I finally got Tori Amos’ ubiquitous “Little Earthquakes” on disc for the reasonable price of $1 a few weekends ago. This is the kind of music I hated most as a teenager- timely-sounding pop-prog championed by my older sister. Then, just before I started my current job, I was driving around West Chester late at night when Peter Gabriel’s “Mercy Street” came on the radio, and I guess I have not been the same since. I bought “So” soon after that, partially as a funny symbolic gesture. Like, my adult life is starting now, I must own a copy of “So” (I think I also bought two pairs of Dockers that day). Except now the novelty has worn off completely, and “So” is just a great album, and I feel totally comfortable working in an office all day. But seeing as every transition I go through takes time (I may or may not still be in the process of also becoming a hardcore kid- we’ll see) I staved off Tori Amos until now.

I was driving around listening to it last weekend thinking of all the ways I could make fun of it when I realized that, again, this is just an amazing album made by a person who is talented in a way I will never understand. Listening to the choruses of “Crucify” and “Winter,” I was like, “I think this album is primarily about self-acceptance” and then I realized that I have actually not thought about “self-acceptance” as a concept in forever, and suddenly I was just driving down the main line listening to this album and thinking about self-acceptance in reference to that specific moment. Just thinking about how becoming what you always considered to be lame is such a vital and noble process.

(Source: Spotify)

A brief apology for the ukulele

As most of you probably know, I spent the better part of my teen years as a twee as fuck, ukulele-playing folk-punk musician. This weekend, while sitting in the KOP parking lot with my ukulele, waiting for a Craigslist buyer who never showed up, I came to a realization that has been lurking within me for a while: I will never be able to get rid of this thing. This is my cross to bear.

But, I just want to say, while the ukulele infestation of the past half-decade or so unquestionably fostered an incredibly grating aesthetic and was generally a horrible thing to happen to music, I think I am still philosophically in favor it. See, I have pretty much no stake in what punk is supposed to be anymore, but I think where I differ from people on this point is that I’ve always wanted punk to be about intensely localized creative communities, not a national network of conventional music scenes. Hands down, the best, most meaningful shows I’ve ever been to were at Joe and Mimi’s parents’ house, when there were 20 people there and the bands and audience members just cycled positions throughout the evening. This is also why when I say that TV Dinner was the best punk band to ever exist, people only pretend to know what I’m saying. It goes beyond the fact that they lived 10 minutes away and became my friends pretty quickly, though that’s important, too- it’s more that they couldn’t really exist outside of their own specific context. Basically, I feel like if you weren’t born between the years 1989 and 1992 and didn’t grow up somewhere close to the Delaware/Chester County line, there is no chance you will ever understand TV Dinner, which makes them crucially important to those who fall within those parameters.  At least that’s how I feel.

On a practical level, the ukulele lends itself to this kind of specialization. In addition to being inexpensive and easy to learn, it’s quiet and portable. If you’re playing one, a show can happen virtually anywhere, and this is exciting to me. I just really like the idea of arming large numbers of people with an accessible creative tool and witnessing how personal and fragmented the resulting art would be. Now, obviously, this is not how it turned out. The ukulele, by virtue of basically being a toy, naturally lends itself to kitsch, and in turn almost all of the music made on it is super derivative, though it doesn’t have to be. Fuck it- I hope someone writes an inspired ukulele album that isn’t bogged down in cutesy aesthetics. If only to rectify the fact that I spent so much time doing the opposite.

There is so much amazing music in this world but almost none of it was made after 1997.

Made this playlist in case anyone is was interested in checking out what I’ve been listening to recently (haha).

Yesterday I walked around the city and melted while listening to that Ian McCulloch solo album. Great stuff.

(Source: Spotify)

Me as Robert Smith, circa 2004. How hard will I regret posting this?

Recently read Andrew Earles’ Husker Du book and have been thinking about it a lot. Mostly, it made me re-evaluate my feelings on the relative strengths of Bob Mould and Grant Hart. I feel weird about previously referring to Bob’s songs as more “middling and consistent,” when he was responsible for the Huskers’ most chaotic hardcore tracks. I was going to try to elaborate on this further by explaining that the band’s most transcendent moments come courtesy of Grant, but I don’t think that’s true. It’s actually sort of frustrating how evenly matched the two are. I also don’t really agree with my assertion that Grant Hart is a “psychopath,” not because that’s in really poor taste, but because he just seems kind of eccentric and to paint him as the main source of conflict within the band would almost definitely be incorrect. Bob refused to comment for the book, which creates kind of a one-sided argument against him from Greg and Grant, but honestly, most of the disparaging comments made in his direction are confirmed in Bob’s own book. It’s left me with conflicted Bob Mould feelings.

Not to mention that reading the book made me get back into Bob and Grant’s solo stuff and, I gotta say, those first two Bob Mould solo albums are virtually unlistenable to me. I mean, they’re pretty inoffensive, but it’s like…you ever go to a coffee shop open mic and there are like 2-3 acoustic acts who everyone seems to go nuts for that just leave you completely bewildered? You know the kind of music those people play? What is it?  Where does it come from? I have pretty much only heard it referred to as “coffee shop” music for this exact reason. I don’t think I’ve ever made it all the way through “Workbook,” and gave up on “Black Sheets of Rain” a few tracks in, but I can say with some confidence that the first two Bob Mould albums are coffee shop music. Meanwhile, Grant Hart’s “Intolerance” is exactly what I would want a late 80’s solo project to be. I recommend it.

I haven’t spent much time with Nova Mob, but I dug this record out recently and was impressed with this song. I’m pretty sure I’m like everyone else in that I prefer Sugar to Nova Mob. But I think this song serves as a pretty good analog to Sugar’s arena-rock careerism. Unabashedly garagey, unabashedly written by someone who is on drugs. In a way it articulates the difference between Husker-era Bob and Grant in a way that that band’s catalogue fails to make obvious, at least to me.

Possible future discussions on this topic:

  • Pretty sure I like “Warehouse” more than “Candy Apple Grey.”
  • Crucial distinctions between Midwestern and coastal hardcore and the enduring legacy of straight edge backlash.
  • May actually listen to Grant Hart’s Burroughs-inspired “Paradise Lost” concept album and have thoughts about it.
  • Further Grant Hart props for being solely responsible for some of my favorite album covers of all time.

(Source: Spotify)

Joe tagged me in a post about putting your itunes on shuffle and listing the first ten songs and hey man, I’ll bite. My taste has changed a bit in the two years or so since I started using Spotify, so consider this an accurate depiction of my taste 2-4 years ago.

“Twin Cities Sinners, United” by Dillinger Four: Off the “More Songs About Girlfriends and Bubblegum” 7 inch, which I guess I once regarded as must-have based on title alone. I think this is the second time I have ever listened to this. While the later “Situationist Comedy” is my favorite D4 album, this isn’t radically different, just a little scrappier, which I like.

“Girlfriend is Better” by Talking Heads: This is not the kind of Talking Heads song I like. It’s too funky and it’s almost 6 minutes long. 15 year old me was disappointed with this album with the exception of “This Must be the Place” and I think my opinion still holds.

“Nocturnes: No. 14 in F Sharp Minor Op. 48 No. 2” by Yundi Li: This represents a weird period when my primary source of getting new music was ripping CD’s from the Monroe County Public Library. I was looking for instrumental stuff to drown out the sound of the newsroom I was working in. Chopin was only intermittently loud enough to silence the people around me, though.

“Mommy, Can I Go Out and Kill Tonight? (Live)” by the Misfits: You ever wonder why this random live track is plopped in the middle of “Walk Among Us?” I do. Fond memories of singing along to this in gibberish with Mike in high school (the “rimma lama gimma” part is my favorite).

“Horror Business” by the Misfits: Two Misfits songs in a row. Probably tells you something about how my iTunes library looks. You ever watch a Misfits cover band sloppily plow through like 20 songs and realize that you know all the words to all of them without even thinking about it? Misfits songs might as well as be a part of my biological make up at this point. Whenever I hear this song I think about the time Steve and Lindsey jumped out of Mike’s moving car and disappeared down a SEPTA terminal and I had a panic attack. As Mike was driving me home we turned this song up all the way and the line “Too much horror business/Driving late at night” felt so fitting.

“Provisional” by Fugazi: I’ll probably never be able to remember this song by name, but when I try to remember if I actually like Fugazi or not, this song pops into my head and I know that yeah, I do. “GIVE ME THE SHOT.”

“Bomb Shelter Part 1” by the Halo Benders. This is a weird one. All three Halo Benders albums got heavy rotation in high school. This song is mostly forgettable, but Part 2, a spoken word rant in which Calvin Johnson chastises Vietnam veterans, is arguably one of their best (or at least most memorable) songs. I’ve seen video of Built to Spill playing it live with a projection of Calvin behind them.

“Descent” by Turning Point: I like where this is going. The first 5 or 6 tracks of the Turning Point discography get the most play from me, but this song sounds like a cool transition between their by-the-numbers youth crew stuff and their more melodic, riffier stuff. This is how you use octave chords. I love this band.

“Choke” by Battery: See? I’m hardcore. No one believes me. This is my favorite song on this album, I think. Great 90’s hardcore. I only listen to this when I do push ups though.

“I Wear Your Ring” by Cocteau Twins: I love “Heaven or Las Vegas” a lot, but most of the tracks kind of bleed together for me, which may have as much to do with the fact that I have mostly digested this album during my long treks across the mid-state as it does with the songs being overly similar. This track is just a small excerpt from a beautiful, dream-like whole. Just get the album, ok? Relax.

how sick would it be if i could sing or play guitar

Last weekend I took a trip to Gold Million, Bryn Mawr PA’s premiere hippie-themed record store. Looking at all the Kate Bush 12 inch singles made me re-evaluate the merits of a vinyl collection and, as of right now, I am hesitantly considering getting back into it- though I don’t know if I was ever into in the first place.

Regardless, I spent today combing through my scant collection, which consists almost entirely of records I got for free. If you know me, you’ve heard me tell the story of the time I walked into West Chester University’s radio station, asked how I could acquire some of their dated vinyl collection, and was informed that I could leave with as much as I could carry (I think I remember Gabby telling me that as of a year ago there wasn’t any physical media in the WCUR office, so I got there just in time). Most of the stuff I walked out with was basically worthless as a result of being defaced with cataloging stickers and Sharpied WCUR logos, though I did manage to sell the Ludichrist test press for $25, so this ended up being a pretty lucrative endeavor. And I have some cool stuff as a result- Marginal Man’s s/t, Big Black’s “Headache,” a Dag Nasty 12 inch single, Nothing Painted Blue, Nova Mob, etc.

But the real winner of the whole lot, and pretty much one of my only prized possessions, along with my autographed copy of “Get in the Van” and my copy of “Nightmare Sisters” on VHS, is the 12 inch single of Dee Dee Ramone’s “Funky Man.” I own this thing and you do not. And that is what it’s all about.