Album Reviews and some house cleaning

The Renaissance
Universal Motown

Would it be wrong of me to say that Q-Tip probably saved my life a little bit? Here’s the thing, I once dated a girl. We went to a mall because I had a gift certificate to a record store. I bought a copy of A Tribe Called Quest’s The Love Movement. The guy behind the counter, I went to college with him, he recommended Echo and the Bunnymen. In the end, he got the girl. But I got Q-Tip. That album, The Love Movement, that shit is strong. And I tell you what, it really made me fall in love with Hip Hop. I was a novice hip hop fan at the time. I honestly couldn’t tell you what Hip Hop I owned at the time. But for me, that album, that really started it all. It was such a raw, but uplifting album. It was like demo’s of your favorite band, before the internet ruined music. There was something just so complete about that album and it being A Tribe Called Quest’s swan song.

Q-TIP since then has had a really odd career. He dropped Amplified on the public shortly after he said good bye to Phife Dog and Ali Shaheed. It was a fairly successful album for the Queen’s rapper. And then he sorta disappeared. He recorded two more albums that never hit the shelves and in large existed as sort of a mythical figure of hip hop. But alas, he is back and The Renaissance lives up to it’s title, but leaves just a bit of sadness in my ears. For me Q-Tip is the essence and spirit of what hip hop should be. He has a unique voice and a great tongue to lip ratio and over the years he has not lost a beat. The all important flow is there on this album. Furthermore the music itself is funky, airy and totally uplifting. From the opening track “Johnny is Dead” which has just a nice swanky guitar groove to “We Fight, We Love” which has just the ass shaking smooth jazz bass line Q-Tip hath provided the jams in which to get down.

But man I need Phife Dog. Tracks like “Manwomanboogie” could so benefit from a Phife verse on there. Just to give that all important extra perspective that Hip Hop is so good at giving us. Q-Tip carries almost all of the vocal responsibilities on this record and while those skills are still in tact, hip hop’s glory is so much in it’s communal approach to song that you just want that extra taste in your mouth sometimes. By the time I hit track 12, I’m drifting off a bit. Another voice in there would be so sweet. Norah Jones just doesn’t do it for me and in the end, I’m thinking about all those great Tribe tracks. Which isn’t all bad, because this does just feel like the natural evolution, so much more then Amplified did when it followed the wake of Tribe’s demise.

It’s good though to see Q-Tip back in the game. Posi-Hip Hop has needed a strong outing from one of it’s heads of state and Kaamal The Abstract brings something that is actually quite the opposite. It’s not so much a reinvention or even a invigorating revisiting of old, but a testament to how truly outstanding of an artists Q-Tip is.

Mr. Machinery Operator

This is the third fIREHOSE album I have purchased this year and it is by far the most outstanding album they have done, which says quite a bit if you ask me. I know you didn’t, but it’s my blog so I am going to tell you anyway. The 90’s were a cruel and unfortunate time in so many ways and fIREHOSE is just proof of how truly unfortunate they were because this album, which came out in 1993 should have pretty much been on every one’s top ten and certainly I should have owned it back then. I have a feeling though this sonic masterpiece was fairly under represented by the major label that funded it. And that’s a shame because, despite evidence to the contrary this is some of Mike Watt and George Hurly’s finest work together.

Though it doesn’t quite hold up for 14 songs and has a very unfortunate guest appearances, fIREHOSE graduated into such a tight rocking band that was really getting their shit together. ed fROMOHIO is no longer the unsure outsider, but a sonic force holding his own with one of the greatest rhythm sections to ever play music together. J Mascis put some stench and power to his guitar and they even sound like some of the best parts of Fugazi on this album. Just absolute rock perfection and anthmatic riffage and post punk break down jams. George Hurly really slams the shit out of the drums and hits a peak not really seen since the Minutemen. And least we forget that Mike Watt just delivers some of the most endearing vocal lines of his carer. This album was a pure unknown gem and I just want to thank the tool fuck that sold this to the used store, because had you not I may have never come across it in this precious life journey I am on.

How this band is not more imitated or praised I will never know. The Minutemen were fantastic, there is no doubt in my mind about that. But for fIREHOSE to have to exist in that shadow is just vile. If ever a 90’s band should reunite to show the kids how it was done it is this awesome trio. This is three masters mastering music together. It’s a shame this was where they put it to rest.

Wow, so it’s the end of the year pretty much. It’s been a bit of an odd one for myself and for music. I bought a lot of used albums this year and not that much in the way of new stuff. I have two of my top five picked out, but the rest are going to be hard. There were some disappointments there to be sure but there were some serious surprises too. I also compiled my top ten all time records and am working on the write ups for those. So expect that to drop soon. After next weekend I will probably drop some more science on you about the records that fucked my shit up.

Also, man next year the month of January is sick. Matt and Kim, Dalek, John Frusciante and Mastadon all have albums kicking off the year. I hope to have a job or at least 40 bucks to pick all of these up. My iPOD is also giving me fits and is about out of room so I might be taking up a donation here for help. Yea I know some charity case. But if it isn’t apparent already, music is about the only thing that keep the nuts and bolts tightened in this fragile little mind of mine. That was a terrible sentence. Whatever, it’s Thanksgiving. Hope yr world is okay. Please be peaceful. I send my love.


The Art of Life Imitates Fiction (not really) and throwing it away

Dear Friends,

And I do mean this, but take no alarm from it. Thank you for keeping me alive. Somehow I have managed to make it through thirty one and a half years with out serious personal injury, long stints in jail, and maintaining a professional career. It’s pretty unbelievable to think that my antics and behavior have not led to a premature expiration of my life.

I still remember the first time I read Raymond Carver. I had seen Lee Ranaldo do a solo show at the old Birchmere in Alexandria, Virginia. This was now about 14 years ago I guess. Maybe more. It’s hard to say. I was still very young and much less damaged all over. Anyway, he had read a story of Carver’s as part of his performance and the shit was beautiful. I got Ultramarine, a collection of Carver’s poems shortly after that. His writing on the lowest parts of life remain to this day something I hold very near and dear to me. He had just a bit of solem meloncohly to his words. And I’ve probably spent a good deal of my grown up life trying to express that same amount of sane sadness I truly beleive everyone suffers from. Somewhere in all those typed pages there is a beautiful madness that just seems so normal to me.

One of Carver’s stoires that sticks out most to me (and no I don’t remember the title and no I can’t look it up at the moment, all my books are in boxes) is a story about a fish pond. In this story a man introduces a foreign fish into his pond so that he can go fishing and then the pond is over run by these fish and everything goes to hell. It’s told from the perspective of a young boy and in the end, well the man losses his shit and no one is better off. But you feel the reality of this decission, this hair brained idea to import a crate of fish, so you can go fishing. It’s really rather clever and if I was in a more fit state right now my telling of it would be rather clever too. Or not. I don’t think I have ever been accused of cleverness.

Anyway, the point is, I wish for more Carver moments in my life. He is certainly a human being whose life I have romanticized and one in whose successes I am trying to mimmic. I don’t smoke, so that’s a good thing. And thankfuly I am not an alcoholic. Though evidence to the contrary certainly exists. The point is that staying alive, through the much needed help, reassurance and graceful eyes of others has moved me into a position to maybe do these things that I want to do. Hopefuly my own self destructive tendancies and general gloomy aire will not get the better of me and I will do less stupid things as I get older, instead of more.

Friday night, Saturday morning I had a Bukowski kind of evening. It wasn’t pretty or pleasant. I was chasing some bullshit fantasy that clearly I am neither vulgar enough, good looking enough, clever enough or just plain cool enough to ever swing. It is a weakness, one I fear many of my gender suffers from. I would much rather have myself a nice Jamacia Kincaid moment, publishing my first novel as I see Beating at the Womb to be my own At the Bottom of the River if I may be so arrogant. I have to try to stay on course. Holy Shit that isn’t easy. It is a bit fun though.

Quick Reviews on Two Records

Michael Franti and Spearhead
All Rebel Rockers
BoBo Wax and Anti –

This is why I hate hipsters and the mainstream press. I love me some Michael Franti. He is one of very few artists who I trust completely. If he’s got a new record out I buy it straight up. The dude is fucking sweet like that. But while I heard about the recording of this album at the beginning of the year, I did not realize it was out until today. And the reason is that if a dude smokes a little bit of weed and walks around barefoot people right him off, but Michael Franti should be in every one’s iTunes list and All Rebel Rockers is a must have type of record. Franti, who has messed with soul, funk, hip hop, and R&B in a posi-vibe mix with influence from Americana and Folk music goes hardcore into new territories on All Rebel Rockers. Mixing dub, reggae, dance hall and a little bit of things he’s done before, Franti went down to Kingstown Jamicia and made a very rich, authentic record. This record has some great moments that remind this pasty old man of the best moments of Sandinista. It’s a fierce album, Franti lays down the deep voice, the band stays funky and all in all you should make lots of love to this album.

TV on the Radio
Dear Science

This album is also a bit of old hat for most of the hipsters out there and frankly this band is so good I am surprised anyone who knows absolutely nothing about music could be into this band, but the dorks dig this noise and I can’t blame them. TV On The Radio is one of those bands that I liked in concept but the execution of it was never quite hitting it for me. They play with soundscapes that are rich and lush and the production always sort of reminded me of Dalek actually, but it just seemed a bit too spaced out to me. Not any more though because Dear Science tightens everything up and just jams the fuck out with out being too self aggrandizing. I pretty much got instantly hooked on “Dancing Choose” after I saw the clip of them on Jay Leno. That song is fierce in it’s blow out tempo, rapid fire delivery from co-front man Tunde Adebimpe and the awesome one note guitar solo that just drills. The rest of the album brings the same crazy sounds you are used to, and gets funky. They also decided to keep it to just 11 tracks which makes for a much better listening experience. This album could be a surprise entry in my top five if it gets enough play time between now and the end of the month.

Speaking of Top Five, it’s been a very weird music year for me. There have been some awesome surprises, some disappointments and some new bands that defined my life for the 2008. What I thought were gonna be some shoe-ins definitely did not. Next year is also looking up with January bringing me new Matt and Kim, Mastodon and Dalek. World/Inferno Friendship Society are allegedly hitting the studio again and El-P even promised an album in the ’09. The dread locked Bostonian Mr Lif will drop his new album of political observations soon as well. Hopefully we will see new music by the Beauty Pill finally and I would love some more Ghost Mice. So I am gonna try and write about a few albums and songs and other stuff over the next few weeks and kick out my top five of 2008 some time in December. I also am going to drop my top ten all time records. It’s been a while since I revisited that list and certainly there are some new additions.

So anyway, check out these albums if you get a chance and keep it real.

I failed

Man, so this blog has been kind of sucking. Dude, admit it. You hardly read it. You aren’t ensconced with the wordy, didactic, half thoughts of yr drunken pseudo friend who waxes about shit only 15 year old kids should think about. I’ve been kind of a fuck up, weekly pushing out sleepy ideas about music and culture. Awesome. There is so much more to read on this awesome internet, where we all get to be deep hearted, special, amazing individuals, spilling our guts out. Right.

Music over the past few weeks has been an experience in frustration. A look into my profile reveals not much in the way of new exploration. I should say that as I type this idiotic rambling, I am listening to Against Me!’s As the Eternal Cowboy, which I must admit is an album I haven’t listened to in a while. It’s a bit of a shame, because it’s twenty five minutes of bright, rhythm guitar work, solid druming and steady bass playing with lyrics that are pretty fucking good befor Tom Gabel got too high to wrote good, feverish music. I am not putting them down for selling out, just getting old before their time. Whatever. I beleived in this band. I don’t any more. It happens.

Being an artist though, it’s all this judgement from a fast moving, finicky public. All these kids consuming everything at the spead of light. Human minds and bodies and understanding don’t move that fast. But this screen in front on you does. At your meek little finger tips is access to pretty much every figure blessed enough to have a computer and intrigued enough by it to spill their pee brain little bits of bullshit out on to it. We hide now in public. That’s nothing new. It’s not even an art form. I have 90 facebook friends, none of who call me, but several of which have seem me laugh, cry, vomit or shared hugs and kisses or the deepest moments of their lives.

Music is all that I have. It’s the whole point of this stupid fucking journal (with the exception of de-evolution into movie criticism). I have to bash out about something, because behind this screen is not a reflection of who I am, but the simple refraction of all these idiotic, vulnerable but useless pieces of my life. No one cares. I don’t blame them. I don’t care that much either. It’s just the passing of electricity and energy captured in history and passed to me by whatever means I can find to put it in the air. But it’s all I have. It’s all that has ever captured my attention with any regularity. With any consistancy. With any power. Some people have much more pressing, awesome and inspiring things that move them and they follow them and fucking rip the shit out of them. Some of those people I know, though I vaugely see them now, and am so proud of all the things that they have accomplished. Me, I have listend to a lot of music. Not enough for me, but a fair bit of the chaos created by people who are probably slightly less fucked up then I am.

I hope to find that ultimate noise, that ultimate note, that ultimate note or sound or song one day. I hope to tap into it and find the rest that I want so badly. Some times the chaotic insanity that I find makes me worry about myself. Sometimes the simplistic but furious power chord punk rock music makes me feel stupid. Sometimes the whiny, self cetnered accoustic artist makes me feel snobbish and tired. But sometimes I can’t get enough and I freak out a little bit. It’s all I really know, with any authority, because it is strictly me. That is pretty imature and selfish, but it is what I have. There isn’t a whole lot I can do about that.

Guitar Zero

This weekend I went down to Richmond to visit with my friend Miles. My friend Miles has two children birthed into this world by his wife Cat. They are the most awesome, beautiful amazing children in the whole of the universe as far as I am concerned and arguing otherwise will get you nowhere. This is very important because even though they are children and do the most effortlessly annoying things that children do (like show you everything in the house and tell the most long winded story about it) I love hanging out with them and playing games and coloring and all the other things that kids do.

My buddy Miles, like many parents of his age and generation allows his kids to play the video games. Now, I am not sure how I feel about kids playing video games, but then I am not certain my feelings on my own video game playing which waxes and wanes in accordance to my stress, depression and braind dead levels. So you know, if the kids want to play and the parents are cool, I am no longer going to comment on them in a negative manner. Except to explore an odd phenomenon. This phenomenon is called Guitar Hero.

I had played Guitar Hero, shortly, once in an EB games to see what the whole thing was all about. I can say with absolution that I murdered the song Living After Midnight, a classic Judas Priest song that I love dearly. It was quite ammused and angry at this whole experience. After all, on the guitar, Living After Midnight is a series of power chords at a mid tempo beat that any semi-interested guitar player should manage with ease. It’s the type of song I learn from time to time to ammuse my self. That I could not keep up with an odd machine, smashing buttons on a plastic guitar was maddening. I can play the guitar. I mean not like Steve Vai or Kerry King, but Kurt Cobain had very little on me in the technique department.

Anyway, I wrote the whole thing off until this weekend. Being the awesome odd friend of people with kids though, I decided to put my own disgust with the world aside and jam out with the mini-Miles doe eyeing me from below. For the next hour I continued to mash out buttons on the odd guitar shaped controller, generally laughing and adding my own noisy parts during the breakdowns. It was fun, I even woke up the next day and played some more.

What bothered me about it though was that, these kids, ages five and six knew all these very old, very bad, very annoying, very borrowed from songs from the 80’s and 90’s (and even some from the late 70’s) by heart. They were able to mimic on these plastic guitar, something like music. But it was not nearly like making music at all. But what really bothers me is we are going to bring up another generation of kids listening to the shitty radio music of the past and offer them nothing of their own. In fact, they are mearly going to mimick this brilliantly terrible music ad-nauseum on these games that give them no option to make their own sounds, which while not terribly organic, would at least be a start. While I still beleive in music made from instruments more then computers, at least a computer program can be manipulated, broken, fixed and modified for the sake of creation. Video Games offer little in the way of creativity and imagination. And you certainly are not offered the ability to modify the software, no matter what you do to the hardware.

I thought about all of this on the drive home while I listened to Douglas Adams. I could not help but wonder what he would think of the whole Guitar Hero phenomenon. After all he was a giant fan of technology (and a giant fan of making fun of it) and music. What would he make of all this button mashing that some how feigns our most popular (and oddly simple) rock songs? It makes everyone a “ROCK STAR” or the ubiquitous “Guitar Hero” it suggests. You don’t even have to get all the notes correct, and despite their being more then five notes that make up the typical guitar, there are after all only five buttons and a crappy wammy bar to pump up the electricity, which with real guitars, electricity ussually does it self.