Saturday, January 31, 2009

The Feelings - Jammers (CD, 2000)

I gotta tell you, if someone had told me their was ever going to be a posthumous (the members weren't dead, but the band was) Feelings album that contained unreleased tracks and remixes, I would have scoffed. I think I scoffed even when I saw it. Then I bought it.

The idea of a for-hardcore-Feelings-fans-only disc really threw me for a lop, and it still does. I'm grateful for this CD, because parts of it are quite good and it's cool to hear what they were working on before they called it quits, but the actual tracks feel half-done and the remixes are a lot to handle in parts.

If you like their two proper albums, then this is a must-have.

But you might not want to start here.

Friday, January 30, 2009

The Feelings - Dearling Darling (LP + 7", 1997)

I may have a hard time not writing too much about this one.

This is one of the only records I have purchased new that now has visible wear on the LP from playing it too much. I'm meticulous about the care of my LPs, but this one was drunkenly flipped over so many times that it now still houses some minor scars. Still plays fine, though, so I don't need to panic. Which is good, because this has become impossible to find on vinyl. So, yes, I listened to it a ton. I still have it on my iPod, still never skip a track. It is that good.

I remember when my brother bought this CD (House of Records in Eugene–I must have still been living down there), but I can't remember exactly where I got it. I know it was shortly after it was released, and I'm almost positive it was somewhere in Portland. But now I'm wondering if I didn't buy it while I was still in Eugene, possibly at House of Records myself. It's all very important and confusing and not interesting, I know.

There are records that remind you of a time and place (and if I haven't given this corny spiel before, I'll give it again before I'm done with all of this I'm sure), and this one is the equivalent of a fucking transport device to me. My one-bedroom apartment on 24th between Alder and Ash; the bleak fall and eventual bleaker winter of 1999; white-blond-and-tattooed Sarah and I spilling our guts while we drank shitty beer, professing our secret love for Led Zeppelin and eventually each other. And we played this record over and over and we could not get enough of it and after playing it for a few other people and not getting the reaction we were looking for we decided to stop sharing it with anyone and just kept it to ourselves.

And even after Sarah was gone, I still kept listening to this record, putting it on while people were over but never insisting they pay attention; I just waited to see if they would ask me what it was. They rarely did. And I never understood it. To me, this is a perfect record, one that you'd have to be stupid not to latch onto. The Feelings were barely even a name in Portland. Ralf was still the guy from Built to Spill and the Halo Benders to most people. To me, he'll always be the guy from The Feelings.

As you can tell, I really can't say enough about this album. I was going to do a song-by-song breakdown on this one, but I don't feel like it. Really, all you have to do is listen to the first 30 seconds of the opening title track, and as soon as Ralf comes in with "You don't get drunk anymore/ You've forgotten what it's good for," you'll have an overwhelming urge to sit still and listen to the entire thing. If you don't, I can't help you.

Funny aside about The Feelings: two (maybe three?) of the guys in the band worked in the kitchen at my favorite Mexican restaurant when I first moved up to Portland. I used to become enraged at the injustice involved in Tim the microphonist dish-dogging it in a sweltering backroom when he should have been a local hero.

I may have been a tad bit too passionate about the band. If you find this album for cheap, buy it. Oh please, won't you buy it?

And if anyone knows of any audio sources for The Feelings online, I'll link it up. Or if you see me, I'll give you a copy of this album. Trust me, you need it.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

The Feelings - Especially for You (CD, 1996)

The Feelings should have been a bigger band than they ever were. Part of the problem was they were extremely hit-or-miss live; really pressed against one side of the spectrum or the other. I only saw them once, opening for Imperial Teen in the early 2000's. I thought they were great. A little drunk, but they kept it together. My brother saw a show where they were a lot drunk and couldn't keep it together. I would meet singer/guitarist Ralf Youtz years later and see him quite a bit (long story), and he once related to a me a story about keeping a bucket on the side of the stage so their "microphonist" could run over in between songs and throw up in it.

I don't think he was kidding.

The band also may have an off-putting sound, though I've never been able to hear that side of it. It is different, I'll admit that, but I loved them the first time I heard one of their songs. According to my notoriously unreliable memory, my first exposure to The Feelings (I challenge you to come up with a better band name than that, btw...oh and fuck these guys) was via one of my brother's lo-fi mix tapes. Combined with the additional lo-fi-ness of this album, it made for some muddled listening. But, the beauty of "TKO" shone through with it's own brand of clarity.

I think another mix featured the insanely catchy "* L--" (yeah, that's a song title), and I was hooked. I don't remember when I actually picked this up on a proper CD, but I'm fairly certain I had a dub of it. Though I think most of these songs ended up on mixtapes, so maybe that's what I'm thinking of. Anywho, this is a great record. I could do without the boombox recording of their ridiculous cover of "Born to Run," but that's just because I'm a spoilsport like that. I do prefer their version to the original, though.

I think the group is still finding their sound on this record, and it isn't fully realized until the next one. And that's not to discount the merits of this disc, because it has many. I just think the follow-up is one of the best records to come out of the NW in the last 20 years. And we'll get to that. But this one is lo-fi pop at its finest, recorded shakily and executed a bit shakily as well. It only adds to the charm and makes it more fun.

If you ever see this in a bargain bin (and sadly, you might), buy it. You will not be disappointed.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Farm Fresh - Played Out (1994-1996) (CD, 1999)

Before the Peanuts & Corn fellas were cranking out CDs on the regular, they were rocking mics straight to cassette.

I'm not super familiar with this CD, though as I listen to it now I'm realizing I've heard it more times than I thought I had. While the recording is lo-fi and the entire thing could easily be relegated to "hardcore fans only" status, there's a lot to like here. Yes, it does sound like some 20-something kids fucking around and stumbling a bit here and there, but that's the charm. Some of it's funny, some of it's trying to be serious but comes off as awesomely goofy, and some of it is some real dope shit.

Ah, I think we all remember the days when Pip Skid was still Wicked Nut.

You may be able to hear some of it here.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Fantômas - The Director's Cut (CD, 2001)

Patton always keeps you guessing.

I don't know why I figured their second record would just pick up where the first one left off, but I did. When I found out it was going to be collection of covers of famous movie themes, I was excited. Though I really did enjoy their debut, I was missing Patton's singing, or at least enunciating. I figured with this one, there was at least some chance he might sing. And he does. He screams a lot too, but there's definitely some singing. And it's all really great. While these covers ("The Godfather," "Cape Fear," etc.) are all fairly easily recognizable, the group, of course, makes them their own.

I was really into this album when I first got it, but I think the novelty of it wore off on me at some point. I can't remember the last time I listened to it. It's still a great record, and definitely more accessible than their first one. But I think I prefer Patton originals to covers. Not to discount the intricacy of the tracks here, because you can tell they put a lot of work into 'em.

And, when you hear them perform the theme to "Rosemary's Baby," it seems to make perfect sense.

"Cape Fear"

Monday, January 26, 2009

Fantômas - Fantômas (CD, 1999)

I suppose it's fitting that this comes right after the huge Faith No More run. Now if I could just remember how this all went down...

Because I am a huge loser, I have a little box full of ticket stubs from a lot of the shows I've been to. I'm looking at one now that says I saw Fantômas on Monday, October 19, 1998. This album wasn't released until about six months after that. That may have been the first time I heard them, though I bet I had heard some stuff online before that. I remember being surprised at the wackiness of it all, but not shocked. I think I partially knew what I was getting into.

Anyway. After the breakup of FNM, Mike Patton was ready to set out on his own in a big way. He started a label (Ipecac Records), and quickly put together a "supergroup" to help him play the new material he had been writing. After recruiting King Buzzo from the Melvins, Trevor Dunn from Mr. Bungle, and Dave Lombardo from Slayer (we were all a little taken aback by that one), he was ready to make some sense of all the noises he was hearing in his head. We were ready for whatever he had to offer, but we couldn't have predicted what he had in store.

Fantômas is not the sort of band you listen to when you're sitting around with friends. It's more like something you would listen to while lifting weights after drinking a pot of coffee. It's spastic, disjointed, loud, and often confusing. Seeing it live is really something to behold. Would I like it if it wasn't Mike Patton? I would like to say yes, but that's probably a lie. He's the only one who could make these noises and keep them interesting.

There are 30 tracks (or "Pages," as they're called here) on this disc, and though a few are of what some would consider a "standard" song length, most of them are around a minute long or less. It's pure chaos, and parts of it are straight up awesome. Parts of it are tedious. It's an experience.

If you ever want anyone out of your house, this is the album to put on.

"Page 11"

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Stallion Alert at the Movies: Get Thrashed: The Story of Thrash Metal (2006)

This is a new feature idea I'm trying out for the site. And since I rarely get comments (aside from the fairly reliable Biff), I didn't figure anyone would protest. I watch documentaries about music every once in a while, and I thought it might be nice to write 'em up here. This is the first one.

I should preface this by stating what is already obvious if you've looked through the archives of this blog at all: I'm not a thrash metal fan. But, I do like documentaries about metal, and through listening to at least a little bit of thrash metal every day at my job, I've learned to appreciate its finer points. It's just not really my thing. But really, who doesn't love watching live footage of Slayer or Megadeth? There's something utterly fascinating about the whole experience. And Dave Mustaine gives great interviews.

I'm getting ahead of myself. This movie sets out to tell the story of the rise and fall (and eventual mild resurgence) of thrash metal, and they do a great job of it. There aren't a ton of metal documentaries out there, and the ones that do exist often don't take the time to get too in-depth. Heavy: The Story of Metal is a great example. It's fine for a brief overview, but to really tell the entire story of the genre would warrant a film at least three days long. By picking a specific subgenre under the metal umbrella, specifically one that only seriously thrived for a short time period, they're able to get into the bands and music here a lot more than other movies.

The editing is great, there is some sweet bootleg-quality vintage live footage, and there's a ton of photos and show flyers that they had to have acquired from people who were really living it at the time. So, that was my first clue that this wasn't some thrown-together documentary. The other clue (and I didn't get this until the end of the flick) was that it was put together by Rat Skates, one of the original guitar players in the seminal thrash band Overkill. So, dude knows what he's talking about.

The film was paced well, starting at the beginning and working its way through the slight transformations of the music and the surges in popularity, all with the aid of minimal narration, opting instead for interviews with people who were there. The thing that made me the happiest: this is not just a film about Metallica. Though they are talked about quite a bit during the course of the film, a lot of the people they interview seem much happier to talk about some of the more "underground" (and really, more interesting) bands, like Kreator, Sodom, Vio-lence, Nuclear Assualt, etc.

The bonus features carry this a step further, using a world map as navigation and talking about notable bands that came from each region, and all the ones that weren't given their own mini-features in the actual film. It ends up being almost a complete additional movie to watch.

I found it to be really interesting, and like I said, I don't actively listen to the music. But I do actively enjoy watching metal nerds nerd out on their favorite metal bands and talking about how things "fucking rule." If you are into that, this is worth tossing in the ol' Netflix queue.

You can watch the trailer here.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Stallion Alert! - Billy Gould

As the bass player for Faith No More, Billy Gould may have been the one responsible for all that "funk metal" talk that surrounded the band in the early days. It was his hands that were always slapping away at those bass strings as his head rolled around in rhythm. Of course, you never heard him actually call the band that, did you? In fact, if you watch this video, you'll hear Mr. Gould trying to steer the conversation away from such nonsense. You know why? Because he's better than labels, especially trivial ones that attempt to make a blanket statement about a band that is far too diverse to warrant that sort of treatment.

The point being, I always felt like Billy Gould was the brains behind Faith No More. He seemed continuously focused, always played his ass off, and also just seemed like a really nice guy. And if you check for his name in the song credits, you'll find it's there quite a bit. He was the workhorse behind Faith No More, the most "normal" looking member of the group, and a guy who wasn't ever trying to weasel his way into the spotlight. But every time you saw him, there he was: banging away at the bass, never lacking in intensity, and always locked in, whether he was walking in circles or firmly planted.

If you can find footage of this guy half-assing it, I'd like to see it.

It goes without saying: Billy Gould is pure stallion.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Faith No More - Who Cares A Lot? The Greatest Hits (CD, 1998)

I forgot how quickly they trotted this thing out after the band broke up. I also can't believe this came out over a decade ago. The time flies, etc.

So, yes, a Faith No More greatest hits comp. Of course, any self-respecting fan of the band would own all of their records, so their label did what any label does: they threw together a bonus disc of unreleased songs, included it with the compilation, and successfully got fanboys like me to shell out money for 15 songs I already had just to get to eight I didn't. We were excited when we heard there was going to be a "rarities" disc; less excited when we found out it wasn't a full disc (less than 30 minutes); even less excited when we saw the track listing. It's never a good sign when there are songs called "Hippie Jam Song" and "Instrumental."

The bonus disc ended up being almost a complete bust. Three of the songs are live (though not listed as such, and two of those are barely over a minute long), one of them is an early demo that's sandwiched between much newer stuff, and the two unfortunately titled aforementioned tracks don't have much to offer. Thankfully, "The World is Yours" and "I Won't Forget You" are solid tracks, both seeming to be roughly Angel Dust-era or a little later.

The thing that makes this disc even more disappointing: the band has a solid collection of actual b-sides to pull from. Slap 'em all together and you've got yourself a whole 'nother Faith No More album.

Believe me, I've done it.

"The World is Yours"

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Faith No More - Album of the Year (CD, 1997)

I think we may have known it was going to end here.

The band was notorious for not getting along, and after using Trey Spruance to record King for a Day..., Dean Menta to tour on it, and then replacing him with Jon Hudson for this record, the whole thing was looking a bit shaky. It was strange, but even though they continued to make good music, none of the guitarists seemed to really fit the band. (Though Spruance's contributions to King for a Day... were legendary, he refused to tour. Menta, in my opinion, was spotty at best. Hearing him playing some of Jim Martin's solos from the early stuff was cringe-inducing. Not that I really know what I'm talking about (technically, at least), but he lacked the finesse and precision that Martin brought to the band. (Watch the "Ricochet" video I linked to on my previous post. Menta comes in too early and you can see Patton give Gould a look that sums it all up perfectly.)

So, when Hudson was added to the band, I don't remember us thinking it odd, or even caring. We figured Patton and Gould were just telling him what to play, and the dude was probably just happy to be there. That's pretty much how it seemed when we saw him live. He wasn't flashy, stayed well withing the boundaries of the songs, and was just fine as a guitar player. He seemed to be a step up from Menta, but he never seemed like The Guitarist from Faith No More. He seemed like The Dude Who's Playing Guitar in Faith No More Right Now. If that makes sense. Anyway, why was I saying this? Oh, it all added to the sense that the band was drawing to a close. I personally wondered how long their label would keep them around without a radio hit. But, they were always big in foreign countries...

Regardless, we were happy as shit that they were putting out at least one more record. I was tipped off to this one, again, by a music video. MTV's "120 Minutes" ran the clip for "Last Cup of Sorrow," and though you never knew what you were going to get with their videos, I don't think anyone could have anticipated a Vertigo homage starring Jennifer Jason Leigh. The release date was just a few weeks away. By this time, I was living in Eugene, surrounded by a small group of fellow FNM fans. We bought the disc when it came out, and didn't stop playing it for the rest of the year.

You could make an argument for this record not being the band's strongest work, but you couldn't make a more idiotic series of points than the ones contained in the review Rolling Stone printed the same week the album dropped. Oh, how that made me angry for so many reasons. Of course, it was uninformed rubes like this who made being a "real" fan of this band even sweeter.

I still insist they went out on a high note.

"Collision" - Like any good opener on a Faith No More record, this song wastes no time getting right into the meaty part of it. Seeing them play this song live, hearing Patton wail out that chorus; it was really something to witness. This track is giant.

"Stripsearch" - I was obsessed with this song for a long time. The verses in this one are untouchable. It also doesn't really have a discernible chorus, which I think is fantastic. I used to know what "F for fake" referred to, but now I can't remember. This track is also notable for having the most strangely awesome video in the history of the band's catalog.

"Last Cup of Sorrow" - This is a great song, but like the other singles that would lead off their albums, I've just heard it too many times. Still like it, but I may have skipped past it a time or two to get to the fantastic shit that follows it.

"Naked in Front of the Computer" - This was still before the internet had really taken over the world, but it seemed Patton could see what was coming. Yep, I've elevated him to prophet status now. Surprised? Nah, you're not. This is the first song in which he gets nutso screamy on this record and it is fucking sweet.

"Helpless" - This is my favorite song on this album. There are a few other competitors, but I think this one would take the title. It's got the best lyrics, acoustic guitar (!), and every element falls perfectly into place. It also houses my favorite lines on the whole record: "I even tried to get arrested today/ But everyone looked the other way." Oh, that's good.

"Mouth to Mouth" - A very odd song, and I go back and forth with this one. I wasn't a fan at first, which was weird. Of course, I've learned to appreciate it over the years. Always wondered what it was about.

"Ashes to Ashes" - Wikipedia has this song listed as the first single from this album, but that's not how I remember it at all. Either way, it's a strong song, though paced slowly and much better live than it ever was in this version.

"She Loves Me Not" - As soft and sultry as the band ever got, and I ate it up. I still do. This is the only FNM song your girlfriend is guaranteed to like. Just so you know he hasn't gone completely off the lovesick deep end, Patton throws in "You'll be on your knees." Brilliant.

"Got That Feeling" - A great soundtrack to my roommates video poker addiction at the time this was released. A lot like "Naked in Front of the Computer," which makes sense, because they were both Patton compositions. I always thought the "You can't borrow tomorrow" line at the end was a little heavy-handed, but what can you do.

"Paths of Glory" - This track may hold the distinction of being the all-time most forgettable FNM song. It's not bad, but (and I can't believe I'm saying this) it's not great. It's also tucked away towards the end of this record, and sometimes just seems like it slips by.

"Home Sick Home" - A great song because it's not even two minutes long, and they get a lot done in that short span. Drag it out for four, I'm not sure it would work.

"Pristina" - There would never be a perfect last song for the last Faith No More record, but this one's as close as they could get (not including King for Day's "Just a Man," which would have been a little bit closer). This song is odd at the beginning, crashing in and out as Patton morphs his voice and creeps all over it. When he finally breaks in with the rest of the band and wails out "I'll be with you," it's big time. The song fades out with Patton half-whispering "I'm watching you..." and then it's over. Looks corny on paper but it's flat-out fantastic.

We knew it was going to be hard for them to follow the brilliance of King for a Day.... Considering what they were up against, I'd say they did a damn fine job.


Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Faith No More - King for A Day... Fool for a Lifetime (CD, 2xLP, 1995)

The years between Faith No More records were long ones. We played Angel Dust into the ground, and though we never got sick of it, we were always on the lookout for a new record. In the pre-internet days (I guess it was around by this time, but barely), you just had to keep your ears and eyes open.

We religiously watched a late-night Portland video show called "Bohemia Afterdark" (I'm sure I've mentioned this before), and it was always great for keeping us up-to-date on the happenings in "alternative" music. I'll never forget the night my brother and I were watching it, and before the little credits could even come up to say what the song was, we heard a riff hammer in and we heard a voice that could only be Mike Patton's. The song was "Digging the Grave," and we watched in awe as they reemerged before our eyes. As Beavis and Butthead would later say, and I'm paraphrasing, "Faith No More's back. And they've got a hot new look."

Patton was short-haired and mustachioed, looking streamlined and possessed. Roddy Bottum had bleached his cropped hair platinum blond, and Billy Gould had also chopped his locks off. Jim Martin was nowhere to be seen. Mike "Puffy" Bordin looked exactly the same. This got us riled. We were ready for the new record. I was living in Eugene at the time, and I was broke as a joke. Luckily, a dude who lived in my apartment was also a FNM fan, and he bought the CD. I made a dub, and I was set. Boy, did I listen to this record.

When it comes to my favorite all-time Faith No More album, it's neck-and-neck between this one and Angel Dust. While I would possibly concede that Angel Dust is probably the more important, and possibly "better" (I put that in quotes because there are many meanings in this case, and I don't have the energy to list them all) LP overall, King for a Day... is the one I'm pretty sure I would take with me to the desert island if I was only allowed one Faith No More record. As with their other albums, this one was the soundtrack to my life for a good two years. I could go on forever. Eh.

Oh, I should mention, Jim Martin was gone for good. He was replaced in the studio by Trey Spruance, Mr. Bungle's guitar player. And he is good. Real good.

"Get Out" - With individual credit being offered in the liner notes, we noticed that this was written solely by Patton, only the second FNM song he wrote on his own (the first was "Malpractice"). If we needed any more reason to love this haymaker of an opening track, that was it. The first line was perfect for this record, especially considering the reportedly fragile state of the band: "What if there's no more fun to have?" Just pure madness, and it would foreshadow the themes of alienation and doubt that run through every song on the record.

"Ricochet" - I have always considered this one of my favorite FNM songs (that's becoming a long list, I know). This is also one of the many songs on the album that references drinking: "All of this thick time without you/ Has made me so thick and drunk." I'm always careful to not read too much into the lyrics on their records, but it's a reoccurring theme on this one. The animosity and vengeance that sprawls out of this song makes it one of the best tracks ever to listen to when you're pissed at someone.

"Evidence" - The smooth and sultry single that somehow never seemed too out of place to me. Plus, the video assuaged any fears that they were taking themselves too seriously. A good song with a great chorus.

"The Gentle Art of Making Enemies" - Where we find Patton really outdoing himself. This song is both melodic and brash, with a really catchy chorus and verses that feature some great, great lines. Both "happy birthday, fucker" and "if I tighten up my hole/ you may never see the light again" are ingrained in my brain forever.

"Star A.D." - This is a bit like "Evidence," in that it's got that sort of slinky feel to it. There's horns, or more likely synth horns played by Roddy, and it almost feels like a lounge number. Of course, it delves off and gets into some fantastically weird shit in the second half. Yep, great.

"Cuckoo for Caca" - Ah, will I ever get sick of this song? Probably not. This song is angry as shit, though I can't really figure out who that ire is aimed at. Seems like it's about assholes doing cocaine, but that seems too obvious. Weirdest line on the record: "Eat is just as deep as you can fuck it." My god, this song rules.

"Caralho Voador" - Another lounge-type number. If you asked me to list all the tracks on this record, this might be the one I forget. The odd name doesn't help, and it's always acted like a comedown after "Cuckoo for Caca." Nice track, though.

"Ugly in the Morning" - I always chose to believe this song was about being hungover. "I did it to myself again" - that line really seemed like the lament of a man who drank too much. The last minute of this song finds Patton proving that he is the greatest vocalist in rock.

"Digging the Grave" - I talked a little bit about this one already. I may never grow tired of this track. We went to see the band on this tour, and they opened with this song. I will never forget the feeling I got when they busted into it. I wasn't sure whether I should vomit, cry, or urinate. Turns out I was paralyzed from the awesomeness, so it all worked out.

"Take This Bottle" - Other than being about a minute too long, this country-ish song is great. Now, this one it definitely about drinking. Patton: versatile.

"King for a Day" - Oh, how I could romanticize this song. I'll try to restrain myself from gushing too much, but it really doesn't get a whole lot better than this. More bitterness here; this one seems to be about assholes drinking wine at a party. And so much more. Six and a half minutes and it doesn't drag a bit. It's songs like this that really made me wonder why these guys weren't the biggest band in the world.

"What a Day" - I've always thought this one was about drinking as well, but really I think it might be about a serial killer who's waiting to get caught. Really I have no idea. But "What a day, what a day/ If you can look it in the face/ And hold your vomit"? That's pretty good.

"Last to Know" - I've always felt this track got sold short by being sandwiched between some really huge songs. It's not a bad song, but it's maybe one of the least memorable ones here. Still, I've learned to love it over the years.

"Just a Man" - If anyone ever compiles a video montage tribute to me, I would like this song to be the soundtrack to that film. That is how strongly I feel about the merits of this track. It is bigger than life (my life, at least).

Bottom line: if you don't own this record, you are missing out on one of the finest musical accomplishments of the past twenty years, and I don't know how you sleep at night.

There, I said it.


Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Faith No More - Angel Dust (CD, LP, 1992)

In the few years that followed the release of The Real Thing, the landscape of popular music changed drastically. We were all curious to see how Faith No More would choose to navigate this new terrain. We knew one thing, even if we didn't admit it outright: if they came back with an album that sounded anything like a sequel to The Real Thing, they weren't going to make it.

We had hope. Recent Patton sightings confirmed a change, at least in the looks department. His flashy getups were taking a backseat to more ragtag ensembles, and it looked like he had put his hair in a ponytail and chopped off whatever hung out of the rubber band with a pair of dull scissors. Either he was going crazier, or he was ready to shed his pretty-boy image. The day I saw the "Midlife Crisis" video premier on MTV, it became crystal clear: the "Epic"-era Faith No More was no longer. Patton had a goatee, and there seemed to be an eyebrow ring under his crumpled baseball cap. Best of all, the song was fantastic.

We copped the cassette right quick and prepared to usher in the new-and-improved FNM.

"Land of Sunshine" - If I make it seem like the band sounded nothing like they did before, I'm afraid that's misleading. This song is a good example of how they kept a lot of the core elements of their sound, but just pushed them harder, made them heavier, and added more intricacies. Patton sets the tone for the rest of the album perfectly on this track, talking, singing, screaming, and covering all the ground in between. I can't start gushing, because I love every song on this record. So yes, I love this song.

"Caffeine" - This was an early front-runner for our favorite song on the record. That may have been because we hadn't even listened to the whole tape before we started rewinding this song over and over. It really is that good. If I started a religion, it might be based loosely on this performance of "Caffeine."

"Midlife Crisis" - As I said, the first single, and probably one of the more "accessible" songs on the record. I've never grown completely sick of this song, but it's not one of the ones I'll skip to much anymore. I still think the "Your menstruating heart/ It ain't bleeding enough for two" line is fucking gold.

"RV" - The first time I heard this song, I was a little confused. Then I learned to love it. It's sort of a potent little character sketch, and though it would have looked terrible on the drawing board, I think it works perfectly.

"Smaller and Smaller" - The first of the real hard-riffing, jaggedly abrasive songs on the record, and one that I feel sometimes get lost in the middle of this record. This is one I'll never get tired of.

"Everything's Ruined" - If I had to pick my favorite song from this record, this would be an early favorite before I eventually started crying from my brain imploding with the sheer impact of that question. Patton's melody/lyrics combo on this song continue to blow my mind. "We were like ink and paper/ Numbers on the calculator/ Knew arithmetic so well." That is good stuff. If anyone has any theories as to what this song is about, I'd love to hear 'em.

"Malpractice" - Let's get nuts. Mr. Bungle (Patton's other band; like I have to tell you that) released a song a year or two before this called "Slowly Growing Deaf." I feel like this is the Faith No More counterpart, a song about Patton's apparent inability to cope with being on stage all the time. This song would kill you if it could.

"Kindergarten" - This song starts side two of the cassette of "Angel Dust," and I know that because I think I still keep a copy in my car. This is another character sketch sort of thing, though it's much heavier and a little less direct than "RV." Billy Gould has some rolling-ass bass lines on this one.

"A Small Victory" - This was the second single from the record, and it has to be FNM's most expensive video ever. In a perfect world, this song would have been a huge hit. It's catchy as shit, and it's about the only song on this album where Patton starts to slip back into his nasally vocal style. Yep, you guessed it: a great song.

"Crack Hitler" - This track would challenge "Everything's Ruined" for my favorite song on Angel Dust, and it would give it a good run. More lyrics that I've always treasured: "Sink the eight ball/ Buy the lady a drink/ And nobody knows my name/ Bodies float up/ From the bottom of the river/ Like bubbles in fine champagne." Oh how I like it so much.

"Jizzlobber" - You wanna get really nuts? I've always thought it was a bit of a shame that they tucked this track away, leaving it to dwell in the less-than-ideal penultimate slot on the record. Patton goes absolutely fucking crazy on this song, and so does the rest of the band. Brilliant. (Sweet bootleg video here.)

"Midnight Cowboy" - An instrumental that was fun to see them play live, but I can't remember the last time I sat through this song. It's a nice cool-down after "Jizzlobber," I guess.

And there you have it. And if you don't have it (this album), you're missing out on some of the best rock the world has to offer.

"Everything's Ruined"

Monday, January 19, 2009

Faith No More - Live at the Brixton Academy (CD, 1991)

Yes, when folks were clamoring for some new music from Faith No More, they pulled the ol' live-album-to-tide-the-public-over move. And believe me, we didn't complain.

This CD was only released as an import, and I didn't pick it up until about ten years ago, via random late night completist-fueled eBay bidding. But, the accompanying VHS tape saw wide release here in the US at the beginning of 1991, and my brother finagled a copy somehow. It's called You Fat Bastards, but in the more sensitive early 90's, they starred out a few letters. So, we always called it You Fat B-tards. Catchy, right?

We watched the shit out of it, studying Mike Patton's every move. A few years later, some of it seemed pretty dumb, but I'm now far enough removed from it to find it both amusing and nostalgic. Anyway, this disc is the soundtrack to that movie, though not a complete one. It's missing "Woodpecker From Mars," "Underwater Love," and "As the Worm Turns." The CD does contain two bonus tracks, but the running time is still barely over 50 minutes. Also, the tracks aren't in the right order. I'm assuming this all had something to do with the vinyl release, but that's just a theory.

I'm not going to do the song-by-song breakdown for this one, as the first eight tracks are all from The Real Thing. Patton is in full-on nasal mode, and if you can move past that, this is a sweet album. The recording is quality, and the band is locked in, tight as shit from touring nonstop. The version of "The Real Thing" here is pretty untouchable, and we always dug the super-fast version of "From Out of Nowhere."

The bonus tracks are a odd pair. "The Grade" isn't much more than Jim Martin (I'm assuming it's him) going nuts on an acoustic for two minutes. A pretty big letdown. "The Cowboy Song," however, is a solid b-side, a song from The Real Thing sessions that didn't make the cut. You can see why it wasn't included on the album, but it's still a strong tune, though teetering towards the butt rawk a little.

A good one to have around.

"Zombie Eaters"

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Faith No More - The Real Thing (CD, LP, 1989)

Wow, where to even start with this one.

Faith No More, the Patton Years, begins here. We had no idea where it would take us, and we didn't care. When MTV started airing the now-famous video for "Epic" sometime in 1990, we (again: me, my brother, a few of my close friends with discerning tastes) were hooked instantly. This was music like we'd never heard before. The slapping bass, the rap-ish vocals combined with huge choruses; it all equaled awesome. I know my brother had a dubbed cassette of this album that was on a loop in our house for the good portion of that entire year, and for good reason: this record is fantastic. Sure, it gives us a small window into FNM's butt rawk dalliances (see the "From Out of Nowhere" video for unequivocal proof), but for the most part, this thing was, to our ears, the real deal: something new we could call our own, and most importantly, jump on board with on the ground floor.

Somewhere along the line FNM got labeled with countless misnomers: funk rock, rap rock, funk metal; the list goes on. This was a sore spot with the band, and it was always a sore spot with me. When people thank Faith No More for paving the way for shitheads like Korn, it hurts me. Not sure why I'm mentioning that, but here we are. Anyway, FNM is deserving of a song-by-song breakdown, so here we go.

"From Out of Nowhere" - A perfect song to start this record off, because it gets right to it, barreling in with all instruments going full bore. Just when you think they might let up, Patton juts in: "Tossed into my mind, stirring the calm." He's got some lyrical stinkers on this record, but that ain't one of 'em. The Wikipedia article for this song claims the video was "purposely tongue-in-cheek." Well, you can't blame the fanboys for trying to defend their heroes. I tried to believe that for a while myself.

"Epic" - You know it, you used to love it, and now you're sick of it. I will always have a soft spot in my heart for this song, but I never need to hear it again. The band played it every time I saw them live, and by 1997, I was feeling pretty bad for them. It was barely worth it; Patton would sleepwalk through the entire thing. But when those opening chords came crunching in, people would always go nuts. So I guess they had to keep trotting it out.

"Falling to Pieces" - Yeah, they front-loaded this thing with the singles. We always liked this tune, eventually even more than "Epic." I always wondered why the video held onto a lot of the same motifs as "Epic," but what the hey. We watched the shit out of it anyway. A great big chorus on this one that was easy to love.

"Surprise! You're Dead!" - Probably the thrashiest song on the whole record, and a great one to wipe the slate clean after the trio of radio-ready tracks. This ushers in the remainder of the record, and it features Patton's first real go at the guttural wails that we would learn to cherish. They were playing this song live up until the dissolution of the bad as well. And we always enjoyed it. More of Patton's great lyrics on this one.

"Zombie Eaters" - Starts as a ballad, grows into a full-blown metal storm of mayhem. This was always one of the favorite tracks to rewind and play over and over, not only because it contained multiple sections and a flurry of changes, but because it's simply a solid song all the way through.

"The Real Thing" - The longest song on the album, and probably my favorite. Patton's lyrics are solid as stone, and his vocal parts are unstoppable. This song should also be considered one of Jim Martin's crowning achievements as the lead guitarist for the group. Some machine gun shit. I'm still not sick of this track.

"Underwater Love" - A valiant attempt by Patton to add some dark imagery to an otherwise corny song, but it doesn't really work. We ate it up early on, but this was probably the first song to ever be ceremoniously fast-forwarded from this record. And I'm sure it was a sad day.

"The Morning After" - The song that sounds more like Mosely-era Faith No More than any other track here. I guess this explains that. The verses on this song are bordering on ass rock, but the chorus makes up for it.

"Woodpecker from Mars" - The instrumental, and a damn good one at that. Roddy Bottum showing us that keyboardists can rock.

"War Pigs" - Never really understood this one. It's a fine cover, I guess, and since we weren't familiar with the original, we dug it.

"Edge of the World" - A great closer, as it's the most mellow song on the whole record. We thought it showed Patton's range (like we knew what we were talking about), and thought it was great that a rock band wasn't afraid to wuss out a little bit.

I don't listen to this record much anymore, but I still love seeing live footage of the band from this era. Ah, it takes me back. But, it's a shame that this record will always be the one the band is remembered for. Because their best stuff is yet to come...

"The Real Thing"

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Faith No More - Introduce Yourself (CD, LP, 1987)

When Faith No More's The Real Thing was hot shit in 1990, we (me, my brother, all our friends) just couldn't get enough of it. (More about that in the next entry.) I distinctly remember my friend telling me he had purchased their previous effort, and before I could get too excited, he dropped the bomb: "Dude, I think they different singer." As 13-year-olds, this made little sense to us, but once you heard the songs, there was no doubt. Mike Patton, the main reason we all worshiped this band, was clearly not the guy stumble-mumbling through these tunes. The music sounded just the same, but the dude singing was clearly an acquired taste. We had no trouble understanding why they wouldn't want him in the band.

20 years later, I still understand why they didn't want him in the band. I can see why some people can get into the Chuck Mosely-era FNM, but it was never for me. I think the title track is fine, but I still prefer to hear Patton perform it, which he did live on many occasions. They did a few others from this record live with Patton in the years that followed, as well, which may be a testament to the following that this album must have had somewhere.

I just never had the patience for it. Chuck always struck me as a one-trick pony, and a juvenile one at that. Patton was also juvenile, but he was a much better singer.

Yet I still own this on CD and LP. Go figure.

"Anne's Song"

Friday, January 16, 2009

The Evens - Get Evens (LP, 2006)

This record came out pretty shortly after their debut, and though you don't get the sense that this is the stuff that didn't make it onto to their first release, the songs aren't quite as strong. But, they're far from bad.

They do seem, at least structurally and melodically, to be a bit more somber, and I guess it's often reflected in the lyrics as well. While their disapproval with the current administration was thinly veiled behind metaphors and analogies on their first record, here it's not hard to decipher. "Cut From the Cloth," the album's opening track, sets the tone, with Ian sounding irked while singing lines like "Why would they vote in favor of their own defeat?" It's a valid question, and they proceed to explore their frustration through the duration of the record's ten tracks, capping it off with the blunt (and fantastic) "Dinner With the President."

MacKaye's always had a way, in my opinion, of bringing issues to the forefront without stepping too high up on the soapbox. There are a lot of people who would disagree with me on this, and that's fine. Maybe I just have a high tolerance for it. Whatever the case, I don't find the lyrics on this record the least bit didactic or guilty of spoon-feedery. It helps a great deal that the melodies are solid and the songs themselves are great.

I got spoiled, thinking they were going to crank out one of these every year, but we're still waiting on the follow-up to this one. In their defense, I think they had a child together last year. I guess I can accept that excuse. But I'm ready for more.

"Cache is Empty"

Thursday, January 15, 2009

The Evens - The Evens (CD, 2005)

The day Fugazi went on hiatus was a sad, sad day for me. They're one of my all-time favorite bands and the thought of never hearing new material from them again doesn't sit well with me. When I heard Ian was in a duo with his girlfriend/life partner/whatever you want to call her, I was intrigued, and even strangely optimistic. The guy's been making great music his whole life; there's no reason for him to start sucking now. And he hasn't.

I love this record. I've been listening to it for three years and have yet to get sick of it. It's simplicity in form (baritone guitar, drums, vocals) belies an intricacy that really comes through once you dig into the songs. A track like "All These Governors" is three minutes long and contains about six distinct parts. And it's not crowded, not fancy, not self-indulgent (duh, it's Ian MacKaye).

You can't compare Fugazi and the Evens; they're very different projects. But I will say this: while Fugazi's lyrics seemed global, or at least national, the lyrics on this record seem more regional. The tracks are aimed at Washington DC, both the governments and the neighborhoods. And they're great at making their point without pretension, something MacKaye has always been great at.

His vocals coupled with Amy Farina's work really well, and though she's not the strongest singer, it just adds to the fragility of the songs and makes the words seem that much more honest and genuine. And her drumming shares some of that. It's not forceful, but it's very present, and perfect for this music.

I've listened to this record a ton since it came out. Sometimes I get the vibe I like it more than other people do, but whatever. I stand by it: this is one of the best albums of the last five years.

"Shelter Two"

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Eurythmics - Be Yourself Tonight (LP, 1985)

For some reason, this has always been the one Eurythmics album I've continuously had a copy of. I used to own the cassette (maybe I still do), and I still have this LP on the shelf. I have a vague recollection of owning both their Greatest Hits on CD and Touch on LP, but those seem to be gone.

Maybe it's because "Would I Lie to You?" is my favorite song of theirs and also one of my guiltiest pleasures. Annie Lennox's voice on that song is just huge. I've always been a sucker for it. Maybe it's because it's the least synthy of the Eurythmics albums I'm familiar with, and I feel like it's more of a soul record than anything. (Not that I'm some sort of soul freak, but, y'know.) Maybe I find "Sisters Are Doin' It for Themselves" to be so campy that it's awesome. Maybe it's all of these things.

I'm realizing I haven't listened to this record in a long time. It's another one of those LPs that I just like to know is there, sitting on the shelf, in case the need arises. Apparently that need hasn't bubbled to the surface in quite some time. But if it does, I'll be prepared.

Oh, and I like "Adrian," Lennox's duet with Elvis Costello. Solid pairing.

"There Must Be an Angel (Playing With My Heart)"

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Eric B. & Rakim - Paid in Full (LP, 1987)

This is another classic rap album that I never owned as a kid, but picked up much later in life. I distinctly remember having "My Melody" on one of the few cheap-o rap compilation cassettes I had back in '89, but for the life of me I can't figure out which one it was. No matter.

Listening to Paid in Full now, it does sound quite dated, and it's a bit tough to grasp just how mind-blowing this was twenty-some years ago. But, if you listen to what chumps like LL Cool J were doing at the time and then listen to this, it becomes pretty clear. Rakim was taking pride in his lyrics when most rappers were just stringing some weak boasts together between choruses. Plus, his smooth flow made his delivery that much cooler, with the added benefit of making it seem like this was all way too easy for him.

The beats are basic, but the heavy sampling was a little thicker than some of the other records at the time, and it added to the overall punch. Like everything else on this record, it was, in retrospect, a clear sign of things to come. If you need proof of this record's influence on hip hop, try and count how many of Rakim's lines have been repurposed by other rappers over the years. You'll lose track pretty quick. Not to mention how many times this record has been sampled by other artists. It's some blueprint shit, and there's not a rapper or rap fan alive who'll argue with that.

Does it make for great listening today? I think it does. Rakim's got some throwaway lines scattered around the record, but for the amount of words that he strings together, he keeps the filler to a minimum. Speaking of filler, I've never understood why they put the DJ cut (which was a given at the time) "Eric B. Is On the Cut" in the second slot. It was fairly standard to have those close out the album. Also, sort of odd that there are two six-minute-plus songs on this one. They drag a little, but I still yearn for the days when rappers weren't afraid to pull that move.

I should probably own Follow the Leader, too. But I don't.

"Move the Crowd"

Monday, January 12, 2009

EPMD - Business As Usual (CD, 1990)

I'm not sure why I missed the EPMD boat when I was a kid. I certainly knew of them, but I didn't even get this album until a few years ago. And it remains the sole EPMD album in my collection. A sad state of affairs, indeed.

Having said that, I really dig this one. And if this was considered a step down from their earlier releases, then I need to really be kicking myself. The beats on this bad boy are classic golden era hip hop, sample-heavy but chopped up just right. The flows are full and steady, and the hooks aren't driven home as hard as they are these days. Instead, there's just tons of rapping, and that's fine by me.

As usual, I could do without the LL Cool J guest spot, but that's just a personal preference. And really, he's not even that terrible on "Rampage," even dropping a random Seka (the old school porn star) reference. Overall, this record is just one more frustrating reminder of how great hip hop used to be. No skits, no filler, just steady heavy beats and some dudes trying to outwit each other.

Thankfully we still have the artifacts from the glory days.


Sunday, January 11, 2009

Eminem - Presents: The Re-Up (2xLP, 2006)

While this is probably better technically categorized as a "Various Artists" album, Eminem's name is the one on it, and I've got it filed with the rest of his albums, so here it is.

This is the Shady Records family doing their version of a mixtape type thing, but calling it that doesn't do justice to the production, which is fully realized. This is a real release, and a damn good one at that. Maybe it's that I wasn't expecting much, but I've really grown to like this record. Or at least most of it. Eminem seemed to tout this as mainly a vehicle to introduce some of his new artists (Cashis, Stat Quo, Bobby Creekwater, etc.), but he's all over it, and so are D12, 50 Cent, and the always reliable Obie Trice.

Eminem produced the majority of the beats himself, and the focus here is mostly on tough talk and streetwise anthems that, while certainly heavy on the hooks, also feature lots of room for the dudes to rap. Eminem turns in some great verses on this, and so do the rest of the guys, for the most part. I'm not a huge fan of his new protégés, but the songs with the familiar names are far from b-side quality throwaways. Eminem's verse on "You Don't Know" is nuts, rattled off so quick it's hard to catch all of it. He follows it with "Jimmy Crack Corn," and while the tempo is a little slower, he delivers again.

If nothing else, there's glimpses of the old don't-give-a-fuck Slim Shady returning, and it's nice to see. The album's closer, "No Apologies," which is probably the most pensive track of the bunch, is Eminem spouting off and angry, and he's once again unconcerned with who doesn't see it his way. It's not bad.

Or maybe I'm just trying to tell myself his next record won't suck.

"You Don't Know"

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Eminem - Curtain Call: The Hits (CD, 2005)

By this point, I became convinced that Eminem was just fucking with us.

"Fack," the song that leads off this greatest hits compilation, is dumb even by Slim Shady standards. And "Shake That," a duet with Nate Dogg that is one of the other unreleased tracks on this album, is a potty-mouthed club throwaway that never should have seen the light of day. Nate Dogg actually says "I get more ass than a toilet seat."

"When I'm Gone" is Em in full-blown 2Pac wannabe mode, recording a song that will become forever poignant (and eerie even!) if he ever gets shot and killed. Until that happens, it just seems kind of corny. Though it sparked some conversation: Em's hair isn't dyed blond in the video, so the theory that he "killed" Slim Shady at the end of Encore now holds even more water.

It's all very interesting.

"When I'm Gone"

Friday, January 9, 2009

Eminem - Encore (2xLP, 2004)

If Eminem's last record was him trying to get serious for a minute, this one seems like he's given up on that idea and just gone crazy instead.

"Evil Deeds" is a slight return to form as an opener, a song that is at least peppy, and while he might be trying to be playful with it, it almost sounds like a strange cry for help. It seems Eminem had almost been warped by the insular nature of his fame-crazed life, and this song sounds like he's both off his rocker and, strange as it may seems, Eminem trying to sound like Eminem. The rest of the record is pretty much the same. "Mosh" is another serious song, and it's terrible. People who try to act like this song is deep are easily stimulated, apparently. It's followed by "Puke," which is just as low-brow as it sounds.

Even the radio single from this album sounds like Eminem parodying himself. I wonder if he really thought the yelping thing (that sounds vaguely Pee-Wee Herman) from "Just Lose It" was going to catch on, or if he just wanted to see if all of us would start doing it?

Like his previous effort, there's also some great songs on here, but they're getting fewer and farther between. I understand Eminem's got the world on his shoulders and all, but come on, man, we all miss you being nutty.

Now it's all doo rags and those damn biker gloves.

"Like Toy Soldiers"

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Eminem - The Eminem Show (2xLP, 2002)

Sometimes, when you've got a bunch of people around you telling you you're a genius (or possibly the "voice of a generation"), you really start to believe it. You start to feel it's your duty to quit fucking around and drop some real knowledge on these goddamned sheep.

Eminem's strong suit had always been the "just don't give a fuck" of his Slim Shady persona, a dude who'll say anything just to get a rise out of you, and if you're not on board with him, who gives a shit. He was kidding anyway. I don't know about the teenagers, but I was never looking to Eminem for advice on who to vote for, or to hold up a mirror to our damaged society. To me, his music was always a great way to not think about that shit.

So, the first time I heard "White America," the opening track on this, his third proper full-length, I was disappointed. It's five and half minutes of Em trying to be Chuck D and Flavor Flav at the same time, and it's incredibly boring and pompous. Pretension from a guy like this is disheartening for so many different reasons. When I got to "Sing for the Moment," which is not much more than him rapping over a re-playing of Aerosmith's "Dream On," my disappointment grew. Not only is it tired (come on, jacking fucking Aerosmith?), but it's the first of three almost-six-minute songs in a row, and you start to feel like he's really towing that blowhard line.

Having said all that, I love about half of this record. "Soldier" is one of my all-time favorite Eminem songs, and "Business" and "Till I Collapse" are dope as shit. I guess I always think of this record as the beginning of Eminem shoving his sense of humor aside in favor of those dumb biker gloves he started wearing. Flexing hard is one thing; taking yourself far to seriously is another.

Yep, I'm totally one of those "I liked his old shit better" guys.

"Cleanin' Out My Closet"

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Eminem - The Marshall Mathers LP (CD, 2xLP, 2000)

If anyone had any doubts about Eminem's abilities in the wake of The Slim Shady LP, they were squashed when this album hit. He basically kept the same formula as the first record (MTV-friendly first single, anger anthems, help from Dre, even revisiting some of the same skits), but did everything better.

The first time I heard "Kill You," I knew this record was going to be huge. "Offensive" lyrics or not, it's just a great song, especially when it's opening a record like this one. The fact that people took any of this shit seriously just confirmed Eminem's genius as a both a lyricist and a rabble-rouser. Everyone was playing right into his hands, and watching him enjoy it was fantastic. People who attempted to transform this record into something divisive had no chance of proving their tired point, which was fine by me, because I never understood it in the first place.

"Stan" became, at almost seven minutes long, an unlikely radio hit, and to me, a song that got old a lot faster than some of the other ones. Same with "The Way I Am." I really liked that song a lot when this first came out, but some of the other cuts have proven to hold considerably more staying power. "Marshall Mathers" is still great, "Bitch Please II" will always be fun, and "Criminal" is the perfect bookend to "Kill You," turning out to be just as acerbic and intense in closing, which is tough to pull off after the thickness of this record.

Let's not kid ourselves, there's some iffy tracks on this one. "Kim" is too long, and while the concept is interesting, it's not a song that can be listened to over and over. "Amityville" introduced a lot of us to the lyrical infancy of Bizarre, a half-wit who spits such memorable lines as "I fucked my cousin in his asshole," and then leaves us waiting for a punchline that never comes. The rest of D12 shows up on "Under the Influence," and while the results of the guest spots are stronger, the chorus ("You can suck my dick if you don't like my shit...") is one of the worst in the Slim Shady catalog.

So, I think maybe people get a little ahead of themselves when they start calling this "one of the greatest hip hop albums of all time." It would really depend on how long that list was. But, this is certainly an album of a distinct time, and it was impressive how much this thing influenced culture in the beginning of the new millennium. I was at a party in 2000, and we were drunk and dancing in someone's front room to this record. A young lady (who clearly fancied herself above this sort of drivel) was glaring at us from the corner. Given, I'm sure we were being obnoxious, but that wasn't her beef. She waited for a song break and yelled: "Oh my god guys! Don't you realize you're dancing to Eminem?"

I understood what she meant. And yes, in a perfect world, we might all be better than this. But sometimes, that's just not the way it works out. For some reason, as corny as it sounds, that little story has always summed up the appeal of this album for me perfectly.

"Marshall Mathers"

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Eminem - The Slim Shady LP (LP, 1999)

I remember seeing the article in Rolling Stone. Dr. Dre was sitting in the studio, bro-handshaking with this peroxide blonde weasely looking dude, and the article explained that the kid was Dre's new protégé. I did not have high hopes. When I saw the video for "My Name Is," it confirmed my worst fears: Dre was pandering to the white kids, looking to sell this poor sap down the river to make a few bucks. I also noticed that the sap's rhymes, while pretty stupid with the subject matter, were pretty smart with the execution.

I heard Eminem again when I was hanging out with some friends before we went out one night. They had this CD on and it played through once while we were sitting around. After hearing some of the deeper album cuts, my intrigue grew. I picked up a used cassette copy and gave it some time in the car. Some of it immediately struck me as over-the-top corny. I was still in my early twenties when this album came out, and I felt I was too old to be listening to it. It seemed dead-set on aiming straight for the ears of teenage boys. It was, but once I decided not to give a shit about that, I learned to like this record.

I'm probably like a lot of other people: if I never heard "My Name Is" or "Guilty Conscience" ever again, I'd be fine with that. But, tracks like "Bad Meets Evil," "If I Had," and "Rock Bottom" still sound great to me. And there's more than that. This album is deep, almost an hour long, and it's filled to the brim. Em's lyrics are great throughout, and you can tell this is stuff he'd been working on for years.

Is is the most mature album in the world? Nope. Is it borderline retarded in spots? Yep. Are these some sweet lines?

"Class clown freshman/ Dressed like Les Nessman/ Fuck the next lesson/ I'll pass the test guessin'"


I remember seeing Eminem's mom (and his mortified little brother) on an episode of Sally Jessy a few years after this came out, when people were really on his shit about the content of his lyrics. A teenage kid stood up to defend his hero Slim Shady, and when Sally asked him why he liked to listen to such offensive music, the kid said, "I just like the way he rhymes."

That's what I'm talking about.

"Just Don't Give a Fuck"

Monday, January 5, 2009

Embrace - Embrace (LP, 1987)

Ian MacKaye takes umbrage with those who refer to this record and this band (which really isn't much more than a one-off side project) as "emocore." It's easy to understand his frustration, mostly because the dude's not a fan of labels of any sort. But, come on. Lines like "I hid my feelings/ When they should've been bared" are pure fodder for people who want to point to this record as one of the first "emo" albums.

Really, none of that shit matters. Yes, MacKaye does talk about his "feelings" more on this album than any other one, and yes, coming shortly after Minor Threat, it seems just that much more sensitive. I've always viewed it more as a catharsis. These are songs that don't seem completely fleshed out, but they serve a purpose as vehicles for MacKaye to vent his current frustrations. Nothing wrong with that. And, this is one of the bridges between Minor Threat and Fugazi. His lyrics, as introverted as they may be, are more structured and wisely political than they were with the Threat. He still doesn't quite have the hang of it, but he's real close.

The songs on this record aren't super memorable, but they're far from bad. And as unpolished as they are, they're not thrown together, either. MacKaye has specific targets on each track, and he does a good job of screaming in the faces of the people he's pissed at.

I don't listen to this record much anymore, but I'll never get rid of it. It's a great semi-oddity in the MacKaye/Dischord catalog. Listening to it now, I'm remembering what I liked about it: the recording is raw, the songs are hard and fast, and just to let you know he hasn't gone soft, MacKaye drops lines like "Sometimes I'd like to kick your fuckin' ass."

And he sounds like he means it.

"Dance of Days"

Friday, January 2, 2009

I Went to a Show: Steakside With the Supersuckers - New Year's Eve 2008 @ Dante's.

The 20th anniversary show in Seattle got me excited about the Supersuckers again, and when we found out they were playing a New Year's Eve bash in downtown Portland, the fiancée and I knew where we'd be ringing in 2009. (Or at least I did. She was gracious enough to accompany me.)

Because I'm an idiot, we showed up too late to catch Gerald Collier, who was the opening act for the evening. Apparently when they say they're starting the show at 9, they mean it. So, that was a bummer, but I have no one to blame but myself. We came into the fairly packed (and sold out) show during the beginning of Kleveland's set, and spent the next half hour reveling in the unbridled ass-rockiosity of it all. I really began to wonder if they were shooting a pilot for a new VH1 special about a band trying to "make it." Barre chords, rock clichés, drumstick twirling; it was all happening. But, when their lead singer took a pause between explaining what every single song was about to say that they were going to be playing with Hell's Belles soon, the thick-buttered cornball "look-out-we've-got-attitude!" thing made a little more sense. Then they covered Van Halen's "Everybody Wants Some," she dove into the crowd (seriously), climbed some scaffolding (really), and I realized, at that very moment, that I was living in a real-life deleted scene from Light of Day.

The Supersuckers came out at about 11:30, looking primed and ready. Eddie was rocking tight jeans and white pointy-loafer-type shoes that were both hilarious and somehow badass. We had positioned ourselves stage left in the very front, which from here on out in my life will be referred to as "Steakside." (Conversely, stage right will be known as the "Rontrose Zone.") So, we were in for a whole lot of Bolton, which was our plan.He did not disappoint.

This was "The Big Show," meaning they were slotted to do both rock and country sets. I was worried they might do the same set as the Seattle show, and while they played a lot of the same songs, they mixed 'em up and extended the country portion a bit, which was cool. They played a good smattering of old and new, and though I keep waiting for them to break out "I'm a Fucking Genius" from the new record, I haven't heard it yet. Of course, I could whine for days about the songs I wish they were playing. But that's me, I'm a hopeless fanboy.

At midnight, Eddie and Bolton brought their wives up, popped open some champagne, and we counted down the New Year. Here's a blurry photo of it:Eddie made a nice little speech, The Heath Man shared some bubbly with those in the Rontrose Zone (see, it's catching on already), and then they got back to the rock.

By the time they were through (after ending the show with the semi-standard "Goodbye"/"Patent-Pending Fake Encore"/"Cowboy Song"/"Born With A Tail"), they had played for a solid two hours, giving us all, in my opinion, our twenty bucks worth. But, in true fanboy style, when I saw they were offering limited edition posters (only 50 made!) to commemorate the evening at the merch table, I couldn't help but cough up some more scratch. Not a bad way to spend New Year's Eve.