Every day between Christmas and New Year’s Day, Cory Alan and Mr. Furious are posting to the MFR [blog], publishing year-end thoughts and posts that slipped out of the regular rotation. Mr. Furious Records – Giving You Music.

nickel was recorded at home in Nebraska in the spring of 04, during my last (non-)semester at Doane. Writing a long philosophy thesis in the morning and rocking at night, day in and day out, hammering out a new sound for myself. It’s well-known by now that echoes has been primarily a one-man band up to now, and into the forseeable future, so everything you hear is me; drums, guitars (usually 2), bass (synthesized from the guitar via GK pickup and one-string octave effect), and vocals (except for the women on “America Votes 2032”).

“The Spoken Word As Catalyst” – This riff is what I hope is quintessential echoes; snappy, catchy, but nothing you’ve heard before. Cory was around the day I wrote it, and liked it, so I asked him to write a verse. His verse came back twice as long as mine, but the words matched the story and had to be included; the result is the call and response second verse.

“SOS” – The first echoes song ever written. I never felt it fit into howie&scott’s sets, but loved the song. At the time, it was the voice of a different artist; the first clue that h&s was something (and something good), but wasn’t everything I wanted to play. Note the quotes in the guitar solo: “Anchors Aweigh!” (the Navy hymn) and “In the Navy!” (Village People). The ultra-punk parts are my favorite.

“Open Columns” – When I learned how love is mediated in our bodies chemically, it really affected me, in a positive way – I became less dependent on feelings, and more committed to my own decisions in love. I was also reading The Power of One at the time, so the boxing theme and “First your head and then your heart” come from that incredible novel. This song was written in the middle of the nickel sessions, and I felt like it couldn’t wait; I stopped in the middle of recording guitar tracks to go back and demo this song, then re-record everything so it would fit. “I Don’t Even Know How Right This Sounds” from Be A Ska Rat builds on a couple themes first presented in “Open Columns” – the off-beat guitar hits the characterize the end of the song, and the very light cow-punk, western-sounding flavor.

“God Bless The Strokes” – Over Christmas break ’02 I put together the 4 chords and chiming lead line of this song, and couldn’t stop playing them, over and over. Scottie and I had bought ProTools and the core of FuriousSound a month earlier at Thanksgiving, and I was still figuring it all out. I recorded an early version of this song as a test, drum loop, guitars (which I didn’t bother to tune) and vocals. Turned out I liked the solo so much, it made its way into the final track, which required tuning the actual guitar tracks to the solo (torturous). Incedentally, the chords (G#, C#, F#, B in the key of E) match Weezer’s “Only In Dreams,” giving it that major-but-not-resolving-often sound.

“It’s Alright (to be a punk-rocker)” – I feel like Dave Grohl around the time of the first Foo Fighters record when I play this song. The first verse is from being in Ghana, and the second from being home for awhile and fighting the inevitable letdown. I spent forever getting the kick drum on the breakdown right.

“America Votes 2032” – Liberal loser falls for conservative hottie who, against all appearances and odds, ends up becoming the first woman elected President (after dumping his pessimistic ass years before). He calls the White House, wondering if they can patch things up. The primary bridge voice is Elenor Roosevelt; Hilary Clinton is in the left channel, and the then-governor of Tennessee’s wife in the right. This song includes an actual riff, which was pretty unheard-of with howie&scott, and does not feature heavily on nickel. This EP is still primarily chord-driven, but future projects (especially Poor devil) will mix it up more.

YEAR-END LISTS, 2K5 – By Cory Alan and howie

Every day between Christmas and New Year’s Day, Cory Alan and Mr. Furious are posting to the MFR [blog], publishing year-end thoughts and posts that slipped out of the regular rotation. Mr. Furious Records – Giving You Music.


10. JV All*Stars, Boys Forget Your Girls Forget Your Boys
9. The Decembrists, Picaresque
8. Halloween, Alaska, Too Tall To Hide
7. Death Cab For Cutie, Plans
6. Vicious Vicious, Don’t Look So Surprised
5. Bright Eyes, I’m Wide Awake It’s Morning
4. The Return, Danger Danger Silent Stranger
3. Common, Be
2. Mike Doughty, Haughty Melodic
1. Spoon, Gimme Fiction


11. Bloc Party, Silent Alarm
12. Coheed and Cambria, Good Apollo, I’m Burning Star IV, Volume One: From Fear Through The Eyes Of Madness
13. Erin McKeown, We Will Become Like Birds
14. Fiona Apple, Extraordinary Machine
15. Nine Inch Nails, With Teeth
16. Nada Surf, The Weight Is A Gift
17. Kid Dakota, The West Is The Future
18. Stars, Set Yourself On Fire
19. tapes ‘n tapes, The Loon
20. Kanye West, Late Registration


Arcade Fire, Funeral
Firey Furnaces, EP
Beck, Guero
Keith Fullerton Whitman, Multiples
MIA, Arular
Konono No. 1, Congotronics
Wolf Parade, Apologies to the Queen Mary
Ladytron, The Witching Hour
Sleater-Kinney, The Woods
The New Pornographers, Twin Cinema


Sally Ride, Don’t Let Them Take Us ALIVE! (Cory)
Beach-Puppy, Creepy Eepy and Bike, How Is That Possible (tie) (howie)


Every day between Christmas and New Year’s Day, Cory Alan and Mr. Furious are posting to the MFR [blog], publishing year-end thoughts and post that slipped out of the regular rotation. Mr. Furious Records – Giving You Music.

For the sake of a shared definition; ironic statements are statements which communicate a message opposite of the plain meaning of the words used. For example, Cory tells me that he believes “My Humps” is the best song of 2005; I say “Cory! You are 100% right! ‘My Humps’ is an unparalleled work of aesthetic genius!” The effective use of irony requires a shared cultural context and set of understandings between parties (i.e., BEP sucks Elephunk and after); without it, the listener is likely to miss the messages’ ironic subtext, and recieve the opposite message which is found in the plain meaning of the words. Cory feels validated, instead of contradicted.

Irony is often used when talking about meaningful, important subjects; war, love, and right/wrong (or good/bad, if you’re of a different ethical bent). There are situations where statements are made about these things using irony, which raises the question; is a message-sender morally responsible for listeners who take ironic statements at face value?

On the howie&scott record signs.comets, we have a song called “Midnights & Tape Delays” that is about more than high school football:

Rocking back to think about our celebration, I see you
And what it means to occupy another nation
Saddle up our horses
We’re throwing down with everything we’re worth
It’s all about the pitch and roll, and up the field
Toe the line
Texans raised on turf war aren’t about to yield behind schools
Or ocean’s divide

And I can’t help but feel sincerely misaligned
Since I found the heaven and the hell
The devil and the angel
The night and day within your eyes
In your eyes
Midnights and tape delays
Crawled into you too late
Three in the morning and leaving at 8:00
Stuck in the snow today
Looked from the road – away
Echo effects in the cold instead

Lines four and seven-eight are the dangerous ones. On the surface, a listener might easily hear a message of encouragement, of “stay-the-course!”, of toughness on the gridiron and in battle half a world away. But the song is intended to send up those positions, revealing their tribalist roots and illustrating that strategies learned in Texas football are not an effective basis for international relations. It’s a subtle irony, not easily caught.

If a listener hears “Midnights & Tape Delays” and is encouraged to become or stay a war-of-choice-starting, torture-explaining, jingoistic advocator of unjust violence*, then I would feel like I’d done something wrong; an early indicator of moral responsibility. Can we find a means by which to explain how I am culpable for unintended consequences of my statements?

Jody thinks that message-senders are obligated to make their ironic expressions clearly ironic. She talks about a shared responsibility; for the senders to make their statements broad enough to be seen, and the listeners to be reasonably attuned to the cultural context of the art and artist, alert for irony. It seems like a solid approach to me, and I worry a bit that “Midnights & Tape Delays” may not satisfy its requirements. It probably does if you know me personally; it may not be OK if you don’t.

The stance of “critical realism” towards the universe in general, and art in particular, that I have argued in other posts here is reflected in Jody’s thinking. Her position recognizes the impact of art on the rest of the world; both aesthetic statements and attendance are meaningful and significant in relationship to our physical, mental, spiritual, and moral universes. I think it captures the essence of the moral use of irony, without going overborad on dishing out responsibility for consequences an artist couldn’t forsee or control.

*Note; I am not advocating a position of complete pacificim or demonizing every military action in American history (see: Kosovo, Afghanistan) so Republicans don’t freak out!

The Secret to my Success!

Ever since I’ve been playing live music, I’ve have many different experiences as far as how the show’s been received. I’m sure Howie or Tucci or Nate or Derek or any other MFR artist can tell you the same thing.

Sometimes, there are b-loads of people at shows, and they’re loving it; other times, there are just a few people, most of which are friends who are being supportive.

You’d think that the correlation would run something like this: the better the songs/performance are, the more people show up, and the more people enjoy it. Conversely, if the songs aren’t that great and the performance is sloppy, you’d expect to see a small crowd. But these factors almost have nothing to do with how well a local band draws a crowd.

The key rests almost solely on these factors:

1. The age of your target audience.
2. How upbeat/dance-able your music is, and
3. How many friends you have.

First, let me talk about the target audience. Most music fans would agree that the majority of people who go to shows are usually under the age of 21 (described in this blog as “kids”), because it’s probably the most fun thing they can do on a given Friday or Saturday night. People who are older usually default to bars without live music, because they are old enough to drink, and because they’d rather not pay a cover to have a band drown them out when they’re trying to spit sloppy game.

That being said, the younger kids (remember, under 21) seem to like the rock music. Most show-goers in any city are kids, and most of those kids would rather listen to punk/rock/metal/etc. than folk/classic rock/jam bands/etc. If you’re playing indie-rock or folk rock, chances are your target audience is 21+, but remember, they don’t like going to shows as much as your 16-year-old sister.

Secondly, your music. Even if you have an all-ages show for the kids to come to, you HAVE to make sure you’re fun. It’s okay if the vocals suck, and it’s all right if the musicianship is a little off, but if you can get people in front of the stage, jumping up and down, singing along, and wiggling, then you’ve got them hooked. We all dance to rap songs that we know are stupid. BUT WE’RE DANCING, RIGHT!?

Third: a friend once told me that the most popular type of rock in any local scene is “friend rock.” This, of course, means that your audience will almost solely consist of friends and acquaintences of the band. If you have a lot of friends and you tell them about the show, they’ll probably show up even if you’re terrible, because they’re your friends, and they’re supportive. BUT! If you’ve got all the ingredients down (you do it for the kids, you have fun music, AND you have a decent amount of friends), your friends will show up, tell their friends, and sooner or later, you’ll be playing the Qwest Center (which is huge) with Green Day (who I like and am not making fun of).

Anyway, it’s a strange phenomenon. If you like playing shows for playing show’s sake, it might not matter. But it just reaffirms something that seemed obvious at first but got lost at some point: people want shows to be FUN, and while many can have great fun at a 21+ folk show, EVERYONE can have fun at an all-ages punk-rock show.


Every day between Christmas and New Year’s Day, Cory Alan and Mr. Furious are posting to the MFR [blog], publishing year-end thoughts and post that slipped out of the regular rotation. Mr. Furious Records – Giving You Music.

Hear Cory Alan and echoes in concert tonight at the Zoo Bar in Lincoln, NE, 9:30 pm – $5?

Seeing friends, meeting D-Rockets, and hearing The Return are all equally valid reasons for a trip to Lincoln, NE.

The Return are masterful onstage, ripping through their punk-tinged pop songs but stretching out the reggae jams and improvisitory building/releasing between studio cuts. I would dance, I would listen, my jaw would hit the floor, and time didn’t mean a thing.

Danger Danger Silent Stranger is a record you don’t have to trust me on; you can listen to the whole thing at Then you will probably love it. The songs have in common: killer melodies (straight for the jugular), island-level rhythmic push (thanks Mike & everybody), and a clean, punchy mix that shows off The Return’s off-the-charts musicality. They diverge in influence (from reggae to punk, ska, The Police, and Cream) and subject matter (love, war, apartment living, pandas). It is beautiful, and the band wants you to hear it for free – !!!111

Enough Return for me? Of course not – as the band swung back towards sunny CA, they visited Leavenworth KS (a full hour of suburbia from Raytown… grr); Nick and I tripped to the GroundWorks, a youth-oriented “coffeehouse” (read; an empty room with a stage, some XBoxes, and weird fruity energy drinks). About twelve kids were there for the opening band, two high school kids with acoustic guitars doing obscene punk covers – quite charming. Derek was fragging kids left and right in Halo2; I sat down next to him and we talked before The Return hit the stage.

The band played well and included two new songs, one of which was a reggae jam written days earlier on tour in Iowa. The other was really intense technically, with about a thousand different parts, yet it rocked bodies. Seeing The Return a second time made me say to myself, “I better find a different way to be awesome, because I’ll never be that good at guitar / jam like that / write those songs.”

It’s strange how really good bands make me want to simultaneously quit music and make more + better. Frustration and inspiration at once. On the other hand, I saw Psychadelic Furs open for Death Cab for Cutie a couple weeks ago; they were so bad, I couldn’t help but think “I’m already this good!”


Every day between Christmas and New Year’s Day, Cory Alan and Mr. Furious are posting to the MFR [blog], publishing year-end thoughts and items that slipped out of the regular rotation. Mr. Furious Records – Giving You Music.

One holiday tradition at my house is to make pecan tassies. These brilliant bites of pastry are like tiny pecan pies; the nuts, filling, and crust formed in mini-muffin tins. Simple. There is only one tricky bit to making them; shaping the crust.

After the dough is made, it is rolled into balls which are put in the mini-muffin tins and chilled on the back porch (we live in Nebraska). Then, to create the crust shape, you press your thumb into the center of the dough ball, and begin forming the dough to the outside of the tin, making a tiny pie crust. There are two dangers; spreading the dough too thin, and working the dough too much.

The heat of your hands affects the dough, making it hard (impossible, really) to shape. If you work the dough for too long, your tassie-crust quickly becomes thin or gets holes. You can’t patch it up; the dough is already too far gone to work in that way. The tassie-crust-shaping is truly do-or-die. An effective shaper is one who moves both decisively (doesn’t work the dough too much) and sensitively (doesn’t spread it too thin).

Mixing a song is the same for me. I have a tendency to want to over-work the song, tweaking every track’s EQ and reverb, making tiny adjustments to the mastering settings, pushing the technical aspects of the mix until I’ve lost all track of the song’s story. Like the tassie crust, my hands cause temperature-related damage that is not reversible; all you can do is start over.

Obsessive listeners will know this happened with the Fireflies sessions I did with The Shaft. Rob and I recorded together in summer 2002, and I mixed that record over and over and over. The result was thin; not a pleasant pastry. This fall, when I noticed that those mixes were still up on Rob’s MySpace, I took an afternoon off and remixed half (the punk half) of Fireflies. I was decisive (didn’t over-work) and sensitive (didn’t over-cut); the result was a big, warm, energetic sound.

Over time, I’m getting better at knowing when to quit. I think the mixing/mastering work on Be A Ska Rat will show that; you’ll have to let me know if it tastes sweet. Lesson learned, Pecan Tassie. I salute your wisdom and deliciousness.


I finished my new EP, Be A Ska Rat, this morning (24th, though I’m posting after midnight). That is the news. I got to play it for Mary in the car on the way to church, she is the only one to hear it yet. We will release it in very early January, when I am back from Nebraska. Merry Christmas.

Cory and I will be doing some mad blogging – six posts in six days, starting the day after Christmas until New Year’s Eve. While the ladies at Pitchfork have closed up shop for the year, we’ll be sweating over our keyboards to give you something to read while you use the internet as a break from your crazy family.

We know you love them though. And us. We love you back.



Part of our site statistics package for tells me what pages users came from when clicking links to MFR. This [blog], our MySpace page, and the link at are always represented.

Lately, some new folks have been coming over from the pages linked below. It’s kind of cool to feel a little buzz, and know that new listeners are hearing MFR. Check it out; just like all of Pitchfork‘s darlings, we’re getting big in Europe! – check the post on Dec. 13. or


The full disclosure that many of you already know is that the men of More Than Yesterday are friends of mine. If you and I have ever talked about the band, you may also have realized that I hold them to a higher standard than other musicians, because of their album You Make Your Own Self Fall. It is a brilliant, flawless piece of catchy, emotional hardcore that dropped into me with more weight than anything else during a musically formative time for me. What I’m trying to tell you is that I’m well-equipped to write about MTY’s new record, and also the hue and saturation of the lens I view it through.

(Ups to the guys for streaming the whole record from

Fourth track “Somebody Saved” is far and away the best tune MTY has produced since You Make Your Own Self Fall. The chorus explodes out into the open air, guitar soaring while the bass simultaneously drops away, and Russ makes simple words and accessible emotions sound fresh and deep. It’s viscereal, vital music; at their best, MTY are entirely capable of taking listeners to these heights.

“Take A Breath” plays back and forth with minor/major frames. It also has a new, vaguely sexy quality that surprised me; maybe it’s been lurking under the surface in others’ ears, but not in mine until now. “It’s alright to watch you walk away this time” – one of the best lines on the album, saying the opposite of what is expected from hardcore; peace & acceptance rather than angst.

“As I Am” and “Breakdown” are the two tracks repeated from More Than Yesterday’s last disc (as Blacklight Sunshine), A Thousand Miles of Hope and Sorrow. Both are solid but not spectacular; “Breakdown” includes one that eclipses the original version. “Not Enough” is a sort of aggressive tone poem, with a repititious guitar figure and lyrics that forgo obvious verse/chorus structure and dynamics.

“So Beautiful” is hobbled by lyrics that are a hodgepodge of plain, tired hardcore phrases. “Should I blame it on my friends?” contains an obvious answer to its own question; that it is even asked aloud is lazy. Of course not; write a better line, it’s clear that Russ knows better! “Hard To Fight It”, “Savior”, and “The Last Time” have the same sticking point; good music, utilitarian melody, 10th grade poetry.

(Except for the bridge of “The Last Time,” which is killer – when I hear “And by my hand, I swear, there will never be a last time…” I’m gripped by the sheer audacity, love, and futility of those words.)

The album is almost entirely faithful to the band’s live show, with very few overdubs. Except for the closer, “Bodies,” and it hurts to say that the song suffers for it. The demo was only guitar/voice for the first three minutes, and after that had the same airborne quality as “Somebody Saved” (appropriate – the beauty of its vision caused me to reconsider the idea of heaven, which I had abandoned; I have, since hearing the demo, gained new theological langauge and understanding that 1) makes the concept consonant with the scientific parts of my worldview, 2) refutes the theology of the song, and 3) has only increased its meaning to me!).

BLS/MTY has always been at their strongest when their intensity/frustration is heard as part of a process, a working-through towards personal and relational wholeness (at least, less brokenness than at the start). And their strongest music is some of the most important to me, ever.

But in terms of potential compared to realization, Graced By Silence is a dissapointment. I’ve copped to the fact that my standards are incredibly high. These artists are capable of such stunning work as You Make Your Own Self Fall, “Somebody Saved,” and the “Bodies” demo. Then to release a finished work that contains “Hard To Fight It,” I can’t help but feel that most of Graced By Silence lacks the depth and intentionality that could have made it great.

Show Saturday!!!111

This Saturday night the Artists Formerly Known As Jesus Makes The Shotgun Sound will take the stage in Lincoln, NE at Knickerbockers. The Artists recently discovered that another (not as good) band has prior claim to the name “Jesus Makes The Shotgun Sound” (which is a quote from a counselee in a standard grad-level psychology text… who knew?). OUR “JESUS…” WILL ANNOUNCE THEIR NEW BAND NAME AT THE SHOW ON SATURDAY NIGHT!!!111

TAFB (Totally Awesome Fun Band) & Artists Formerly Known As JMTSS
Saturday, 17 December
Knickerbocker’s (9th & “O”), Lincoln, Nebraska
*early show* ALL AGES: 6-9 pm, $5

That’s the plan. Rumors about the band’s new name have leaked from the talks, and reportedly include such words as: bear, fight, robot(s), riot, party, shotgun, and rampage. Note the prevalance of the letter “R”, the juxtaposition of “fun” and “violent” imagery, and the use of non-human but oft-anthropomorphized creatures (“bear,” “robot”).