Not Just Messin’ Around… or Cage The Elephant – Tell Me I’m Pretty

cagepic

It’s an interesting time to be Cage The Elephant. They could stick to their tried and true sound that has produced a number of alt-rock staples, or venture out to try something a little different. The risk for every artist is alienating old crowds while searching for new fans and retaining that wonderful feeling of loving what you do.

For inspiration, they have looked to the other side of the Atlantic and picked up influences ranging from the Beatles (“Sweetie Little Jean”) to Super Furry Animals (“Cry Baby”) and the Arctic Monkeys (“Mess Around”). To top that, they’ve got the ear of Black Keys’ Dan Auerbach at the controls, giving them sounds that ride sonic rhythms rather than relying on straight up indie-rock guitar. The result is a weird hybrid that welds together various pieces in some metaphoric ‘found object’ art instillation that is both strange yet incredibly accessible.

The old over-the-top swagger is exchanged for one of emphasis in the right places. It used to be that vocalist Matt Shultz would put out little vocal improvisations at a rate that would put James Brown to shame, but it seems Auerbach may have reined him in, allowing whole songs to catch the imagination. “Cold, Cold, Cold” is a perfect example; it’s a tune that has psychedelic flourishes that would be undermined by such displays. Instead, the fuzzed out guitar, classic 60’s style rhythm and haunting organ are allowed to drive home the mood.

Next you get a story of abuse set to a background of early rock ‘n’ roll sounds. “Punchin’ Bag” at its surface is a tale of someone who has ‘had enough’, but its musical tone conjures images created by the Sonics’ 1965 song “Strychnine” and its aggressive sinister sound.

Tell Me I’m Pretty is not content to be ‘just another’ alt-rock record to be quickly digested and tossed aside in a few months when the next ‘flavour’ arrives on shelves. It seeks to be a record that you keep coming back to; new sounds emerging on every subsequent listen; the kind of album that lives on in your consciousness and becomes a favourite.

Whre To Buy S!#t vol 3 (Blog rendition) – Newbury Comics

What do Wolverine, autographed CD covers and exclusive vinyl have in common?

P1000817

Newbury Comics

If you’re hunting for the perfect gift for the geek in your life and you don’t want to leave your comfy chair, this is the place to start. The home page of Newbury’s website opens to three major products: comics with limited edition (variant) covers, autographed CD booklets and limited edition coloured vinyl from an eclectic variety of artists.

For the comic lover, Newbury sells exclusive variant editions of the latest comics, with new products available every week. Arriving from every major comic company, some of the most recent material has covers created specifically for Newbury customers. For instance, the new Marvel comic X-Men ’92 with exclusive Newbury cover, is now available. On the left is the Newbury edition and on the right is the one you see at your local comic retailer.

x-men92 1 x92original

If you have an autograph seeking fan of say… Metric or Karen O, then Newbury can set you up with that. A quick click on their Autographed CD cover link reveals a large assortment of artists that have signed their work, ranging from Paul Anka to Spoon with many choices in-between.

However, the real treasure for me is the gift I keep playing on my turntable. A while back, in my quest to find cool vinyl, I found an offer for Nirvana’s Bleach in limited edition 180 gram maroon/black vinyl; I leapt at the chance to own it. Since then, I’ve found myself getting awesome variant wax releases on a fairly regular basis. This recent addiction has gone from Christmas gifts (Vince Guaraldi Trio – A Charlie Brown Christmas), to alt-rock (The Strokes – Room On Fire, Black Keys – Rubber Factory), classic-rock (The Velvet Underground – Velvet Underground & Nico, Lou Reed – Transformer ) musicals (The Rocky Horror Picture Show), jazz (Miles Davis – Kind Of Blue) and my personal holy-grail album: Big Star – #1 Record.

vf1picpreorder_loureedtransformer_vinyl

axis2 lr2

For a couple of years now, Newbury has been offering music fans a chance to get “limited edition” vinyl. The prices are competitive with regular vinyl editions that sit on the shelves of most record stores and the shipping costs are quite reasonable. To date, I’ve never had problems with any of the vinyl shipped to me. As for sound quality, I’ve played Big Star’s #1 Record gold coloured variant against the recent 180 gram edition and I’ve found both items sounding great… in fact, I’d lean more towards the gold variant as it “seemed” to have more presence in the guitar and vocals.

bs2

At Newbury, new items seem to hit the market every week (the Violent Femmes eponymous debut this week) and the choices, as mentioned earlier, are pretty eclectic; ranging from the Coltrane to The Clash and points in-between. Check them out, you might find yourself signing up to the old mailing list and buying something from time to time. Just don’t be too disappointed if it gets sold out before you get your shot. It’s happened, a couple of times, to me and caused a slight bit of teeth grinding and cursing. But then again, that’s all part of the fun of getting something unique.

 

Please Billy … or William… Whatever, Just Shut the ^%$& Up! Smashing Pumpkins – Siamese Dream

simesedream

A very long time ago I learned that you had to separate the artist from the art. Let’s face it, some of today’s biggest talents are, um, ah… well, afflicted with acute asshole disease. ‘Smack talk’ amongst themselves (other celebrities) is generally the first sign that they need help, but it just doesn’t stop there. Take Jack White; first he starts dissing Dan Auerbach of the Black Keys for “stealing his sound” and then he publically goes after Meg White who is soft spoken, shy, and knows will never say anything back. (He would later apologize for both.) Of course there are dozens of other instances, let’s not forget “rider-gate” a few weeks ago, but let’s get to Billy.

A couple months back mister Corgan was quoted as saying that Kurt Cobain was his only peer, and that everyone else just basically sucked in comparison. Then he anointed himself king by pointing out that his he had a more ‘enduring body of work’ than Pearl Jam. As if that wasn’t enough, he went on a tirade about how much better he was than Dave Grohl and the Foo Fighters, this despite the fact that the Pumpkins haven’t released a relevant album since the 1990’s. Then only a week or two ago, an audience broke out into “Happy Birthday” during his show. Instead of simply taking the compliment, he chastised them because he wants to be called “William” now.

Now first off, over the long history of the Pumpkins, I’ve got to give Corgan props. He has always tried to give his fans something to cheer about in terms of releasing B-Sides and collectibles across various formats over the years. Hell, seven years before Radiohead dropped In Rainbows to fans in a “pay what you want” initial campaign, Corgan put out Machina II/The Friends and Enemies of Modern Music over the internet for free. So in terms of fan treatment as a business decision, he mostly gets it. But in actual live situations… where a microphone sits in front of him for the purpose of talking…

machina

Well, William – Dude… of all the 90’s era rock acts I have ever seen, I only walked out on 1 – The Smashing Pumpkins at Lollapalooza. I went expecting a great show by your band. Believe me, L7, The Breeders, George Clinton, and the Beastie Boys brought it that day. However, Billy, you just had to open your mouth to talk. You rambled some shit about the country you were visiting (Canada), and then kept at it. Instead of playing, you kept speaking in a condescending tone to your audience. I knew that day I wouldn’t go to another Pumpkins show, because you just can’t put your ego aside when your outside the studio.

Still, there is no denying the power of the music. You rock… you put out some great records. Furthermore, as artists go, I like what you have done. I may not have followed you on the musical journey past the Machina albums, as it wasn’t really to my taste, but I appreciate your statements about the growth of artists… it’s just that I have a problem with people whose arrogance leads to self proclamation.  “I’m better than – fill in the blank”, just makes you sound like a dink. There is no need to raise yourself on the backs of your peers. You can certainly have an opinion, but remember that sometimes it makes you sound both petty and idiotic.

The result is, now when I put on your records around friends, we don’t discuss how fantastic the music is, we start by rolling our eyes about what obnoxious crap you did recently.

Siamese Dream is a fantastic work, and when it came to a special edition vinyl, I had to grab it. I have no regrets about what music sits in my collection, and I’ll continue to buy your music if I find it interesting. I’m still a fan, but please Bil… William, I’m begging you man – SHUT THE FUCK UP!

Driven to Far: An Autobiographical Music Review – Dark Night of the Soul – Sparklehorse & Danger Mouse

Driving

I suppose I could have added up the kilometres, but that information wasn’t relevant.

Distance

Doesn’t have a goddamn thing to do with how far you have travelled.

Locked in thoughts of where you were and where you’re going without the benefit of perspective. Each moment passing without the ability to reflect on it, because time passes and you can’t grasp it. Words linger without being able to wrestle them to the ground and beat them for information.

Instead there is only me, the kilometres and the music I’ve chosen to spend my time with.

Driving back and forth through snowstorms, Mark Linkous sings “When you raise your head from your pillow don’t delay / Because people decay / Will you let the rays of the sun help you along / I woke up and all my yesterdays were gone.” I might have a tear. It depends on which day; which snowstorm; they kinda blend together like the snow as it settles on the ground.

Dark_Night_Final

December 24, 2009 is the last Christmas I have with my parents. It isn’t pleasant. Sick people don’t make for good company… and by this time we’re all sick. They have cancer – I have depression. Everyone else is just sick with worry. None of us know yet.

Dark Night of the Soul is playing in the car on the ride home – another snow storm. Vic Chesnutt is singing “What went on in my horrible dream / I was peering in through the picture window / It was a heart-warming tableau / Like a Norman Rockwell painting / Until I zoomed in / I was making noises in my sleep / But you wouldn’t believe me when I told ya / That I wasn’t with someone in my dream / Catfish were wriggling in blood and gore in the kitchen sink / Yeah, I told ya / I told ya / I told you / Now sweetie, promise me / That you won’t sing /This sad song, grim augury.”

On boxing day, as I drive alone towards my parents house I hear of Chesnutt’s death. He took a bunch of muscle relaxants on Christmas Day and never came back. Some tears hit me and I’m not sure if they are for me or him. He was such an awesome songwriter.

New Year’s eve, my parents are both being taken from their home by ambulance. My mom needs surgery, my father can’t take care of himself and I can’t be with both at the same time. Separate rooms in palliative care two hours away from me. Peterborough – nice city, full of shitty memories. I’ve grown to hate Highway 115/35.

mileage-2

Frank Black is screaming “I’m pluckin’ all day on my angel’s harp / Shoutin’ at the rising moon / Knowin’ that I will soon stay” and I’m driving in another snowstorm… following an ambulance from Peterborough to Toronto. Cars are sliding around, but I take my time, life has handed me enough drama, it doesn’t need me to create more by being an idiot.

After the surgery my mom is in and out of consciousness, sometimes doing well and sometimes not; talking to doctors about my parents is like watching a yo-yo go up and down without any tricks.

Iggy Pop sings “A massive headache in my aging skull / Means I do not feel well / Pain, pain, pain / Bad brains must always feel pain.” Maybe, but I’ve got a steady diet of pain killers and muscle relaxants to keep that shit at bay. There are too many places to be and I‘m never in the right place.

She died. My mom. I don’t know what I was listening to when I found out. I was five minutes from the hospital in another fuckin’ snowstorm. And after, I was alone in the parking lot, distraught, destroyed, and I don’t remember what I was hearing or seeing.

February turned to March, and there was more snow and more trips and the doctors and nurses knew me by name and the Black Keys, Patsy Cline and Johnny Cash had joined the soundtrack of my trip along with Dark Night of the Soul. Two days before my father died Mark Linkous (Sparklehorse) shot himself.

“Our souls / Time slippin’ by / I call out your pain / All alone / Shadows movin’ / Shadows movin’ / Shadows have long gone by / Dark night of the soul”… words, they haunt you more if you place them into your own context. They take on meanings that the writer never had. I slip further in thought.

Like Chesnutt, Linkous music had meant a lot to me. It had seen me through some good and bad times… and there should have been more. Both had put out an amazing repertoire of tunes and suddenly – like my parents, they were gone.

When the hell everything turned to shit I don’t know, but when my mourning turned into a full out depression, I got help. That was four years ago.

“Daddy’s Gone” spins on the turntable. A tear drops. Not for my parents… it’s for my kids. Cancer doesn’t just rob the sick of life; it steals time from the living; it steals focus away from happiness and places it squarely in survival mode. Caregivers and their families endure but those too young to understand see smiles slip away when heads turn from their eyes to look upon the photos on the wall. Funny, was I just describing cancer or depression?

Every few months I listen to this record and it takes me to places to important to forget. The emotional resonance just pulls me in and washes over me. Then, for a short time, I mourn again, and then I move on.