I LIKE YOUR SLEEVES. THEY'RE REAL BIG

Many of you readers have seen the film “Napoleon Dynamite.” We’ll agree it’s funny, but I think it’s also a poignant look at the baffling, comic, tragic collision of the weird and the mundane that we experience as life.

Uncle Rico is my favorite, because of his football videos. There are days when I think amateur football videos are to Uncle Rico what Mr. Furious is to me; a futile grasping at glory, a project with meaning in such a narrow context that only Napoleon’s reaction is true, and only a hopeful reading of Kip’s response offers a plausible path forward;

“This is the worst video ever!”

“Duh, Napoleon, like how could you even know that?”

Shacker Makes 2004 Best-of List

One of Shacker’s records (either Knowing Her Best… or The Dimly Lit Room or (though unlikely) Pardon My Pretension…) has received an Honorable Mention on Transit Librarian‘s end-of-year best music of 2004 list. Congratulations, fellows!

Full disclosure: the Transit Librarian is a friend of howie’s. But we still think Shacker earned their spot among artists as diverse as Franz Ferdinand, Air, Wilco, and A.C. Newman.

OLYMPIC HOPEFULS at STATION 4, St PAUL, 31 DEC 04 and "THE FUSES REFUSE TO BURN"

The year 2005 found Kate and I about 10 minutes behind schedule, counting down with my favorite Twin Cities band, in otherwise-dead downtown St. Paul (they’d been sound-checking at actual midnight, but Kate observed that time is arbitrary anyway, valued only instrumentally as we grant it the power to measure). Olympic Hopefuls are undeniably great, plus whip-smart and catchy as hell, becoming an irresistable musical force something like the Cars crashing into Weezer’s Blue Album.

After seeing the Hopefuls a few months ago with the Transit Librarian, I brought expectations generated by the first show to New Year’s Eve and left happy. Live, the band understates everything save their music itself. Showmanship is limited to their matching red polyesther track suits, and stage banter is one notch above nonexistent. Playing and singing away on original hooks and huge choruses, properly sloppier than on record, is enough to satisfy both band and fans. The Fuses Refuse To Burn, tastily layered and perfectly warm-sounding, is the essential album of my first six months in the Twin Cities scene. The show included three cuts that aren’t included on the record (I’m guessing on the titles): “She’ll Get What She Wants”, “On The Edge of Medicine”, and “She (something else I can’t remember)”.

Olympic Hopefuls’ side-project status is almost revealed in their unification of wounded self-deprication (“Shy”, “Whisper”) and optimism of a delerious sort. This collision is seen most clearly in the face of terrible circumstances; “Imaginary” – an ode to a ficticious lover, or “Motobike” in which our protagonist crashes repeatedly, only to ride again faster and faster, singing “I’ll never slow down!” Only musicians with nothing to lose can create such intelligent, fearless pop. Dual songwriters Erik Appelwick (of Vicious Vicious) and Darren Jackson (Kid Dakota) are obviously having a great time being away from their real (?) selves. Their joy from rocking with abandon, and pain from knowing that fulfilling their world-class hopes for love and motobiking skills are one-in-a-million at best, is entirely infectious. I feel both with an authenticity and depth that seems surprising given the bright bounce of the Hopefuls’ music; their freeing lack of gravitas becomes in me enlightened innocence, more poignant by accident than greater effort would ever achieve.

Sometimes the more you tighten your grip, the more star systems slip through your fingers.

COURTNEY CONTINUES

Ran into Courtney Yasmineh at church; she was chatting with John (works here – good friend), I saw them and joined the conversation. She said some things about her CD release show in November that echoed my thoughts; mostly, it’s hard to perform and be a bandleader at the same time. I know from leading Scott through some tunes we hadn’t rehearsed much, and she was trying to sing, play, and conduct four guys, not one.

Sidenote; I’ve done some heavy listening on Courtney’s record Sufi Line and love it more than when I first blogged about it, except I skip “Perfidious” always and “Billy Collins” sometimes.

Courtney said something that turned my ear about the ego-centric attitude of people who write/record music and don’t share it. She’s sensitive to a responsibility to be a voice out there and create an opportunity for her music and words to have their impact on others. It seemed counterintuitive; on the surface, it appears that a non-sharing kind of musician is humble about their work. But after thinking for a second, I see what she’s driving at; there does seem to be something selfish about creating, then hoarding one’s creation. Maybe a creation itself has a right to be released, to take a chance to achieve its potential and be allowed to live what life it may have.

MORE THAN YESTERDAY at KNICKERBOCKER'S, LINCOLN NE, 29 DEC 04

Rising from Blacklight Sunshine like a phoenix from Icarus’ own cremation, More Than Yesterday‘s aesthetic is still in-process. When it coheres, the band’s weighty contradictions give their music a kind of tensile strength. It is a new thing.

Seeing MTY at home, in Nebraska, revealed the foundation they are building on; melodic metal for the Midwestern bar set. It may seem obvious, but having followed the band from a distance I hadn’t remembered the frame in which they play; a frame where Harley-Davidson t-shirts, smoking onstage, and hardcore emoting resonate with big crowds. “We’ll Wake Tomorrow” and “Breakdown” crunch and burn in all the right places, like a Camaro driven through a chase scene. You know the moves, and their familiarity only greases your urge to rock.

But MTY aspires to higher things than endless shows for the greek boys & girls at the local dive. Revealed through the wearing of white belts, progressive playing from all 3 instrumentalists, snaky hip shakes, and in a hundred other ways this band’s horizons transcend the Missouri to the east and the Rockies the west. In Chris’ (BLS’s re-located guitarist) absence, Blake is blurring the line between playing rhythm and lead in his riffs. He’s also taken a page from the book of Edge, transforming the echo pedal from nifty trick into essential atmosphere – the very air MTY breathes at times. Dan (bass) and Jeremy (drums) combine hive-mind tightness with a sonically expanding, fluid orignality in the rhythm section. The chorus of “Somebody Saved” epitomizes this new angle; it blows up by becoming suddenly bigger and airier then the verse at the very second I expected thick metallic chords, the space between a guitar line and the rhythm occupied only by Russ’s vocal plea. Or, listen to everything about “Bodies,” a song that’s closer to grasping and expressing a kind of heaven than anything I’ve found in a Book.

Lest I sound like I’m pushing my friends’ band too hard, there are times when More Than Yesterday’s contradictions seem more like a train wreck in the pages of a slick magazine than the yin and yang achieved in “Somebody Saved.” Some of Russ’s lyrics are overly self-indulgent (“Savior”) and structural repetition takes the drive out of “Not Enough” (AB could be moving; ABAB is overkill).

Upshot; apply the 20% scalpel, and MTY is on the brink of fulfilling their chosen name.

THE YEAR IN MR FURIOUS' DIGITS

2 – Full-length Shacker albums released this year (The Dimly Lit Room / Knowing Her Best, Blackbeard Defends the Open Sea).

7 – Robots emotionally scarred during the making of Bike’s How Is That Possible.

2297.27 – Total megabytes served from http://mrfuriousrecords.com 21 Sept – 26 Dec 04.

628 – Songs downloaded from mrfuriousrecords.com ( [Total mb served x % served as .m4a files] / average .m4a file size: [2297.27mb x .965] / 3.53mb = 628. 628 is the upper ceiling; the real number is somewhat less, because this formula assumes that bandwidth used in aborted downloads is zero, which is not the case).

31 1/2 – Copies of signs.comets it would take to match the last 4 months of Mr. Furious downloads, song-for-song (or 63 copies of Knowing Her Best).

8 – Score on a scale of 1 to 10 of how big a math nerd howie is; between 7 (a delusional MIT applicant) and 9 (Mrs. Conrad).

? – Songs burned, copied, shared, and traded.

4:4 – Ratio of MFR releases to months since site launch.

5:24 – Average length of a howie&scott song.*

3:35 – Average length of an echoes song.

1998 – Distance in miles from Ventura, CA to Deephaven, MN – the two locations in which Beach-Puppy’s Creepy Eepy was recorded.

1 – Lonely, melancholy pirates gracing MFR album covers while fighting for the only home they have ever known (Blackbeard, on Shacker’s Knowing Her Best).

Mr. Furious Records will see you in the New Year!

*including signs.comets, b sides v2.0, and near and far (the 3 split tracks were timed together, and the hidden drum jam was not included)

Bike's "How Is That Possible" Released Today

The album How Is That Possible by new Mr. Furious Records artist Bike was released this morning. Ten songs of guitars, robot beats, and texture are available on the M U S I C page.

mrfuriousrecords.com has seen a spike in downloads over the past three days. !!! Thanks for downloading and sharing our music. We hope that everyone who wanted Shacker’s The Dimly Lit Room downloaded all of the songs last night, before most were taken down to make room for Bike. IF YOU MISSED THE DIMLY LIT ROOM OR KNOWING HER BEST… make sure you sign up for the mailing list (to your left); these albums will be available again in FULL sometime in the future. The FuriousMail list and this very page will keep you informed.

Beach-Puppy’s Creepy Eepy will likely manifest itself here at mrfuriousrecords.com in late January or early February. Stickers and buttons are IN; see howie, Cory, or Nate. More minor updates to the site include bigger album and artist thumbnail images, and adding Bike to the artist page.

CYCLING and SMALLEY MOLLUSK TOPOCENTRIC

When it comes to Bike, know that my thoughts are very subjective, because I worked on the mastering of How Is That Possible (Mr. Furious‘ release today – 23 December) and I like Nate’s album. The requirements of full disclosure satisfied, some thoughts on How Is That Possible:

– My favorite tracks: My Little Town (2), Bad Attitude (4), Out Of Control (9).
– Though opening track “He Came To Steal Your Children” gets me imagining playfully murderous toy mechas, don’t let it dominate your idea of the rest of Bike; it is an introduction, and the album is somewhat different. I know from watching mrfuriousrecords.com’s web stats that the first track of any album gets more downloads than others, so this is on my mind.
– Bike is quite listener-friendly in that the songs are a good length. Sometimes in beat- or atmosphere-oriented music, artists are tempted to stretch ideas out too much; Bike never falls into that trap.
– Bike’s artist photo and How Is That Possible‘s cover can tell you a lot about Bike. I’m attracted; I laugh, and recoil a bit, and finally composure fails – I’m on, hook, line, and sinker.
– “Smalley Mollusk Topocentric” was the subject heading of a piece of spam emailed to me a few days ago, and I like how it rolls off the tongue.*

* not even remotely Bike-related.

MCs (EPISODE h)

Cory’s post about MCs started me thinking… and thinking about how much hip-hop I’ve been listening to this fall. From my ears, commenting on / adding to his list:

Black Thought: Author of most of the Roots’ rhymes, I hold a high respect for Black Thought. That his flow ties together the Roots’ party vibe (especially live) and some thought-provoking, consciousness-raising metaphorical work – along with some great hooks (see “Adrenaline!”) – reveals a dedicated street poet. Plus, the Roots are highest in my hip-hop listening rotation; that tells me something.

Special J & J. Guevara: This team fronts 2 Skinnee J’s with verve and spice. Special brings his brains to bear on deep and deftly pronounced metaphorical material, turning lyrical tricks like you won’t believe until you hear them. If I was choosing sides for a sandlot battle-rhyme, I’d pick Special over Eminem any afternoon. J. Guevara is the funky party-starter. Together, they are the most underrated MCs I can think of.

Gift of Gab: Cory’s “Honorable Mention” from Blackalicious is definitely on my list; just listen to Blazing Arrow. His work (and that of partner Chief Xcel) speaks for itself. Imaginative, free, inspired, inspiring.

Felix & Muad’dib (Heiruspecs): Heiruspecs are a local (St. Paul) crew; Felix and Muad-dib handle the mic work on their record A Tiger Dancing. These are underdog cats who bring their A-game to the record, and to their shows, consistently. Highly recommended for everyone – not just heads.

HOW TO DISMANTLE AN ATOMIC BOMB In Your Garage

On the radio the other night I heard a second track from U2’s new album; “All Because of You.” Like “Vertigo,” it sounds like the band wanted a pseudo-garage-y, young, energetic sound – they roughed up their writing a bit, and played dirty but mixed it down slick (as necessary for radio play). It was OK, in an “I feel I should like it – it’s new U2, after all…” sort of way.

But the DJ followed it by spinning Weezer’s “Buddy Holly”, destroying whatever appreciation for “All Because of You” I’d accumulated pseudo-consciously. Faced with a band that made a truly great record out of their garages, How To Dismantle an Atomic Bomb was revealed as an under-thought, overprocessed pop album; above-average radio fare but nothing more. If you are interested in a real “Vertigo”-named song, spin the Libertines’ Up The Bracket.