LAST NIGHTS | Five Star Crush

Lyrics by Joel Hines, music by Joel Hines and Five Star Crush.

Joel Hines (vocals, guitar), Mychael Scott (bass), Howie Howard (keys, backing vocals), Matt Pluff (drums), Eric Cornwell (lead guitar on “Collaborate,” “Black Machine,” and “Waste (of You)”).

Recorded live at The Replay Lounge, Lawrence, KS, 2007 October 11 (1-6) and The Riot Room, Kansas City, MO, 2010 March 8 (7-9). Mastered by Howie.

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Eyes To The Horizon

In a class on African-American images in TV and film at UMKC I learned what I’ll call a three-party model of social change.

Last week on Twitter a few people aimed harsh words, including bodily threats and insults, at Joss Whedon for what they felt were the inadequacies of Avengers: Age of Ultron.  Implicitly, they were using what I’ll call a two-party model of change.  Writing as someone who supports gender equality – the change in question here – I hope to convince you that the three-party model is the most effective path toward realizing the change we agree we want.

The two-party model is all about us vs. them.  It’s a black-or-white mental framework. We – whoever we are – are the good ones: the feminists, the advocates, the truth-tellers, the heroes.  Many of the tweets communicate that, to the Twitter-user (Tweeter?), Joss is not one of us.  He’s called misogynist (not a feminist), pig (same), racist (not a supporter of equality), ugly/can’t write/asshole/disgusting (general other-ing of Joss).

This is a comfortable frame, allowing the speaker a sweet, addictive hit of self-righteous indignation. Unfortunately, within this frame, not much happens with respect to actual social change; lots of shouting, very little changing-of-minds. Worse, while the defenders of traditional authority find it easy to ignore this type of criticism, and maintain a unified message when they must respond, we pro-change critics often fracture into pissing matches over who is most right.  We argue over who is really “us,” and who is secretly “them.”  As pro-equality forces we divide ourselves and are more easily conquered than we could be, even though in the big picture we’re on the same side.

In a three-party model we have the same traditional, anti-change authorities (in this case big business, Hollywood, maybe Marvel Studios), but on the pro-change side we have two camps: I’ll call us activists (Tweeters) and pragmatists (Joss).  These two camps play complimentary, reinforcing roles in making social change happen.

Activists push the horizons of social opinion, in a good way.  They explore the frontiers of personhood, relationships, and empathy, living in new ways, writing and creating art that reflects their experiences, and (yes!) critiquing society’s traditional authorities.

Pragmatists stand in the middle of the activists’ ideals and the traditional authorities’ power, supporting the ideals while compromising with the powers that be.  If activists are pushing on the forward horizon of social opinion, pragmatists are pulling on middle and rear of society and helping move the average opinion in the direction the activists want!  It’s easy to label pragmatists “sellouts,” or worse, usually from a safe distance.  In reality they are pioneers of their own stripe, normalizing and mainstreaming previously radical social ideas.

(Get familiar with the Overton window, if you’re not!)

Joss has written multiple three-dimensional female heroes into the Marvel cinematic universe.  Is it enough, or do we want gender equality to stop there?  Of course not!  Has he done more than 99% of other directors whom Marvel reasonably could have hired would have done?  Yes!  Do we want a Black Widow movie (or movies!), preferably written and directed by a woman, and is Marvel incredibly lame for not doing this yet?  Yes, and yes.

Long story short, Tweeters; Joss is sympathetic, and he is helping bring about the thing you say you want!

By all means, offer constructive criticism, but don’t needlessly divide our pro-equality forces!  (See pieces here, here, here, and here for fine examples of good criticism of Joss and Age of Ultron.  You have something to say, and we want to hear it, so write and post it without descending to threats.)  An us-vs.-them attitude rapidly descends into a power struggle, and that is a playing field on which we are at a disadvantage relative to the traditional authorities of our time.  Push as hard as you can on the leading edge of our social horizon, be, create, and report back, but stop short of catching your allies in your fire!

That is, if you’re serious about change.

If it’s a hit of self-righteousness you’re after, well, you’ve got that on lockdown.  Your choice.

Check Out Quest For Cuba

I’m pushing the release of Five Star Crush’s “Last Nights” for a week so that I can comment on the whole Age of Ultron / Joss quits Twitter thing. That will be Tuesday after I see the film.

For now, travel to Cuba with Questlove:

FIVE STAR CRUSH | Five Star Crush

Lyrics by Joel Hines, music by Joel Hines and Five Star Crush.

Joel Hines (vocals, guitar), Eric Cornwell (lead guitar), Danny Lange (bass, programming and guitar on “Fate of Choice”), Howie Howard (keys, backing vocals), Matt Pluff (drums).

Recorded and mixed by Duane Trower at West End Studios except “Fate of Choice and “Bang Bang” recorded and mixed at home. Mastered by Howie.

MFR members can log in to download Five Star Crush below. Become a MFR member with just your email address!

Mars Lights on KKFI

DJ Sunshine’s been spinning us on her Retro Red-Eye Express show. It was “All Tied Up” the other week, and I just sent her the Bang EP, so we hope she enjoys “Radio Edit (Radio Edit)” (or the long one!) and “Ghost You Out.”

Mixing on a Console for the First Time

A couple months ago Drew and I went in together on a late 1970s Soundtracs FME mixing console, based on Duane’s recommendation.  We scored a good deal on eBay, carefully dragged the 225-pound unit (console + road case) down to the basement, and this past Monday I got to work with it for the first time.


First I tested each channel with one signal, listening and compensating for any differences among them. These circuits are 35+ years old, and have drifted a bit; to get each channel to sound the same I used preamp gain settings as much as 11 dB apart, EQ adjustments of -1.5 dB to +3 dB, and levels as much 4.5 dB apart. That took all morning, and while we’ll tweak it as we continue to use the board, those settings will be a foundation we can start mixes from in the future.


Then I actually mixed a five-song project for upcoming release on MFR. I’d already gotten the mixes to a state I was happy with in ProTools, so I was just routing those tracks through the console and back into ProTools in stereo, making fine adjustments.


Mixing on the Soundtracs was brilliant; revelatory, really.  Even at levels below clipping, the preamps subtly compress and add harmonics in a beautiful way.  The EQ was the best part, though.  In ProTools, I’ll spend weeks on a mix agonizing over tiny changes in EQ, trying to get things to sound their best.  On the console it’s simple and natural to turn up the level, sweep the frequency for the range I want to affect, and bring the level back down until I’ve achieved what I want to hear.


It wasn’t cheap, but even so this piece of gear was well worth it for us, and offers good bang-for-buck in that it will substantially improve every mix we do (think: new Mars Lights LP, new Dark Satelliets LP, Cory’s solo project, and more) from now on.  And it’s fun to use.

As a bonus, here are some pics of Drew pole-dancing in Wichita Friday night, then deciding to sit on the floor and enjoy the music, at the Mars Lights / Vehicles / Admirals show.

2015-02-20Drew2 2015-02-20Drew

Albums That Never Were by soniclovenoize

Pete Townshend’s episode of Behind The Music introduced me to The Who’s Lifehouse project, the ambitious post-Tommy rock opera that fell apart and was never released. Some of its best songs ended up on Who’s Next, including “Baba O’Riley,” “Getting In Tune,” and “Won’t Get Fooled Again.”

Off and on I’ve worked on a playlist of Lifehouse as it might have been, cobbling it together from Who’s Next, Odds & Sods, Who Are You, and various b-sides and bonus tracks. It’s pretty fun to listen to.

Having done things of this sort*, I was predisposed favorably toward the brilliant Albums That Never Were blog (discovered this morning via The AV Club). In soniclovenoize’s own words:

because i have too much time on my hands, i waste it by reconstructing famous unreleased albums. here are some of them. enjoy.

I’ve only been able to scan the blog so far, but I’m already looking forward to:

  • Weezer’s Songs From The Black Hole
  • Smashing Pumpkins’ Glass and The Machines of God
  • The Clash’s Rat Patrol From Fort Bragg
  • Neil Young’s Chrome Dreams
  • and of course, soniclovenoize’s version of Lifehouse

Not only are these lost albums reconstructed with careful attention to audio quality and source material, there are extensive notes and background reading on each one.  I’m amped about this find, and will thoroughly enjoy exploring the blog; thanks, soniclovenoize!

* See also re-arranging Springsteen’s Live 1975-85, Ken Burns’ Jazz box set, and Numero Group’s Eccentric Soul: The Forte Label into chronological order, enjoying Radiohead’s 01 10, reversing The Roots’ Undun, etc.

Mars Lights recordBar Setlist Links

After our show the other week Megan asked for direct links to the songs we played in the set.  In sequence, if you missed it, or want to relive it:

Radio Edit –

Straight Shots –

Nukular –

Ghost You Out –

No Witnesses – (unreleased; already recorded for the next LP. This is a heavy, kind of 90s-sounding one that Drew sings, and has a huge weird guitar solo, but the chorus is kind of quieter.)

Nein –

All Tied Up –

Stars Above – (unreleased; slotted for the next next LP. This has a kind of stompy Zeppelin main riff, and I sing/shout lyrics derived from the plot of Alien)

Stangray – (unreleased; already recorded for the next LP. Starts and ends with this kind of circular guitar lead of Drew’s, catchy with a half-time chorus inbetween the circular leads.)