Monday, December 19, 2011
Wednesday, December 14, 2011
When track # 11 comes around the album finally allows it's self to become a tad upbeat. "Friends of Mine" is a very positive (almost) closing song. During the song many of The Zombie's friend's names are mentioned and you can tell the band is having a ball in the studio together.
Wednesday, December 7, 2011
After this eye scare I focused my sights on Disney and decided I would appreciate every sight and sound that comes with the experience.
In a series of FOUR posts I am going to talk about all the important audio, with an emphasis on the music, of all four Disney World Parks. The order will probably go Disney Hollywood Studios, Epcot Center, Disney’s Animal Kingdom (including our hotel, the Animal Kingdom Lodge) , Epcot and finally The Magic Kingdom.
Every New Years Day I watch the Twilight Zone Marathon. Every episode has the beginning with the strange star field, hourglass etc. When you are in this part of the Tower Of Terror, the “Fifth Dimension” room, you are right there IN the beginning of all those Twilight Zone episodes. It is basically a nightmare I have had many times over the years. But then the whole purpose why this ride is being included in my Music blog happens, the glass breaks. The audio is so real the sound cuts right through you. Then the oh so familiar Twilight Zone theme music comes on (music you should not listen to while grooming a dog. A story for another time) and this time it does not sound like its coming from a 50 year old television set. It is all around you in totally flawless surround sound.
The third major atraction of Disney’s Hollywood Studios is a new attraction called Toy Story Midway Mania. The only problem with the Toy Story ride is the wait. The standby line is usually past the two hour mark. Even with a Fast Pass your chances are slim your turn to ride will be anytime soon. Two years ago we arrived at the park around 9:10, just a minutes after the park gates were opened. Figuring this maybe the only shot at the ride we made our way straight over to the brand new Toy Story Midway Mania and picked up Fast Passes. When the passes where done printing, the time listed on them was 3:30-4:30. Not wanting to wait around the park all day for the one ride we gave the fast passes to some people who had just tried to get some fast passes themselves. At that point all the passes were already sold out.
Tuesday, November 29, 2011
In our new apartment there is one wall with 10 cabinets stacked from floor to ceiling with a sliding library style ladder to reach the high ones. These cabinets were custom built by a previous owner. Inside each cabinet is four shelves, each one the perfect width for a CD. This is what sold me on the apartment.These are the "Vaults" were the music is stored.
The Cd that was picked was Quicksand's second album Manic Compression.
When this album came out I had extremely high hopes for it. For the past two years I had been listening to Slip non stop.
During the Winter of 1995, 120 Minutes (MTV Alternative show) aired an interview with the band with famed New York Hardcore producer Don Fury. The interview was held at the New York City location of The Royal Canadian Pancake House. While the band ate their obnoxiously large pancakes they talked about the new album and revealed the fact that Don Fury had once done time in the band Twisted Sister. Then they premiered the video for the single "Thorn In My Side". The video which had the band driving around New York City in go-karts, was the perfect image for the song that definitely was driving and had hooks with the great Quicksand way of going to the edge of becoming Metal without going over it. The song and video was awesome. I couldn't wait for the album to be released.
The album starts off with "Backwards". It is a basic Quicksand song incorporating all the elements that made Quicksand stand out from other bands. All the elements many bands would try to copy over the next few years. Quicksand was back.
Then from the first few guitar riffs, the second song "Delusional" reminded me instantly of the Beatles's "Come Together". Maybe it wasn't intended but the whole song does sound so much like the Beatles's track I am a bit surprised Michael Jackson did not come after the band for royalties.The next two tracks both come off a bit like a train wreck with awkward choruses fighting it out with repetitive guitar riffs.
Tracks 6 and 7 turned out to be decent Quicksand songs. They have rising guitars here and there plus a few hooks. What takes away from these songs is the production. There is no bottom end. The songs sound two dimensional. They do not have the full 3-D sound displayed so awesomely in Slip's tracks "Dine Alone" and "Freezing Process" where you can hear each instrument clearly coming from every direction. Although Wharton Tiers (Manic Compression's producer) may have done some great jobs for Sonic Youth and My Bloody Valentine, he appears to have not been the right choice for Walter and crew.
Halfway through the album "Thorn In My Side" finally appears and right away the image of the band driving around the city I loved instantly comes to mind.
The following track "Landmine spring" you can hear the hooks trying to come through but they have to struggle to find they way out of the way out front heavy guitar sounds and Walter's vocals. Track 8 "Blister" proves to be the best song on the record. Definitely the old school Quicksand sound but kicked up another notch. The rest of the album follows suit with the other lesser songs on the album. Except "East 3rd St" which automatically gets a few extra points from me for being named after a new York City Street. A street I would actually live on 8 years later.
Overall Manic Compression is not too bad of an album. The songs get repetitive a lot of the time but they are decent songs. Except of course "Thorn In My Side" and "Blister" which are awesome songs.
When this album came out the biggest problem for me was that it wasn't a bad album but that it was following a GREAT album. After a few years of giving Manic Compression chances, somewhere down the line a few years later this disc was traded in to a used CD store.
A few years back while scanning through the 99 Cent Cd bins at Academy Music I ran across a used copy of Quicksand's Manic Compression. At such a low price i had to pick it up and give it another shot. With the extremely high expectations I had 15 years ago for this album now long gone, I can really appreciate this album by one of hardcore's defining bands. Even through I mainly only listen to "Thorn In My Side" and "Blister" the whole album does remain on my iPod
Now let's check out that awesome "Thorn In My Side" Video
Sunday, November 27, 2011
So it only make sense to take one of the worlds most recognizable and beloved cartoon characters Mickey Mouse and parody the Unknown Pleasures cover image. Not only that but take this new Disneyfied pulsar image, put it on a t-shirt to sell at Walt Disney World.
I wonder who the "imagineer" was that brought this design to the table. An image that pretty much will always be thought of as a symbol of musical starkness, despair and tragedy is on a t-shirt for sale at "The Happiest Place On Earth".
I could understand a t-shirt parody of other classic albums. Maybe the Mickey, Minnie, Goofy and Donald walking across the Abbey Road crosswalk or something along those lines.Even the image of Donald Duck smashing a guitar on stage in the style of The Clash's London Calling album would not be too startling. But Joy Division? A band who was named after a fictional group of women kept alive at Concentration Camps for the purpose of satisfying German Soldiers.
Were sales of A Nightmare Christmas merchandise on a decline and Disney is attempting to hold onto their "goth" demographic? Is Disney attempting to attract a new "hipster" phenomonon? Was the "imagineer" not fully aware what the design was know for? How was he able to slip this design the know for being very "attentions to detail" Walt Disney World corporation? Maybe the "imagineer" was an avid follower of Astronomy and had no idea of the images connection to Joy Division. Was the "imgineer" let go as soon as the history of Joy Division was discovered?
What would Ian and the rest of the guys in Joy Division (of course all now in New Order) would think about this shirt?
Either way I was totally stunned when on the first day of my recent trip to Walt Disney World, (and you can bet you will be hearing about that trip in future posts) I walked into Epcot's Mouse Gear store and laid my eyes this shirt up on the racks next to all the classic Disney World shirts.
During the rest of the trip I spotted at least a dozen other people sporting the shirt around the parks and hotels. A quick Google search when I returned home shows this to be a highly sought after piece of Walt Disney World attire.It looks like the Unknown Pleasures "imagineer" may have just known what he was doing.
The title of this post was totally stolen from my friend Carlos A. Thanks Carlos!
Sunday, November 6, 2011
AVAIL put out six studios albums. The first four: Satiate, Dixie, 4 A.M. Friday and Over the James are all unbelievable albums. Each of them showing the bands development. The last two albums are not as great. One Wrench has a few good songs but they really just sound like attempts to copy tracks from Over the James. The sixth and final album Front Porch Stories is the band just going through the motions. For me at least, it was no surprise when after Front Porch Stories the band decided to call it quits.
Satiate, originally self-released and then on Old Glory Records before being reissues on Lookout! Records is a great introduction for a new band. When you press play one of the first things coming through the headphones lead singer Tim Barry singing "Set me free". Then the drums kick in. Then the almost marching band drums of the first track "March". You can almost picture the band marching over a hill introduce themselves and show what they've got. When track two comes on the it gets a little harder. We are here and we can get angry! Over the next 11 tracks Avail would show the beginnings of the styles they would known for. Styles that no other band could really pull off.
When Quicksand came out millions of bands attempted to recreate the sound that made that band so great. The same thing happened when Hot Water Music became popular. Kid Dynamite and Against Me! also had many imitators. I cant even think of one band who attempted to copy AVAIL. If there any they were so far off the mark you can't even hear a resemblance.
Getting back to Satiate, some of these examples of these budding styles are the driving melody of track 4 "Bob's Crew". The melodic to hard to back to melodic of track 5 "Observations". Even the acoustic track 12 "Hope" is a great closing number with a title showing a band that will go on to do great things. The title of that song also signifies there will still be good and fresh bands in the hardcore punk world.
The Lookout! Records reissue, as well as the Jade Tree Records reissue a decade later both include the very early AVAIL 7" Ep Attempt to Regress with the tracks "Connection" and "Mr. Morgan" tacked on to the end. On the two songs of the 7" I hear a strong FUGAZI influence. An influence probably explained by Richmond close proximity to DC. An influence that had all but disappeared by the time Satiate was recorded. "Connection" begins as an intense song but becomes even more and more intense the guitars get sharper and sharper and singer Tim Barry's sings "Why" more and more intense until it sounds like his head is about to explode. So intense that if the band had not gone on to release more material I would have thought it had.
The b-side "Mr Morgan" ( I found out later) was named after a Senior resident of Richmond who was beaten to death for just a few dollars, is a little less intense. You can begin to hear the smooth melodic, hard, back to smooth melodic sound emerging from the FUGAZI influence.
Then came the Dixie. The album kicks of with the roaring "On The Nod". It arrives at your headphones like an old friend returning after not seeing them in some time. Tracks "Clone" and "Treading on Heels" show AVAIL has not lost the knack for switching from melodic to hard to melodic all in the same song. Five tracks in comes AVAIL's best song. "Sidewalk" is a solid driving , upbeat song with hooks and an awesome chorus. After "Sidewalk", "25 Years" slows it down a bit, letting you catch your breath the piercing guitars of "Virus" kick in upping the albums temp all over again.
The album finally closes with a very good cover of Jon Cougar Mellencamp's "Pink Houses". The song is done with not a trace of cheesiness. The lyrics about living in a small town could easily fit into any AVAIL song. Even through AVAIL would go on to cover Elvis's "Suspicious Minds", Billy Joel's "You May Be Right" among others, I will always think of "Pink Houses" as AVAIL's signature cover.
To grasp an idea of the transition from Satiate to Dixie, check out the Live at The King's Head Inn 10" (also included on the Jade Tree reissue of Dixie). It has a few songs from each album as well as a pretty good cover of the VIOLENT FEMMES's "Kiss Off"
The next album 4 A.M. Friday still remains AVAIL's most underrated album. Perhaps because it's sandwiched between the strong breakthrough of Dixie and the maturity of Over The James but there are many great songs on the 4 A.M. Friday. The best being "Simple Song" which is just that: a simple song. Also a simple song with driving groove and strong hooks. My favorite AVAIL song, "FCA" is also on this album. The songs is a not only another example of the hard to melodic to hard style that AVAIL does so well, its also a tribute to their friends Bob Baynor of the band MAXMILLIAN COLBY who had passed away. I'm not sure what exactly happened to him but the song does mention a "Spiderco" which is a very serious knife so I am sure it was not good . The album's title 4 A.M. Friday comes from the time and day the band found out about Bob's death.
A few years later the last of AVAIL's four great albums Over The James was released. Almost immediately there is no denying the production is seriously beefed up and more polished than 4 A,M, Friday. The songs are overall more melodic but in by no means in a sell out way. This album would allow AVAIL to bring in a larger fan base (before making the move to Fat Wreckords ) but also not oust the band's loyal fans of the past decade.
Song 3 "August" slows the tempo down but the roaring guitars are still present. Track 5 "Nickle Bridge" was given a sneak peak on the Live at the Bottom of The Hill CD. Here we get to hear it all it's studio produced glory. Once again we get to catch our breath when "Nickle Bridge" winds down with a little jingle-jangle at the end before "Scuffle Town" (also on the Bottom of the Hill) revs it up again with it's driving chorus which also brings us the album's title. "Still it's a beautiful day. The sun is still shining over the James"
It may have taken a bit of time but at track 7 "S.R,O," we once again get to hear the melodic to hard to melodic AVAIL sound which won us over years ago.
At track 12 "Cross Tie" you get your last chance to take a breath . Looking back it is almost as if AVAIL is taking a second to look back at their years on Lookout! Records and that awesome four album run before they hammer it home with the powerful "Ask" and even more unbelievable (as well as one of my favorite AVAIL songs) "Fifth Wheel".
Like I said at the beginning of this entry, AVAIL did move on to the bigger Fat Wreckords and release two more albums but for me AVAIL's greatness ends when at the very end of Over The James a kid's voice says, "Thanks for buying this hardcore product". Basically with this blog entry I am thanking AVAIL for putting them out for us.
Monday, July 4, 2011
Track 8 "Providence" was a mystery to my 16 year old ears. There really is no music. Just a very slow piano bit with some guy talking to Thurston through what sounds like a distorted tape recorder. Little did I know that the voice on that song was Mike Watt leaving a message on Thurston's answering machine. By the next year Mike's classic band The Minutemen would be in heavy rotation on my stereo and his newer band fIREHOSE was soon to follow.
For track 9 Sonic Youth's leader Thurston once again takes over the vocals on "Candle".
" I see a falling snowgirl walking Broadway.
Turns the corner at 14th st and I know there's no way"
Even at 16 I had a strong love affair with New York City. Whenever a landmark, borough or street of the city was mentioned in a song, it would send chills down my back. At the time I may not have understood connotations of the Coke addicted girl ("Snowgirl") disappearing down 14th St to score but I was just excited to hear the names of these streets. It was at this point where the names Sonic Youth and New York would become synonymous to me from then on.
On track 11 "Kissability" Kim once again takes over on vocals and sings with such urgency that the song send even more shivers down my back.
Then the trilogy begins: "The Wonder" kicks in with Thurston's almost screaming vocals and roaring guitars before coming down for the great chorus, "I'm just walking around. Your city is a wonder town". In the song I visualize the guy who was being chased down in "Cross the Breeze" now wandering aimlessly round the city running into various people do a variety of vices occurring around town each time the guitar hits another chord before the song winds down, the guy falling to the ground with his head in his cupped hands.
Now it's 22 years later. Do I still listen to Daydream Nation?
Yep. Probably at least once every few weeks too. Every time: Start to Finish. Over the past 22 years I have not grown one bit tired of the album either. Every time I have a long car ride or drive this album, along with it's fellow godlike double albums The Minutemen's Double Nickles on the Dime and Husker Due's Zen Arcade, are the first ones on the stereo to make the long ride fly right by.
In 2007 Daydream Nation was reissued. This time it was released as a double CD with one disc being the album itself and one disc being full of live versions of the Daydream Nation songs. Not only are they live versions but they are from the 1988 tour Sonic Youth did for their then new album.
Although over the years I have seen Sonic Youth dozens of times and they have always had Daydream Nation songs mixed throughout their set list, this disc is awesome because it allows you to hear these songs performed live when were are the freshest.
With this brand new "deluxe" copy of Daydream Nation it now came time to retire one of the CD's that has graced my CD player probably more than any other of my 3000+ Cd's. The long stained and scuffed up Enigma Records copy of Daydream Nation I had bought and was blown away almost 20 years before was not going to be needed anymore.
From now on this new copy will have the job of blowing me away for many more years to come.