Saturday, February 26, 2005

Pop Has Freed Us

Hola. Sorry for the delayed posting. I was experiencing server issues with the hosting of the MP3s and whatnot, so I waited until those were cleared up. This week, we move away from the hahd rawk that I usually listen to and venture into a poppier zone. Papas Fritas was a local pop trio that made some interesting and fun music in the mid- to late '90s. The band--singer-guitarist Tony Goddess, bassist Keith Gendel and drummer Shivika Asthana--met as students at Tufts University in '92. They shared a love of upbeat pop and started recording singles and touring, eventually catching the attention of Minty Fresh Records, which released the band's self-titled debut in 1995. The band had a minor hit locally with "Lame to Be" and toured with the Flaming Lips, among others. They followed up with 1997's Helioself, which found them exploring more of a Brian Wilson sound, as well as other influences such as the Indian vocal stylings that Asthana uses on the standout single Hey Hey You Say. I interviewed Gendel for an article I wrote for Webnoize while I was still doing part-time work for them; I wish I had saved it, but alas, it's disappeared into the InterWeb ether along with Webnoize. But he was pretty cool and I saw them play a few times in Boston area clubs. After an extensive world tour for Helioself, the band (which by this time was living in Gloucester, MA, not far from my world headquarters) laid low before releasing 2000's more guitar-centric Buildings and Grounds. The song Way You Walk became a hit a few years after the album's release when it showed up in a Dentyne Ice commercial, but it appears the band is through, at least for now. The band issued the greatest hits collection Pop Has Freed Us in '03 and the members have all gone their separate ways. Hopefully, they'll reunite someday soon.

In other blog news, just wanted to hype a couple of blogs I've had listed in my blogroll for a while now. Pimps of Gore is an excellent site, featuring songs from any number of cool indie rock artists including an extensive series of Guided by Voices MP3s that I've been enjoying immensely. And Bradley's Almanac is the brainchild of a fellow Boston-area resident who posts a lot of great live stuff, including recent tracks from Unrest and Ida. Visit them both early and often.

Okay, more later.

Monday, February 21, 2005

Let's Get Retarded

Wow, what a rollercoaster of a weekend for hockey fans. Only a few days after the NHL officially cancels the season, rumors abound that a deal is in the works. Gretzky and Lemieux were supposedly leading the effort, etc. On Saturday morning, ESPN, The Hockey News, and other outlets were reporting that the deal was done, with both sides agreeing on a $45 million salary cap. Then by dinnertime, it became apparent that not only was a deal not done, it wasn't even in the ballpark. Season still cancelled, and both sides now accusing the other of deliberately misleading the press and the fans. I didn't think it was possible for the league and its players to look any worse after they cancelled the season, and somehow they were able to sink even further. See you in the fall, or maybe later, you clowns.

Running update: Instead of giving out injury waivers, the Vermont City Marathon hosts a bulletin board for folks to sell their bib numbers if they need to, so I sold mine to a woman hoping to run her first marathon. Cool way to get my money back and help someone else out at the same time. I've been making decent progress, getting up to 24 minutes on the treadmill. I just bought some new shoes over the weekend, so I have to cut my minutes back to break them in. But hopefully I can keep progressing. My goal is now to do a fall marathon, possibly Philly or Hartford. Wish me luck.

Picked up Green Day's American Idiot last weekend and man, does that kick ass. Pretty amazing album from beginning to end. Nice to see those guys turn it around after seemingly hitting the wall a few years back. Also got Trail of Dead's new CD, Worlds Apart, which is growing on me. A Pitchdork reviewer ripped the album a new one, but I like it. Don't like it as much as their last album, but it's good nonetheless.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

We Got Soul

Okay, I've calmed down a bit about the NHL season being cancelled. That said, there's been some chatter that the season may actually not be done. Apparently, there's some maneuvering going on behind the scenes between players and owners, and ESPN reported that Gary Bettman said he'd be open to revisiting the decision to cancel. So we shall see.

On to the rock. This week, I'm featuring a song from an early '80s Austin-based punk combo that came and went fairly quickly but had a lasting impact on the scene. The Big Boys mixed in funk with their punk--two great tastes that taste great together--long before it became fashionable. They pretty much did whatever they felt like, rather than abide by a particular sound or look. Singer Randy "Biscuit" Turner would often play wearing a tutu or a clown suit. Here's a good interview with the band's guitarist, Tim Kerr, who continues to play in various bands.

The band was only together about six years ('78-'84), but they all went on to play in some fairly influential punk and rock acts including Scratch Acid, Rapeman, the Skatenigs, the Monkeywrench, Ministry, Poison 13, and Tad. My brother J.P. turned me on to them; he lived in Austin in the mid-'90s while in law school and gave me the Big Boys comp The Fat Elvis one year as a gift. He's 4 1/2 years younger than me, but he's influenced my listening tastes quite a bit over the years. I definitely got him into the classic rock and metal stuff I listened to while he was a little kid, and then he got into punk while at college and turned me on to a lot of cool stuff like Fugazi, Flipper and the Big Boys. Anyway, We Got Your Money is a Big Boys classic off 1983's Lullabies Help the Brain Grow and later The Fat Elvis. Check it out, and then buy a Big Boys album. You shan't regret it.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Mama, Weer All Crazee Now

Just when you think the dolts at the NHL can't get any stupider, they go and throw you a curveball. The season appeared done until suddenly in the last 48 hours, the players dropped their opposition to a salary cap and the owners dropped their insistence on linking salaries to team revenues--the two major stumbling blocks of the whole NHL lockout. They still differed on how much of a cap each team should have: the NHL wanted $40 million and the union wanted $52 million. They got as close as $42.5 mil and $49 mil, and it seemed they would work something out by this morning's deadline, which came and went. Even right up to the 1 p.m. scheduled press conference by commissioner Gary Bettman, it seemed inevitable that the two sides would hammer out a deal and the league would roll out a 28-game season and playoffs. And then, at 1 p.m., Bettman announced they would scrap the season. I, for one, was shocked that they would come so far and then just let the season go over $6.5 million. And yes, Bettman, you weasel, I know that works out to almost $200 million if you factor in all 30 teams, but for Hakan Loob's sake, the owners got what they wanted. The players gave in to a salary cap. You had cost control, and you let the season slip away. The NHL is now the first major pro league to cancel an entire season due to labor strife. Now the question is whether next season will start on time. Both sides have said their offers are off the table, so seemingly, they're back where they started. As an NHL fan, I wanted to see them salvage something from this season. Oh well, screw 'em.

In happier sports news, (for me anyway), Ted Rogers, the owner of the Blue Jays recently announced he was renaming the SkyDome to the Rogers Centre, replacing their crappy old artificial turf, and pumping $210 million into the team's payroll over the next three years. They'll still struggle in the AL East, but at least they're attempting to try. GM JP Ricciardi said he expects the team to finish over .500 next season, which will be a huge improvement over last year's hideous season but still a ways off from being a contender with the Yanks and Red Sox. Oh well, at least they're going to be playing this year.

Retired slugger Jose Canseco's been making the rounds hyping his new book, which purportedly spills the beans on the rampant steroid abuse in baseball. As much of a knucklehead as he is, Canseco's got a lot of people nervous. Baseball was already reeling from the BALCO scandal, and this doesn't help. Nice way to start the season.

I'll be back tomorrow with my MP3 of the week.

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Funky But Chic

Hey. I've meant to blogmatize over the last several days, but I've been busy. Anyhoo, here's the second MP3 in my weekly series. This week, I'm featuring a band that predated the latest Detroit rock 'splosion by a full decade: Big Chief. Formed in the late '80s by a group of punk veterans, Big Chief took their music in a different direction, combining the sludge of Sabbath and the MC5 with some seriously funky grooves a la Parliament Funkadelic. But they weren't aping the Red Hot Chili Peppers or Fishbone; these guys had a distinct and awesome sound. They put out several singles on Sub Pop, which were compiled on Drive It Off, before making their debut with 1991's Face. I first became aware of them in '93 when they released Mack Avenue Skullgame, a faux movie soundtrack about big pimpin'; my buddy Johnny Mack's sister worked at Sub Pop and sent him some new tapes, one of which was the new Big Chief. It looked intriguing to me, but I stuck with the Mudhoney and Nirvana stuff I was listening to at the time. Then the following year, I caught a Big Chief video on MTV for Lion's Mouth, the first single off Platinum Jive, their major-label debut on Capitol; the song kicked butt so I ran out and picked it up and it quickly became one of my favorites of the year. Not long after, I purchased Mack Avenue Skullgame, which I also dug immensely. Alas, there were no more Big Chief albums; apparently, they weren't "grungy" enough for Capitol and the band decided to hang it up in '96. They recorded a record backing up Thornetta Davis, who sang backup on their albums, but other than that, they've gone their separate ways--much like Journey, only different. Here's a sweet track from Mack Avenue Skullgame, One Born Every Minute (Doc's Theme). Enjoy, and don't forget, if you like what you hear, buy one of their albums; they're wicked cheap now!

In other news, the New England Patriots won the Super Bowl for the third time in four years. Pretty amazing stuff. It was also their third championship won by a field goal. Earlier that day, I attended another Lowell Lock Monsters game with my bro-in-law Steve; this time against the Hartford Wolf Pack. Gave me an excuse to break out my old Whalers jersey. Lowell shut out the Rangers farm team, 3-0.

Looks like that will be the only pro hockey we'll see around here. The NHL supposedly set Sunday as a drop dead date for cancelling the season, although the players union has already told the league to drop dead several times. At this point, just put us out of our misery so we can move on already, you money-grubbing bastages.

Speaking of money-grubbing bastages, it appears that Major League Baseball is looking to corner the market on fantasy baseball leagues by forcing them to pay exorbitant licensing fees. Now for you normal, law-abiding folks, that's no big deal. But for rotisserie baseball geeks like myself, this is just another case of the Man trying to keep us down. According to this column from RotoTimes.com (thanks to my Jays-lovin' homies at Battersbox.ca for the tip), MLB is trying to horn in on the free (or inexpensive) fantasy baseball leagues offered by ESPN, Yahoo and CBS Sportsline. So far, they've been rebuffed by all but one company, MLB Advanced Media, which paid $50 million for "exclusive rights" to host fantasy games for five years. The other companies have purchased licenses in the past to use logos, photos, etc., but now MLB is essentially claiming that companies should pay to provide the stats, which are universally considered public data. Some of the companies have filed a lawsuit challenging the deal with MLB Advanced Media, but they also have refused to take any signups from leagues yet. With training camp about to start, it should be interesting to see how this shakes out.

Here's some more nerdosity, but from the world of rock. My good friend Dr. Doobs turned me on to this awesomely dorky and fun site, BandtoBand, which does the "Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon" thing with rock bands. It's ridiculously fun. You click on two band names, no matter how disparate, and it instantly details how they're linked. For example, it linked hair metal poofs Slaughter and indie gods Husker Du in 19 steps; according to the site, the longest-known link is 32 steps.

All right, I've been at the computer all day. Enuff z'nuff.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Let There Be Rock

As my 3.5 regular readers are well aware, I enjoy the rock and/or roll. I also enjoy writing about said rock and/or roll, and since I already have a forum, I have upgraded my techomology to now feature some of that music on a weekly basis. Mucho thanks to AJ "'Ello guvna" Aranyosi for donating the server space for me to host one of them there MP3 files from my music collection every week. Don't look for anything remotely popular or overly familiar here. I'll try to dig up some of cool stuff that you just don't hear much, or at all, anymore. To download tracks, please right-click on link and select "Save as." Any MP3s offered here are for reviewing purposes only; if you like what you hear, buy the album, dammit.

For my initial offering, I'd like to bring you a track from the debut album of a fine band from my former home and native land, O Canada. Ten Fingers is the second song off the 1988 release Love Junk from The Pursuit of Happiness, an excellent Toronto-based power pop act that scored an MTV hit off the same disc with "I'm an Adult Now." Led by the uber-nerdy Moe Berg, TPOH packed quite a wallop with the combination of Berg's sardonic tales of romantic d'oh, crunching guitars, and sweet female backing vocals.

Back in my senior year of college (waaaaay back in '89), I saw TPOH opening up for Duran Duran of all groups at the Worcester Centrum. I had accompanied the incomparable Art Lizie, the arts editor at our college paper The New Hampshire (I was a staff reporter and general layabout). TPOH kicked butt live, blowing the aging Durannies off the stage (this was during a serious down period for DD, before one of their several comebacks). We were supposed to go backstage after the show to interview Moe and the band, but there was a mixup and they left early.

Alas, I never got to see them live again, and after two more major-label releases, they got lost in the grunge goldrush of the early '90s and faded from view. TPOH released two fine albums on a Canadian indie before calling it a day in the late '90s; in 2000, Razor and Tie released Sex & Food: The Best of The Pursuit of Happiness, a worthy greatest-hits comp with several unreleased tracks and liner notes from Berg. As the ever-dorky Kurt Loder used to intone before MTV put him in a retirement home, do check them out.