I walked into the all-ages show last night to the sounds of Winter Blanket, who were moved from tepid singer-songwriter-rock territory to passable Low/mellow-Wilco/Neil Young country by a rock-solid drummer and subtle, decorative keyboardist. Another redeeming quality of this band is their dual frontpersons, one of which (the guy) is nerdy and cool in that Knate-from-Straight-Outta-Junior-High way.

Melodious Owl are 3 area high schoolers who have managed to create/accidentally stumble on local buzz-band build. Their sound loves The Faint, but only after eating a couple bags of Skittles and deciding that 12th-grade hormones are the next hot thing for the indie crowd. They sounded better live than on their Transition EP, due to the Triple Rock sound system’s ability to produce mid- and low-range tones (the homemade disc is ALL high-end). Quite the up-and-coming showmen, these fine young fellows.

Mark Mallman made two entrances; the first was pretty standard, but he then instructed his band to play his other entrance music, left, and returned in a mask he must have borrowed from an Uruk-hai. That’s pure Mallman for you, rock-posing crazy man with the best stories in Minneapolis. Mr. Serious is one of my favorite records, some days I like the rock’n’roll songs best, other days the ballads. He’s got one foot in another world, like “Big Fish” or my friend Doug – he’s huge, bigger than the Beatles in that place, and he plays like it, standing on his piano, making up lyrics, and rocking hard enough that you can glimpse it through his eyes – Mark Mallman is a walking window, his songs a bridge between the universe you and I live in and one where music is king.


Bright Eyes is one of the few artists around that can make me uncomfortable. I encountered Conor Oberst’s music for the first time around the release of Lifted (or the Story is in the Soil, Keep Your Ear to the Ground) through a live performance; the first show of the Lifted… tour, a warm-up gig with the full 15(?)-piece band at the Rococo Theater in Lincoln. It was a good show, Conor threw a tantrum at the end, and I ended up buying the record.

Now that I’ve written that story, I remember we saw Desaparacidos open at Cursive’s The Ugly Organ CD release show.

I’ve got something to say about I’m Wide Awake, It’s Morning eventually, but these stories are important; so much of Bright Eyes’ music rests on Conor’s person(a) that one’s response to it becomes an inextricable part of one’s response to the music.

Lifted… really challenged me; what could be made of it? All the overwrought emoting; is it intentional and contrived, or spontaneous? Who is this existentially angst-y fellow, and how did he become who he is? What’s his agenda? I listened to the record maybe once in every three months; I couldn’t take any more than that. The question of Conor’s sincerity seems to be the crux of understanding Lifted…, and I don’t know how to answer for it.

Enter I’m Wide Awake, It’s Morning; a much easier record on the ears, and on the heart – and ultimately, more meaningful for it. Ideology fades to the background of these songs. Much more graceful than Lifted…, the new album has the ring of observed truth seen through Conor’s eyes rather than the cacophany of cynical position statements and heartbrokenness. I listen to it often on my days off.

I particularly love the tone of “We Are Nowhere and It’s Now” which reminds me of Mike Mogis’ production on The Golden Age’s EP. On the other end of the spectrum is “Train Under Water,” which is sunk by a chord progression that GarageBand might have written and Mogis’ uninspired, pat lap steel playing. It’s a shame; the lyrics are as good as anything else on the record, which is a high compliment.

Album closer “Road to Joy” is a disaster on paper. Copping the most familiar melodic fragment of Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy,” the song seems like the kind of grand overstatement in thought, intent, and execution, that creates Bright Eyes’ nebulous sense of insincerity. Yet, it works (somehow – sheer will, or audacity perhaps). That’s my relationship with Bright Eyes in a microcosm; suspicion and hesitance that leads, surprisingly, to meaning and fruitful insight.

Bike's "Great Distances," h&s' "Bon Jovi," and Site Design

First, the music – Today’s Mr. Furious update includes a brand-new bonus track for Bike’s How Is That Possible, “Great Distances.” Thanks Nate for a great addition to an album we love; Bike continues to be available in full for downloading, so rock that.

Furious Instance #2 is a re-mixed, re-mastered “Was I In Bon Jovi For A Second There” from howie&scott. Did you think that howie and Scott were off-beat, creative, rocking guys with a penchant for self-questioning? You were right!

In addition to the new jams, MFR has made an update to the structure of the website! is more browser-friendly than ever with our new look. Not a drastic change, but a significant improvement. Check out the Furious Instance’s permanent spot on the left side of the page, new navigation on the right, and a bigger and better-exploding main frame in the center of the page. Netscape friends & other non-IE users will like the new layout we think.

Mr. Furious Records: Giving Great Music into spring, and beyond (next up: Sally Ride!). -Mr. Furious


The French Kicks opened for Idlewild’s The Remote Part tour, which I collided with in Omaha, leaving with their record One Time Bells.

Last night at the Triple Rock, openers The Natural History gave a spastic opening set, like Buddy Holly might’ve given if he grew up in New York with the Walkmen. Good, solid, rockin’, original fun.

Second act Calla is a band you should avoid. If Nirvana could be wiped of their energy, destructiveness, tension, and creativity, you’d be left with Calla. I thoroughly enjoyed a big root beer during their set, and completed my French Kicks discography with a purchase of the Young Lawyer EP, the band’s original work for Star Time.

The headliners were quirky, poppy, and pleasantly dance-inducing (among a notoriously WASP Triple Rock-attending population. Minneapolis is diverse, but you wouldn’t know it by going to rock shows). Off-kilter rhythms, oddly soulful harmonies, and a minimalist instrumentation isn’t a usual palatte for pop pleasure, but the French Kicks pull it off with New York style. The Trial of the Century is one of those discs that Pitchfork missed in their review; it’s a great record (mid-7’s I’d say), and a mainstay of mine since last fall.


With Gilby’s “Lunch By Yourself” released last month, Mr. Furious Records launched the FURIOUS INSTANCE. This new feature on the site will bring even more killer music to your fingertips. Furious Instance is an emerging compilation; musical snapshots from all over the auditory spectrum. Artists from beyond the MFR release-roster will be contributing tracks as well as some of the usual suspects (howie&scott, echoes, Cory Alan). In the future Furious Instance will include more new musicians as we encounter them, live cuts, and any number of other gems we can dig up. The goal of Furious Instance is to be mutant mixtape, constantly evolving with interesting sounds and no limits on who can be involved or what we may sound like.

The second Furious Instance will be a re-mixed, re-mastered “Was I In Bon Jovi For A Second There?” from the back catalog of howie&scott. Beyond that… Scott’s gathering some material, Cory’s got a friend in The Return we’re talking with, and there are a couple echoes songs that sound pretty good acoustic…


The feature article this past week (“Minnesota Becomes Eclectic“) on Pitchfork was on our new radio station in the Twin Cities, 89.3 “The Current.” Run by Minnesota Public Radio, The Current is so good that it’s broken my NPR-news habit. Read the article here, but I’ve been wanting to share a personal antecdote for awhile too.

I spent a couple days listening when The Current came on-air, getting a feel for it, and enjoying music from Wilco, Elliot Smith, Olympic Hopefuls, Radiohead, Spaghetti Western, Joseph Arthur… Late one night on the drive home I thought to myself, “Some Afghan Whigs would be great about now…”

The next afternoon, Mary Lucia played “Gentlemen.” I think I’m in love.


A good debate has been running in the comments to Cory’s post, but I’ve started a new post to encourage more readers to join the coversation. Are there really “good” and “bad” songs, or is everything personal preference? Is there a difference between “good” music, and “liking” music? Read what Mr. Furious, Cory Alan, Franz Clobberfist, and JT have written, and join in.

IF WE ASSERT THAT BEETHOVEN AND CREED are of different aesthetic value, then we must seek grounds on which to base our judgement. Most people think and act as if this assertion were; Cory writes, “I know you would probably agree with me that a band like The Beatles is objectively better than a band like Creed, regardless of how many people like either band however much.” It is in that light that I read Cory’s original post, and his comments on: originality, honesty, catchiness, and a certain self-serving quality. Conducting our examination with a clear example (like Beethoven / Creed, though the Beatles / Creed is certainly clear enough for most purposes) helps create understanding so we can talk over the finer points (Bright Eyes / Radiohead) with clarity.

This position states that an objective reality exists (i.e. is a form of “realism”), and it is within this objective realm that an aesthetic object (like a song) has its ultimate aesthetic value. It is more or less “good” in reality. Cory is a realist: “But truth and objectivity are completely independent from our PERCEPTIONS of truth and objectivity… a song’s quality is independent from whether one likes it or not.” But along comes Franz (or Kant) to rightly remind us that under no conditions can a person know or experience this objective reality – knowledge and experience is ALWAYS colored by subjectivity.

So should we give up trying to say anything meaningful about objective reality? Franz and the relativists say “Yes” – whether that reality exists or not is an open question for relativists (i.e. Beethoven = Creed people) but regardless, relativists think that no meaningful statements can be made about it. Realists (i.e. Beethoven > Creed) answer “No” – and cross the gap between subjective experience and objective reality by a variety of means including logic, conventions of language, and judging statements by standards like coherence or utilitarian value. The details cross the line of feasibility for this forum. Yet there is much at stake in this debate, more for how to live one’s life than for evaluating music. If a person accepts that some meaningful statements about an objective reality can be made, the immediate question here is finding some that deal with musical value.

Franz has anticipated this point: “Aren’t judgement calls subjective?” Yes, and no. I’ve admitted that there is a subjective aspect to any form of judgement – but that does not mean that the subjective part is the ONLY part of an evaluation. For example; Beethoven, Creed, and originality. The 9th Symphony contains more uniqueness than “With Arms Wide Open” – more intricacy in its’ harmonization, more complexity in its’ melodies, more variation in tone, rhythm, and expression. This is not my experience of the music; look at both pieces on paper, and you can see and read the difference. In terms of originality, Beethoven is good music, and Creed is not as good as Beethoven.

Notice that the act or state of “liking” this music hasn’t come into play yet. It’s an interesting question about the relationship between music’s quality and a person’s experience of it, and more so whether there is any kind of obligation to like good music and not like bad music. I won’t try to answer that today. It is this situation Cory referred to; an argument between people who have confused a discussion of good/bad music (as it exists objectively) and what sort of music they like (subjective experience). JT understands; “N’Sync has some songs that are some of my worst guilty pleasures. But that doesn’t mean it’s good, much less great.”

Very, very few people truly act like relativists (though many talk like them, saying things like “that’s just your personal like / dislike!”). From a relativist perspective, I can’t imagine why you would want to say, or hear, any statements about music at all. Even reading a review in which the author writes about their personal experiences, there is definitely a normative quality to the review. The author is suggesting a certain way of hearing the music, a “correct” way that gently excludes or de-values other ways of hearing it. In doing so, the writer asserts some normative value judgement, which necessarily appeals to an objective existence of some form. I’m convinced of the realist position. The real inquiry here is into the terms by which correct aesthetic evaluations are made; a subject which cannot be exhausted or concluded, but will generate fruitful discussion for as long as art exists.


Some Kind of Monster, the making-of documentary about Metallica and their newest record St. Anger was supposed to be a good film whether you care about Metallica or not. Noel and I watched it a couple weeks ago, and I sat on the floor for over two hours, engrossed. Seeing the story of frustration, depression, and addiction behind St. Anger gives the album the personal relevance it needs. I’m not a big fan of the band, but the film inspired me to borrow the record from Noel. I wouldn’t have connected with the music on my own or through my individual experience, but knowing the band’s crucible over the past few years through the documentary and the fire they put their art through has forged that connection.

St. Anger‘s energy is fueled by positive, self-searching fury. The album’s sound juxtaposes the chaos of metal with a cut & pasted, ProTools-processed production style. In more ways than one, it has the characteristics of edge, striving, and tension between musical repetition/change that howie&scott’s signs aimed for. Big thrashy riffs are beaten out and given structural room to breathe; a theme is often introduced, varied, and played again, sounding achingly slow against Lars’ quadruple-time drumming. Musically, Metallica is smart and solid but not unorthodox, an extraordinary garage-metal band but not revolutionary. For the first time, the band co-authored all of the lyrics. Dominant is James Hetfield’s wrestling with his psychological shadow self – this is the correct way to hear the exhortation to “Kill” at St. Anger‘s close. It’s Hetfield’s shadow speaking; it’s poetry, “reality” in aesthetic terms only. Note the change from Ride the Lightning and other metal of that era, which took its own mythological exhortations as real.

In the tension between creativity and expectation (whether the band’s own, or fans’, or those of metal in general) a few moments falter lyrically. “Invisible Kid” would sound ten times better if the fourth line of each stanze DIDN’T rhyme with lines 2 & 3, and the chorus of “Purify” might be heard in any given Midwestern dive in a song by any given metal band; we rightfully expect more from Metallica. Yet only “Shoot Me Again” is wounded mortally by its’ cliches; it stumbles down the road without any of the redeeming qualities of the rest of the album.

With St. Anger, Metallica has created a desperate, honest statement of survival. It’s mature in all the good ways: well-played, dealing with real struggle, tempered by experience. Go ahead and be surprised that I’ve made myself its advocate; I am too.

echoes RUMORS

Received some meaningful, informal positive feedback about echoes and nickel today from Courtney Yasmineh. I’d given her a disc (nickel and Shacker’s Knowing Her Best…) awhile ago after hitting her CD release show. Courtney said she’d actually been listening to the disc, and even spun it for her producer, Rob Genadek, and it seems he dug echoes too. The lyrics were a big hook apparently (catchy + quirky), which I felt good about.

In other less-than-official echoes news, I’ve demoed six new rock songs and am in search of a producer (because I can’t do drums at home in Minnesota – not enough gear). I’m talking first with someone through Tapestry, the WCC contemporary worship band, but Courtney’s offered to help locate a reasonable (read: pro bono) backup if the first choice doesn’t work out. So, hopefully there will be new rock’n’roll this summer. I’ll keep working on some more acoustic stuff at home in the meantime. -h

Gilby's "Lunch By Yourself" on Furious Instance

Yesterday’s update included a broken link to Gilby’s “Lunch By Yourself” – the link is fixed now, so GO. DOWNLOAD. IT. (it’s to your left!). Many, many thanks to (in order of email): Nick, Allen, and JT for catching the break and emailing MFR about it. Sending FuriousMail now…

In other news, over 120 mb of BEACH-PUPPY served yesterday! Congratulations, Cory Kibler.