Monday, July 30, 2012

Completely Conspicuous 238: Generation Gap

Another installment of Driving With Kumar as I discuss the generation gap that exists in pop culture. Listen to the episode below or download it directly.

Show notes:
- Recorded on the way to WFNX Boston Accents farewell show in Allston
- WFNX has been replaced by The Harbor, a "Variety Hits" station
- FNX lasted 29 years
- Driving through another torrential rainstorm
- Generation gap in music fandom driven by a couple of NPR blog posts
- Intern wrote about how she never pays for recorded music
- Ignited industry debate, including a battle of blog posts between David Lowery and Dave Allen

- Another post had an intern reviewing Public Enemy's It Takes a Nation of Millions...
- Kid wasn't born when the album came out in 1988
- His love of hip-hop is defined by current artists like Drake
- Couldn't relate to PE's intensity

- I was struck by the lack of knowledge or interest in older music
- Get off my lawn
- As a kid, I was fascinated by music that came out in the previous few decades
- Much easier now to hear music at a moment's notice
- I blame it on sensory overload
- You're going to listen to what your friends dig
- Can't blame kids for not knowing about older acts
- I'm not trying to get my own kids to listen to my music
- Enjoy the rhythmic sounds of nature pounding on my car roof
- The world is much faster
- Technology is advancing at amazing speeds
- Rain stops right as I get into the city
- Remembering the early MP3 players
- Some kids are getting into vinyl and cassettes
- Many old pop cultural references are lost on the young
- It's not too late for kids to learn about older music
- Plenty of great new music out there, too
- Bonehead of the Week

Music:
Chelsea Light Moving - Frank O'Hara Hit

The XX - Angels
Blur - The Puritan
Mean Creek - Young & Wild
Completely Conspicuous is available through the iTunes podcast directory. Subscribe and write a review!
The Chelsea Light Moving song is available for free download from Matador Records.
The XX song is on the forthcoming album Coexist on Young Turks. Download the song for free at Epitonic.
The Blur song is the B-side of the band's self-released 12-inch Under the Westway. Download the song for free at Epitonic.
The Mean Creek song is from the forthcoming album Youth Companion on Old Flame Records. Download the song for free as part of the Boston Accents Funeral Party Soundtrack on Bandcamp.
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, July 29, 2012

For All to See

Amid all the hue and cry in these parts about the demise of WFNX-FM as the area's pioneering alternative rock station, life goes on. The station has been replaced at 101.7 on your FM dial with WHBA, aka The Harbor, a "Variety Hits" station. It's a DJ-less shuffle station that plays any manner of top 40 detritus. It's become a morbid curiosity of mine to tune in quickly just to see what's playing: in the last week since it launched, I've heard Marky Mark's "Good Vibrations," Bon Jovi's "Runaway," a few Madonna songs, Donnie Iris' "Ah Leah" and Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit. So...time to change that FM preset in my car.

In the meantime, one last farewell to FNX was delivered last week in the form of the three-night Boston Accents Funeral Party at Great Scott in Allston, hosted by Boston Phoenix writer Michael Marotta (who hosted the Boston Accents local artists' show on Sunday nights on FNX). I attended night 2 last Tuesday, which featured the bands Mean Creek, Mellow Bravo, Soccer Mom and Dirty Virgins, as well as DJ sets from none other than my friends Jay Breitling and Brad Searles. I had to leave around 12:15 so I was only able to see two songs from Mean Creek, but the rest of the night was a blast. Soccer Mom was at its ear-shredding best, Dirty Virgins rocked hard with a Flying V-wielding bassist, and Mellow Bravo bringing a schticky-but-fun vibe to the room that was highlighted by a cover of the J. Geils Band classic "House Party." It was tough to hear everything that Jay and Brad played because of the general audience noise in the club, but it was cool to hang out with them, drink beer and hear songs from the likes of Orbit, Dinosaur Jr., Young Adults and the Swirlies, among others.


Sadly, local bands have one less way to get their music heard on the radio, but for three nights, that didn't matter. And the rock shows will forge on, so at least Boston's still got that going for it.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Hide

Many apologies for the lack of activity in this space this week. I have had stuff to write but no time in which to write it. And now we're off to Maine until tomorrow. So I will leave you with this fine new song from the great Henry Clay People. Rock on, rockers and I'll post a review tomorrow of night 2 of the Boston Accents Farewell shindig at Great Scott, which I attended Tuesday.


Monday, July 23, 2012

Completely Conspicuous 237: The Midyear Rock Report, Part 2

Part 2 of my conversation with guest Jay Breitling as we discuss our favorite music of the first half of 2012. Listen to the episode below or download it directly.

Show notes:
- Recorded at Clicky Clicky World HQ
- Kumar: New Van Halen album much better than expected
- Breitling: Future Carnivores brings a new wave sound
- Breitling enjoys the Eddie Money jams
- Forced to listen to Starship
- Kumar: Check out the book I Want My MTV
- Kumar: Lanegan goes way beyond straightahead rock
- Breitling: Ride tribute comp features Boston acts
- Get Geddy Lee on the show
- Kumar: Digging the new Rush album
- New Metric album is strong
- Heavy Blanket features Mascis with guitar instrumentals
- Ty Segall was not in Under Siege 2
- Breitling: Looking forward to new release from Everyone Everywhere
- Breitling: New band called Dikembe (no relation to Mutombo) recalls mid-90s emo
- New Dino Jr. due out in the fall
- Kumar: Need to check out new Future of the Left, Henry Clay People
- Kumar's "skeptible" of Spin's Twitter reviews
- Bonehead of the Week

Music:
Future Carnivores - Drugs (demo)

Mark Lanegan Band - The Gravedigger's Song
Soccer Mom - Dreams Burn Down
Dinosaur Jr. - Watch the Corners

Completely Conspicuous is available through the iTunes podcast directory. Subscribe and write a review!
The Future Carnivores song is a demo from the band's forthcoming second album. Download the song for free from ClickyClickyMusic.com.
The Mark Lanegan Band song is on the album Blues Funeral on 4AD. Download the song for free (in exchange for your email address) at MarkLanegan.com.
The Soccer Mom song is on the compilation NOFUCKINGWHERE. Download the song for free at ClickyClickyMusic.com.
The Dinosaur Jr. song is from the forthcoming album I Bet on Sky on Jagjaguwar 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.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

I Want My MTV

I've actually been doing a fair amount of reading lately, and finally had gotten into John Irving's Last Night in Twisted River when I suddenly interrupted it to plow through another book I found at the library: I Want My MTV: The Uncensored Story of the Music Video Revolution by Craig Marks and Rob Tannenbaum. I had been meaning to pick up the 600-page oral history when it came out in paperback, but when I spotted it on the shelves at the Beverly public library, I couldn't resist. And it was a great ride that I plowed through in about a week.

The book covers the period of 1981, when MTV first launched, to 1992, when videos were giving way to the Real World and other non-music programming. As with the best oral histories, the authors weave in interviews with hundreds of folks to tell the story of MTV, from the executives who got it off the ground to the musicians whose videos were featured to the models who appeared in Robert Palmer and ZZ Top videos. And then are some great stories about coke-addled stars, debauchery in the MTV offices and the crazy backroom dealings that were involved in getting the station on the air and on cable systems. It also examines the back story behind many famous videos, good and bad, such as Billy Squier's "Rock Me Tonite," which effectively killed his career because of its decidedly unmacho dance moves.

My own experience with MTV is a mixed bag. I had seen plenty of videos while living in Toronto in the late '70s and early '80s. MTV launched in August 1981 while we were still in Canada and the city we moved to in Washington state a few months later didn't have MTV on its cable system (at that point, it wasn't on many systems at all). When we moved to New Hampshire a few years later, there was still no MTV. It arrived in Kingston in late 1985, at which I point I was already in college and could only watch it when I was home...because our dorm TV didn't have cable (and at that point, neither did the few of us who had our own TVs). My MTV viewing increased exponentially when I moved off campus in 1987 for my last two years at UNH. There were also regional all-video stations like Boston's V66, which I discussed in detail on the podcast last month with Eric Green, who's directing a documentary about the short-lived station (check out parts 1 and 2).

I watched it a fair amount after graduating because there were still videos, as well as shows like Remote Control and even the first few years of The Real World, and later Beavis and Butt-Head. By the late '90s, rap rock and boy bands had taken over the music scene and my MTV viewing dissipated to almost none; the station had gone to almost zero music content in the 2000s, relegating all that to MTV2 and VH1 Classic and going with reality fare like Real World, Road Rules, Punked, Jackass and countless other unscripted shows. I had no interest in any of that crap and I stopped watching. Of course, there's a whole generation of kids who have grown up on those shows so MTV lives on in the form of Jersey Shore et al.

As for rock videos, they're still made but certainly don't have the kingmaking power they once had. You can find just about any video ever made on YouTube for free now. And MTV realized early on it couldn't generate consistent ratings and attract big advertisers by just playing videos 24 hours a day. It's a business, after all. But those early years were a lot of fun, and I Want My MTV is a great inside look at the phenomenon. Two remotes up.



Friday, July 20, 2012

Let's Go to Bed

Even though the sale of WFNX-FM was announced two months ago, the station didn't actually cease operations until about 17 minutes ago. It's not totally going away; the station is already streaming online at WFNX.com but it's no longer a broadcast station. And it has also spawned another streaming station featuring some of the FNX crew that will be launching soon. But the broadcast frequency itself, 101.7, has been sold to Clear Channel and rumor is it could turn into a conservative talk station.

I'm not going to go in depth about the death of WFNX and rock radio in general here because I've already done that at length on the podcast with Mike Piantigini and Nick Lorenzen (listen to parts 1 and 2). But suffice it to say WFNX was a big part of my music education in the late '80s and early '90s. In the station's heyday, it played tons of so-called alternative rock that changed my perceptions about music. Sadly, radio is going the way of the dinosaur, but it was fun today to listen to the last few hours of WFNX on the broadcast dial.

Fittingly, FNX ended the way it began in 1983, by playing The Cure's "Let's Go to Bed." R.I.P.


Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Fight This Generation

As I get older, I find I'm more prone to griping about "kids these days." It's not that I have this burning desire to yell at kids to get off my lawn, but there are definitely generational differences that jump out at me.

The one sticking in my proverbial craw at this particular point in time has to do with context. Not just having a thorough knowledge of what's going on right now, but what came before you. Seems to me that a lot of the young'uns don't know and don't really care about what happened in the past, whether that past is 100, 20, 10 or even five years ago. Part of this is reflected in blank stares if you make a cultural reference more than a year old, but especially in music, there's an out-and-out ignorance of the music of previous generations.

My ire was provoked by an NPR blog post that ran last week in which an intern reviewed an album he had never heard before, Public Enemy's 1988 hip-hop classic It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back. Now I don't begrudge the kid for not having heard it; the album came out before he was born. And I guess that's the point of the post, to get the perspective of a kid who isn't a so-called expert. But holy crap, the guy has no reference points to judge the album on other than to say that Drake rules and Chuck D sounds weird. And if that's his opinion, more power to him, but it illustrates my point.

[Begin old guy rant] I don't necessarily blame this kid, because it's a societal thing, but his review really bums me out. Our society is so overloaded with stimuli these days coming at us through smartphones, computers, TV, etc., that it's a tough task to keep up with what's happening right now, let alone what happened 20 years ago.

Growing up, I listened to plenty of new music, but I also knew about bands that came out when I was a baby (or before I was born) like the Beatles, Stones, the Who, Zeppelin. I didn't get into them until I was 11 or 12, but when I found out about them, I dove in. And it wasn't as easy to access the music or do the research back in the late '70s/early '80s. You'd hear bands on the radio, but you had to buy the records or read books or magazines to get any information about artists. Now you can stream just about any band's music on Spotify or YouTube and get plenty of opinions (as well as facts) about an artist before you ever spend any money (if you do at all).

But if you point out the ignorance displayed by this kid and others, you're usually met with a shrug because nobody gives a rat's arse about some old farts and the music they played in the Paleolithic Age. The same thing goes for movies/TV/history. It used to be cool to be knowledgeable about bands or a music scene or movies or whatever; now unless you're in a trivia contest, you don't have to know that stuff. You can just look it up on your phone if you need to.

Of course, I'm generalizing about a whole generation; I'm sure there are kids who know about Public Enemy or Led Zeppelin or The Feelies, but they're few and far between. There's too much coming at kids these days for them to bother looking back. And that's a damn shame. [Conclude old guy rant]

Monday, July 16, 2012

Completely Conspicuous 236: The Midyear Rock Report, Part 1

Part 1 of my conversation with guest Jay Breitling as we discuss our favorite music of the first half of 2012. Listen to the episode below or download it directly.

Show notes:
- Recorded at Clicky Clicky World HQ

- Kumar: New Smashing Pumpkins ain't bad
- Breitling: Golden Gurls do not feature Bea Arthur but do rock

- Kumar: High on Fire brings metallic fury
- Kumar: Check out Henry Rollins' great radio show
- Breitling: Former Books leader Zammuto released terrific album
- Kumar: Cloud Nothings are young and really good
- Breitling: Boston act Autochrome brings the post-punk
- WFNX's demise will result in two streaming stations
- Kumar: Torche is heavy and poppy
- Breitling: Check out Big Science
- Dumb band name: The Internet
- Kumar: Japandroids unleash unbridled fury
- Breitling: Karl Hendricks Trio back with another great record
- Kumar: GBV returns with the classic lineup
- Breitling: Infinity Girl debut features quality shoegaze
- Bonehead of the Week

Music:
Golden Gurls - Excited

Cloud Nothings - No Future/No Past
Autochrome - We Are the System
Torche - Kicking
Karl Hendricks Trio - The Men's Room at the Airport
Guided By Voices - The Unsinkable Fats Domino

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

The Golden Gurls song is from the album Typo Magic. Download the song and the album for free at GoldenGurls.Bandcamp.com.
The Cloud Nothings song is on the album Attack on Memory on Carpark Records. Download the song for free at Epitonic.
The Autochrome song is on the album Separation Realms. Download the song for free (in exchange for your email address) at Bandcamp.
The Torche song is from the album Harmonicraft on Volcom Entertainment. Download the song for free (in exchange for your email address) at TorcheMusic.
The Karl Hendricks Trio song is on the album The Adult Section on Comedy Minus One Records. Download the song for free from Comedy Minus One.
The Guided By Voices song is on the album Let's Go Eat the Factory on Guided By Voices Records. Download the song for free at GBVDigital.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 blog Clicky Clicky. Voiceover work is courtesy of James Gralian; check out his site PodGeek.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Get Lucky

When I was a young lad, I was a voracious comics reader, mostly of the Marvel variety. One of my favorite titles was What If?, a series that launched in 1977 and essentially explored alternate realities: What if Spider-man joined the Fantastic Four? What if the world knew Daredevil was blind? What if the Hulk wore polka dotted pants? Stuff like that.

I've always been fascinated by the little twists and turns that people take in their lives. Instead of making the decision to do one thing that led you to where you are today, what if you went in another direction entirely? I made such a decision in college when I decided to go into journalism after nearly flunking out of chemical engineering. It worked out fairly well.

But sometimes I wonder what would have happened if I had the guts to do something entirely creative and explored something like comedy writing instead of pursuing an established career. I'm always interested in origin stories, not just those of superheroes but of folks in entertainment who start out doing one thing and end up taking a chance and succeeding in comedy or music.

Take, for example, Henry Rollins. He was a manager of an ice cream shop in DC when he got on stage with Black Flag and impressed them enough that he was offered the gig of lead singer. He jumped at it and has never looked back, becoming a punk rock legend and later an actor, talk show host, writer and spoken word artist (he also hosts a kickass radio show on KCRW every week). He explains how he made the decision that changed his life:



I don't regret any of the choices I've made. I've got a great life. But it's hard not to wonder what it would have taken for me to follow my dreams instead of what I knew was practical. It's a choice that everyone has to make in their lives. And once you make it, you've got to hope you made the right one.

Monday, July 09, 2012

Completely Conspicuous 235: Read 'em and Weep

Part 2 of my conversation with guest Christian Douglass as we talk about the state of the book industry. Listen to the episode below or download it directly.

Show notes:
- Recorded in Beverly, Mass.
- Christian: So many good books out there go undiscovered
- Kindles and other e-readers have people
- Attitudes towards owning music and books change as folks get older
- Jay: My kids are still reading books
- The debate over digital media and artist royalties rages on in music industry
- Different revenue models: Amanda Palmer raised over $1 mil on Kickstarter for new album
- That won't work for artists without huge followings, though
- The popularity of oral histories
- Crafting an oral history involves skill in selecting right quotes, telling a story
- "Narrative non-fiction" is an interesting sub-genre
- Bonehead of the Week

Music:
The Henry Clay People - 25 for the Rest of Our Lives

Japandroids - The Nights of Wine and Roses
The Hives - High School Shuffle

Wye Oak - Spiral

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

The Henry Clay People song is from the album Twenty-Five for the Rest of Our Lives on TBD Records. Download the song for free at HenryClayPeople.com.
The Japandroids song is on the album Celebration Rock on Polyvinyl Records. Download the song for free at Epitonic.
The Hives song is on the album Lex Hives on Disques Hives. Download the song for free at RCRDLBL.
The Wye Oak song is from the Adult Swim Singles Series. 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.

Friday, July 06, 2012

No Future/No Past

I often wonder what the hell I was thinking when I was a kid, whether it was the clothes I wore, the things I did or didn't do, or just stupid things I said. Well, one guy actually had the foresight as a 12-year-old to record a VHS message to himself 20 years in the future.Which is cool enough, but then the guy, filmmaker Jeremiah McDonald, went and created a video of the 32-year-old Jeremiah having a conversation with his 12-year-old counterpart. And it's brilliant:




This of course got me to wondering what my 14-year-old self in 1982 would ask of the Jay Kumar of 2012, who would be (cough) 44. Not having the benefit of film equipment of any kind back then, I can only imagine the conversation would go something like this:

1982 JK: Sooooo, future me, how's it going?

2012 JK: Good, I guess. How are you?

1982 JK: I'm okay. Although I went to three schools last year. That wasn't fun. We're still in Washington state, but at least we're living in a house now instead of that stupid duplex. Can you believe I had to share a room with my little brother?

2012 JK: Actually, I can believe it because I already lived it.

1982 JK: Oh, right. So, what's 2012 like? Are there flying cars and colonies on the moon and more importantly, do I ever get laid?

2012 JK: Let's see...that would be no, no and eventually.

1982 JK: Really? That's awesome! When? Who? How?

2012 JK: I can't tell you that. It'd ruin the surprise. Plus it might cause a rift in the time-space continuum.

1982 JK: The what?

2012 JK: Never mind. So what are you doing now?

1982 JK: Not a whole lot. I have a paper route, but it sucks. I have to get up at 5 a.m. to deliver the papers and I get chased by a stupid dog every day.

2012 JK: Oh, yeah. Don't worry, you won't be doing that for much longer. Hell, you won't even be living in that town a year from now.

1982 JK: What? We're moving again? Where are we going this time?

2012 JK: Oops, I said too much. You probably should ask your parents...although at this point, they don't know, either.

1982 JK: Geez, thanks a lot, future jerk. What other crappy news do you have for me?

2012 JK: Hey, it's not all bad. You'll have a girlfriend after you move.

1982 JK: What? Sweet! This is great!

2012 JK: Don't get too excited. It ends badly after a month. But at least you're in the game.

1982 JK: Oh, crap. Well, maybe I can do something different this time.

2012 JK: Good luck with that, pal. All I can say is don't take it too seriously.

1982 JK: Whatever. So tell me, you must be like super old by now if you're 44. Are you rich? Please tell me you're rich, and you have a huge house with a sexy wife and four cars and an in-home movie theater.

2012 JK: I've got a wife and a house and we have two cars. How's that?

1982 JK: So you're not rich?

2012 JK: No, sorry. I'm not poor, though.

1982 JK: What do you do for a living?

2012 JK: I'm an editor for a healthcare-related publishing company.

1982 JK: Oh man, the future is going to be terrible.

2012 JK: Hey, I think my life's pretty good. I've got a great wife and two beautiful daughters and I run marathons and do a podcast...

1982 JK: What's a podcast?

2012 JK: It's like a radio show, I guess.

1982 JK: Well, that's pretty cool, I suppose. And you run marathons? Why?

2012 JK: When you turn 30, you'll get into running.

1982 JK: Yeah, right. Now I KNOW you're full of crap. I'm starting to think this wasn't such a great idea.

2012 JK: Right back at ya, pal.

Maybe it's just as well that I didn't leave myself a tape...

Monday, July 02, 2012

Completely Conspicuous 234: Reading is Fundamental

Part 1 of my conversation with guest Christian Douglass as we talk about the state of the book industry. Listen to the episode below or download it directly.



Show notes:
- Recorded in Beverly, Mass.
- In this age of distraction, it's amazing that people read books at all
- Christian: Education system may be to blame for lack of reading

- Fiction is still a valuable commodity
- Jay: Fun to see my kids get into reading
- Christian: Treating reading like a workout
- Multi-tasking all day makes one less inclined to read later
- Authors were once treated like movie stars
- "Fifty Shades of Grey" started as Twilight fan fiction
- Many best-sellers are autobiographies of celebs
- Christian: Historical fiction is exciting
- Working on a new project, a "novel in stories"
- Looking at African-Americans attracted to Russian promise of equality
- Also working on novel about a murder in rural Alaska
- All about plot
- Success comes at the sentence level
- Many parallels to the music industry
- Bonehead of the Week

Music:
The Corin Tucker Band - Groundhog Day

The Raveonettes - Observations
Stars - The Theory of Relativity
The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion - Black Mold

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

The Corin Tucker Band song is from the forthcoming album Kill My Blues on Kill Rock Stars. Download the song for free at Stereogum.
The Raveonettes song is from the band's forthcoming album Observator on Vice Records. Download the song for free at Stereogum.
The Stars song is on the forthcoming album The North on ATO Records. Download the song for free (in exchange for your email address) at StarstheNorth.com.
The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion song is from the band's forthcoming album Meat and Bone on Boombox/Mom + Pop. Download the song for free (in exchange for your email address) at Pitchfork.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 blog Clicky Clicky. Voiceover work is courtesy of James Gralian; check out his site PodGeek.

Sunday, July 01, 2012

Wheat Kings

I've lived in the U.S. of A for the last 30+ years, but there will always be a soft spot in my heart for Canada, the land where I was born and raised for my first 14 years. I love where I live now and I have no plans on eventually moving back to the Great White North, but that doesn't mean I'll ever stop rooting for the Leafs and Jays or listening to Canadian rock bands.

And on this day, which is Canada Day (formerly known as Dominion Day), I always feel a kinship with my Canuck homies. It's the opening day of NHL free agency, so I end up spending a lot of time on Twitter following the latest deals. I'm sure there are fellow American hockey fans who are doing the same, but it doesn't compare to the national frenzy going on in Canadia right now. I get up there every few years or so, usually to Toronto. We're planning on going to Montreal in August for about five days, so that should be fun. It's a great city, but I haven't done a family trip there in many moons (drunken escapades are another story).

Ultimately, I've accepted the crazy twists and turns of my life, but I'll never be ashamed of where I came from. And now I'll crack open the ceremonial Labatt's Blue and celebrate this fine occasion.