Thursday, December 28, 2006

my theory on the death of Gerald Ford...

Following the death of Gerald Ford, I had a 12-hour drive from Alabama to Texas, which gave me plenty of time to listen to NPR and think and drink lots and lots of glorious caffeine to help keep me alert. And during this 12-hour stretch of driving and NPR listening and thinking and caffeine drinking, I came up with a theory on the death of Gerald Ford. I figured out why the man died. I know it, and I'm pretty convinced that I'm correct. And if you've made it this far through this post, I should probably share the results of my hard thinking with you. So here it is:

Gerald Ford did not want to live in a world without James Brown...

Pretty deep, eh? I've been thinking further on this, and while I'm not 100% certain I want to live in a world without James Brown, I'm going to soldier on... Thanks for the great music and dance moves and the helmet hair and the velvet pantsuits with the rhinestones, James. And thanks for the cape routine on stage. You rocked, and you rocked hard. My in-laws found that out when I played Live At the Apollo for them at 8:00 am the other morning...

Sunday, December 17, 2006

I be a grajuate...

Well, that part is over with... Long-ass weekend, but it feels good! Merry Christmas to me!

Friday, December 15, 2006

Still buying CDs?

It's really funny how you start to hear certain things over and over... I've had two friends ask me in the past month if I was still buying CDs, or if I'm buying everything on iTunes now. And then I stumbled on this Business Week blog asking the same thing...

So I'll tell you fine Music Gluttons my answer, because I know you're all waiting breathlessly for it... If I'm buying something that I think my lovely wife or some of my friends might enjoy, I'll buy the CD. Also, if it comes with a bonus DVD or something that makes it fun (i.e. the trippy 3-d art/glasses pack on the last Tool CD), that goes into my collection. Or, if the thing is priced at $10-11 bucks, I'll buy it... If I don't like it, I can always sell it to the used CD place or on Marketplace.

But, if I'm just trying something out that I'm not real sure about, or if I only want one song, I'll buy it on iTunes.

While I'm on this, here's the thing that bothers me about iTunes... In the glory days of Napster, you could literally find anything... I mean anything! Several years ago, I used Napster to find a long out of print Jon Anderson (of Yes) solo CD. If the thing was out, I'd buy it... I had it on cassette back in the day, and my wife loved it. The tape either got eaten or melted, and that music was out of our lives for several years, until I found the mp3s on Napster. Now that I have the mp3s, would I still buy the CD if it was released in the States? You betcha... ...Because we love that album. And in fact, I still check Amazon for it every so often. The freakin' cassette is being sold for $750 by some greedy soul on Amazon Marketplace.

So here's my question... Why hasn't iTunes been able to take up the slack on this sort of thing? They occasionally have out of print jazz CDs from Verve on there, and that's great... I love jazz, but I don't know enough about it to get excited about these releases. Where's the promise of the great digital marketplace where anything and everything is available? Why could I get my favorite Jon Anderson album from Napster, but I can't get a legal copy from iTunes or the record company?

Short answer: yes, I'm still buying CDs, and I'm going to miss browsing the aisles... It's just not the same browsing Amazon, and Best Buy doesn't have much for people nearing middle age with eclectic music tastes... Have to save my money and head back to Amoeba in San Fran soon...

Monday, December 11, 2006

The bestest Christmas song evah...

Since I've already distributed the 2nd Annual Steve's Christmas Music Mess to mi compadres, this one will have to wait until next year, but it will be on there...

The beautiful wonderful BoingBoing recently had a link to Santastic II: Clausome! and I downloaded the tracks, not really knowing what to expect. Like any mashup collection found on the web, there are some great ones and some so-so ones. But there's one track on there that has wormed itself into my brain and refuses to let go...

Some evil genius at Go Home Productions (the link from the Santastic page doesn't seem to work) got the inspired idea of pairing the Carpenters with some dubby reggae, and the results are amazing, fantastic, spine-tingling in how unexpectedly well they work together. They even dubbed out Karen's voice in the traditional dub fashion. I've been playing this pretty much non-stop since I got it, and I'll probably be sick of it by December 25... But the beauty of Christmas music is that I'll most likely be un-sick of it by the next holiday season, so it will probably be on my Christmas mix next year.

Carpenter's Christmas (Karen Meets Roots Radics Uptown)

For the rest of the mp3s, visit the Santastic page at It really is a lot of fun, and I'm sorry I missed last year's edition...

If you need free Christmas music in more of a retro vein, check out And if that ain't enough, PCL Linkdump has not one, but two pages of links to Christmas music! Get jolly, people!

Sunday, December 10, 2006

It's That Time Of Year... break out those best-of 2006 lists...Let's see what everyone's got.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Pavement - Wowee Zowee: Sordid Sentinels Edition

I'm going to start this out with full disclosure, Pavement is my favorite band not named the Beatles and are the greatest indie band of the alternative explosion.

There, that feels better.

So, in reviewing this large-and-in-charge special edition of Pavement's most confusing album, I must lay my biases out on the table.

Wowee Zowee is a weird album, and it's no place for a curious young Pavement fan to be alone late at night. It's full of really stupid, ahem, songs that probably had no place being put on a record.

But let's put some context on this. It was 1996 when Wowee hit shelves, and the band was fresh off their mixed-results-bid-for-stardom record Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain. The next step, as Malkmus mentions in the documentary Slow Century was to make a commercial, sell-out record.

So they made Wowee instead. It's got 18 tracks, full of oddball one-offs (Think Brinx Job), as well as a few really great Pavement tracks (Think We Dance).

A lot of record-reviewing folk refer to this as indie rock's White Album and in some ways, that is pretty accurate: Both are chock full of semi-succesful expiriments mixed in with moments of pure brilliance.

But really, I have to go to another lazy Pavement-ization to really get to the core of what makes Wowee so great. Pavement is the ultimate suburban band. Tell Rivers Cuomo and Weezer to go take a meditation break, because there isn't any band that beats Pavement on driving down Shady Lane on a blissed out Saturday afternoon. Pavement is the Pete & Pete of indie rock (Which is to also say, awesome).

It's not that Malkmus and compatriot Scott Kannberg are studied NY hipsters trying to replicate a sound either, these are flat-out suburban dudes, decked out in collared shirts and t-shirts, back from nice universities

So, back to Zowee (I burned out on calling it Wowee). If Pavement is the ultimate suburban band, this is the ultimate suburban stoner record. Most tracks have that slow burn feel of a hazy day, and well, Malkmus has pretty much said they were smoking a lot of grass during the making of the record.

So, while tracks like the melancholy sweetness of We Dance and the CR, CR toss-off Kennel District hold up pretty well, others don't. But then again, they don't have to. Put it on in the background while you're washing your car. Watch the sun sink down. Like Malkmus said, "No worry, we're in no hurry."

The extras here are lovingly preserved. There's the Schoolhouse Rock classic No More Kings and a handful of other really swell stuff that sounds pretty much like Pavement goofing off in the studio, which is to say, it sounds like Pavement.

Slanted & Enchanted's re-release was far better, though. Having Watery Domestic on disc two is a pretty big draw, and Zowee doesn't have such a big gun, but, for $14.99, it's a worthwhile purchase.

I also think Malkmus is getting a little tired of writing liner notes, since his write-up in this book is pretty disjointed, with insights like, "Recorded in Memphis." Oh. Kannberg doesn't even contribute a write-up.

But, I digress. I could fill up a blog on Pavement musings. The point here is, if you don't already own this album - the special edition is a good place to start. If you've never heard of Pavement, wait for the Brighten The Corners special edition.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Plump DJs "Mad Cow" review

(Here's a single review I did for the Skiff.)

Armed to the teeth with sounds thicker than their name, the Plump DJs have consistently dominated the break-beat music scene since arriving in 2000.

From humble roots of screaming 303 synthesizer lines and sampled 1970s drum breaks, the London-based DJs (Lee Rous and Andy Gardner) increasingly have added layers to their sound: guest vocalists, changing tempos and, albeit rarely, a more mellow sound.

"Mad Cow," their latest single, however, is anything but mellow or complex. And it works.

With their signature punchy drums, squeaks, bleeps and a pitch-bending bassline, the DJs have scaled back from recent material and created something simple yet addictive when played extremely loud.

As can be expected of any Plump track intended for the dancefloor, the traditional build-it-up and break-it-down bridge makes an appearance in the form of a synth that sounds darn close to a cow, lending the track its name.

The only disappointments with the single are the timing and format of its release.

The Plump DJs have been playing "Mad Cow" since the early summer season of 2005, and after originally slating it for a December 2005 release, they scrapped it in favor of including the track on their sophomore studio album due out next summer.

After delaying its release for so long, however, the cow has finally been let out of the barn. But because the DJs have been playing it for so long, fans have already heard the single a number of times and likely aren't scrambling to order their copy.

Vinyl-enthusiasts Rous and Gardner have always been more than willing to stamp out enough records for everyone. But this time around, they've decided to initially forgo wax altogether for an mp3-only release. This could be their way of embracing the oft-described future of music, but it comes off as laziness and frugality.

The decision of how and why to release it aside, "Mad Cow" is a welcome filler for Plump fans sitting in limbo between their last single, released one year ago, and the next Plump DJs studio album to come.