Friday, July 28, 2006

Quote of the day: "No Soup For You!"

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Frank Black's "Fastman Raiderman" and the perils of the double-album

Frank Black certainly is giving us our money's worth with this one. At 27 songs across two discs, this album could be mistaken for a best of compilation very quickly.

Then it clicks that they are all original rechordings.

Double albums are tough things to get right though. Most bands can't even get a single album down straight. Here are a few common mess-ups:


1. Spill Over + Filler

Basically what happens is a band gets industrious... too industrious. They pass that 70 to 80 min. threshold and find they still have a few good songs on the cutting board. Instead of practicing discipline by holding on to those extra tracks for another album or singles or anything that seems practical... they lob them over two CD 2. But now they have a CD with only five or so tracks! Thus the filler... taking the form of quickly written songs (often under creatively exhausted circumstances... like right after writing the last 20 or so songs) and at times more blatant forms such as overstretching songs with solos and twelve apparent endings. Jam filler.

2. Phishy Albums

Miles Davis and John Coltrane can get away with double albums where CD 1 consists of only one or two tracks... stoner jam bands usually can't. Some songs are meant to be six eight or even eighteen minutes long. Others tend to be that way because the musicians are not just real gone, but so out of it they have no sense of discipline whatsoever.

There is nothing wrong with jam music. The problem is when you record something that is significant to you because it felt good while you were stoned... for the entirety of your being stoned... that you then expect to pass off to me who is not stoned as if I'm somehow going to get the "genius" of it... you funny. You funny in the head.

In fairness to good stoner jam bands... talent goes a long way. Jerry Garcia knew how to make more than a groovy acid ride out of his music, he knew how to make it something you could listen to and enjoy with all your brain cells intact.

3. Zero Discipline Unloading

This is dangerous territory because it can really work. At least two of my favorite albums fall into this category. The Beatles' White Album and The Clash's Sandinista! are both prime examples of albums that unleash a ton of music on the listener. Both are eclectic and seemingly all over the place. And need I even bring up The Magnetic Fields' 69 Love Songs? Yet these are the lucky ones and not all got away unscathed. In all three cases the albums seem gratuitously over blown and dripping with filler. There exception comes greatly from the fact the bands were creatively at or near their peek and their attention no matter how decadent was still somewhat focused. Where these albums can go wrong is simply in potential for ambition tunnel vision. Note particularly that Sandinista! was originally a triple album on vinyl and a follow up to there double album masterpiece London Calling.

When a band gets big enough they can reach a place where they feel they can do whatever they want and if that place comes from the right kind of success, the studios might agree with them. This worked for The Clash... primarily because they were... well... The Clash! The problem with most bands is they're not The Clash... ok I'm joking with this but still. Most bands that get to that point where they think they can do whatever they want loose their grasp on what got them their. They don't put forth the creative effort they once did. They shovel out a big ugly mess with flute solos and synthesized drums and a song called "Angel" before it's all over with.

Obviously I'm not talking about any particular band with those examples... heh, heh...

There are probably others to be considered as well but all and all the double album can be treacherous waters. Great songs can be lost in the murk. The album is seldom listened to from beginning to end. One CD usually doesn't live up to the other. So on and so forth...

So... Frank Black released another double album.

Frank Black may never escape being known as the front man and primary writer for the Pixies, where he's known as Black Francis. People still flock to his fan sites hoping they'll make another album together. Most of Black's solo work has till recently met with little commercial success. But last year shortly after releasing Frank Black Francis and the kicking off the Pixies reunion tour... he did something that caught peoples attention.

A country album?

The man behind the most significant band in 80's experimental pre-grunge (second only to Sonic Youth who are really in a league of their own), known for his trademark blood thinning hell ripping scream... a country singer?

And the answer was simply... Honeycomb.

Honeycomb was not a perfect album, but where it got it right it really did get it right. And the more flawed tracks over time seem to smoothen out and grow on you. The blend of Frank Black's surreal lyrics coming from a more somber older man make it one of my favorite alternative country albums, right up their with Beck's Sea Change... which in many ways Honeycomb surpasses by being an album you can listen to in one sitting. It was an album written at turning point in Black's life. Much in the same way that Arcade Fire went from their arty (and for me uninteresting) demos to the mega opus Funeral thanks to several pivotal events in their personal lives (from parents and friends dying... to marriage), Black made this album coming out of divorce. To give one example of how personal the album is, it features a duet with his ex-wife on a song called Strange Goodbye. The real heavy weight of the album though is its closing, Sing For Joy, which documents events from his childhood, friends and family.

Frank may still have been figuring out the reins of country vocals and at times his experimentation may have slipped, but overall Honeycomb was a good album worth listening to. With time it could have been perfected but perhaps at the cost of sincerity, which is something I fear too many good artist overlook. The more you fine tune something, the further away you get from that profound moment that gave birth to it. In the end if the option of retakes and more tuning had even been addressed I still think he made the right choice. The album does leave one wondering what would come next though.

Fastman Raiderman, his new album, is the product of Frank Black getting the hang of the sound that he experimented with on Honeycomb. It is not always as experimental as Honeycomb but that's both a bad thing and a good thing. In place of those tangents is solid execution. There is no tiptoeing with this record. Frank Black knows exactly what he is trying to do and is doing it. His range from haggard graveled groan to high nasal whine is fully realized here. It's very difficult to master the art of a nasally whine that's not annoying, but he has and never does he hide behind the Black Francis scream that is always a surefire way to please Pixies fans.

This is one of the most solid and consistent double albums I've ever listened to. I had to look for bad songs and only one really stuck out. The song Fitzgerald comes off messy both in execution and lyrics, like he's not sure if he wants to sing it or talk it. That middle ground sometimes works in country, but not here. Still, that's one song I don't like out of 27! Sure a few get drowsy here and there, It's Just Not Your Moment was a little clunky, but over all I'd be totally lost trying to figure out only three or four radio singles from this album. At least half the songs seem like good picks. It's an album on the move from its narrative to its sound. A mix of highway sign lyricism and personal insight that feels complealty genuine... with a dash of the surreal to keep you from dosing off against the passenger window. The lyrics really are quite good for an effort this big. This is songwriting with barb-tip hooks. With four or five co-written and one traditional, it's basically all Black. Impressive, considering how relatively short a time it's been since his last album, which featured a few covers in a more modest 14 tracks.

As for its length becoming too cumbersome... it comes close to it. Though in a way it shines from this very thing. It's an album that I feel is going to age very well. As old favorites become overplayed, other solid pop songs or slower ballads will surface, and I've yet to have any difficulty on long car rides listening to the entire beast. It's a chewy album... not a jawbreaker.

For those of you sulking once more at the likelihood that there will never be another Pixies album... two songs on this should make you somewhat happy. Kiss My Ring is VERY Pixiesesque tune, and Elijah has some very... um... familiar chords in it if you listen carefully. Kiss My Ring is one of my favorites along with Johnny Barleycorn and Fast Man, and the list goes on. Don't Cry That Way is delightful and a rendition of Fare Thee Well may seem a little humble and ending but after his former album's Sing For Joy it seems anything would have felt that way by comparison. Plus, hardcore pixies fans will surely read way to far between the lines with the song's first stanza... thinking it yet another clue that the Pixies are no more.

Frankly, I'd love another Pixies album... but only if it could be as good as the old ones, and that's a lot to ask. I'm happy with the original five. Few bands can lay claim to such a tight and satisfying career as they had given us. Plus, if Frank Black can give us music this good, I really can't find reason to complain.

Now if only The Breeders could get back at it...

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Don't like the drugs...

So the last week was rather interesting. The meds they gave me for that big freaky insect bite had some pretty interesting effects on me. Benadryl knocks me out cold... but this stuff... this... Hydroxyzine HCL... 38 hours in just three days! 14 hours in a single day. To make things more interesting I'm normally not a dreamer or at least I don't normally recall my dreams afterwards. In this case however not only did I recall my dreams (at least three still reside in memory pretty clearly) but there was a continuation between them. They all were taking place in the same dreamscape. Even the ones I can't really recall I'm able to remember realizing this at the time with. It was pretty wild, but the craziest part of all was the length of dreamtime. I dosed off for an hour at one point and dreamed of being physically in the dream world for several months. Another time for few weeks. Overall: large bodies of time per dream. It was pretty wild.

In the meantime I was pretty useless in the real world. Constantly dizzy and unable to do much more than read. But did I ever read. Philip K. Dick's Ubik was devoured in three days between sleeping and in two sitting I was at chapter 15 of Clive Barker's second Abarat book: Days of Magic, Nights of War. Maybe to some people that isn't a lot (considering the material as well) but people that know me know that when it comes to books I'm a slow reader often never finishing them as I take on too many at the same time.

So eventually the freak swelling on my side stopped looking like Kuato from Total Recall, and I decided to stop taking the Meds. I probably should have stopped long before because those sound like some freaky ass side effects to be having. The waking up with my heart beating super fast in particular probably was a baddy. Oh well... I was too drugged to pay much attention.

As for the dreams themselves... let's not go there... the good times were pretty cool... but the bad parts would have made one hell of an anti-drug campaign. I never thought a hot air balloon could be so horrifying... ever...

So now I've got a week of work to catch up on. Fun, fun, fun...

Oh and before some dumbass runs out and tries to get high off this stuff... DON'T! I am not in any way encouraging the taking of this drug for any reason other than under a doctor's instructions. I'm not really encouraging it on that level even... because I'm explaining how it messed me up personally. But seriously... I had a hell of a time trying to get good over-the-counter medication last month when I had a nasty flu thanks to stupid kids getting high off them. That really pissed me off. Don't mess with my meds you crazy drugstore cowboy punks!

AND DON'T SAY I TOLD YOU TO TAKE HYDROXYZINE HCL TO HAVE GROOVY DREAMS!!!

High Rotation:

The Jesus and Mary Chain - Pyschocandy

Duke Ellington - Money Jungle

Thelonious Monk - Solo Monk

Don't forget Keith's playing tonight!

Just thought I'd throw out again that Keith Morris and and his wife Jen are playing tonight at the Gravity Lounge around 8PM.

Go listen to some tracks of his over at his myspace account. He's a-goodun! You know you want more songs about that friendly ghost... I mean, who dosn't?

Be there or be square!

And yes... call me square. I've probably got to miss it so I can catch up on work tomorrow. So let me know how it goes folks! Hope to catch one of the other three!



Note: if above link don't work... copy and paste this :


http://www.myspace.com/keithandjennifermorris

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Off to the doctor I go!

So that little sting/bite I got the day before has swollen to a lovely ten and a half by six inches in diameter. Fluctuates between red and pinkish (I think depending on exertion) and is semi stiff. The fun thing about the stiffness is that since it's located on my lower abdomen near the side, I've got a little limp to my walk. Between hurting my ankle awhile back and my recent leg-o-stings... I've been limping a lot lately. It's kind of annoying.

Anyway this recent annoyance has been continuing to spread, mostly horizontally, with a lovely heat radiation and accessional itching. There isn't much pain really, except if I do something stupid or otherwise overtly exertive.

So anyway... that's how I'm doing.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Keith Morris has been busy

First off. My not updating for a couple weeks after turning twenty-one had in fact absolutely nothing to do with turning twenty-one. Internet has been crappy and my sleeping hours are so out of whack it's a wonder I haven't started making soup and starting fight clubs. I've been busy and just not in the mood when I've had the time.

Anyway, nuff sad sap jibber-jabber. Lets get down to business.

Keith's been busy since last I wrote to him. A while back Keith answered my question about his style of music. It's funny that I assumed he'd do something wacky just because he's a wacky guy. I seem to have forgotten that most of us nuts tend to write some pretty serious or at least personal songs when we're not having crazy conversations about seeing the world's biggest balls on the web (you know who you are).

So he sent me the demo to Billie Weirs Dress.

It's a great country song. Not the crap you hear on the radio! The kind of country I like to listen to. Great images through out.

I had a few nit-picks I was going write back to him about, but one thing after another seemed to hit me till I assumed it too late in the game to make the corrections. This album version seems to have addressed them though pretty well. Devon Sproule supplies back up vocals. It's very nice. Kind of song you really want to go out and hear live.

Wait... what's that? The album version?

Why yes. Looks like Keith has finished his album with Jeff Romano! They just awaiting for the artwork to finish getting artworked. But soon it will be!

He also got himself one of those myspace thingys! So you can hear the man!

Ok... I've got to confess. I got gut stung a few hours ago by a bee or something and the Benadryl is all up on me making me sleepy as a... sleepy person. So here's the e-mail Keith sent out to his peeps. Go check him out!

* * *

hey yall--

i'll try to keep this short. my cd, 'songs from candyapolis,' is mixed,
mastered, and soon to be released on city salvage records. all we gotta do is
let andy friedman complete the artwork and then send it off to the factory
girls. i'm torn between behaving like my parents taught me--stoic humility--and
what i'd really like to do: run naked through the streets with my genitals
bounding to & fro, bullhorning to the public that a significant message is
coming to mankind. in lieu of which, i'll just settle on the following: it
sounds freaking great and i'm thrilled with it. jeff romano and i worked on the
cd for around two years and he's the absolute best to work with. on top of
that, we brought in some of my favorite local musicians: morwenna lasko,
brandon collins, richelle claiborne, spencer/sandy/bud from the hogwaller ramblers,
paul curreri, devon sproule (who duets with me on 'billie weir's dress'),
erica olsen, davina jackson, john rimel...absolutely unreal, the talent, and i am
eternally grateful to them all. jeff plays everything from guitar to
harmonica to organ to sleighbells, and my wife jen pours honey over the whole
thing. if you dont like it, something's probably wrong with you.

danny schmidt says:
"The recipe for 'Candyapolis': One part Vic Chestnutt's drunk polaroids, one
part Daniel Johnston's magical dissociative innocence, and one part Nick
Drake heroine lullaby -- then throw in a dash of Sticky Fingers, and a tiny splash
of the deep gospel south. Bake for 45 minutes. Cooks down thick, spicy and
delicious. And feeds you
for weeks. I love this record."

check out 4 songs at our new myspace page:
www.myspace.com/keithandjennifermorris

gravity residency: to help launch this thing, bill baldwin has graciously
set up a pseudo-residency for me. over the next month, i'll be playing 4
shows, doing split bills with songwriters i'm drawn to. i'm waiting word back
from a few of them, but will let you know soon.

show dates at gravity:

JULY 26: JOE POLLOCK OPENS; MEGAN HUDDLESTON (hugely underappreciated...check
out her songs at myspace.com/meganhuddleston); KEITH & JEN (with jeff romano)
8 pm

AUGUST 10: details tba

AUGUST 18: WITH ELLIS PAUL

AUGUST 30: details tba

peace & lub to ye all--k

Monday, July 10, 2006

Yeah...

I turned 21...

No...

I'm not buying your underage ass any beer.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Why I love C-ville... well one reason...

You can be walking down the the mall towards the Amp to see Wilco perform, and have a friend of yours - a nice painter chap from philosophy class - run up and ask if you want to work on a Zombie film.

It's the little things in life.

I'll explain later.