Farewell Transmission

I guess it’s sadly fitting that Jason Molina would turn into a ghost before he reached the horizon.

He was a severely underrated and sadly under-appreciated musician and writer who recently died at the age of 39.  Even if you’ve never heard of the late singer/songwriter known for his bands Songs: Ohia and Magnolia Electric Co, please visit the Steam Engine music blog to read our farewell transmission remembering Jason Molina by clicking here.

 

 

The WHO? Pop-Culture Shock at a Pizza Place

It certainly wasn’t my first old-guy moment. It probably won’t be the worst one I’ll ever have; in fact, it wasn’t so much an old-guy moment as it was a case of pop-culture shock.

On my way home from work on a recent Friday, I stopped into a nearby location of the regional pizza franchise PizzaBoli’s to pick up a couple pies I’d phoned in. The young girl at the counter, dead-eyed and slightly confused, says, “What does your shirt mean? I don’t get it.”

the who logo shirt“You don’t get it? Oh, it says The Who,” and I point out the lettering which is black on a dark background so I thought maybe she didn’t notice it and just saw the target and arrow up.

“What’s that mean? I don’t get it.”

“It’s the band, THE WHO.”

And she’s saying “Oh I never heard of them” while I was already babbling on about how “it’s kinda hard to see the lettering… or… were you confused by the arrow as if it was supposed to be pointing up at me like Who is this guy?”  Like I was trying to let her off the hook for not noticing what it said or something and then I realized that she really had never heard of The Who and probably thought I had on some random shirt of my friend’s band or some other “Never Hearduvums” and so I just had to ask….

“Wait, you’ve never heard of The Who?”
“No… sorry…”

I figured, okay she’s pretty young and so I turned to her PizzaBoli’s Teammate, I wish I’d gotten his name, he was a mousey lookin’ fella, very short reddish hair with a tightly trimmed matching mustache, let’s call him Chet. He certainly wasn’t as old me, but at first glance he had to be at least 30ish, but even if he was only 25 I figured it would balance out the possibly 16-year-old cashier. So I asked him…

“You’ve heard of the The Who, right?” Now I’m kinda point-framing the iconic logo as I leaned over the counter so he could see it. “The classic rock band? The Who?” I asked, certain that he was about to give me the “Oh yea, The Who. What about ’em?”

But he just shook his head sheepishly. “No, sorry…”

“You’ve never heard of THE WHO?”
“I’m really not much of a music guy.”
After a dumbfounded pause, I somehow managed to keep my composure. “Okay, fair enough… uh, you’ve heard of The Beatles, right?”
“Well yea…”
“Of course, The Who aren’t quite The Beatles, but I just thought you’d…”

…and I just trailed off. I knew I couldn’t go all DFENS on ’em like Michael Douglas in Falling Down, though a part of my brain wanted to. And I’m not even that much of a Who fan!

It’s not like I was wearing my Replacements shirt; The Who aren’t exactly something obscure, I mean I got the shirt at fucking Target! And it’s also a pretty iconic logo. I wasn’t asking them to sing or name songs. I could understand the young girl, but the other dude… They did play the Super Bowl a few years ago, they show up at every 121212 Sandy Relief 911 Concert for NY type event, awards shows, wherever they can get out there and have Roger Daltrey show us his Ken-doll plastic, oddly buff orange chest while Pete Townshend does 20,000 windmill moves to the point of self-parody…. Like ’em or not, and I realize they aren’t quite as well-known as the Rolling Stones or Led Zeppelin, but….. WHO THE FUCK HAS NEVER HEARD OF THE WHO?

Meanwhile, The Who aren’t even from my generation, pardon the pun. I was born in 1970, after the Beatles broke up, and month before Jimi Hendrix died (yet somehow I’ve heard of them).  Told ya this wasn’t really an old-guy incident.  Seriously, this isn’t about me being too old.  You can stay on my lawn. If I was 70 and some kids never heard of Frank Sinatra, I would just assume they’re too young… but this felt different. It was just odd… it was actually quite shocking on some level.

I love The Who. I’ve often considered writing something about them, and it sucks that it had to happen like this. Even though I was always much more partial to John Bonham and Mitch Mitchell, drummer Keith Moon was an absolute monster. I actually think Tommy and Quadrophenia are a bit bloated and could be intimidating for most listeners. Go crank up Who’s Next and picture feeling that kind of rock’n’roll power putting that record on for the first time way back in 1971. Those intros to “Baba O’Reilly” and “Won’t Get Fooled Again” musta blown people’s minds back then!

Anyway, I wish I’d stayed to check if they’d heard of Hendrix, the Stones, Zeppelin and a couple of others. Maybe next time, because I do like PizzaBoli’s, who I’ve now mentioned by name three times in hopes of getting free pizza when this article goes viral.

So I walk out with my pizzas, and echoing through the shopping center is the familiar sound of the Rolling Stones (in the case, the song “Shattered,”) blasting from a speaker outside the Radio Shack. Yes, the Radio Shack. With Mick Jagger imploring me to look at him, he’s in tatters, I’m not even sure what planet I’m on. The economy’s been in the toilet for like 6 years and somehow Radio Shack is still in business selling little fuses and plugs and batteries and bullshit that nobody needs and I just met two people who never heard of The Who.

Existian – Molly Album Review

Molly: To know her was to love her.

Molly: To know her was to love her.

I have always tried to live by the motto that music is not a competition. As a  fellow musician once said to me, “it’s not like there is only one record contract out there.” Battle of the Bands and the like were never appealing to me. Why spend your efforts trying to “beat” another band? It creates the opposite of a music “community.”

However, musical challenges are another story. Recently, a friend sent me a link to a record he had just recorded. But it wasn’t your regular ole recording. Well, it was a recording, an album actually, but this album was produced for something called The RPM Challenge via NPR Music. The gist was this: you had one month–February 2013 (28 days)–to write and record a record of all new music.

My friend (whom I must disclose I played in a band–The Black Hand–with a few years back) goes under the moniker of Existian and he recorded a “concept/tribute” album about his recently deceased and beloved dog Molly. It’s a sad and beautiful album at the same time.

With song titles such as “Sweet Molly (I Still Love You)”, “Molly”, “Molly, My Dear”, and “You’re Not There Anymore”, you understand the head space this album will put you in. Anyone that has ever owned and lost a pet knows the heartbreak it can bring. While the world has heard thousands–if not millions–of songs written about love lost between humans, I don’t think the loss of a pet ever touched the sketch pads of Roger Waters or Pete Townsend for a potential concept album idea. Lucky for us, Existian beat them to it.

The record starts with a few retrospective, delicate acoustic numbers before kicking into second gear with folk rocker  “Molly, My Dear”, one of the few tracks that contains drums and bass. Next up, “You’re Not There Anymore”, contains psychedelically panned distorted vocals and PJ Harvey-esque guitar lines. “Fort Belvoir, VA” spins tales of Existian and Molly’s time together and acts as the albums clap-along campfire tribute. The instrumental “Molly vs. Maynard” is a mid tempo, organ-laced rocker that sequences into the sad tale of Molly’s last moments in “Through The Glass”, where Existian speaks of seeing her sad face through the window and whispering his last words to her. The album closes with “Stay”, a downbeat, final declaration of love and apologies to the fallen canine.

Molly lives on in the heart and mind of Existian and his record explores the various emotions that come with loving and losing a pet. It’s a dramatic homage that takes the listener down many paths but always maintains an uplifting outlook. It’s not so much about the loss of Molly as it is remembering their good times together. The songs celebrate her life instead of agonizing over her end.

Listen and download the album below:

It’s The Perps!

ThePerps

For the past dozen years or so I have been collaborating on numerous projects with various musicians, film makers, photographers, and writers. These projects have mostly taken recorded musical form while some ended up as full-fledged bands that many of you might already know about or have seen play live.

Recently I was sifting through my “digital archives” to discover that many of these recordings were never officially “released”. And by released I simply mean they were never made available for any of my friends and family to enjoy (or ignore). This is mostly due to the nature of my inability to ever feel that a creative project is “done”; that it can always be enhanced even further (anyone who mixes music can attest to this). Over time, your self-critiquing slowly subsides and eventually you are able to enjoy listening to your own music. Sorta.

That time, for me, has come in 2013.

I am extremely proud (as are many of my collaborators) to announce that I have created a project that I am calling: 12 FOR 13. At the beginning of each month throughout the year 2013 I will be releasing one of these projects online for free. It might be a full album or it might be a single song. It might be an actual movie or it might be a soundtrack to a movie that doesn’t even exist.  It will cover most every band that I have played in from 2000 through today as well as other projects I have worked on over the years.

First up: The Perps 

The Perps are a duo made up of Bill Resh and myself. Bill and I played in a band together for 7 years in the 90’s called The Circle Six (he was the rapper, I was the guitar player). After that band broke up we started recording together in my studio between the years of 2000 – 2011 and produced close to 40 tracks. We have chosen what we feel are the strongest of those songs and presented them to you here. The best part: it’s 100% free. All you have to do is click, download, listen, and (hopefully) enjoy.

Ladies and gentlemen:

3 Albums I Am Looking Forward To In 2013

PTSA_CoverFar too often we think of the past. Especially this time of year. Best of emails, lists, ideas overwhelm the blogosphere and news shows. What were the best movies, singles, albums, tv shows from 2012? You know what? As much as I love myself some lists I have decided I am going to look forward instead. So I bring you my list of 3 albums that I am looking forward to in 2013.

  1. Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – Push Away the Sky (February 2013)
    Their past two albums (2004’s Abattoir Blues/The Lyre of Orpheus and 2008’s Dig, Lazarus, Dig) have been incredible. An example of a band that has aged like a good wine. They just seem to get better with each album. Seeing The Bad Seeds perform at the 9:30 Club during the Lazarus tour I realized just how incredible this band is not only on record, but live as well. If you want intense musicianship, witty lyrics about death, religion, and sex, then look no further. What I have come to expect with each new Bad Seeds album is to not expect anything. From one to the next they seldom sound the same, yet, sound the same if you know what I mean.
  2. Queens Of The Stone Age – Title/Release Date Unknown
    You could argue that no rock band this side of the pond has had a better run of consecutive great albums in the past decade than Queens has. From 2000’s Rated R through 2008’s Era Vulgaris they have not put out anything short of mind blowing. Though they have had some pretty big hits (“No One Knows”, “Feel Good Hit Of The Summer”) QOTSA have sorta flown under the radar or been labeled “that band that Dave Grohl played drums on…for one album.” But if I know anything about band leader Josh Homme it’s that he seldom repeats himself and always surrounds himself with incredible musicians. A great songwriter, producer, and guitarist in his own right, the new album supposedly will contain guest spots from Dave Grohl (on drums of course), Trent Reznor, and Jake Shears from Scissor Sisters. Queens have always been a communal band and one of the few non hip hop acts to embrace guest musicians on their records.
  3. Atoms For Peace  – AMOK (February 2013)
    This “supergroup” and step brother of Radiohead have already done a tour and the live shows have been available online for some time. Though I was not as into Thom Yorke’s solo record as much as I thought I would be, something tells me that him stepping outside his Oxfordshire brethren might open him up some. With Flea on bass and Nigel “how great has my career been” Godrich in tow, I don’t really see how this album won’t at least be listenable.

Roger Waters Performs The Wall in Washington DC

That’s my fucking pig!

If you were to judge by the chatter I heard around Chinatown last night after Roger Waters performed The Wall at the MCI Verizon Center then you would conclude that most people just witnessed one of the greatest rock concerts of their lives. “That is how a concert is supposed to be!” my friend said to me post-show. It was hard to disagree.

If you want your concert experience to include explosions, fireworks, flying pigs, puppets that drop from the ceiling, wild animations, flashing lights, surround sound systems that thunder in your ear, impeccable musicianship, and songs performed from an album that sold about 789 billion copies than The Wall did not disappoint in any fashion. Never one to short change his audience (at least when it comes to giving them a great show) Roger Waters produced the most fantastical, spectacular rock concert I have ever been witness to. It was Cirque de Waters.

If the punk rockers in the mid-70’s were back-lashing against the excess’ of their classic rock band brethren then this show would be the poster child for that movement. But isn’t that exactly what we, as an audience, want from The Wall? To this day, I still don’t understand how such a gloomy record became a staple of rock radio and embedded into our common musical collective. Songs about war, love lost, isolation, anger, madness, and megalomania don’t exactly jump off the shelves, eh, I mean, get downloaded in today’s market. Yet, when I looked around the arena I saw 65 year old tucked button down shirt into the shorts with socks and sandles on rocking out next to 16 year olds lighting up their first public joints. I saw metalheads and hippies, meatheads and squares, young and old all brought together by music that, when at it’s most uplifting moments, perhaps will get you to tap your feet a little bit. This is not Paul McCartney singing love songs or The Foo Fighters post-punk angst. It’s Pink Floyd‘s music as mass consumption. And it works brilliantly in this setting.

The note-for-note band (let’s face it, we want this album played note-for-note. Do you really want someone improvising the solo on “Comfortably Numb”?) was incredible and Waters can still hit all the notes. Was Gilmour missed? Perhaps, but the solid musicianship on exhibit made you quickly forget that this piece of music isn’t necessarily about the performers themselves. I would love to see this executed by high school theater groups around the country. Were there some overwrought moments? Yes. Do I really want to watch Roger Waters singing with mic in hand, bassless, roaming around the stage and “acting” out the lines from songs? Did the audience “understand the music” or the overall anti-war message? Were the loud claps for the Mercedez Benz logo dropping from a B-52 bomber pro or anti the company? I know Waters stance, but does his audience grasp what he is trying to say?

You know what? Who gives a fuck? People, including myself, went to this show to see one of the all time great pieces of music performed by it’s original author. Something you will probably never be able to do again on this scale. The show delivered in all aspects of the word. I was not going to see my favorite indie band shoegaze at The Black Cat. There is a time and place for that. This is one of those rare performances that you prefer to see in a large setting. I don’t want to see a pig flying around the 9:30 Club (but it would be quite cool). Floyd, whether they liked it or not, were eventually built for large audiences, large arenas. Though I still can’t fully understand how such a “weird” band became so mainstream I do understand why people loved this show so much.

R.I.P Adam “MCA” Yauch

For many of us over the age of 35, the Beastie Boys were as big as the Beatles. With today’s passing of Adam Yauch, we have truly lost one of the greatest musical innovators of our time. The significance of the Beastie Boys in the history of music can never be overstated. From “Fight For Your Right” to Hot Sauce Committee Part Two, they never lost touch with who they were, where they came from, and what they were all about.

Instead of memorializing Adam “MCA” Yauch in this blog post, I just wanted to list a few of my greatest memories when it comes to the B-Boys:

  • 8th grade school trip to DC. Bus driver was cool enough to let us rock License to Ill over the radio for the entire trip. On repeat. I don’t think there was a kid in our class who didn’t know the lyrics to “Brass Monkey.”
  • Smoking a huge joint with my friend at the Jersey shore and walking onto the boardwalk to hear a yet-unreleased song from Paul’s Boutique playing over the speakers at a game stand. The song was “Shake Your Rump” and the middle buzzed-out bass line blew our teenage minds. This was not the same band that sang “did her with a whiffle-ball bat” anymore. Mature. Kinda.
  • In college, basically rocking out to Check Your Head at every single party between the years of 1992-1995.
  • Going to the local record store at midnight to purchase Ill Communication the minute it was released. Going home to put it on and being absolutely floored.
  • Seeing them live at Lollapalooza when they put on one of the all-time greatest live shows I have ever witnessed. There was not one person among the 20,000 that didn’t dance, sing, and scream during every song. When the flute loop on “Sure Shot” opened the show I thought an avalanche of people were coming down on my head.
  • Listening to Hot Sauce Committee Part Two for the first time and being so happy that they Boys still had something left in their tank.

So yes, it is a very sad day for Beastie fans and for music itself. A great pioneer is gone. And like those before him he will be best served if we all home and blast “Jimmy James” until your neighbors call the police.