Wednesday, August 27, 2008

New Silver Phial Song! New Silver Phial Gig!

So yeah -- check out our fantastic new song on our MySpace page, right here, entitled "Ohio." I'd have to say this is probably THEE live fave, and it was a tough one to record, but man, I think we did a damn fine job capturing lightning in a bottle.

Also: the mighty Phial is playing Friday Night at Club Fais Do-Do -- come down at 8:30 and check us out if you've not seen us yet. I promise harmony singing of the highest order.

Why I Don't Really Hate Disney Channel Music At All

Look, folks. I hear a lotta hipsters who think they're gonna score points with me complaining that pre-tween Disney Channel music -- Miley Cyrus aka Hanna Montana, the Jonas Brothers, Demi Lovato, whoever else -- is "ruining rock and roll."

I usually reply by getting really really pissed and saying that hey, faceless copy-cat indie music without even a SHRED of originality (see: about half the groups on Indie 103 RIGHT NOW, buy yourself a copy of Duran Duran's "Rio" if you don't believe me) is what's probably ruining rock and roll WORSE right now; maybe try making music that doesn't sound like everybody else on the radio / 80s radio hits minus the "faggy" bits to sound more butch for middle America / crap, okay?

I spent a quality weekend this weekend with my pre-tween imbibing quite a healthy amount of Disney Channel Rock (this included watching several episodes of "Wizards of Waverly Place" -- is it wrong that I think that chick on the show is super-duper hot? Yeah. It's wrong. I'm sorry.) And I've decided -- well, not decided, really, but solidified -- that I like Disney Channel Rock, and here's why:

1. Bubblegum music for pre-tweens has always been far cooler than it's given credit for. I shouldn't have to cite examples, but I will. Anything out of the Kasenetz/Katz camp from the late 60s like "Chewy Chewy" and "Yummy Yummy." The Archies. The Sweet. The Partridge Family. The Cowsills. The Monkees. KISS (yeah, they count, sorry). Justin Timberlake. New Kids On The Block (ask someone either older or younger than you, okay?). Duran Duran. Hell -- just about any time someone markets to pre-tweens and starts slapping someone's face on Tiger Beat or whatever the modern-day equivalent is, you can just about bet that they're cooler than you. And yeah: about 1/2 the groups on that list were manufactured, plain and simple, including the Monkees, so that argument doesn't wash one bit.

2. Bubblegum music is, by definition, repugnant to people who are older and more jaded. You catch yourself saying, recently: "I don't get that horrible shit that the kids like?" Guess what? Your parents said that, and so did their parents. Music for young people isn't for you to get. It's for your kids to get. You're not supposed to get it. It's that simple. If you don't get it, or actively hate the stuff, then GOOD -- it's working.

3. Bubblegum music is innocent. Say what you will about Modern Day Kids, the Disney Channel set keep it strictly PG at most. Frankly, I find that a little refreshing. Yeah, the actual STARS THEMSELVES try to bust out of the box sometimes (see: Miley Cyrus' seminude cellphone photos, or don't, depending on your level of creeped-out-ed-ness) but the music itself is refreshingly innocent. Frankly, I get a little tired of hearing music about mid-20s or mid-30s hipsters bitching about life sometimes, and I write the stuff. Sometimes I wanna hear cute little songs about love. Period. And I like that it's still out there.

4. Bubblegum music really isn't bad at all. Face it: a lot of you bitching about the stuff haven't spent any quality time with it. Did you buy the new Jonas Brothers record? Rolling Stone gave it 4 stars, and I think it deserves it -- it really is, as they say, a power-pop masterpiece, and twenty-five-BILLION times better than that International Pop Overthrow bullshit because it's genuine. Ask Prince what he thinks about Drake Bell, star of Nick's "Drake and Josh," because his album is almost as good as -- and sounds just like -- those Jellyfish albums from the early-90s which IMO have influenced a lot more people than the cynics thought they were gonna (I'm looking at YOU, Tangborn!). I got really hooked on Demi Lovato, who, I guess, was on that Camp Rock thing that they sell shit for at Target, and who sounds really asskicking. And honestly: who isn't secretly a fan of "High School Musical?" I mean, at this point, is it even cool to pretend you hate it?

5. A lotta these stars have some genuine latent talent. See also: Justin Timberlake. See also: Just about all of 'em. Give a bubblegummer enough time to find their own voice, and about half the time they end up doing stuff that's actually artistically viable. The Jonas Brothers write their own music, or lots of it -- I'm sure it's song doctored -- and that reminds me a little bit of the Monkees, because the songs are actually pretty damn terrific. Most of 'em sing pretty well, too, I hear a minimum of digital frippery and pitch-correction (unlike the last generation of stars -- I'm sorry, Britney's cool in a certain sense but she is mostly the product of studio trickery).

6. This stuff is an entry-point for cool rock music for kids. 'Cause, wow, you really think your kids are gonna be thrilled listening to Elliott Smith's "XO" in the car? They're kids. I've got my daughter hooked on the Free Design and the Archies and whatever else, but to me, that's a logical stepping-off point for kids, and it surprises me not one jot that she went from that into the Jonas Brothers. And from there, I fully expect she'll explore the full range of rock music. Of course, lots won't -- but how many kids DID go from, say, Duran Duran into cooler music? Or from New Kids into cooler music? It happens, a lot. Bubblegum is the rock and roll gateway drug.

7.It's harmless. Oh -- so ALL rock and roll has to be dangerous, like THE STOOGES? No, it doesn't. Some rock is supposed to be cute. It always has been, it always will be. Otherwise the dangerous stuff doesn't have anything to look dangerous against.

My recommendation: sit down and watch a day's worth of Disney Channel. You'll have to sit through twenty-five episodes of Phineas and Ferb (which isn't really THAT bad, all told, it's pretty funny) but you'll also get a spate of music videos, clips, ads, whatever else, and you'll feel like you're a little bit in touch with Youth Culture Of The Moment, and that's kinda cool, and I bet you find yourself actually not hating Hannah Montana anymore. Hell, she's twenty-five times better than "Achy Breaky Heart." Not that it's a particularly high sight to set against, but I'm just sayin'.

Friday, August 22, 2008

I've come to kick ass and chew bubblegum. And I'm all out of bubblegum.

Busy week, Mon Hatesexy Peeps. Sorry for the non-writing, but I've been hyperfocused on lots of other stuff, and haven't had a chance to even peek in and say howdy.

Last weekend we spent a LOVELY pre-paid weekend (pre-paid when we weren't broke, that is!) at the Parker Palm Springs, that fantastic mid-century-modern hotel I mentioned a month or so ago. MAN OH MAN. Vegetarians: I'm sorry to report we ate PAIN that evening for dinner. I had veal, Trix had Fois Gras, and yes, we felt HORRIBLE about it, but man oh man was it delicious. I had to go there at least once in my adult life (the Animal Gods are still SCREAMING for all the veal parmesan TV dinners I consumed from ages four through nine).

Wednesday night was one of the coolest nights evah, at least since I've been in Los Angeles. I attended a party of complete Beach Boys geeks at the home of my friend, erstwhile archivist Alan Boyd. I met lots of people I only previously knew through my former Beach Boys website The Smile Shop -- always severely cool to put a name next to a cyberpresence. I took a whole smackload of pictures, including one extremely geeky pic of me and Brian Wilson bandmember Nelson Bragg. And most interesting of all, I met this guy:

-- Mr. Domenic Priore, author of Look, Listen, Vibrate, Smile, THEE tome on the Smile phenomenon which I basically have memorized. He was an incredibly friendly, approachable, hip-as-fuck dude in person, and he knows his stuff like nobody else. It was fantastic to finally meet him in person. Great guy, 100%.

Last night, we watched John Carpenter red-headed stepchild They Live. You seen it? Okay, you need to. First off, the aliens look like this:

And yeah -- that HAS to be where Shepard Fairey got the idea for his OBEY company, no? Second of all, it stars ROWDY RODDY PIPER, who is actually surprisingly likeable and gets saddled with some of the funniest tough-guy lines in history, including the title of today's blog entry. Third: Yadda yadda yadda political allegory, but man, the view of the world through the magical glasses that remove the aliens' glamour is just FUCKING CREEPY, okay? For THAT ALONE it's worth seeing.

Tonight, late at night, I'm off to Minneapolis again for a weekend with the birthfam, thanks VERY MUCH to my birthmom Gigi, who very kindly bought me a plane ticket. It's my birthgrandad's birthday, and HAPPY BIRTHDAY to Grandpa Beaner who looks like me in 20 years (yeah -- TWENTY -- he's a young lookin' cuss. Native don't crack!) Plus, I get to hang out with the Peanut, which is just automatically cause for celebration. Poor Trix isn't coming, but I see a fabulous weekend ahead for her, too. At least she doesn't have to deal with another two days of MUSIC HEAD.

I'll keep y'all posted after the weekend.

Friday, August 15, 2008


Proof positive that Music Mode sucks the life out of me -- that last blog entry SUCKS. I used the word "songwriter" twice in the first two sentences. Jesus.


Music Mode

So there's probably some of you out there who are wondering WHY I'm not the most prolific songwriter ever. I mean, I have a proven track-record of being a not-so-bad songwriter, so why am I not constantly sitting around with my guitar in hand bashing out pop gems for the ages?

I'll tell you why. Music Mode.

When I go into Music Mode, it's like I'm in another world. People who've had the misfortune of living with me will attest to this. I'm distracted. I constantly have "websurfing" voice when I talk, like I'm really paying attention to something else and am just cursorily replying -- which is true, I am paying attention to something else. I'm going over and over some melodic fragment or arrangement choice in my head. I don't sleep, because I'm constantly thinking of a better way to end this verse or that verse or the other verse. At work, I listen over and over to certain songs that I think will help me solve some songwriting dilemma. If I had to describe the feeling I get, its a combination of mind-numbing pain and constant distracting adrenaline rush.

But, see, I've discovered something else. I have the power to turn this songwriting mode ON AND OFF.

Once I switch it on, it's hard to turn off. I have to totally IGNORE what I'm doing for, like, a week solid, and then I'm able to relate to normal society for a while until I start it up again. And it ain't easy to start up again, either -- I have to spend a couple weeks thinking about MAYBE sitting down to write some songs. But listen: if I *didn't* shut it off occasionally, I would have no normal human relationships whatsoever which explains why so many songwriters don't.

The only time I can leave it on constantly is when I'm distracted by WORSE PAIN -- which is why most of my best songwriting coincides with periods of crippling depression.

The reason I mention this is that I'm currently not in a period of crippling depression, but I am in songwriting mode. I've been recording some songs for a 2nd Silvergirl album (yeah, I had a first one, it just sat around on my computer until I posted it on the blog!) and my brain feels like jelly. Trix has noticed. She'll ask me something, and I'll kind of respond but she knows FULL WELL that I have no idea what she just said, and if she asked for a play-by-play I wouldn't be able to respond.

So, see, I love Music Mode, but I hate it at the same time, deeply. I have a feeling THIS round of Music Mode might end with me starting a LIVE VERSION of this band, but rehearsing and playing stuff that's already written and arranged doesn't hurt NEARLY as bad. Music: the cause of, and the solution to, all life's ills.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

The EXTREMELY welcome return of the Verve

I'm listening to a pre-release leak of the Verve's new album "Forth." After years of wishing and hoping they'd come back -- mostly for Nick McCabe's astonishing guitar playing, he's the last guy I called "hero" on that instrument -- I can officially and firmly report that they are back in spades, and this isn't just fanboy babbling, either.

Because, believe me, I was worried. When I heard "Love Is Noise," the first single, I was -- er, underwhelmed, to say the least. The song is bolstered by possibly the most annoying sample in history and I didn't hear a single bit of guitar playing on the entire song, which depressed me. Frankly? It sounded like singer Richard Ashcroft's solo stuff, which I don't hate, per se, but certainly doesn't inspire the other strong emotion either. I was worried they'd, y'know, gone soft. Gone commercial. Gotten boring.

But no -- they've gone t'other way with it. "Forth" is far more like "Northern Soul" and "Storm In Heaven" than it's even like "Urban Hymns," the hitmaking slab that propelled them into stadium territory. Nick McCabe is not only present, he's forefront, and his guitar rips, shreds, floats, dances, floats in the stratosphere like I'd hoped it would, and Richard Ashcroft shows little sign of the happy domestic bliss (or artistic blase) that's marred his solo albums.

Also: apart from the single, there's very little commercial pandering, here, either. "Noise Epic," for example, is seven minutes of amazing guitar skronk with what sounds like completely improvised lyrics, Mad Richard in top form, and "Appalachian Springs" is yet another seven minutes of floaty, angry psychedelia, as dark as they come, heading towards krautrock territory. Love it. Furthermore -- the one thing that got me down about "Urban Hymns" was the overabundance of "tender acoustic ballads," as lovely as they were. Here? We get "Valium Skies," which is, well, dark, and about drugs. Tender it ain't, really. I'm in.

I'd pass you all a link, but that's illegal.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Facebook Frenzy

Remember Friendster? Remember when ALL YOUR FRIENDS were on Friendster and it was all cool and everybody was doing it and you felt left behind so you RELUCTANTLY made yourself a Friendster page, finally, and started friending your friends, and suddenly...

...FRIENDSTER? Man, you are behind the TIMES, buddy! It's all about MySpace! Get with 2005, here, and sign up for MySpace! It's so much cooler than Friendster, because -- well, it is! It just is! Plus, it has bands, and those bands are becoming BIG HUGE STARS so sign up for MySpace NOW, we're all doing it!

So you signed up for MySpace, and juuuuuust when you'd gotten around to updating your site once in a while...

...MYSPACE? Dude, you're still on MySpace? We're all about the Facebook now! All your friends are on Facebook! No, not just all your super cool friends, I'm talking about all your high school friends and your elementary school friends too! We're all here and you're not! Sign up! And while you're here, take this incredibly stupid quiz about what kind of bread you are! I'm Rye!

Can you tell I'm all fed up with networking sites? Can you?

Dude, seriously, slow the fuck down. There is nothing on Facebook that wasn't on MySpace, and in fact, apart from the fact that they very smartly list your friends alphabetically, it offers nothing that MySpace doesn't except a lot lot lot LOT of ways to waste your time in very stupid ways. Plus, I liked MySpace. I have a band profile on MySpace. I met my birthmom through MySpace. MySpace was cool.

I'll make an agreement with you, Everybody I Know. I'm willing to stick with this Facebook thing if you promise me you won't jump ship when the NEXT big networking site jumps out at you with a bunch of shiny things to distract you from the job you hate. Okay? I'll sign up for your quizzes and I'll look at your photographs and whatever else you want me to do, just stick with it this time, okay?

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

The 80s, Redux

My favorite thing about the 80s isn't the big groups necessarily -- your U2s, your Cures, your New Orders, even your Duran Durans or your Guns and Roseses, though I love every single one of those bands. No, the best thing about that decade are the mid-sized groups; the hits that fell in between the BIG GIANT SMASHES that everybody remembers. That's true of the 60s, too, as witness my huge collection of obscurities like Sagittarius and the Free Design, but I think its even more true of the 80s, the age of the one hit wonder.

Last night, I got to see some of those groups that have sadly, ridiculously, unfairly fallen between the cracks of history. Much like the 60s nostalgia package tours (THE TURTLES! Featuring Flo and Eddie! THE BYRDS!! Featuring the drummer!) that roamed the countryside in packs a couple decades ago, the Regeneration Tour takes a passel o' 80s bands and throws 'em together in a gigantic nostalgia package aimed at me, a Card-Carryin' Child of the 80s, and my compatriots. The weird thing, though: the amphitheater was packed, unlike some of those State Fair 60s shows I've seen. I don't know what that suggests, other than that a). the 80s are big business right now, and b) there's a lot more people who like these bands than I thought there were.

Thing is: unlike the sort of la-de-da miss-the-point bullshit the 60s bands degenerated into, these groups -- though frequently just featuring the Lead Singer and Other Guys -- still seem, well, sorta vital, and completely fucking weird, which is why the 80s were so damn cool in the first place. It was the last decade where being batshit crazy and singing like a computer and just sounding nothing like the past decades was the thing. Nowadays, its all about retro and nostalgia, and I'm just as guilty of that as anybody else, but the 80s were all about invention and re-invention and just being as strange as possible 'cause that's, for some reason, what played in the malls of middle-America.

We missed most of Naked Eyes so I can't say much about 'em, other than that the singer bounced around like a man half his age. Whee.

ABC, on the other hand, was half the reason we were there. Trix is a HUGE ABC fan, like super-mega-extra-huge, and rightfully so, I think. If you wanna point to a band from that decade that hasn't received their critical due, that's ABC. They're this wonderful, fizzy mix of pure synth pop goodness and blue-eyed soul, with a heapin' helpin' of Roxy Music-style suave lathered on top. Lead singer Martin Fry, who basically IS the band and has always BEEN the band, has morphed from a slick, skinny, smart-ass soulster into, well, Tom Jones, but not in a bad way at all. His pipes are still in top form, and the band cruised through their hits -- "Poison Arrow," "Look Of Love," "When Smokey Sings," gems every one -- and at least one new song from a new album with tremendous aplomb and an abundance of style.

Belinda Carlisle sucked. She sang her freakin' SOLO HITS, none of which I like even remotely, and then dissed the Go-Gos before launching into a trio of their hits with wonky pitch. Bleh. Belinda, I love you, honestly, but that was appalling.

The real surprise of the evening was ostensible headliners Human League, who came across like the great lost link between Kraftwerk and, like, New Order or something, which I guess they really are. Their stage setup was not unlike Kraftwerk's, with a bank of all-white keyboards and Machines With Blinky Lights That Didn't Really Do Anything, and bald lead singer Phil Oakey was flanked by Those Two Girls Who Don't Sing Very Well. The whole thing came off far more avant-garde then I'd even hoped, and though the band of course sang "Human" and "Don't You Want Me" and their other big massive hits, they peppered the set with some oddments off "Dare" and "Hysteria" including weird political hit "The Lebanon." It didn't come across as pandering to a hit-crazy crowd, even though I'm sure it was, sorta -- it was far closer to the strange sort of computerized weirdness that Kraftwerk propigate, and it made me happy.

My goal -- and I will not rest until its completed -- is to see some of these bands restored to the glory they deserve in pop music history. Now that people are rediscovering and hippifying some of the bands from the 60s that went forgotten -- even to the point where albums that never even got released at the time are becoming part of the canon -- it's time to bring some of the bands from this decade forward and say "Hey -- just 'cause they wore makeup and had rock videos on MTV doesn't mean they weren't weird as fuck and deserving of glory." Consider it my mission.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Reunions, Weddings, and more.

I was in Minneapolis this weekend for two reasons. The main reason was that a good damn friend was getting SECRETLY MARRIED in a backyard BBQ-type situation, and I couldn't miss it. The second reason was, ostensibly, my high school reunion. I couldn't make it to the reunion itself, but there was a "pre-reunion drinks" get-together at the Sunshine Factory, a crappy bar in New Hope, MN mostly patronized by the blue-hair set.

HUGE fucking mistake. First off -- I didn't recognize a living soul. Scratch that -- I *did* recognize people, but it was more like "oh, that's that one guy who used to push me around in the hallways" or "that's that cheerleader who never talked to me." But names? Forget it. Maybe one or two, tops. Fair enough, nobody recognized me either. I sat at the bar with Trix, completely undisturbed for about 45 minutes. In that time, Trix heard the guy sitting behind me -- whom I didn't recognize at all but apparently he was really, really popular at the time given the reaction to his entrance -- using the word "fag" or "faggot" five times. Lovely, folks. Nice to see you've all grown so much.

A couple things struck me:

- Everybody looked the same but much bigger. Mostly I'm talking about the guys, here -- what the hell happened, boys? You were such fine, fit specimens of manhood back in the day, and now you're all 300+ lbs and bald. What's up with that? I'm not exactly the fittest guy on the planet, but at least I'm still under 200 pounds, and I never made any pretense of being fit and trim to begin with! These were the guys you all swooned over? They look like anybody's fat, drunk uncle.

I blame an overabundance of testosterone. That's why you were hot for 'em back in the day, girls, and that's why they look like shit today. I might not have had as much of that wonder hormone, but I still have all my hair, and people still card me for cigarettes.

- Girls? Not to be snarky, but feathered hair went out right around the time we graduated. It's time to talk to someone about a looks update.

- The weirdest thing, though, is that they all seemed like they still knew each other. Like perhaps they all still lived in Crystal/New Hope and all still kept in touch, or at least had fantastic memories and just remembered everything about each other. I find that odd. I've had so many strange and unusual life experiences since then that I've used up all the parts of my brain that hold the information about People I Barely Knew Back In High School. My actual friends? Still remember them, and there were about, oh, five or six of them in my actual class. Maybe as many as ten I could recall without too much help. But none of them were there. Do they just not drink, or did they, like me, move to pastures greener and don't give two figs about revisiting high school since those years weren't their glory days?

I just get the feeling that none of 'em have moved on. I get the feeling they all get together every weekend at the Sunshine Factory to revisit the glory days of how they threw that pass that one time and won the game or that one party where that one girl threw up on everybody. I get the feeling those were the best times of their lives and everything after has been kind of a crushing disappointment. Maybe I'm reading in too much, but man, that's the vibe as I saw it.

I admit: I showed up for the reason any high school nerd shows up to those things. I wanted everybody to see how cool I am now. Right? I'm not alone here, am I? I had a hot girl in tow and I look cool and I have a cool job and a cool set of experiences to recount and it's like -- hey, guys, you were all wrong about me.

But I think even if they had recognized me, the cool woulda been lost on them in their crisp little polo shirts and their 1988 mall hair. They would just have thought the same thing they thought in 1988 -- "Hey, there's that one fag. Let's kick his ass."

Anyway, I'm glad I never have to go back to Robbinsdale Cooper Class of 1988. Not even thinking about attending my 40th.

The wedding, on the other hand, was cool as hell. It was in my friend's backyard, which I'm beginning to think is the way to do those things. It was small, intimate, and short, and there were drinks served both before and after, and there was cheesy-meat dip and chips. And the ceremony was lovely. It just made sense.

Also this weekend: hung out with my daughter. Watched National Treasure I and II (both of which were shockingly entertaining, and "fun for the whole family," meaning a minimum of horrible violent deaths, which I appreciated. Thank you, Jerry Bruckheimer, I guess). Went to Como Park Zoo and got those little plastic animals they mold for you in a vending machine like they did in 1975. Went to the Old Country Buffet. Sang Karaoke. It was relaxing as all hell. The plus about Minneapolis vs. Los Angeles? It's QUIET and the PACE OF LIFE IS SLOWER. I confess to missing that as the stress levels rise.

Tonight: Human League, ABC, Flock of Seagulls, Naked Eyes and Belinda Carlisle at the Universal Amphitheater. I'll report back.