Sunday, May 27, 2007
Saturday, May 26, 2007
Wednesday, May 23, 2007
So, I've decided to edit my post that transcribed my hellacious anxiety dream from this morning. After re-reading it this afternoon, I saw too much potential in the post to just leave it as a jumble of run on sentences and extraneous letters. I also am filling in some details I either left out in my rush to type or that I remembered in discussing the dream after I typed it out. I'll also try and give some context to characters in the dream that were only named and not explained in my original post. You can read the original, unedited piece on my myspace blog. I don't know how interesting that would be. But it's there for posterity's sake at least.
I dreamt of a banquet. Huge, sprawling. The outlay of the tables, I could see formed a snake shape. It was on a grassy hillside at dusk. I saw this in a kind of sweeping in shot from a movie. This was the only part of the dream that was outside of myself. A staggering Filet Mignon dish is the appetizer course. You have to travel throughout this serpentine dining area to piece the dish together, though. Steaks here, potatoes there, hollandaise sauce far, far away. There were vegetables and shellfish, the dish was more of a bowl than a plate. Shaped like an oyster shell, it's porcelain.
At each of these tables are people that I’ve known in one way or another throughout my life. Not like major players in my biography, just people I’ve seen or met. When I go to sit down and eat my dish with Amanda, Jim Lovelace tells me that I can’t sit down to eat without the proper attire. I worked for Jim at the now defunct Restaurant Savannah. Everyone who worked there essentially went through all the cliche's of a poorly run restaurant. We waited for four months from the original opening date to actually serve our first customer. The owner of the restaurant had a big coke problem, threw plates at people, fired chefs at will, fired managers with whimsy. In my 9 months there, we had like five or six different managers (two at a time), and five different head chefs. Jim now is at Bogart's, bless his heart.
Despite knowing the brass at this party, I have to leave and buy a proper black suit. So, Amanda and I head off to this suit store, where Lisa is working part time. Though, she's not there at the time. (Lisa is a coworker of mine at Glenwood Grill). The owner knows my dad, which is somehow greasing the wheels for me getting a suit here. The owner of the store has two sons, one my age and one younger, maybe Tyler’s (my youngest brother) age (17). They have a kind of comedic routine. They reenact the scene with the robot tailors in Spaceballs. I buy the suit, but it’s put on dad’s credit card. As we’re leaving out onto this front porch that's two stories from the ground, I see one of the sons getting out of a Ford car that has a special license plate that says it’s one of a kind. Like someone at Ford made this car, which is black and looks like a mix of an old BMW convertible and a Porsche, just a Ford, which seems silly to me. To go through all that spending just to get a Ford, when he could have gotten something nice like either car that this one sorta looks like. The weird part is that this younger son was just in front of me. Then he’s getting out of his car in the parking lot. Oh, before this, the dad leaves for a second in a black car that looks like a Bentley drives off for thirty seconds and then returns.
As we’re leaving, we run into Jay Winfrey. (Jay is a good friend of the two of us, we haven't had the opportunity to hang out with him much lately, due to his working all the time at like seven jobs.) But some thing's wrong with him. He’s quick to tell me he had a brain tumor, and that he’s just recently survived a dangerous surgery. Jay seems weird. His features are changing, but the thing that’s really wrong is that he’s shorter than me. Jay is a very tall guy in real life. So this bothers me. I keep trying to find out about why he's changed so much physiologically, but I'm afraid to ask him directly, I allude to it, talking about how he lost all that weight when he found out he had diabetes. He goes on to tell me about how he’s always been worried that he would get brain cancer, it bothered him for 18 years, that he always knew it would happen to him. As he's leaving, I finally gather up the courage to ask him why he’s lost his height. "It’s because of the surgery" up until this point, Amanda hadn’t noticed Jay. She freaks out, and goes out for a drink with him to find out more and console him. I can’t bear to be around him anymore, it’s too sad. So I recuse myself and go on my own way.
Too depressed to go back to the dinner party, I head home. There’s a bed in the computer room, with a small tv, and a vcr, with a bunch of unfamiliar tapes. I rifle through them, put something about the history of flight on, and fall asleep. I get phone calls from my dad and Tyler, which I answer in my sleep. Then, I hear a sound that’s been recurring in my dreams lately. The sound of an airplane landing, but the sound has always been occurring within earshot of the house. This sound has always been a source of nervousness and dread every time I’ve heard it in my dreams, not knowing until the very end of the sound if it’s from a crashing or landing plane. Up until this dream, it’s been all landing, tonight, it was a crash. Before I have time to turn the tv on to the news to see if it really was a crash, and what I should do with this information, Amanda calls me. At least that’s what the cell phone says. Her voice is weird, it’s like she’s talking like a high pitched impersonation of herself, like a little kid is posing as her. She’s asking me to pick her up at the Target, quick. Which is making me more uneasy, because she was nowhere near the Target when I went home. And this doesn’t sound like her. It sounds like a setup. But I can’t not go there. What if it is her, and she’s just drunk out of her mind, speaking in a weird voice? But what if it is someone who’s done her harm, took her phone and called me. To do me harm.* I’m scared. I’m imagining Stringer Bell* has had someone impersonate Amanda, and he’s going to kill me and her when I get to Target. I wake up. I couldn’t think of going back to sleep with the prospect of returning to this dream. So I got up and typed this out. Hopefully, when I get back in bed, I won’t dream this storyline again. Though writing about it is probably going to make this only more prominent in my head..
*So I just figured out what may be the root of the whole Stringer Bell/little kid thing at the end of my dream. I'm reading What Is The What by Dave Eggers. It's the story of a refugee named Valentino, from Sudan, his life on the run in Africa and the trials of his life in America. The story starts out with his house being broken into by a woman and a man while he's there. In my head, I imagined the man as Stringer Bell. After the theft, the couple ties up Valentino, and leaves a little boy to watch over him and the house until the thieves return. So, I think that's where that comes from.
*Oh, who's Stringer Bell? He's a character on The Wire. He's a coldblooded, murderous, motherfucker. Though he doesn't kill anyone himself. He gets others to do the deed. Using most notably in two of his commissioned killings, teenagers. Ohh, The Wire is so good. (Stringer Bell is the one closest to the window in this advertisement for The Wire).
Tuesday, May 22, 2007
Monday, May 14, 2007
You know those moments in your life where there have been things that you've been crazy about, and then after just gorging yourself on whatever this might be, you start doing/listening to something else. You kinda take their greatness for granted. Like a Picasso painting, it just becomes part of this greatness wallpaper. Then, you see one in person, and you see the brush strokes, you smell the oils. The same situation happened today with Radiohead. I was listening to this Radiohead interview, and it hit me like brick, man. Thom Yorke was playing this song a grand piano, and it just sent chills down my spine. The hairs on my neck, my arms, just standing on end. It's amazing, it's, it's, damn, I'm just lost for words.
me and my birthday hat
amanda and marvin
becca in the living room
dan on the back porch
angelita, steven, and chris, sleepwalking
becca and steven in the kitchen
Thursday, May 10, 2007
So, I've been listening to the single greatest album ever, Double Nickles On A Dime by The Minutemen. I came upon their autobiography in 172 seconds, "History Lesson Pt. II". D. Boon lovingly recalls the entire history of the band and hits you with what might be the most sentimental punk song ever. But it dodges schmaltz by a mile with a mix of greatness and sincerity. This is the song that can connect any one to The Minutemen for the rest of their lives, D. Boon singing that "our band can be your life". By this point, a point that has been addressed by many writers before me. It's the perfect line. It's to the Minutemen what Eno's quote about The Velvet Underground is to that band, it's the sound of a hundred bands starting.
So I'm thinking about this song, and Amanda's interview last night with the Annuals comes to mind. The interview went bad. To catch up anyone who's not aware of the Annuals, they're a band from Raleigh that has blown up on the internet. Fawning reviews in Pitchfork and the likes. Appearances on the Conan O'Brien show. Etc. The thing is the Annuals never took the time to blow up in Raleigh. That's not their fault, the internet is to be blamed for that. The Annuals, though, aren't that bright.
Amanda is an excellent interviewer, she comes up with great, intelligent questions that challenge her interviewees. Not that she's confrontational, she just tries to get to the intellectual nature of the musician. After her interview with Eric Bachman (of Crooked Fingers and Archers Of Loaf fame), his roadie said that he overheard the interview and said it was the best one he'd heard in a long time. So, I'm kind of belaboring the point that she's very good at her job.
Her questions flew over the head of the Annuals, they either weren't paying attention, or were just kinda dull. Which is so upsetting, because they're music isn't dumb. They play music that sounds like there's an intelligence behind it. It's perfectly acceptable for someone in a hard rock band to be dull. They're just kids, but, you know, damn.
So anyway, the point, why did I think of this while listening to the Minutemen? One of the members of the Annuals said that they were first band to make music the way that they do. A bold, bold statement. Essentially, "Our Band Can't Be Your Life". What a crock, huh? I mean, really.
Friday, May 4, 2007
The guitar album is dead. It's been dead for a while. I can take you to it's grave, where it got the proper British funeral that it so richly deserved. It's strange to think of Blur among their many facets, as a great guitar band. Graham Coxon really only got to stretch out and make his guitar float in defiance of gravity only on the last two albums he was on with the band. Now, rumor has it that Coxon is rejoining the band, and in honor of that, I thought I'd revisit one of my favorite albums of the late nineties, Blur's 13.
13 starts out with a prayer. That prayer turns into a hymn, then a revival. And so it goes, the blueprint for the rest of 13 is laid out in the gospel rock of the opening song, "Tender". Notably, this album's superhero, Graham Coxon takes the lead vocal on this song. Instead of sending his guitar into space, as he'll do in the rest of the album, he gently reveals a choir, urging him to "c'mon, get through it". There are parts of this album that feel like they may have touched the hem of the garment of other important British bands at the time, "Tender" drinks the water that is not from the well with Spiritualized. At times, Coxon's guitar heroics might sound like they're inspired by Radiohead, but inspired would be where it stops, and then it leaves on it's own path. Radiohead would go on to abandon the guitar, and Spiritualized would go on to beat that gospel horse into sand.
The "hit" of sorts from 13 was "Coffee & TV", which, I'll probably play at my wedding. It's an ode to simple domestic bliss, escaping the music biz and settling down, like a lost Kinks song. Coxon sings lead on this song as well. The song starts off with upbeat acoustic strumming, which leads into the closest to soloing that Coxon manages on this album. The melody never leaves the song, though. And a pretty little keyboard line straight out of "Something Else By The Kinks" buoys the guitar madness. The song's video features a little lost milk carton that makes it's way through the city. Until it meets the milk carton of it's dreams (who meets a tragic end).
When I say guitar album. What do I mean? Am I talking about killer solos? Nawh, not really. So if that's what you were thinking, that's probably why you were kinda put off by the whole last guitar album thing. You can hear people doing 20 minute solos with violin bows for the rest of your life. I'm talking guitar album in the vein of "Daydream Nation" or "Loveless" or "Band Of Gypsys" or Creedence's first self titled album. Where the guitar is doing something it shouldn't. The guitar is floating, the guitar is making eggs, the guitar is making you mix tapes. Somewhere on "Battle", I'm sure Coxon probably isn't even touching his guitar. But it's making a sound that's unnatural. It's floating, it's backwards, it's ephemeral, it's, it's beautiful.
The counterpoint of "Battle", and the counterpoint of rest of the album, really, is producer, William Orbit. Which seemed like an odd choice. Orbit was at the time, (and so far), famous for producing the reinvention of Madonna #6. The one where she got all gothic and techno. You know, the one with the birds. Orbit gives the album a slight techno/dub feel. Really messing with the drum sounds, echoing them straight into outerspace. This actually works out very well. I remember at the time, when this album was about to come out, and I read that Orbit was working on it. I was kinda flabbergasted. I was (and am) a gigantic fan of their previous self titled album. 13 towers over their previous work, though. It's a little cold, there's nothing you could dance to, or play in a hockey arena on 13. But that doesn't really matter does it? You can't dance to or play "Silver Rocket" in a hockey arena. Well, they should play "Silver Rocket" in a hockey arena. And yet we all love "Daydream Nation". Now, I know. I'm comparing the greatest album of the last 30 years to a Blur album, but, you know, so what. It's no worse than NME saying The Arctic Monkeys have one of the best British albums ever, in the league with Revolver and Let It Bleed and London Calling. But I digress.
Damon Albarn, lead singer, Gorilla, and general genre jumping miscreant, was depressed when this album came out. He'd just ended a long relationship, so I'm guessing that's how he allowed his oversized personality to get overshadowed by Coxon's guitar. His depression really hits on the final song of the album, "No Distance Left To Run". It's the saddest song in the Blur oeuvre. It's being totally crushed, and giving in. It's admiting defeat, and saying "I hope you're with someone who makes you feel safe in your sleep, tonight". It's like Issac Hayes singing "Walk On By" but, without the ability to even make that awesome "wahmp-wahmp" hook. Just utterly beat and downtrodden.
Then Gorillaz happened. After that, Albarn got his confidence back, and wanted more control, wanted Blur to be a dance rock band. So much so, that he hired Fatboy Slim to produce their next album. Coxon was as appalled by this decision as you and I are, and left the band. (Fatboy Slim only ended up producing 2 or 3 songs on Think Tank.) Now, rumors are abound that Coxon's rejoining Blur. What will that sound like? Good. That's what I'm banking on. Good.
Wednesday, May 2, 2007
Okay, last post for the day, I swear.
I recently signed up for Google Analytics. It allows me to see the traffic that my blog takes in. I'm very excited, because lately I've been getting some international readers. So international, that on my little map of where my visitors are coming from, there was one person from Dubai! Hello, person from Dubai, if you happen to revisit this blog, thank you, and I uhh extend an olive branch? I really think your government should work on reducing the amount of energy it uses. It's kinda over-the top. Indoor skiing? In the Persian Gulf? It's a little much. Anyway, The United Arab Emirates isn't the only foreign country checking out Beneath The Underdog. Argentina, Canada, Brazil, Germany, Poland, Italy, Australia, Great Britain, Sweden...
Ah, the interweb. It's allowing all these people to click on my page, and then hit the back button. Speaking the universal language, and saying "ehh, this wasn't what I was looking for".
what i'm listening to right now: I've Got My Mind Set On You by George Harrison
I haven't posted anything political in a while. Not sure as to the exact reason, but I'm back at it again. This is an ad from John Edwards. I'm an Obama man still, but Edwards is no slouch. Plus, Obama kinda dropped the ball with that whole Myspace thing. If you haven't caught wind of this yet, this guy ran an Obama myspace page for two years. It was an unofficial site, and had gathered almost 160 thousand "friends". Getting that many supporters is huge. So, some people from the Obama campaign approach this guy about getting the rights to the myspace domain. He wanted like, $50,000. A paltry sum. Especially over two years. Getting 160 thousand supporters from say, a media consultant, making commercials, hosting expensive dinners, etc. That would run into the hundreds of thousands if not more. Well, Obama's people balked, and forced him out of the domain. Telling myspace that he was posing as Barack Obama, and that the real Barack Obama wanted his domain for himself. This is politics as old muscling in on the politics of the future. It's bad publicity, and something like this, if not resolved, could lose Obama the support of the netroots. Which, in turn, could cost him the nomination. Let's hope this gets straightened out, this guy gets compensated, or better yet, hired by the Obama campaign.
But where did I start out? Oh! The commercial. Really great stuff. Edwards has some really good people working for him. He's definitely a second choice for me, but not one that I'd be uncomfortable with at all. He smart, got his head on his shoulders, stands for something... Richardson wouldn't be that bad, either. He seems that he's a part of the Clinton political machine though. Not that I hate on Bill. I love Bill. Best president in my lifetime. Granted, that counts for all of four people, but, still, pretty damn good. NAFTA, I didn't like so much. Oh, but anyway, I was saying that Richardson seems to be a piece of the Clinton house. He was certainly a player in Clinton's administration. And I wouldn't be surprised if there were backroom things going on where if Hillary didn't get the nomination, Bill's hedging his other bets towards Richardson. I don't know. I'm not even sure where I'm going with this. So I'll stop. I just want the war to be over. That's the most important thing to me. I want the war to end.
Then, I found what I'm going to be spending the majority of my disposable income on. The Numero Group has been releasing this series of compilations under the moniker of Eccentric Soul. They're compilations of long lost soul recordings, all the rewards of crate digging for obscure records without all the dust and actual crate digging. I've downloaded a few samples, and I've been completely blown away. It's some fantastic stuff, I'm particularly smitten with the first track off the Deep City Label disc by Them Two. It's smoky soul, like if Marvin Gaye stepped in for either Sam or Dave, and put some string drenching Philly soul behind it. The few tracks I've heard off the Twinight album are even more impressive. A sort of Chicago answer to Motown, with an amazing house band and a stable of soulful singers.
So I'm gonna go and buy these albums, unlike the Toadies or the Kinks album that I downloaded today, both of which I own in a different format (vinyl and cassette respectively, though I couldn't tell you where that cassette might be, if I in fact still have it). See, RIAA, I use downloading as a road map to what I'm going to buy. If you would just go into my living room and see all of the stuff I've bought, and measure that against what I've illegally downloaded, I think you wouldn't mind it so much. At any rate, I don't think the labels I try to support are even involved in the RIAA anyway, so maybe they're just mad that I won't buy they're ten thousandth Elton John greatest hits collection, or maybe something from that emo band that stole their name from Milhouse's superhero movie sidekick persona.
Recently our local NPR afilliate picked up my favorite new radio show, Sound Opinons. It's the only rock criticism radio show, so naturally, I totally geek out and enjoy the hell out of it most of the time. The rest of the time, I scoff at some of their opinions, their strikingly mediocre "Mix Tapes of 2006" show. Fergie? Seriously? Nitpicking aside, the show is great, it's hosted by Jim Derogatis and Greg Kot. I'm not that familiar with Kot, but I've been reading DeRogatis' stuff for a while, like his excellent biography of Lester Bangs, Let It Blurt.
All of their shows are available for download, free, on iTunes. The handful of which I downloaded onto my ipod gave me a nice respite from the audiobook parade of the drive up to Michigan.
allright. I'm still pretty out of it, so I'm gonna end it here, with a great quote from Sound Opinion's Jim DeRogatis... "Since the British Invasion, America's had the last laugh" (in reference to the dearth of success that British bands have had in America, from The Smiths to the Arctic Monkeys).