Thursday, May 31, 2007

B-Side Myself With Joy

OK, that was terrible. I apologize.

But anyway, Heather at I Am Fuel, You Are Friends brings us Jesse Malin's "Sister Christian Where Are You Now," the b-side to the UK single release of "Broken Radio," and a worthy sequel to Night Ranger's completely rad Bic-flicking 80's anthem.

Someday I hope to be good enough to leave a song like this off of my album.

Friday, May 25, 2007

In Case You Were Wondering . . .

the culprit was not one of my kids.

Musical reference: "Remember (Walking in the Sand)," The Shangri-Las.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

To My Mom... Who Is Everything to Me

I loved the Gilmore Girls. There… I said it, and I don’t even have my skirt on yet. Early in their first year, a buddy told me about this mother-daughter show where pop culture references flew fast and furious, including multiple references to Mojo (the greatest music magazine ever!), the Ramones, Sonic Youth and The Bangles. How could I not watch? The theme song was an updated version of Tapestry’s “Where You Lead” featuring real life mother-daughter Carole King and Louise Goffin.

This exhilarating version of the show probably lasted four years, with the last 3 seasons being very hit and miss. But the hits kept my wife and me coming back for more. The series was always at its very best when it concentrated on the three main characters – Lorelai, Rory and Luke, and to a lesser extent Lorelai’s folks, Emily and Richard. The initial appealing quirkiness of all the Stars Hollow locals quickly wore thin and we’d often fast forward through scenes featuring Taylor, Kirk or Sally Struthers’ braying Babette.

But Lorelai and Rory were terrific characters and their intimate bond was universally recognizable. I’ll miss their Friday night dinners with Emily and Richard, their constant snack food jones, their playful verbal sparring… and yes, I know, turn in my “guy” I.D. badge at the next meeting.

From a series that featured some amazingly crisp dialogue , here’s my top ten lines/scenes from the series finale:

1. Emily to Lorelai as she tries to convince her to open a spa adjacent to the inn; “Spas are exploding!”. Lorelai: “Sounds dangerous”.

2. Luke conspiring with Suki to organize a surprise graduation party for Rory ... and Suki’s reaction.

3. Rory: “What kind of reporter freaks about leaving their mom? Lane: “The lucky kind.”

4. Lorelai tucking Rory one last time… every parent stares that fastball down.

5. Lorelai to Rory as they see the makeshift tent: “I think you’re gonna get to say goodbye to everybody”.

6. Richard to Lorelai at the party: “I don’t think this is all for Rory. I think this party is a testament to you, Lorelai, and the home you’ve created here. It takes a remarkable person to inspire all of this.” (Ahhh… I’m getting a little verklempt.)

7. Rory to Lorelai at the party: To my mom… who is everything to me. (You too Patty.)

8. Lorelai to Emily as she tries to duck the spa question: “Why don’t we just talk about it Friday night… at dinner?” (Reminded me of Lucy as she spied Elliott Garfield’s guitar “He is coming back!)

9. Emily to Rory: “It’s an honor to be your grandmother, Rory Gilmore” (Must have been a bad pollen day, cause my allergies were making my eyes watery.)

10. Luke to Lorelai: “I just want to see you happy”. And of course, at this moment, a perfectly placed pop song – “Inside Out” by The Mighty Lemon Drops plays to fade out – “You can’t stop my heart from turning inside out / Try to stop my world from turning inside out”

And then, finally, fittingly, in a 2007 update of a Norman Rockwell painting, the girls order their usual greasy breakfast of eggs, bacon, hash browns and pancakes as the camera frames the three of them – Lorelai, Rory and Luke – one last time.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Culinary Kicks

It takes a certain resourcefulness to fill the long silences between Trip’s posts (he promises a rumination on The Gilmore Girls any day now), and today we turn to food. Loyal reader (and noted epicurean) Mary steps up to the plate today, offering not only a quick and superior alternative to pre-fab pizza crusts, but also a recipe for the kind of high-brow pie rarely consumed around these parts. To keep this topical, I’ll suggest preparing the dough while listening to Grinderman, the latest effort from the irrepressible Nick Cave. The remainder of this post comes entirely from Mary’s keyboard.

Quick Pizza Dough

2 to 2 ¼ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
A ¼-ounce package fast-acting yeast
½ teaspoon sugar
2 tablespoons olive oil
½ teaspoon salt

In a food processor, combine ¾ cup of the flour, the yeast, sugar, and with motor running, add 2/3 cup hot water (130 degrees Fahrenheit). Turn motor off. Add the oil, 1 ¼ cups of the remaining flour, and the salt, and process the mixture until it forms a ball, adding more water, 1 teaspoon at a time, if it is too dry, or more flour, 1 tablespoon at a time, if dough is too wet. Knead the dough by processing it for 15 seconds.

The dough can be used immediately, but for better flavor it is best to let it rise once. Put the dough in an oiled bowl and turn it to coat with the oil. Let the dough rise, covered with plastic wrap, in a warm place for 30 minutes, or until it is double in bulk. Punch down dough before rolling out for crust.

White Clam Pizza

Yellow cornmeal for sprinkling on the pizza pan
1 recipe pizza dough
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 – 6 ½ ounce cans minced clams, drained
3 tablespoons minced garlic
¼ teaspoon dried hot red pepper flakes
1/3 cup minced fresh parsley
2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan

Sprinkle an oiled 14-inch pizza pan or baking sheet with a tablespoon or two of cornmeal. Roll out the pizza dough on a lightly floured surface to fit whichever pan you’re using, and fit dough into pan. Brush the dough with 1 tablespoon olive oil and sprinkle it with the clams, the garlic, the red pepper flakes, the parsley, and the Parmesan. Drizzle the remaining 2 tablespoons oil over the pizza and bake the pizza on the bottom of a preheated 500 degree Fahrenheit electric oven or on the floor of a preheated 500 degree Fahrenheit gas oven for 10 to 15 minutes, or until the crust is golden brown. Transfer the pizza to a cutting board, cut into wedges, and serve.

Friday, May 18, 2007

World's Greatest Song to Get a Little Drunk and Make a Pizza To

Tom Waits, "Big Black Mariah"

I know. I did an experiment.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Doolittle (Heartbreaker)

Yeah, I watch American Idol, but I never vote, so I can't really complain about what happened tonight. And I suppose it was inevitable, as she's not the youngest/prettiest/hippest competitor on the show. But - holy &*^% - Melinda Doolittle can sing. Over the three seasons I've watched, she's the best singer AI has had, and I don't think it's close. She took on songs by Aretha Franklin, Whitney Houston and Tina Turner - all the heavies the judges warn against - and owned them. I'm actually kind of sad that we won't be able to see what she could have done on the mammoth stage of the final. But I'm relatively confident that we'll be able to buy her debut album by this time next year. I've never bought an AI alum's record before, but I might be willing to change that.

And for anyone who thinks I'm a big wuss for watching AI, just wait until you see Trip's next post.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Coal in My Stocking

Lacking an independent record store in my neighborhood, I rely heavily on a prominent internet retailer for my musical needs. I suppose I could opt for downloading, but I'm a bit like the kooks who clamor for a return to the gold standard. I like a tangible backing for my tunes.

Anyway, last week, I ordered new efforts by The Clientele and the Ike Reilly Assassination on their release date, and eagerly anticipated their arrival. And today was the day. The box came in the mail, and the wide-eyed kid in me tore into it only to find the right packing slip but the wrong discs. It seems I got somebody's copies of new discs by Rich Boy and Rush.

I'd like to think that somewhere, right now, some kid is having his mind blown by "When Irish Eyes Are Burning."

Monday, May 14, 2007

And the Hits Keep On Coming

I buy more music than I can fully digest, and sometimes I think that I’d enjoy it more if I acquired less. Back in December, I made a breakable pact with myself to rein it in a little. Well, I’m going to have to push that idea back a year, because 2007 continues to bring a flood of top-notch releases. Here are five more personal recommendations (Trip, feel free to ignore number four).

Sloan, Never Hear the End of It
Power pop confections with grown-up ambitions, Sloan packs thirty tunes into seventy-six minutes, the kind of effort we used to call a double album, but now we typically deem excessive. But not a note here seems superfluous. Gods in Canada, but mostly unknown to me previously, Sloan fully explores the possibilities of two guitars, bass, drums, harmonies and the kinds of melodies that make your head snap around. I’m going to have to spend a lot more time with this album to fully unlock its mysteries, but on the surface it’s a stunner.

Arctic Monkeys, Favourite Worst Nightmare
This record should have been a disaster. Instead, it’s a revelation. Rather than crumbling under the weight of their debut (“Fifth-best British album ever!”), Arctic Monkeys come back even stronger just a year later. The time on tour supporting the first album has paid dividends – this band is tight – and the songs remain machete-sharp, with the benefit of textures and shadings not heard before. On one level, it plays like a sequel to Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not (think Pretenders II without the couple of missteps). On another, it plays like a jumping-off point for a band that could be with us for the next fifteen years.

Ceu, Ceu
Sexy, sultry, languid contemporary Brazilian pop that suggests what Astrud Gilberto might have sounded like had she emerged from a trip hop band rather than Joao’s bed. A solid, out-of-nowhere cover of Bob Marley’s “Concrete Jungle” sounds perfectly at home here, without a trace of novelty. The whole album exudes a cool wee-small-hours vibe. Play it around smart, sophisticated women, and it will make them like you.

Antibalas, Security
Recently, Trip lauded The Red Button, a couple of California cats who recreate the sounds of 1960s London down to the Davey Jones dialect in their pronunciation of “gihl.” This Brooklyn band likewise approximates brilliance with a sound straight out of 1970s Nigeria, complete with Fela Kuti’s “shuffering and shmiling” patois. This is supple, powerful, slow-boiling world funk that shall provide the soundtrack for my summer ’07 backyard barbeques. Here’s my only reservation about recommending the disc to you. On one hand, it sounds just like Fela, and Fela is great. On the other, it sounds just like Fela, and his albums are still in print. So, if you’re not already acquainted with Mr. Kuti’s revolutionary work, buy this first, and then grab Security.

Lucinda Williams, West
I’ve had this since it came out in February, and at first I was not impressed. The problem may have been me. Whenever Lu releases an album, I expect brilliance, and I go in pursuit of it, tearing through the disc for something as immediately affecting as “Changed the Locks” or “Drunken Angel.” But this effort requires passive listening. It does the work for you. Give it time, don’t concentrate too hard, let it wash over you. Words that seem awkward on the page reveal themselves in fragments, guitar lines float to the surface. Producer Hal Willner gives the whole thing a warm, fluid sonic sheen that pairs perfectly with the worn edges of Lucinda’s voice. In short, West is a grower that I expect to like even more by the fall.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Was It 30 Years Ago Today?

I was a 19 year old student working as a music director at a college radio station that could only be heard within a half mile of campus. But together with co-conspirator Vince Spiziri we felt like we were part of a small community that was going to change the world… or at least the world of music. It felt like each day brought incredible new music… and each a week a new favorite band. All the shows were events, in hot, little, sweaty punk clubs with no air conditioning and cheap, warm beer. Amazingly… much of this music has endured and sounds as vibrant (if not as earth-shaking) as it did 30 years ago. There were terrific mainstream records in 1977, but there was (is) something special and timeless about the class of 1977 punk rock records that still inspires in 2007. Here are ten that killed me:

1. Elvis Costello – My Aim is True – Our favorite misanthrope stormed America with his regal name and Buddy Holly look and revved-up Holly-inspired, stinging proclamations that look backward and forward at the same time… a rare feat. This album changed the way I heard music… I’m forever grateful.

2. Television – Marquee Moon – A punk rock prog rock guitar assault and a song over ten minutes that I never want to end. Music from Mars.

3. Ramones – Rocket to Russia / Leave Home – The blueprint for all that is good and holy in the last 30 years.

4. Cheap Trick – In Color – Bridging the gap between AOR and punk rock, they married stadium rock to three chords and took it to the bank two years later. And how great a singer is Robin Zander?

5. Richard Hell & The Voidoids – Blank Generation – The original New York punk, Patti Smith’s male doppelganger, Richard Hell gave punk a theme song and had the good sense to hire Robert Quine.

6. Talking Heads – Talking Heads ’77 – What happens if you marry art-rock, jittery guitars, bubblegum, pop songcraft and a manic, bug-eyed lead singer: Talking Heads ’77.

7. Sex Pistols – Never Mind The Bollocks – Punk’s poster boys, against all odds, delivered the goods. This was a record destined to age poorly. Guess what? It didn’t… play it today.

8. The Jam – In The City – Greeted with a huge shrug by America, the Jam tightened up the Kinks/Small Faces mod blueprint and Weller became spokesman for a generation of disaffected Brits.

9. The Heartbreakers – L.A.M.F. – Born to Lose.

10. Mink DeVille – Cabretta – Tin Pan Alley meets Phil Spector in an R&B streetfight in Spanish Harlem. Ridiculously great hair.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Guitars, Cadillacs Etc. Etc

Or "Wha' Happened to Alt-Country?"

I heard this song playing at a 6th grade "cultural dance" last night as I walked by the high school gym and thought, either there's a really cool teacher assembling the music, or Dwight Yoakam's brilliant, genre-bending debut had resonated with a lot more folks than I thought in the last 20 years. The effect of watching 100 sixth graders line dancing to Dwight Yoakam was almost hallucinatory as I flashbacked to the first time I heard Guitars, Cadillacs – it really seemed that for 10 years all my favorite music was coming from what could loosely be described as “alt country” artists. So being the compulsive list maker that I am, I have compiled a completely biased list of the top 25 alt-country albums 1985-1995 (limit one per artist, please).

So, I ask… what happened to alt-country? I can’t think of too many alt-country classics (save Old 97’s, Slobberbone, Ryan Adams/Whiskeytown, that McClatchy kid) that have surfaced in the last 12 years? Am I missing a bunch of great records? Did I miss a bunch from 1985 to 1995 too?

If you’re too shy to answer on this public forum, send a note to

ALT COUNTRY 1985 TO 1995 (listed chronologically and with choice cut from each record)

1. Jason & The Scorchers - Lost & Found (1985) - “White Lies”

2. Lone Justice - Lone Justice (1985) - “East of Eden”

3. Beat Farmers - Tales of The New West (1985) - “Goldmine”

4. Steve Earle – Guitar Town (1986) - “Someday”

5. Dwight Yoakam - Guitars, Cadillacs, Etc. Etc. (1986) - “Guitars, Cadillacs”

6. Dave Alvin - Romeo's Escape (1987) - “Fourth of July”

7. Foster & Lloyd - Foster & Lloyd (1987) - “Sure Thing”

8. John Hiatt - Bring The Family (1987) - “Have A Little Faith in Me”

9. Lucinda Williams - Lucinda Williams (1988) - “I Just Wanted to See You So Bad”

10. Rodney Crowell - Diamonds and Dirt (1988) – “She’s Crazy For Leavin”

11. Gear Daddies - Let's Go Scare Al (1988) – “Boys Will Be Boys”

12. The Rave-Ups - The Book of Your Regrets (1988) – “Freedom Bound”

13. Peter Case - Blue Guitar (1989) – “Travellin’ Light”

14. The Silos - The Silos (1990) – “I’m Over You”

15. John Doe - Meet John Doe (1990) – “Take # 52”

16. Alejandro Escovedo – Gravity (1992) – “One More Time”

17. The Jayhawks - Hollywood Town Hall (1992) – “Settled Down Like Rain”

18. Uncle Tupelo – Anodyne (1993) – “We’ve Been Had”

19. Robert Earl Keen - A Bigger Piece of The Sky (1993) – “Corpus Christi Bay”

20. The Bottle Rockets - The Bottle Rockets (1993) – “Kerosene”

21. Iris DeMent - My Life (1993) – “No Time to Cry”

22. The Mavericks - What A Crying Shame (1994) – “There Goes My Heart”

23. Bob Woodruff - Dreams and Saturday Nights (1994) – “Hard Liquor, Cold Women, Warm Beer”

24. Son Volt – Trace (1995) – “Windfall”

25. Wilco – A.M. (1995) “Box Full of Letters”

And before I forget… Guitars, Cadillacs is one incredible record. I just spent the better part of a day spinning last year’s mondo-expanded reissue. You need it.

Independently Confirmed: Trip's Taste is Better

Long suspected, now confirmed, Trip's taste in music is better than mine. Recently, I sent copies of our respective 2006 compilations to The Boy, intrepid proprieter of Good Nonsene. Today, he lists his five favorite tunes from the discs:

- “White Collar Boy”, Belle & Sebastian
- “How Can a Poor Man Stand Such Times”, Bruce Springsteen
- “Flathead”, The Fratellis
- “People Gonna Talk”, James Hunter
- “Girl in the War”, Josh Ritter

I am humbled to acknowledge that only one of those songs ("People Gonna Talk") was included in my epic four-disc year-ender, while the other four appeared on Trip's more restrained, and far superior, two-CD set (Trip previously posted the track list for his single-disc distillation of the lengthier effort).

Before Trip beats me over the head with his demonstrated superiority, I'd like him to wrestle with the fact that The Boy loves Barenaked Ladies and Dave Matthews something awful. (For Trip's takes on these artists, see numbers 28 and 150).