some radio station or cable channel tells you what you should be listening to.

The older brother nom de blog is just an idea, though. A personification of an abstraction. From what I've heard in comedian Marc Maron's podcast, the role of older brother in his life seems to be played by the record store guy.

High Fidelity (Touchstone Pictures/Working Title Films)
And I know at least a few people who have older sisters who were influential in their music upbringing (Maddie from Your Older Sister's Secret Stash and Kayley from BritPopTart & Vanyaland, for starters). Whoever your real or metaphoric older brother is, they've influenced and inspired your taste in music.

I have a couple of specific "older brothers" that I can point to in my life. One is my older sister. The other is the absent older brother of my friend Pete.

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I have so many musical memories connected to my sister from when we were young that it's sort of difficult for me to spot where our musical interests started to diverge. Up to a point, anyway. When we lived in California in the 70's, my sister would play Donny Osmond records ("Go Away Little Girl," "Puppy Love," "I Knew You When") and we would listen to Casey Kasem's American Top 40 on her little red teardrop-shaped AM radio.
Photo credit: ObjectPlastic.com
Debby Boone's "You Light Up My Life" was a HUGE hit back then. The Bay City Rollers were also a favorite band of hers from that period, and I love certain songs of theirs to this day.


When we moved to Colorado, my memories switched to us listening to my dad's 45's & LPs on our living room stereo set, an old Magnavox Astro-Sonic that looked something like this:

Photo credit: Americanlisted.com
I most recall listening to my dad's Beach Boys and Clarence "Frogman" Henry records during those times. We lived in a small mountain town on the west side of a hill, which meant that radio & TV signals from Denver couldn't make it to our house and the records we had on hand were all we had to listen to.

Soon my sister received her own stereo for her bedroom and the listening parties in the living room stopped, but new wave was just starting and her tastes shifted to include The Go-Go's, Flock of Seagulls, The B-52's and Soft Cell. And as went her tastes, so did mine. From the pop innocence of "Our Lips Are Sealed" to the frantic dance energy of "Rock Lobster"to the new-wave funk croon of "Seedy Films," I absorbed what her and her friends were into and that became the base for me to jump off of when I was then exposed to other new music.

Now that I think about it some more, I also recall picking up some music from our next-door neighbor Kenny who was the same age as my sister. Sweet's "Ballroom Blitz," "Super Freak" by Rick James and "We're A Happy Family" by the Ramones - and he may have gotten some of those from his older sister. See? Just a link within a chain.

On top of all that, I remember my sister hosting a student council exchange student who arrived from New York with a tape of excellent music I'd never heard before - UB40's "If It Happens Again," Eurogliders' "Heaven (Must Be There)," Lou Reed's "I Love You Suzanne." Pretty sure INXS' "Burn For You" was on there as well. I wish I could remember them all.

It was around that time that I started finding music on my own, thanks to the new installation of cable TV in our area (See URGH! A Music War), and also thanks to Dan, the older brother of one of my new friends I had met in my junior high english class.

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I think Dan lived in Arizona - I forget the details, he might have been in college by that time. Actually, I'm sure he lived in AZ because one of the records Pete had was Romance by Phantom Limbs (previously mentioned in my Juicy Tapes Vol 3 post). Pete had been exposed to and liked the Athens, Georgia band The B-52's - specifically their records Wild Planet and Whammy! - and also owned a copy of the Vandals' Peace Through Vandalism that he got from Dan as well.

The main thing my friend's brother did for me in absentia was to introduce me to The Replacements. Pete had a copy of STINK EP, and how could a teenager ignore a punk rock record that begins with a doofy-sounding cop saying "This is the Minneapolis police, the party is over…" and contains songs like "God Damn Job" and "Fuck School"? The answer is: a teenager can't ignore that, and will, in fact, play those songs over and over and over.

It's funny, though - since it wasn't my album, I kind of forgot about The Replacements until later in high school. When I rediscovered The Replacements, I was hooked, and they remain atop my favorite band list.

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I started this blog in 2011 to pay homage to the idea of being introduced to music by your cool older brother. I don't actually see myself as that cool older brother, I just wanted a place to talk about music and hopefully engage other people so that I could learn about new & old bands as well. Hopefully I will play the older brother sometimes, and sometimes that mantle will fall on you. But the joy of finding and sharing music is always the goal.

So, in the end, Your Older Brother isn't about a person of a specific gender or age, it's about the discovery of music. It's a place to discuss and discover music from all over the world, whether it was released last week or last century. It's what we all make of it.

Thanks to my older sister, and Dan, and you. It's because of you all that I'm here.

Now it's your turn. Tell me about your older brother, sister, neighbor, friend, parent - where did you get your love of and taste in music?

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Sunday, August 24, 2014

Album Listening Club - Nootropics discussion post

Album #3 for the club was chosen to be Nootropics by Lower Dens.

Lower Dens - Nootropics
I had not heard of Lower Dens prior to them being suggested for the ALC. They're from Baltimore, MD and seems to be a project of Jana Hunter who is a contemporary of Devendra Banhart.

So, let's just jump into the discussion, shall we? :)

DISCUSSION TIPS:
  • Compose your reply in a text editor like TextEdit or TextWrangler (Mac) or Notepad (Windows) before pasting into the reply window. People have reported having their replies eaten, and that's a total buzzkill. Sorry for that, and I'm looking for a new discussion platform.
  • There is a checkbox under the text entry field that says "Notify Me". I'm pretty sure that will e-mail you when a reply is posted. I'm not sure if it's any reply, or just a reply to your post.
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Sunday, August 17, 2014

What's In A Name?

Where to start this funny story? I guess I'll just tell it.

I have a Google alert set up for the words "Your Older Brother's Music Blog" - it tells me when there's a new post on the Internet with those words in it. Usually, it's telling me about my own blog.

The other day, I got a Google Alert message and it was alerting me to a post called "Sad Bastard Songs." I didn't quite see the connection, so I clicked through to see this:


Talk about "great minds think alike!" My doppelgänger turned out to be a college freshman who started a music site - and she doesn't have an older brother, either! Hopefully I'll be able to convince her to tell her "origin story" here sometime soon.

Anyway, I wrote her a quick note to say that I really liked her blog's name. So much so that I thought of it 3 years ago. :) She was super cool about it and has since started changing the name to "Your Older Sister's Secret Stash" but it sounds like she may change it up some even more.

Anyway, go check out her blog - still called yourbrothersmusic.wordpress.com for the moment. She writes with a direct, honest voice and has a really wide music palette. I'm looking forward to reading more of what she's got to say about life & music. It's an exciting time for her.

Best of luck, Maddie. Let me know if there's anything I can help you with.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Momentour! Fall Out Boy, Paramore, and New Politics

I still haven't written about the Vans Warped Tour, but Momentour was so much fun (and I got some really excellent pics!) that I wanted to share this quickly.

First off, I have to thank my friend Chad who was able to get us some seats for the sold-out show. My kids wanted to go (and I did, too!) but there were a couple of circumstances that prevented me from getting tickets earlier. I don't ask favors too often, but I really wanted this to be my kids' first show at Red Rocks, and we were able to go! *bows to Chad*

Full disclosure: our tickets were reserved seats but got there early enough that there were good General Admission seats open, so we sat in GA instead. Yep. We were those people.

New Politics started, and while I knew their songs "Harlem" and "Tonight You're Perfect," I honestly wasn't expecting much from them.


I love being pleasantly surprised. For two guys & a drummer, they sure put on a hell of a show. It wasn't "hard" or "edgy," it was just fun singalong music.

Søren Hansen of New Politics
They were having a great time, the singer was actually also an incredible dancer. They even brought Lolo out for a small detour into Panic! At the Disco's "Miss Jackson." (Not surprising, considering that New Politics, Lolo, and Panic! are all three on Pete Wentz' newly relaunched DCD2 label.) The energy was infectious for us and the whole amphitheatre. Really enjoyed their set.

Up next was Paramore, but before then we had the treat of watching a little game of Pong:


Too fucking cool. :) The crowd was pretty well primed for more music, and it seemed there were a lot of Paramore fans there. I had heard some of their music over the years, but my recent interest was piqued early one morning last year. I have an exercise routine recorded on TiVo, so when I wake up at 5:30am I turn on the TV and quickly turn the volume all the way down so as not to wake everyone else in the house. TiVo must have recorded a show on MTV and the channel hadn't changed yet, so what I saw this particular morning were the images in the video for their song "Now":


I was so taken by the imagery that I backed the video up on our DVR and turned the volume up a little to hear the music associated with the visuals. Turns out, I really liked the song, too. I showed my kids the video later that weekend and they liked it, and soon were buying other Paramore tracks off iTunes.

Hayley Williams (Paramore's lead singer) greeted the crowd and the band started into the first song of the night, "Still Into You." I heard Hayley missed two shows in Texas before the Red Rocks show, but she was showing no signs of illness this night. I'm glad she was feeling better.
Hayley Williams of Paramore
They played a lot of high-energy songs up front and slowed down for a couple of songs in the middle of the set.
Paramore's Jeremy Davis
Taylor York - Paramore
They also did something I haven't seen many (any?) bands do lately - during two songs, Hayley brought someone onstage. First was a girl with dyed-red hair named "Anissa" (that's my best guess at the spelling) to "help" Hayley sing the last chorus of "Misery Business". It was really cool of the band to do that, and they all were very welcoming to Anissa, jumping around with her as she sang. She really nailed it.

The second stage guest was toward the end of the show, Hayley brought up a young girl during the final parts of "Ain't It Fun" to dance onstage. Turns out, the girl knew the words to the song! SO very cute. I have video of both performances that I'll try to post soon. And Anissa - if you find this and want the raw video file, let me know.

More Hayley
Paramore didn't play "Now," but I didn't care. Hayley was so fun and engaging and the band was having so much fun that I lost track of what they played and just was along for the ride.

Eromarap
Up next, the band I knew best, Fall Out Boy.


In 2005-06 I had a job that required me to drive around quite a bit and I had acquired From Under The Cork Tree somehow. I later bought the album, but I just had some MP3s on a cd and would tool around  the high plains in my white '91 325ix blasting the record. I loved Patrick Stump's voice and the lyrics brought me back to somewhere around high school. Plus the video for "Sugar, We're Goin Down" was delightfully lo-fi and weird.

The show started out with a video and audio montage that culminated in Joe, Patrick, and Pete rising up from the stage set behind Andy Hurley. A little theatrics, a little pyrotechnics, and we were off!

Light 'em up, Patrick
Of course the band played "Sugar, We're Goin Down" and lots of other hits - "Thnks fr th Mmrs," "This Ain't A Scene, It's An Arms Race" "A Little Less Sixteen Candles, A Little More 'Touch Me'," etc.
Let's play "find Joe Trohman"!
Of course there was banter from Pete. I was really pleased to hear his positive messages. It's cool when bands are encouraging to their young fan bases, which also included a lot of bands on the Warped Tour.
Just Pete Wentz
It was pretty funny, Pete asked how many people were here for their first Fall Out Boy show and a large portion of the crowd erupted in cheers. As the noise died down he humbly added "Thanks for sticking around and checking us out." As big as Fall Out Boy is, they didn't really seem to be acting like some arena rock band, strutting around on the stage. Well, maybe a little.

After a drum-off between Andy and Patrick,

Andy Hurley
Patrick Drump
the set continued with Pete and Joe having sneaked out into the middle of the crowd to play at the sound board.


At another point, Patrick rose up from the stage set playing piano and led the crowd in a great cover of Queen's "We Are The Champions."

Patrick at the Piano
From there, he did his best Elton John impression on "Save Rock And Roll."



The sign of a really good show is when you leave happy and spent, and that's how we left the Momentour. I would happily see any and all three of these bands again. We drove home by the light of the waning Super Moon, constantly reliving the show in our stories. It took a while to wind down, as it should from a night like that. With a ringing in my ears, I smiled as my head hit the pillow.



(Photography inspired by our friends at Ultra5280. All photos by Sam, © YourOlderBrother.com All iTunes links are affiliate links - buy & support Your Older Brother!)

Thursday, August 14, 2014

ThURGHsday! #8 - Echo and the Bunnymen

I remember my first impression of "The Puppet" in URGH! as the jangly, angular song with the pale lead singer.

I still find Ian McCulloch to be one of the best-looking guys in rock. I miss seeing his eyes for sure, as he often wears sunglasses everywhere lately.

I'll be honest - I came late to Echo & the Bunnymen. Or, I came to them right on time. I don't know that I would have appreciated their music if I had been turned on to them earlier. My first major recollection besides "The Puppet" was their track on the Pretty In Pink soundtrack, "Bring On The Dancing Horses." In exploring their back catalog, I bought Songs To Learn & Sing because it had "Dancing Horses" on it and that record in turn exposed me to "The Puppet" again, along with hits from their back catalog, like "The Killing Moon" and "The Cutter," a song that to me has the best middle 8 in all of pop music.

I've since come to know their albums previous to Songs to Learn & Sing fairly well, and I always liked their self-titled "last" album in 1987 before Ian left the band for a solo career and Pete DeFreitas was killed in a motorcycle accident. I only recently learned that the band didn't like Echo & the Bunnymen much. I saw them live when they were touring that album. They played Red Rocks with Gene Loves Jezebel and New Order. Ian was in fantastic voice despite being completely loaded. I recall him telling a story about drinking Coronas with people in the parking lot.

Where URGH! They Now?

After Ian left and Pete died, Will Sergeant and Les Pattinson hired a new drummer and singer and released Reverberation in 1990 and were dropped by the label. The band broke up shortly after in 1993. I don't think I ever heard anything from Reverberation until just tonight writing about it, I found YouTube videos of some of the songs.

1994 saw Ian and Will get together as Electrafixion and release an album in 1995 before re-teaming with Les in 1997 as Echo & the Bunnymen again, releasing Evergreen that year. Les has since left the group again and has played with The Wild Swans since 2007 and another side project with Will, Das Poltergeist which released an album in 2013.

The Bunnymen have released four other albums since Evergreen, with a fifth, Meteorites, out this past May. They have been very active since that album's release, touring the album in the UK & the US, and recently streamed a concert over Yahoo! The Bunnymen will appear on Late Show with David Letterman on ThURGHsday! August 21st. I'm looking forward to seeing them on the show!

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Next ThURGHsday! - Jools Holland - "Foolish I Know"

As usual, almost all links are iTunes store affiliate links - buy & support Your Older Brother, please!

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Let's Active and Mitch Easter

I went down a YouTube rabbit hole of Let's Active videos after seeing Slicing Up Eyeballs post that Let's Active had reunited for a charity show last week. Among the finds was this video of a full Let's Active set:

Pardon my French, but he fucking *nails* the solo in "Fell," and he's not even looking at the guitar. I was never huge into Let's Active's other albums, but I did really love the Big Plans For Everybody album. No surprise to see that Rickenbacker guitars were widely used. :)

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Album Listening Club - #1 Record discussion post

Big Star
In June 1972, Big Star (Chris Bell, Jody Stephens, Andy Hummel, Alex Chilton) released their first record, titled #1 Record. Both the name of the band and album reflected a kind of bravado - real or imagined - and while the music delivered on the promise, album sales did not follow. Praise from Rolling Stone, Billboard, and Cashbox magazines could not overcome the distribution problems faced by Stax Records, Big Star's record label. (citation: Wikipedia) Other songs in the Billboard top 10 in June 1972: "The Candy Man" - Sammy Davis Jr.; "I'll Take You There" by Big Star's Stax labelmates The Staple Singers; "Nice To Be With You" - Gallery; "Song Sung Blue" - Neil Diamond; "Lean On Me" - Bill Withers.

The band has enjoyed a strong cult status since the end of their 4-year run in the early 70's, influencing bands such as Teenage Fanclub, R.E.M., The Replacements, The Posies, and pretty much any band that has a clean, jangly sound with strong songwriting and harmonies. Such sounds also harken back to The Byrds and Flying Burrito Brothers, but Big Star brought the mid-60's sound into the 70's, punching up the guitars with a bit of fuzz tone and real anger in the vocals on the harder songs.


Enough from me - let's hear from you now! Tell me what you think of Big Star's #1 Record, if it has had any effect on you and how you've experienced it through the years and the past two weeks.

For further viewing, see the film Big Star: Nothing Can Hurt Me on iTunes

DISCUSSION TIPS:
  • Compose your reply in a text editor like TextEdit or TextWrangler (Mac) or Notepad (Windows) before pasting into the reply window. People have reported having their replies eaten, and that's a total buzzkill. Sorry for that, and I'm looking for a new discussion platform. Growing pains isn't just why your knees hurt as a teenager.
  • There is a checkbox under the text entry field that says "Notify Me". I'm pretty sure that will e-mail you when a reply is posted. I'm not sure if it's any reply, or just a reply to your post. Growing pains wasn't just a show starring Kirk Cameron.
All iTunes Music Store links are using my referral code. Please buy using those links and I'll be compensated in some small but significant way. Thanks!



Friday, August 1, 2014

Juicy Tapes Vol. 3 - Driving Tape I

Driving Tape I
Interesting date on this tape, seeing as how I didn't turn 16 for a few more months. I was either eager to turn 16 & get my driver's license, or I wanted music for driving around with my permit. I do recall listening to it plenty after I got my license.



Lots of great songs here, pretty classic mid-80's New Wave (Cure, Smiths, New Order, Yaz), some good surf tunes & ska as well. And I had received a cassette of Simple Minds' New Gold Dream (81*82*83*84) from my uncle who worked in record promotions and it somehow became a favorite of mine from that era. The bassline in "Glittering Prize", tho.

The A side isn't much for segues, but the B side is much better constructed and has some good flow.

Two songs stick out for me on this mix. The Phantom Limbs track "Wedding Ring" (last song on the mix) is a song I heard from my friend Pete. He had an older brother who lived in Arizona and turned Pete on to lots of good music (and me as well). This was an Arizona band that had a jangly guitar sound, kind of R.E.M.-like, or Let's Active. Phantom Limbs have a few records, but I only really know the one, Romance. Great songs with clever words. Bill Walsh wrote a page over on his site The Slot (A Spot For Copy Editors) with more background on the band.

The other song is "A Bit Of Pain Never Hurts" by an Australian band that was called the Rads in the US but The Radiators back home. I guess they shortened the name so as not to conflict with the New Orleans-based US band The Radiators. Totally different sound. "The Rads" also capitalized on the slang of the era, and gave it a more west-coast feel, as the sound on their album Life's A Gamble was fairly upbeat & sunny. (I found this review & history of the record on the What Frank Is Listening To blog). Really liked this band, my friend Ted had bought their tape while he was on vacation, I think. Some of their music still isn't easily available in the US, and I haven't been able to get ahold of this album from my Aussie friends, even though they've been around forever.


Oh, and "Rise" by Public Image Ltd. is still one of my favorite songs ever. Love that record of theirs, loved the "generic" look & names - Album, Cassette, Compact Disc. Perfect. :)

Here's the playlists: Spotify / Rdio

Enjoy!

(As usual, most links to artists, albums, and songs are my iTunes affiliate links. Please use them if you want to buy anything & I'll get a cut. Thanks!)