Thursday, June 28, 2012

The Evil That Men Do

A good 30 or so years ago, I was a teenage metalhead. It's a fact and one that I'm not ashamed of. I didn't have a jean jacket with patches on it or anything, but I listened to a steady diet of Sabbath, Priest, Dio and Metallica. But the metal band that really did it for me was Iron Maiden.

They had it all: the twin guitar attack, the operatic frontman, the powerhouse rhythm section and the perfect mascot, Eddie. I stopped listening to the band not too long after I saw them live in 1990; I had just moved on to other types of music by that point and metal itself kind of disappeared from these shores for several years, at least to my mind. But over the last several years, I've gotten back into the old stuff a little bit, and that coincided with seeing Maiden live a few times. The band has hit upon a pretty smart touring strategy, alternating tours of new records with ones celebrating different phases of their past. Four years ago, I saw Maiden play songs based on their Somewhere In Time tour from 1986 and it was awesome.

On Tuesday night at the Comcast Center in Mansfield, they were on the third date of the Maiden England tour, which replicated the1988 tour, which coincidentally was the first time I saw the band live at the Worcester Centrum. That tour was in support of the Seventh Son of a Seventh Son album, which was pretty good but not as good as the rest of their output to that point.

Alice Cooper opened up and sounded pretty good for a 64-year-old, with a band of young guns backing him up. He did the guillotine thing he's done for the last 40 years, getting his head "chopped off" and had his own version of Eddie, a Frankenstein monster, running around. It was all good fun.

As for Maiden, the band has held up remarkably well after all these years. Singer Bruce Dickinson has the energy of a man half his age, sprinting up and around the massive stage set, changing costumes and bellowing away in between exhorting the crowd to "scream for me, Boston!" Bassist and bandleader Steve Harris, 56, similarly was all over the stage, playing his bass like a weapon and generally kicking ass. The band has had a triple guitar attack for about a decade now, with Dave Murray, Adrian Smith and Janick Gers all trading solos and bludgeoning riffs.

It was great, although marred somewhat by a crappy sound mix. Dickinson's vocals kept cutting in and out at times and the guitars were a little low in the mix. The soundman never quite seemed to get it right. I guess that's the risk you run when you catch a band early in the tour, although the band itself seemed to firing on all cylinders.

Maiden played several songs from Seventh Son of a Seventh Son, which was cool. But they also played some great old songs like "Wasted Years," "Phantom of the Opera," "The Prisoner" (which hadn't been played in two decades), "Running Free" and the classics: "The Trooper," "Two Minutes to Midnight," "Number of the Beast," "Run to the Hills," "Aces High." In all, the band played just under two hours and everybody stood and yelled the whole damn time. Aces High, indeed.


Monday, June 25, 2012

Completely Conspicuous 233: Between the Bars

Guest Ric Dube and I dig deep and analyze two '70s rock classics. Listen to the episode below or download it directly.



Show notes:
- Recorded in Shrewsbury, Mass.
- Check out Ric's podcast More Lost Time
- Digging into Meat Loaf's "Paradise by the Dashboard Lights"
- Irony-free, over-the-top theatrics
- Song is in three parts
- Jay: Remember as a kid thinking it was risque
- Paradise turns out to be hell
- Jim Steinman was known for ridiculously long song titles
- Song goes from rockabilly to disco in the middle, with Phil Rizzuto mixed in
- The debate over third base
- Ellen Foley's odd career
- Third section tries to emulate punk
- The strange allure of Robby Benson
- Meat Loaf's acting career
- Part 2: "Brother Louie" by Stories
- A classic '70s one-hit wonder
- Stories actually had well-known musicians in band
- Louie was whiter than white
- Super catchy chorus
- Ric: This was a "Neapolitan relationship"
- The lesson was about equal opportunity sexing
- Why is the name Louie popular in songs?

- Did Jeff Lynne swipe the ELO string sound from this song?
- Bonehead of the Week

Music:
Redd Kross - Researching the Blues

Chelsea Light Moving - Burroughs
Cat Power - Ruin

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

The Redd Kross song is from the forthcoming album Researching the Blues on Merge Records. Download the song for free at Stereogum.

The Chelsea Light Moving song is from the band's forthcoming album on Matador Records. Download the song for free at Stereogum.

The Cat Power song is on the album Sun on Matador Records. 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.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Nothing Lasts

Nostalgia sells. When it comes to the music industry with its dwindling sales numbers, it means repackaging and remastering and redoing the good stuff that folks took a liking to back in the so-called day. And for artists who are still recording new material, nostalgia often means doing the whole "playing a classic album in its entirety" tour while flogging the just-released record.

Matthew Sweet is in that boat, having had middling success in the last 12 years or so with his albums as well as his covers records with Susanna Hoffs. He released the fine Modern Art last year, but started touring to commemorate Girlfriend's 20th anniversary because, let's face it, that's what people want to hear. Sweet came through Boston this past Tuesday, playing 1991's Girlfriend album front to back at the Paradise. The show wasn't sold out, but it was pretty damn close, and there were plenty of folks in my age demographic (i.e., old) in the house.

Sweet, 47, is definitely a little larger and grayer than the last time I saw him play, which was twice in 1997. But he was in fine voice and good spirits as he led his band through the power pop classic's 15 songs. The rhythm section was the same one he used on Girlfriend, bassist Paul Chastain and drummer Ric Menck, who also played in Providence's Velvet Crush (a fine power pop act in its own right); guitarist Dennis Taylor had the huge task of replicating the solos laid down on Girlfriend by Robert Quine and Richard Lloyd, but he was terrific. Sweet, who played rhythm guitar, gave him plenty of room to solo all over everything, and Taylor complied, while Chastain and Menck held the beat down.


Despite the poppy crunch of the title track, Girlfriend is a fairly dark album, not surprising given Sweet wrote it after a messy divorce. But it really resonated with the alt-rock audience of the early '90s. Songs like "Thought I Knew You," "You Don't Love Me," "Don't Go" and "Nothing Lasts" are not your average pop fare, but there were plenty of folks singing every word Tuesday night. The soft acoustic edges of songs like "I Wanted to Tell You" were gone, replaced by muted electrics but no less effective.

My first exposure to the album was hearing "Divine Intervention" on WFNX and then going to see Sweet open for Robyn Hitchcock at the old Avalon on Lansdowne Street in February 1992. This time around, I knew a lot more about Sweet and certainly knew the album inside out. Sweet shared some stories about the album, which originally ended with the ballad "Your Sweet Voice." But after his label had some difficulties, Sweet said he decided to add three bonus tracks to the album proper, namely the raunchy "Does She Talk?", the somewhat prescient "Holy War" and "Nothing Lasts."

After the final track of the album, Sweet joked that he didn't want to close out the night on such a depressing note, so the band launched into "Sick of Myself," an uptempo, if self-deprecating, number from 1995's 100% Fun album. It really did perk things up; I noticed one of the security guys singing along and cracking up at the numerous false stops at the end. After a quick break, Sweet and band returned to play "She Walks the Night" from his most recent album, the excellent "Time Capsule" from 1993's Altered Beast and "We're the Same" from 100% Fun. Hopefully, some of the assembled concertgoers went over to buy Modern Art from the merch table, but I'm sure Sweet's not expecting huge sales. People were there to go retro and remember what they were doing 20 years ago when they were listening to Girlfriend, and that's okay. At this point, it's nice to see artists like Sweet still drawing decent crowds.


Thursday, June 21, 2012

Hotter Than July

It's on days like these that I'm thankful I'm a white collar office worker. As much as I sit by my window wishing I could be outside on most days, the last two I've been perfectly content to be stuck in my air conditioned office poring over medical documents. Temperatures yesterday and today were in the high 90s, even on the usually cooler coast.

I got out for a run yesterday morning at about 6:45 and it was still 75, muggy and getting warmer by the second. Speaking of running, I'm officially training for my first marathon in two years: The Smuttynose Rockfest Marathon in Hampton, NH, on Sept. 30.

Actually, this is my fourth week of training. Usually my fall marathons are in October or November, so I had to start a little earlier this time around. So far, so good. I'm doing the Furman FIRST three runs per week method again; it's worked for me in the past and it lets me train well without wearing myself down. This will be my 15th marathon and my first since shutting it down last fall to rehab my right Achilles.

Unlike past years, when I've been able to run at lunch during the week, this time around I've been running before work because my job has required more meetings than before. It's tougher to get away from the office for more than 45 minutes. But I've been enjoying doing the track work and tempo runs, and the long runs haven't been torture...but of course my longest run has been 13 miles so far. Let's see if I'm singing the same song after doing a few 20-milers.

I'm going to do Reach the Beach again in the fall, two weeks before my marathon and maybe a half marathon in October or November if I feel good. I've also lost about 10 pounds since New Year's Day, and that's without engaging in any kind of serious diet or abstaining from stuff like beer. I'm hoping I can drop another 10 as I get deeper into training. But on this sweltering night, I'm going to drink a few cold beers and not feel bad about it. Take it away, JB:

Monday, June 18, 2012

Completely Conspicuous 232: Rock Box

Part 2 of my conversation with filmmaker Eric Green as we discuss his documentary about V66, the short-lived Boston music video channel. Listen to the episode below or download it directly (right click and "save as").

Show notes:
- Recorded in Cambridge, Mass.
- Eric's documentary is called Life on the V
- V66 was on the air from 2/85 to 9/86
- Response to the topic has been great
- Doc is almost finished
- Music docs are in vogue
- Rumors that MTV was keeping an eye on V66
- Eric resisted the classic Behind the Music structure
- V66 was based in Worcester, Mass.; bands would visit before concerts there
- 9-year-old Eric got on the air with a phoned-in joke
- Cable TV was much different in the '80s; still hadn't made it to many rural areas

- Memories of USA Network's Night Flight video show
- Music docs: Stop Making Sense vs. The Last Waltz
- When V66 played Dire Straits' "Money for Nothing" video, they took MTV logo out
- Eric received a lot of fan submissions of V66 videos taped on VHS
- Bonehead of the Week

Music:
Mission of Burma - Second Television

David Byrne and St. Vincent - Who
Metric - Artificial Nocturne
Ceremony - I Don't Wanna Be Learned/I Don't Wanna Be Tamed

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

The Mission of Burma song is from the forthcoming album Unsound on Fire Records. Download the song for free at Rolling Stone.
The David Byrne and St. Vincent song is from the forthcoming album Love This Giant on 4AD. Download the song for free (in exchange for your email address) at Stereogum.
The Metric song is on the album Synthetica on Mom and Pop Records. Download the song for free at Epitonic.

The Ceremony song is an unreleased track available for free download at Noisey.


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, June 15, 2012

Mixology: Rock for Hannah

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.

Rock for Hannah (6/15/02)

It's been awhile since I did a Mixology post and until a minute ago, I honestly had no idea that it was 10 years to the day that I made this one. To give you a sense of how long it's been, this mix was made in anticipation of the 11-hour drive to Toronto that we were going to be doing to attend my cousin Dev's wedding. Hannah was just six weeks old at the time; now she's 10 (duh) and today wrapped up her last day of 4th grade. Pretty mind-blowing.

As for the songs themselves, I actually did choose songs that Deb and I could both agree on that also revolved around a loose theme of the joy Hannah had brought into our lives. And yet it's completely and utterly not mushy. There's some classics like "In My Life" and "Surrender" and even "Everlong," but I also threw in some Tin Machine and Sugar to add a little edge to the proceedings.

As I recall, the drive wasn't bad considering we had a tiny infant in the back. There was the requisite weeping and diaper filling and such, but Hannah was good traveler. Deb and I were new parents, so we were still figuring it out as we were going. But it was a great week up there and when we returned a year later for my cousin Anita's wedding, we had a surprise in tow: Deb was pregnant with our second daughter, Lily.

So my memories of this mix are all good, even though I can't actually play the CD anymore. It literally spent most of the last 10 years in our various cars and has been so scratched up that it's unlistenable. I'll have to redo it again someday.

Rock for Hannah

Surrender - Cheap Trick
Everlong - Foo Fighters
A Girl Like You - The Smithereens
Your Favorite Thing - Sugar
Will - Kevin Salem
Super Baby - Matthew Sweet
Baby Can Dance - Tin Machine
It's in Your Eyes - Sloan
It's Love - King's X
Smile - Pearl Jam
Tangerine - Led Zeppelin
Trip Through Your Wires - U2
Driver 8 - R.E.M.
It's Different for Girls - Joe Jackson
Surround - Dada
It's a Good Life if You Don't Weaken - The Tragically Hip
In My Life - The Beatles
Praise You - Fatboy Slim
Hey Hey You Say - Papas Fritas
Citysong - Luscious Jackson



Tuesday, June 12, 2012

New King

Last night, the Los Angeles Kings capped off a magical run with a 6-1 routing of the New Jersey Devils to clinch the franchise's first Stanley Cup. It was an impressive performance by the #8 seed in the West, a team that barely squeaked into the playoffs.

But it all came together for the Kings, led by young goalie Jonathan Quick (a UMass alum who also won the Conn Smythe as playoff MVP), a strong defense corps featuring Drew Doughty and a group of hard-working forwards including captain Dustin Brown, Anze Kopitar, Jeff Carter and Mike Richards. Coach Darryl Sutter took over a struggling team in December and got them going at just the right time. LA was dominant through the first three rounds, taking out #1 seed Vancouver in five games, #2 St. Louis in four and #3 Phoenix in five. The Kings were up 3-0 over the Devils in the final before NJ clawed back to make it respectable by winning two games; game 6 started off evenly enough. But a stupid boarding penalty by NJ's Steve Bernier led to a 5-minute power play for LA and resulted in a quick 3-0 lead in the first period.

I was hoping the Devils would force a game 7 but I was rooting for LA to win it all. They're a likable team and in a playoffs that featured more than its share of questionable hits, the Kings played it fairly clean. It was really only the team's second chance at the Cup in its 45-year existence, having previously made the finals in 1993 after Wayne Gretzky led them past my beloved Maple Leafs in a hard-fought seven-game series. I rooted for the Kings against Montreal that year, but the Habs quickly dispatched of them in five and LA didn't have so much as a sniff of contention in the years since.

Indeed, looking at the 12 teams in the NHL in 1967-68, the first post-expansion season, only two franchises have gone without a Cup since then: St. Louis and Toronto. The Blues made three early appearances in the finals but were eliminated by powerhouse Montreal and Boston teams; the closest they've come since then is the conference finals. The Leafs haven't made the finals since they last won the Cup in 1967; they've had a few conference finals appearances with their best shot at winning it all coming in '93. The Blues are certainly positioned better to contend, coming off a 109-point season (albeit a disappointing postseason); the Leafs are still a ways off from contention, sadly.

But for now, I tip my proverbial hat to the Kings and to former stars like Marcel Dionne, Charlie Simmer, Dave Taylor (the three made up the Triple Crown Line), Rogie Vachon, Kelly Hrudey, Bernie Nicholls and others who excelled in LA but never won the big one. I'm sure there are plenty of bandwagon fans who hopped on this spring, but the Kings have a core of long-suffering supporters who are no doubt extremely happy right now. It's always cool to see a team finally win the Cup after years of futility. Hopefully I'll be able to enjoy something similar one of these years.


The Kings' Triple Crown Line:
And here's the Triple Crown Line singing. Good lord:

Monday, June 11, 2012

Completely Conspicuous 231: Rock This Town

Part 1 of my conversation with filmmaker Eric Green as we discuss his documentary about V66, the short-lived Boston music video channel. Listen to the episode below or download it directly (right click and "save as").

Show notes:
- Recorded in Cambridge, Mass.
- V66 was on the air from 2/85 to 9/86
- Eric's documentary is called Life on the V

- UHF station that reached throughout New England
- Cable still hadn't reached many towns
- There were other music video shows including Friday Night Videos on NBC
- Videos had been around for awhile but didn't catch on until MTV arrived
- V66 introduced a lot of new music, played diverse styles
- We both watched it as kids
- Run DMC's "King of Rock" was most requested song on V66
- Boston bands were given more attention: Del Fuegos, Til Tuesday, New Man
- Ex-radio guy John Garabedian started V66
- Station did non-music programming like sports, weather
- MTV began adding different programs in late '80s
- Eventually, V66 was sold to Home Shopping Network
- Something like V66 could never happen today
- Eric worked at Fuse, the video station out of NYC
- Began making documentary in 2008
- Did many interviews with former V66 staff, as well as viewers
- Collected footage from fans
- Talked to musicians inspired by the station
- V66 teamed up with local radio stations on events
- To be continued

- Bonehead of the Week

Music:
The Walkmen - Love is Luck

Beachwood Sparks - Sparks Fly Again
King Tuff - Bad Thing
Superchunk - Misfits & Mistakes
Completely Conspicuous is available through the iTunes podcast directory. Subscribe and write a review!
The Walkmen song is from the album Heaven on Fat Possum Records. Download the song for free at Epitonic.

The Beachwood Sparks song is on the album The Tarnished Gold on Sub Pop. Download the song for free at Sub Pop.

The King Tuff song is on the band's self-titled album on Sub Pop. Download the song for free at Sub Pop.
The Superchunk song is on the EP Leaves in the Gutter on Merge Records. Download the song for free at 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.

Thursday, June 07, 2012

Eighties

Lately, I've been listening to and considering a lot of music from 1980s because I contributed to yet another music list: This one a list of the top 100 albums of the '80s as compiled by the writers of Popblerd. The site has been unveiling 10 picks per day (with today's installment counting down #s 70-61). I've contributed several blurbs about different albums, so check it out.

But the only place you'll find my personal top 100 is right here, and as with all of these lists, I reserve the right to change my mind 10 minutes after I make the list. At any rate, here's my top 100, with my number one being...AC/DC's Back in Black. The 1980 release found the Australian act reinventing itself with a new lead singer, Brian Johnson, after the tragic death of Bon Scott. And with the help of producer Mutt Lange, the band turned out the biggest album of its career and one of the best-selling albums of all time. Sure, "You Shook Me All Night Long" has been played to death, but the list of classic songs is immense: The title track, "Hell's Bells," "Have a Drink on Me," "Shoot to Thrill," "What You Do for Money Honey," "Rock and Roll Ain't Noise Pollution." Really, not a clunker in the bunch. Thirty-two years later, it's as powerful as ever.

Here's the rest of my list:

2. Prince - Purple Rain
3. Husker Du - Zen Arcade
4. U2 - The Joshua Tree
5. Mission of Burma - Vs.
6. Pixies - Surfer Rosa
7. R.E.M. - Murmur
8. Van Halen - Fair Warning
9. Rush - Moving Pictures
10. Prince - Sign o' the Times
11. Replacements - Tim
12. Talking Heads - Remain in Light
13. Black Flag - Damaged
14. Minutemen - Double Nickels on the Dime
15. The Pretenders - s/t
16. Public Enemy - It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back
17. Beastie Boys - Paul's Boutique
18. Peter Gabriel - Peter Gabriel (Melt)
19. Mudhoney - Superfuzz Bigmuff
20. R.E.M. - Reckoning
21. Ozzy Osbourne - Blizzard of Ozz
22. Prince - 1999
23. Husker Du - Flip Your Wig
24. The Clash - Sandinista!
25. Iron Maiden - The Number of the Beast
26. Sonic Youth - Daydream Nation
27. The Smiths - Meat is Murder
28. The Cure - Disintegration
29. Metallica - Master of Puppets
30. Nirvana - Bleach
31. Pixies - Doolittle
32. Rolling Stones - Tattoo You
33. Replacements - Let It Be
34. Rush - Permanent Waves
35. Joy Division - Closer
36. Husker Du - New Day Rising
37. Van Halen - Women and Children First
38. The Cult - Electric
39. Dinosaur Jr. - Bug
40. U2 - The Unforgettable Fire
41. Metallica - Ride the Lightning
42. Def Leppard - Pyromania
43. Talking Heads - Stop Making Sense
44. De La Soul - 3 Feet High and Rising
45. Neil Young - Freedom
46. Stevie Ray Vaughan - Couldn't Stand the Weather
47. David Bowie - Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps)
48. The Police - Zenyatta Mondatta
49. Replacements - Pleased to Meet Me
50. Peter Gabriel - So
51. The Misfits - Walk Among Us
52. Jane's Addiction - Nothing's Shocking
53. U2 - War
54. Pete Townshend - Empty Glass
55. Queen - The Game
56. R.E.M. - Life's Rich Pageant
57. Husker Du - Candy Apple Grey
58. The Police - Ghost in the Machine
59. Robert Plant - The Principle of Moments
60. Ozzy Osbourne - Diary of a Madman
61. Van Halen - 1984
62. Black Sabbath - Heaven and Hell
63. Living Colour - Vivid
64. The Tragically Hip - Up to Here
65. Husker Du - Warehouse: Songs and Stories
66. David Lee Roth - Eat 'Em and Smile
67. Dinosaur Jr. - You're Living All Over Me
68. Steely Dan - Gaucho
69. Metallica - ...And Justice For All
70. Pete Townshend - White City
71. Rolling Stones - Emotional Rescue
72. U2 - Boy
73.  The Pursuit of Happiness - Love Junk
74. INXS - Kick
75. Public Image Limited - Album
76. Led Zeppelin - Coda
77. R.E.M. - Fables of the Reconstruction
78. Replacements - Hootenanny
79. Nine Inch Nails - Pretty Hate Machine
80. Fishbone - Truth and Soul
81. Faith No More - The Real Thing
82. Lou Reed - New York
83. Def Leppard - High n' Dry
84. Black Sabbath - The Mob Rules
85. Peter Gabriel - Security
86. Joe Jackson - Night and Day
87. Iron Maiden - Powerslave
88. Van Halen - Diver Down
89. Robert Plant - Pictures at Eleven
90. The Cult - Love
91. Max Webster - Universal Juveniles
92. Phil Collins - Face Value
93. Soundgarden - Louder Than Love
94. Fugazi - 13 Songs
95. Red Hot Chili Peppers - Mother's Milk
96. X - Los Angeles
97. Devo - Freedom of Choice
98. Tom Petty - Full Moon Fever
99. Beastie Boys - Licensed to Ill
100. Roxy Music - Avalon

So that's it. It was a great decade for music and there are plenty of albums that didn't make the cut that probably should have. C'est la vie.

Tuesday, June 05, 2012

Completely Conspicuous 230: The Spirit of Radio

Part 2 of my conversation with special guests Nick Lorenzen and Mike Piantigini as we discuss the death of rock radio. Listen to the episode below or download it directly (right click and "save as").





Show notes:
- Radio now competes with iPods, digital radio, Spotify
- The anticipation factor with new music is gone
- Cell phone video has changed the live experience
- Music has become background noise
- We don't pay attention as closely to new music
- As people get older, some lose that connection to music
- Mike: Music education came from hanging out at college radio station
- Remembering the old Boston rock station WCOZ
- In praise of WFMU
- Nick: Listened to a lot of classic rock on stations like WAAF

- Satellite radio is a factor
- Jay: First listened to CHUM-AM in Toronto, then got into the FM rock stations
- Canadian Content Rule was in effect: Lots of April Wine, Chilliwack, Triumph
- Nick and Mike played in the great rock band Lump
- College radio is still great, especially WMBR, the MIT station
- Only Boston rock stations left are WZLX, WAAF, The River (WXRV)
- Jay: Pretty much listened to WFNX all the time during the '90s
- Younger music fans may not feel the loss of FNX
- Used to be fun to listen to radio in other parts of country
- Bonehead of the Week

Music:
The Henry Clay People - Hide

Archers of Loaf - Dead Red Eyes
Codeine - Median (Peel session)
Los Campesinos - Tiptoe Through the True Bits
Completely Conspicuous is available through the iTunes podcast directory. Subscribe and write a review!
The Henry Clay People song is from the band's forthcoming album Twenty-Five for the Rest of Our Lives on TBD Records. Download the song for free at Soundcloud.

The Archers of Loaf song is on the reissue of the band's album White Trash Heroes on Merge Records. Download the song for free at Soundcloud.

The Codeine song is a previously unreleased track from a Peel session available on the reissue of Barely Real on Numero Group. Download the song for free from Stereogum.
The Los Campesinos song is a non-album track released by the band for free download from its 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 blog Clicky Clicky. Voiceover work is courtesy of James Gralian; check out his site PodGeek.

Saturday, June 02, 2012

Overblown

These days it takes me a long time to read books, just because I have so many distractions that it's rare I have the time to just sit down and read. But every once in a while, I start a book that forces me to crank through it, if not in one or two sittings then over a short period of time.

Such was the case with Mark Yarm's Everybody Loves Our Town, which came out in paperback a few months ago. The book is an oral history of the Seattle grunge scene of the early '90s and delves far beyond the superficial, well-trod territory of Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden and Alice in Chains. Sure, plenty of space is given to those bands because how could you not, but Yarm also spends as much if not more time looking at other elements of the scene such as the founding of Sub Pop Records and more obscure bands like Tad, Cat Butt, the U-Men and Green River, as well as the trials and tribulations of the copycat wave that came later in the form of bands like Candlebox.

Yarm did hundreds of interviews for the book, and some of the best parts come when stories are retold and different individuals disagree on the details. This tends to happen with Courtney Love several times, for example. Not surprisingly, drugs play a huge role in the scene, as there were several high-profile deaths resulting from heroin or other drug ODs: Layne Staley, Andrew Wood, Stefanie Sargent, Mike Starr--and of course, the suicide of Kurt Cobain and the murder of Mia Zapata of the Gits. Drugs also took their toll on many other musicians in the scene who were able to get through their problems and thrive (see Mark Lanegan, Mike McCready, Mark Arm).

Oral histories are more than just a bunch of disparate quotes strung together. The best ones use others' words to tell a story, and Yarm does it as well as the best I've read (Live From New York by James Andrew Miller and Tom Shales, Those Guys Have All the Fun also by Miller and Shales, Fool the World: An Oral History of the Pixies by Josh Frank). Yarm's books a truly compelling read, and even if you think you know everything about the Seattle scene, you don't.