APPROACHING "DE-LOUSED IN THE COMATORIUM," SPOON IN HAND

The Mars Volta hang the entire weight of De-loused in the Comatorium on whether you, as a listener, will accept and connect with a decision made at the end of the album.

De-Loused… tells a story. I’ve read a little about it (which helped me comprehend it precisely “a little”) and slowly absorbed since its release in the autumn of 03. In track two, “inertiatic esp,” we’re introduced to the protagonist, a fellow in a coma (“Coma-guy” for now). He is lost in his coma, travelling through a scary, vaguely sexy, vision-world. It reminds me of the vision quest Homer Simpson took after he ate the Insanity Pepper at Springfield’s chili cook-off. But without the fox-narrator. Coma-guy wanders this coma-world, this vision-quest, for the duration of songs 2-8. In #9, “televators,” Coma-guy wakes to our reality (the one in which you’re reading this [blog]) and, seeing it, chooses to release his hold on it and die.

This is the crux; do you believe the story so far, and do you care? Your answer will determine the record’s worth for you. After several listens I find, somewhat surprisingly, that I do.

If you journey with Coma-guy this far, closing track “take the veil cerpin taxt” will treat you to a higher-level vision. After death, it seems a new journey awaits that is to the coma-world of tracks 2-8 what the coma-world is to our reality (which we glimpsed only in track 9 – the crux). The Mars Volta reveal their vision of an afterlife as an exponential increase in insanity – an even hotter chili pepper, hotter than you even imagined your taste buds could transmit.

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?”

Space Lord Mother Mother

It’s been a little while since I’ve added any blogness to the Mister Pister Albums Records web-log site
www.señorfuriosorecordizzapizzamakerdeluxe4000.com/nerdyblackflips/freshfruit.org

and so it’s time to do so!

The Beach Puppy is getting closer and closer, and frankly, I can’t wait.  I’ve heard some just-about-finished products and it’s a lot better than I could have even imagined.  Echoes of Beach Puppy, the backing vocals are amazing and wow can we say weird creepy grandfather’s suit and piano-butter?  Can we?  I think we might.  But all seriousness aside, it’s going to be flippin’ sweet.  Yikes!  That’s for you, H-Murder!  Okay, well everyone who’s heard the almost-finished mixes has been impressed with the production and musicianship, so I think we got ourselves a winner.  And also, Bike came over to my house, and he forced me at broompoint to have a tea party with a robot and it was so awkward because my tie didn’t fit (it was size extra medium) and the robot didn’t have much to say, except for the fact that he loves Bike. 

So Bike, Echoes, Beach-Puppy, Blackbeard and Mr. Furious are at a bar, listening to a live recording of Tucci spitting sesame seeds at a cowbell while wishing they were listening to howieandscott, and Heavens to Betsy Me Martha, it was awesome.  And for the first time, they all consciously realized they were part of one big happy family.  Congratulations to them. 

I really ought to add something at least a little not worthless to this blog, so I will say that my favorite DJ is DJ JoshO, from SLC.  Heiruspecs (spelling?) are playing in Lincoln soon, and I am going to go to that.  Howie turned me on to them, yes!  And what’s more, I am trying to get a show booked for Beach Puppy in Lincoln or a surrounding area fairly soon, so keep your little weird eyeballs peeled!

Yikes, again! 

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)

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.

Favorite MCs of all time

These are my favorite MCs ever and why:

Kanye West: although he doesn’t floor me with his rapping skills, I am a big big fan of his beat production and most importantly I enjoy that he doesn’t take himself too seriously or talk about killing people or anything. He’s somewhere in between KRS One and Dr. Dre, and I pretty much just really like his sense of humor and the way he can write a hook. “Jesus Walks” is one of my all-time favorite rap songs ever for this reason.

Blackstar (Mos Def/Talib Kweli): These two are the epitome of what hip-hop is supposed to be all about, a uniting force that focuses on equality and togetherness. Mos Def’s voice and delivery is frankly just badass, it just seems to pour out of him. Talib’s delivery is a little more herky-jerky but it gives him character and also he has some of these best wordplay and use of metaphors and similes I can think of. I enjoy them both as solo MCs but I love them best when they are together. The best alliance in hip-hop (whooa-oooh!)

Eminem: Although he doesn’t always rap about things I can relate to, the biggest reason I like Eminem is because he’s got the most sincere, honest and caustic style ever. I think he is arguably the best MC ever, and he’s one of the only MCs that gives me the chills when I am listening to him because of how harsh his lyrics are and how totally badass it sounds.

Chali 2Na of Jurassic 5: I like him a ton not only because of his voice and because of the fact that he always says “Yo” in a super deep voice right before he starts rapping, but most impressive is the way his words flow out in a constant stream and he hits the syllable right on, keeping a steady rhythm with the way he accents his rhyme. Awesome.

The Streets (Mike Skinner): I almost wouldn’t really call Mike a rapper, since his music is more like some sort of contemporary “geezer” poetry over some very very unique beats. However, he is an excellent storyteller and I always find myself paying close attention the plot he lays out in a song. Also, a lot of his songs are about the things that most guys my age go through: girlfriend stuff, getting too wasted all the time, hanging out with your best guy friends, trying to have as decadent of time as possible, etc. Plus, the music he composes is awesome.

Honorable mentions go to Jay-Z and Nas, but they kind of cancelled each other out nyuk nyuk nyuk and also Blackalicious although I don’t know them well enough to put them at the top quite yet

All for now-
Cory Alan