Saturday, April 4, 2015

NEW MUSIC: One-Eyed Doll - "Witches"

A concept album is not the easiest trick to pull off.  The risk of sounding either pompously pretentious or awkwardly forced when attempting to tie an album's worth of material into a coherent narrative is extremely high, as nearly every prog-rock album of the mid-seventies demonstrated.   When the new One-Eyed Doll album, Witches, was announced some time back, I was thrilled - it had been way too long since the last album from my favorite current band (2012's Dirty); when word got out that it was to be a concept album telling the tale of the Salem witch trials, I admit to feeling an uneasy shudder. Kimberly and Jason are certainly adept storytellers in the single-song format, but could they create a story arc that both spanned an entire album and maintained the level of energy, creativity and cleverness that has been their hallmark?

The short answer, I'm pleased to report, is "Hell yes!"

Witches is in all ways wonderful.  The album swoops in with the frenetic attack of the opener, "Ember," then effortlessly downshifts to the hauntingly beautiful "Prayer" before revving up again for the concert-ready chant-along "Black in the Rye." That juxtaposition of crazed high-energy assault and low-key melancholy continues throughout the album, keeping you constantly spellbound through the finale, "The Ghosts of Gallows Hill."

It would have been easy to simply cast Kimberly as either an actual witch or one of the wrongly accused and make the album's narrative into a character-driven tale; smartly, they did not go that route.  Rather, she inhabits different roles in each song, reporting events from a number of points of view and never judging one against another.  Here she is being sent to her death, condemned as a witch, there she is leading the angry mob's demands for "More Weight" to be applied to the accused to determine guilt; now she is accusing another as the one who has "Afflicted" her, now she's presenting theories that bacterial infection from spoiled bread caused the hysteria that afflicted Salem. In the end, the listener must draw his or her own conclusions.

Musically, this is the most gothic One-Eyed Doll record yet - which is saying something for a band that sings about vampires and serial killers, and who has recorded in a church.  There is both soaring majesty and almost unbearable tension in each tune, and there is something about that banjo that is woven into the sonic tapestry that gilds it all with the perfect haunting edge.  As is often the case with One-Eyed Doll, it can be easy to forget that it's only two people making all this deeply layered and nuanced music.  Certainly the recording process allows for overdubs and production tricks, but those of us who have seen them live know they can blow the roof off any venue as well as much larger groups.

I am eager to hear how these new tracks will fit into One-Eyed Doll's live sets.  In fact, I will get my first chance tonight - they are playing in the Baltimore, MD area (technically Halethorpe, but close enough) at Fish Head Cantina with Cryptic Matter and Kamikaze Kupcakes.  If you're in the area, I hope to see you there!

Please enjoy a couple of my favorites from the album: the opener, "Ember," and a live performance of "Black in the Rye."  You can purchase Witches directly from the band or through

Sunday, March 22, 2015

The 10 Most Under-Appreciated Punk Rock Albums Ever

If you surf around the Internets long enough, you're bound to stumble on this or that person's list of the top 10 or 15 or 25 Punk Rock Albums of All Time.  You'll also quickly notice that the same titles seem to crop up on these lists over and over again: Never Mind The Bollocks, Damned Damned Damned, the first Ramones record, Black Flag's Damaged, Fresh Fruit For Rotting Vegetables, London Calling, etc. Of course, those titles keep coming up because they are undeniably great records.  But you'd start to think they're the only ones worth keeping on your shelves if you're old enough to remember those days, or the only ones to look for if you're a young'n looking to build a punk collection.

Well, I'm here to wave the banner for those that remain unheralded!  There's a ton of great vintage punk rock vinyl out there just waiting to be rediscovered by the newest generation of leather jacket clad crate-diggers.  Allow me to draw a handful of them to your attention.  Herewith I offer, in no particular order, ten of the most under-appreciated punk rock albums out there.  If you see any of these on one of your vinyl-buying journeys, grab them; you will not be disappointed!

Henry Rollins - Hot Animal Machine (1987)
Rollins' first solo effort brought original Black Flag intensity back to a post-Black Flag world.  This is Henry at his alienated-from-society best: power chords and paranoia churn at peak volume on tracks like "Lost And Found" and "There's A Man Outside;" the creepiness factor is upped on covers of Suicide's "Ghost Rider" and The Velvet Underground's "Move Right In;" a truly harrowing report of a domestic violence incident, "A Man And A Woman," closes the album with the kind of jam Rollins Band would become known for.  Stunning.

Kraut - An Adjustment To Society (1983)
The debut album from one of the first and best bands to emerge in the early-'80s New York hardcore scene is solid start to finish.  They were young (drummer Johnny Feedback was 15 at the time) and determined and had a couple of aces up their sleeves: ex-Pistol Steve Jones befriended the band and plays on a few tracks; they made a video for the lead (and best) track, "All Twisted," that actually saw minor rotation on MTV (!); they made their debut as a band opening for The Clash.  Make sure you look for the original 1983 pressing of the LP - it was reissued in 1988 with a slightly different cover, extra tracks and a subpar mix.

MDC - Millions Of Dead Cops (1982) 
This was the album that introduced me to hardcore.  Politics, social commentary, shock for shock value's sake and a wicked sense of humor drive hyper-speed classics "John Wayne Was A Nazi," "Violent Rednecks," "Corporate Deathburger" and "I Hate Work," among others.  "Born To Die" and "I Remember" also stand out amidst the racing buzzsaw guitars and over-revved rhythms as classics of the genre.  A must-have.

Channel 3 - I've Got A Gun (1982)
This import-only compilation of singles, orphaned tracks and the best cuts from the first two proper Channel 3 albums ends up being the album they should have made in the first place.  Part of the Southern California Posh Boy Records scene, their brand of pop-punk has always been a winner to my ears. The title track, "Wetspots," "You Lie" and "Strength In Numbers" all boast strong hooks and sing-along choruses that will catch in your head for days.  Don't miss the shoulda-been-a-hit "You Make Me Feel Cheap."

Tenpole Tudor - Eddie, Old Bob, Dick And Gary (1981)
Eddie Tenpole (a/k/a Eddie Tudor-Pole) was at one time, so urban legend goes, tabbed as the replacement for Johnny Rotten in The Sex Pistols.  Indeed, you can find him stumbling his way through "Rock Around The Clock" in his own inimitable singing style in The Great Rock 'n' Roll Swindle.  While that odd, loopy voice would never have worked in the Pistols' setting, with his own band it makes perfect sense.  "Wunderbar" is the standout cut here, but "Three Bells In a Row," "Judy Annual," "I Can't Sleep" and "Go Wilder" do not fall far short in the running.  Proof that punk rock could be every bit as much fun as it could be nasty,

The Diodes - The Diodes (1977)
Among the earliest Canadian punk bands, The Diodes' sound edged closer to what would become skinny-tie power pop than to the harsher sounds of the genre.  Nonetheless, their debut album is stellar from open to close, and clearly influenced many who came after them.  Intelligent and catchy originals like "Death In The Suburbs," "Time Damage" and "Child Star" are coupled with knowing covers of The Cyrkle's "Red Rubber Ball" and Max Frost & The Troopers' "Shape Of Things To Come."  One of my personal favorite albums in my collection.

The Lemonheads - Hate Your Friends (1987)
I can hear some of  you getting ready to argue already: "The Lemonheads fer crissakes?!?"  Yep. Before Evan Dando became the darling of the college radio indie-rock set and MTV's face of alternative music, he and his band issued a debut album that just sizzles with punk attitude and energy, and does it well.  The single "Second Chance" is simply awesome; the title track, "Rat Velvet," "Sneakyville" and "Fed Up" are all great; the closer, "Fucked Up," coulda been an Adrenalin O.D. track.  Pick this one up - you'll be pleasantly surprised.

The Anti-Nowhere League - We Are...The League (1982)
Those who loudly decried punk rock as sick, evil, vulgar and very bad for society would point to bands like The Anti-Nowhere League as proof.  Those people also had no sense of humor whatsoever. The League spouted hateful, foul-mouthed diatribes at everyone and everything and were hysterically funny doing it.  Declaring "I Hate...People" ("...and they hate me!"), insisting they "Can't Stand Rock 'n' Roll" and urging everyone on with "Let's Break The Law," they played up every stereotype the haters threw at punk rock and amped it up beyond belief.  The title track throws a knowing wink into the mix: "Don't you criticize the things we do/No one fucking pays to go see you."

Toxic Reasons - Bullets For You (1986)
Based in Dayton, Ohio, but sounding for all the world like they must have been from the UK, Toxic Reasons issued this sizzling slab of melodic hardcore that has somehow remained fairly overlooked. The songs are anthemic shout-alongs reminiscent of British bands like Abrasive Wheels or Chron Gen, but with decidedly catchy hooks and just a glint of a metal edge.  "Killing The Future," "Never Give In" and "Do What You Can" are all strong enough to stand alongside the classic cuts of the genre; the soul-searching "You Gotta Believe" is simply stunning.  Look for this one.

The Freeze - Rabid Reaction (1985)
The band that offered, in my opinion, the strongest cuts on the seminal This Is Boston Not L.A. comp deliver the goods on this, their second proper album.  A re-recorded version of that compilation's "Trouble If You Hide" leads a pack of snarly, snarky cuts wrapped in attitude and a wicked Boston accent.  "Misguided Memories," "No One's Coming Home," "Before I Hit That Rubber Room" - there's not a clinker in the bunch here.  IMO, the best example of Boston hardcore you can find.

So there you go, my pick for ten albums that generally get forgotten about when those "best of" lists get made.  I know these lists are often argument starters, so have at it either in the comments below or over on the That's What I Was Going To Say Facebook page.  While you're there, if you haven't already, consider giving the page a "like" - I'd love to see that total get to 500!

Saturday, March 21, 2015

NEW MUSIC: The Prefab Messiahs "Keep Your Stupid Dreams Alive"

Those who believe time is linear are only fooling themselves. Time loops back on itself, runs forward and backward, and occasionally stands still. Take the case of The Prefab Messiahs, whose new album, Keep Your Stupid Dreams Alive, showcases a band that exists simultaneously in 1968, 1981 and 2015, and whose watches have clearly stopped at exactly 25 o'clock.

Swathed in sitar/guitar reverb, neon paisley light and garage-band energy, Keep Your Stupid Dreams Alive picks up exactly where their 30-year old recordings collected a few years back on the wonderful Devolver left off, yet it sounds every bit as modern as it does of a time when they could have been opening for The Standells (or The Standells opening for them).  By names they were and are Xerox Feinberg, Trip Thompson, Doc Michaud and Ned Egg; by sound they are groovy, psychedelic, lo-fi, wild and outtasite.

The new record takes you on a trip through Wormtown (Worcester, MA, for the unhip) with the Messiahs.  They help you avoid the "Weirdoz Everywhere" as you speed through twisting streets in "Bobb's Psychedelic Car" (that's Bobb Trimble, again for the unhip), blaring "College Radio" through tinny speakers while "Booshwa Sally" throws her arms around you.  It's akin to Siddhartha's journey of self-discovery (or should that be "Ssydarthurr?"); a stupid dream worth keeping alive, at least until you reach the "Orange Room."

What I'm trying to say is: this is good.  This is damn good.  Equal parts tribute and parody with more than a little bit of social commentary in the mix.  It's Naz Nomad meets The Dukes Of Stratosphear, only The Prefab Messiahs were doing it long before and are still doing it now, long after.

So get yerself over to The Prefab Messiah's Bandcamp site and grab the music. Keep Your Stupid Dreams Alive, as well as previous releases, are there as name-your-price offers - do give the band some support.  If you prefer a proper vinyl copy, the 10-inch disc can be had through KYLAM (Kids Like You And Me)/Burger Records for just a ten spot.

In the meantime, here are two clips from the record: "Weirdoz Everywhere" and "Bobb's Psychedelic Car."  Enjoy!

Sunday, February 22, 2015

NEW MUSIC: Plurals - "Your Situation"

Confession time: a big, goofy smile lit up my face the moment I first plunked the needle down on the beautifully marbled yellow vinyl album that arrived in the Ruttville mailbox a couple of weeks ago. Your Situation, the debut album from Plurals, immediately takes me back to a very happy musical place. From the first jackhammer guitar chords through the final washes against the side two inner groove, Plurals bring back everything that made New Wave (back in the days when it was a wave) so exciting and, yes, fun.  Their thoroughly modern takes on that nostalgic noise have made them a favorite of mine since catching them opening for Shonen Knife a while back, and later supporting Peelander-Z. I raved here about their first recorded output, the digital EP Laced With Boniva, and it should be no big surprise that I'm about to rave again.

Your Situation reprises the four tracks from the EP, adding five more shots of their insanely clever and insidiously catchy sound.  Over the course of nine tracks, the band (Michael Bowen on guitar and vocals, Elena Fox on bass, keyboardist Rachel Anne Warren, guitarist Jim Glass and Sean Pumphrey on drums) covers a whole lot of ground.  The opener, "Sicker/Better," starts off sounding like someone sped up Devo's "Uncontrollable Urge" until Fox and Warren bubble up through the mix with a series of tra-la-las that would make The Banana Splits proud.  As a counterpoint to Bowen's angular lead vocals, they evoke expected comparison to The B-52's.  The girls play the distant, alienated, emotionless New Wave backup singers role to even better effect on the phenomenal "Rose Garden," a bubblegummy romp that may be my favorite thing I've heard them do.

Sandwiched between those cuts is the hysterical "Look At the Nerds," a nearly operatic celebration of geekdom that serves as a showcase for Warren to channel both Nina Hagen and Klaus Nomi simultaneously (and yes, I used that line when describing the song as they played it live, but it is one of my favorite comparisons I've ever made and, if you listen, pretty damn accurate.)  Also worthy of note among the new cuts is "World Star," a knowing a jab at the infamous online site that collects cellphone videos of street violence and presents them as entertainment. The punchline, no pun intended, is perfect: "The hits keep coming..."

As mentioned before, if you missed out on Laced With Boniva, all four cuts from that digital EP are here as well: the funky herky-jerky "Manic Depressor," the almost Pixie-ish "I Am The Lions," the slightly retitled "On The Telephone (Clap Clap)," and the simply excellent "Mental Illness (Sooner Or Later)," wherein The English Beat is paraphrased to wonderful effect.

Yeah, the record put a grin on my face, because the fun these five folks have making this music comes through viscerally, both in their live performance and in their recorded work.  This is a band to keep an eye on, kids.  I get the feeling we've only scratched the surface of what they are capable of. You can pick up Your Situation on vinyl or as a digital download at the band's website, You can stream the whole record there, too, if that's your thing.  Me, I'm old school: colored vinyl and lots of inserts can't be beat!

I shared "Mental Illness (Sooner Or Later)" with you back on this Now Hear This round up; here are two standouts from the newer stuff, "Sicker/Better" and  "Rose Garden."  Enjoy, and then go pick up the whole album and help support the band!


Rose Garden

Friday, February 13, 2015

NEW MUSIC: The Dying Elk Herd - "For Real This Time"

The Dying Elk Herd’s debut album, For Real This Time, has been basically on constant repeat in the Ruttville CD player for the past week.  The much-anticipated disc most definitely delivers on the promise of their first two singles, the anthemic “Another Restless Night” and the insanely catchy “Don’t Let The Riverbeast Get You.”
For Real This Time may be The Dying Elk Herd’s debut album, but the band members themselves have been playing, both apart and together, for some time now.  Dave Benner, Greg Cathey and Curt Laudenberger are all veterans of the Lancaster punk scene.  Dave started out in Nobody’s Fools back in the mid-80s while Greg and Curt cut their teeth in The Dilemmas; all three eventually wound up members of Kirk & The Jerks and, later, Mystery City.  That pedigree is audible in the Herd’s material. There is much reverence for the past in the music (fans of Generation X, Stiff Little Fingers and early Clash are urged to move to the front of the line), but nothing here sounds dated or anachronistic.

The Herd come charging out of the gate in the opener, ”Progress Has A Price.”   The chiming guitars, driving beat and earnest lyrics set the tone for the rest of the ride.  “Restless Night” and “Riverbeast” are here, of course, amid hook-filled, sing (or shout) along concoctions like “Times Of Peril,” “Tired, Weary, Worn Out And Broke” and “The Fight To Be Free.” 

The song that caught me most by surprise, though, is the closer, “Every Avenue.”  No new ground is being broken here: punk kid has grown up and waxes nostalgic for the good old days while realizing the person he’s grown to be could only exist by living that life.  It’s a deft tightrope walk – a lyric like “…so I stumbled through my teens and through the Overlook Dance/And then on to Stan’s Records down Prince Street…” runs a high risk of overshooting the feeling of wistful nostalgia and landing somewhere between maudlin tripe and pretentious name-checking just to get a cheap pop from their fellow Lancastrians.  Here, they walk that line successfully, coming across with a gritty realness that hits home for anyone.  The fact that I, too, stumbled through my share of dances at the Overlook Skating Rink and spent most of my high school job’s earnings at Stan’s Record Bar, only means I know the precise places mentioned. Substitute your town’s local dance, indie record shop, neighborhood subdivisions and other landmarks, and you’ve lived it, too.

You can pick up For Real This Time through The Dying Elk Herd’s own website, or download through iTunes, and you really should.  I’ve shared “Another Restless Night” and “Don’t Let The Riverbeast Get You” in earlier posts, so this time around, with the kind permission of Dave Benner, I’m sharing the excellent opening track, “Progress Has A Price,” and the stunning closer, “Every Avenue.”  Enjoy!

Progress Has A Price

Every Avenue

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Throwback Thursday: The Jesus And Mary Chain - "Psychocandy" (1985)

In the category of Things That Remind Me Just How Old I Am, I was gobsmacked to see notices popping up around the Internets that the Jesus And Mary Chain would be touring this year in celebration of the 30th anniversary of the release of their debut album, Psychocandy.  Good grief, how can that record be 30 years old already?

Had the Internet as we know it today existed when Psychocandy hit the shelves in 1985, the Jesus And Mary Chain would have been the then-current darlings of music bloggers everywhere; as it was, their name and dour, poofy-haired images were splashed all over the cooler zines of the day.  I recall NME, for example, practically gushing for what seemed like months about how fantastic they were. College radio stations talked them up long before the early import singles like "Upside Down" and "You Trip Me Up" found their way across the pond from Scotland.  There was an album coming soon and was gonna be a big deal.

In today's world, Psychocandy might not seem particularly special, but in its time its was groundbreaking.  Literally nothing sounded like it before.  Every song was drenched in feedback.  Certainly, feedback had been used as an integral piece of composition and performance in rock and roll music before, but not like this: on Psychocandy, the feedback shimmered and sang.  It provided the foundation for some tracks and threatened to drown out others.  It hummed along with the melodies and tried to kick your turntable's stylus right off the vinyl.  This was noise, but not just random white noise; it was tamed, at least to the extent it could be, and made to put on a show.  (I vaguely remember reading somewhere at the time that at least one major record label had returned the Jesus And Mary Chain's demo tapes to the band believing the tapes to be defective because of the feedback noise!)

What makes Psychocandy such a good record, though, is that beneath the feedback lay a collection of really good songs.  Take away the gimmick and you still have an album that would score high marks.  Winding and rolling amidst psychedelic garage stomp ("My Little Underground"), sticky bubblegum hooks ("Just Like Honey") and punky attitude and imagery ("Taste Of Cindy"), every cut is solid and memorable.  The centerpiece of the LP is "Never Understand," a crashing, claustrophobic statement of purpose that encapsulates everything wonderful about the full album in a handy three-minute chunk.  Play it loud - turned up to 11, as they say - to fully experience the gut-rumble.

Though they kept at at for several years and managed a handful of likable tunes over the course of several albums, the Jesus And Mary Chain never were truly able to live up to where they set the bar on Psychocandy.  In honor of it's 30th anniversary, I pulled the record out for the first time in a long while the other night, and it sounds every bit as good now as it did then.  If you don't own it, pick it up.  And play it LOUD.

Monday, January 5, 2015

48 Crash! My Bucket List for My 48th Birthday

So tomorrow (Tuesday, January 6th) I will be 48 years old.

As this birthday began to make itself visible in the horizon a month or so ago, I found myself eyeing it suspiciously, even fearfully. 48. Four dozen years. Only two years away from the half-century mark.  Jeez, I’m old.  I’m so old I’m - *gasp* - middle-aged!  (Consider the Suzi Quatro song from which I borrowed this post’s title, with her snarling put down of the stereotypical male midlife crisis: “You've got the kind of a mind of a juvenile Romeo/And you're so blind you could find that your motor ain't ready to go...”  Ouch!) 

But, as the day has drawn ever closer, I changed my stance and decided to embrace it.  Sure I’m older, but I've had many truly wonderful experiences during my 48 trips around the sun.   I figure I’d like to make it to 100, and by that measure I’m not even halfway there!

Many folks have their lifetime bucket lists – the things they want to do, see or experience before they die.  Since I have already declared 2015 to be the First Annual Year of Bryan (first of many – I’m going to 100, remember?), I have put together my bucket list not for life, but for this 48th year!  So here are the 48 things I want to do, see or experience before 49 shows up in 365 days.  Some are musts, some are wants, some are hopes and dreams – but all are actually doable.  I figure I will check in here at the blog about once a month and let you folks know how I’m coming along.  And please, if any of you wish to help out on any item on the list, by all means speak up! The First Annual Year of Bryan is for all to participate in and enjoy!

In no particular order:

1.       Lose 48 pounds (4 pounds a month is very doable, I figure)
2.       Develop weekly exercise program (get off my butt and move!)
3.       Complete 1967 baseball card set (already in process!)
4.       Front porch painted (desperately needed)
5.       Deck repaired/sealed (desperately needed)
6.       Learn to drive (this would be a major accomplishment)
7.       Convert vhs collection to digital (already in process!)
8.       Convert album collection to digital (already in process!)
9.       See One-Eyed Doll in concert again – this time as a VIP (my favorite current band – if you read this blog you know that! Kimberly and Junior are awesome folks, but to get to hang out after a show with them would be amazing!)
10.   See Sparks in concert (my two all-time favorite bands are Bow Wow Wow and Sparks.  Got to see Bow Wow Wow in concert, but not Sparks…yet)
11.   Visit the beach (it’s been years since I’ve seen the ocean)
12.   Truly return to regular blogging schedule (I keep trying!)
13.   Start my own podcast (have wanted to do this for awhile now)
14.   Write a book (I keep trying!)
15.   Learn to cook pastitsio (I am spoiled by the annual Greek Food Bazaar here in Lancaster; I will learn to cook this dish well!)
16.   See Mount Rushmore (one of our country’s sights I’ve always wanted to see in person to truly take in its scale and majesty)
17.   Travel out of the country (I've never been – not even to Canada or Mexico)
18.   Attend a murder-mystery dinner  (they always seem like fun)
19.   Host a cookout (something I've wanted to do for as long as I’ve owned the house)
20.   Enroll in a beginner yoga class (ties into the earlier exercise thing)
21.   Get back on radio in some way (used to do radio in college and loved it – and miss it!)
22.   Try again to reconnect to Shillington, PA (I blogged about discovering that a childhood best friend had passed away in this post.  Something is still nagging at me to find a way to reconnect to someone from that era of my life.  I’d like to follow that urge and discover why – where will it lead me?)
23.   Volunteer (I want to find some way to give back)
24.   Take an improv comedy class (I have always been impressed by those who can do improve well; I’d like to see how well I could do at it)
25.   Research family tree (already in process – wonder how far back I can go?)
26.   Spend one full week "off the grid" (one week with no internet, no iPhone, no Facebook…)
27.   Cut debt load in half (already in process, I am pleased to say!)
28.   Create a passive income source (sure would help with the debt load)
29.   Taste a truly expensive scotch (just to see how truly different it is from the stuff I can afford)
30.   Host a game night (I love Wil Wheaton's “Tabletop” YouTube series – I’d love to have a group of friends over for a board game or two like that)
31.   Host a movie night (have a group over to watch a couple of my personal faves)
32.   Attend a storage auction (I’m a sucker for those storage auction shows on TV!)
33.   See the Grand Canyon (another one of our country’s sights I've always wanted to see in person to truly take in its scale and majesty)
34.   Drop grudges (some I have held for too long. I want to learn to forgive)
35.   Speak before an audience of 1000 or greater (ah, the great fear of public speaking!)
36.   Be onstage (sort of ties into the item above, but maybe as more of a baby step: just get onstage, even in a non-speaking role, just to put myself in front of people)
37.   Learn to juggle (it always looks like people who can juggle well are having a blast!)
38.   Prepare my will (I may plan to make it to 100, but sometimes the Universe has other plans.  Best to prepare)
39.   Be a part of a flashmob (have wanted to do this for some time)
40.   Take a hot air balloon trip (seems like it would be both peaceful and exhilarating)
41.   Have a real lobster roll from Maine (can’t get ‘em much fresher, I’m told)
42.   Take a coast-to-coast train ride (what better way to see the country?)
43.   Learn CPR (just think I should know in the event of an emergency)
44.   Fire a gun (for the experience)
45.   Visit a zoo (loved the zoo as a kid; haven’t been to one since I was a kid!)
46.   Learn to play the harmonica (for those days when I get the blues in my soul)
47.   Get a professional massage (I’m told it’s wonderful)
48.   Cook every single recipe in a cookbook (just start at page one and work my way through!)

Monday, December 15, 2014

This Is How It Feels

To feel as if every compliment you receive is insincere,
          as if you're being lied to
          as if they're all laughing at you

To feel, deep in your soul, that you're being
          set up
          torn down
          walked on
          worked over
     and that everyone - everyone - will eventually
          turn on you
          or leave you
          or deceive you

To feel that clutching in your gut

To feel like you're crying out from deep inside your own mind
         where you are trapped
To feel like you're crying out from deep inside your own mind
         where you are trapped
To feel like you are crying

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Now Hear This!

Been awhile since I've done one of these round-ups of music I'm currently listening to and you oughta be listening to.  Hopefully, it will serve as an introduction for some of you to a band or two you might never have heard otherwise.  In the four previous Now Hear This posts, which you should check out here, here, here and here if you haven't already (and are worth revisiting if you have!), I've culled a fairly eclectic mix of goodies.  This post follows in that spirit.

It's a big wide Internet out there, and it's full of tunes.  Some are good, some are bad; some you can acquire legitimately, some...well, not so much.  It's enough to make your head spin! Friend, I'm here to help.  I've done the hard part - I've separated the wheat from the chaff and come up with a list of 10 more excellent musical curios for your musical curio, iPod.  These aural treats are not presented in any particular order, and I am receiving no compensation of any kind from the artists, other than the sheer enjoyment of listening to their creations. Almost all of these are very recent, but some are not. Some aren’t even actually released yet. That's just the way it is – deal with it. Let's dig in!

Rancid - ...Honor Is All We Know

Might be my most highly anticipated release of the last half of 2014 – the first new Rancid album in six years is scheduled to hit shelves October 27.  Thanks to a three-song preview video (and allowing those songs to be had in advance through iTunes), we can rest assured that …Honor Is All We Know will see the mighty Rancid doing what they have always done so well.  Their particular brand of 1977 punk rock nicked directly from The Clash’s playbook and strained through filters of two-tone, rockabilly, and street life has always been right in my musical wheelhouse – I love this stuff, and cannot wait for the entire LP.  Meanwhile, this trio of tunes has been played regularly and loudly in anticipation…

James Williamson - Re-Licked

Also looking forward to this one, scheduled for official release on October 29.  James Williamson joined The Stooges in 1970 and continued writing and recording with Iggy even after the band dissolved.  Here he takes a handful of leftover Stooges material and presents all-new recordings paired up with a variety of vocalists from Gary Floyd of The Dicks to Jello Biafra to Jim “Foetus” Thirlwell.  This re-imagined “lost” fourth Stooges album takes a better swing at it than the old Kill City release, if the early leaked tracks are any measure.  “I’m Sick Of You” (with Mario Cuomo of The Orwells on vocals) is one of those tracks and has been on high rotation here in Ruttville for the past week or so.  Re-Licked can be pre-ordered over at

Sonic Scream - Up Your Sleeve

Sam Sergeant and Terry Knight make one heckuva racket for two people, but it’s a racket worth raving about (as I did back in May of 2013!).   The lads from Hertfordshire are back with a brand new batch of brain-thumping grungy goodness.  Up Your Sleeve continues in the same vein as its predecessor; tracks like “7” and “Ain’t Having That” roll in like thunder and shake the floorboards. It’s meant to be played loud, friends, so crank it…

The Electric Mess - “Better To Be Lucky Than Good” 

Another favorite of the blog, NYC’s The Electric Mess, released House On Fire this past April. With it came the simply fantastic clip for the single “Better To Be Lucky Than Good,” which demonstrates that even though MTV may have abandoned the music video, the format is still viable and, in the right hands, powerful.  This one is the running for song of the year if’n you ask me, and the whole album is well worth picking up.

Wheels On Fire - "I'm Turning Into You"

Every now and then something turns up on the ol’ iPod that’s been hanging around in my collection but somehow always just stayed under the radar.  Then, one day, it leaps through the earbuds, grabs me by the eardrums and shakes some freakin’ sense into me.  Like this track from Ohio’s Wheels On Fire.  How on Earth I haven’t been raving about this since its release on their 2009 album Get Famous I can’t say – I can only apologize and insist that you listen to it and revel in its farfisa-driven wonderfulness with me now.  Ready?  Go!

The Mystery Lights - The Mystery Lights

The Mystery Lights have apparently arrived here (or at least in NYC) from 1968.  They play a seething, eerie kind of psychedelic lo-fi freak-out music that all but demands to be played loud wherever swirling lights and neon colors and altered states of mind abound.   Their four-track debut is uniformly excellent, with the standout being the final track, “What Happens When You Turn The Devil Down,” which will snake its way into your skull and slither down your spine in a most pleasing fashion.  Hit up their Bandcamp site for more.

Radiohearts - Nothing At All

Fans of bands like The Buzzcocks, The Knack, Generation X, The dB’s and other like-minded late-70s powerpop/punk bands (the younger set might use The Exploding Hearts and The Cute Lepers as frames of reference), rejoice! There exists a band today who knows what you want to hear, and it is exactly what they play.  Well. Radiohearts’ new EP, Nothing At All, practically bubbles over with high energy melodic hooks dressed in skinny ties and wraparound shades.  The only drawback here is that there are only four songs.  More! Give us more!

Lexxi Vexx & the Modern Gentlemen - The Evolution Of The Modern Gentlemen 

Punk done Portland style.  Lexxi has been around for a bit in the underground scene; this is her latest combo, and possibly the best of the bunch.  A lot of ground is covered on The Evolution Of The Modern Gentlemen.  At times the sound develops a decidedly metallic glint; other times echoes of west coast punk groups like The Nuns, UXA, and even The Avengers ring out.  Lexxi doesn’t come by that booming voice by chance – her dad, Todd McPherson, in addition to being one of the Modern Gentlemen backing her, has been a member of The Kingsmen  (yes, those Kingsmen) since 1992. That’s about as killer a Portland rock ‘n’ roll pedigree as you can ask for.  This is one not to be missed – get over to Bandcamp and grab this’n.  If you need proof, listen up:

The Empty Hearts - The Empty Hearts

The Empty Hearts are Wally Palmar of The Romantics, Elliot Easton of The Cars, Andy Babiuk of The Chesterfield Kings and Clem Burke of Blondie.  And that, my friends, should tell you roughly what it sounds like, why I like it so much and why you need to get yerself a copy.  If it doesn’t, I’m afraid you’re going to have to retake That’s What I Was Going To Say 101 next semester.  The video for the single “I Don’t Want Your Love (If You Don’t Want Me)” will make a good study guide in the meantime.

The Cheap Cassettes - All Anxious All The Time 

“Big guitars and big hooks” is how The Cheap Cassettes describe themselves on their Bandcamp page, right after listing a sizeable selection of their musical influences ranging from Big Star to Redd Kross to The Replacements.  OK, sold! Their debut LP, All Anxious All The Time, is out now, and you can hear a couple of tracks from it on their page as well.  They even offer up a pair of bonus free downloads of otherwise unreleased covers of The Vibrators“Whips And Furs” and The Jesus & Mary Chain’s “Happy When It Rains.”  What are you waiting for?