This isn’t a show review, because CJ and I didn’t get in the door. A front-page spread in the entertainment section of Friday’s StarTrib on Hopkins’ high-school heroes Melodious Owl brought a sellout home for the Turf Club. We stood in line, in the freezing cold, for about 30 minutes before it became apparent that we weren’t going to get in. Instead, we spent the evening talking to Kassie Church and listening to The Sugarplastics, Kevin Tihista, and Ted Leo + the Pharmacists.
I still felt good about the show. We each took a bullet for the scene; it’s great that freaky, original local bands can sell out a club. So cheers to Melodious Owl, the Hopefuls, and Faux Jean.
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.
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?”
It’s been a little while since I’ve added any blogness to the Mister Pister Albums Records web-log site
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.