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!)