Tuesday, March 29, 2011

You Would Know

Josh Homme is not a guy who likes to sit idly by. Whether he's recording and touring with one of his three bands or assorted side projects, or producing bands like the Arctic Monkeys, Homme is constantly busy. Even though his main project, Queens of the Stone Age, doesn't have a new album out, the band is doing a tour behind the re-release of its 1998 self-titled debut, which had been out of print for years.

QOTSA played a sold-out House of Blues in Boston Saturday, playing the reissued album from top to bottom. QOTSA is infamous for its rotating lineup, but the band has been relatively stable of late: Homme on lead vocals and guitar, Troy Van Leeuwen on guitar and assorted other instruments, Dean Fertita on guitar and keyboards, Michael Shuman on bass and Joey Castillo on drums. The band relied on tight precision as it churned out the jagged riff-rockers of the debut album, including standout tracks "Regular John," "Avon," "If Only" and "Mexicola." Homme took most of the guitar solos, but occasionally traded leads with Van Leeuwen, while Castillo was his usual monstrous pounding self.


Despite the rather obscure nature of the album, the diehards in the audience knew the songs well, and a healthy mosh pit was roiling throughout most of the show. The songs combined the psychedelic sludginess of Homme's first band, Kyuss, with pop hooks to reveal the blueprint for QOTSA's later albums. At one point, Homme recalled the band's first visit to the area, playing the Middle East and cranking the fog machine so much that nobody could see much of anything.


As the set wound down, Homme joked that the band would come back to play Journey's first album. Instead, for the encore, QOTSA delved into songs from its catalog, breaking out "Sick, Sick, Sick" and "Into the Hollow" from 2007's Era Vulgaris, "Little Sister" and "Burn the Witch" from 2005's Lullabyes to Paralyze" and "Go With the Flow" and "No One Knows" from 2002's Songs for the Deaf. The latter song was deconstructed a bit, as each musician dropped off until only Homme was left singing, before the band kicked in again.


Alas, it was one of HOB's early Saturday night shows, meaning the concert was over by a shockingly early 9:30 so the rock crowd could clear out and the disco crowd could arrive a while later. Still, it was a rousing night of rock that had fans excited to hear what Homme and the band will come up with on the next QOTSA album.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Completely Conspicuous 169: Strange Brew

Part 2 of my podcast conversation with special guest Chris Lohring, brewer/founder of Notch Session beer as we discuss the rise of craft brewing in the U.S. Listen to the show below or download it directly (right click and "save as").



The show notes...


- Recorded at In a Pig's Eye in Salem, Mass.


- Chris was a bartender at legendary punk club The Rat in Boston in mid-'80s


- Samples came in from new brewer called Samuel Adams


- Met a local brewer and got interested in craft beer in '89


- Chris took a liking to porter at Cambridge Brewing Co.


- Visited Anchor Steam brewery in California


- Boston Brewers Festival in early '90s started to draw big crowds


- People in attendance had never tried most of the beers there


- Pete's Wicked Ale had a good run in the '90s


- Commonwealth Brewery was ahead of its time, first brew pub in Boston


- Craft beer peaked in '90s and then fizzled


- Many local brew pubs ended up closing


- In early '90s, there was an explosion of new craft breweries


- By end of the decade, many of those breweries went away


- Things dipped with the economy after 9/11/01


- Bounced back a few years later


- Now craft beer has always been around for young drinkers


- Craft beer is still a very small percentage of overall beer market


- More of a market now for products that aren't mass-produced: beer, bread, coffee


- Chris: Budweiser is a high-quality beer, it's just not flavorful


- Major brewers have tried making so-called craft beers over the years


- Chris: I actually like Bud American Ale


- Craft brewing scene is kinda like indie rock


- Fat Tire in Colorado and Sam Adams are seen by some beer snobs as sellouts because they've grown


- Chris: Every brewer and consumer owes respect to Jim Koch for introducing craft beer to the masses


- Chris: I don't get involved in beer snobbery


- For Notch, Chris hopes to meet demand and slowly grow from there


- Hope to expand Notch regionally, but find a balance


- Locally, Chris sees return to focus on local beers


- Nationally, he's hoping for "return to sanity"


- Innovation means product fits consumer need and it sells


- Need to find ways to expand craft beer category


- Session beer could be a good transition for folks trying craft beer


- Sam Adams Light was an interesting experiment


- Bonehead of the Week



Music:


Thurston Moore - Benediction


Tres Mts. - My Baby


The Biters - Born to Cry



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


The show is sponsored by Eastbay/Footlocker.com. 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 Eastbay.com, AFCOMP20 will get you 15% off any order of $75 at Eastbay.com and AFCOMPFL will get you 10% off any order of $50 or more at Footlocker.com.


The Thurston Moore song is on the forthcoming album Demolished Thoughts on Matador Records, where you can download the song for free.


The Tres Mts. song is on the album Three Mountains on Monkeywrench Records. Find out more and download the song for free (in exchange for your e-mail address) at the band's website.


The Biters song is from the EP All Chewed Up on Underrated Records. Find out more and download the song for free at the band's website.


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. Voiceover work is courtesy of James Gralian; check out his new site PodGeek.


Completely Conspicuous is a Tan God Production. Word.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Past Time

It's been a busy week, and the weekend will be almost as busy. Seems to be par for the course whenever it comes time for my fantasy baseball draft, which I'll be hosting here tomorrow morning. I'll be doing some late-night research because I have to head off to a pseudo bachelor party for a buddy in a little while.

But I came to the realization earlier this week that I've been playing fantasy baseball (or rotisserie baseball, as it was originally known) for 20 freakin' years. I also participate in fantasy football and hockey leagues, but baseball was the first. For you non-roto folks, this involves drafting a team of real players and then tracking their actual statistics through the season; the team with the most points wins. You act as a virtual general manager--trading, dropping and adding players throughout the season.

It was the spring of 1991 and I was working at the old Beverly/Peabody Times when I joined a league with three or four co-workers and a few other guys. I think they had been running the league, which was called Fenway Anyday, for a few years already. Unlike now, when everything is done online and stats can be tracked as they happen, we paid a stat service to track and compile statistics.

Each week, we'd receive a report via fax at the paper; we'd copy the report and distribute it to the various managers in the league. We didn't even have email back then, so trades would be conducted by phone. Of course, those of us who worked at the paper had somewhat of an unfair advantage because we were on PCs all day and had access to the AP sports wire, so we could stay abreast of all transactions as well as the latest box scores. We also had interoffice email in case we wanted to wheel and deal players.

We'd hold drafts in the paper's conference room on a Saturday or Sunday morning before the season started. In the early years, I was almost always hungover from the previous night's exploits. There was plenty of caffeine and food on hand to help us wake up. Most of us were single at the time, so we didn't have family obligations getting in the way.

I don't remember who I drafted that first season; I'd love to find an old stat report from back then and it's very possible I have one somewhere. This was back in the days when the best players were folks like Kirby Puckett, Cal Ripken, Roger Clemens, Robbie Alomar, Jose Canseco, etc. I only missed one draft; in 1996, my dad had died the day before the draft, so the guys did me a solid and drafted a team for me. And in 1994, the season ended abruptly in August because of a strike.

I never won that league; my best finish was third in 2000. That or the year after was my last with those guys. There had been a falling out among some of the mainstays and I ended up joining a league that a couple of other friends were in. That league, MUNTZ, remains intact today.

Baseball's the most difficult of the fantasy sports to manage. It's such a long season and there are so many players to keep track of. I've done well in hockey and football, but the best finish I've managed in baseball was last year's second-place outcome. A lot of it is luck, obviously; if you draft players who get injured early or just have bad seasons, your team may not be able to recover. The key is more in the drafting of so-called lesser lights or "sleepers" who you can get late in the draft and who step up and have big seasons.

The draft itself is a lot of fun. In some of the leagues I do, the players are scattered throughout the country so the draft takes place online. It's still fun, but you miss the in-person jibes and gamesmanship, although some of that is replicated through live chat functions. Nothing beats getting everybody in a room to draft, though.

Tomorrow, I have pick #9 out of 9 teams (although I'm also drafting for the guy in the #5 spot who can't make it). Wish me luck! Or don't. I'll still have fun.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Completely Conspicuous 168: Kick It Up a Notch

Part 1 of my podcast conversation with special guest Chris Lohring, brewer/founder of Notch Session beer as we discuss his journey through the world of craft brewing. Listen to the episode below or download it directly (right click and "save as").



The show notes...

Topics:

- Recorded at In a Pig's Eye in Salem, Mass.

- Chris got interested in craft brewing when in college

- In '92, worked with a partner to start Tremont Brewery

- Raised funding from "friends, family and fools"

- Launched brewery in '94

- Started with draft only in Boston-area bars

- Began bottling Tremont in '97

- Became second-largest brewer in Mass. behind Harpoon

- Back in early '90s, you were selling the concept of craft beer to bars

- Installed first cask engine in greater Boston at Redbones

- Introduced cask beer to Boston

- Tremont did its own distribution until '99, sold it to expand reach to CT and RI

- Brewery reached capacity in late '99

- You can still find Tremont in various states

- Sold to Shipyard in 2002 because investors wanted out

- Chris was burned out, got out of the brewing business

- Worked at engineering firm for several years

- "The world doesn't need another double IPA"

- Interest rekindled by session beer, lower-alcohol beer with great taste

- Influenced by European beers

- Session category has been ignored in U.S. as brewers go with higher-alcohol beers

- Craft beer started at 5% or less alcohol by volume

- Session beer is lower than 5% ABV

- Difficult brewing task to make session beer

- Not a lot of lower-ABV craft beer options

- Session beer's been around forever in Europe

- Designed by farmers for workers in the fields to drink

- First came up with idea two years ago, got serious about 18 months ago

- Brewed some test batches and got bars to serve it

- At first tried to emulate British beer; ended up doing an American-style ale and Czech-style pilsner

- Struck a deal to brew Notch at Ipswich Ale Brewery

- Chris wanted to remain actively involved in the brewing process

- Released two new beers in early March, bottles in Boston-area stores

- Draft handles in growing number of Boston-area bars

- Using social media to spread the word about Notch

- Thanks to Twitter, Jay got first six-pack of Notch Session ale on North Shore

- Tremont was marketed via a newsletter

- Now Twitter and Facebook gets message out directly to fans

- Chris' goals for Notch: Have fun and bring session beer into craft beer conversation

- Older consumers (30+) understand concept; younger drinkers in their 20s may not right away
- Also looking to build Notch into a viable business

- Small session beer resurgence on West Coast

- It's an East Coast-West Coast thing

- Bonehead of the Week

Music:

Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit - Codeine

The Dirtbombs - Cosmic Cars

The Soundtrack of Our Lives - Karmageddon

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 Budget.com/CompCon and save 10% off any reservation or $30 off a weekly rental.

The Jason Isbell song is on the forthcoming album Here We Rest on Lightning Rod Records. Download the song for free (in exchange for your e-mail address) at his website.

The Dirtbombs song is on the album Party Store on In the Red Records. Download the song for free at KEXP.

The Soundtrack of Our Lives song is from the album Golden Greats Vol. 1 on Little W Productions. Download the song for free (in exchange for your e-mail address) at the band's website.

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. Voiceover work is courtesy of James Gralian; check out his new site PodGeek.

Completely Conspicuous is a Tan God Production. Word.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Teaser

The last two days constitute a mirage. One of those classic stretches that feels like spring, sunny with temps approaching 70. And then--poof!--it's gone. Tomorrow we'll be back to temps in the low 40s, which still ain't bad for this time of year.

But days like today are so tantalizingly fleeting. They make you feel like you've skipped several weeks of nasty weather and depressing conditions. It's important not to get sucked in to that false sense of reality. Because it never lasts for long.

And it can happen in the spring as well, only with a tease of summer weather. I remember going to a Red Sox game in late May a few years ago and it was 90 degrees, totally out of nowhere. And sure enough, right after that, the weather went into a rainy, miserable stretch for another month or so. That sort of tease is even more cruel because you feel like the weather should be that warm once you get into June.

Living in New England should condition us to expect the unexpected, but we never do. These kinds of days get our hopes up, and then they come crashing down. So we tend to just try to enjoy them by killing our brains with beer.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Completely Conspicuous 167: Shut Up 'N Play Yer Guitar

No guest on the podcast this week as I play a healthy assortment of rock music. Listen to the show below or download it directly (right click and "save as").



The show notes...

Music:

The Wrens - As I've Known

Mark Lanegan - Burning Jacob's Ladder

Okkervil River - Wake and Be Fine

The Henry Clay People - California Wildfire

TV On the Radio - Caffeinated Consciousness

The Kills - DNA

Bonehead of the Week

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

The show is sponsored by Eastbay/Footlocker.com. 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 Eastbay.com, AFCOMP20 will get you 15% off any order of $75 at Eastbay.com and AFCOMPFL will get you 10% off any order of $50 or more at Footlocker.com.

The Wrens song is available at Epitonic.

The Okkervil River song is on the forthcoming album I am Very Far on Jagjaguwar Records. Download the song for free (in exchange for your e-mail address) at the band's website.

The Henry Clay People song is on the forthcoming EP This is a Desert on TBD Records. Download the song for free at Aquarium Drunkard.

The TV On the Radio song is on the forthcoming album Nine Types of Light on Interscope Records. Download the song for free (in exchange for your e-mail address) at the band's website.
The Kills song is on the forthcoming album Blood Pressures on Domino Records. Download the song for free (in exchange for your e-mail address) at the band's website.

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. Voiceover work is courtesy of James Gralian.

Completely Conspicuous is a Tan God Production. Word.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Only a Memory

I've always been fascinated by memory. Whether it's remembering childhood events or any of umpteen thousand passwords that we need to recall these days to log into websites, having a strong memory is an important skill.

That's why I was interested when Stephen Colbert this week had as a guest Joshua Foer, author of Moonwalking with Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything. Foer is a science journalist who was covering the U.S. Memory Championship and decided to become a participant; he trained for a year in memory techniques and actually won the event. Entrants had to memorize a deck of cards to ridiculously long lists of numbers. Foer writes about learning mnemonic techniques to help you remember just about anything.

As you get older, there's so much more to remember. Not only do you have past memories, but you've got all the aforementioned passwords, friends past and present, directions, work tasks, etc. I've always half believed that there's only so much information that can fit in my brain, so when it fills up, something spills over the side and is lost. I do think there's something to that theory. I've always found it strange that I can remember something I did when I was 3 but have no memory of something I did last week. I often struggle with remembering the names of people I've only met once or twice. Perhaps some of that is due to brain cells lost over the years, but I think it's more because of the onslaught of information that bombards us each day.

Having a blog is somewhat helpful because I can look back to 2003 and read something I wrote back then that reminds of events I had forgotten. Much more is recorded nowadays, whether through photos or video clips posted to Facebook, updates on Twitter or Facebook, or even just information recorded via the ever-present cell phone. I actually kept a diary when I was 16 and while it's extremely cringe-inducing to go back and read some of that stuff, it's fascinating from a strictly historical viewpoint. Mostly, though, it's just embarrassing.

I find nowadays I get random thoughts and ideas that if I don't record them as I'm thinking about them, I tend to forget about them. Hence my use of tiny Post-It notes, which you'll find around my stereo, reminding me about songs to download, to-do items, ideas for columns, blog posts, or podcast topics. And as for all those passwords, I've got an envelope full of Post-Its with passwords (as well as a bunch of them saved in my Gmail).

I'm definitely interested in reading Foer's book. I don't know if it'll help me improve my memory, but it can't hurt.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Mixology: March Mix Madness

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


March Mix Madness (March 2008)

Three years ago, I was in the midst of training for the New Jersey Marathon, the Leafs were on the way to missing the playoffs yet again, the terrific HBO series "The Wire" wrapped up its final season, I was gearing up for big rock shows from the Gutter Twins and the Drive-By Truckers, and we got the news that the city was planning to close my daughter's elementary school because of budget cuts.

Three years later, not too much has changed. Except that I'm not doing a marathon this spring and I have two kids going to a different school across town, I have a different vehicle and I'm going to see Queens of the Stone Age in a few weeks.

This mix is pretty strong. Most of the artists on it are ones for which I have multiple albums. The R.E.M. song was from their "return to rock" album, Accelerate, which many critics wrote off as the band trying too hard to rock out, but what the hell's wrong with that? Especially after the string of disappointing albums they recorded after Bill Berry left the band. Now the band just released its new album, Collapse Into Now, which is being hailed as a true return to form. I've heard a few songs from it and they sound good.

Many of the bands on this mix have released consistently good albums over the last decade or so, including the Raveonettes, Ladyhawk, Jay Reatard (R.I.P.), Andrew Bird, Destroyer, the Black Angels, Greg Dulli (via the Gutter Twins, Twilight Singers or solo), the Drive-By Truckers, Centro-Matic, Black Francis and the Dirtbombs. I'm a pretty faithful music fan. If a band releases an album I really like, I'll stick with its future releases until it really disappoints me. All these acts have delivered the goods on a regular basis. And they make this mix sound particularly good.

Bang On - The Breeders

Aly, Walk With Me - The Raveonettes
Hang Them All - Tapes 'n Tapes
Night You're Beautiful - Ladyhawk
Always Wanting More - Jay Reatard
International Bullet Proof Talent - Bauhaus
Silence - Portishead
Oh Sister - Andrew Bird
My Favorite Year - Destroyer
You On the Run - The Black Angels
'Till Kingdom Come - Dead Meadow
Salt of the Earth - The Rolling Stones
Front Street - Gutter Twins
3 Dimes Down - Drive-By Truckers
Right Hand on My Heart - The Whigs
I The Kite - Centro-Matic
The Seus - Black Francis
Indivisible - The Dirtbombs
Living Well is the Best Revenge - R.E.M.


Front Street:


Living Well:

Monday, March 07, 2011

Completely Conspicuous 166: The Future is Unwritten

Check out part 2 of my podcast conversation with special guest Eric Convey as we discuss the current state of journalism. Listen to the show below or download it directly (right click and "save as").



The show notes...

Topics:

- Eric's Managing Editor of the Boston Business Journal

- Nobody knows where journalism is going

- Rupert Murdock may have the answer with The Daily, designed for the iPad

- Local news could survive through iPad, smartphone apps

- Local news is the only niche left

- AOL bought Huffington Post for big bucks

- Eric: AOL's Politics Daily is most interesting news site

- AOL's Patch doesn't need local advertisers, it needs clicks

- Eric's food adventures at the Peabody International Festival

- Eric: BBJ uses print and web to thrive

- Worked at Boston Herald for 11 years

- Tales of covering overnight accidents

- Eric: Print papers aren't economically sustainable long-term

- Papers are moving towards charging for online access

- When Boston Globe starts charging, the Herald will follow

- When you're forced for everything, where will traffic go?

- From the start, Wall Street Journal was saying papers should charge

- Nobody really understood online commerce in the '90s

- Jay: Used to buy Globe and Herald every day; now just read them online for free

- Similar parallel to music industry

- Music sales are an all-time low

- Eric: Print is still in the picture at BBJ

- Eric teaches a college journalism class

- Helps students think like journalists

- Some are still looking for newspaper jobs

- Students all have laptops or iPads now

- The future is scary

- Bonehead of the Week

Music:

Art Brut - Unprofessional Wrestling

Black Francis - Bad News

Robert Pollard - Touch Me in the Right Place at the Right Time

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 Budget.com/CompCon and save 10% off any reservation or $30 off a weekly rental.

The Art Brut song is a B-side from the forthcoming album Brilliant! Tragic! on Cooking Vinyl Records. Download the song for free (in exchange for your e-mail address) at PledgeMusic (via Stereogum).

The Black Francis song is on the album The Golem on The Bureau Records. Download the song for free courtesy of IODA Promonet:

The GolemBlack Francis
"Bad News" (mp3)
from "The Golem"
(The Bureau)

More On This Album



The Robert Pollard song is from the album Space City Kicks on Guided by Voices Records. Download the song for free at Spinner.

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. Voiceover work is courtesy of James Gralian.

Completely Conspicuous is a Tan God Production. Word.

Friday, March 04, 2011

I Don't Care Anymore

I came back from a late lunch today to discover that Phil Collins is apparently retiring from music. Even though he had a covers album out last year, it wasn't too much of a shock to hear that he may be calling it quits. He's had a bunch of well-documented health problems in recent years, including hearing damage, dislocated vertebra and nerve damage in his hands that has left him unable to play the drums. But in the interview that came out today, Collins sounds downright depressed and convinced that he's hated by music fans for his popular run at the top of the charts during the '80s. Sure, he fell out of favor in the '90s, especially when he had a tour sponsored by Sears, but his music has definitely endured.

Collins got his start as a drummer, joining Genesis in 1970. Peter Gabriel was the band's frontman, dressing up like flowers and taking the band in all sorts of cool proggy directions. When Gabriel left to go solo in 1975, Collins stepped up to take over as lead vocalist. I first became aware of the band in '78 or so when And Then There Were Three came out, with the hit "Follow You, Follow Me."



And Then There Were Three was one of the first rock albums I had ever purchased and I was hooked instantly. Then in 1980, Genesis released Duke, which featured big FM hits with "Misunderstanding" and "Turn It On Again." They were still pretty progressive, but you could see Collins brought a definite mainstream pop sensibility to the fore.



The albums were performed by Collins, Mike Rutherford and Tony Banks, but live, Genesis expanded with other musicians so Collins could sing lead vocals.



Meanwhile, Collins had been writing songs for his first solo album, Face Value. Released in 1981, it was pretty dark, as he wrote the songs while going through a divorce from his first wife. "In the Air Tonight" was the lead single and became Collins' biggest solo hit, with its moody synths and pounding tribal drums with the gated reverb sound that was copied by many artists. It was a hit in '81 on rock radio, but kept popping up again over the years on the pilot episode of "Miami Vice," in tons of other TV shows, commercials and movies, including "The Hangover." It has also been sampled in many hip-hop songs.



Collins also used the Phenix Horns from Earth, Wind and Fire on a few songs, including the awesome "I Missed Again," which is ridiculously catchy. The horns would pop up on the next Genesis album, which probably shocked some of the band's old-school fans.



The album also featured somber songs like "You Know What I Mean" and "If Leaving Me Is Easy" that reflected his breakup with his wife. All in all, the album holds up really well. A few years later, I picked up The Policemen's Other Ball, which featured a September 1981 concert benefit for Amnesty International and had Collins doing strong solo performances of "In the Air Tonight" and "The Roof is Leaking."

The next Genesis album, Abacab, came out in the fall of '81. The horns were back for "No Reply at All," but it was the title track that really did it for me:



Other standout songs include "Man on the Corner," "Keep It Dark" and "Dodo/Lurker," which was a longer track that harked back to their old sound.

Collins kept the momentum going in 1982 with the release of his second solo album Hello, I Must Be Going! The first single was a cover of "You Can't Hurry Love," the old Supremes song, which was a big hit but not a favorite of mine. But the song that jumped out at me was "I Don't Care Anymore," which was another dark divorce-driven song like "In the Air Tonight." Really bitter, angry stuff, just vocals, drums and some synth and guitar.



Although my favorite song on the album might be another angry song, "Do You Know, Do You Care?" People who think Phil Collins is all lightness and hammy Motown covers haven't heard this stuff. Just sheer vitriol:



Dude was going non-stop back in those days, as 1983 saw the release of another Genesis record, this one self-titled. It was quite a diverse effort, with the standout track "Mama," about a boy obsessed with a prostitute. There was some frivolous stuff like "Illegal Alien," which is really rather terrible, and songs like "That's All" and "Taking It All Too Hard" that became hits. "Home by the Sea" and "Second Home by the Sea" were throwbacks to their progressive days.

But "Mama" was the best of the lot, an intense, twisted song that proved that Collins could write atmospheric songs as well as anyone:



The following year, Collins scored a huge hit with "Against All Odds" from the movie of the same name. The song was leftover from his previous album and was a patented Collins ballad, with his by-now patented big drum sound and pleading vocals. The video was one of the first to incorporate scenes from the movie in with Collins singing the song, so you had plenty of shots of young Jeff Bridges, Rachel Ward (yowsa) and James Woods looking all dramatic and stuff. This led Collins into the lucrative world of film soundtracks, where he had several more non-album hits.



Collins also had a big hit with Philip Bailey of Earth, Wind and Fire, as the two teamed up for "Easy Lover" off Bailey's album Chinese Wall, which was produced by...Phil Collins. The song was kind of the result of a merger of EWF and Collins, an upbeat horn-driven romp that featured Collins on drums and Darryl Stuermer on guitar. It ended up going to #2 on the charts.



In 1985, Collins released No Jacket Required, which was his most successful album. It was packed with hits including "Sussudio," "One More Night," "Take Me Home" and "Don't Lose My Number." He could do no wrong at this point. "Sussudio" was another Phenix Horns-driven number that dominated all radio formats (except country, I guess). I was getting into heavier music by this point, but I still had this album. After a while, though, there was no escaping Collins on the radio or TV:



In July 1985, Collins became infamous for playing Live Aid at both its locations, first in London and then jumping on a Concorde to fly to Philly and play with the reformed Led Zeppelin along with Power Station drummer Tony Thompson. It was a pretty huge deal because it was the first time Plant, Page and Jones had played together since John Bonham died in 1980. But the performance was underwhelming and much of the blame was pointed at Collins, however unfairly. He probably should have just let Thompson play, but whatever:



Genesis returned with a new album in 1986, Invisible Touch, which was even poppier than their previous efforts. It his #1 in the U.S. and U.K. and again had a bunch of hits: the title track, "Land of Confusion," "Tonight Tonight Tonight," "In Too Deep" and "Throwing It All Away." Collins was just a force of nature. The band was also putting more energy into its videos and getting huge airplay on the MTV. This video in particular was brilliant:



The band also played "Tonight Tonight Tonight" in a Michelob commercial:



I saw Genesis at the Worcester Centrum on this tour in the spring of 1987, right against the back wall. I don't remember a lot about it, but I do recall having a good time. Collins was a superb showman, and I believe he did a couple of solo songs during the show as well.

In 1988, Collins played the lead role in the movie Buster, which was a comedy-drama about the real-life petty criminal who was involved in the Great Train Robbery of 1963 in England. The movie wasn't a hit, but it did spawn two more hit singles for Collins, "Two Hearts" and "A Groovy Kind of Love."

The following year, Collins released But Seriously, which featured "Another Day in Paradise." Both the song and the album went to #1 on the charts. But I was burned out on the guy and had no interest in the album. In 1991, Genesis released We Can't Dance, which was Collins' last album with the band. But again, by this time I was listening to Nirvana and Jane's Addiction and couldn't be bothered with the increasingly poppy stuff Collins and Genesis was producing. I stopped paying attention and while he continued to have success with solo and soundtrack work, the album sales dropped and Collins became more of a footnote. In 2007, he rejoined Genesis for a reunion tour, but no new music was in the offing. Last year, Collins released a Motown covers album, but apparently his various ailments have him sidelined for good.

Of course, there are plenty of artists who retire and then make comebacks. Collins is 60 and many of his peers are still out there touring and recording, and he's been divorced three times, so he may find himself in need of some extra cash at some point. Whatever the case, there's no denying that Phil Collins has nothing to apologize for. Well, maybe "Illegal Alien." That was pretty bad:



Yeesh.