Saturday, May 20, 2017

Head Down

The spate of musician deaths in the last few years has been partially the result of age. So while it's been difficult to accept the loss of greats like Bowie and Lemmy and Chuck Berry, it's sort of understandable. What's tougher to deal with is when someone dies younger. Certainly, Prince's death was a surprise; at 57, it still seemed like he had a lot of years left. And then there are younger rockers who have died--like Cobain and Layne Staley--while shocking and sad, neither came as a surprise given the path they were on.

The death this week of Chris Cornell is tougher to take. At 52, he was still relatively young and vital. And really, of all the big stars of his generation, he seemed to have his shit together. Obviously, it's come out in the last day that police believe Cornell may have committed suicide, and that he's battled depression throughout his life. Still, he always seemed so with it, especially compared to contemporaries like Cobain, Staley, Andrew Wood, Shannon Hoon, Scott Weiland, etc. If you were to tell me a 50something rock star just died but made me guess who, it would have taken me quite a while before I guessed Cornell. He was always supremely confident and really, a guy who had it all: talent, looks, family, success.

I first learned about Cornell after reading a Rolling Stone review of the Temple of the Dog album in the spring of 1991. I was unfamiliar with Soundgarden at the time, but after picking up the TOTD CD, I was quickly sold on the band, especially Cornell's powerful vocals. Later that year, I bought Soundgarden's Badmotorfinger and was bowled over by the monster riffs, the general dark aesthetic and the way it was so much better than all the hair metal crap that was being released at the time. It came out a few months after Nevermind and Ten, but it was the first of that trio that I owned.

Soundgarden was the bridge between the hard rock I grew up on and the alternative rock I grew to prefer. They were able to straddle those worlds, touring with Guns N Roses and Skid Row pre-"Smells Like Teen Spirit" and then firmly ensconced in the alternative world after that. A big reason for that was Cornell, who was the Robert Plant of his generation: handsome, charismatic and in possession of THAT VOICE. He stood in stark contrast to his angst-ridden peers; unlike Cobain, Vedder, et al, Cornell seemed to be perfectly comfortable in the spotlight. He would be screeching at the top of his lungs on metallo-punk scorchers like "Beyond the Wheel" one minute and then crooning acoustic numbers like "Seasons" the next. And then he'd cover "Billie Jean" and do an album with Timbaland (the latter of which, admittedly, was ill-advised).

I saw Soundgarden three times: at Avalon in April 1992, at Lollapalooza a few months later and at Fitchburg State College in 1994. Cornell was a terrific live performer and sadly, I never saw him again. Soundgarden split up in 1997 and reunited a few years ago. In between, he released some solo albums (including 1999's excellent Euphoria Morning) and teamed up with 3/4 of Rage Against the Machine to form the ultimately disappointing Audioslave. I wish I'd caught one of the recent SG tours, but I never expected Cornell to be gone so soon.

Right now, we're dealing with grief and speculation. Why did he do it? His family says he wasn't depressed and wouldn't have committed suicide. I've seem some lame-ass articles analyzing his lyrics, but that doesn't really hold water. Cornell wrote about death and darkness his whole career; there was no sudden change in his attitude. But that's the thing about people with depression: it's possible for nobody else to know what they're thinking and how far they would go to deal with those feelings they may have. Somebody who may seem really on top of things could be in serious trouble, but others may have no idea. When Robin Williams took his own life three years ago, it was jarring and troubling, but he always had a pretty manic personality. Cornell always seemed so chill. Just goes to show you never really know what's going on in someone's head.

The other guys in Soundgarden have to be thrown for a loop right now. The band was in the middle of a tour and had been working on new music. And last November, Cornell did a tour with Temple of the Dog, the side project he created in 1991 to remember Andrew Wood. I watched an entire show from that tour on YouTube and Cornell was chatty, appreciative and in command. Certainly didn't seem like someone who was depressed. Even as recently as last Sunday, he posted a Mother's Day message to his wife that was very positive and upbeat. Looks can be deceiving, I guess.

There has been a lot of loss in the last two years. This one has hit me hard, just because he's from my generation and I've spent so much time over the last three decades digging his music. Hopefully, if we can get anything good out of Chris Cornell's death, it will be to encourage other folks dealing with depression and suicidal thoughts to get help before it's too late.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Stuck In Thee Garage #177: May 19, 2017

It's strange to think that 2002 was a full 15 years ago. The 9/11 attacks the previous year were a startling reminder that the relative comfort of the '90s was a thing of the past. Everything was a little more tense, a little more jittery. This week on Stuck In Thee Garage, I played songs from 2002 in hour 2.

The Bill the Butcher-curated playlist:

Hour 1
Artist - Song/Album
Broken Social Scene - Halfway Home/Hug of Thunder
Black Lips - Squatting in Heaven/Satan's Graffiti or God's Art?
Chastity Belt - Caught in a Lie/I Used to Spend So Much Time Alone
Naked Giants - Ya Ya/R.I.P.
Loose Tooth - Sleep With the State Concept/Big Day
Deep State - Heavy Lunch/Thought Garden
At the Drive-In - Ghost-Tape No. 9/inter-alia
The Afghan Whigs - Oriole/In Spades
Divisionists - Little Margaret/Daybreak
Father John Misty - Total Entertainment Forever/Pure Comedy
Ty Segall - Papers/Ty Segall
So So Glos - Sunny Side/Kamikaze
Boss Hog - Black Eyes/Brood X
Meat Puppets - Oh, Me/II
Mike Watt - Forever - A Reporter's Opinion/Ball-Hog or Tugboat
Grant Hart - Morningstar/The Argument

Hour 2: 2002
Brendan Benson - Good to Me/Lapalco
Ben Kweller - Wasted & Ready/Sha Sha
The Walkmen - We've Been Had/Everyone Who Pretended to Like Me is Gone
...And You Will Know Us By the Trail of Dead - Another Morning Stoner/Source Tags & Codes
McLusky - To Hell With Good Intentions/McLusky Do Dallas
Queens of the Stone Age - First It Giveth/Songs for the Deaf
The Kickovers - Black and Blue/Osaka
Mudhoney - The Straight Life/Since We've Become Translucent
Guided By Voices - Christian Animation Torch Carriers/Universal Truths and Cycles
David Bowie - I've Been Waiting for You/Heathen
Elvis Costello - Tear Off Your Own Head (It's a Doll Revolution)/When I Was Cruel
Interpol - Obstacle 1/Turn On the Bright Lights
Flaming Lips - Do You Realize?/Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots
Wilco - Heavy Metal Drummer/Yankee Hotel Foxtrot
The Black Keys - Leavin' Trunk/The Big Come Up
The Tragically Hip - All Tore Up/In Violet Light
Spoon - Jonathon Fisk/Kill the Moonlight

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Completely Conspicuous 464: Industry Standard

Part 2 of my conversation with guest Jay Breitling about the evolution of the music blog. Listen to the episode below or download directly.

Show notes:
- Breitling recently shut down his fine music blog Clicky Clicky
- Some band reunions shouldn't happen
- A whole new target audience for newer live acts
- The kids wanna snap
- Some bands can make a living selling merch and playing small live gigs
- No time for comics anymore
- The inflated price of vinyl
- Zines were the music blogs of the '80s and '90s
- Kumar: A buddy in Washington state got into punk, started a zine
- The convenience of blog software
- The blog as reference tool
- Our work at Webnoize is mostly gone now
- Clicky Clicky lives on via Facebook page
- The blog had a hardcore audience
- Not in it for the numbers
- Cutting through the crap on Twitter
- Quality, not quantity of posts

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. Voiceover work is courtesy of James Gralian.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Stuck In Thee Garage #176: May 12, 2017

If you want blood, you got it. This week on Stuck In Thee Garage, I played songs about blood in hour 2. It's bloody good.

The Grandpa Munster-curated playlist:

Hour 1
Artist - Song/Album
The Afghan Whigs - Toy Automatic/In Spades
Mark Lanegan Band - Death's Head Tattoo/Gargoyle
Thurston Moore - Cusp/Rock N Roll Consciousness
My Goodness - Silver Lining/Scavengers
PWR BTTM - Now Now/Pageant
Hikes - Onset/Lilt
White Reaper - Eagle Beach/The World's Best American Band
At the Drive-In - No Wolf Like the Present/inter-alia
Mastodon - Precious Stones/Emperor of Sand
The New Pornographers - Play Money/Whiteout Conditions
Woods - Hit That Drum/Love is Love
Sinai Vessel - Birth Blood/Brokenlegged
Horse Jumper of Love - Bagel Breath/Horse Jumper of Love
The Feelies - Make It Clear/In Between
Froth - Shatter/Outside (briefly)

Hour 2: Blood
The Dears - Blood/Degeneration Street
Infinity Girl - Blood and Dirt/Stop Being On My Side
Wintersleep - Blood Collection/New Inheritors
The Night Marchers - Bad Bloods/See You in Magic
Mission of Burma - Fake Blood/ONOffON
Jay Reatard - Blood Visions/Singles '06-'07
The Germs - We Must Bleed/MIA: The Complete Germs
Ted Leo and the Pharmacists - Bleeding Powers/Tell Balgeary, Balgury is Dead
St. Vincent - Laughing With a Mouth of Blood/Actor
The Black Angels - River of Blood/Phosphene Dream
The Smithereens - Blood and Roses/Especially for You
Eels - Fresh Blood/Hombre Loco
Urge Overkill - Positive Bleeding/Saturation
The Cure - The Blood/The Head on the Door
Buffalo Tom - Bleeding Heart/Birdbrain
The Rolling Stones - Too Much Blood/Undercover
Guided By Voices - Go Rolling Home/Let's Go Eat the Factory

Tuesday, May 09, 2017

Completely Conspicuous 463: Exit Music (For a Blog)

Part 1 of my conversation with guest Jay Breitling about the evolution of the music blog. Listen to the episode below or download directly.

Show notes:
- Breitling recently shut down his fine music blog Clicky Clicky
- MP3 blogs soon evolved into something less legally risky
- Wrote about music for other online pubs: Splendid EZine, Junkmedia
- Had a personal page and then launched Clicky Clicky in 2006
- Contributors had other commitments, life got busy
- Breitling now writes for Vanyaland
- In their heyday, music blogs presented artists who weren't pushed by major labels or corporate radio
- The "Celestial Jukebox" is here
- Breitling: Listening habits have changed
- Used to frantically search for new music; now digging into albums
- Peak music blog year was 2007
- Blog bands: Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, Bloc Party, Arcade Fire, Franz Ferdinand
- Many people started music blogs to get free stuff
- Some bloggers have moved on to mainstream gigs
- Podcasting has become commonplace
- YouTube stars are now gaining popularity
- Make way for Jacob Sartorius
- To be continued
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. Voiceover work is courtesy of James Gralian.

Saturday, May 06, 2017

Stuck In Thee Garage #175: May 5, 2017

We're all about speed these days, whether it's getting information, traveling somewhere or just eating food. This week on Stuck In Thee Garage, I played songs about speed in hour 2. It'll have you smiling while setting a world record.

The fast as a blur playlist:

Hour 1
Artist - Song/Album
Mark Lanegan Band - Nocturne/Gargoyle
Jeff Rosenstock - Dramamine/Single
Thurston Moore - Smoke of Dreams/Rock N Roll Consciousness
Charly Bliss - Percolator/Guppy
Gothic Tropic - Don't Give Me Up/Fast or Feast
Horse Jumper of Love - Spaceman/Horse Jumper of Love
Waxahatchee - Silver/Out in the Storm
Warm Soda - Tell Me in a Whisper/I Don't Wanna Grow Up
Boss Hog - Signal/Brood X
Christian Fitness - National Insurance/Slap Bass Hunks
Gorillaz - Momentz (feat. De La Soul)/Humanz
A Tribe Called Quest - Whateva Will Be/We Got It From Here...Thank You 4 Your Service
Kendrick Lamar - FEAR./DAMN.
White Reaper - The Stack/The World's Best American Band
Top Down - Rocks to My Head/Rough Roads
Pile - Fingers/A Hairshirt of Purpose

Hour 2: Speed
Superchunk - The Question is How Fast/On the Mouth
David Bowie - Speed of Life/Low
Velvet Crush - Faster Days/Teenage Symphonies to God
King Khan - Live Fast, Die Strong/Three Hairs and You're Mine
Gord Downie and the Sadies - One Good Fast Job/And the Conquering Sun
The Soundtrack of Our Lives - Faster Than the Speed of Light/Throw It to the Universe
Yo La Tengo - Speeding Motorcycle/Fakebook
Elliott Smith - Speed Trials/Either/Or
Frightened Rabbit - Fast Blood/The Midnight Organ Fight
Judas Priest - Turbo Lover/Turbo
Motley Crue - Too Fast for Love/Too Fast for Love
Iron Maiden - Speed of Light/The Book of Souls
Deep Purple - Speed King/In Rock
Queens of the Stone Age - Quick and to the Pointless/R
Torche - Speed of the Nail/Meanderthal
Motorhead - Fast and Loose/Ace of Spades