Monday, April 30, 2012

Completely Conspicuous 225: Let Them Drink

Part 1 of my conversation with special guest Ben Amirault as we discuss the growth of craft beer. Listen to the episode below or download it directly (right click and "save as").


Show notes:
- Check out Ben's beer blog The Church Key
- Many parallels between craft beer world and punk rock
- Ben reviews beers on his blog
- When will someone invent digitized beer?
- Craft beer first boomed in the '90s
- Plenty of great small breweries popping up now
- Session beer is catching on thanks to Notch
- There's a lot of high-alcohol beers now
- Ben's gearing up for American Craft Beer Fest in Boston
- Social media is raising awareness of craft beer
- Local specialty stores hold regular beer tastings
- Summer beer is out in April
- Beer is economy-proof
- Sam Adams has become almost synonymous with craft beer
- Dogfish Head has made a big splash in last few years
- Comparing Sam Adams to Green Day
- Old-school brewers are trying new things: Guinness, Bud, Newcastle
- Going on a Guinness kick
- To be continued next week
- Bonehead of the Week

Music:
Ty Segall Band - Wave Goodbye

Ceremony - Send Me Your Dreams
Grinderman (feat. Matt Berninger) - Evil (Silver Alert Remix)
Brainiac - Nothing Ever Changes
Completely Conspicuous is available through the iTunes podcast directory. Subscribe and write a review!
The Ty Segall Band song is from the album Slaughterhouse on In the Red Records. Download the song for free from Soundcloud.

The Ceremony song is on LAMC #1 on Famous Class Records. Download the song for free (in exchange for your email address) from Bandcamp.

The Grinderman song is on the album Grinderman 2 RMX on Anti/Epitaph. Download the song for free from Epitonic.
The Brainiac song is on the album Hissing Prigs in Static Couture on Touch and Go Records. Download the song for free from Epitonic.
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 blog Clicky Clicky. Voiceover work is courtesy of James Gralian; check out his site PodGeek.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Moving in Stereo

Portable entertainment has come a long way over the last 30 years. For me, it really started with a little Panasonic transistor AM/FM radio, kind of like the one below.


It was slightly more modern than that one, but not much. I got it when I was 12 or 13 and used it all the time...walking the dog, doing stuff in the house, playing street hockey in the driveway. I would use my dad's stereo setup to play the records I'd been buying, but having the radio was a godsend when I was anywhere besides our living room. I primarily listened to either CHUM-AM 1050, which played top 40 that included a lot of rock, and later CHUM-FM 104 and Q-107, both album-oriented rock stations. I have a distinct memory of hearing Rush's "Tom Sawyer" for the first time on this radio while walking my dog Sammy in early 1981 along Liverpool Road. Good times.

Later that spring, I graduated from Bayview Heights Public School, which was a k-8 school. It was a big deal with a ceremony and dance and everything, and I got a few presents, including a set of big-ass radio headphones, similar to the ones below.


Those mofos were heavy and uncomfortable, not to mention goofy-looking, so I didn't use them in public. I used them around the house or while riding in the car. Ultimately, they seemed too big and clunky and I never did use them that often. But I had read about the Sony Walkman cassette player, which had come out a few years earlier, and in '82, after we had moved to Washington state, I got my first OG Walkman.


I LOVED that thing. It had a belt clip (as well as a shoulder strap, which was a tad awkward and not very cool looking) and I would use that sucker all the damn time. I never bought pre-recorded cassettes; rather, I would buy vinyl and then make tapes of the albums. My recording methods were quite primitive at first; I had made some early mix tapes on my clock radio and I would record albums by placing my dad's small boombox in front of one of the speakers while I played the vinyl. Of course, the recorder would pick up any surrounding noise; on my recording of Rush's Signals, you can hear my dog barking at somebody in the background of one of the songs. For years, whenever I heard that song, I would expect to hear a bark. And of course, the tapes would only get the audio from one speaker; it wasn't exactly an audiophile's dream. But I didn't care. I could walk around at school listening to Iron Maiden's Number of the Beast or Ozzy's Blizzard of Ozz and not give a fuck what anybody else thought. I didn't have a ton of friends then, so the music was a constant companion. A few years later, I got a smaller Toshiba cassette player that included an FM stereo tuner pack and passed on the Walkman to my little brother.


The FM thing was basically like a cassette, so I didn't use it that much or carry it around, instead using cassettes with it. I used that player through high school and into college before it croaked around sophomore year. My cassettes, of course, sounded a lot better than they used to, especially after I finally picked up a cassette deck to go with my other stereo components (by this time, I had commandeered my dad's receiver, turntable and speakers since he never used them). Eventually I picked up another Walkman, this time the vaunted Sports Walkman, which I would bring to the gym.


I never did buy a Sony Discman, even though I had started buying CDs in 1989 after getting a CD player after I graduated college. My cars all had tape players and I was still making tapes, but of CDs instead of vinyl, so the Walkman served my purposes. And so it was through the '90s until I joined Webnoize and learned about MP3 players from my good friend Ric, who had procured himself one. After a few months, the good folks at Diamond Rio sent another Rio 500, which held a whopping 64 MB of  music (about eight songs or so, depending on the bitrate).


The Rio was great because it was tiny compared to the Walkman, and it was solid state, so it wouldn't skip when it was jostled. When the office moved from Stoneham to Cambridge, I used mine constantly during the long train/walk/subway/walk commute, as well as during the runs I was beginning to do four or five times per week. The limitation, of course, was you could only put a limited amount of music on it, so you were stuck listening to the same seven or eight songs over and over again. There was a memory card slot, however, so I soon dropped $100 on a 64 MB card (memory was expensive then; now you can get a 16 GB pin drive for $30) to double the Rio's capacity. I would get to know new (and old) albums very well; Radiohead's Kid A, At the Drive-In's Relationship of Command, Metallica's Ride the Lightning and The Tragically Hip's Music at Work were all in heavy rotation in 2000. I got a couple of other MP3 players while at Webnoize, but none was as good as this first one. Eventually it stopped working and I was able to get Rio to send me another, but meanwhile, Apple had come out with the iPod in the fall of 2001. Ric got the first 5GB model and wrote a prescient research paper about how it could change the music industry. Webnoize went under a few months later, but he was right, of course. I got my first iPod, a 10GB model, in 2004 and have purchased three more since then (most recently losing my 16 GB Nano).

It's hard to imagine life without the iPod, but indeed, there was. And as much as I love the iPods I've owned, there's still a special place in my heart and cerebral cortex for that crappy little Panasonic transistor radio.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Completely Conspicuous 224: Dirty Work

Part 2 of my conversation with special guest Matt Phillion as we discuss the evolution of profanity. Listen to the episode below or download it directly (right click and "save as").
Show notes:
- Mother jokes led to popularity of "m-f'er"
- Eddie Murphy's Comedian album introduced a whole new world of profanity
- Most words have lost shock value
- Little girl swearing in "Kick Ass" was shocking
- We had more freedom as kids, but kids can access so much more now
- Still isn't cool to randomly drop f-bombs in public
- Matt: Won't call a female a bitch
- Becoming more sensitive about calling your friends gay
- Hollywood has become introduced to foul-mouthed Boston Irish characters

- Swear words we won't say anymore
- Songs with profanity are becoming more commonplace
- Comedians have always pushed the boundaries
- The Simpsons were once the paragon of rudeness
- Violence on TV is no problem, but sex and some profanity is still banned
- Cell phones have taken over people's lives
- Bonehead of the Week

Music:
Japandroids - The House That Heaven Built

Cloud Nothings - No Sentiment
Ceremony - Hysteria
Yukon Blonde - Stairway


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


The Japandroids song is from the album Celebration Rock on Matador Records. Download the song for free from Epitonic.
The Cloud Nothings song is on the album Attack on Memory on Carpark Records. Download the song for free from Epitonic.

The Ceremony song is on the album Zoo on Matador Records. Download the song for free from Epitonic.
The Yukon Blonde song is on the album Tiger Talk on Dine Alone Records. Download the song for free from 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 blog Clicky Clicky. Voiceover work is courtesy of James Gralian; check out his site PodGeek.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

The Sound of Our Town

A few months ago, I was at a used bookstore in Hampton, NH, with my mom and my daughters. While the girls looked for books, I perused the music section and came across Brett Milano's The Sound of Our Town: A History of Boston Rock n' Roll. I was familiar with Milano, a freelance music writer who has done reviews for the Boston Globe, Boston Phoenix and Boston Herald over the last few decades; I also see him at a fair amount of shows in town, most recently at the Wild Flag gig at the Paradise.

Knowing him as a seasoned observer and a good writer, and also noting that the book was $8 used, I picked it up and plowed through it over the last week (that's pretty good for me, given all the distractions I have going on at any given time). The book traces Boston's music scene from the 1950s to the present (it was published in 2007), so Milano has a lot of ground to cover in 241 pages. He does a good job of hitting the high points and giving the reader a taste of what was happening in town at a particular time.

I moved to New England in 1983, when a lot of cool shit was going on in town that I was sort of aware of from listening to local radio, but I didn't start going to club shows locally until 1989 or so. My actual first forays were to a grimy little rock club called Grover's, right here in Beverly, seeing bands of local renown like O Positive, Barrence Whitfield and the Savages (Barrence still lives in Beverly and is a cool dude), Tribe, Heretix and Bim Skala Bim. The Rolling Rocks were cheap and it was my first experience of seeing bands up close and in my face, as opposed to the many arena shows I'd attended by that point. Sadly, Grover's went out of business in '90 or '91, reportedly because of unpaid taxes; one day the doors were padlocked shut and that was that. The site of the club now houses a fairly upscale restaurant.

After that, I caught bands at the Salem clubs Bleachers and the Dodge Street Grill, but mainly I started going to Boston clubs like The Channel, the Paradise, the Middle East and Lansdowne Street clubs like Avalon, Axis, Venus De Milo and Bill's Bar. Soon club shows made up the majority of my concertgoing, and they still do. Just last night, I was out late with my good friend Mr. Breitling as we checked out one of his favorite bands, Soccer Mom, as well as AM Stereo and Ho-Ag at the relatively new club Radio in Union Square in Somerville. All three acts were excellent and kicked several kinds of ass, and it was cool to see a wide range of ages in the attendees (albeit the older folks in the crowd were there to see AM Stereo, who have been around since the late '90s). It was hot as balls and loud as hell, which is really what any good rock show should be. Even if the suburban clubs are long gone for the most part, the Boston rock scene continues to churn out excellent bands. And although I'm less able to go out and see them on a regular basis, it's nice to know they're out there.




Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Completely Conspicuous 223: Your Filthy Little Mouth

Part 1 of my conversation with special guest Matt Phillion as we discuss the evolution of profanity. Listen to the episode below or download it directly (right click and "save as").





Show notes:

- George Carlin summed up the issue of profanity on TV quite nicely

- NYPD Blue pushed the boundaries of what you could see on broadcast TV

- As kids, we saw a lot of risque stuff on pay cable channels

- Sitcoms have to make do with innuendo

- Inadvertent f-bombs on awards shows

- The "c-word" is offensive here, not so much overseas

- The number of f-bombs factors into movie ratings

- South Park loves to push network censors

- Plot twists are more shocking than language

- Tarantino edited the TV version of Pulp Fiction himself

- The comfort of casual profanity

- Starting young

- Controlling your language in polite society

- To be continued

- Bonehead of the Week

Music:
Deer Tick - Born at Zero

The Rationales - Radio

Wintersleep - Resuscitate

Torche - Reverse Inverted

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

The Deer Tick song is from the EP Tim on Partisan Records. Download the song for free from Spin.

The Rationales song is a single avalable for free download from Bandcamp.

The Wintersleep song is on the album Hello Hum on Roll Call Records. Download the song for free at Wintersleep.com.

The Torche song is on the album Harmonicraft on Volcom Entertainment. Download the song for free at Stereogum.

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

Sunday, April 15, 2012

It's So Easy

Hola. Checking in from Ringwood, NJ, where we're spending the weekend and a couple of additional days while the girls are on April vacation. The podcast will return on Tuesday, but I know I've been neglecting the blog a bit lately. I actually have had plenty of ideas for posts, it's just a matter of making the time.

Anyhoo, last night was the annual Rock N' Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony, where Guns N' Roses, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Beastie Boys, Small Faces/Faces, Donovan and Laura Nyro were inducted. I'm firmly of the opinion that the entire concept of a rock hall of fame is faulty, especially when the thing is run by that douchenozzle Jann Wenner. So when Axl Rose issued a lengthy statement about why he wouldn't be participating in the induction, it was somewhat disappointing because it would have been cool to see the original GNR lineup back together for at least one night but also understandable.

Axl had at one point been considering it, but was apparently pissed off by comments made by former GNR drummer Steven Adler and by responses from Rock Hall officials about something. Let's face it, the guy's pretty nuts at this point. But the whole Hall of Fame conceit is kinda lame, as are annual awards like the Grammies. Who's to say which band is deserving of inclusion over another? Rumor has it that the whole thing's heavily payola-based, anyway. And the fact that bands like Rush, KISS, Deep Purple, et al have been snubbed and probably won't ever get in is annoying, but I bet most of those acts don't give a rat's ass.

The one good thing about the ceremonies have been some of the memorable band performances and reunions over the years (Talking Heads, Patti Smith are recent examples); last night, the non-Axl members of GNR performed with Myles Kennedy of Slash's band on vocals. Didn't see it (I think the edited broadcast airs on VH1 at a later date) but obviously it doesn't hold as much appeal as a full-on GNR reunion.

Then there are the debates that rage on about the inclusion of hip hop, R&B and folk acts in a so-called Rock Hall of Fame. I enjoy many of those artists, but perhaps the name should be changed to Music Hall of Fame. Ultimately, though, I try not to waste too much brainpower thinking about it because it's just an arbitrary construct.

Monday, April 09, 2012

Completely Conspicuous 222: Mix It Up

This week, I revisit an old mix tape I made many moons ago. Listen to the episode below or download it directly (right click and "save as").




Show notes:

- In episode 141, I discussed the early mix tapes I made as a kid

- A few years ago, started writing about mix tapes in my blog

- Looking back at Summer of Loud, a tape I recorded in '94

- Previous year was pretty rough, but things were looking up in '94

- Switched jobs and apartments at about the same time

- 1994 was a good year for alt rock

- I still listen to this mix from time to time

- Bonehead of the Week

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

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

Sunday, April 08, 2012

Mixology: Pure Chewing Satisfaction

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.

Pure Chewing Satisfaction (5/4/93)

Nineteen years ago, I was living at this very address, but not for much longer. By July, I moved out and embarked on a fairly lousy nine months or so of solo existence. Not coincidentally, this stretch of time also marked my most prolific period for making mix tapes. It took my mind off other things and gave me something to listen to in the car.

Fortunately, there was plenty of good new music out at the time. It was the period just after the big grunge releases had hit--Nevermind, Ten, Badmotorfinger, Dirt--and there was a lot of interesting stuff happening. I was particularly digging new albums from Cracker (David Lowery's first post-CVB record), Dinosaur Jr., Sloan, Buffalo Tom, Mudhoney, Sonic Youth and Living Colour. Plenty of guitars all over each album, but all were very different and presented a promising future for alternative rock. Of course, the next wave of bands included the likes of Bush and Silverchair, so that didn't turn out so well. I was also enjoying new albums from some of my favorite Canuck bands like The Tragically Hip and The Pursuit of Happiness.

Call this mix the rock before the storm. I knew the future was uncertain, but I didn't know how shitty things would be until I actually got there. That axiom unfortunately applied on several levels. But in May 1993, I was still quite unaware of how things would work out.

Side A
Fifty-Mission Cap - The Tragically Hip
Cigarette Dangles - The Pursuit of Happiness
Underwhelmed - Sloan
Purr - Sonic Youth
Drawerings - Dinosaur Jr.
This Little Pig - Living Colour
April Fool - Soul Asylum
Staples - Buffalo Tom
St. Cajetan - Cracker
Are You Gonna Go My Way - Lenny Kravitz
Buttercup - Brad
Dear Ol' Dad - Blind Melon
Let Me Let You Down - Mudhoney

Side B
Don't Fuck Me Up - Cracker
In Her Dreams - The Pursuit of Happiness
Locked in the Trunk of a Car - The Tragically Hip
Lemonzinger - Sloan
I'm Spun - Mudhoney
Orange Rolls, Angel's Spit - Sonic Youth
Hide - Dinosaur Jr.
Half Ass Monkey Boy - Mother Love Bone
My Fingers - Brad
Change - Blind Melon
Bi - Living Colour
Believe - Lenny Kravitz
Live Another Day - Stevie Ray Vaughan







Friday, April 06, 2012

Electric Band

Holy hell, this week flew by. It has been so busy that I haven't had time to do a review of the Wild Flag show at the Paradise last Saturday. But indeed, it was a fine rock event. I met up with good friends Dave and Beth for some pre-show food and drink at the Sunset Grill. We hoofed it over to the 'Dise to catch the second band on the bill, Hospitality, who played an interesting set of mid-tempo rock. The one drawback of getting to the club when we did was the place was jam-packed already and we ended up hanging in the back.

I had missed indie rock all-stars Wild Flag the first time they swung through Boston and wasn't about to this time, so I picked up my ticket months ago. WF is one of the best bands going right now and they proved it with a kickass 70-minute set. Former Helium fronter Mary Timony and current indie comedy darling/ex-Sleater-Kinney singer-guitarist Carrie Brownstein traded off lead vocals, as they do on the band's excellent album.

Brownstein said early on that her voice was shot, but she sounded great throughout. Timony seemed more at ease than the last time I saw her, which was way back in 1995 when Helium opened for Hole at the Orpheum. Keyboardist Rebecca Cole provided strong backing vocals, but for me, the star of the show was powerhouse drummer Janet Weiss (Quasi and formerly of Sleater-Kinney and Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks). For sheer Bonham-esque bombast, there's nobody better right now in rock. Weiss propelled the already awesome WF songs to new levels in concert, while Timony's excellent lead guitar work was a nice counterpoint to Brownstein's ragged punk riffing.

WF played most of the songs on the band's debut, including the explosive "Boom," the psychedelic "Glass Tambourine," the poppy "Romance" and the propulsive "Racehorse." But it was the covers they finished the show with that really got the joint jumping, including a Timony-led take on Television's "See No Evil" and Brownstein digging into Fugazi's "Margin Walker," which the band furiously slammed through. It was an energetic and amazing set that left everyone wanting more. The band can't come back soon enough.

Monday, April 02, 2012

Completely Conspicuous 221: Repeater

Part 2 of my conversation with special guest Jay Breitling as we discuss earworms. Listen to the episode below or download it directly (right click and "save as").



Show notes:

- Recorded on St. Patrick's Day at Chez Breitling

- Kids' music can implant evil melodies in your brain

- Pop music is a good gateway for music fans

- Hall and Oates wrote the catchiest damn songs

- We are in the post-ironic age

- Breitling buys a Daryl Hall song

- Good rock showing up on late night talk shows

- Parents' easy-listening music ends up living in your head: Neil Diamond, Sinatra, Neil Sedaka

- Tracing the roots of Charlie Rich's hit "The Most Beautiful Girl"

- Kumar: Supertramp's Breakfast in America lives on in my mind'

- The Who's Face Dances was more like a Townshend solo album

- Watching an awesome Mclusky video featuring cats

- Bonehead of the Week

Music:
Best Coast - The Only Place

The Dandy Warhols - Sad Vacation

OFF! - King Kong Brigade

The Melvins - The War on Wisdom

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

The Best Coast song is from the forthcoming album of the same name on Mexican Summer. Download the song for free (in exchange for your email address) from Best Coast.

The Dandy Warhols song is from the forthcoming album This Machine on The End Records. Download the song for free
from Stereogum.

The OFF! song is on the band's self-titled album on Vice. Download the song for free at Pitchfork.

The Melvins song is on the EP The Bulls and the Bees courtesy of Scion AV. Download the EP for free from Scion AV.

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