Thursday, September 30, 2010

Mixology: Child of Vision

Mixology is a recurring feature in which I take a look at one of the many mix tapes I made over the years. Some are better than others, but all of them are fun to revisit.

Child of Vision (summer 1981)

Jumping in the Wayback Machine for this one, the third in a trilogy of clock radio tapes I made as a young 'un up in Toronto (check out parts 1 and 2). As with the others, I don't have a lot of descriptive information on the mix, just a crappy old Exxel 60-minute cassette with some band names scribbled on it. I'm guessing I made it sometime in the summer of '81, again taping all the songs off Toronto rock stations CHUM-FM and Q107.

As I've documented previously, it was a bittersweet summer because I had a blast but knew we were going to be moving soon to Washington state, where my dad had already moved in June. We would follow in late November, but for the moment, I was enjoying myself. I hung out with my buddies in Pickering, Ontario, played a lot of street hockey and soccer, rode my bike a lot, listened to a lot of rock on the radio. It was a good year for the brand of commercial hard rock I loved; some of the albums I was enjoying included Rush's Moving Pictures, Van Halen's Fair Warning, April Wine's Nature of the Beast, The Who's Face Dances, Foreigner 4, Styx's Paradise Theater and later in the year, the Stones' Tattoo You and Black Sabbath's Mob Rules.

I tried not to think about what lay ahead for me. Even more immediate was the prospect of Pickering High School, where I would essentially have to make all new friends because most of mine were going to the other high school in town. And of course, once I finally got into the swing of things there, we moved.

The mix starts off with a Pat Benatar song, which doesn't quite get all the way through before it cuts into AC/DC's "You Shook Me All Night Long." The tape's heavy with AC/DC (three songs) and Van Halen (two). My strategy was just to have the tape ready to go and to wait for a song I liked before hitting the record button.

But the difference with this mix is after we moved to Richland, Washington, I apparently decided to inject a little more personality into the tape. After Foreigner's "Urgent" (which was a hot jam in '81; funny what a sax solo will do for a song), suddenly you hear dorky 14-year-old Jay Kumar interjecting with some DJ action. I know exactly when this was recorded, because I actually say it was 8:52 p.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 12, 1982. I guess I taped over a song, but I have no memory of which one. I come back with some more jibba jab and then introduce VH's "Unchained." Then I return at the end of side 1, where I start praising my mix tape-making abilities. The funny part is my then 9-year-old brother, whom I shared a room with at the time, was giving me crap in the background (which sadly, you can't hear), so I'm telling him to shut up and go to sleep. I finish by hyping some other mixes I made before I get cut off when the side ends. Side 2 continues unabated until the very end after AC/DC's "TNT," when I jump in again for some more wackiness (you can hear these snippets as well as one I made on another tape in episode 141 of CompCon).

Nearly 30 years after I made the tapes, I had no recollection of doing these little voiceovers. And I never recorded myself again until I started doing my podcast four years ago. Sure, it's embarrassing to hear these dorky recordings now, but they also make me wonder what was going through that kid's head back in '82 when I recorded them. I honestly have no idea, but it's kinda funny that at age 43, I'm still recording myself jibba-jabbing into a microphone.

Side 1
Shadows of the Night - Pat Benatar
You Shook Me All Night Long - AC/DC
Roller - April Wine
Child of Vision - Supertramp
Urgent - Foreigner
DJ JK (1/12/82)
Unchained - Van Halen
Emotional Rescue - Rolling Stones
The Waiting - Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
DJ JK, part 2

Side 2
D'yer Maker - Led Zeppelin
I Can't Stand It - Eric Clapton
I Can See for Miles - The Who
Roundabout - Yes
Mean Street - Van Halen
Hell's Bells - AC/DC
DJ JK, part 3



Monday, September 27, 2010

Completely Conspicuous 145: Comedy is Not Pretty

Guest Ric Dube joins me on the podcast as we conclude our discussion about comedy. Listen to the show in streaming audio or download it directly (right click and "save as").

The show notes...


- Appearing on The Tonight Show doesn't have same impact it once did

- Three categories of comedy

- 1) Comics who came up as standups and leave it behind for acting

- 2) Comics who both act and do standup

- 3) New comics who are like indie rockers

- Comedians are getting the word out online, through podcasts, live shows

- The Dane Cook conundrum: his fans aren't necessarily comedy fans

- Howard Stern: Going to satellite meant too much of the dwarves and strippers

- YouTube is a goldmine for comedy fans

- The Onion News Network keeps National Lampoon aesthetic alive

- Ric liked The Onion Movie

- Comedy album is not what it once was

- Dube just bought new Doug Benson album directly from his site

- Adam Carolla does free podcast, sells downloadable live shows

- Sponsored podcasts are similar to 1950s television

- Comedians use online marketing to build their audiences

- Dube: Comedy is still very healthy

- Check out Dube's special comedy episode of More Lost Time

- Bonehead of the Week


Eternal Summers - A Salty Salute

Johnny Foreigner - The Most Beautiful Widow

The Thermals - Never Listen to Me

Teenage Fanclub - What You Do to Me

Completely Conspicuous is available through the iTunes podcast directory. Subscribe and write a review!

The show is sponsored by Eastbay/ Use the following codes to get athletic gear from Nike, Adidas, Asics and more. AFCOMP15 will get you 10% off any order of $50 at, AFCOMP20 will get you 15% off any order of $75 at and AFCOMPFL will get you 10% off any order of $50 or more at

The Eternal Summers song is on the band's new album Silver on Kanine Records. Download the song for free at RCRDLBL.

The Johnny Foreigner song is a Sparklehorse cover the band's label Alcopop! is giving away at Clicky Clicky.

The Thermals song is on the album Personal Life on Kill Rock Stars. Download the song for free at Pitchfork.

The Teenage Fanclub song is on the album Bandwagonesque and the compilation Four Thousand Seven Hundred and Sixty-Six Seconds. Download the song for free at Insound.

The opening and closing theme of Completely Conspicuous is "Theme to Big F'in Pants" by Jay Breitling. Find out more about Senor Breitling at his fine music blogs Clicky Clicky and Keeping Some Dark Secrets. Additional music used in the show is by Me and Boris the Bull, which is the brainchild of the mighty Mark Campbell; find out more at . Thanks to Bob Durling for the album art; find out more about his photography at his blog.

Completely Conspicuous is a Tan God Production. Word.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Mixology: Unbridled Confusion (Summer '90)

Mixology is a recurring feature in which I take a look at one of the many mix tapes I made over the years. Some are better than others, but all of them are fun to revisit.

Unbridled Confusion (6/24/90)

The beginning of a new decade is always filled with such promise. As a 22-year-old, I had just finished my first year as a reporter at the Peabody Times and I was picturing a long, meteoric career in journalism. I lasted another five years before moving on to a gig in trade publishing, but in '90, the future seemed bright.

As I've noted in many of these posts, it's mind-boggling to consider how long ago these tapes were made. At this point in 1990, Twin Peaks had just premiered two months earlier. I was on board that train right from the beginning. LOVED that show, and that first season was especially good. In the coming months, new shows that premiered included Northern Exposure, Law and Order, Beverly Hills 90210 and the immortal Cop Rock.

This was a fun summer. I had a steady girlfriend for the first time in a while and there was a core group of reporters at the papers (Peabody and Beverly Times) that hung out together. We did a lot of drinking back then, but most of us were in our early 20s. I was living in Wenham with three roommates at the time.

I had joined a gym in January because I was sick of being pudgy and lost 25 pounds in the first three months. I wasn't running then, just doing the Nautilus circuit three times a week and using cardio machines like the Stairmaster and exercise bike. I actually didn't start running regularly until after I was dating Deb for a while in the late '90s.

This mix is all over the place musically. Some of the songs were big on rock radio that summer, some were just on CDs I had picked up and was digging at the time. The James Brown track is off Live at the Apollo, which is a terrific album. I also included a bunch of newer alt-rock stuff from vinyl I had ordered through Columbia House: Chili Peppers, Faith No More, Camper Van Beethoven, Lou Reed (really dug his New York album) and Replacements. The U2 song was later released on their B-sides album, but I had it on vinyl I had picked up in Toronto. For a few years in the late '80s, I got ahold of just about every B-side U2 released, which was no easy feat. At this time, they were laying low after the Rattle and Hum movie bombed, but they were in Germany making the awesome Achtung Baby album, which is arguably their best (I used to always say Joshua Tree was their best, but I'm coming around on AB). But as a whole, the mix reminds me of a carefree summer, which the summer of '90 certainly was.

Side A
Young Lust - Aerosmith
Cradle of Love - Billy Idol
Up to No Good - Peter Wolf
Good Times - David Baerwald
Jealous Again - Black Crowes
The Three Sunrises - U2
The Ocean - Led Zeppelin
Summer Nights - Van Halen
The Way It Is - Tesla
Think (live) - James Brown

Side B
Good Time Boys - Red Hot Chili Peppers
Epic - Faith No More
Eye of Fatima - Camper Van Beethoven
Blow at High Dough - Tragically Hip
Busload of Faith - Lou Reed
I'll Be You - Replacements
Theme from Rocky and Bullwinkle - Birdsongs of the Mesozoic
Tie Dye on the Highway - Robert Plant
I Think I Love You Too Much - Jeff Healey Band
Hangover - Max Webster

Jealous Again:

I'll Be You:

Friday, September 24, 2010

Danger! High Voltage

Some music purists have a problem with so-called "joke bands." Whether it's straight parody artists like Weird Al Yankovic or more gimmicky acts like Dread Zeppelin, bands that are less than serious about their craft often get short shrift from critics and rock snobs. I have no such qualms, so long as there's real rock spirit behind the mayhem. That's why I like bands like the Upper Crust (a great Boston-based act of the '90s whose members dressed like aristocratic fops and sounded like AC/DC) and Beatallica (which literally sounds like Metallica playing Beatles songs). Because underneath the joke, they legitimately rock.

It's also why I'm a fan of the Electric Six, a Detroit-based band that fuses hard rock and disco into an unholy conflagration that is undoubtedly awesome. And it's why despite being tired from a long week of work and a Tuesday night Superchunk show, I ventured into Cambridge last night to check out the E6 at the Middle East.

I had been into the band for a few years, thanks to a couple of my buddies who turned me onto them. I was prepared to pass on the show just because it was a busy week, but my friend AJ picked up a couple of extra tickets and persuaded me to join him and our friend Charlie. I knew it was going to be a late night and sure enough, the announced start time was 11:30 for the E6. That didn't deter me, but when I arrived in Central Square, I found out that Charlie had bailed and AJ was off dealing with an injured dog. So I hung out at the Middle East, had a few beers and then ventured downstairs to see the show.

The club was at about 75% capacity, but the place went nuts at 11:45 when the E6 came out and it was quickly apparent why: the band totally smokes live. Frontman Dick Valentine led the band through a set that combined songs from the new album Zodiac and some of the absurdist classics from the previous six albums including "Gay Bar," "Down at McDonaldz," "Danger! High Voltage," "Dance Commander" and "She's White." AJ and his girlfriend Tanya showed up about halfway through the set and joined in the sweaty, dancing throng. The band played a 70-minute set; I wish they'd come out a half hour earlier and played some more songs, but they certainly held nothing back.

Yeah, the Electric Six are pretty jokey, but who cares when they bring the rock like that? Bottom line is, they're a helluva lot of fun.

Danger! High Voltage:

Down at McDonaldz:

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Hyper Enough

After having a nice birthday dinner with the family, I enjoyed a rock dessert. I headed down to the Royale (formerly known as the Roxy) in Boston to see the mighty Superchunk, on their first tour in many moons. I've enjoyed the band since 1994's Foolish album, but I'd never seen them live. Opening the show was Versus, a band I'm less familiar with but still well aware of their legendary indie rock status.

I met up with Senor Breitling and ran into some other Boston rock blog notables: Michael Piantigini, who's the new managing editor of Clicky Clicky; Brad Searles, the proprietor of the great Bradley's Almanac; and Bryan Hamill, who writes the Ash Gray Proclamation. Versus played an excellent set of newer stuff and old classics, with Richard Baluyut wringing some awesomeness out of his SG and singing some nice harmonies with bassist Fontaine Toups. The band recently released its first album in a decade on Merge Records, which is the label run by Superchunk's Mac McCaughan and Laura Ballance.

The Chunk played a rousing 90-minute set peppered with songs from their fine new album Majesty Shredding ("Digging for Something" and "My Gap Feels Weird" were highlights) and with older nuggets from the '90s including "Slack Motherfucker," "Hyper Enough," "Like a Fool," "Driveway to Driveway," "Detroit Has a Skyline" and "Precision Auto." McCaughan bounced around the stage like the Energizer bunny while lead guitarist Jim Wilbur laid down some serious solos right in front of me. Wilbur had fun giving and taking shit from some old buddies of his in the crowd and the band gave props to the city by covering songs by Sebadoh and local hardcore heroes SS Decontrol. Ballance still looked very much the indie rock bass babe and drummer Jon Wurster, resplendent in a purple shirt, pounded away like a madman. The last half hour of the show was pretty just pile-driving punk, leading to the formation of another '90s relic, an actual mosh pit.

Not a bad way to spend a birthday, not bad at all.

Hyper Enough:

Precision Auto (live on Jimmy Fallon):

Crash Years

And so I venture further into my 40s...

Yesterday, I turned 43. I know I say this every year, but I don't feel old. If it wasn't for the damn gray hair, I wouldn't look that old.

The only thing that makes me realize I'm getting old is the continual passing of milestones, such as my 25th high school reunion (which will unofficially take place next month. Unofficial, because apparently nobody was able to get an actual reunion together, so a bunch of us are just going to meet up for drinks up in Kingston) and just hitting 15 years at my current company.

And of course, my life has changed dramatically in the last eight years or so since we started having kids. My priorities are different now and that's a good thing. But I don't plan on becoming an old man any time soon.

Neil knows what I'm talkin' about:

Monday, September 20, 2010

Completely Conspicuous 144: Keep 'em Laughing

Special guest Ric Dube joins me on the podcast for part 2 of our conversation about comedy. Listen to the show in streaming audio or download it directly (right click and "save as").

The show notes...


- Ric don't need no Instant Google

- Corporate websites still suck

- As a kid, Dube had a book that reprinted comedy bits

- Early SNL had no respect for structure

- ABC Dunhill released a Gabe Kaplan album after "Welcome Back, Kotter" was a hit

- Making fun of Chinese people was no big deal in the '70s

- Jerry Lewis' terrible comeback flick Hardly Working

- Leno made a crappy buddy cop comedy with Pat Morita

- Dube saw Joe Piscopo and Treat Williams in "Dead Heat" in the theater

- SNL in the '80s was a mixed bag

- Dick Ebersol brought a sports philosophy to SNL

- Lorne Michaels returned in '85-'86 with new blood

- Eddie Murphy's "Comedian" album was one of first comedy albums Kumar bought

- Dube didn't have a problem with the PMRC

- Kumar knew most of the routines on Murphy's album before he actually heard them

- Murphy's more homophobic routines haven't aged well

- Kumar: Didn't enjoy watching raunchy shows on TV with parents

- Dube's dad took 6-year-old Ric to see Jack Lemmon's "Save the Tiger"

- Kumar was able to see Mel Brooks movies as a young kid thanks to lax Canadian movie ratings

- Ric's mom didn't see the psychological impact of "Dumbo" on kids of divorce

- Eddie Murphy's ice cream man bit came true with Ric's son

- Murphy was never the same after he started making music

- More comedic actors nowadays did not get start as standups

- Zach Galifanakis is great standup, good in movies

- Bonehead of the Week


The Black Angels - Telephone

The Henry Clay People - Switch Kids

Deer Tick - Piece by Piece, Frame by Frame

Completely Conspicuous is available through the iTunes podcast directory. Subscribe and write a review!

The show is sponsored by Budget, the country's premier car rental service with 900 locations. Go to and save 10% off any reservation or $30 off a weekly rental.

The Black Angels song is on the band's new album Phosphene Dream on Blue Horizon Records. Download the song for free at the Daily Rind.

The Henry Clay People song is an unreleased track the band is giving away for free.

The Deer Tick song is on the album The Black Dirt Sessions on Partisan Records. Download the song for free at Force Field PR.

The opening and closing theme of Completely Conspicuous is "Theme to Big F'in Pants" by Jay Breitling. Find out more about Senor Breitling at his fine music blogs Clicky Clicky and Keeping Some Dark Secrets. Additional music used in the show is by Me and Boris the Bull, which is the brainchild of the mighty Mark Campbell. Thanks to Bob Durling for the album art; find out more about his photography at his blog.

Completely Conspicuous is a Tan God Production. Word.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

This Boy is Exhausted

Another year, another 200-mile relay in the books. Actually, I feel pretty good considering that I just did the Reach the Beach Relay for the second time.

My teammate Bethann picked me up Friday at 6:15 a.m. and we met the rest of the 12-person team in Salem, NH, where we piled into the two 15-passenger vans we had rented for the event. The sun poked out on the way to Cannon Mountain, but the closer we got, the foggier it became. It was pretty raw and drizzly out when our first runner, Lisa, started the race at 11:20. The first van went out to support her while I joined van 2 first for lunch at the same diner we went to last year and then hung out at the cabin Bethann's parents own near Attitash (and right around the corner from our first transition area). I actually had been slated to be in van 1 this year, but one of the runners needed to finish early on Saturday because he had to work, so I switched with him. Even though the mileage was pretty much the same, I soon discovered I had the tougher legs to run.

We all caught a little extra sleep for an hour or two and then headed over to the transition area, where our first runner Kerri would take the baton and get things started for van 2. She started at 4:25 p.m. I was the second runner in our van and took over for a 6.61-mile leg that started in North Conway. The weather by this point was pretty terrific, sunny and in the 50s. I had to wear a headlamp and reflective vest and blinking lights because my run started after 5:30 p.m. (rules require that gear from 5:30 p.m. to 7 a.m.). The leg started off with some serious hills, but I felt strong and pushed through them. About halfway through, I was able to take advantage of some good downhills and picked up momentum. I passed several runners and was passed by three others. Finished it in just under 49 minutes, good for a 7:23 pace.

Our runners all did well on our first set of legs as it grew darker. We had a bit of a mishap when Bethann drove to the wrong transition area when LisaMarie was running (the course had been changed and a new area was added), so we had to rush back to correct area where LM was waiting. I took over the van driving for the last few as nearly everyone fell asleep and we got to the van transition area at NH Tech in Laconia around 10:30 p.m. I went into the school with fellow runners Kerri and Paul to get something to eat. We all got some turkey soup, which wouldn't be too filling but at least give us some fuel for the overnight runs. Van 1 was able to go to a pizza place after their first legs, so we were a little jealous. After eating, we went back to the van around 11 and got some sleep. I was in the driver's seat with a pillow jammed up against the window and managed to get a few hours of fitful rest, but it was better than last year when I barely got any.

I woke up around 3 a.m. and rousted Kerri so she could get ready for her 4.33-mile leg (which I ran last year). It was pretty chilly out, in the mid-40s. Just before 4 a.m., Kerri handed off to me in Belmont for leg 20, a 9.23-mile corker that had the distinction of being the toughest leg in the whole relay. Longest distance and biggest hills. This bad boy basically rose straight up for 5-plus miles before finally dropping and then rising again at the end. It was pretty black out there, but there were the occasional streetlights and passing vans or other vehicles to light up the road. Mainly, I relied on my headlamp and tried to focus on the ground right in front of me so I could avoid any potholes or other hazards. My left hamstring was a bit tight from the first run and my lack of stretching afterward, but it didn't hamper me too much. On the big hills, I just tried to keep my stride short and followed a runner in front of me for a while. I had the van check in on me at a few points for water. I walked for about a minute at the top of the biggest hill and then proceeded to haul ass down the other side. I got through it in 1:16, an 8:14 pace. It was a great feeling to see that transition area, although I spotted the lights off in the distance and had no idea how far away it was at first. I got there and Mark, the runner I was to hand off the baton to, was nowhere in sight. Turns out he was stuck in the PortaPotty line (those lines grew pretty long, as you can imagine). I was glad to wait for him, just thankful I didn't have to run his tough 8.5-mile leg for him.

By the time Mark finished his leg, the sun was starting to come out. I was also starting to have some stomach issues, which I think were the result of a combination of lack of a solid meal and a lack of sleep. Mark struggled with the same thing during his run; I was thankful that it only came on after I was done running. We finished our second set of legs around 9:10 a.m. and then handed off to van 1 to start their final set of legs. As we did last year, we drove to the Airport Diner in Manchester to grab some breakfast. There was much talk of pancakes, but nobody actually got them. I had the same thing I did last year: two eggs, toast and home fries. Nothing too volatile. I had felt pretty awake through the whole event, but it caught up to me at the diner. I could have put my head down on the table and just conked out right there. I certainly wanted to, but I didn't.

We drove to Kingston to my old high school, Sanborn Regional, to await van 1. It was a little different this year because the van transition area was at the new high school, about 2.4 miles from the old one, where the transition took place last year. We got there around noon and waited until about 2:15 before Kerri got started. Even though this was pretty much what we had planned on, we were all pretty exhausted and just wanted to get the whole thing over with. My stomach was still bothering me, but I just kept going to the PortaPotties and trying to get rid of whatever was left in my system.

We left Kerri there at 2 and drove down the road to the next area, where I would take over. She came in about 10 minutes faster than we had predicted, powered by the need to finish. I took the baton and headed out on the 6.69-mile to Exeter on Route 111, the same leg I did last year. I knew there was a big hill at mile 3 to contend with; I also knew my body was even more worn out than it was at 4 a.m. Still, I got off to a good start doing 8-minute miles and felt good at mile 3 when I saw my teammates, who were waiting with Gatorade. I told them to meet me at mile 5 and off I went. Unfortunately, I missed a key turn and kept going down 111. A guy working on his driveway actually yelled out to tell me I missed it, but I thought he was messing with me and kept running. Then of course, I noticed there weren't any signs along the route and was starting to doubt myself when a cyclist caught up with me about a half-mile down the road and told me I was going the wrong way. I thanked him, dropped a few choice f-bombs and backtracked until I got back on the right route. When I got to the van, they were concerned that I was injured because they had expected me about 10 minutes earlier. I explained the situation and kept going for the last 1.5 miles. I didn't feel tired anymore, just angry/embarrassed, and it powered me through those last miles. I finished the 7.7 in 1:03, an 8:10 pace, jumped in the van and we went to the next area.

We had four runners left, but we were up against it because we discovered that the finishing chute closed at 6 p.m. By our estimation, we were going to cut it close, so it put a little pressure on the final runners to finish strong. Mark, Lisa, Paul and Bethann all kicked butt and we got in at 5:50. Van 1 was already waiting for us and we all ran in with Bethann to cross the finish line and collect our medals. Our team time was 30 hours, 30 minutes, an 8:45 overall pace and 297th out of 430 teams. We wolfed down the food at the finish and then enjoyed a few beers in the Red Hook beer tent before heading back to Salem, NH, to drop off the vans, which Mark and Chad were going to return today. I got home right at 9 p.m., showered and was in bed by 10.

I managed to get about 10 hours of sleep before Hannah woke me up this morning. I'm obviously a bit sore today, but not too bad. I'll be running again Tuesday, but today, I was glad just to relax. And there's already talk of next year's team...

Thursday, September 16, 2010

24 Hour People Party

This time last year, I was up at Attitash, staying over with the rest of my Reach the Beach teammates before the big relay in the morning. I'm running in the 200-mile, 24-hour event again this year, but we're not heading up to Cannon Mountain in NH until tomorrow morning because our accommodations fell through. Of the 12 runners we had last year, five are returning and the rest are newbies.

We start off at 11:20 a.m., an hour earlier than last year. I was originally supposed to be in van 1, but had to switch with another runner to the other van because he had to leave early on Saturday. So I probably won't get going on my first leg until around 5 p.m., just like last year. My legs are 6.6, 9.2 and 6.7 miles. I'm looking forward to it. Should be a lot of fun again.

Obviously, I won't be blogging, but I will post the occasional Twitter update so check the lower right corner of this page if you're not on the Twitter to see what I'm up to. We should be at the finish at Hampton Beach sometime Saturday afternoon. I'm hoping to get a little more sleep on the van this year; last year, I think I got a total of 3 hours sleep. At any rate, wish me luck and I'll check in Sunday night (going to the Sox-Jays game at Fenway on Sunday afternoon).

Mixology: Real Loud Choo-Choo Sounds

Mixology is a recurring feature in which I take a look at one of the many mix tapes I made over the years. Some are better than others, but all of them are fun to revisit.

Real Loud Choo-Choo Sounds (4/18/89)

Yes, I know, another wacky mix tape name. Hey, there's only so many phrases with "mix" in them.

This mix was made at a pivotal point in my life. It was about three weeks before I graduated from UNH. I had already landed a post-graduation job at the Peabody Times, thanks to the internship I did there the previous summer. The call came in early April, so that pressure to find gainful employment was already gone with about six weeks to go in my college career. Add that to the fact that I was only taking three courses, none of which had final exams, and I was only going to class on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and I was a pretty carefree guy. Much of those final six weeks was spent playing Wiffleball, drinking beer and...well, that was pretty much it. I don't regret one second of that extended leisure period because since June 5, 1989, I've been working non-stop.

There were plenty of things I didn't foresee in April 1989: The eventual decline of newspapers, the rise of the Internet, my becoming interested in running as a leisure activity, settling down in Beverly, Mass., the iPod, Baconnaise...the list goes on. But I'm glad I had the good sense to enjoy myself that last year of school. After my internship, I had amassed enough credits that I could have graduated in December '88, but I decided to spread out the three courses I needed to take over a full year. It was a fun year, that's for sure.

The mix features a combination of stuff I taped from my roommate Rob's CD collection (Beatles, Springsteen, Traveling Wilburys, Billy Joel) and from my own vinyl collection (everything else). I still didn't own a CD player, but my dad got me one as a graduation gift. The tape starts off pretty kickass, especially with the Zep and Aerosmith tunes (which were featured on a tape made by my friend Marc that he played in the newsroom of the school paper). "We're Gonna Groove" is actually a Ben E. King song, but Zeppelin recorded it in '69 and had originally planned to include it on Led Zeppelin II. It didn't make the cut and ended up on the B-sides collection Coda, but holy hell, they rock the shit out of it. I'm not sure why I went from the awesome peak of that song to the plunging depths of the Billy Joel tune, but it's a pretty weak ending. Anything from Glass Houses would have been preferable, but what's done is done.

Side A
Why Don't We Do It in the Road? - Beatles
Ziggy Stardust - David Bowie
Desperate People - Living Colour
We're Gonna Groove - Led Zeppelin
No More No More - Aerosmith
Division Street - Jon Butcher
See the Light - Jeff Healey Band
Looking for Girls - The Pursuit of Happiness
Manic Depression - Jimi Hendrix Experience
I've Had Enough - The Who
Keep It Dark - Genesis

Side B
Chewing Gum - Elvis Costello
Drop Dead Legs - Van Halen
Message of Love - Pretenders
Good Thing - Fine Young Cannibals
It's Different for Girls - Joe Jackson
Romeo and Juliet - Dire Straits
Candy's Room - Bruce Springsteen
End of the Line - Traveling Wilburys
Lady Madonna - Beatles
Walking on the Moon - The Police
The Night is Still Young - Billy Joel

We're Gonna Groove:

Message of Love:

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Completely Conspicuous 143: Hardy Har Har

Special guest Ric Dube joins me on the podcast as we discuss our comedy influences. Listen to the show in streaming audio or download it directly (right click and "save as").

The show notes...


- Dube got into standup comedy through listening to albums with his dad

- Johnny Carson's Tonight Show was huge for comedians

- Only three main channels in the '60s and '70s

- Audience is diluted now by cable, DVRs, Internet

- Kumar: Listened to sketch comedy on radio from National Lampoon, Firesign Theater

- Watched SNL, Fridays, SCTV

- Stereos used to be furniture

- Dube's uncle would invite friends over to listen to new comedy LPs

- Kumar: Watched reruns of "Bob Newhart Show" with dad

- Comedy in the '70s went from a social to a solitary experience

- Differing opinions on SCTV

- Kids in the Hall was a brilliant show

- Letterman's 12:30 a.m. NBC show was amazing

- Kumar went to one of the last Letterman shows on NBC; Leno was guest

- Leno was hilarious back in the day

- Marc Maron's podcast features great interview with Judd Apatow

- As 16-year-old, Apatow interviewed Seinfeld, Leno, Shandling about comedy

- Steve Martin's autobiography focuses on standup days

- Martin got a job at Disneyland to get into showbiz

- Apatow started as a busboy in a comedy club

- Bonehead of the Week


Japandroids - Heavenward Grand Prix

Marnie Stern - Transparency is the New Mystery

Grinderman - Heathen Child

Completely Conspicuous is available through the iTunes podcast directory. Subscribe and write a review!

The show is sponsored by Eastbay/, a leading supplier of athletic footwear, apparel and sports equipment. Use promo code AFCOMP15 to get 10% off any order of $50 or more at, AFCOMP20 to get 15% off any order of $75 or more at, and AFCOMPFL to get 10% off any order of $50 or more at

The Japandroids song is part of the band's ongoing 7-inch single series. Download the song for free at Pitchfork.

The Marnie Stern song is from her eponymous forthcoming album on Kill Rock Stars Records. Download the song for free at Stereogum.

The Grinderman song is on the Grinderman 2 album on ANTI Records. Download the song for free at Chromewaves.

The opening and closing theme of Completely Conspicuous is "Theme to Big F'in Pants" by Jay Breitling. Find out more about Senor Breitling at his fine music blogs Clicky Clicky and Keeping Some Dark Secrets. Additional music used in the show is by Me and Boris the Bull, which is the brainchild of the mighty Mark Campbell. Thanks to Bob Durling for the album art; find out more about his photography at his blog.

Completely Conspicuous is a Tan God Production. Word.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Mixology: Mindful Aggression

Mixology is a recurring feature in which I take a look at one of the many mix tapes I made over the years. Some are better than others, but all of them are fun to revisit.

Mindful Aggression (1/22/91)

Less than a week before this tape was made, Operation Desert Storm began. I went to an Indian restaurant on Route 1 with a couple of friends and when we came out, the news was on the radio that U.S.-led forces had begun bombing Iraqi forces in Kuwait. It was a strange time. It was the first real war of my generation; Vietnam was happening when I was a little kid, but I didn't know what it was (and besides, I lived in Canada, which wasn't involved in the conflict). This was some heavy shit. I was 23 at the time. I remember a bunch of us hanging out, watching the constant war coverage on CNN with a combination of awe and dismay. There was a general feeling of helplessness and wondering why the U.S. was getting involved in this thing.

Despite the objections of me and my friends, the nation was whipped up into a jingoistic frenzy by the Gulf War. Super Bowl XXV took place on January 27, with the New York Giants taking on the Buffalo Bills. Whitney Houston sang the national anthem in such electrifying fashion that it ended up being released as a single and hit #20 on the charts. The Giants edged the Bills 20-19 when Bills kicker Scott Norwood missed a field goal in the dying seconds. I was living on Butman Street with my roommate Bryan and was extremely bummed by the missed FG, not just because I was rooting for the Bills but also because I would have won $250 in a Super Bowl squares pool had he made it. I had already won $225 from the halftime score, which a few days later I would have to hand over to the oil guy to get our heat working again. Brutal.

The day after this tape was made, I headed off to the Worcester Centrum to see the mighty Iron Maiden with my buddy Tat. In February, I saw Living Colour up at UNH and INXS at the Centrum. Later on in the spring, I saw An Emotional Fish and The Tragically Hip in separate shows at the Paradise in Boston, which was my introduction to the joy of club shows. I had been to a few before at the Channel (Black Crowes, Death Angel), but these shows opened my eyes to the vitality of seeing a band in a room as opposed to an arena. Previously, most of the concerts I had attended were in hockey rinks or amphitheaters. It was definitely a revelation.

I was still a big radio listener at this time, mostly WFNX and WBCN. Still, a lot of the songs on this tape were never heard on the radio around here. I was all about the guitar rock, weaning myself off the metal and listening to a lot of bluesy stuff as well. Neil Young's Ragged Glory was an absolute ass-kicker that I was digging at the time. Later in the year, the Temple of the Dog and Soundgarden's Badmotorfinger got me into a whole new area of rock that I would explore for the rest of the decade.

As for the Gulf War, it didn't last too long. The ground campaign began on February 24 and 100 hours later, a cease fire was declared and President George Bush declared Kuwait liberated. Of course, that was from the last time U.S. forces were sent overseas in the coming years. Back home, things went back to normal. For those of us in our early 20s, when we weren't working, there was much goofing off to do and Rolling Rock to be consumed. That was about as complicated as things got back then.

Side A
Drive Time - Rik Emmett
Deep Dive - Kim Mitchell
Baby's on Fire - David Lee Roth
The Candy Song - Masters of Reality
It's Love - King's X
Raspberry Beret - Hindu Love Gods
Burger Man - ZZ Top
The Forecast (Calls for Pain) - Robert Cray
Keep On Loving Me Baby - Colin James
Telephone Song - The Vaughan Brothers
High Landrons - Eric Johnson
Mansion on the Hill - Neil Young and Crazy Horse

Side B
Suicide Blonde - INXS
This and That - Michael Penn
Love Rears its Ugly Head - Living Colour
Phone Call from the Moon - Adrian Belew
Still Got the Blues - Gary Moore
Traveling Riverside Blues - Led Zeppelin
Prodigal Blues - Billy Idol
2000 Blues - ZZ Top
She Talks to Angels - The Black Crowes
Expedition Sailor - Kim Mitchell
Tick Tock - The Vaughan Brothers

It's Love:

Traveling Riverside Blues:

Monday, September 06, 2010

Completely Conspicuous 142: Back to Work

This week on the podcast, it's another installment of Driving with Kumar as I discuss the daily commute. Listen to the show in streaming audio or download it directly (right click and "save as").

The show notes...


- We spend a good chunk of our lives commuting

- I've got a 25-minute commute now

- First job out of college was in Peabody, Mass.

- Commute shortened from 45 to 20 to 5 minutes

- Longest commute was to Cambridge, nearly 90 minutes

- Salem is super-busy in fall with tourists

- My commute's about to change for the better

- Plenty of folks who commute for hours each day

- More people are willing to travel farther

- I like working closer to home

- Telecommuters can work from anywhere

- People do many other things while driving

- Bumpy streets brought to you by town of Marblehead

- Cue old guy cell phone rant

- People get a lot braver behind the wheel

- Stereo helps make commute more bearable

- When I was a reporter, I was driving out to stories all day

- Commute's a good time to clear your head or do some thinking

- Ran to work a few times

- Bonehead of the Week


The 20/20 Project - Back to Work

Cee Lo Green - Georgia

The Knux - Floozy

Del the Funkee Homosapien - Phoney Phranchise

Completely Conspicuous is available through the iTunes podcast directory. Subscribe and write a review!

The show is sponsored by Budget, the country's premier car rental service. Go to and save 10% off any reservation or $30 off a weekly rental.

The 20/20 Project song is on the self-released EP Employees of the Year. Download the song and EP for free at

The Cee Lo Green song is from his forthcoming album The Lady Killer on Warner Bros. Records. Find out more and download the song for free at his site.

The Knux song is on the self-released EP F*ck You, which is available for free download via RCRDLBL.

The Del the Funkee Homosapien song is on the album Both Sides of the Brain on Hieroglyphics Imperium Records. The song is available through IODA Promonet:

Both Sides Of The BrainDel the Funky Homosapien
"Phoney Phranchise" (mp3)
from "Both Sides Of The Brain"
(Hieroglyphics Imperium)
Buy at Napster
Buy at iTunes Music Store
Buy at eMusic
Buy at Rhapsody
Stream from Rhapsody
Buy at Amazon MP3
Buy at appliedSB / MCNE (Groupietunes)
Buy at mTraks
More On This Album

The opening and closing theme of Completely Conspicuous is "Theme to Big F'in Pants" by Jay Breitling. Find out more about Senor Breitling at his fine music blogs Clicky Clicky and Keeping Some Dark Secrets. Additional music used in the show is by Me and Boris the Bull, which is the brainchild of the mighty Mark Campbell. Thanks to Bob Durling for the album art; find out more about his photography at his blog.

Completely Conspicuous is a Tan God Production. Word.

Sunday, September 05, 2010

Tale of the Tape

While cassettes have played a large role in my music-loving past, I was never much of a fan of the pre-recorded tape. I rarely bought them, preferring to buy the vinyl and make tapes with an album on each side. After I finally got my first CD player in 1989 as a graduation gift, I basically just made the jump from vinyl to CDs.

For some reason, I preferred to buy cassettes of albums I was taking a chance on. Usually, they were a little cheaper, too. I have cassettes from Public Enemy, De La Soul, Digital Underground (guess I wasn't completely a convert to hip hop at that point), as well as Van Halen's Diver Down and several comedy albums including Eddie Murphy's Comedian, which got a TON of play my junior year of high school.

But in October 1990, I bought three tapes that were a pretty good indicator of where I was and where I was headed musically. I had been subscribing to Rolling Stone for a few years and although the magazine was definitely well into its decline, I still read the reviews faithfully. Sure, every new Stones or Dylan album would get a 5-star review no matter what it sounded like, but every so often I would read about a band that sounded interesting. Around that time, I read about new releases from three bands that caught my attention: Mother Love Bone, Soul Asylum and Extreme.

The MLB review was from the band's first and only album, Apple. I had never heard of the band before, but I was intrigued by the review's favorable comparison of the band to Led Zeppelin and Queen, as well as the fact that the lead singer, Andrew Wood, had died of a heroin OD just days before the album was to be released in March 1990.

The other bands I was somewhat familiar with. I hadn't heard any Soul Asylum songs before, but the Minneapolis act had been around for a few years. And the Horse They Rode In On was the band's fifth album but their first for a major label (A&M). I don't really remember what it was that made me pick up the tape, but it certainly wasn't from hearing a song on the radio. Soul Asylum barely made a dent on rock radio (at least around here, anyway), but the band's next album, 1992's Grave Dancers Union, was a huge hit.

And Extreme was a Boston-area hard rock act that had received local radio airplay on WAAF, the hahd rawk station out of Worcester. I wasn't too impressed with what I'd heard, but the review I read highlighted the band's transformation into a funk-metal force on its second album Pornograffiti. I had been digging bands like Living Colour, the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Faith No More, as well as actual funk, so this sounded like something I could get into.

So I went down to the Lechmere department store (RIP) at the Liberty Tree Mall in Danvers, which at the time still had a sizable music department. Lechmere had a little bit of everything and it had started selling cassettes and CDs for decent prices, sometimes everything was $10 or less. I picked up the three tapes, having not heard a single note from any of them. It was the printed word that led me to check them out. I guess I bought the cassettes on the off chance they sucked; then they wouldn't befoul my glorious CD collection. I know, I know.

If you've read any installments of the Mixology series I've been doing, you know I grew up as a big fan of hard rock and metal. The Extreme album was a nice bridge from the DLR-era Van Halen (not so much of a coincidence, since Extreme singer Gary Cherone had a short-lived stint as VH lead singer in the late '90s) I loved to the funkier rock I was into in '90. Lots of big harmonies, heavy guitar riffing, Cherone's versatile vocals, but it was the guitars that made the difference. Guitarist Nuno Bettencourt was a monster on the album, especially on songs like "Get the Funk Out" and "It's a Monster," soloing all over the place and just exploding on the guitar nerd scene (within months, he would be on the covers of all the big guitar mags I loved to read). Of course, the songs that made the most impact were the ones that sounded nothing like the band: the dentist's office anthem "More Than Words" and the jangly acoustic "Hole Hearted." The album had been out for a few months when "More Than Words" was released as a single and the video was all over MTV; it eventually hit number one on the singles chart. By that time, I couldn't stand it. "Hole Hearted" was a decent song and notable for the video's inclusion of Boston Bruins Cam Neely and Lyndon Byers, and it hit #4. Extreme was on top of the world in '91. But by the time the band released its followup, the uber-pretentious TRIPLE-album III Sides to Every Story (get it?), in September 1992, the rock world had changed dramatically.

A substantial part of that change was due to Mother Love Bone. Yeah, yeah, Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit" was the Molotov rocktail that doomed hard rock and metal to a decade of disappointment. But the seeds were planted by bands like Soundgarden, Mudhoney and yes, Mother Love Bone. MLB had been playing around Seattle for a few years and its members were in influential bands like Green River and Malfunkshun before that. MLB is described as a grunge band, but I always felt that Mudhoney and Nirvana were the epitome of grunge: unapologetically grimy, loud and heavy. But MLB was an arena-rock band playing in clubs. Andrew Wood was a flamboyant frontman who namechecked Freddie Mercury and wore makeup while singing Zepplinesque rockers and backed by Stone Gossard and Jeff Ament, who went on to form Pearl Jam. This was the album that really had the biggest impact on me at the time and it was the gateway drug that got me into Nirvana, Mudhoney, Soundgarden, Temple of the Dog and Pearl Jam. It was a piece of the Seattle sound a full year before that exploded across the country. The album got no airplay whatsoever until nearly two years later, when the soundtrack to the movie Singles was released with MLB's "Crown of Thorns" on it. Mercury repackaged Apple and the band's previous EP Shine and the subsequent self-titled comp finally hit the charts.

As for the Soul Asylum album, it kinda came and went, but I enjoyed it immensely. Dave Pirner and the band had crafted a tight, crisp collection of alt-rock songs. Produced by session drummer Steve Jordan, the album revealed a band that had moved away from its snottier, punkier sound and into a more mature one. Songs like "Spinnin,'" "We 3" and "Veil of Tears" were instantly memorable. I looked forward to the next release, and Soul Asylum continued its evolution on Grave Dancers Union with a big-rock sound that really came together with songs like "Somebody to Shove," "Runaway Train" and "Black Gold." Sadly, the band was unable to capitalize on that huge success of an album with another hit. Every subsequent release absolutely tanked and Pirner became known more as Winona Ryder's scruffy boyfriend than anything else. But Soul Asylum got me to dig into the Minneapolis rock scene a little deeper and listen to bands like Husker Du and the Replacements, who now reside as rock royalty in my mind.

Fast forward to nearly 20 years later: Pearl Jam's still a major band with ex-Mother Love Bone dudes Gossard and Ament driving the engine. Soul Asylum's still together, although original bassist Karl Mueller died in 2005. According to the Wiggitypedia, Pirner and Soul Asylum are working on a new album, and supposedly Replacements (and GNR) member Tommy Stinson is now in the band. Extreme split up and reunited a few years back, although Bettencourt of late has been playing in pop singer Rihanna's backup band. And of course, cassettes live on only in the collections of dopes like me who never throw anything out.

Stardog Champion:

Veil of Tears:

Decadence Dance:

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Mixology: cool shit

Mixology is a recurring feature in which I take a look at one of the many mix tapes I made over the years. Some are better than others, but all of them are fun to revisit.

cool shit (1/22/95)

I've been searching for this mix for months now. I couldn't find it anywhere and was convinced I'd lost it until I was down in the basement to get a box fan and decided to poke through a stack of cassettes I have down there. Then I noticed a plastic bag with a couple of tapes in it; I think it was the remnants of the glove box from the old Civic I drove several years ago. And sure enough, this tape was in there. There's still a few more from this era that I have stashed away somewhere, but this was a good 'un.

In January '95, I was still working at the paper, still living on Essex Street downtown. I was also working at the YMCA part-time. It was there that I met a woman I'd been dating on-and-off for a few months. She was pretty cool, but she was also kinda crazy. Depending on the day of the week, she was either really into me or really distant. I stupidly put up with her crap until after the holidays, when I finally just stopped calling her. Cold turkey. Of course, I still saw her at the damn gym all the time, but then I found out she was seeing some other dude, so that made it easier to get over her. I haven't seen her in several years, but I'm sure she's making some other poor bastard miserable.

All that post-holiday piss and vinegar was evident on this mix from the song titles alone, some of them anyway: "Hooray for Me," "Hot Wire My Heart," "Fire in the Hole," "Piece of Crap." Guess I was trying to psych myself up a little bit. I saw Pulp Fiction a few times at the Cabot Theater in Beverly in January and loved it; the soundtrack was brilliant as well, so I picked it up and immediately threw two songs from it on this tape. Everything else was stuff I had been listening to in the previous few months.

For Christmas, my brother bought me Jon Spencer Blues Explosion's Orange, which totally blew me away. I just loved the raw energy of the band's lo-fi punk blues and went out and bought the previous album Extra Width. On the other end of the rock spectrum, I had picked up Jeff Buckley's Grace because I had heard his song "Mojo Pin" and it reminded me of Zeppelin. Some of the songs on the album bordered on hamminess, but there was no denying the sheer power of his voice.

Yeah, I was a little pissed off when I made this tape, but that was nothing compared to later in the year. It's all relative, I suppose.

Side A: cool
Misirlou - Dick Dale
One Time for Me - Reverend Horton Heat
Blues X Man - Jon Spencer Blues Explosion
Hooray for Me - Bad Religion
Hot Wire My Heart - Sonic Youth
Whipping - Pearl Jam
Coming Down - The Cult
Gee Angel - Sugar
Circus Envy - R.E.M.
Fire in the Hole - The Tragically Hip
Piece of Crap - Neil Young and Crazy Horse
Lion's Mouth - Big Chief
Having an Average Weekend - Shadowy Men on a Shadowy Planet
Coax Me - Sloan

Side B: shit
Mojo Pin - Jeff Buckley
Piggy - Nine Inch Nails
Where Did You Sleep Last Night - Nirvana
Corduroy - Pearl Jam
Comanche - The Revels
Cinco de Mayo - Liz Phair
Deep Shag - Luscious Jackson
Strange Currencies - R.E.M.
Lightning Crashes - Live
Shiny Like Gold - Orangutang
Grace, Too - The Tragically Hip
Full Grown - Jon Spencer Blues Explosion

Gee Angel:

Shiny Like Gold: