Wednesday, November 21, 2012

State of the state of music (MOG repost)

I just got word that the old MOG.com site is being mothballed. I have some music posts there that I'd like to save, so, lucky reader - here's new old content for you! This was originally posted 12/23/06.

Okay, so I'm probably in the minority, but I couldn't stand the Testosterone Rock of the mid-late 90's-early 00's - your Limp Bizkits (sans Wes Borland - he's a pretty good player), your Creeds, Nickelbacks, Stainds - that growly vocal thing. 3 Doors Down, Fuel, that sort of thing. I couldn't listen to rock radio for years. Not even Live 105 in the Bay Area, which went from "alternative" to all testosterone rock, all the time.

So, now we're in punky emo land, which, you know, is more my speed. The screamo stuff is a little (okay, a LOT) over the top for me, but hey, I'm almost an old man. I'm allowed to have my "kids these days" moments. There's a lot of the emo-y, punky bands around, plenty of them on the radio, too. In fact, there's enough of them to make Daughtry sound sorta novel (you know, that band featuring the guy from AmIdol last year?).

So, there's one thing in particular that I've especially never loved about Cock Rock, and that's the "hoodley". The "hoodley" is what the singer for a band I was in called the solos that you find from, say, Steve Vai, Van Halen, Yngwie Malmsteen. They're okay. I don't mind a little tappy guitar solo now and again. I like my share of metal, really. I do. I tend more toward Industrial, though. Skinny Puppy, Ministry, that sort of stuff. The grindy, not the flashy. Or the indie. Futureheads, Bloc Party. Or to reference some good ol' rock 'n' roll, Superdrag, Dillon Fence, Replacements. Bendy, not flashy.

So...imagine my surprise, I'm watching Taking Back Sunday on the David Letterman show: the singer's prancing around, doing his yelling vocals thing, they're rockin' allright, and about 2:40 in, the guitar player busts out a hoodley:

 

Ok. Someone got their chocolate in my peanut butter and we are NOT amused.

Album Covers Battle

I just got word that the old MOG.com site is being mothballed. I have some music posts there that I'd like to save, so, lucky reader - here's new old content for you! This was originally posted 10/7/06.

Reposted from CollegeHumor.com:



The Cure - "Foxy Lady"

I just got word that the old MOG.com site is being mothballed. I have some music posts there that I'd like to save, so, lucky reader - here's new old content for you! This was originally posted 10/4/06.

This song should *really* suck, but I find myself groovin' to it. Their cover of it, I mean. the song is good anyway, but jeez...some spazzy, proto-new-wave kooky cover. It totally works for me.

Anyone out there have covers that they like but for some reason just *shouldn't* work?

In my view, there are two types of good covers - what I call "straight" covers, which are faithful to the original. Otherwise known as "playing it safe". The other kind is when the band "makes it their own". This is more difficult, and what the Cure did here. You will not confuse their version with Jimi's. :) Another good example of someone making the songs their own is Mark Kozelek (from Red House Painters & Sun Kil Moon, for those familiar with those bands) and his album of AC/DC covers, "What's Next To The Moon". You gotta hear his version of "Love at First Feel" next to their original. Where AC/DC comes across as sleazy, Mark transmogrifies into a tender plea.

Now, if we're gonna talk about the Cure's version of "Purple Haze"...well, I'd rather not. It's more along the lines of "straight", but it sucks. See: their version of "Hello, I love you", wherein they try to straddle the lines of "straight" and "making it their own" and end up in "suck".

Who do you think are the hardest bands to cover? Where all attempts typically just fail, because the originals are so strong and ingrained? I'll say the Beatles for starters. Other people doing their songs, for the most part, just sounds wrong.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Songs That Got In My Head At Work

I just got word that the old MOG.com site is being mothballed. I have some music posts there that I'd like to save, so, lucky reader - here's new old content for you! This was originally posted 9/22/06.


Stocking stuff at SuperBullseyeMadeInChinaLand, your mind tends to wander. When you're a music nut like I am, it wanders toward music. Some of these songs recur because of products that I stock, some are totally random. So, now that I have a Blackberry, I type down the songs as they pop in. I don't get them all, but it's kind of fun to see what I've been singing to myself.

Depeche Mode - "Love in itself"
Elvin Bishop - "Fooled around and fell in love"
Fall Out Boy - "Of All The Gin Joints In All The World"
Elton John - "Can You Feel the Love Tonight"
Jazzy Jeff & the Fresh Prince - "Parents Just Don't Understand" (See, there's this Yoplait "yogurt" product called Whips. They're a total rip-off, they're fluffed up and flavored but since they're fluffed, you don't get much. But that's not the important thing here. When I'm stocking them, I keep singing "I asked her for adidas and she bought me whips!" Instead of Zips. Get it? It bugs me, but I always sing it.)
Neil Sedaka - "Calendar Girl"
Cookie Monster - "C is for Cookie"
Sweet - "Teenage Rampage" and "Blockbuster"
Arlo Guthrie - "City of New Orleans"
The Blue Hearts - "Paper Balloon Bomb"
Digital Underground - "Humpty Dance"
Gary Numan - "Down in the Park"
Pink Panther theme
Michael Jackson - "Bad"
Steve Forbert - "Romeo's Tune" ("Meet me in the middle of the day/lemme hear you say everything's ok...")
Jay Z - "Dirt Off Your Shoulder"

Ramblin' 'bout musics

I just got word that the old MOG.com site is being mothballed. I have some music posts there that I'd like to save, so, lucky reader - here's new old content for you! This was originally posted 9/22/06.



Either "man", like the Almond Brothers (heh...joke) or like Steve Martin.

I was just thinking, seeing that Louis Armstrong has a "Definitive" out, that he's kind of like a "gateway" jazz artist for me. I really like Louis Armstrong, but seeing that collection just out, I was about to click and see what was on it. I don't have a lot of Satchmo, a couple of collections. But I then thought "you know what, I don't really want any more. I wanna be challenged." Meaning about Jazz. Like Miles or Coltrane or something. After years of liking the most accessible jazz (Armstrong, Dixieland, Louis Prima, etc), I feel the need to expand my listening.Dovetailing off of that, as an early fan of rap (Grandmaster Flash & the Furious Five, Sugarhill Gang, Run-DMC, and especially Public Enemy), I was thrilled to see an interview with Hank Shocklee in the latest issue of TapeOp (Thanks, blinder!). It's a good, long article, talking about how PE got started and the recording of some of the earlier albums. I need to go back and take some more listens, but it's great to see a broader scope of music in that magazine. I always wondered how they did some of that early stuff, and I love hearing from everyone in a group, not just the leaders & mouthpieces, although Chuck D is kind of a hero of mine.Also saw that Pansy Division has a greatest hits out. Very cool. Another great, fun band. Check out the "clean" version of their song He Whipped My Ass In Tennis, Then I Fucked His Ass In Bed. :D Bonnie Prince Billy might be a good artist, but I can't get past the name.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Most fun Halloween costume ever

For me, anyway. Not every day you get to look like Robert Smith from the Cure. And I think I did look a lot like him!


I've long been a huge Cure fan (just check out my other Cure post for evidence), but this is the first time I really got to do the hair & makeup.

Now if I could just sing & write songs like him….

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Westword Music Showcase 2012

Two weeks ago I won a pair of passes to attend the Westword Music Showcase, courtesy of the fine folks at Ultra5280. Westword advertised that there were over 150 local bands and I saw the tiniest fraction of them, but I had a friend pointing me in the right direction to start the day.

My day started with The Don'ts and Be Carefuls at Club Vinyl at the recommendation of my new friend Nigel. He tells me that he's friends with the band, but I don't think he'd recommend them if they were crap.



They had a ton of energy and a great 4-piece loud pop sound - guitar, bass, synth & drums. I might have missed a song or two, but I'm already hoping to catch them during the Underground Music Showcase next weekend (July 19-22). I'm listening to their song "The Still Favorites" as I write this and wish I had a stand-up desk so I could dance and write at the same time.

It was one of the hottest days of the summer in Denver, and everyone was walking around in shorts, t-shirts and sandals, trying to beat the heat in any way possible. I took off my shirt and twirled it around when walking between venues to try & dry it out. We were smart, though, and parked in the $5 structure near the Denver Art Museum and packed a cooler with our own food & a few bottles of water.

After seeing the Dont's and Be Carefuls we beat feet over to the Curious Theatre to see Ian Cooke. He plays cello and sings but has a full band with him. I used to work with the guitarist Ian O a few years back and he constantly invites me to his shows on Facebook and I haven't made it out to see him until now, and I'm so glad I did.


They played a couple of covers (Queen's "Don't Stop Me Now" and ABBA's "I'm A Marionette") and I just really enjoyed the music. You can imagine that it's not really loud with the cello, but the guitar, bass & drums get things rocking pretty well. Great songs and great presentation with all of the band members interacting with each other. Talked with my friend Ian O after the show & was reminded how great of a guy he is. He highly recommended Battles on the main stage later that day, so we made sure to catch that show.

Here we are at the Public Shaming poriton of this post. Close to the end of the Ian Cooke show some crashing bores came and stood near us & in front of us - I had to tell one guy to step aside as he had rudely set up directly in front of me in the aisle to where I couldn't see. But the capper was this girl who was standing talking to someone and waving her sweaty body odor right at me:

Don't be like her, kids. Be aware of your surroundings.
After seeing Ian Cooke, I wanted to catch Joy Subtraction at Bar Standard, but they were the only venue all day to deny access to my 11-year-old. Undaunted, we walked over to Rooster & Moon to watch A Mouthful of Thunder, again at Nigel's suggestion.


There were a couple of microphone feedback issues and a lot of warm people packed into a small place, but the music was really good, lush, catchy, rootsy pop, and I'd like to see them in a bigger venue that could fit the band & it's music.

We left a little before the set ended to go get out of the sun and have some food & water and enjoy the air conditioning inside my car. We then made our way over to Stoney's to see Bop Skizzum, but got there early enough to catch the end of Rob Drabkin's set of jam-band-ish tunes. Rob has done some shows recently where he has covered Paul Simon's Graceland album. I love that record and it looks like a performance of it is up on Spotify that I'll probably check out soon & may try to see if he's going to do that live again as well.

Bop is a band I saw for the first time a couple of months ago and really enjoyed meeting Andy, the lead singer/guitar player. I first heard of them about 10 years ago from a co-worker and haven't really seen or heard much from them in the meantime, but they seem to be everywhere lately (probably thanks in part to the efforts of my friend Aimee at Giese Media). 



Bop puts on a hell of a show, even a short set like they were at the WMS, and my kid loved that they have a female singer. We went up and talked to the band afterward - everyone in the place was sweating like devils afterward - and they're so nice & gracious.

After Bop we went over to the main stage to catch Battles. What Ian briefly told me about them was that they make dance-type music but using live instruments. Very difficult to describe but enjoyable. Not like sampling, but playing with precision, controlling the sounds the instruments make, probably some looping. Unfortunately, I did not get any pictures. Oh well.

At this point we went back to the car for more air conditioning, water, song trading & singalongs with Terry. Sufficiently cooled, we went back to the main stage area to watch Macklemore & Ryan Lewis.


Pretty fun stuff, not brain surgery, you know? Something good to listen to while we waited for Girl Talk. Both my kid and I were there mainly to see Girl Talk. I had seen him last year just a few months after All Day was released, and it was easily the most insane concert experience I've ever had. I was there alone and everyone was packed together, dancing, sweating, moving almost completely as one. I left that show thirsty, wet, and somehow completely worn out and energized at the same time.

The crowd at the WMS started gathering and I told the people I was with that "shit's about to get crazy," and I don't think anyone believed me, but the joke was on them. More people kept packing into the city block parking lot where the show was being held. All of the people around us were vitalized and we were feeding off that as well. It wasn't quite dark yet when the show started and everyone started dancing, but the crowd seemed to be holding something back.

(this photo was featured in Westword's WMS Instagram recap!)

The darker it got, however, the more everyone let loose and just danced like nobody was watching. Maybe that was just me, but it felt like the atmosphere became more charged and the crowd shook off their inhibitions and everyone was having a great time. That's what a Girl Talk show does to people, and it's great.


The long, hot day ended with a bunch of tired people, energy spent, us included. My kid told me how great that was, though, and that was worth it for me. I'm completely grateful to Ultra5280 for the tickets and to my friends for sharing the day with us. I hope to have more days & nights like that, and soon.


Band Links:


The Don'ts and Be Carefuls
Ian Cooke
Mouthful of Thunder
Rob Drabkin
Bop Skizzum
Battles
Macklemore
Girl Talk



Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Post-Violator Depeche Mode Discography Suggestions - Part Two

Where was I...oh yeah. Depeche Mode had released Ultra, a slow, sensual album in the wake of Alan Wilder leaving the band & Dave Gahan almost dying. Or actually dying and being revived. Either way, it's a great album, and one of my favorite DM records, post-Violator or not.

The biggest challenge when writing posts like these, however, is not to frame what the band does *after* a classic album in the same light as the classic album, or "classic period." I will never be caught up in the excitement of discovering Depeche Mode again, I will never have another concert experience like seeing the Black Celebration tour at Red Rocks, I will never be falling in love with my future wife to Violator. As previously mentioned, Songs of Faith and Devotion was the soundtrack to a pretty heavy time in my life. Ultra, well, I just remember half-drunk late nights with the record on and sinking into the corporeal music and lyrics.

With 2001's Exciter, I don't have those types of memories or experiences (except with one song), so I'm left to simply give my take on the songs as I hear them now. 2001-02 were very busy years for me. I wouldn't be surprised if I bought Exciter in 2003 or later.


As far as the music itself goes, "Dream On" is a peppy two-step, definitely quicker than anything on Ultra, and it's an ok single. "I Feel Loved" was the next single, and while it definitely shares that quick two-step DNA with "Dream On," for some reason I like it better. There's a lot of effects and riffs winding around the beats, and it keeps my interest pretty well. There's not much lyrically to the song, though, and that holds for most of Exciter, in my opinion. There's a depth that feel like I'm used to from Martin Gore and I don't feel like I'm getting it here.

"When the Body Speaks" is good, but my favorite song on Exciter is by far "Freelove." Listening to this record, I know the singles ok, but not the album tracks ("The Sweetest Condition," "The Dead Of Night"), although I must have listened to them to have heard "Freelove." I don't really know "Goodnight Lovers" that well, but the melody reminds me of an old tune from the 40's. Listening to it, this is clearly the start of my "Oh, Depeche Mode has a new album?" phase, meaning I wasn't paying attention as closely as I had for the previous decade. Which isn't to say that there aren't great tunes on these recent 3 records, and "Freelove" is a catalog fave.

Continuing with the 4-year release cycle, Playing the Angel was released in 2005. The only single I remember from this albm is "John the Revelator," and I remember that more for the title than the music. I read now that "Precious" was the first single and that's definitely one of the songs I picked off this album on first listen, which was pretty much a couple of months ago.



This process has been interesting for me, listening for songs to recommend when I dont really know them. I've been trying to figure out if I'm listening for songs that remind me of the "old" Depeche Mode or if I'm just listening for good hooks and good lyrics. I have a future post coming about when one of your favorite groups released an album you didn't care for, I suppose I'll explore that feeling more when I write that post.

The songs I really like on this record are the other singles - the aforementioned "Precious" and "Suffer Well," the latter of which is one of Dave Gahan's first lyrical contributions to be featured on a Depeche Mode album (along with "I Want It All" and "Nothing's Impossible"). "Precious" reminds me musically somewhat of one of the slower Nitzer Ebb songs from the As Is EP, "Come Alive"and has a really catchy chorus. "Suffer Well" has a good guitar hook - something that started with Personal Jesus and has become another recent DM signature - not what most people used to think of when they thought of a synth band.

I certainly don't mind "John the Revelator" or "A Pain That I'm Used To," and I guess they're someone's idea of what new Depeche Mode singles should be. "Nothing's Impossible" and "Lilian" are decent tracks as well, and "The Darkest Star" was all right. The rest of PtA I wasn't crazy about.

Sounds of the Universe was released in - you guessed it - 2009 (I think that means we're due for some new Depeche in 2013) and was the first Depeche album I recall paying attention to in a while. Which strikes me as a bit odd now, because I didn't listen to the album until recently, either. Thinking about it now, I think I remember reading that it was a more "Depeche" album than the last couple had been.


The album is pretty strong, as far as I'm concerned. From "In Chains" through the first single "Wrong" to "Fragile Tension" and "In Sympathy," (my two favorite songs on the record), and on through the choirlike sound of the refrain on "Peace" and the most relaxed I've ever heard Martin Gore sing, I think, on "Jezebel", it's just a really good record. If you listen with headphones, there are a lot of nice synth touches - "In Chains" opens with square analog waveforms joining one at a time and then being tuned to a chord that drops out before Dave Gahan's voice appears clear & strong. The rich bass tones & trill treble riff that starts "Fragile Tension" are Devo-esque; there's a bitcrushed 8-bit rhythm tone that runs through "In Sympathy"; "Peace" could musically be set in the middle of Some Great Reward without anyone noticing.

All of this is not to say that it's a retro record - the central musical feature of "In Chains" is a distorted wah-wah guitar riff, and most songs have at least a little guitar in them, usually supporting the chorus. But Sounds of the Universe to me sounds like a Depeche Mode that is comfortable with its past and secure in its future. This may end up being one of my favorite DM records ever. I definitely slept on this album when it was released. Don't count on that happening again.

These albums all have their high points, but my favorite post-Violator single wasn't an album track, it was a single that appeared only on The Best Of - Volume 1 collection. "Martyr" was recorded during the Playing the Angel sessions but could easily be a Violator track. There's something in the strong pulsating backbeat and signature guitar riff that immediately set it off from the other PtA songs and, for me, it would be enough to purchase the whole Volume 1 collection - if there wasn't a "Martyr" single  available.

So, there you go. I didn't go over the Dave Gahan or Martin L. Gore solo records, perhaps that will be an exercise for another time. I'll link to my absolute favorite tracks below, and please feel free to argue or support my choices in the comments!

---------------

Links


Post-Violator Depeche Mode Discography Suggestions - Part One

DepecheMode.com

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Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Where URGH! They Now - Steve Bartek from Oingo Boingo Speaks!

So excited to have Steve Bartek - legendary Oingo Boingo, guitarist, film composer, orchestrator  and conductor - as the first official respondent to Your Older Brother's questions about URGH! A Music War. I asked these questions of Steve on his official website SteveBartek.com in the forum area and he replied at 5am one late/early May morning. My questions & Steve's replies below, with minor edits for punctuation:

Your Older Brother: What led to the decision to be in the film, how it was presented to you & the band? Did you have any specific hopes for how the film might expose Oingo Boingo to a wider audience (wider exposure)?

Steve Bartek: AH - URGH was put together by our then record company IRS record and then manager Miles Colpeland - so - we were in it - no choice to be made really - wider exposure for a beginning band

YOB: Did you get to choose what song was used in the film?

SB: the song choices i think were Danny's but i can't be sure - we were on the whiskey stage with with the Surf Punks and the Alley Cats and the Go Go's i think, i remember Darby Crash upstairs in the dressing room hanging out a bit stoned.

YOB: Who did you feel were your contemporaries at that time? Or was Oingo Boingo as out on your own as it seemed?

SB: We never felt like we quite fit into the scene, personality wise and music

YOB: Is there a single moment from a live show that stands out?

SB: My most important moment on live stage is a blur in my memory except how great i felt. I was in a band - Buffington Roads - and we opened for Love at the Kaleidoscope in Holllywood when i was in High School - and i got to play flute with the headliner for an extended jam on one of their tunes.

YOB: Did you have an older sibling who turned you on to music?

SB: Yes i have an older brother who took guitar lessons, so i would sneak into his room and play his guitar when he wasn't around - finally he encouraged my Dad to buy me my own guitar -so yes he was source of encouragement.

YOB: Who was your metaphorical "older brother"? Who inspired you & supported you?

SB: i think we all have different heros at different times in our development - when started on flute i wanted to be Herbie Mann. then on guitar George Harrison, Jeff Beck, Charlie Christian, Django Reinhardt, and at school it was Stravinsky and Messiaen and Harry Partch.

I was very lucky to have met so many musicians in LA that were also a network of inspiration and source of support for just making making music one's life - and even my parents who kept me from going on the road when i was 15 with the Strawberry Alarm Clock - supported me changing my major from pre-med to music the first year of college.
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Thanks again to Steve Bartek for braving the pre-dawn hours to answer my questions. I love his story about sneaking in to play his older brother's guitar - classic! I know that Steve has been a musical influence on me personally - in my view, many of Danny's songs came alive thanks to Steve's deft and frenetic guitar.

The helpful webmaster at Steve's forum also provided the full setlist from the night of the filming:
Forbidden Zone
Controller
Ain't This the Life
Only A Lad
Imposter
You Really Got Me
Teenage Monster
California Girls
Nasty Habits
And now there's been a bit of discussion about what might have been filmed in addition to "Ain't This The Life" and "Imposter" - there's a vid of the "Imposter" performance floating around YouTube - but it's thought that while audio was captured for the above songs, only "Life" and "Imposter" were filmed. (I found multiple YouTube videos of "Forbidden Zone", "I Was A Teenage Monster" and "California Girls" as well. Search & enjoy!)

Non-Affiliate:
URGH! DVD at WBShop.com

Affiliate (buy here & support YourOlderBrother.com!): 

Monday, May 28, 2012

First new Stone Roses gig!

As reported on Slicing Up Eyeballs and elsewhere, the Stone Roses took the stage for their first public gig since reforming a few nights ago in Warrington in the U.K. (a bit southeast of Manchester). The videos I watched & listened to were big crowd singalongs and you could barely hear Ian. (I hope he's improved singing live over the years, but if not, hearing more crowd & less him would be a good thing :) The guitar on "Love Spreads" sounded great, and the other snippets were pretty good as well.

I did find one video that's labeled as a new song, but to my ears (and many others) it's just Ian riffing different words over "Sally Cinnamon". Either way, it's still fun to listen to. Check it out:




Affiliate music links (if you buy from here, I get a tiny cut - support Your Older Brother! :)

Sally Cinnamon (Single Mix) - Sally Cinnamon - EP
Love Spreads - Second Coming

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Post-Violator Depeche Mode Discography Suggestions - Part One

A couple of months ago, I wrote about my friend Adam and his mega-music list that myself and a few friends are discussion over in a private message on Facebook. Dan mentioned that the Cure were kind of a one-trick pony by Wish, but he hadn't heard much by them after that. So I wrote a post I hoped would educate him on what I felt were the Cure's strong moments after Wish.

Flash forward to a recent conversation, where our friend Jim in naming his favorite Depeche Mode songs from the list wrote:
Best: shake the disease
Worst: I feel you, and all the other stuff post violator that I never listened to.
So, I felt compelled to write a post to Jim listing what I felt were Depeche Mode's post-Violator high points, because I think there are plenty.

Like I did with The Cure post-Wish suggestions, I'll work my way through chronologically. Of all the the albums that came after Violator in the Depeche Mode discography, I want to say that my least favorite is Songs of Faith and Devotion, but that's probably because I was going through a really difficult emotional time in my life.



It was released in March of 1993 around the time I had just broken up with a girl that I had broken up with my long-time girlfriend to start dating. (Did you follow that?) I had realized I still loved my long-time girlfriend and the new girl ... while I cared for her...I don't know. I had a feeling it wouldn't work out. Or I was scared. Or something.

So I ran back to my long-time girlfriend - who (understandably) wasn't too receptive about taking me back. So the lyrics to "Walking in My Shoes" -
Now I'm not looking for absolution
Forgiveness for the things I do
But before you come to any conclusions
Try walking in my shoes
had kind of a deeper meaning for me. Likewise the lyrics to "Judas" -
Man will survive
The harshest conditions
And stay alive
Through difficult decisions
So make up your mind for me
Walk the line for me
If you want my love
 and "One Caress" -
Well I'm down on my knees again
And I pray to the only one
Who has the strength
To bear the pain
To forgive all the things that I've done.
It was a really painful time in my life emotionally, and this album was on heavy rotation - literally, because I worked in a record store at the time. Even the title seemed to be mocking me.

However, I do really like the aforementioned songs, along with "Get Right With Me," "Condemnation," and I've warmed to "Rush" over the years as well. The album opener "I Feel You" has a bit of a "Personal Jesus" feel to it, and kicks things off with authority. This album has a great gospel feel to it in many places, and just feels big in general. Aiming for arena rock and largely hitting the mark, in my opinion.

So, it seems that overall I do like Songs of Faith and Devotion, I just have negative associations with the songs. Which I should probably let go of, because the "long-time girlfriend" mentioned above is now my wife.

If I wanted to say that Songs of Faith and Devotion was my least favorite post-Violator, I want to say that Ultra is my favorite.


The entire album is a slow burn, the ebb and flow never quite reaching a crest. I'm thinking here of songs like "Everything Counts," "Strangelove," and "Master and Servant," where I see a definite high point to the record, both tempo- & songwriting-wise. Ultra has some great songs, but it's more like stringing together a bunch of  "Somebody"s and "Little 15"s.

For instance, I would consider "Useless" to be one of the hardest, fastest songs on the record - but it's not that hard, and it's not that fast - BPM database says 95 - and the fastest is "It's No Good" at 100. Not exactly barn-burners. But Ultra isn't about the flashy dancefloor hits. It's a very musically sensual album by any measure, and the lyrics are delivered in a similar, languid fashion. Check the slide notes on "Freestate" or the opening verse of "Sister of Night"
Sister of night
When the hunger descends
And your body's a fire
An inferno that never ends
An eternal flame
That burns in desire's name
There's not a bad song on the album, in my opinion, and that includes the 3 instrumental interludes. My favorite Depeche Mode tracks off Ultra are "It's No Good," "The Bottom Line," and "Useless." I put "Useless" on a mixtape for a friend many years ago. He didn't much care for electronic music and the song was so different from what I had come to expect from Depeche Mode - the solid 4/4 (real!) drum beat, the fuzzed-out riff - that I thought it would appeal to anyone who liked music in general. I don't know if he liked the song too, but I wanted to take that chance. It's one of my favorite DM songs ever.

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Ok, there's more, but this ran long, so I'm making this a 2-part post. Also, I'm going to do something different. Most of my previous posts were link-riddled to the iTunes store. Yes, they were affiliate links, which means if you click & buy, I get a tiny bit of money for the referral. How tiny? I don't know, but I haven't reached the threshold for a payout yet. Anyway, I've decided to break out the affiliate links to the bottom of my posts. I'll post to the songs and albums on the iTunes store with the note that if you buy, I'll get some small amount of affiliate money. The links in the body of the post will only be to informational or entertainment sites, like DepecheMode.com or my friend's blog. Let me know in the comments if you prefer having the links at the bottom of the post.

And one more thing:

All lyrics © Grabbing Hands Music/EMI Music Publishing Ltd. All rights reserved.

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Affiliate links:

Depeche Mode

Songs of Faith and Devotion (Remastered 2006) [With Bonus Video] - Depeche Mode
Ultra (Remastered) - Depeche Mode

Walking In My Shoes - Songs of Faith and Devotion (Remastered 2006) [With Bonus Video]
Judas - Songs of Faith and Devotion (Remastered 2006) [With Bonus Video]
One Caress - Songs of Faith and Devotion (Remastered 2006) [With Bonus Video]
Get Right With Me - Songs of Faith and Devotion (Remastered 2006) [With Bonus Video]
Condemnation - Songs of Faith and Devotion (Remastered 2006) [With Bonus Video]
Rush - Songs of Faith and Devotion (Remastered 2006) [With Bonus Video]
I Feel You - Songs of Faith and Devotion (Remastered 2006) [With Bonus Video]
Personal Jesus - Violator (Remastered) [Bonus Track Version]
Everything Counts - Construction Time Again
Strangelove (2006 Remastered) - Music for the Masses (Remastered)
Master and Servant - Some Great Reward (Remastered)
Somebody - Some Great Reward (Remastered)
Little 15 (2006 Remastered) - Music for the Masses (Remastered)
Useless - Ultra (Remastered)
It's No Good - Ultra (Remastered)
Freestate - Ultra (Remastered)
Sister of Night - Ultra (Remastered)
The Bottom Line - Ultra (Remastered)

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

R.I.P. MCA

On the afternoon of Friday the 4th, I logged in to a social website I belong to and saw that headline on someone's post: RIP MCA.

My stomach sank, my jaw dropped, and my mind raced. I remembered that he had cancer. I remembered that he had not shown up to the Beastie Boys' induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. "I should have known he was this close," I thought. Another friend of mine is a hospice nurse, and when Steve Jobs stepped down as Apple CEO last summer, he told us all "He's getting his life in order. It won't be long now," or something to that effect.

But that's not all I remember about MCA, or Adam Yauch.

My first memory of the Beastie Boys was hearing that awful song on the radio, "(You Gotta) Fight For Your Right (To Party)." I was in high school, and it still seemed lunkheaded and incredibly lowbrow. I would change the station whenever that dumb song came on. To me, this wasn't rap. Grandmaster Flash & the Furious Five & the Sugarhill Gang were rap.

I think I saw the video on MTV shortly after that, and realized that this was a little *too* lunkheaded. Very over-the-top. This was parody, but it wasn't poking fun at rap culture, it was poking fun at lunkhead culture.



That's when I first saw MCA - whacking a shoe against his head, a move I hadn't seen since Spicoli in Fast Times. Then the door burst down, he strode in wearing his black leather jacket, grabbed a can from a guy, swigged, threw the can at the guy's head, spun another guy around and spit the liquid in that guy's face. Definitely not the kind of behaviour my parents or any other adult I knew would condone.

Naturally, my opinion of the Beastie Boys changed right then and there.

They were part of the soundtrack to my junior year of high school. Our school had a "talent show" where I'm sure some other acts showed real talent, but Pete, Ted and I lip-synched to "The New Style." I took the role of MCA because I had dark hair, could grow stubble, and my dad had a leather jacket I could wear. We later bum-rushed the stage while the emcee was introducing another act. We jumped around, screamed "BEASTIE BOYS!" and then ran off the stage. I was previously kind of a shy kid, but the Beastie Boys brought out my prankster side, a little bravado, and a sense of fun. I wasn't terribly shy after that.

I feel pretty lucky that I got to see the Beastie Boys tour in 1987 with Fishbone & Murphy's Law, but as time passed, my friends and I left the Beasties behind, found 2 Live Crew, graduated high school and went to San Diego to attend my first year of college. The summer before my third freshman semester, Paul's Boutique came out.

I read in Yauch's obits that Paul's Boutique was considered a commercial flop, but I never got that impression - it was immensely popular with my friends, especially the pot smokers. The dense samples and drug references made it easy to burn out and take it all in. These Beasties were more earnest and committed to their craft - still having an incredible amount of fun, but not the lunkheads of Licensed to Ill.

I started working at my college radio station in January of 1990, and while trying to figure out an on-air name, one of the guys in the booth suggested "Sam The Butcher." I liked it because it sounded hard, and I was getting into industrial music at the time. I later realized that he had gotten the Brady Bunch reference from "Shake Your Rump." I'm still Sam The Butcher around the 'net, so the Beasties have remained with me since then.

Check Your Head came and saw the Beasties playing their own instruments once again, which I respected, having taken up guitar myself. However my next big memory of MCA was his signature rhyme from 1994's "Sure Shot" off Ill Communication - "I wanna say a little somethin' that's long overdue/The disrespectin' women has got to be through/To all the mothers and the sisters and the wives and friends/I wanna offer my love and respect 'til the end." This affected me because it was plain spoken respect for women, not something that was common in rock or rap. I grew up very close to my mom and sister, so hearing this made me feel good about listening to their music, and it was a straight up rebuke to the group's earlier misogynistic antics.

Lastly, Yauch has contributed in small ways to my progressive emergence as a Buddhist. From the track "Bodhisattva Vow" to establishing the Milarepa Fund for Tibetan Freedom, he did his thing without getting all preachy. Sure, his efforts for Milarepa & Tibet were large and publicised, but it never seemed in your face. At least not in mine. So, as I got more into Buddhism, I could feel the presence of Yauch supporting me, along with other friends. It sounds weird, or maybe kind of hippie/New Age, but it was one of those things like "yeah…Yauch's a Buddhist. Cool. So it's not just me that understands life in this way." Hard to describe, but I'm sure you know what I mean.

Thanks, MCA. Namasté, Yauch. In little ways, you helped me become who I am.


Thursday, May 3, 2012

ThURGHsday! #7 - Oingo Boingo

URGH! A Music War was probably my introduction to Oingo Boingo:

"Ain't This The Life"

But I would hear their music here & there in early 80's movies like Fast Times At Ridgemont HighSurf II, and the "Squeezit the Moocher" segment from Forbidden Zone. (Trivia Nugget: I had a college radio show named "The Forbidden Zone" that I hosted with a friend of mine. Not as schizophrenic as the movie...but close.)

So Oingo Boingo's music was familiar to me by the time I started getting into them, which was probably mid-80's. I recall buying the cassettes for Good for Your Soul and Nothing to Fear, and I'm pretty sure I didn't know songs off either album when I bought them.


If anything, I knew the songs from Only a Lad better, but probably didn't know song titles. In fact, I'm pretty sure I bought those cassettes looking for "Ain't This The Life" or "Violent Love," a song I heard on 91X in San Diego while there on vacation.


Formed in Los Angeles as The Mystic Knights of the Oingo Boingo, Danny Elfman decided to focus the band and they cultivated a very different brand of southern California rock that wasn't quite New Wave, but they get lumped in with that early 80's genre. Personally, I think more of synths when I think New Wave (New Order, OMD), not so much the kinetic guitars & horns of Oingo Boingo - but the band did have their share of great keyboard hooks.

But Oingo Boingo always stood out for me in my musical landscape. They weren't a ska band, even though they had a horn section. They weren't New Wave, but they weren't metal or straight-ahead rock, either. They wrote thoughtful lyrics (quite often with an existentialist bent) although few up to "Stay" on Dead Man's Party would be considered actual love-type songs, and even "Stay" is a love song in chorus only. I think.


And that's the tough thing about Oingo Boingo, they're very difficult to pin down, musically - not that every band has to fit neatly in a genre, and I like & respect bands like Boingo precisely because they aren't easily categorized.

I think the first album was mostly Elfman writing the lyrics from the points of view of a lot of characters. The character in "Little Girls" by Oingo Boingo is pretty deplorable, but he's certainly not the same person who sings "Capitalism" later on that same album. After that, though, I think Elfman is more explicit in what he's trying to tell us - listen to "Grey Matter," "Wake Up (It's 1984)," or "Little Guns." Dead Man's Party has its share of fanciful tales - "Dead Man's Party" & "Weird Science." Definitely my favorite cover art of their records - I have a thing for Día de los Muertos.


I readily admit that I haven't listened much to Dark at the End of the Tunnel or Boingo (their final album, not to be confused with Boi-Ngo). Dark End is still Oingo Boingo-like, but "Insanity" - the first track off Boingo - is very much like Eflman's film score work, and the other songs I briefly previewed were more "normal" songs that you'd hear from a regular rock band. And their cover of The Beatles' "I Am the Walrus" is, in my opinion, horrible. (The Oasis cover wasn't much better, but it was better.)

And then Oingo Boingo were no more.

Where URGH! They Now?

Most people know that Danny Elfman has cultivated a very successful career as a composer of movie & TV scores, including The Simpsons opening theme, Forbidden Zone, Pee-Wee's Big Adventure, Batman, Edward Scissorhands, The Nightmare Before Christmas, Good Will Hunting, Spider-Man and  Meet the Robinsons among many, many others.

I don't think many people know that Steve Bartek has also worked on a good number of film & television scores (Desperate Housewives, Romy and Michele's High School Reunion, An Extremely Goofy Movie, Cabin Boy) and has handled orchestration duties for many of Elfman's scores as well as an extensive list of other movies, TV shows & video games.

While Elfman has declined to perform live since the end of the group citing concerns about his hearing, the drummer, Johnny Vatos, has organized "Boingo Dance Party," including members of Oingo Boingo.

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Last ThURGHsday! - Chelsea, "I'm On Fire"
Next ThURGHsday! - Echo & the Bunnymen, "The Puppet"


Saturday, March 24, 2012

Post-Wish Cure Discography Suggestions

My friend Adam has an epic message thread on facebook - he's revealing a music list to a few of his friends. You have to know Adam to understand about the lists. Seriously, when I read High Fidelity, it was like I was reading about Adam, with the lists. Anyway, I was about to start writing a comment on facebook to our friend Dan who had said that there are certain people in music who, in their later years now, he just pretends they are different people than their younger selves, because it's easier to do that than reconcile the brilliance of their youth to what they put out now. He mentioned Sinead O'Connor, Michael Stipe, and Robert Smith, and I can sort of understand why. I asked what his particular beef was with Smith and he told me:
Sure, stuff like "Why Can't I Be You?" was fun but it felt like by the time they got to "Friday I'm In Love" it's all they were doing. To be fair, I was paying less attention but I even listened to that recent album called "the Cure" and it just sounded static and underwhelming. That said, give me a few songs to really listen to and I'll seek em out and try again. I owe them that. And live, they still deliver. I'll give them that.
So, Dan, here's what I recommend as far as The Cure's discography post-Wish.