Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Completely Conspicuous 358: Reeling in the Years, 1988 (Part 1)

Part 1 of my conversation with guest Brian Salvatore as we look back at the music of 1988. Listen to the episode below or download directly (right click and "save as").

Show notes:
- Recorded before Thanksgiving via Skype
- Check out Brian's radio show Unsolicited Mixtape
- JK: Hard drive issues
- Brian was 6 in '88, Jay was 20
- George Harrison's comeback
- Big year for George Michael and pop in general
- INXS was huge in '88
- MTV ruled the roost
- Videos resurrected a lot of dormant careers
- James Brown's car chase
- Zeppelin worship
- Ill-fated trip to Monsters of Rock festival
- John Lydon's iPad app addiction
- The strange end of the Clash
- Zeppelin reformed to play Atlantic Records' 40th anniversary bash
- Where's Mike Johnson?
- '70s nostalgia peaked in '88
- GNR broke through in '88
- Power ballads were the big ticket for hard rock bands
- BS: Dylan's album had a diverse collection of guests
- Tori Amos' pop debut, Y Kant Tori Read
- Ted Nugent released If You Can't Lick 'Em, Lick 'Em
- David Lee Roth's disappointing followup to Eat 'Em and Smile
- BS: VH's OU812 was a lowlight
- To be continued

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

JEFF the Brotherhood - What's a Creep
Hookworms - Radio Tokyo
Murder Vibes - Not Alone Tonight

The JEFF the Brotherhood song is on the band's forthcoming album on Warner Bros. Records. Download the song for free (in exchange for your email address) at the band's website.
The Hookworms song is on the album The Hum on Weird World Record Co./Domino. Download the song for free at KEXP.
The Murder Vibes song is on the band's self-titled, self-released album. The song is available for free download at KEXP.

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.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

What Color is Blood: The Best Albums of 2014

Editor's note: You can hear me and Jay Breitling doing our annual podcast rundown of our favorite music of the year (see parts 1, 2 and 3) and I'll also be playing two hours of the best 2014 rock jams on Stuck In Thee Garage next Friday.

I've often lamented about how the music listening experience has changed over the years. What was once a focused, intense experience is now often a scattershot, multi-tasked and rushed as we try to cram a million different things into our busy days. It's rare that one listens to an album with that sole purpose in mind; there's always something else going on that competes for your attention.

Still, there's so much great stuff to sift through these days, it makes me want to try harder to dig into the albums that catch my ear. I don't always succeed, but here are the 15 albums that jumped out at me this year.

15. Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks - Wig Out at Jagbags
The former Pavement fronter has been releasing quality solo work for 13 years. This is yet another fine collection, full of clever, jammy, guitar-saturated rockers. 

14. Bob Mould - Beauty + Ruin
Mould's resurgence continues with another powerful effort with his power trio featuring Jason Narducy and Jon Wurster. Mould hasn't rocked this hard since his days in Sugar.

13. The New Pornographers - Brill Bruisers
The hits keep on coming with this Canadian supergroup's latest album. A.C. Newman, Dan Bejar and Neko Case bring an embarrassment of power pop riches.  

12. Spoon - They Want My Soul
Another act that consistently brings the good stuff is Spoon. Britt Daniel even used his time off from the band to crank out an excellent album with the Divine Fits. They Want My Soul is a classic Spoon slow grower that just gets better every time you hear it. 

11. The War on Drugs - Lost in the Dream
After nearly a decade, The War on Drugs broke through this year with this dreamy, guitar-drenched record. Adam Granduciel, who co-founded the band with Kurt Vile, traffics in the same spacey sounds as Vile, although WOD has more of an '80s vibe. Mark Kozelek has had fun trolling the band this year, but there's no denying this is a powerful piece of work.

10. Hallelujah the Hills - Have You Ever Done Something Evil?
This was my first extended listen to HTH, which provided backing instrumentation on Titus Andronicus' The Monitor. Ryan Walsh and crew deliver a strong set of anthemic indie rock. Stirring stuff.

9. Gord Downie and the Sadies - And the Conquering Sun
This Canuck All-Star team-up of the Tragically Hip frontman and the all-purpose backup band was eight years in the making. The end product is a 30+ minute blast of energy, rawer than what either party normally is known for. It sounds like everyone involved is having more fun than they have in years.

8. Death From Above 1979 - The Physical World
Comeback albums are a tricky business. More often than not, the results are disappointing. Toronto punk duo Death From Above 1979 only made one album in 2004 before splitting up a few years later. DFA79 is a bass and drums band, but the sound they produce is super-heavy riff rock. And it's good, catchy and super loud.

7. Soccer Mom - s/t
Sadly, Soccer Mom's first album is also their last. It's a damn shame, since the Boston shoegaze quartet was able to turn a blisteringly loud live act into a compelling and interesting debut album. I had seen the band several times before the album came out, but the album marked the first time I could really make out the vocals. The band's last gasp is a magnificent one, full of unrelentingly loud and majestic songs. Guitarists Dan Parlin and Will Scales split the vocal duties, and are moving on to form a new band called Gold Muse with Young Adults' Chris Villon, Earthquake Party's Justin Lally and former Swirlies singer Deb Warfield, so at least there are good things on the horizon.

6. Ex Hex - Rips
Mary Timony's storied career has taken many interesting turns, from Helium to her solo work to Wild Flag. Her latest band, Ex Hex, is a classic power trio that packs in big riffs, loud solos and catchy-as-hell choruses in a killer album that echoes mid-'70s NYC garage punk. It's short (35 minutes), punchy and just plain fun. I saw Ex Hex play twice this year and both shows were gloriously rockin'; you can tell Timony, bassist Betsy Wright and drummer Laura Harris are having a total blast playing live. I've already got a ticket to see them in the spring and I can't wait.

5. Protomartyr - Under Color of Official Right
This Detroit quartet is one of the most interesting bands of the year. An unorthodox combo fronted by Joe Casey, who had never been in a band before, Protomartyr delivers a potent post-punk mix that echoes bands like Wire and The Fall. Casey's vocal style could be called talk-singing, but that's taking away from the undeniable presence the man has that gives Protomartyr a sound unlike any other contemporary act. Seeing the band open for Parquet Courts in June was a fortunate chance to see two hot indie bands just before they started blowing up (relatively speaking). I'm looking forward to seeing what Protomartyr does next.

4. Ty Segall - Manipulator
Ty Segall's no surprise to this space, but what was surprising this year was that he only released one album instead of three or four. Segall's 2012 album Slaughterhouse was a breakthrough, and Manipulator moves beyond the garage-psych sound he perfected and focuses on a fuller, '70s glam rock sound that harks back to Bowie and T-Rex. At 17 songs and 56 minutes, this is the longest album Segall's ever done, but it's all killer, no filler. Combine that with a lethal live show and you've got one of the best artists working today.

3. Sloan - Commonwealth
Speaking of prolific and consistently excellent bands, Sloan has been delivering high-quality power pop for 23 years. The foursome's latest release is a double album in which each member contributes a side's worth of music. It's an experiment that other bands have tried, but the difference is Sloan albums have always featured contributions from all four singer-songwriters. Musically, Commonwealth doesn't stray too far from the band's sound, although drummer Andrew Scott's 17-minute suite "Forty-Eight Portraits" is decidedly different. Jay Ferguson's opening side is the best, with his supremely catchy '70s AM pop ditties, but as is always the case with Sloan, it's all good.

2. The Afghan Whigs - Do to the Beast
Anybody who's followed Greg Dulli's career over the last 15 years knows he's continued to operate at a high level, whether it was with The Twilight Singers, The Gutter Twins or doing the odd solo tour. So when word broke earlier this year that the Afghan Whigs would be releasing a new album, it wasn't a case of "Will they still have the goods?" It was always Dulli's band, so for me, I was confident the end product would be worthy. Some of the trademark Whigs slide guitar sound is gone because founding guitarist Rick McCollum is no longer part of the band, but Dulli and bassist John Curley have forged ahead with a new group of players and the results are terrific. Dulli still writes smoldering, intense songs about love and greed and mortality...y'know, the good stuff. In addition to the main group, the album features contributions from the likes of Clay Tarver, Alain Johannes, Van Hunt and several others. It's a rich collection of moody rock from one of the best unsung artists of our time.

1. Parquet Courts - Sunbathing Animal
Parquet Courts made a splash in the indie rock world last year, when their 2012 release Light Up Gold was reissued and caught fire. The New York by way of Austin quartet upped the ante with Sunbathing Animal, which took their brand of CBGBs-inspired garage rock and infused it with more fully developed songs. It feels like the natural evolution of the band's sound, moving from midtempo locked-in grooves like "Bodies" to slower meditations like "Dear Ramona" and "Instant Disassembly" to sped-up chooglers like "Always Back in Town" and the title track. Singer-guitarist Andrew Savage's laconic Richard Hell-like vocal style fits Parquet Courts much like Stephen Malkmus' dry delivery was perfect for Pavement. Savage's guitar interplay with Austin Brown also is reminiscent of Television, with snaking leads that wind their way through the songs. Where Light Up Gold's songs were for the most part short and punchy, Sunbathing Animal finds the band stretching out and dare I say, jamming more. And somehow the band found time in between tour dates to release yet another album, Content Nausea, on which Savage and Brown present some more low-key songs. It was a great year for music, and Parquet Courts were leading the charge.

Honorable mention: Ryan Adams - 1984 (Pax-Am Singles Series); Cloud Nothings - Here and Nowhere Else; Two Inch Astronaut - Foulbrood; Against Me! - Transgender Dysphoria Blues; Run the Jewels - Run the Jewels 2; Benjamin Booker - s/t; Radiator Hospital - Torch Song; The Both - s/t; Johnny Foreigner - You Can Do Better; Krill - Steve Hears Pile in Malden and Bursts Into Tears (EP); Speedy Ortiz - Real Hair (EP); The Hush Now - Sparkle Drive; Fucked Up - Glass Boys.   

Friday, December 26, 2014

Stuck In Thee Garage #62: December 26, 2014

Happy Boxing Day! We're almost in 2015, but before we get there, we had one last gasp with some Christmas rock on Stuck In Thee Garage today. After an hour of holiday tunes, we played some non-holiday jams in hour 2. Next week, we look back at the best music of 2014.

This playlist jingles all the way:

Hour 1
Artist - Song/Album
Slade - Merry Xmas Everybody/single
The Dollyrots - Messed Up Xmas/The Xmas EP
Owl John - All I Want for Me Is You/B-side
Deer Tick - Christmas All Summer Long/Holy Shit, It's Christmas!
The White Stripes - Candy Cane Children/Merry Christmas from the White Stripes
The Twilight Singers - Candy Cane Crawl/Powder Burns
Pearl Jam - Don't Believe in Christmas/2002 Christmas single
Neko Case - Christmas Card from a Hooker in Minneapolis/New Coat of Paint (Songs of Tom Waits)
Jesse Malin - Fairytale of New York/On Your Sleeve
Gordon Downie - Christmastime in Toronto/Battle of the Nudes
Bob and Doug McKenzie - Twelve Days of Christmas/Great White North
Art Carney - Twas the Night Before Christmas/Jingle Bell Swing
Frank Black - The Holiday Song/Frank Black Francis
Okkervil River - Listening to Otis Redding During Christmas/Golden Opportunities mixtape

Hour 2
Francisco the Man! - Loaded/Loose Ends
Hookworms - Radio Tokyo/The Hum
Museum of Love - The Who's Who of Who Cares/Museum of Love
D'Angelo and the Vanguard - Sugah Daddy/Black Messiah
The Gap Band - Early in the Morning/Gap Band IV
Chuck Brown and the Soul Searchers - Bustin' Loose/Bustin' Loose
JEFF the Brotherhood - What's a Creep/What's a Creep
Two Inch Astronaut - Type Four/Foulbrood
Big Ups - Wool/Eighteen Hours of Static
The Libertines - Time for Heroes/Up the Bracket
Paul Weller - Peacock Suit/Heavy Soul
Arctic Monkeys - Potion Approaching/Humbug
Avengers - We Are the One/We Are the One 7-inch
Liz Phair - Stratford-on-Guy/Exile in Guyville
Sleater-Kinney - The Fox/The Woods
The Raveonettes - Oh, I Buried You Today/In and Out of Control

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

So Far So Good

The current fragmented state of the music industry means different things to different people. For established artists who aren't megastars like Taylor Swift, it often means album sales are negligible and live dates are often played at smaller venues than in the past. For fans, it means you get to see one of the best bands of the last 20 years in a tiny club in Allston, Mass.

In the case of Canadian power pop outfit Sloan, they've never been a huge band down here in the States. I've been going to Boston-area Sloan shows for the last 17 years and they've all been in relatively small clubs (the Middle East downstairs, TT the Bears, the Paradise, Brighton Music Hall); the band draws considerably better in the Great White North, but they've always had an enthusiastic following here. Last month's show at Great Scott was to promote the band's latest double album masterpiece, Commonwealth, which found each band member contributing a side's worth of songs.

Smartly, there was no opening act as the band played for two hours, with two sets, and intermission and an encore. Last time Sloan came through in 2012, they were playing their 1994 album Twice Removed in its entirety on the heels of a reissue; this time around, they didn't play any songs from 1996's One Chord to Another, which leads me to believe they're likely readying another reissue and tour in 2016.

This wasn't a problem for me, because I've heard OCTA classics like "The Good in Everyone," "The Lines You Amend" and "Everything You've Done Wrong" pretty much every time I've seen the band. Of course, the band showcased the new record, with nine of Commonwealth's 15 songs played at Great Scott, including Andrew Scott's 17-minute suite "Forty-Eight Portraits," which opened the show. The first set saw the other three band members each take turns playing three of their songs. Patrick Pentland followed Scott and played the uber-catchy "Keep Swinging (Downtown)" from the new record. Jay Ferguson then played two of his new songs before digging into "I Hate My Generation" from Twice Removed, and then Chris Murphy sandwiched the Navy Blues classic "Suppose They Close the Door" between two new songs. The band was tight as always, switching instruments (Murphy would play drums and Ferguson took over bass when Scott stepped up to sing and play guitar) seamlessly and having fun (Murphy loves to mug it up on stage). Keyboardist Gregory MacDonald provided background vocals in addition to keys and handclaps.

The band had their roadies and staff dudes decked out as casino dealers in keeping with Commonwealth's card game motif, and they even had a fake radio ad for a casino playing between their pre-set songs.

After the intermission, Sloan returned with a set that included songs from most of their albums, including "Ready for You" from 2003's Action Pact; I can't recall hearing anything from that album after the Action Pact tour. It was the only Sloan album that Scott didn't contribute anything to and was seen as a hard rocking shot at arena glory that the band would rather forget. (FWIW, I still enjoy digging it out every so often.) It's always great to hear songs from 1999's Between the Bridges ("The N.S.") as well as 2006's "instant classic" (to quote Murphy) Never Hear the End of It ("Ill-Placed Trust," "Blackout" and "Someone I Can Be True With"). The band came back for an encore in which they played "Marquee and the Moon," a great showcase for Murphy's vocals and wry lyrics, and "500 Up" from the first Sloan album, Smeared.

You'll never hear the guys of Sloan complain about playing to small crowds (the Great Scott show wasn't sold out, but it was close). Murphy came out and actually greeted everyone waiting in line before the gig. Sloan obviously loves what they do, and luckily for us, they keep coming through every couple of years to blow our minds. Here's to seeing them again in a year or two.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Completely Conspicuous 357: Five Alive

Part 3 of my conversation with guest Jay Breitling as we count down our top 5 albums of 2014. Listen to the episode below or download directly (right click and "save as").

Show notes:
- Recorded at Clicky Clicky World HQ
- JB's #5
- Perfect Pussy marks the return of political punk
- JK's #5
- Protomartyr came out of nowhere
- An unlikely combo
- JB's #4
- Krill's EP packs a punch
- Jonah Furman is a serious thinker
- Boston rock scene has been tremendous the last few years
- R.I.P., Soccer Mom, Young Adults, The Hush Now
- JK's #4
- Ty Segall was less prolific but released an incredible album
- JB's #3
- Cookies is latest side project from Mobius Band's Ben Sterling
- JK's #3
- Yet another great album from Sloan
- Each member contributes an album side
- JB's #2
- Lubec released a strong album under the radar
- JK's #2
- First Afghan Whigs album in 16 years
- Greg Dulli keeps delivering at a high level
- JB's #1
- Johnny Foreigner digs deep
- JK's #1
- Parquet Courts released two albums in 2014
- Harking back to CBGB-era punk sounds
- JB: Looking forward to new records from Pile, Chandos, Krill, Infinity Girl, Winter
- JK: Sleater-Kinney, Titus Andronicus, Faith No More will have new releases in 2015

Protomartyr - Scum, Rise!
The Afghan Whigs - Matamoros
Johnny Foreigner - Le Sigh

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

The Protomartyr song is on the album Under Color of Official Right on Hardly Art. Download the song for free at Stereogum.

The Afghan Whigs song is on the album Do to the Beast on Sub Pop. Download the song for free from Soundcloud.
The Johnny Foreigner song is on the album You Can Do Better on Alcopop. 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 blog Clicky Clicky. Voiceover work is courtesy of James Gralian.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Stuck In Thee Garage #61: December 19, 2014

Back in July, I did an episode of Stuck In Thee Garage that featured songs with women's names. This time around, it was the dudes' turn. I could've easily done a full two hours, but there's a good cross-section in hour 2.

The manly playlist:

Hour 1
Artist - Song/Album
Krill - Torturer/A Distant Fist Unclenching
Two Inch Astronaut - Foulbreed/Foulbreed
Parquet Courts - Everyday It Starts/Content Nausea
Superheaven - In On It/Jar
Jaws - Gold/Be Slowly
The Lees of Memory - We Are Siamese/Sisyphus Says
The Smith Street Band - Surrender/Throw Me In the River
The Young Evils - Renegades/False Starts EP
The Hoot Hoots - Gone Far/Colorpunch
Fox and the Law - Hot Water/Stoned to Death
Speedy Ortiz - Speedy Ortiz/The Death of Speedy Ortiz
Smashing Pumpkins - Tiberius/Monuments to an Elegy
And You Will Know Us By the Trail of Dead - The Doomsday Book/IX
Death From Above 1979 - Government Trash/The Physical World
Sebadoh - Two Years Two Days/Bubble and Scrape
The Stooges - T.V. Eye/Fun House

Hour 2:  Songs about dudes
Weezer - My Name is Jonas/Weezer
Ben Folds Five - Michael Praytor, Five Years Later/The Sound of the Life of the Mind
Consonant - John Coltrane's "My Favorite Things"/Consonant
Piebald - If Marcus Garvey Dies, Then Marcus Garvey Lives/If It Weren't for Venetian Blinds, It Would Be Curtains for Us All
Fugazi - Joe No. 1/Repeater
Johnny Foreigner - Robert Scargill Takes the Prize/You Thought You Saw a Shooting Star But Yr Eyes Were Blurred
The Germs - Richie Dagger's Crime/M.I.A.: The Complete Germs
Dambuilders - Colin's Heroes/Encendedor
Swirlies - Jeremy Parker/Blonder Tongue Audio Baton
Frank Black - Sir Rockaby/Teenager of the Year
Kam Fong - Harry Dean Stanton/From the Bottom of the Sea
Gorillaz - Bill Murray/Feel Good, Inc. EP
Elvis Costello - Oliver's Army/Armed Forces
Steve Martin - King Tut/Live on SNL
Led Zeppelin - Hats Off to (Roy) Harper/Led Zeppelin III
The Dirtbombs - Sherlock Holmes/We Have You Surrounded
The Horrors - Jack the Ripper/Strange House

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Completely Conspicuous 356: Down for the Count

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

Show notes:
- Recorded at Clicky Clicky World HQ
- Dog talk
- Honorable mentions
- JK: New Pornographers, Spoon are consistently excellent
- Bob Mould, Stephen Malkmus, War on Drugs
- Mark Kozelek is having fun trolling everybody
- Good EPs from Krill and Speedy Ortiz
- Run the Jewels released another good album
- Ryan Adams released a rockin' singles series EP
- JB: High grades for Nai Harvest, White Laces, Nothing, Wrong Shapes, Sneeze, Burning Alms, Cymbals Eat Guitars, Room Runner
- JK: Check out the free Exploding in Sound sampler on Bandcamp
- JB: New Two Inch Astronaut album is great
- JB's #10
- Radiator Hospital has been prolific and good
- JK's #10
- Hallelujah the Hills with a quality release
- JB's #9 and JK's #7
- The first Soccer Mom album is also their last
- JK's #9
- Unlikely release from Gord Downie and the Sadies
- JB's #8
- Literature is yet another good band on Slumberland
- Spotify usage habits
- JK's #8
- Comeback album for Death From Above 1979 has tons of great riffs
- JB's #7
- Ava Luna brings interesting approach to funk and punk
- JB's #6
- She Sir's latest was years in the making
- JK's #6
- Mary Timony's latest project harks back to '70s NYC punk scene
- Next week: Our top 5 albums

Hallelujah the Hills - Pick Up an Old Phone
Soccer Mom - Orejas
Ex Hex - Don't Wanna Lose

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

The Hallelujah the Hills song is on the album Have You Ever Done Something Evil? on Discrete Pageantry. Download the song for free from Stereogum.
The Soccer Mom song is on the band's self-titled album on 100m Records. Download the song for free from Soundcloud.
The Ex Hex song is on the album Rips on Merge Records. Download the song and album for free at KEXP.
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.

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Completely Conspicuous 355: Peace Sells...But Who's Buying?

Part 1 of my conversation with guest Jay Breitling as we discuss the year in music. Listen to the episode below or download directly (right click and "save as").

Show notes:
- Recorded at Clicky Clicky World HQ
- Still searching for a beer sponsor
- An annual tradition
- JB: Post-device lifestyle
- Streaming options abound
- JK: Still use the iTunes player
- Nobody's buying music anymore
- Vinyl found a niche with hipsters/indie rock fans
- Another big year for pop
- Taylor Swift had the only platinum album of 2014
- The spirit of radio is on the ropes
- More music out there than ever
Noise for Toys benefit at Great Scott, 12/16
- Missed the Replacements show in Boston
- JK: Saw lots of good live shows in 2014
- Parquet Courts, Protomartyr, Ty Segall, Sloan, GBV, Afghan Whigs, Caspian
- JB: Hoping for a Ride show in Boston next year
- Next week: Our favorite music of the year

Bob Mould - Hey Mr. Grey
Dum Dum Girls - Under These Hands
Radiator Hospital - Five & Dime

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

The Bob Mould song is on the album Beauty & Ruin on Merge Records. Download the song for free from KEXP.
The Dum Dum Girls song is on the album Too True on Sub Pop. Download the song for free from Soundcloud.
The Radiator Hospital song is on the album Torch Song. Download the song and album for free at 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.

Saturday, December 06, 2014

Senses Working Overtime: Go

Editor's note: Senses Working Overtime is an occasional series (VERY occasional; there's only been one other entry and that was three years ago) in which I recap movies that didn't get (or warrant) much attention when they came out.

Go (1999)

For some strange reason, 1999 has been resonating with me lately. Part of it is I've been binge-listening to the podcast Serial, which is produced by This American Life and in which host Sarah Koenig digs into the case of a 1999 Baltimore murder. It's garnered a ton of press and I finally checked it out this week; Deb and I both cranked through all 10 episodes in a few days. Anyhoo, it's focused a lot obviously on 1999 and what was happening then around this case.

Coincidentally, just a few days before I started listening to Serial, I watched the movie Go, which I saw not long after it came out in, yes, 1999. That was back when I used to see a fair amount of movies in the theater, but I'm pretty sure I saw it at home, either on HBO or as a rental. It was the third film by director Doug Liman, who had scored big a few years earlier with Swingers. I remember really enjoying it at the time, so when there was a free preview of Starz a few weekends back and I saw they were showing Go in the middle of the night, I recorded it.

Watching it again 15 years later, I was amazed at how much I'd forgotten about the basic plot. Coming out in the late '90s, there were plenty of Tarantino comparisons, especially given the fact that the story revolves around a drug deal from the viewpoints of three different characters in three sections. But unlike a lot of the QT ripoffs of the time, Go manages to establish its own identity. A big part of that is the strong cast: Sarah Polley, Scott Wolf, Jay Mohr, William Fichtner, Taye Diggs, Katie Holmes, Timothy Olyphant, Desmond Askew.

Although it's a crime thriller in some respects, Go never gets too serious, which I suppose was another reason for folks to write it off as Pulp Fiction Lite. And like Pulp Fiction (and Reservoir Dogs and Jackie Brown), the movie has some edge-of-the-seat moments and some hilarious ones. Polley is ostensibly the main character, and indeed I read that screenwriter John August originally wrote a short about her character Ronna but then expanded the story after getting questions about the other characters.

It's a funny, fast-moving flick that was pretty edgy by 1999 standards, anyway, what with all the kids taking the drugs and partying and the like. Of course, being of its time, there are bound to be some dated elements. The film's characters are all excited about one of those crazy rave party things, where everybody's stoned on whatever they could get and dancing with glow sticks and whatnot. I honestly don't know how much of that was cliche by that point; certainly raves had been happening for quite some time. There's a lot of pager use in the film, since cell phones were still rather large and not in widespread use in 1998, when this was likely made. And of course, the soundtrack is full of songs from late '90s alt-rock stalwarts like Len, No Doubt, Eagle Eye Cherry, Fatboy Slim and Natalie Imbruglia. At the time, it probably seemed like they'd lined up some heavy hitters.

It's interesting to consider what happened to the various actors in the film, who were all fairly young. Polley has gone on to a successful career as an indie director, Olyphant went on to star in two of the best TV series ever in Deadwood and Justified and Fichtner and Diggs have worked steadily in both movies and TV. Mohr seemed to be on his way to stardom in '99, having had a stint on SNL and then choice roles in decent movies like Jerry Maguire and this one, but it hasn't quite worked out that way. He still shows up from time to time and has a fairly successful podcast. Holmes was known at the time from her role on Dawson's Creek and made several movies over the next decade, but her biggest move was marrying Tom Cruise and becoming a tabloid spectacle. She divorced Cruise in 2012 and is still trying to rebuild her career. Wolf similarly was a TV star on Party of Five and had hoped to parlay Go into film roles, but it never really happened; he's still a busy TV actor. And Askew, who was good in Go, hasn't done much, at least Stateside anyway. And the film also featured minor cameos from Jane Krakowski and Melissa McCarthy, who would both become more prominent (especially McCarthy) years later.

Go was moderately successful, pulling in $28 million domestically on a budget of $6.5 million. Not a big hit by any stretch, but it made money. And it definitely still holds up as a time capsule from 1999.

Stuck In Thee Garage #60: December 5, 2014

I like to count...and so do musicians, judging by the crazy amount of songs with numbers in the title. This week's Stuck In Thee Garage features an hour of number songs, although none by this guy:

The numerically awesome playlist:

Hour 1
Artist - Song/Album
The Sheila Divine - Watch Out for Us/single
Greylag - Yours to Shake/Greylag
Meatbodies - Mountain/Meatbodies
Interpol - What is What/El Pintor B-side
Dream Police - Hypnotized/Hypnotized
Ex Hex - War Paint/Rips
The Kinks - Where Have All the Good Times Gone/The Kink Kontroversy
Obits - Two-Headed Coin/I Blame You
Les Savy Fav - The Year Before the Year 2000/Let's Stay Friends
The Amps - I Am Decided/Pacer
King Khan - Shivers Down My Spine/Three Hairs and You're Mine
Mind Spiders - World's Destroyed/Mind Spiders
Jane's Addiction - Ain't No Right/Ritual de lo Habitual
The Hellacopters - Throw Away Heroes/High Visibility
Black Sabbath - Killing Yourself to Live/California Jam 1974

Hour 2: Numbers
Mission of Burma - 1, 2, 3, Partyy!/The Sound, The Speed, The Light
Robert Plant - Burning Down One Side/Pictures at Eleven
Husker Du - Could You Be the One?/Warehouse: Songs and Stories
Spoon - The Two Sides of Monsieur Valentine/Gimme Fiction
The Lemonheads - Rule of Three/The Lemonheads
The Gentlemen - Three-Minute Marriage Proposal/Brass City Band
Okkervil River - The Next Four Months/Black Sheep Boy
The Raconteurs - Five on the Five/Consolers of the Lonely
The Jameses - Fifth Dimenson/Caribou
Big Black - Deep Six/The Hammer Party
The Cure - Six Different Ways/The Head on the Door
The Clash - The Magnificent Seven/Sandinista!
David Bowie - Eight Line Poem/Hunky Dory
The Twilight Singers - Number Nine/Blackberry Belle
Julie Ocean - Ten Lonely Words/Long Gone and Nearly There
Big Star - Thirteen/#1 Record
The Dirtbombs - 21st Century Fox/Dangerous Magical Noise

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

Completely Conspicuous 354: Rage in the Cage

Part 3 of my conversation with guest Matt Phillion as we discuss media-driven hysteria. Listen to the episode below or download directly (right click and "save as").

Show notes:
- Check out Matt's new book, The Indestructibles: Breakout
- What's the next big media story?
- Charlie keeps butting in
- It's amazing what gets people upset
- Reality TV plays into outrage culture
- Internet comments reach new depths
- Easy to be cynical about politics
- Would you ever run for office?
- Vote Beelzebub
- We were inundated with New Hampshire political ads for two months
- The importance of reading cue cards on SNL
- Chris Rock caught some heat for telling jokes about Boston Marathon
- Post 9-11, humor became a touchy subject
- Everybody's waiting to be offended
- Know your audience, like the Duck Dynasty guys
- The risk of alienating your audience
- We never really fix anything

The Sheila Divine - Watch Out for Us
Meatbodies - Mountain
Interpol - What is What

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

The Sheila Divine song is available for free download at Bandcamp.

The Meatbodies song is on the album Meatbodies on In the Red Recordings. Download the song for free at KEXP.
The Interpol song is a B-side from the album El Pintor on Matador Records. Download the song for free by entering the words "Everything is Wrong" on the band's website.

The opening and closing theme of Completely Conspicuous is "Theme to Big F'in Pants" by Jay Breitling. Find out more about Senor Breitling at his fine music blog Clicky Clicky. Voiceover work is courtesy of James Gralian.