Summertime Blues, News, and Views: Exacting a Change

It’s been another musical journey. I’m so thrilled that I keep having tons of those.

Independence Day weekend, I made a trip to the Twin Cities. Hey, what better to do on an extended holiday weekend than road trip? I took an extra day while I was at it. No sense in not having enough time for all your vacation needs.

Friday night was spent at CONvergence. Yes, this was my first-ever foray into the world of sci-fi/fantasy conventions. Those who know me are surely puzzled, as I am not a sci-fi/fantasy type of person. The geekiest I ever got in that regard was playing Magic: The Gathering my senior year of high school and occasionally watching Star Trek: The Next Generation with my mom. Hell, I never even saw the original Star Wars trilogy until my ex practically sat on me two years ago and forced me to watch it with him. I know nothing about neither hobbits nor orcs and all I know about Harry Potter is that he looks like a geek.

That being said, I was there for music. Well, and for some mingling, although I didn’t get to see everyone I wanted to see. I enjoyed sushi and gum, watched chunks of Johnny Mnemonic, avoided being bar-coded, and helped fetch coffee before the main stage show hit that night. First up was Heliosphere, what I can only describe as delightfully poppy industrial stomp music; dancing was rampant. Headlining was TELEPHONE!, and I won’t even pretend to have journalistic non-bias considering I was running around with them all evening. They were certainly all electro fun, a dash of comedy mixed with pure stage show, and the crowd ate it up.

The following night, we hit Station 4 in St. Paul. I was more there to see Uber Cool Kung Fu and Stellar Vector than the headliners and was rather disappointed to be hit at the door with the news that the drummer for Stellar Vector had been hit by a bus and, well, unable to play. Instead, we were treated with Dissociate vs. Charles from Stellar Vector, which was chaotic and crazy and full-on electronic mischief which ended up blowing a mixer. As for UCKF: I gave them quite the raving review in my last column, and I was blown away at how much better they were live. And I’m not just saying that because they bought me a Guinness. Really, kudos, guys. Despite lack of attendance with everyone and their mother being at CONvergence, they put on an energetic show that was quite a pleasant surprise.

Sunday night, well, let’s just say that not everything music-related is glamorous.

But in all, the Twin Cities love me and I love them back. I shall return, oh yes. And don’t be shocked if maybe, just maybe, this little Iowa girl gets out of the cornfields and into the big city. Don’t cry for the loss of all my bitching and moaning.

Alice in Musicland

This happened to me a couple of months ago, and it’s happening again.

People, there is NO NEWS.

What follows is a reasonable facsimile of what some folks in the industry consider to be “news.” I wholeheartedly apologize for the media and its need to fill space with crap instead of focusing this energy on actual problems, issues, or newsworthy items. Yeah, so Mariah Carey isn’t having a mental breakdown today and nobody major has kicked the bucket; maybe this would be the time to send Joe Blow Music Reviewer over to Iraq for some field coverage, hmm?

Yeah, I know, shut up and give us some opinions on the news items, not the news media. Oh bee kay bee.

From Reuters:

“On ‘American Idol,’ people noticed that I wasn’t a typical size 2,” Kimberley Locke says. Seconds later, she corrects herself. “I mean, it’s the typical size for Hollywood, but not the rest of the world.”

With her newly inked partnership with women’s plus-size retailer Lane Bryant, the refreshingly outspoken Locke will be the spokesmodel for the “rest of the world.” And Locke — the second runner-up on season two of the Fox series — wouldn’t have it any other way.

“In today’s society, where everyone is so conscious of their size, it’s important for women to know that it’s OK to be a plus size — and it’s nice to have a celebrity associated with that,” says Locke, who signed with Ford Models’ 12-plus division in February.

Fatty.

OKAY, I DIDN’T MEAN THAT but the offensiveness of the thought made me giggle.

Yeah, I used to be huge, people. Just over three years ago, I weighed twice as much as I do now. My family has several large people peppered throughout. And they’re people, and size has nothing to do with it. But that doesn’t mean people should be complacent about their weight. Obesity isn’t exactly healthy for you, last I checked. While I don’t think people should be ashamed for being larger than a toothpick, I do take issue with those who glorify it. In a perfect world, plus size models would eventually become regular size models. I don’t mean “size 2 regular,” I just mean healthy. A non-drain to health insurance companies and someone who has a better chance of being around for her family and friends into old age.

ALTHOUGH… this chick is free to eat all the Haagen Daas in the world, plus she gets piles of free fat clothes. Maybe she’s on to something. And she doesn’t even look all that big! Perhaps if I pack on 40 I can ride this train too… eh? Eh?

From Yahoo Music:

Ringo Starr is reportedly mad at his Beatles bandmate Paul McCartney over last weekend’s Live 8 performance in London. According to contactmusic.com, Starr wanted to play with McCartney in Hyde Park, but he never got a call. The site quotes the drummer as saying, “I was never asked to do it, he didn’t ask me. It’s too late now – it’s disappointing. But I would have only done it if I’d been able to wear my Sgt. Pepper suit.” McCartney opened the London show by playing “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” with U2, then ended the night with a set that included the Beatles songs “Get Back,” “Helter Skelter,” “Drive My Car,” “The Long And Winding Road,” and an all-star finale of “Hey Jude.”

I love Ringo. That bit about the Sgt. Pepper suit… priceless. And Shining Time Station? AWESOME, although I preferred George Carlin.

Other than that, I read the above and this is what I see:

whine whine whine whine whine whine whine whine whine whine whine whine whine whine whine whine whine whine whine whine whine whine whine whine whine whine whine whine whine whine whine whine whine whine whine

I presume Starr doesn’t have a phone? I mean, if he’s going to be so presumptuous as to think McCartney is going to automatically call him every time he gets a gig, maybe Ringo should trying giving a ring-o.

Oh, that was a terrible pun, and I apologize. Maybe if there was some actual news, I wouldn’t have any need for apologies.

Here, this is funny. From the AP:

Willie Nelson is so prolific that sometimes even he forgets he has another record coming out. At a recent show here with Bob Dylan, Nelson performed a long list of hits, but not a single song from his new long-awaited reggae album.

“I keep forgetting,” Nelson said a few days later by telephone from the road, which he’s called home for most of the last 30 years. “The set is so short.”

Nelson is indeed releasing a new reggae album, “Countryman,” out Tuesday, and, at least sporadically, he’s been working some of the songs into his shows.

I must have missed this. Wait, it gets better!

While the music on “Countryman” might raise the eyebrows of country purists, so will the cover. With green marijuana leaves on a red and yellow background, the cover art makes the CD look like an oversized pack of rolling papers.

The marijuana imagery reflects Jamaican culture, where the herb is a leading cash crop and part of religious rites, but it also reflects Nelson’s fondness for pot smoking.

Universal Music Group Nashville is substituting palm trees for the marijuana leaves on CDs sold at the retail chain Wal-Mart, a huge outlet for country music that’s also sensitive about lyrics and packaging.

Where’s Toby Keith when you need him?

Wait, pretend I didn’t say that. Toby Keith, stay home!

I love you, Willie. Even though I do not smoke the ganja, I am above and beyond amused at what THC has done to your brain. You are making a reggae album! Even the Grateful Dead never tried that! Does this mean I want to hear it? Oh hell no. But perhaps it means I’ll be lucky enough to hear something new and different blasting out of my neighbor’s window.

Note to all you weed smokers out there: seriously — enough Phish, Dead, Sublime, and Marley. I have HAD IT. I’m going to start retaliating, and the first album that comes to mind is by Barnes and Barnes.

Folks, I apologize for this section. Really, it’s not my fault. Nobody is shooting each other and Britney’s going to be pregnant for quite a while yet. Axl, come out of the woodwork and start fighting with Vince Neil again. That was fun, huh? Remember the good times? Remember when you used to make music? No? Dammit, we’re all doomed.

Band vs. Band

First, some feedback on The Smiths vs. The Cure, from Angrychairr:

I thought you gave a pretty fair and balanced argument for both, but you kind of overlooked the Smiths’ influence on music. While not immediately impacting anything stateside, they pretty much set up the template for ’90s brit-pop that spawned bands like Oasis and Blur. I’d say in the influence department it still runs pretty even between the two unless you’re including the whole new wave revival, then the Cure outright slaughter the Smiths.

I did neglect that tidbit as far as Smiths influence goes; they did certainly contribute quite a chunk to that particular trend. But as the man pointed out… The Cure still squishes them just like grape.

That’s all I wanted to say. ONWARD.

In my own personal hell of indecision and with great desire for flaming debate mail, I have decided the time has come to tackle Joy Division/New Order vs. Depeche Mode.

We’ll start with Joy Division, a band whose demise has spurned what I like to call the “International Goth Day of Mourning;” vocalist Ian Curtis hanged himself on May 18, 1980, which also happened to be my third birthday. Yes, while all the spooky folks weep, I am eating cake and getting flooded with gifts. Fun fact: Mount St. Helens erupted on that same day.

But aside from this cultural event, they made albums, too! Joy Division was born in the late ’70s as more of a punk band than anything else. When taboo keyboards were added to the mix, even the band themselves were taken aback before finally going forward with the new sound. The result didn’t end up being much more than a cult following among the indie set, but it was enough to support a tour made famous by Curtis’ on-stage antics (much which included his very real seizures). “Love Will Tear Us Apart” was released and made a minor wave. And that was about it, as most of their work ended up being released posthumously; “Love Will Tear Us Apart” would return to the charts twice more in subsequent years.

Changing names and juggling members, the band became New Order. With a slicker sound and more of a pop aesthetic, they took the synth lines and ran with them at full speed. 1983 broke “Blue Monday” across the world, which holds the record as the best-selling 12″ release of all time. They further refined their club sound and had another hit in 1986 with “Bizarre Love Triangle,” and closed out the decade with “True Faith” keeping them afloat. This was not the end of the hits, however, as they re-emerged in 1993 with “Regret,” although their sound had long since fallen to the wayside as dated.

And of course, New Order isn’t dead, even after being relatively silent for quite some time. This year saw the release of Waiting For the Sirens’ Call, a disc which was probably their least-strong to date and has gotten mixed reviews but was welcomed with open arms by their die-hard fanbase anyway.

Also enduring nearly as long with just as fanatic (if not more) of a fanbase is Depeche Mode. The founding members were repeately trying to piece together a band while Joy Division was gaining strength, but didn’t solidify until 1980. It was the following year’s release of “Just Can’t Get Enough” that let them explode; this was one of the very first bands to use absolutely no instruments aside from synthesizers. Singer and primary songwriter Vince Clarke left shortly after, and Martin Gore came to take over the majority of these duties; gradually, the songs became more dark and complex to include raw, industrial touches. “People Are People” may have been a positive anthem, but the sound had definitely grown more bleak.

After that, it was Black Celebration, Music For the Masses, and the popular State-side Violator solidified their dark sound and gave them major hits from “Strangelove” to “Enjoy the Silence” which allowed them to tackle huge worldwide tours. Their cult status now pressed into the mainstream, they followed up with Songs of Faith and Devotion which entered the charts at number one in 1993.

And that’s when the band began to fall apart. Alan Wilder, who had been with the band since album number two, left; singer Dave Gahan attempted suicide and later went into rehab for heroin addiction. It was four years before the band continued as a trio for Ultra, a moderate success that, while selling well, showed signs of age. The band strayed almost completely from their dance roots with 2001’s Exciter which was all but ignored except by their fans who embraced it wholeheartedly as a complex, mature effort. What the band plans for the future is unknown.

The most important note about these two groups is the massive, massive underground following for each of them that crosses over almost universally. There are few folks who love one but despise the other, although there are more Depeche Mode fans who found their way into the music thanks to MTV and other mainstream media who never really dug too deeply into New Order. But the legendary status of Joy Division is almost insane, as the band had only begun to start a fledgling genre that swept and took over almost the entire decade of the ’80s underground.

It’s obvious that Depeche Mode had more hits and a more mainstream audience. New Order did well with club songs that emerged out of the clubs to spill over into mainstream territory, but for the most part achieved their primary success in Britain with an underground following in the States. Depeche Mode, given their beginnings and innovations, ended up being a huge influence over what became the alternative movement. And when the band went dark, the combination of subculture and pop-acceptable beats created a sheer phenomenon. Joy Division was starting to break those barriers, but changed direction with New Order while Depeche Mode picked up and finished pounding them home.

These bands owe a lot to each other. And we, the music fans of this era, probably couldn’t have had the years of music that we had without the influence they provided. I hate choosing one over the other, but Depeche Mode had the wider appeal and moreover had a larger part participating in and changing the soundscape of modern alternative music.

But when May 18th rolls around, find me. You can cry in a puddle of black tears while buying me presents.

Your Band Here

Every time I check my email I am more surprised by which bands have thrown themselves at me. By all means, MORE! And hopefully more that suck, because I just don’t get to rip into enough crappy bands enough.

It Dies Today (also on MySpace):
There sure are a lot of hardcore/metal bands out there today with the growly screaming thing mixed with clean vocals. I can’t complain because I happen to dig that combination. The only problem is that there is little out there to distinguish anyone from the pack, with damn near every band looking identical and making cookie-cutter songs. I’m not sure how much It Dies Today is really recognizable above and beyond their compadres, to be honest.
Highlight: They don’t suck at all. Catchy, friendly hardcore.
Lowlight: Until they do something memorable, I will never know them from any other band in the same genre. Maybe if their singer cut off his arm or something, it would be all like, “oh yeah, I know them! They have that singer with one arm!”

Midlake (also on MySpace):
Right on their MySpace page is some quote about comparisons to Flaming Lips and Radiohead. Yeah. They’re hopelessly indie nearly to the point of Indie Cliche. Still, they’re interesting. I think it’s all the organ. What is not interesting are the vocals. Dude can’t sing, but he’s using that as his indie kitch, it seems. It just makes me want to punch the guy.
Highlight: Organ and some truly odd textures. Hey, if it makes others famous, might as well try it out and try to refine it, right?
Lowlight: It’s called singing, not mumbling semi-in-key. I don’t care if everyone else is doing it, either. It’s mind-numbing.

Divinity Destroyed (also on MySpace):
These guys sound like a Japanese metal band! Hell, the first thing that popped into my head on first listen was, “Siam Shade?” I’m completely mesmerized. It’s proggy, it’s metally, there’s a lot of superfluous keys, and it’s angry as hell but sounds like the happiest music ever. I don’t understand how they do it.
Highlight: Oh man, go to MySpace and listen to “Smoke and Mirrors”. It’s so crazy odd that the weirdness itself is the biggest highlight.
Lowlight: Once the novelty wears off, I wonder if I’ll still think they’re cute and cuddly. Or if they’ll kill me for calling them cute and cuddly.

FUN!

My Opinion Matters

Because I have recently been bathing myself in it, let me discuss with y’all a little ol’ band named Faith No More.

There are Mike Patton freaks galore on the Internet these days. And why not? FNM was a great band and the man is an absolute schizophrenic genius when it comes to making music. But I am not going to challenge that sort of underground crazy fanbase. I just want to focus on the band that launched him into the public eye.

I’m skipping over the non-Patton stuff, even if “We Care a Lot” is an awesome song. I’m starting with the Patton era, when the world was introduced to “Epic.” Three words: the flopping fish. Animal rights whiners got all up in arms and everyone started paying attention. The song itself was so out there and unique that I’m sure even the PETA folks were secretly buying records. It was heavy enough for the metal crowd but not-heavy enough to maintain MTV viewership and attention by the masses. “Falling To Pieces” followed and its equally oddball video helped keep them in the minds of many. It was a good time, those The Real Thing days.

Then along came Angel Dust and suddenly they were much less fun. I mean, the songs were still fun if you bought the album and listened to it, but the video for “Midlife Crisis” was not “Epic.” This was dark and macabre. And for those who adored the last album or ate up the extreme hookiness of the latest song and bought the record, they were in for one hell of a treat. Ladies and gentlemen, this is often where today’s lovely wave of “nu-metal” is credited with beginning. To listen to it, no, it’s not really accurate, but people like to make things simple so they can use it as a blurb in a book about music, so we’ll let it stand.

After that, the band started crumbling, and King for a Day, Fool for a Lifetime wasn’t all that memorable. At least Album of the Year gave us one last absolute brilliant hurrah with “Last Cup of Sorrow,” but what can you do when things start to wind down? Ahhh, time to go run off and play with Mr. Bungle again! Then Fantomas! Tomahawk! Et cetera!

My bias is showing; those first two Patton records are positively definitive. It’s funny to me, to hear people praising the contributions of everyone from Metallica to Alice In Chains to the sound and progression of modern rock music, yet one of the greatest innovators and most creative forces gets completely overlooked. Hello, if people didn’t start getting weird and switching things up, we would be stuck with… wait a minute, we’re sort of stuck with that right now. Rock is bland and it needs a shakeup. It needs another Faith No More. It needs… oh, hell. It needs a lot of help, and the labels are the problem.

Don’t get me started. I already got started, shit! But I’m not going to continue. I have only one piece of advice for all of my readers today: DIFFERENT IS BETTER. If you are a fan of Tool, listen to Tool — not 800 bands created to sound like Tool. If you love Radiohead, don’t buy into Radiohead knockoffs. Force musicians to be original and force the labels to find them in order to sell records. Who knows. Maybe it could work.

The Rad Ones

FERNANDEZ IS NOT WORK SAFE but there’s the greatest picture of a tortilla you will ever see. And boobs.

I thought it was funny that Shawn M. Smith plugged me with some blurb about being interested in fiction from around the IP camp. Buddy, my Tune Tales are TOTALLY TRUE! I AIN’T LYIN’!

I had a little something buried in the Summer Mix Feature, if you missed it.

Lucard cooks lambs. I am all about cooking lambs, people. They’re lambalicious.

Hyatte keeps using my name to get hits. You might call it a seasonal coincidence, but I say he keeps capitalizing it, so either he sucks at english or I’m right.

Just like every review I have read yet, Brendan Campbell has nothing but GOOD things to say about Michael Chiklis. It’s no MACKEYSEX but I’ll take what I can get… when it comes out for DVD rental, anyway.

And say what you want about figures… this is beyond cool.

I wish the music zone was purple.

Outro

What will it be? NOBODY KNOWS!

Wait, that reminds me of a little-known early ’90s favorite of mine…

Nobody knows what you’re feelin’
Nobody knows if you’re up or down
Nobody knows what you’re after
But the world keeps spinnin’ around and round and round and round and round

Got a feelin’ and it just won’t go away
And the sun won’t shine today, but baby that’s okay
Got a feelin’ that you’re gonna be gone so long
And I gotta hang on strong, that’s just the way it is

But I can’t get you off my mind
I keep thinkin’ about you all the time, believe me babe
I will be there when no one seems to care

Anyone know the song? Cheating with Google will only bring up an old column of mine; I had to plunk down those lyrics from MEMORY, BABY. It’s cheesy, it’s terrible post-hair band mania, but I loved that disc just the same.

What about THIS ONE? I’m getting obscure on your asses and Google will NOT HELP YOU.

One rush as we crashed beside the fire
Hearts beating and the moon it shined
One touch and a million ways to have you
One wave riding high

Our love gets stronger every day
Still learnin’, but that’s okay
Hard times, but nothin’ stays the same
Loves shines once again

Oooooooh, by the fireside, ooooooooh
Oooooooh, by the fireside
Sanctuary is mine

Okay: anyone who knows this song? SPEAK UP, I WILL SEND YOU A PRIZE.

Outside my window, the rain begins to fall
Memories of you and me, we had it all
Now that you’re gone it doesn’t seem the same
I can’t mend my broken heart or ease the pain

Oooooh, and in my heart you will always be
Oooooh, and in my bed I’ll feel you close to me
Oooooh, but in my dreams, love ain’t what it seems

Just another night all alone
Now that all your feelings have gone
Too late for love, and baby now I know
Just another night alone

I know, guys, these lyrics are awful. But I LOOOOOOOOOVED them in my tender 13-15 age years. And the songs are so forgotten that you can’t even find them on Google. I actually found all the lyrics to discs by Pariah and Babylon A.D. that I thought were more obscure than this stuff, but what can you do?

Note: I owned albums by McQueen Street, Spread Eagle, 21 Guns, Slammin’ Gladys, and Flame. I know my early ’90s hair bands like the back of my hand. I bought almost EVERYTHING advertised in Metal Edge from 1991 to 1993. And Warrant’s best album was Dog Eat Dog.

It’s time to stop this madness; I have been writing for hours.

I see your face on every stranger passes by
And I can’t shake desire from my mind,

–gloomchen

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