Saturday, June 30, 2007

God Bless the Internet

Today, while tinkering with the statistics counter we use here at Teenage Kicks, I noticed that someone in Chicago landed on the site through a Google search for "pet frog prices at jungleland pet center." My curiosity understandably piqued, I replicated the search, and sure enough, the tenth result directs the user here, thanks to references to Belle and Sebastian's "Funny Little Frog," the Beach Boys' Pet Sounds, and Springsteen's "Jungleland." This may constitute our high water mark since we came on line.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

The Alphabet Project: D (part one)

Back with the first part of our fourth installment (Trip’s half will follow shorly), and D proved to be a saltier letter than I had anticipated. In the effort to cut the list to fit an 80-minute disc (and then cut it some more because those discs only theoretically play 80 minutes), I lost prime tracks by Willie Dixon, the Doors, Derek & the Dominoes, the Dead Boys, the Drifters, Duran Duran, Fats Domino, Doves, D’Angelo, Ani Di Franco, Dead Kennedys and Daft Punk, among others. Here’s my disc:

Bo Diddley, “Mona” – This must have sounded like it came from outer space when it was released nearly five decades ago. Hell, it sounds like it came from outer space now. The most primal rock and roll.

Bob Dylan, “Lonesome Day Blues” – Picking a Dylan song is such a monumental challenge that I declined to make any real effort. I just spun the Rolodex of my mind and landed on this latter-day classic, a completely worthy addition to the canon. “I’m gonna stand undefeated/I’m gonna speak to the crowd/I’m gonna stand undefeated/Boys, I’m going to speak to the crowd/I’m going to teach peace to the conquered/I’m gonna tame the proud.” And the band flat-out pulverizes this shuffling blues stomp.

Dire Straits, “Expresso Love” – One of the best tracks from the band’s best album, it rocks in a way the band rarely did. I’m preparing myself for the day Knopfler changes the “x” to an “s” and licenses the song to Starbucks.

Tyrone Davis, “Can I Change My Mind” – A fluid, uptempo soul classic from Atlantic’s greatest era, the underrated and estimable Mr. Davis packs more longing and regret into three minutes than should be possible.

Nick Drake, “Pink Moon” – I had “Time Has Told Me” penciled in here, but Volkswagen be damned, this is my favorite Drake tune. In fact, I think that commercial elevates the song; the imagery is perfect. And the song, of course, is perfect, too. Delicate, but still insistent, gorgeous, but still unsettling.

The Decemberists, “The Engine Driver” – This is such an obvious pick, but it’s undoubtedly my favorite Decemberists’ tune. It’s majestic and it features Colin Meloy reining in his more excessive impulses. Plus it sounds great following “Pink Moon.”

dB’s, “Bad Reputation” – The band with perhaps the worst greatness-to-commercial-success ratio in history, the dB’s made some of the finest crystalline guitar pop ever committed to tape. This track from their debut album distills all their best qualities into a few moments of bliss.

Dinosaur, Jr., “Green Mind” – The title track to the album that consumed me throughout 1991, it finds J. Mascis sanding off some (but not all) of the roughest edges in the band’s post-Barlow incarnation. It rocks, it has melody, and it shows that J’s feelings toward Sonic Youth mirror mine exactly: “On a certain level I think they’re great/But on another, I can’t relate/To anything they do.”

De La Soul, “This is a Recording 4 Living in a Fulltime Era (L.I.F.E.)”Three Feet High and Rising is almost certainly my favorite hip-hop album, and this is one of my favorite (if least known) tracks, a scorching slice of organic electro-funk.

Ian Dury & the Blockheads, “Sex & Drugs & Rock and Roll” – So English, so charming, so damn much fun. It’s of its time and for all time.

Devo, “Uncontrollable Urge” – Men in radiation suits rocking out. What could be better?

D-Day, “Too Young to Date” – Salacious, morally repugnant, and hysterically funny in a Beavis and Butthead kind of way, this new wave chestnut tells the tale of an adolescent girl’s sexual awakening. “He asked me out to the picture show/My eyes said yes/But my mom said no.” It spirals downward from there.

Dream Syndicate, “Tell Me When It’s Over” – Steve Wynn helped shape American post-punk with dissonant chiming tunes like this one, which hasn’t aged a day in the past quarter-century.

The Dictators, “(I Live For) Cars and Girls” – A first-rate effort from a second-tier example of the original wave of CBGB punks, it tidies up the Ramones’ approach and amplifies their Beach Boys fetish in an unironic ode to simple, timeless pleasures.

The Damned, “New Rose” – And from the other side of the Atlantic comes another second-tier (but far more enduring) DIY collective, with patented punk snarls and punchy pop hooks.

Drive-By Truckers, “Carl Perkins’ Cadillac” – The kind of song that’s so elemental it sounds like it must have always existed, the Dirty South’s favorite sons (and daughter) tell the Sun Records story in five and a half shimmering minutes.

Death Cab for Cutie, “Crooked Teeth” – These guys can be a tad precious for me at times, but this lush mid-tempo pop rocker never cloys, always satisfies.

Miles Davis, “Blue in Green” – Rock and roll is our main focus here, but Miles is far more important to me than anyone else on this list (save Dylan), and this track from Kind of Blue is the most beautiful and elegant music I know.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Sonic Bucks

On the heels of the Great Macca Kerfuffle of March '07, comes word that Sonic Youth - perhaps the most fiercely non-commercial major band of the past couple generations - plans to team with Starbucks for a compilation disc featuring tunes selected by celebrity friends. We're a little late to the party here, as people cooler than us (and that includes, well, pretty much everyone) have been buzzing about this for the past ten days or so. But we wanted to bring you the news anyway, as well as a bit of skepticism. Given the lack of any official comment since the project was first mentioned, could it be that Thurston Moore is pulling our collective leg? Personally, I hope not, because I want to be in my local coffee shop the first time "Expressway to Yr. Skull" comes crashing out of the speakers.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Radio Silence

There’s an urge to want to joke about what disasters could befall us when the recording industry and the federal government get together, but it’s really too easy and it’s not all that funny anymore.

As you may know, the federal Copyright Royalty Board recently made a ruling that would radically increase the fees charged to play music over the web. You can read about it here, here, here and here. A potential side effect is the eradication of all but the deepest-pocketed purveyors of the form. The independent pioneers, those playing the most interesting music, often by artists who lack any meaningful mainstream exposure, would immediately go on the endangered list (if not entirely out of business), while the World Wide Web, a bastion of endless possibility, takes on the bleak blandness of the FM dial.

Some members of Congress – a whole lot of them actually – aim to fix the mess with the proposed Internet Radio Equality Act. But it’s far from a done deal, and so on Tuesday, June 26, internet broadcasters from across the spectrum are uniting for a Day of Silence to drive home what the future could sound like. When web radio flatlines, feel free to tune to FM and hear the same four-minute atrocities from Nickelback and Fergie on stations in every town from Philadelphia to Arkadelphia.

You can weigh in by signing this petition and contacting your representatives in Congress. And if you don’t know who they are, go here and here, and drop them a line.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Jack White, Weirdo

I’ve had the White Stripes’ new disc Icky Thump for just a couple of days now, and haven’t digested it, but I’ve already developed a strange obsession with the band’s version of “Conquest,” a hit for Patti Page in the 1950s. A Sketches of Spain meets Rocket to Russia assault on the senses, it’s delightfully and relentlessly weird, one of the strangest things any major band has done in ages. Simultaneously jokey and deathly serious, it finds Jack White striking a faux-operatic vocal pose while shredding on his guitar, doing battle with mariachi trumpets, and sounding shockingly trumpet-like in the process. Meg is in similarly fine fettle, leaning into the kit and pile driving through her own limitations. I don’t care if she has a nebulous sense of time, I could listen to her play the phone book. That woman is rock and roll to the bone, and to see her play live – the way she moves her hips while she works the kick drum; well, it does something to me.

Jack’s weirdness is why I think I’m going to like this disc a lot. His working vacation with the Raconteurs was such a snooze because it was so conventional. If you’re going to listen to Jack White, you don’t want the pill that makes him small. You want him to be JACK FREAKIN’ WHITE, rock star, herald of the apocalypse, writer of sea shanties, nursery rhymes and post-metal scuzz-blues standards. “Conquest” finds him on the fringe where he belongs.

Speaking of iconoclastic rockers, Jarvis Cocker, the man behind Pulp, has his first solo effort in stores now, and it’s a kick in the pants. In a just world, at least three tracks – “Don’t Let Him Waste Your Time,” “Fat Children” and “Black Magic,” which features a massive sample from Tommy James and the Shondells' “Crimson and Clover” – would be blasting out of radios all summer long. Infectious, wry and smart.

And finally, I just played XTC’s Skylarking for the first time in ages. Twenty-one years old and sounds as good as the day it was released. Rhetorical question of the day: How great is “Ballet for a Rainy Day”?

Friday, June 22, 2007

264 Days, 6336 Hours, 380,160 Seconds

I've been scheming for years to return to the annual musical orgy / schmooze-fest that is South By Southwest in Austin, TX. But it's hard to get commitments from fellow travelers... until now. Vince Spiziri is IN! After several false starts - Dole (Vegas!), Feeney (spring training), Michael (NCAA hoops hopes) - I've got the green light for five days of all the music I can stand plus the odd adult beverage.

As my personal countdown begins, here's one man's wish list for Austin 2008:

Up and comers: Sarah Borges, Maria Taylor, Hayes Carll, The Red Button, Deadstring Brothers, Two Cow Garage, Cory Branan, Chelsea Taube.

Only in Austin: David Halley, Beaver Nelson, Butch Hancock, Roky Erickson, Kelly Willis.

Legends I haven't seen in ages: Roddy Frame, Richard Hell, Willy DeVille.

Reunite Next Year in Austin Just For Me, Please: The Reivers, The Rave-Ups, Jason & The Scorchers, Gear Daddies, Del Lords.

Bands That Are Just So Damn Good I Want To See Them Every Time I Can: Lucero, The Format, Rilo Kiley, Jesse Malin, Ike Reilly Assasination.

And Of Course The World's Current Greatest Live Band: The Hold Steady.

Now my thinking is that these shows (except maybe the reunion shows and THS) would all be easy enough to gain entrance (I'll leave next year's Arcade Fire to the kids and hipsters), so if you're reading this and got any juice with SXSW poobahs, hook me up. Better yet, buy me a beer and make sure I get home OK.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Touch Me, I’m Sick

I’ve been more or less waylaid the past couple of weeks by something that appears to be Fifth Disease (waiting on test results to confirm). It’s not as bad as the name suggests, but I still can’t recommend it as a vacation destination unless general lethargy and painful swelling in the hands, feet and joints are your idea of a pulp novel and pina colada. The most serious side effects have been musical, as it has sapped my enthusiasm for posting much around here, and it kept me from making the trek to Lawrence, Kansas last Wednesday to catch my first in-person glimpse of Jesse Malin. Not only that, but Sonny Landreth played a free show in my tiny suburban community (Parkville, Missouri, pop. 4079) on Saturday night, and I couldn’t even muster the energy to go.

I appear to be on the mend now, thanks, but I thought I ought to milk it a little more (my wife scoffs at my insistence that I have a “disease,” but, hey, I didn’t name it). And so I got to thinking about music and illness and have concluded that Magic and Loss, Lou Reed’s sublime, underrated rumination on the ravages of cancer stands atop the heap. But I’m more interested in compiling a list of tunes appropriate for a few days of bed rest. In my condition (oooh, I’m so weak), this is the best I could do. Please offer better choices in the comments.

1. “Touch Me, I’m Sick” – Mudhoney
2. “You Be Illin’” – Run-D.M.C.
3. “Catch My Disease” – Ben Lee
4. “Take Me Down to the Infirmary” – Cracker
5. “Take Me Down to the Hospital” – The Replacements
6. “Fever” – Little Willie John/Peggy Lee
7. “Somebody Get Me a Doctor” – Van Halen
8. “Sick Again” – Led Zeppelin
9. “Cold Sweat” – James Brown
10. “Rockin’ Pneumonia and the Boogie Woogie Flu” – Huey “Piano” Smith/Johnny Rivers

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Why Is This Man Smiling?

Because he just became a grandfather! The handsome one is Luca, who arrived in the world on Sunday, June 17. The one beaming and plotting to take the kid to his first Hold Steady show is my friend and co-Teenage Kicks proprietor Trip.

Suffice it to say, if there are any cooler grandfathers on earth, you can count them on one hand with fingers to spare. Deepest, warmest, most heartfelt congratulations to the whole family, including Jennie, who did the heavy lifting.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Bob Stinson, Statesman

An interview from 1984 in which the Replacements' late, great, inebriated guitar player pops a zit on the interviewer's nose. They don't make TV like this anymore.

Look What I Found

Scott McClatchy plays "Blue Moon Revisited" in Europe.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

When You Least Expect It

A few nights ago, while channel-flipping, I landed on America's Got Talent to find two thickly-muscled middle-aged men flexing their pectorals in time with "Dueling Banjos." Impressive, for sure, but across the pond the moments seem to be more profound.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

That's Because Steely Dan Gargles My Balls

The above line is quite possibly the most succinct, lacerating pop music critique ever uttered in the history of film. And if you think it’s funny, by all means go see Judd Apatow’s Knocked Up. And if you don’t think it’s funny, rent yourself a sense of humor and go see Judd Apatow’s Knocked Up.

Funny is funny – the razor sharp writing here has to be singled out – there are dozens of laugh out loud moments including a pink eye dissertation that had me convulsing so violently I popped a contact.

There’s no arty-farty pretensions here (sorry Doc) – you get frank, often crude discussions regarding every kind of sex, babies, music, relationships, beauty myths, internet sex, pink eye (and its root cause), drugs, love, fantasy baseball, pregnant sex, celebrity obsessed TV, fatherly advice, earthquakes, Stephen Hawking, Matthew Fox, Speilberg's Munich, movie sex, racial prejudice, Manson, Scorsese, mushrooms, Ryan Seacrest, Vegas, and then… more sex.

It’s an uncommonly good representation of that insular, mocking in-joke world of any tight-knit group of guys that bond together for 10 minutes or 50 years (think Entourage without the money)… and it’s a totally satisfying romantic comedy. Seth Rogen and Katherine Heigl (Izzy from Grey’s Anatomy and kee-rist is she gorgeous) are pitch perfect as the two leads whose worlds shouldn’t intersect but for one night in a bar – and instructions taken too literally during foreplay.

If a movie that includes a guy sporting a Tom Waits Rain Dogs t-shirt, Tom Petty’s Damn The Torpedoes wall-mounted as cultural artifact, The Clash’s "Police on My Back" blaring from the theater’s speakers plus Loudon Wainwright III acting and singing doesn’t pique your interest, then maybe you should get out more.

This is the most fun I’ve had at the movies since Almost Famous. I can think of no higher praise.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Wednesday was cocaine, Thursday was kerosene, Friday night I laid in the devil’s arms

Well, the correct package finally arrived, and I have an announcement to make.

If you like The Hold Steady, Bringing It All Back Home, Jim Carroll, the Replacements’ Hootenanny, the scruffy young Springsteen, Graham Parker’s output from 1976 to 1979, X’s Los Angeles, and stumbling home at 3:00 a.m. with liquor on your breath and the great poets on your tongue, you must check out the Ike Reilly Assassination’s We Belong to the Staggering Evening or forever forfeit your right to claim that there’s no good music anymore.

To try before you buy, go to Ike’s MySpace page , check out “When Irish Eyes Are Burning,” “Let’s Get Friendly” and “Charcoal Days and Sterling Nights,” and proceed to rock your brain.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Searching For A Truer Sound

A couple of weeks ago, I saw Son Volt with a couple of friends at The Troc in Philadelphia. One of the guys I went with is a huge music fan and a guitar player but life's responsibilities (and four kids) had kept him from hearing much new music over the last 15 years. But he loved Son Volt... and it was then I knew he needed a Jay Farrar primer.

Trawling the catalogs of Son Volt and Uncle Tupelo was a real joy... there's so many songs written and sung by Jay Farrar that feel like lost classics. It must be that voice - Farrar sings with the gravitas of someone twice his age. That worldview can sometimes be unrelenting as his concert demeanor can best be desribed as stoic and dour, but the second half of the show ("Tear Stained Eye", "Life Worth Livin", "2000 Light Years From Home", "Windfall" and "Chickamauga") made it all worthwhile. But would it kill him to crack a smile?

I initially had 72 songs that I whittled down to these 25... and that meant leaving off "Anodyne", "Life Worth Livin", "Whiskey Bottle", "Effigy", "Too Early" and many others. But I freakin' love this mix - and I'm offering a copy to the first five readers that send an email to with their favorite Jay Farrar song in the message line.

Searching For A Truer Sound

1. Windfall (Trace)
2. Tear Stained Eye (Trace)
3. Blue Eyes (Commemorativo – Gram Parsons Tribute)
4. Sin City (B-Side of “I Got Drunk” single – written by Gram Parsons)
5. Still Be Around (Still Feel Gone)
6. Lookin’ For A Way Out (Acoustic – B side from “Sauget Wind”)
7. No Depression (No Depression)
8. Slate (Anodyne)
9. True To Life (Still Feel Gone)
10. Chickamauga (Anodyne)
11. Route (Trace)
12. Drown (Trace)
13. Caryatid Easy (Straightaways)
14. Graveyard Shift (No Depression)
15. Loose String (Trace)
16. Give Back The Key to My Heart (Anodyne – written by Doug Sahm)
17. The Picture (The Search)
18. I Wanna Destroy You (B-Side of “Gun” single – written by Robyn Hitchcock)
19. Bandages & Scars (Okemah and The Melody of Riot)
20. Back Into Your World (Straightaways)
21. Driving The View (Straightaways)
22. Flow (Wide Swing Tremolo)
23. Atomic Power (March 16-20, 1992)
24. Grindstone (March 16-20, 1992)
25. Criminals (March 16-20, 1992)