Monday, June 27, 2011

Completely Conspicuous 182: Long Gone and Hard to Find

Part 2 of my podcast conversation with special guest Jay Breitling as we discuss and play music from underappreciated albums. Listen to the show below or download it directly (right click and "save as").



The show notes:

- Now accepting beer donations

- Breitling's pick: The Hip Young Things

- Pavement-esque German band

- Kumar: The Nation of Ulysses

- On Dischord in early '90s

- Breitling: Eggs

- Another DC act

- Kumar: Frank Black and the Catholics

- Stripped down garage rock

- Breitling: Projekt A-ko

- Name is Japanese, band is Scottish

- Kumar: Big Chief

- Detroit act combining sludge rock with funk

- The return of "120 Minutes"

- On gravelly voiced DJs

- Breitling: The Coctails

- Featured Archer Prewitt

- Bonehead of the Week

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 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 site PodGeek.

Completely Conspicuous is a Tan God Production. Word.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Freak Scene

The trend of bands playing classic albums live continued this week as Dinosaur Jr. stopped into the Paradise in Boston to rip through their excellent third album, 1988's Bug. The tour had a little twist to it, though, as punk godfather Henry Rollins has been joining the band at each stop to conduct an interview on stage about the early days of Dino and the making of Bug. Even though Mascis is on record as saying he's not a fan of the album, Bug certainly holds a place of esteem in the hearts and lacerated eardrums of indie rock fans everywhere. The band recently re-released it on purple cassette to coincide with this tour.

Opening act OFF! is a veritable punk supergroup, with Keith Morris (ex-Circle Jerks, Black Flag) on vocals, Steven McDonald (Redd Kross) on bass, Dimitri Coats (Burning Brides) on guitar and Mario Rubalcaba (Rocket from the Crypt, Hot Snakes) on drums. Rocking a skullet and his familiar dreads, Morris noted that the Boston show was an SST reunion of sorts, since Dino was once on the legendary punk label with Black Flag and Redd Kross in the '80s. There was hardly any room on the stage for the band to move around because of the massive amp stacks, but Morris led OFF! through a 25-minute set of blistering punk including "Jeffrey Lee Pierce," which was dedicated to the late Gun Club frontman and former roommate of Morris'. It was an impressive performance, with no song exceeding 2 minutes in length.

A short while later, Rollins and Dino Jr. members J. Mascis, Lou Barlow and Murph took their places on stools in front of the stage. Rollins conducted a 15-minute interview in which Murph did most of the talking, with Mascis and Barlow chiming in from time to time. Barlow credited labelmates Sonic Youth as being responsible for helping Dino succeed in the early days. Rollins asked why the band played so loud and Mascis replied in his typically low-key manner: "It just seemed like the right thing to do."

After the interview and a short break, Dinosaur Jr. launched into the rock, starting with "In a Jar" and "The Wagon" before Mascis deadpanned, "All right, we're going to play Bug now." And play it they did, starting off with lead track "Freak Scene." Murph had some difficulties with his drum kit staying intact, but the band was in fine form. As always, Mascis didn't say much between songs, preferring to continue on. Barlow offered a few quips, but his voice was shot, making his comments somewhat unintelligible (to me, anyway).

The band was super-loud as usual, but it wasn't as oppressively loud as when I saw them at the Middle East a few years back (no doubt because of the lower ceiling at the Middle East downstairs). Mascis' solos were fluid and ripping, while Murph pounded with precision and Barlow thrashed away on his bass. "Budge" and "The Post" were particularly mind-blowing. Barlow couldn't sing album closer "Don't," which normally requires him to screech "Why don't you like me?" over and over, so he pulled up two volunteers from the audience to handle the vocals. The two gentlemen in question did fine, although one of the microphones couldn't handle his death metal yowl and was overwhelmed with feedback and static. It didn't matter, because the band was playing so loud you could barely hear the singers, anyway.

Dino Jr. returned for an encore, playing the post-Lou cut "Out There" and the classic "The Lung" before calling it a night. The band certainly looks 22 years older, but it sounds just as vital and visceral as it did when Bug first came out.


Monday, June 20, 2011

Completely Conspicuous 181: Unsung

Part 1 of my conversation with special guest Jay Breitling as we discuss and play music from unsung albums. Listen to the show below or download it directly (right click and "save as").



The show notes:

- Welcome back, Senor Breitling

- What is an unsung album?

- Breitling: The Wannadies

- Different albums for different countries

- Def Leppard talk

- Bands with "extra guys" on stage

- Kumar: Max Webster

- Toured with Rush in the '70s

- Frontman Kim Mitchell went on to solo career

- Breitling: Jon Brion

- Played with Til Tuesday, Jellyfish before becoming producer

- Kumar: The Dirtbombs

- Heavy fuzz garage take on R&B and soul

- Breitling: Latimer

- Great Philly act

- Kumar: New Bomb Turks

- Garage rock ass-kickers

- 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 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 site PodGeek.

Completely Conspicuous is a Tan God Production. Word.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Your Daddy Will Do





Father's Day is always a mixed bag for me. On the one hand, I enjoy basking in the holiday spotlight after a couple of months of nonstop gift buying, card writing and party planning (both girls' birthdays, Deb's birthday, Mother's Day, my mom's birthday).



On the other, there's a feeling of emptiness because my own father has been dead for 15 years now, and we didn't have the greatest relationship for much of the time I knew him. But enough time has passed that whatever shortcomings the man had, and they were plentiful, can be forgiven, or at least accepted. He certainly wasn't a monster. Just selfish and old-fashioned, like a lot of men of his generation and upbringing. He made a lot of stupid decisions that screwed up our family, but I like to think he inadvertently taught me a lot about fatherhood and being a good man.



So here's to you, Dad, wherever you are.










Thursday, June 16, 2011

Victory Dance

It's mid-June, it's 80 degrees out and yes, hallelujah, the hockey season is finally over. The Boston Bruins won the Stanley Cup with a decisive 4-0 Game 7 victory over the Vancouver Canucks. Despite going the limit, the series didn't seem that close. The Canucks were favored heavily going into the series and won the first two games in Vancouver by one-goal margins, but the Bruins roared back by taking the next two in Boston. The Canucks took a 3-2 series lead with a shutout win in Boston, but the Bruins won the last two games of the series in commanding fashion.

It was the first Cup win in 39 years for the Bruins, who last won when the names Bobby Orr and Phil Esposito were uttered on a nightly basis around here. The championship capped a remarkable run by Boston teams in the last decade, as the Patriots, Red Sox and Celtics have all won their respective league titles since 2001.

I'm a Toronto Maple Leafs fan, but I was happy for my friends who are Bruins fans and indeed rooted for the B's. I watched the ill-fated Cup runs in 1988 and 1990 that ended in crushing defeat at the hands of the Edmonton Oilers; I even watched the Bruins lose to Montreal in the late 1970s. It was a long drought that didn't appear to be ending anytime soon when the Bruins lost the first two games of the playoffs to Montreal before storming back to win in 7. After sweeping Philly (who came back from a 3-0 series deficit to beat Boston last year), the B's had to go 7 games again to beat Tampa Bay.

Going into the Vancouver series, I predicted the Canucks would win in 6 games. They just seemed more talented and deeper than Boston. But I quickly grew to hate the Canucks, who employed whining, diving and cheap shots like biting in addition to their obvious skill. It was great to see the Bruins use a complete team effort to take the Canucks out. It was not great to see the riots that ensued in Vancouver after the Bruins won last night. I'll never understand why people do that sort of thing.

I was happy to see Tomas Kaberle, the longtime Maple Leafs defenseman who was traded to the Bruins at the deadline, win his first Stanley Cup. He took a lot of heat around for not being to turn around a struggling Bruins power play, but he played well in the Final. I also enjoyed the spotlight that hockey received around here in the last few months, usually overshadowed by baseball and basketball in the spring. A lot of folks jumped on the bandwagon and were rewarded with an amazing playoff run, highlighted by a performance for the ages by goalie and playoff MVP Tim Thomas.

Meanwhile, my Maple Leafs are preparing for the NHL draft next weekend and hopefully a playoff spot next season. They haven't played in the postseason since 2004, but they've put together a good young team that looks like it's ready to get back to the playoffs soon. It has been 44 years since the last Leafs' Cup winner. Hopefully the end of that drought is in sight. But until then, I'll be happy for my Boston friends.

The Cup presentation:



The Bruins' pregame warmup song this year:

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Completely Conspicuous 180: Left Behind

Part 3 of my podcast conversation with special guest Ric Dube as we dissect 1990s movies. Listen to the show below or download it directly (right click and "save as").



The show notes:

- Check out Ric's great podcast, More Lost Time

- Ric: Kirk Cameron's "Left Behind" movies were exploitation flicks

- Ric got early copies of the Dysfunctional Family Circus

- Ric offers better artists to replace Smash Mouth's reign of soundtrack terror in '98

- Match the Bond Girl to the movie

- First digitally edited movie soundtrack was in 1996

- Rating the destructive film families

- A cavalcade o' Culkins

- Ill-fated jumps from TV to movies

- Michael Moore reinvents the documentary

- Jay: In '90s, Nicolas Cage went from serious actor to uber nutjob

- Pulp Fiction inspired many knockoffs

- Bonehead of the Week

Music:

Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks - Senator

Sun Airway - Wild Palms

J. Mascis - Alone (live)

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 Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks song is on the forthcoming album Mirror Traffic on Matador Records, where you can download the song for free.

The Sun Airway song is on the 7-inch Wild Palms on Dead Oceans. Download the song for free at Pitchfork.

The J. Mascis song was recorded as part of a live Daytrotter session. Download the song for free (in exchange for your email address) at Daytrotter.

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 site PodGeek.

Completely Conspicuous is a Tan God Production. Word.

Thursday, June 09, 2011

The Completists

One could argue that life is a series of collections. You go through it collecting all the way: family, friends, jobs, stuff, self-esteem, heartache, etc. Of course, only some of the things you collect are worth a damn in the end.

I've been a collector of stuff since I was a little kid. That's a nice way of saying I have "pack rat tendencies." I'm not a hoarder or anything like that, but I do tend to accumulate stuff. This is followed at some point by a purge of stuff I don't need, usually before things get too cluttered.

I used to love reading the comics in the newspaper and would cut out the strips I liked and paste them into scrapbooks. Then I realized you could buy much nicer collections of strips like "Peanuts" in paperback, so that stopped. But I got into hockey and baseball cards at a young age. And later it was comic books, which I collected from age 11 to 21.

I was a hardcore comics nerd. Like pretty much everything I collected, I wasn't in it for some perceived value down the road. I was into them for the stories. Back in the late '70s, comics cost 25 cents an issue; now, the cover price runs around $3 or $4. I was primarily a Marvel guy: Amazing Spider-man, Avengers, Fantastic Four, Hulk, X-Men, Captain America, Thor, Iron Man. As the years went by, I discovered comics specialty shops and store subscriptions, where you could sign up to have the store set aside new issues of the titles you were into. I'd go in once a week to pick up the new comics. There was a feeling of excitement as I brought the books home, although after a while I had to kind of sneak them in so I wouldn't catch crap from my mother about blowing all my spare cash on comics. I invested in mylar bags and cardboard comics boxes to store them in. The collection grew and grew.

Once I got to college, I left them at home because there wasn't room in a small dorm room or apartment for them; plus, I didn't really want people knowing I read them. Comics really weren't cool, so I only had a few friends I ever discussed them with. Once a month, I'd go home to work a couple of night crews at the Market Basket and during the day, I'd go get my big pile of comics and then read as many of them as I could before I went back to school. By the time I graduated, however, I just didn't have the energy or will to read 20+ comics a month, so I just stopped. Cold turkey. And about 10 years later, I sold them all before we bought our house. (In retrospect, I wish I'd held onto some of my more prized comics, because they certainly weren't worth much by the time I sold them. The bottom fell out of the market once eBay came along and everybody sold all their crap.)

And besides, a new collecting obsession had overtaken me: Music. Really, I got into music not too long after I got into comics. The first new album I bought was Supertramp's Breakfast in America and I never looked back. It was a much more socially acceptable thing to collect. At first it was vinyl, until 1989, when I got my first CD player. Now most of my music is purchased in MP3, although I occasionally pick up a CD if it's on sale or something.

I would get into bands the same way I'd get into comic titles. I'd pick up everything by the band and keep buying new albums faithfully. It really wasn't until the last decade or so that I stopped buying everything by a particular artist because I finally admitted to myself that I have every Judas Priest album I need, so there's no need to take a chance on a new album. I don't feel that way about every artist, but certain ones definitely have their peak eras. The last Stones album I bought was 1989's Steel Wheels and even that is kinda iffy. The nice thing about digital music is if you can get an MP3 or two to sample a new release; if it doesn't do it for you, at least you're not out $10+. Being a completist can be fun, but it can also be tiring and expensive.

It's a lot easier to take a completist approach to TV viewing nowadays, especially now that most shows are available in their entirety on DVD or via Netflix streaming or On Demand. I love how you can blow through entire seasons of great shows like Mad Men or Breaking Bad fairly quickly and without commercial interruption. There are still many shows I've never seen, but I can still see them whenever I want. And I don't even need to plunk down $50 to buy them, because I can rent them.

I still buy comics every so often, but only in trade paperback format as a collection of a series. I haven't gotten back into the serial comics I used to follow because I can't keep up anymore; just no time. I know Marvel has a digital subscription that seems pretty reasonable, but I have enough reading material that I don't get to.

I probably consume more media now than I ever used to thanks to the Internet, but now it's podcasts and blogs in addition to music, TV, books and movies. I'm not really a completist anymore because once you grow up, it becomes much harder (for me, anyway) to obsess to such a degree. Now it's about getting to what I can when I can. And I'm okay with that.


Monday, June 06, 2011

Completely Conspicuous 179: Attack of the Baby Geniuses

Part 2 of my podcast conversation with special guest Ric Dube as we dissect 1990s movies. Listen to the show below or download it directly (right click and "save as").



The show notes...

- Listen to Ric's podcast More Lost Time

- Ric: Major '90s trend was precocious kids who are smarter than adults

- Sympathy for Wile E. Coyote

- Ralph Bakshi's 1990s output

- Body-switching comedies keep coming back

- Ric's beef about "Shrek" and Smash Mouth

- Smash Mouth had songs in numerous movies in the '90s

- In many '90s rock music hits, the hooks got smaller and more annoying

- Bryan Adams went from meat-and-potatoes rocker to '90s soundtrack guy

- What really happened in the Summer of '69?

- Movie trend: Animals smarter than their co-stars

- Rant alert: Ric hates TV dramas

- The argument against "Mad Men" and "The Sopranos"

- Talking about "The Simpsons"

- Bonehead of the Week

Music:

Robert Pollard - In a Circle

The Answering Machine - Another City, Another Sorry

Gold-Bears - Record Store

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 Robert Pollard song is on the album Lord of the Birdcage on Guided By Voices Records. Find out more at and download the song for free at TellAllYourFriends PR (right click and "save as").
The Answering Machine song is on the album Another City, Another Sorry on Heist or Hit Records. Download the song for free at Soundcloud.

The Gold-Bears song is on the album Are You Falling in Love? on Slumberland Records. Download the song for free at Soundcloud.

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 site PodGeek.

Completely Conspicuous is a Tan God Production. Word.

Saturday, June 04, 2011

Time is Tight

Ever feel like you don't have enough time? When you think about it, having 24 hours in a day should be enough to get everything done. Factor in six or seven hours for sleep and that still leaves you at least 17 hours in which to accomplish whatever needs to be done. Okay, say eight to 10 of those hours is spent either at or traveling to work. That gives you seven hours of non-work time.

Here's the stuff I like to do when I'm not working:



  • Spending time with family

  • Running or otherwise exercising

  • Playing sports

  • Consuming media (Web, music, TV, books, movies)

  • Getting together with friends

  • Writing (columns, blog posts, other stuff)

  • Podcasting

  • Vacationing

  • Eating and drinking

  • Seeing rock shows

There are other things that are less fun but still necessary, like household chores, yard work, etc. When you think about it, accomplishing all those tasks in seven hours a day (and obviously more on the weekend) isn't easy. If there was a way to cram more hours into a day, I wonder if we'd get more done or if we'd just waste them. Sometimes you just need to relax. And if you try to do too much in a short period of time, you run the risk of doing it poorly.

Even with all that stuff, I'd love to fit a few more things into my schedule. I don't read enough. I don't practice my guitar enough, or at all a lot of the time. I'd love to spend more time with my family; during the week, it's an hour in the morning and a few hours after I get home from work.

And even at work, there never seems to be enough time. There are folks who have made millions with time organization plans like Stephen Covey's 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. Whenever I've heard presentations about time management, it all seems like basic common sense. It's really about blocking out distractions and getting things done methodically. Not always an easy thing to do, especially these days when you've got so much shiny objects to pull you away from the task at hand. It was much easier to complete an assignment or task in the past when you didn't have email or the Internet to distract you; at the same time, they help with certain aspects of the job such as research and communication.

I always liked the concept of the movie Multiplicity, in which Michael Keaton clones himself to get everything done in his life. Of course, each clone is a copy of the original and has certain defects, and wackiness ensues. So the solution becomes a problem. And besides, who has the time to deal with all those hassles?

Update: Just ran across this interesting take on organization, the circular to-do list. Might have to give it a try.