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March 2024: About
GD reckoning.jpg




I never expected the Grateful Dead to the be first band I wrote about for a second time in this year, 2024, of writing about albums I love. If you had asked in the days after I hatched this daunting plan, I would have guessed at least ten other bands that would have been the first double dip. Here we are, though, and Reckoning is an album I’ve been listening to a lot lately.

I always liked the cover of this album. A skull, crossbones, an immaculate heart with roses around it. What’s not to like? The music is pretty darn great, too.

Quite a bit of Reckoning was recorded at the Warfield in San Francisco in 1980. I happen to love the Warfield Theatre, but I had no idea this was the case until I bought the double cassette version in the early 90s. I had a tape player in my Nissan truck, so I had a nice little tape collection for a while. Reckoning was one of those cassettes.

This recording got me through a lot of tough times. It’s a live, acoustic record and there is something about it that is just comforting to me. Strangely, when I used to bring it up to some of my Deadhead friends, they kind of dismissed it as a lesser Dead record, but I love it. I used to put it on, and I would sort of instantly feel better.

For one thing, it’s got a lot of very gentle sounding songs on it. “Oh Babe, It Ain’t No Lie,” for example, is just a beautiful song. I totally dig “Dire Wolf” and “The Race Is On,” of course, but it’s the third song where I really start wrapping myself up in a Grateful Dead blanket. Something about Jerry Garcia’s vocal line just puts me at ease.

As a Dead fan, I’m not one to obsess over any particular member of the band. I’ve never wanted to get into that whole side of Deadheaded-ness. I do like the music, though, and seeing the band live really helped me understand why they were such a great band. I would have loved to have seen an acoustic performance, but I never got to be at one.

There are too many songs on Reckoning to talk about each one, but the flow of the record is just about perfect. The mood of “Oh, Babe It Ain’t No Lie” flows perfectly into “It Must Have Been the Roses,” for example. Both are kind of slower tempo, mildly sad songs about love, and my heart strings they do tug.

Last week, an old friend of mine passed away. I wrote about her in the regular part of the blog a few days ago. When we reconnected after a couple of decades of not talking, she shared with me that in one of her marriages (and she had a few), she had grown to really love the Dead. I told her of my affection for Reckoning and she bragged about having it on vinyl. I was jealous and offered to take it off her hands, but she just smiled and laughed.

Maybe I’ve been frequenting Reckoning for the last few months because the universe was telling me to break the silence between us. I don’t know. I’ll never know now, but listening to the record brings me a little peace. It’s really wonderful when music does that for you.

I think the Grateful Dead were plugged into that universal consciousness vibe as much as any band that I’ve ever known about, and Reckoning is really a perfect example of this thinking. As I mentioned, from the beginning of listening to it, it’s always had a peaceful, calming, and in some cases, joy-inducing effect on me. There are several other records that do this for me, too, but today, Reckoning is the perfect antidote for the often-overwhelming nature of daily life.

“Dark Hollow” and “China Doll” bring things down a lot, but they are still beautiful. The band picks things up, though, a little with “Been All Around This World” and then we get a little bluegrass type of thing “Monkey and the Engineer.” It’s a fun one sung by Bob Weir.

The nifty guitar pickin’ keeps on truckin’ (see what I did there) through “Jack-A-Roe” and then “Deep Elum Blues” keeps the train a rollin’. By the time we end up at “Cassidy,” we are back into some classic Dead. I can see the ladies and gentle boys doing the twirly dance to “Cassidy” if I shut my eyes. I saw them do “Cassidy” in Oakland in late October of that year. It was magical.

Bill Graham had died the day before, so you can imagine what the energy was like in the Oakland Coliseum that night. I wrote about that experience back in 2022. “Cassidy” is such a good song and the guitar flourishes that happen in this particular version are great.

There is some more nifty and nimble guitar work, along with some great piano from Brent Mydland on “Rosalie McFall.” I like that one a lot, but my favorite track on the whole enchilada is “Bird Song.” I did get to see them play “Bird Song” live once in Phoenix. I love that song with my whole heart. It’s fucking beautiful.

The way the guitar riff just sort of dances along just kills me. “Don’t cry now/Don’t you cry/Don’t you cry anymore/ La-la-la-la. Sleep in the stars/Don’t you cry/Dry your eyes on the wind/La-la-la-la.”

“Ripple” closes it out. I love that one, too. I would often just listen to the last side of cassette two when I was bummed in the early 90s. That was a lot in those days. Thank you, Grateful Dead, for keeping me company when I was lonely.

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March 2024: Welcome
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Stoner rock was a big thing in my life for a while. The first of the stoner rock bands I really gravitated towards was the early Monster Magnet stuff. Specifically, their first EP, the self-titled, Monster Magnet EP. I have the Glitterhouse Records CD version, and it is epic.

They were fucking great in those days. I saw them in 1992 or 1993 at a place called the Library Café. They were heavy and great. Clutch opened the show and that was before I had a reason to not like them. I thought Clutch was good that night, too, but Monster Magnet…just wow.

I’m going to go ahead and put out there that I don’t like Monster Magnet became. Once the major labels got ahold of them, they became too slick and the records sounded way overproduced, but the early stuff is good. It’s the kind bud.

“Snake Dance” is so fat and fuzzy on that first EP. They redid it on “Spine of God” and it didn’t sound quite as good. There is an element of Mudhoney on that first Glitterhouse CD that I just happen to love. The songs are just fat and happy and John McBain (who was also in the excellent band, Hater) played a mean lead guitar.

McBain just blisters his way through “Tractor,” for example. It has a super Seattle sounding tone to it, but Monster Magnet hailed from New Jersey. Dave Wyndorf’s voice is perfect for what they were doing on all the Monster Magnet stuff, because it’s his band, but he was at the top of his game from the beginning.

When “Nod Scene” kicks in, it’s pure sludge-y, stonerriffic goodness. The wah pedal is cranked up to 11. They played this song when I saw them the first time and it was epic. I think McBain leaving the band was a major blow to them, to be honest. For me, it was never the same.

When a band like Monster Magnet is firing on all cylinders, it is really hard not to just bang your head along with them. I wore this CD out when I got it in, I think, 1992. I remember being newly sober at the time and thinking about the irony. Here I was, listening to these super stony jams, and I wasn’t drinking or doing any drugs. I think I may have been one of the ten or so sober people at that Library Café show.

“Freak Shop USA” keeps the party going after “Nod Scene” and, again, sounds like a Mudhoney riff. I could totally see Mudhoney covering this one and just tearing it up. You could probably convince someone who didn’t know better that it IS a Mudhoney song.

I’ve always liked “Lizard Johnny” a lot, too. It’s a McBain song, like “Nod Scene” and “Freak Shop USA.” It’s no wonder McBain moved to Seattle then ended up jamming with an early version of Queens of the Stone Age. All three of the middle songs on the EP are laden with the whole grunge aesthetic.

Come to think of it, there is a parallel here between Monster Magnet and White Zombie. I remember hearing about how White Zombie was this cool underground New York band early on and then sold out. Monster Magnet was definitely a cool New Jersey band and then sold out. “Lizard Johnny” has a little White Zombie-ish vibe with the vocals.

“Murder” is the ender and if not for McBain’s lead guitar, it would be the weakest song on the record, but it merely ends up being the least memorable. It’s not a terrible song by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s not as good as any of the previous songs on the disc.

I need to dig through my CD collection and make sure no one stole this one. I don’t remember seeing it lately. Sofa king good.   

Looking back, this one was definitely a game changer for me. Each of the first three Monster Magnet releases had a huge impact on my musical taste for most of the early 90s. I should probably go back and listen to more of the later stuff from the band. I might hear it with different ears now.

One thing is for sure, I’m digging out that Hater CD. Stay tuned.

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March 2024: Welcome
JL Goat.jpg




As a fan of the Butthole Surfers, I had dived into Scratch Acid around 1989, I think, and then into the Jesus Lizard. At first, I liked the Lizard a lot more than Scratch Acid. There was something about the propulsive nature of the Jesus Lizard that captured my attention and didn’t let go for a very long time.

I’m not sure if they have ever let go, actually. When I put Goat on, for example, I am immediately in, ready, and transfixed.

Goat was the second Jesus Lizard CD I bought. David Wm. Sims bassline at the beginning of “Then Comes Dudley” has been a constant source of inspiration for me. It’s not particularly technical or difficult, but it’s going to run over and through you if you get in its way. The man is the secret hero of the Jesus Lizard for me, as much as I love Duane Dennison’s guitar or David Yow’s vocals.

Sims was locked in with Mac McNeilly throughout Goat and it was (and still is) easy to get completely swept away, pummeled, or hypnotized. You choose your ending here. After listening to Goat, you either want to start a band, quit your band, or listen to it again and again.

“Mouth Breather” is one of my all-time favorite songs. I liked it when I first heard it, of course, but it was a show at the Sun Club with Jon Spencer Blues Explosion that solidified it for me as, maybe, my favorite Jesus Lizard song. Again, the Sims’ bassline is just bad ass. It’s a short song, but it packs a wallop. Yow sells it, too. When he sings this song live (and I hope I get to see him do it again), he owns the stage.

It's safe to say, actually, that David Yow has probably owned every stage he’s ever stepped foot on.  The man is one of the very best front men in rock and roll history. It’s a shame that more people don’t know this. When the Lizard were firing on all cylinders, I would have had a hard time saying that I had seen a better live band.

This is not hyperbole, either. I have seen a lot of bands and a ton of great shows/performances. If you hooked me up to a lie detector, I’m not sure I could say that even my beloved Butthole Surfers were quite as powerful as the Jesus Lizard in their prime. What a great show that would have been. Who would have opened for whom?

There was a show where the Lizard opened for Helmet at Club Paradox, which was in the old Café Casino building at 24th Street and Camelback. I felt so bad for Helmet that night. Jesus Lizard just destroyed the place and Yow even pulled a “tight and shiny.” If you know, you know. This was the second time in a row of seeing Helmet get completely blown away by their opening act. I believe I wrote about this when I wrote about Stoner Witch by the Melvins.

As with many albums I love, there is not a weak moment or let up on Goat. After “Mouth Breather,” the band roars through “Nub” then “Seasick” and into “Monkey Trick.” I love all three, just not as much as “Mouth Breather.” Yow shouting “I can swim/I can’t swim” on “Seasick” is pretty fucking impressive, though, and Sims’ line on “Monkey Trick” is sofa king bad ass, too.

I really should not avoid lauding the praise on Duane Dennison any further. One of the reasons that Sims can be so great is that Dennison completely holds down the mid- and high-end stuff. One of my favorite guitar players, Dennison is inventive, jazzy, and just super talented.

These guys created a perfect maelstrom in the early 1990s grunge-powered musical sea. I also know that he sported a Hillbilly Devilspeak shirt at a show after we played with them for the first time in the late 90s. I mean, he was probably out of clean clothes, but still. Listen to his work on “Karpis” and tell me he is not one of the best guitar players of his generation.

“South Mouth” is another rocker that gets a little jazzy, too. The Jesus Lizard have the chops to get a little out there and I have always loved that about them. To watch them play live, you just feel the confidence oozing off them. As mentioned, Hillbilly got to play with them twice (once at the Mason Jar and once at Bostons). They couldn’t have been nicer to us.

Even Sims, who comes off as very gruff, was complimentary of my bass tone after I told him how much I loved watching him play. That was a cloud nine kind of moment for me. He’s an intense dude, but when you see the way he plays, you know it’s just who he is and not something to be taken personally.

“Lady Shoes” is another scorcher. Dennison and Yow kick the song back into high gear for the big finish and then McNeilly drives it home. I’ve always liked this song, too. Even after 30+ years of listening to “Lady Shoes,” though, I still have no idea what 90% of the lyrics are. Does it matter? I feel it. I don’t need to sing along.

“Rodeo in Joliet” wraps up the version I bought back in the day. It’s an intensely expressive song as it opens and unfolds. Sims and Dennison are jabbing back and forth at each other and then they lock in on a killer finger-walking riff that I’ve ripped off a few times over the years. Yow talk/singing about “no great waterhole in Downer’s Grove” gets me every time. I also love that he’s got a track or two on there where he is just breathing in and out. It really sells the line, “The old wind bag blows.”

Goat is still fucking amazing after all these years and lesser bands continue to try to capture it’s magic.

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March 2024: Welcome




It is funny how certain music is just always sort of hovering around you. Iggy Pop was a figure that I was aware of from a fairly early age but until my teenage years, never really knew why he was a famous name. The Stooges were also one of those sorts of ever present, ethereal names.

When I started getting into learning about the roots of punk rock, The Stooges kept popping up all over the place, so I figured I better check them out. I joined one of those 10 CDs for $1 things under an assumed name and one of the available CDs was the self-titled debut, The Stooges.

This must’ve been 1989, I think. There was an immediate kinship for me with the opening song, “1969.” It was probably the right time of life for me to embrace The Stooges. Looking back, I don’t know if I would have been able to appreciate them earlier in my musical journey.

“1969” has this sort of shuffling, rambling quality that I most definitely would not have understood as well when I was in my early years of punk rock fandom. It is not fast or terribly aggressive by the standards of what I was listening to early on, but I can now see how it influenced so many artists I love.

The thing about “1969” and The Stooges record, really, is that it is subversive. You can feel it slipping up behind you, but there is nothing you can do except give in and take off. We need time travel now, I think, because I want to go to an early Stooges show and see people react to them.

Everyone and their mother have covered “I Wanna Be Your Dog.” I’m guilty of it, too. We did it for a while in Hillbilly Devilspeak in the mid-90s and I’m not going to lie. I love playing that song. It’s one of the first punk rock songs. I don’t know that I’ve ever heard it and not started rocking out a bit.

Where the 15-year-old me would have probably balked at The Stooges is “We Will Fall.” Now I listen to it and think about the balls it would take to give a record label those first two songs and then have the last track on side one be a ten-minute meditation over some trippy guitar. I’m sure some of the executives at Elektra Records were like, “What the fuck is this?”

“Goodbye.” Great lyric. Truly. The attitude in Iggy’s “goodbye” is fucking perfect.

Then “No Fun” takes over. Scott Asheton’s drums kind of steal this one in a very low-key way. Even though the claps were probably not him (I have no idea who did them…probably Iggy and John Cale), the percussion on this one is quite good. Obviously, the Sex Pistols brought this song to a new height, but the original is fucking great, too.

I read somewhere once that Iggy Pop likes to improvise lyrics in the studio. I wonder how true that was in the early days of The Stooges. I have to believe that he did it a lot on this record. His performance has such an extemporaneous feel. “No Fun” is a good example of this approach.

“Real Cool Time” is one of the songs that I really dug early on from The Stooges. It has that sort of laid back, aloofness that “1969” has with some excellent guitar work from Ron Asheton who was working his ass off on the volume pedal. The whole song is just one constant assault from the fuzzy, space guitar.

“Ann” the weak link here. It’s always just sort of felt like it was an attempt by Pop to channel some Jim Morrison and it doesn’t work. Luckily, “Not Right” is a much better song. It is another garage-y, protopunk anthem. Dark and a little mysterious, too, “Not Right” could have been a good song for the Fuzztones to cover. Who knows, maybe they did cover it.

“Little Doll” closes things out. I really dig bassist Dave Alexander’s trembling bass line in the intro part. It’s the end of a tremendous debut record. I appreciate the doors that The Stooges kicked open for the rest of us. They were just getting started.

March 2024: Welcome




I have to believe that it was the fault of KEDJ that I fell in love with Duncan Sheik’s debut single, “Barely Breathing.” It was in a fairly constant rotation in those days, and I listened to the EDGE a lot while I was working at Courtesy Chevrolet. There was no such thing as Spotify then and it was a pain in the ass to carry around tapes and CDs, so there was the limited Phoenix radio to listen to while driving cars around or pulling alarms at night.

The life of the lot jockey/alarm installer was one that was made much more pleasant when a good song came on the radio. If you’ve ever been in a situation where “hurry up and wait” was part of your daily routine, you can appreciate this. When I lived in Berkeley, for example, and was doing deliveries, it was great to be able to toggle back and forth between KUSF and KALX.

Phoenix has never really had a good “College Radio” station, though. I don’t think ASU has ever one that you could hear if you weren’t in specific spots on main campus. So, KEDJ in the mid-90s was what I had to occasionally get some decent new music on during the workday.

“Barely Breathing” is the third track on Sheik’s self-titled debut. When I picked up the CD at Tower Records, and I had to go there because the people at Zia and Eastside where I usually shopped new me a little too well, I was shocked by how much I liked the whole thing. “Barely Breathing” is a really great song and I still enjoy the hell out of it, but I was pleasantly surprised by what an accomplished and thoughtful songwriter this Duncan Sheik guy turned out to be.

It's not the happiest record. The opener, “She Runs Away” is bit on the sad side and sounds as such. The instrumentation, though, and arrangement is top notch. There is a reason that Sheik later went on to write the scores for Broadway plays. The guy knows his way around the studio.

The guitar part that starts “She Runs Away” hooked me right off the bat. It wasn’t too long after getting Duncan Sheik that I was singing along with all the songs and not just the hit single. “Ooh, darlin’, don’t you know/The darkness comes and the darkness goes,” starts off the pre-chorus and, which is catchy as hell, and fucking Pino Palladino does the bass line on the song.

Yes, Pino Palladino, who also has played with Nine Inch Nails and The Who, among others, played on four of the tracks. I had no idea of this until I looked it up. Howard Jones even plays a piano part on one of the songs, too. But, I digress.

“In the Absence of the Sun” has a really lush string arrangement that kind of makes the song. It’s really beautiful and kind of maudlin, too. “We don’t talk about it/We just become shadows of ourselves” is a pretty great line. Sheik is an excellent lyricist and has a great voice, too.

I remember being so happy that I enjoyed the whole record and didn’t just buy one of those records where you like one song. I’ve got a few of those in my collection and won’t be writing about those this year if there is any justice in the world. “Barely Breathing” is catchy and kind of different, too, for a pop song. It’s got a really cool slide guitar line by Fran Barish that goes along with the guitar that Sheik played.

I met a dude from Brophy who is friendly with some folks I know who did a few tours with Sheik. I remember him saying that the songs were fun to play, and that Sheik was a good dude. He told me a few other things about him, as well, that I will just keep to myself, but I have a good idea of why the ladies love him.

I only saw Sheik once when my ex-wife and I drove down to Tucson to see him do a radio station promo thing. He didn’t play Phoenix too much until after she and I divorced, and she got custody of Duncan Sheik in our final settlement.

Not really, but I didn’t want to cramp her style, so I never went to see a proper concert.

He and I talked a little bit, though, as I was the only obvious punk rock dude at the radio station thing, and I think he was curious what I was doing there. He seemed very pleased when I told him I was a big fan of his work. It made the ex kind of mad, too, that we had such a good chat while she was too nervous to say shit. Win-win.

“Reason for Living” is a nice little pop song, too. It starts off a bit sad like a few of the others and then becomes a bit more helpful as it progresses. It fades nicely into “Days Go By” after Howard Jones’ fantastic piano outro. “Days Go By” is definitely a sad one, but it’s got another nice string arrangement. “Well, I know it’s not fashionable to be this hopeful…well laugh away” is a great opening line, too.

The guitar that opens “Serena” is kind of reminiscent of “Barely Breathing” but the song has some seriously great guitar hooks that are beautifully mixed into the song. I should probably mention that Stephen W. Tayler’s mix of the record is fucking killer. Listen on a good sound system and you’ll see why.

“Out of Order” is another sad one at the start that grows into something bigger. Palladino provides a really cool bass line that makes this one another favorite of mine. It’s a little bouncy but hugs the rhythm with Jean-Michel Biger’s drums and allows Sheik to get a little jazzy with the vocals.

As the album starts to wind down, it’s a bit of a slow tempo affair. “November” is a song I can live without, to be honest, but it’s not a bad song and has another moving string arrangment. I’m a bigger fan of “Home” but it’s probably way too sappy for most of my friends. In fact, as I write this, I realize that I may get punched in the balls by a few of my friends just to make sure mine are still intact.

“Home” is a song that anyone who has missed their significant other can identify with, though, and as I listen now, I’m reminded of how it feels when I’m in Arizona and Rhondi is in Maine. It sucks.

“The End of Outside” has some almost Pearl Jam-my guitar in it, but Sheik takes it to different kind of height. There is also a really cool chorus that is punctuated by more great string stuff that happens and takes you into a fun bridge. Sheik’s voice soars really wonderfully before settling into a cool little falsetto run. Between the 2:45 mark (or so) and 3:30 is just terrific.

The last song on the record is called “Little Hands.” I’m realizing that I stole this title about eight years later or so for a Pinky song title. I kind of like our Pinky song a bit more than this one, but this one will do in a pinch. Like “November,” it’s not my favorite song on the record either, but I think it’s a bit more infectious than “November.” For one thing, the piano is really nice on “Little Hands” yet understated.

I have the next couple of records Sheik released, too, but they don’t measure up for me in the same way as his self-titled debut. If you like this one, though, you’ll like the others. I wish he would put out something new soon.

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March 2024: Welcome




Three self-titled debuts in a row. This wasn’t planned, but it seems apropos. I’m realizing now that it actually is a trend. Four of the last five records I have included here are self-titled debuts. What the heck?

My interest in Monster Magnet and Soundgarden got me to pick up the debut of Hater. They were a short-lived NW Pacific Coast band that includes John McBain (Monster Magnet), Ben Shepherd (bass in Soundgarden), and Matt Cameron (drums in Soundgarden). It is just a dose of what Seattle sounded like in those early 90s days.

“Mona Bone Jakon” by Cat Stevens kicks it off in a way that sounds like a suped-up version of the original. Cameron, Shepherd, and Ben Wood share vocals and it sounds pretty bad ass. I can remember being stoked on this when it came out and, over the years, stoked on it again when I remember how good it is.

Hater the record is a short affair, but each of the members are allowed to shine. It’s fuzzy and heavy and great. “Who Do I Kill?” is a fun follow up to “Mona Bone Jakon.” It’s kind of Mudhoney-ish, which is never a bad thing, in it’s nod to grungy, garage rock. Fuzz reigns supreme on this record and McBain brings the tasty leads.

“Tot Finder” is another fuzz-laden affair. Cameron’s drums are top notch, as usual, too. I have to believe that these guys had a ton of fun making this record. At the time, Soundgarden was beginning to blow up, so it was probably nice for Shepherd and Cameron to have something of their own.

“Lion And Lamb” has this cool, minor chord guitar part that I love. The instrumental song totally sounds like the songs I write for myself on the acoustic guitar that I rarely share with anyone. I mean, sometimes I share them, but they become something else because a better guitar player turns them into something cool and I play the melody on the bass.

Hater continues the minor chord assault with “Roadside.” I can picture Cameron and Shepherd waiting for their Soundgarden bandmates and jamming this one. It has a bit of a Soundgarden vibe, but probably didn’t make the cut.

“Down Undershoe” picks the tempo back up, though, and side two starts off with a little Meat Puppets-ish noodling. Lots of bands were making the heavy, psychedelic fuzz in those days. “It’s only the clippings/never the whole page/it’s always been/one of those days” is a catchy lyric, too, in the way it is presented here.

“Circles” kicks in the Pacific Northwest garage punk thing. It’s just under three-minutes of pure id before the ego and superego of “Putrid.” The lyrics are great on “Putrid,” and I’ve always thought they were a bit different than they actually are, but both versions (mine and the real one) are cool.

“Blistered” makes you think Hater was definitely listening to the Meat Puppets. It’s a countrified bit of rambling that could have easily been a Puppets song, but it’s a Billy “Edd” Wheeler song. Now I wonder if the Puppets ever covered one of his songs. I’ll have to ask.

The album ends with a song called “Sad McBain.” From a guitar standpoint, it’s a ripper. I’m super curious if they came up with the name and the lyrics because McBain ripped so hard on this riff.

Hater is one of those “time capsule” records. It is a great example of what was happening in a certain time and place. I was today years old when I discovered there is a second Hater record. Maybe it will become a favorite, too.

March 2024: Welcome
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Sometimes you get to a party or a show a little late. I don’t know how many times I’ve snoozed on things only to regret it later. Whether it was not going to see Nirvana at the Mason Jar or Flipper in Berkeley when I was sitting in my car outside the club wondering if I should go in. There have been lots of bands over the years that I made my mind up about because of one thing or another only to realize that I was dead wrong. This is one of those stories.

For years, my buddy Eric would tell me that Toadies were coming to Phoenix to play a show and that I should go with him. He’d say how great they were live and I’d sort of poo poo him and say, “Oh, no. I don’t really dig them.” I mean, I did kinda like the song, “Possum Kingdom,” but I figured them for one hit wonders without any real evidence to back it up other than my own misguided notion that the rest of their songs would be worse.

My dumb brain reasoned with me that there was no way they could have a better song than “Possum Kingdom.” It’s a really good song, true, and I like it a lot, but it’s not even the best song on Rubberneck. Dumb, dumb brain.

Rubberneck, for one thing, is a pretty rad debut record (what is it with this week? Totally unplanned). When I finally broke down and listened to it, I was blown away. In 2015, I got the opportunity to interview Vaden Todd Lewis, the main songwriter for Toadies. I wanted to do it because my better half (celebrating a birthday today) is also a big Toadies fan, so I figured I would do the interview and take her to the show.

What I learned before I did the interview, though, as I was prepping is that I fucking love the Toadies. I was now super stoked to talk to Lewis and the conversation was great. We went to the show, and it was great, too. Much to my crow-eating chagrin, I was now a fan.

Over the last decade (well, almost), Rubberneck has become a go to record for me. I really love several of their other ones, too, and one I will definitely write about at least one more at some point this year, but I keep going back to their 1994 debut. It kills me that I could have been enjoying this record for about 20 more years than I have been.

One of the things I love about them is the Texas sound. It oozes from them. Instrumental opener “Mexican Hairless” is like the bastard son of Reverend Horton Heat and the Butthole Surfers until Lewis’ vocals kick in when “Mister Love” starts up as track one becomes track two. He’s got his own unique and killer style, so the comparisons stop there.

“Are you gonna save me? You gonna make me happy? Can you save me? Tell me, mister!”

There is a lot of religious commentary in Toadies music. Lewis and I talked about this a lot in our two conversations. I liked writing about the band so much I made sure and got to do it again. I even got Rhondi and I a meet and greet, but she had to dip out. Either way, Lewis and his bandmates are totally righteous dudes who rock out. “Mister Love” is just the tip of the iceberg, too.

“Backslider” is like riding a rollercoaster. It has all the twists and turns, big drops, suspense, and loop-de-loops. I love it. Personally, this one is better than “Possum Kingdom,” although I know why the fourth track got all the radio play.

My dumb brain is full of regrets. There are no weak moments on Rubberneck. “Possum Kingdom” really is a good song, as mentioned, but it’s like the fourth best song on the record. The lyrics are great and catchy and make you want to sing along. Musically, it’s right there in that perfect radio song pocket, but for straight up rockin’, I’ll get to the good stuff soon.

“Quitter” is another one of those kind of twisted Texas riffs at first and then kicks in on a high gear that borrows a little from the Cobain school of big build up riffs. Lisa Umbarger’s bass has some Krist Novoselic things going on, but who cares? More bands should borrow from Nirvana. Drummer Mark Reznicek kinda steals “Quitter,” too, like he does every song at some point.

This includes “Away.” Reznicek’s beats are bad ass and I know why Eric, who is also a kick ass drummer, appreciates them. I like “Away” more than “Possum Kingdom,” too. I know this as I sit here typing this and have to take a quick headbanging break around the two-minute mark.

My favorite song on the record, and maybe my favorite Toadies’ song, though, is “I Come from the Water.” It is one of those perfect songs. They don’t happen very often, but there is nothing I would change about “I Come from the Water.” It’s pure roadhouse rock and roll and Umbarger and Reznicek are sofa king locked in. They allow Lewis and lead guitarist Darrel Herbert to just do their thing. God damn…I want to cover this song so badly right now.

As far as I’m concerned, Toadies could have just taken a big shit in the studio after “I Come from the Water” and I would still love this record, but “Tyler” is another great song. Killer bass line and the song just sort coils and coils up like a snake waiting to strike. When it finally does, the payoff is pure, simple, and satisfying. Reznicek lays down this wonderful drum beat, and the guitar disintegrates into this serpentine riff over Umbarger’s steady Eddie bass line.

You know, Lewis writes these great songs that build into such satisfying endings. It’s really a thing of beauty. “Happy Face” keeps the party going with a bit of Pearl Jam-ish guitar work. Like the Hater album I wrote about yesterday, there is definitely a little groove/grunge thing going here that those Pearl Jam guys really perfected over their first couple records.

“Velvet” has a big bass line that I like and have done my own versions a lot over the years. I am relieved to say I didn’t steal them because I hadn’t heard this record in those days, but maybe Umbarger and I were stealing from the same store. Bass playing riff lifters unite!

“I Burn” is the last song. I love that it kind of foreshadows their Heretics record a bit with the acoustic guitar. I’ve been trying to avoid giving away the other Toadies’ record I am definitely going to write about, but “I Burn” reminded me of why I love Heretics, too. Vaden Tood Lewis writes lyrics that take the piss out organized religion, specifically revivalist Christian sects, better than anyone. “I Burn” is a great example.

The Toadies rule and Rubberneck is a great record. Happy birthday, babe. Thanks for making me see the light.

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March 2024: Welcome
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Easily one of the best punk rock compilations, Hell Comes to Your House was one of those records that eluded me for a long time. I heard it for the first time in 1985, I think, and I wanted a copy of my own so badly. At one point a year or so later, I did manage to get a cassette copy from someone and that was quickly absconded with after a party.

For years, I thought I was destined to not have one of my own and then I found it on CD.

That wasn’t ever really good enough, though. It wasn’t until about five or six years ago that my friend, John, gave me a copy on vinyl and I felt like my record collection had inched incrementally toward, if not completeness, then true coolness.

Social Distortion starts the party off with “Lude Boy” and an early version of “Telling Them.” I think it might be one of the few places you could hear “Lude Boy” for a long time. It’s one of my favorite Social D songs. I also like the slightly raw and grittier version of “Telling Them” here, too. The vocals are not quite perfected and Mike Ness’ voice wavers a bit here and there in a perfectly imperfect way.

Legal Weapon’s “Daddy’s Gone Mad” is up third. It’s a fine punk rock song. I’ve never seen Legal Weapon, but I kind of wish I had. They were scorching on this song. The lead guitar on “Daddy’s Gone Mad” just oozes SoCal punk rock.

As a tried-and-true fan of Redd Kross, it’s easy to admit that “Puss ‘n’ Boots” is not their best effort, but it is a quintessential piece of the band’s illustrious lore. I’m a Neurotica guy at heart, but I do have a lot of love for the early stuff. “Puss ‘n’ Boots” is a lot of fun, that’s for sure.

“Out of My Head” by Modern Warfare is another great song. I don’t know much about the band, but I’ve always liked how this track restored the manic punk energy to the record that Redd Kross failed to bring. This was probably by design, on both accounts. Modern Warfare sounds like it was an East LA-style band, but I guess they were from Long Beach. “Street Fightin’ Man” is not what you think it’s going to be, but it’s fucking awesome.

The two Secret Hate songs are pretty fucking boss, as well. “Deception” starts off with some drums that sound like they were recorded in a closet, but once the guitars kick in, it matters not. Another Long Beach band that just slays. I bet they were good live in 1981. “New Routine/Suicide” is a pretty evil little mindfucker, too. The beginning of that one has made me feel uncomfortable in a great way for almost forty years now. When the “Suicide” part of the song kicks in, it really blasts off.

“Suburban Bitch” by the Conservatives is pretty meh compared to the rest of the record, but maybe because the chorus is kind of lacking. Great riff, though. This album really had a great feel to it. “Just Cuz/Nervous” is a much better track, in my opinion, especially when “Nervous” gets going. I love that riff.

To me, the style of this record is as punk as anything else I will write about (or have written about) this year. Hell Comes to Your House is just a great punk rock record. I used to love it when someone would play this at a party. Such a great soundtrack to a good time.

Side Two starts off with threesome of 45 Grave’s coolest songs: “Evil,” “Concerned Citizen,” and “45 Grave.” The middle one, “Concerned Citizen” started off as a Consumers song, but I didn’t know that for the first decade or more that I listened to it. Man, I loved 45 Grave something fierce in my teenage years. Nod to EAC.

This was the first place I heard Christian Death, too. “Dogs” is not their best song, but it’s a great one for this comp and keeps the flow of the second side going really well. I was definitely intrigued by this one and when I met Michael S., I was easily converted to being a Christian Death fan. Slow, creepy, and psychedelic in a shermy kind of way, “Dogs” is tasty.

Probably my two favorite tracks on Hell Comes to Your House come after Christian Death does their thing. “Reject Yourself” flows so well out of “Dogs” that whoever decided on the track list for the comp deserves a pat on the back. 100 Flowers (or Urinals) kind of sound like they are doing weird for weird’s sake here, but they pull it off. “Reject yourself and your family of ideals,” is a great line.

“Marry It” by Rhino 39 is just about perfect. It sounds like it is sloppy, but it is not. It is some top notch playing. We briefly tossed around the idea of covering it in The Father Figures, but alas, we gave up. I love the use of the delay pedal here. It might be just some really heavy echoplex. Whatever it is, it sounds great. The outro of “Marry It” is the bombfuckingdiggity.

Super Heroines close out Hell Comes to Your House with two more great death punk songs. I always thought Super Heroines were overlooked, but I think maybe that’s only because I wasn’t friends with too many hardcore death punkers. From what I’ve learned over the years, they are seen as being pretty legendary. “Death on the Elevator” is a really fun song, but “Embalmed Love” is the real deal. I’m glad they picked this one to close things out.

Some people swear by Hell Comes to Your House II, but I’ll take the first one every day. I’m more of a death punk guy than a cow punk guy, but I do love the Joneses and Tex and the Horseheads always kind of fascinated me, but I digress.

March 2024: Welcome
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From the moment I first heard Sex Pistols, I loved them. I had heard of them way before I actually heard them. Go figure. If it weren’t for the Sex Pistols, though, there probably wouldn’t have been a Public Image Ltd., and I would have had to find another band to champion for several years of my life.

There is a lot of great PiL music. Today, though, I’m going to start with 1987’s Happy?. Why start here? Why not? If I have learned anything from John Lydon over the years, it is to do what you want when you want to do it. Over the course of this exploration of my musical history, I will write about multiple PiL records.

Happy? came out the day before I was originally supposed to leave for the Army. I didn’t know there was a new PiL record coming out at the time, but I learned of it after I got kicked out and got home. “Seattle” is the first song on the record and was an instant new favorite for me. I’ve never considered what my top 5 PiL songs are, but “Seattle” would definitely have a shot at it and for sure is in my top 10.

As with most PiL music, the lyrics seal the deal. “Don’t like the look of this old town/what goes up must come down/character is lost and found/on unfamiliar playing ground” is a great opening line, but I’ve always loved “The ordinary will ignore/whatever they cannot explain/as if nothing ever happened/and everything remained the same again.”

I’ve read that the song is about a gig in Seattle with Green River from 1985 or 1986 where things didn’t go well, and the crowd turned on PiL. This kind of tracks as I can see how the Green River guys (who later became Mudhoney and Pearl Jam members) might have egged on the crowd a bit, but having seen PiL in 1986, they were firing on all cylinders. The band Lydon put together for the Album tour was scorching.

Regardless of what “Seattle” is truly about, the song is great. It’s almost got a whole dance vibe going on while still being a terrific piece of post-punk music. PiL doesn’t get enough credit for being a vanguard for the post-punk genre. At the time, people were kind of critical of much of Happy?, but I don’t know that I’ve ever heard anyone out and out diss “Seattle.”

I happen to love track two, as well. “Rules and Regulations” is such a typical PiL song. The combination of John McGeoch (Magazine/Siouxsie) and Lu Edmonds (Damned/Mekons) was a double-backed beast on guitar. I met the late John McGeoch outside of Mesa Amphitheatre once and he was a total sweetheart. I was young enough to be a bit starstruck, but he was patient and super kind. He was also a ripper on those later 80s PiL records. I think Lu Edmonds’ keyboard work on “Rules and Regulations” is pretty rad, too. Mr. Lydon’s in fine form, vocally, too. Between Album and Happy? he really found his stride and confidence, for sure.

“The Body” starts off with some excellent drums from Bruce Smith. He was a member of Pop Group, so the guy is pretty darn great. Smith and Allan Dias completed a great rhythm section on Happy? and they really stand out on “The Body.” I have wondered many times about John Lydon’s personal history with abortion. I read his autobiographies, but I don’t remember any big revelations. He certainly has brought it up a few times in his lyrics, and he mentions it again in this song.

“Save Me” is a big, over the top post-pop song. There is, like on several other tracks, some pretty great female backing vocals. They really work on “Save Me.” I also dig how the song totally sounds like some of the other popular alternative music of the day. In the beginning, before the vocals start, it could almost be a Depeche Mode or New Order riff.

Allan Dias creates a really cool feel on “Hard Times” with his bass line. Outside of “Seattle,” the bass line on “Hard Times” is probably my favorite on the record. One of the guitar players is also doing a cool baritone thing in the background, too. Probably Lu Edmonds, but who the fuck knows or cares.

“Open and Revolving” is a big nod to the ’82 to ’84 era PiL. A bit disco-ish and it moves nicely. One of the things that separates it is the huge, lush guitar part that helps the song swell up before each verse. McGeoch does a really cool little riff that is cleverly hidden in the right channel, too. I love it.

While Happy? is only eight songs, it’s definitely still substantial. Even in its utter simplicity “Angry” is a song that I really like. Lydon is ranting about conformity and saying how someone makes him angry, but the band makes it way more interesting. Dias and Smith’s rhythm section steps up again.

“Fat Chance Hotel” is another underrated PiL song. Dias is fully channeling Jah Wobble here with a big, fat reggae-ish bass line. The song could have easily been on 2nd Edition. I used to listen to this song a lot in the early 90s. Takes me right back to being in my early 20s and feeling like I didn’t have much to contribute to anything. For some reason, this song made me feel better.

Still does. It’s a bit hopeful due to the music. Again, Dias’ bassline is reminiscent of some of my favorite PiL basslines.

March 2024: Welcome
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It is only by chance that the 70th record was from 1970. I don’t plan these things, really. It’s just the way it worked out.

This is the first Doors record to be released after I was born. It’s almost as old as I am. In fact, it wasn’t even recorded until after I was born, so by some weird cosmic sense, maybe I have a hand in it somewhere. I mean, my dad was and still is a huge Doors fan. I probably know more of Jim Morrison’s lyrics by heart than just about any other lyricist because I heard them a lot when I was young. I’m not complaining.

Even in high school, in the midst of my punkest years, I still went through a pretty heavy Doors phase and even had a concho belt. I remember having to give it up as collateral during math class one day because I didn’t have a pencil and that teacher didn’t give you a pencil unless you gave them something of yours.

That moment was a bit of a nightmare because I was frying pretty damn hard and the noise from the silver belt kinda set the LSD off in my brain like a bunch of firecrackers. I think I kept it together pretty well. I aced the algebra test, but I didn’t make a habit of taking tests on drugs.

Morrison Hotel starts off with “Roadhouse Blues” on the “Hard Rock Café” side (side A) and it is an absolutely classic song. Robby Krieger’s guitar and Ray Manzarek’s tack piano riffage are unforgettable. I instantly perk up when I hear the opening notes of the song. “Do it Robby, do it!” could easily be, “Do it Lonnie, do it,” as Lonnie Mack played the bass on the song, but no matter what, it’s one of my favorite songs.

As the album continues, there is a bit of a lull with “Waiting for the Sun” and “You Make Me Real.” They aren’t bad songs, but they aren’t my favorites. If I had to choose one to listen to, it would definitely be the former. Krieger is a bad ass on “Waiting for the Sun,” too, but the verses drag for me.

“You Make Me Real” is kinda fun, I suppose, but there is something about the lyrics that are kind of basic. Ray Neopolitan is playing a pretty cool bassline in the song. I wonder what they did for this one live or even if they played it in their sets in those days. Morrison was pretty much in trouble with the law a lot in those days, so it might never have been played live.

“Peace Frog” is another favorite of mine. It spoke to me pretty loudly back in the 80s and still does. It’s groovy and pissed off and the lyrics are full of venom. Morrison’s use of blood imagery is powerful, especially when you consider what was going on in the news in those days. I can’t leave it, though, without reiterating the groove. It’s fucking jivey and I love it. When I DJ I often play it and it pisses me off if people don’t recognize the groove in the song.

“Blue Sunday” is one of those Doors-y ballads that works because of Morrison’s baritone and it’s short and sweet. Krieger and Manzarek had such a nice connection and drummer John Densmore rarely, if ever, overplayed a song. Case in point, “Ship of Fools” really swings because of Densmore.

Side two is the “Morrison Hotel” side. I used to avoid this side, but the older I get, the more I like it. “Land Ho!” is kind of a fun song and once again, Robbie Krieger shines. I have to believe he enjoyed playing his parts a lot. They are kind of feisty and kind of fun.

“The Spy” has this bluesy, lounge thing going on. It’s pretty fantastic. Seems like it would be a good song for a driving scene in a movie. Maybe it will make it into a story one of these days. I kinda love it.

“Queen of the Highway” is kind of meh, to be honest. There is a thing about the Doors that I go back and forth on when I listen to them. It’s the whole self-cannibalization thing. They do it a lot. “Indian Summer” totally feels like a mellow excerpt from “The End.”

At least “Maggie M’Gill” is a good ender. It’s got the whole stomping blues kind of thing going on and Morrison is sounding pretty dark and ominous. I’ve always wondered about “Tangie Town.” I did a cursory search on it by looking at that song meaning site, but it didn’t mention it. Sometimes it is better just leave things alone.

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March 2024: About Me




For my birthday about ten years ago, maybe a little less, we went down to Tucson with our lovely friends, the S’s, and saw Neurosis at the Rialto Theater. Beforehand, there was an amazing meal at Café Poca Cosa (RIP), then a loaded Nutter Butter that Rhondi and I shared.

We probably should have shared half of that cookie, to be honest. It kicked in about the time Neurosis came on stage. For once, I was grateful they didn’t have their incredible wall of images behind them. They came out and just rocked ferociously in a stark white light. At one point, Rhondi said to me, “These guys are like Viking rock.”

You know, there is something brutal and powerful about Neurosis. I can’t remember when I got turned onto them. It was the early 90s, I know that. I kept hearing about how powerful they were live, and it was the truth.

I haven’t been intimidated by many bands over the years, but Neurosis was definitely one of the ones where I thought to myself a couple of times, “these guys are serious.” It’s kind of like that scene in Cable Guy where Andy Dick tells Matthew Broderick, “Get on the freaking horse. I don’t think he’s kidding.” Neurosis brought the rock every time I saw them.

Enemy of the Sun is the first record by Neurosis that I bought. It’s their fourth record out of about a dozen, I think. I haven’t kept up with much of their more recent stuff, but I certainly grew to appreciate the first few records, especially The Word As Law.

What I initially loved about Enemy of the Sun is how much is going on in the record. It’s heavy and powerful, but it also has some really pretty parts. These guys were playing on a different field than most of their peers. There is a ton of thought behind this record.

“Lost” is the opener and it is a masterclass in the creepy build up. There are some great samples at the start from the film, The Sheltering Sky, and it just grows and expands from there. I was listening to a lot of dark, heavy music in the early 90s, but this one was the champ for me for a while.

As “Lost” fades into “Raze the Stray,” the band starts implementing a larger variety of both sounds and voices. If you listen closely, there are probably five or six different vocal tracks going on, for example, and bassist Dave Edwardson, gets some really gnarly blasts of cookie monster style vocals in there. Typically, this type of vocal gets old for me fast, but when it is used correctly, it’s pretty darn great. The vocal line over the end is fantastic, too. Not sure who sang it, but it’s a nice little bit of ribbons and bows that ties the song up nicely.

“Burning Flesh in Year of Pig” starts off with a visual that you won’t quickly forget. As great as Scott Kelly, Steve Von Till, and Edwardson are in this band, the two really unsung members of Neurosis are Simon McIlroy (keyboards/samples/etc), and drummer, Jason Roeder. I believe Enemy of the Sun is the last album that McIlroy is on with the band, but Roeder is a fucking beast. The dude plays tribal beats as well as anyone.

Case in point, “Burning Flesh…” is instrumental other than McIlroy’s tape of a man describing a Buddhist monk in an act of self-immolation and Roeder just takes over. When “Cold Ascending” kicks in, Roeder is still firmly in command. These words could be written about every song on this record, though.

The last four tracks are a combined forty-eight minutes in length. “Lexicon” kicks off the onslaught. It’s kind of a nightmare that came to life in the form of a song. Not one that you’d want to be sitting alone in a dark room listening to while under the influence of just about any drug. It’s dark and heavy and serious and the longer it goes, the more fucked up it gets.

I have to imagine that these guys were buddies with or involved in the making of the Faxed Head stuff, somehow, after listening to “Lexicon.” It’s got a lot of similar things going on to that side project of Trey Spruance. They are all Bay Area peeps, so paths surely were crossed.

The title track, “Enemy of the Sun” is a favorite of mine. It’s got this whole slow burn thing going on in the beginning where you can feel the tension mounting more and more as time goes on. Of course, when it kicks in, it’s full-on Viking metal. I can see Vikings pouring out of a longship and just murdering anyone brave enough to get in their way.

“Enemy of the Sun” just comes in, wave after wave, of heavy anger. It’s a simplistic riffi in a lot of ways for the meat of the song, but Roeder starts driving it home around the 4:45 mark and the call and response vocals with a Valkyrie cry from the sampler is just great.

“The Time of the Beasts” is a bit of space filler here, but still good. I don’t think the album would have been any less loved by myself or other if it wasn’t there. “Cleanse,” though, goes on and on for a long fucking time. It’s a suitable closer for a powerful record and completely built around some excellent tribal drums and noises. I’ve always been a sucker for good tribal drums. There is even a little bit of didgeridoo going on in there at times but I’m guessing that was just a sample from McIlroy.

Enemy of the Sun was a good introduction into the recorded work of Neurosis for me. It seems that everyone I have ever talked to about the band has a different favorite record by them. This is the sign of a damn good band. While not for everyone, if you are in the mood for something heavy and dark, this one will do the trick.

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March 2024: Welcome
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My friend, KJ, hipped me to Peggy Lee in 1990 or so. I’m sure I was familiar with some of her work, but KJ put “I Don’t Know Enough About You” on a mixed tape she sent me from college. I fell in love with the song and started searching for a CD with it on there. Eventually I found a copy of The Capitol Collector Series Vol. 1: The Early Years and picked it up.

A few years later, I took a music appreciation course at Arizona State University (previously mentioned and highly influential on expanding my record collection) and learned quite a bit about Ms. Lee during the class. She was quite the lady.

My appreciation for The Capitol Collector Series Vol. 1: The Early Years only grew after learning more about Peggy Lee. What I love about her style is just how smooth she was while writing quite a bit of her own lyrics and being active in the arranging of her music, too. Lee was terrifically talented and did a fair amount of acting. She was even nominated for an Academy Award for her role in Pete Kelly’s Blues.

This collection spans her early years at Capitol Records. In addition to her outstanding vocal work, there is some top notch playing happening here, too. Of the first six tracks, “I Don’t Know Enough About You” and “It’s A Good Day” are my favorites. Lee wrote the lyrics for both of these songs, so I must be partial to her work.

“Everything’s Movin’ Too Fast” is another great track here. Who ever is playing the clarinet is great on the song, as is the bass. It’s catchy and just moves along. I can see how people would have dug this one back in the day. As the CD goes on, there are a lot of fun moments, as well as some tear jerkers, too.

On the lighter side, “Chi-Baba, Chi-baba (My Bambino Go To Sleep)” is pretty delightful. The guitar work is deft, and I wish I could give credit to whoever’s nimble fingers played the lead. There are extensive (and pretty great) liner notes that came with the CD, but the players are not listed, unfortunately. It could be Dave Barbour, but he’s not listed here like he is on other songs.

Barbour and Lee were married for just a little less than a decade, so their pairing was one prominently featured on The Capitol Collector Series Vol. 1: The Early Years. The things you pick up over the years when you check out some of your favorite artists. If I could only remember more important things like where I put my vitamins.

The arrangement of “Golden Earrings” is pretty great on this record, too. Peggy Lee certainly made that song her own. I’m quite fond of “Mañana (Is Soon Enough For Me),” too. It’s a fun arrangement and moves at a pretty brisk pace. It would probably get cancelled today for Lee’s faux Latin accent, but considering the time, I don’t think it was an indication that anyone was an asshole or racist.

Sometimes you have to just look at something for what it was at the time. I struggle with the whole “Separating the art from the artist” thing sometimes. I judge differently, I suppose, depending on who it is and how much I love their art. I certainly can’t vilify Lee here for a fun song like “Mañana.”

There’s a lot of standard fare until you get down to track 15 which is “Why Don’t You Do Right (Get Me Some Money Too).” This is a fun one, as well. Joe McCoy’s tune has been done by a lot of people, but I like Peggy Lee’s version the best. Records like this make me wish I had one of those time machines. Seeing Peggy Lee in her prime would have been rad.

As I sit here and listen to Peggy Lee: The Capitol Collector Series Vol. 1: The Early Years, I am reminded by just how much good music is out there. I’m not always in the mood for a record like this, but when I am, I’m very glad I have it. I’ve picked up a few of her older records on vinyl over the years, too, and I like playing them now and again.

There are 25 tracks on The Capitol Collector Series Vol. 1: The Early Years, and all of them are great. Towards the end, Lee sings a few Rodgers and Hammerstein classics like “Bali Ha’I” and “I’m Gonna Wash That Man Right Outta My Hair.” The latter is a stand out track, for sure. It’s big and bouncy, just like it should be.

Lee’s take on “Ghost Riders in the Sky” is pretty rad, too. She even has a duet with Mel Tormé (“The Old Master Painter”) that’s pretty great. Tormé’s Mellomen were so good. They provide some fantastic backing vocals. Whoever played piano on this one was excellent, as well.

“Show Me The Way To Get Out Of This World (‘Cause That’s Where Everything Is)” is a great way to end this collection. The arrangement allows Lee to shine and gives all the players a chance to showcase themselves as well. I almost started to write that “someday I’ll find out” who these people were, but I won’t. Just enjoy some Peggy Lee before you die, though, please. You’ll thank me later on the other side.

March 2024: Welcome
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When The Father Figures got started in 2009, we picked a few covers that we wanted to jam on during our initial practices. One of those was “That’s When I Reach For My Revolver” by Mission of Burma. I’d been a fan of the song for a while and as the band was forming, their EP, Signals, Calls, and Marches from 1981 was a key guidepost for how I wanted The Father Figures to sound.

As I think about this EP today, I realize that it was guiding me way more than I thought in those early days of the band. We only messed around with “…Revolver” a few times before concentrating on songs the three of us had written, but it was fun to play and every once in a while, in those early years, one of us (usually me) would bring up the idea of revisiting it.

I have the 1997 Rykodisc version of this record on CD which has two bonus tracks, but even with those, it’s just short of a half an hour long. Short, sweet, to the point… Signals, Calls, and Marches represents a couple of things for me. It’s one of the finest pieces of American post-punk music there is and it also represents the Boston sound about as well as any band does.

As much as I love the Phoenix sound, I think the Boston sound might be my second favorite “city sound.” Bands like Mission of Burma, The Freeze (and the This is Boston comp bands), The Modern Lovers, The Cars, The Proletariat, and Pixies are all favorites of mine. If you add in some of the other New England bands like Dinosaur Jr. and Sebadoh, you have the makings of a dynamite festival. I’m sure I’m forgetting some heavy hitters.

Mission of Burma is right there for me, though, and Signals, Calls, and Marches is just a fantastic record. One of the other really cool things about it is that the best-known song from it, the aforementioned “That’s When I Reach For My Revolver,” is probably the least interesting song on the record and it’s still a great song.

On bass, “…Revolver” is really fun to play. I think that was part of the reason that I kept bringing it up over the years. If you listen to some of my bass lines, they are definitely influenced by the school of Clint Conley. He wrote this song, so that might be another reason why like to play it. The lyrics are great, too, though and it’s a powerful song.

“Outlaw” is noisy and disjointed in all the right ways. It’s got a bit of DEVO in the guitar and bass interplay. The dynamic that Conley, Roger Miller (guitar), and Peter Prescott (drums) created was so good. There was another dude, Martin Swope, who is credited with loops and percussion on the record, but I’ve never learned too much about him. I’d be curious to know what he was up to, especially since you typically only see pictures of them as a three-piece in those days. “Outlaw” is so great, though.

“Fame and Fortune” has a really anthemic quality like “…Revolver,” too. It’s another thing I admire about Mission of Burma. These guys really knew how to create a killer dynamic in a tight package. I can see why they are influential to many of my other faves including Fugazi. “Fame and Fortune” has a nice little decay part that starts to build up with the line, “The beginning, at the ending” before going back into the verse/chorus part. Brilliant. Listen to it.

There are a lot of great guitar pyrotechnics on “This Is Not a Photograph.” Miller was really great at coming up with some wild parts. I don’t think he gets enough credit at all. “Red” kind of sounds to me like a lost X song. It has that feel to it, in a way, and I wonder if the guys in Mission of Burma were big fans of theirs back in the day. I think it has some of that sort of indirect love song desperation that X are so good at doing.

All good post-punk bands need to have a killer instrumental on their records and “All World Cowboy Romance” fits the bill here. Sonically, it’s super interesting and allows the band to show off a little bit. It might not be quite as good a song as “…Revolver” come to think of it, but it’s just as interesting. Either way, I dig it.

No, I’m going to change my mind again. “All World Cowboy Romance” is fucking great.

Originally, “Academy Fight Song” and “Max Ernst” were released on a 7” record and not part of the original issues of Signals, Calls, and Marches. The CD I have included these, though, so I am going to discuss them. “Academy Fight Song” is the type of song that I bet people gravitated to a lot in 1980. It’s still great now, but I bet seeing this live in Boston in 1979 was particularly inspirational for a few other Boston musicians. I need to talk to some of my friends who were there in those days.

“Max Ernst” is a song I would have liked to have heard the Jesus Lizard cover. I don’t know why, but I think it would have been great. It’s a bit noisy, maybe, and with the extra muscle the Lizard could have added, it would have been spectacular. There is also darkness here that I like a lot.

Fire up the time machine. Let’s go to Bean Town on a Saturday in 1980.

March 2024: Welcome
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I was saddened to see that Karl Wallinger of World Party died on March 11, 2024. His work with World Party, particularly, but also in The Waterboys, is something that I have taken great comfort from in my lifetime. It reminds me of a very particular time in my life.

In the summer of 1990, I was working at Easy Street a lot. I’d kind made up for the ridiculousness of the Spring and early Summer of 1989 where I would often show up either hung over or high and gotten my act together enough to be a functional part of the Easy Street team. At least that’s how I like to remember it.

One song that was helpful for me in this calming down of spirit was “Way Down Now” from the album Goodbye Jumbo which had come out in April of 1990. When it came on the radio, I would turn it up and sing along while doing my prep or whatever was going on. I even got my Aunt Julie into the band, too.

I went out and bought Goodbye Jumbo (which was quickly followed by a purchase of 1987’s Private Revolution, as well). I was so happy to find out that I really liked the entire record. I mean, “Way Down Now” is my favorite song from it, but that album became a kind of talisman, maybe, or signpost for that summer and fall in my mind.

That was an important time for me. I was getting ready to turn 21 and little did I know it, as 1990 became 1991, I was going to be contemplating my second really big decision to leave Arizona for a while. My two forays into living elsewhere have been decidedly temporary in nature, but the second one was definitely impacted by this particular soundtrack.

Wallinger wrote lyrics that deeply impacted my 20/21-year-old brain. “Way Down Now,” for example, touches on a few of my favorite themes: Television, Hell, Honesty, Oddities.

“Inside my future life, what I see just makes me cry/I’m way down now (x2)/the clocks will all run backwards/All the sheep will have two heads/and Thursday night and Friday/ will be on Tuesday night instead.”

What I was looking for in those days was exactly what Wallinger described in the outro: “Something new/Something true.” It took me a long time to find the “something true” part. I certainly didn’t find it in Berkeley, but at least I had this record to keep me company.

The opener “Is It Too Late” is a bit of a beautiful downer that sounds a little bit like a cross between an INXS intro and something Joe Strummer would have been proud of if he had written it. “When The Rainbow Comes” is another one of those pretty, but dark kind of songs. I guess I needed songs like these in those days.

“Put The Message in the Box” is one that I really like a lot to this day. It’s another Wallinger lyric that I like a lot. “See the world in just one grain of sand/you better take a closer look/don’t let it slip right through your hand.” The chorus is great, too: “Put the message in the box/put the box into the car/drive the car around the world/until you get heard.” Good stuff, for sure, and it’s a really lovely melody.

‘Ain’t Gonna Come Till I’m Ready” has a little ELO thing going on with the bassline that I like a lot. It’s kind of a soul song, really, and Wallinger waltzes on the edge of a falsetto vocal, but he kills it, much in the way Jeff Lynne was able to do on so many ELO records.

To listen to these songs on the day I learned of Wallinger’s death is hard. On one hand, it feels like I’m visiting an old friend, but it’s different now. In those days, I was excited about what he would come up with next. The guy was such a talented artist.

“And I Fell Back Alone” sounds so haunting now. I just wish peace to all his fans and friends and family. It was nice to hear the slightly more upbeat “Take It Up,” but the lyrics are getting me just the same. “I promise you miss/I will do my best today/but somebody keeps trying to make me, trying to make me lose my way/But I believe, oh my darlin’/I believe in you/and I hope when you hear this, you’ll remember what we were sent to do.” The organ work in the outro of “Take It Up” is also pretty damn rad.

“God on My Side” is another beautiful song. It is so lush and hopeful, but in a restrained, utterly English way. “Show Me to the Top” is Wallinger’s take on dance funk and it kind of slays the genre in his super smart way. It’s got a hook, that’s for sure, and the synth parts on it are pretty great. The bass, too, is great. As I listen more, I realize that he was channeling Prince on this one.

There is a little extra bit hiding in “Show Me to the Top” as well. It’s super quiet and oddly placed. I guess I’ll have to look that up. “Love Street” is one that I’ve never really gotten into, but it’s lovely. “Sweet Soul Dream,” however, is one I like a lot. It features a brief backing vocal by Sinéad O'Connor. Wallinger produced some of her stuff, so maybe they were friends in those days. “Sweet Soul Dream” is another great song of his and the lyrics are great. I highly recommend listening to it with the one you love.

“Thank You World” seems a little too fitting right now. I’m just going to leave it right here. Thank you, Karl Wallinger. You helped me.

Get in Touch
March 2024: Welcome
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The world needs good music to chill out to. I hate ending sentences with a preposition, but in this case, I can live with myself. Sometimes I don’t want to hear anyone sing or say anything. I just want to hear music. Sometimes I want to end a sentence with a damn preposition. Fuck Poole and Dryden!

When the world of jazz opened up to me, I went through a period where I was picking up all kinds of stuff to check out. I didn’t talk about it too much because I didn’t know much about it (and, really, still don’t), but I knew (and know) that I like it. There is so much to explore. I’ve only dipped one toe into the jazz ocean.

One of the records I picked up in 1998 was by a band called Medeski Martin & Wood called Combustication. I don’t remember if it was recommended by someone or if I had read about it and it seemed interesting. Either way, I went down to Zia and bought the CD and thought it was great.

The packaging was one of the things that instantly ingratiated the artist to me. It was simple, kind of elegant and an understated fire motif that I liked. I was excited to put it in the CD player. That’s the only format I have it in because I didn’t buy vinyl in 1998.

(By the way, don’t even look at the prices for this vinyl on Discogs. If you are intrigued by this record, start saving pennies now if you want it on wax.)

When “Sugar Craft” starts, prepare to be swept up if you like trippy jazz with hip hop influences. John Medeski is a groovy fucking keyboard player. From the opening minutes of the first song, you will be made well aware of this fact. DJ Logic provides some excellent turntablism, as well. I’m not sure I used that word, “turntablism,” properly but it fits what my brain is trying to say.

After checking, I did seem to use it right. Whew. Turntablism for the win.

Bassist Chris Wood and drummer Billy Martin (not the legendary baseball manager) are both incredible musicians, too. As I listen to them doing their thing, I wish I had the chops to do a project like this, but alas, I do not. The closest I will get is the Living Room Collective, but we will probably not get this jazzy.

“Just Like I Pictured It” is just totally chill. Combustication is one of those perfect records to put on in the background of a party and just let it do its thing to the mood. Wood’s bassline on “Just Like I Pictured It” is pretty awesome, too. As with any good jazz trio, the group takes turns letting each other take the lead and it’s a fine mix.

“Start-Stop” is another great piece of atmospheric hip/hop jazz. I guess, technically, they are kind of acid jazz, but I’ve always kind of avoided that term. I want to think of acid jazz as way more psychedelic, but “Start Stop” would definitely be a nice soundtrack for some hallucinogens. I mean, if I was inclined to do that sort of thing.

DJ Logic and Martin both add some serious badassery to the “Start-Stop.” It would have been rad to see them do this in a small dark club in New York City at the end of the 90s. I bet the wild Y2K vibes would have taken over under the right circumstances. This is a song you could imagine listening to as the world ends.

“Nocturne” starts off with a cool little bass thing by Wood before evolving a kind of a mellow middle eastern groove. It reminds me a little bit of something the Sun City Girls would have either been into or done themselves. When the drums of “Hey-Hee-Hi-Ho” kick in, it almost feels like the band has just been setting this one up with “Nocturne” all along.

This is another sneaky, slippy beat that morphs into something with a serious groove. It reminds me of the background music in the television show, Barney Miller. I love that show and it had some really great, jazzy background music.

Track 6 is “Whatever Happened to Gus” and a guy named Steve Cannon does some spoken word over it. I like it a lot. It’s a bit of a nod to the Beat Generation done in a 1998 kind of way. Dig. Just dig it.

“Latin Shuffle” is exactly what the title suggests. You can get a little hip sway going here and there to it. It leads into a strange cover of Sly and the Family Stone’s “Everyday People.” I was (and still am) a bit let down by this one. As much as these guys are groovy and fun on other parts of this CD, this cover just never takes off.

“Coconut Boogaloo” is a fun one, though, as is “Church of Logic.” DJ Logic is funky and phenomenal on the latter. I’m a fan of DJ Shadow and I’m not really comparing the two, but I forget sometimes how much I like it when someone really goes off on the turntables.

“No Ke Ano Ahiahi” is a cool Hawaiian song that Medeski Martin & Wood turn into something way cooler than it is probably played regularly. It’s slow and elegant. Again, this record is great for background and chilling. It’s starts groovy and the energy switches gears towards the end as if it is trying to slowly decelerate on a long downhill patch of road.

The last track is really two tracks in one. “Hypnotized” and “Combustication” are fused together with a couple minutes of silence in between them. That was the trend in those days…the hidden track. These are both more along the lines of what I would consider “Acid Jazz.” They are weird and funky, but not for everyone.

This isn’t an every day driver for me, but it’s one that I like a lot. If anyone wants to get rid of a vinyl copy for a reasonable amount, hit me up.

March 2024: Welcome
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Another gift from KJ, who I really owe a tremendous debt of gratitude for turning me on to so many bands that were outside of my narrow punk, post-punk, metal, and thrash teenage milieu. The Soft Boys’ Can of Bees has been one of my favorite records for about 35 years, give or take.

This is the record that made me a devout fan of one Robyn Hitchcock. I don’t know what it is about the guy that I love so much. His lyrics are brilliant and thoughtful and hilarious, yes, and his songs are clever and cool with just the right amount angst-y weirdness that I love, but also ultimately catchy as hell. He’s also just a genuinely good dude. I’ve interviewed him twice and I sincerely hope I get to speak to him again.

Hitchcock is the kind of guy that you can text out of the blue with a random question about Bob Dylan and 15 minutes later, you talk for an hour about Highway 61 Revisited and he’s sending you a picture of his wife holding the iconic record in a clever way. This is just another reason why I love him.

When KJ hipped me to Can of Bees, she had no idea what a gift she would be giving me. I thought the opening track, “Give It to the Soft Boys” was fucking brilliant. It’s snarky and cool and kind of hugs and chastised the Beatles at the same time. It always puts me in a good mood, too.

That’s the great thing about Can of Bees for me. It makes me happy. It also makes me want to write groovy, angular psychedelic riffs. Aside from Hitchcock, guitarist Kimberley Rew, percussionist/harmonica dude Jim Melton, violinist Gerry Hale, bassist Andy Metcalfe, and drummer Morris Windsor just play so well together. The songs on this album are so well crafted from a musical/sound standpoint.

Many of them, like “Pig Worker” are slightly lowbrow lyrically, until you really unwrap the Hitchcockian (I hope I am among the first to use that term for Robyn) wit. The thing about “Pig Worker,” though is that the band is just going off on this song. There is a part near the middle where they get locked in on a riff and then sort of take turns going nuts over top of the loop they have created. Crafty stuff for 1979.

Then you switch gears and “Human Music” is just so charming and lovely at its onset. This is another thing I love about Hitchcock. He crafts these songs that have so many different moods all within a few minutes and a handful of chords. “I know your lip was made for kissing/oh baby, when that human music plays, I don’t know why.” It’s romantic, too.

I love every song on Can of Bees unabashedly. One of my faves, though, is “Leppo and the Jooves.” I kick myself for not asking Hitchcock about the origins of this title. At almost 5 and a half minutes, it’s the longest song on the record, but it’s a mover. If Hitchcock demands one thing from his music, it’s groove. I need to steal this bassline and morph into my own. It’s sofa king groovy.

I love the way the band expands on the first or last word of many of the lyric lines. I hear this kind of creativity and fun with the song, and it makes me want to make music. As I mentioned in an earlier review, one of the tenants of many of the great records I love is that they make me want to make music.

“The Rat’s Prayer” feels a bit like the Soft Boys were channeling the Beatles again with a little post-punk feel. When I spoke to Hitchcock the first time, he talked about how he wasn’t much of a fan of punk rock in it’s early days and didn’t want people to see The Soft Boys as a punk band, but a song like “The Rat’s Prayer” is swimming in some of the same waters that a band like The Damned would eventually grow to swim in, too.

In fact, that’s probably one of the things that helped me gravitate to The Soft Boys early on. While they don’t sound alike in a lot of ways, there is a feel thing with them that was similar to The Damned after Brian James left the fold. If only Captain Sensible and Robyn Hitchcock would have made a record together.

“Do the Chisel” has that Captain Sensible thing going on, for sure. I love how the song opens and I could totally see The Damned covering this song. I forget how great this one is because I’m usually so pumped about “Sandra’s Having Her Brains Out” which comes next and is another of my all-time favorite songs. “Do the Chisel” is just solid pop, though, through and through, and while it is primarily instrumental, it’s still catchy as a cold.

“Sandra’s Having Her Brain Out” just slays me. Part of its staying power might be the fact I had a longtime co-worker at Casa named Sandra who I just adored (platonically, of course…we were buddies) and she would occasionally get wound up about something and this song would pop into my head. I played it for her once and I don’t think she saw it in the same way I did.

There is a line in there, “You don’t really need a brain if you’re a girl/they’re like tonsils…they’re more trouble than they’re worth” that probably sealed the deal for her. I don’t think Robyn Hitchcock was a misogynist, though. I think it is more about a specific person than a gender.

The bridge of “Sandra’s Having Her Brain Out” is pretty brilliant, though, and the outro is groovy and catchy and cool. “Larry’s having his mind repaired.” Yep.

“The Return of the Sacred Crab” is typical Hitchcock fun. It’s a little psychedelic, super upbeat, and funny. The band is scorching on this one, as usual, too. Up next is “Cold Turkey” which is a John Lennon cover. It’s a great version of the song and I’m sure Lennon would have approved. I hope he had a chance to listen to it.

The last two tracks are live recordings, “School Dinner Blues” and “Wading Through a Ventilator.” Both are solid and good, clean fun. They show how great these guys were live, even if the recording is not quite the same quality as the previous 9 tracks. The energy is there, though, and “Wading Through a Ventilator” is reminiscent of the same kind of energy that the Toy Dolls showed throughout their career.

It’s easy to see why some people may have wanted to lump The Soft Boys into the world of punk rock, but they weren’t there at all. They were something else completely and because of this, my perspective was allowed to see a much broader horizon.

March 2024: Welcome
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There are too many songs for me to do a song-by-song breakdown of Born Against’s Patriotic Battle Hymns (AKA 9 Patriotic Battle Hymns for Children). I’m sure this has been done if you are truly interested in hearing about every song on it. If you want my opinion, this is one of the most important punk rock records to come out in the 1990s.

This is a compilation of Born Against’s recordings from their short time of being a band and it fucking rules. I never got to see them because I don’t think I knew they existed until after they were already gone. I’ll blame it on grunge music and heavy, noisier bands taking my attention away from punk rock from 1989 to 1993. My bad on that.

I would have loved to have seen these guys play live. I can only imagine the energy they would have brought. I have purposefully avoided looking up videos because I didn’t want to be even more disappointed in myself for not having gone to see them when I had the chance. That’s probably stupid philosophy, but sometimes I take this music stuff way too seriously.

The feeling I get when I listen to Born Against, especially Patriotic Battle Hymns is that I am supposed to take this music seriously. I love bands that take this approach, too. Music is important and life changing, so maybe I am doing my part by keeping my imaginary Born Against show in my head pure.

The first song I do want to mention, though, is “Jock Gestapo.” I was drawn to this one because of the title, of course, as there have been some good songs over the years that bashed on jocks. While I love sports and understand the jock mentality when you are the field, pitch, diamond, or court, I don’t get how it can translate to real life. I assume this is what Sam McPheeters is shouting about here. Honestly, I can’t really understand a lot of the lyrics.

Does this matter? Not to me. I love the energy McPheeters brings and what I can hear and make out, I like it. I also really like the way the band sounds. The guitar riffs are interesting and powerful and all of the different drummers who took part in Born Against recordings are capable and seemingly great. The bass could have been a little louder in the mix on many songs, but that’s okay, too. I can hear it and what it’s doing is good enough for me.

“Murder The Sons Of Bitches” is another one that really gets me going. It’s kind of a cross between the DC sound and Jesus Lizard in a punk rock sort of way. Somehow, I doubt Born Against was listening to a lot of Jesus Lizard, but I could be wrong. it would be a much safer bet that they liked some of the DC bands of the time. This one has a great bass sound, by the way.

“Mt. Dew” is probably one that has made them a few bucks on the pay to play streaming services. The name alone has probably gotten a few people to buy the song. It’s a good one, for sure, and “Footbound & Hobbled” is also bad ass. I’m getting sucked in here, yet again, and talking about all the songs, so…

One of the things I like best about the two Born Against CDs I have (and they are both compilations of various recordings) is that they make me want to play this kind of music. I have done my version of it here and there, but I’d still really like to do a band like this. Just pissed off with something to say, 15-minute sets where I have to be carted off stage on a stretcher because I have absolutely nothing left. This idea is something I occasionally dream about at night.

The last songs I want to mention specifically are the two final songs on Patriotic Battle Hymns. “Born Against Are Fucking Dead” is a brilliant title and having been in a band where people made threats against us, it always hits home. Besides that, the song is manic and frenzied and fucking great.

“A Whopper Of A Tale” has a cool, distorted bass line to start it off with some really choice guitar noise, so instantly, I am in. At just under five minutes long, it is also a “whopper” of a song by the standards set previously on this record. It’s got the extend-intro, too, which I always love. The other thing that is great here is the Phil Donahue samples. I grew up watching Phil on channel 5 in Phoenix, so it’s nice to hear his voice. I wonder if he and Marlo know about this song.

I bet they do and listened to it while they were fucking.

Get in Touch
March 2024: Welcome
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When I saw Dinosaur Jr. open for Jane’s Addiction in 1991, I was already becoming a huge fan. I don’t exactly remember when and where I became aware of the band, which is weird because most bands I really like, I have a distinct memory of “the moment.” With Dinosaur Jr., though, I have no such memory except this one show.

I was getting very impatient on January 28, 1991. I had just returned from Berkeley and was planning on moving in less than two weeks. Things were definitely a bit strained and wonky between Alexa and I. Part of the reason I wanted to move was that I was a total wimp and didn’t know how to break it off with her, but I also didn’t know for sure that was what I wanted.

History, with its usual 20/20 hindsight and penchant for the obvious, proved otherwise, but I needed to see and do different things for a while. I had tickets, though, to see Jane’s and Dino Jr., and by God, I was going to go. I think we went with Brian and someone else, but I can’t remember exactly. For some reason, it seemed like a reasonable thing to drop a tab of acid before the show.

This did not help motivate anyone else to get going and be there in time to see Dinosaur Jr. I was the only devotee at the time, and I was having a hard time convincing my fellow travelers that it was very important not to miss them. Luckily, though, we got to our seats just as the lights were starting to go down and the drugs were really kicking in.

For weeks afterward, you would have had to use a crowbar to pry the opinion away from me that Dinosaur Jr. had blown Jane’s Addiction off the stage. I had seen Jane’s Addiction a good handful of times by this evening and the first of those shows were in a small club, so I was already jaded enough to not want to see them in a big arena.

Dino Jr. was loud. I could feel them, and I was mesmerized. I’m guessing they played for half an hour or so, but it could have been three or fours of my internal clock time. I was ready to leave ASU Activity Center after they were done and had trouble processing that the folks I was with were still interested in seeing the headliners.

I have to imagine the set was mostly made up of songs from their excellent 1991 record, Green Mind. It came out a few weeks later and I picked up a CD copy in Berkeley at Amoeba Records. I proceeded to play the fuck out of it for the next few months.

The tone of Green Mind was perfect for what I was feeling over my brief time in Berkeley. There is a distinctly lonely feeling to Green Mind that, while present in other Dinosaur Jr. recordings, kind of permeates this record. A lot of people I know kind of shit on Green Mind, too, which I don’t understand, just because it didn’t have Lou Barlow (who I adore) on it. I think this is one of the reasons why the record feels so lonely.

J. Mascis is an interesting cat, for sure. I’ve had the distinct pleasure (and I use the term loosely) of interviewing the guy, as well as meeting him backstage after a J. Mascis and the Fog show years ago. He’s got his own thing going on that’s above and beyond his incredible guitar skills. The guy writes great music, but I can’t imagine he is easy to hang with even 50% of the time.

If you want to see a peppy side of him, talk to him about the Meat Puppets. That’ll get him going. I know if I ever get a chance to talk with him again, that’s the direction I’ll go. Luckily, the person who introduced me to Lou Barlow when I met him several years ago was a Meat Puppet (Cris), so I got to get some of the real Lou and not “talking to fans” Lou.

I’ll stop name-dropping now. It’s lame.

Green Mind is my go-to Dinosaur Jr. record still. It’s not the best one, but because it reminds me of a very introspective time in my life, when I listen to it, I can go inward and really feel things. I’m pretty good at avoiding this, but I’m working on being way more present in my life and each moment. As I listen right now, I can feel the progress I’ve made and that’s a cool thing.

Let’s dive in…

“The Wagon” is a great Dino Jr. song. It’s got a great pace and attack. Murph drums on this one (he’s a fantastic interview, by the way) and drives it to heights that the rest of the album never quite reaches. “Baby, why don’t we?” in the chorus is so hooky. Don Fleming from B.A.L.L. (and producer of all the indie dudes and babes we love) adds a neat little backing vocal, too. I’ve seen Dino Jr. play this song a bunch of times and it’s always great live.

I used to always put “Puke + Cry” on mixed tapes for people. I think seeing the name written in my careful scrawl on a cassette tape always sort of pleased me. It’s a good song, too, and lives up to its clever and catchy name. One thing, though, is that I can’t remember ever seeing them play it live.

“Blowin’ It” is one, though, that I have heard them play. It’s kind of a personal one as I can relate to the lyrics a lot. In those days, I didn’t know what to say a lot of the times in my personal relationships, so I often didn’t say anything unless I absolutely had to do so. Talk about “Blowin’ It” but when the song fades right into “I Live for That Look,” you can almost feel hopeful again.

I love “I Live for That Look.” It’s one of my favorite Dinosaur Jr. songs. As with most of them, the guitar is just shredding, but I particularly like the outro lead here. The lyrics are great, too.

The mood of the record shifts dramatically with “Flying Cloud.” Initially, I was a little shocked by this one as it features acoustic guitar. At this point, the J. Mascis acoustic tour and record(s) were a little way off. “Flying Cloud” is a wonderful change of pace, though, and another song about missing out on love.

“How’d You Pin That One of Me” is one of those songs where I sit and think, “He’s playing all the instruments on this. I want to do that.” I’m going to probably be some old, shriveled up shell of a person someday wishing I was able to do this. When I found out what a good drummer Mascis is, I was in even more awe of his musical skills. It must be his incredible ability to focus on one thing at a time.

There is something unequivocally “east coast” about “Water” and “Muck” for some reason to me. With all the time I have spent in New England, I often think I will run into the guys from Dinosaur Jr. out and about. I know they play in Portland, ME on tour, but I have no reason to think they would be hanging out in Maine any other time, but I can hope.

Those two tracks, though, remind me of being out there. Maybe because there is so much water all around when I’m in Maine and, well, there is also “Muck.” Beyond that, though, I enjoy these two softer(ish) songs. “Water” has the really cool, semi-abrasive bridge part and a huge guitar lead about 2/3 of the way through the song.

“Muck” is mellow and kind of gray, like a New England day, I suppose, as is “Thumb.” The use of the mellotron on “Thumb” is pretty cool and adds a nice little bit of flavor to the song. It’s really very pretty. When you dive into the lyrics, you have to wonder if this song is some kind of admission on behalf of Mascis. “There never really is a good time/there’s always nothing much to say/pretty good not doing that fine/getting up most every day.”

Another thing that draws me to Dinosaur Jr. and Green Mind specifically is how expressive the guitar parts are. Mascis has a way of speaking with his guitar that just goes right into me. It’s very soulful and most of the time, very tasteful, too. He’s cranking it out, but he rarely overplays.

“Green Mind” is such a cool song. The lyrics are quite good, and feel is Mascis is contemplating a break up while enjoying some nature time. Maybe “enjoying” is not the best word here. I don’t know if he enjoys a whole lot based on his lyrics on this record.

Green Mind really is a kind of lonely record. I wouldn’t suggest it to anyone who was looking for a pick me up, that’s for sure. It’s a good’un, though, and has stuck with me for over thirty years at this point.

March 2024: Welcome
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I’m a sucker for cheap music. I used to peruse the $3 bins (then they were $5 and I’m guessing they are $7 or $8 now) at Walmart whenever I happened to be in the store. Sometimes, Walmart is a necessity, you know. I’m not a fan of many things about the national chain, but if you need something for your house, you can probably find it there.

It’s odd how you sometimes end up in a Walmart when you are on a trip, too. Not THAT kind of trip, but when you’re traveling. In some towns, a Walmart is a fascinating place to people watch. At the one closest to our house, for example, I used to swear on the fact that there were “theme” days.

Sometimes the theme would be “people with weird things growing on their faces” day. Other days it would be “midget rodeo cowboys.” I know “midget” is not a word that many little people enjoy, but when I was there for that day, it wasn’t taboo yet. Apologies to all little people.

Either way, I have found music in Walmart every so often that I needed to have. Back in 2018, I was digging through the bin one day and found a $5 CD called An Introduction to Gordon Lightfoot. I didn’t necessarily need an introduction to the Canadian singer/songwriter and underrated guitar player. Most people in my age range don’t need that.

Gordon Lightfoot’s music has been a radio staple for my whole life. Sadly, I never got to see him perform live. We had tickets to what was his final tour, but the Phoenix shows were postponed and then, after his death, cancelled.

What I needed that day in Walmart was something new to listen to in my car and the track listing was a bunch of songs that I knew I liked. There are ten tracks on this compilation of his hits on Rhino Records and whoever curated it did a pretty fine job. Sure, there could be a few others or things I would have replaced, but like many CDs I buy, this one didn’t leave my CD player for a long, long time after I bought it.

“If You Could Read My Mind” starts things off. These lyrics haunt me. I don’t know how many times I have had tears rimming my eyes as I have sung along with Lightfoot on this one. It evokes so many things for me and is the kind of song that if you have a tough thought bouncing around in your head as you listen, it is suddenly amplified by 1000.

Please don’t misunderstand, though. It’s a beautiful piece of writing.

“If I could read your mind, love, what a tale your thoughts would tell/just like a paperback novel, the kind the drugstores sells/when you reach the part where the heartaches come/the hero would be me, but heroes often fail/and you won’t read that book again/because the ending’s just too hard to take.”

Those words always get me.

“Summer Side of Life” is up next. This one had to grow on me after buying this CD. I was already a huge fan of “If You Could Read My Mind,” but at first, I had the urge to press the forward button a lot when this one came on. Over time, though, it grew on me. I think, with Gordon Lightfoot, you learn there is lot of layers to the man. This song is about getting older, I think, and seeing the world through eyes that continue to mature and see the mistakes you’ve made.

Tough lessons, for sure, but Lightfoot did not shy away from these things. He strode ride into them and faced the lessons life had in store for him. If you haven’t seen the documentary that came out a few years back, I highly recommend it. It came out in 2019 and it’s called Gordon Lightfoot: If You Could Read My Mind.

“Beautiful” is one of the loveliest love songs I’ve ever heard. I wonder who he wrote it about as he had some tough luck in the love department. One of his girlfriends was the lady who gave John Belushi the shot that killed him, for example. Why people play around with heroin is just beyond me on many levels.

“Sundown” is another one of those songs that I just can’t help but sing along with when it’s on. The song is one of those perfect songs. It just does what it should do. Apparently, Cathy Smith (the Belushi lady) was the inspiration for it. I choose to look past that as a Belushi fan.

“Carefree Highway” is a point of pride, of course, since we live near the actual stretch of road, but according to an article my buddy, Ed, wrote it wasn’t written about our Carefree Highway specifically. That’s ok. It’s a nice song and a nifty guitar riff. People forget that Lightfoot was a really good guitar player. Throughout the record, there are really great riffs that tell me that I would have a lot of work to do if I wanted to cover one of his songs on guitar ever.

“Rainy Day People” is one that has never really grown on me. I have to be honest here. Something about the song just doesn’t jive with me, but I do remember it being on the radio a fair amount when I was young. Maybe it was a song that my mom liked. I don’t know. The one redeeming quality of the song that I enjoy quite a bit is the nice pedal steel guitar on it courtesy of a man named Pee Wee Charles.

The Butthole Surfers do a wicked cover of “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.” I appreciated it before I really got into the original. Lightfoot just kills this song. It’s so freaking bad ass. You just have to listen to it.

I can pretty much live without the rest of this compilation. “Daylight Katy” is kind of a cool sounding song, but it doesn’t do a lot for me. I think it was probably influential to country and Americana bands, though. “The Circle Is Small” is another one that is nice, but I don’t pay it much attention. It sounds a little like easy listening Christian music to me.

The last thing on the CD is “Baby Step Back” which is a good song. I like it just fine, as they say. I probably would have replaced “Daylight Katy” and “The Circle Is Small” with songs like “Gotta Get Away” and “Drifters.” The latter just sounds so Canadian.

I know I need to dive further into the Lightfoot canon. I have picked up a couple things on vinyl, but I have only spun a few of the hits while dj-ing so far. I haven’t just thrown’em on and dove in. One thing is for sure, though, this Introduction CD has certainly been a good companion on many a drive for me in the past six years.

March 2024: Welcome
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“I don’t want a holiday in the sun/I wanna go to the new Belsen.”

Like many of my peers, that was all I needed to hear. I was hooked. When my friend, Kevin, dropped the needle on the record in 1982 or so, I was hooked. I didn’t know what it meant to be a punk or that I could be one, but I knew that I loved the music. It was raw and powerful and made everything else I had been listening to seem kind of tame.

My perspective was changed forever after actually hearing the Sex Pistols, but it wasn’t some sort of instantaneous transformation. Since the only friends I had that were listening to the Sex Pistols were complete hooligans, I was a closet punk for much of the next two years. Finally, though, during my sophomore year in high school, I realized I could join the tribe.

“Dragged on a table in a factory/illegitimate place to be/in a packet in a lavatory/Die little baby screaming.”

If “Holidays in the Sun” opened my ears to punk, “Bodies” showed me what it could truly be. The song is just wrong in so many ways but to people like me, it’s also quite right. Johnny Rotten (AKA John Lydon) sneers his way to infamy in this one, plus it is a straight up punk rock classic. It sounds vital to this day.

“No feelings/No feelings/No feelings for anybody else except for myself/my beautiful self.”

“No Feelings” keeps the party going and played right into the stereotypes that were quickly forming about punk rock in Merry Ol’ England in the mid-1970s. It sounds so tame today. It is kind of like a revved-up Jerry Lee Lewis’ song with distorted guitar instead of piano.

“You’re a liar/You’re a liar/Lie, lie, lie, lie, lie, lie, liar.”

This is probably the single greatest influence on how I write lyrics of any of the songs that I listened to early on. One of the most common themes in my songs, especially in Hillbilly Devilspeak songs, is lying. Outside of this fact, “Liar” is not a song I have given a lot of thought to over the years, but I see you now, song. I see you.

“Eat your heart out on a plastic tray/You don’t do what you want then you’ll fade away/You won’t find me working nine to five/it’s too much fun being alive/I’m using my feet for my human machine/You won’t find me living for the screen/Are you lonely? All needs catered/You got your brains dehydrated.”

As Johnny says, “The problem is you.” This is another favorite of mine. “Problems” has that iconic sneer in spades. I am remiss in not mentioning that the guy who gets very little credit, usually, for the power of the Pistols is Paul Cook. He may not have invented the “punk” drumbeat, but he certainly paved the way for many, many copycats. “Problems” is a perfect example of how he drives a song. The drum performance is not flashy at all but it is propulsive. Well done, Cookie.

“God save the Queen/she’s not a human being/and There’s no future/And England’s dreaming.”

Steve Jones sets the table here along with a more than capable bass line from Glen Matlock. Unfortunately, Matlock doesn’t get any credit on this record. “God Save The Queen” is just pure English punk rock.

“I’m a lazy sod.”

“Seventeen” is all angst and “Fuck you” to anyone over 30. I’m reaching here, but the reference to being 29 in the first line makes me think that Rotten was up to something here with the words. This one is a nice little piece of punk rock history.

“I am an anti-christ/I am an anarchist/Don’t know what I want but I know how to get it/I wanna destroy the passerby.”

“Anarchy in the U.K.” was my favorite song for a long time. It said all the things I wanted to say with its attitude. I couldn’t really identify with the whole “U.K.”-ness of it, but I could certainly feel the sentiment. When you have no real identity to latch onto, one of the only ways to find any recourse is to lash out against everything. It’s beautiful.

“Submission/Submission/Submission/I’m going down, you’re dragging me down/Under the sea.”

The bass line of this song is completely subversive. It makes me feel dirty in a good way. Again, I have to give a nod to Matlock who had to have written it. Jones and Cook just lock in here in what is one of the more overt examples of Cook just slightly overplaying, but it’s so good. Bill Price and Chris Thomas mixed this one perfectly.

“There’s no point in asking you’ll get no reply/oh just remember I don’t decide/I got no reason it’s all too much/you’ll always find us out to lunch.”

Yes, I am “pretty vacant,” too, sometimes. This was the first Sex Pistols riff I learned on guitar. My friend, Chris, taught it to me in 1988. I played that fucker over and over and over. It felt so good to be able to play a Sex Pistols song after over half a decade of trying to decode them in my mind. This is another one that makes me feel a little electricity in my body. It’s not dirty, though. It’s exuberance.

“Think it’s swell playing Max’s Kansas/You’re looking bored and you’re acting flash/With nothing in your gut you better keep your mouth shut/you better keep your mouth shut, you’re in a rut.”

It was much later in my appreciation of this record that I realized “New York” was a diss track. For some reason, I kind of ignored the New York Dolls for a couple of decades. I just couldn’t be bothered to really listen to them. Maybe “New York” brainwashed me. I think it might have.

“Don’t judge a book by the cover/Unless you cover just another/And blind acceptance is a sign/Of stupid fools who stand in line.”

Now this one, I did know it was a diss track even though we didn’t call it that back in the day. “E.M.I.” closed out the American version of the record, which I’ve had in my possession in some form or another (many forms, really) since I first bought it back in 1983 or 84. It was my first punk record and I’ve always loved the little laugh Rotten lets out during this one.

I owe so much to this record. I’ll leave it right there. It probably should have been the last record I wrote about this year, but instead, it is number 80.

March 2024: Welcome




One of the best things a friend can do is share music. This is kind of one of those tales. My best friend in junior high was a dude named Matt. He hosted me for many a sleepover and he was a fan of quite a few bands, but the one I remember him liking the most was the Cars.

Now I liked the Cars a lot, but because of the friendly rivalry that friends sometimes have, I wouldn’t admit back then. I thought the bands I liked were better. It was kind of the same with several friends I had back in those days. I was a budding music snob, but I was blissfully unaware of the term. I would grow to embrace it, though, in a few short years.

When I think of the Cars, though, I think of sitting in Matt’s bedroom and him showing me his new copy of on vinyl. I think we may have giggled a bit about the picture of the pretty girl holding the opaque steering wheel. We also had to be a little late to the party, too, as it wasn’t 1978 at this point. It was more like 1981.

Flash forward to about a decade or so ago, I never owned a Cars record on vinyl, but Rhondi started picking them up. I had a CD, I think, that I got when I signed up for one of those 10 CDs for $1 schemes. I don’t even want to know how much I owe Columbia House. I’m so glad Rhondi added some Cars to our collection.

The Cars is a great record. From the opening riff of “Let the Good Times Roll” to the last notes of “All Mixed Up,” it is perfect example of a new, but great, band flexing its fucking muscles. If you think about it, this is really a rock and roll supergroup.

Ric Ocasek was such a great songwriter and unlikely front man, but he wasn’t alone in, pardon the pun, making the Cars go. When he passed away in 2019, he left behind a huge legacy of great and interesting songs. The Cars were never boring, that’s for sure.

Elliot Easton is an excellent, if underappreciated, guitarist. His leads on are instantly memorable and the guy jammed with a ton of great people over the years. The interplay between his guitar and Ocasek’s is as good as any lead and rhythm guitarists in rock and roll history.

Benjamin Orr was a tremendous lead singer in his own right and a more than capable bass player, although he was not flashy at all. Solid bass players who can sing are flashy enough, in my not so humble opinion. Apparently, he and Ocasek were great friends and met in the 1960s. I had no idea.

Rounding out the band were drummer David Robinson and keyboardist Greg Hawkes. Robinson was a member of The Modern Lovers (with personal fave, Jonathan Richman), and Hawkes’ keyboard work on is another reason the album is so freaking memorable. Hawkes set the standard for how the keyboard could be used in New Wave music in the 80s. Both Hawkes and Robinson, as well as Easton, provided backing vocals, too, which added an extra level to the bands’ refined sound.

It's really impressive to listen to the songs on and think that this was their debut album. These songs are fucking classics, for God’s sake. “Good Times Roll” is as great an opening song as there is, to be honest, and even if you are not a die-hard Cars fan, you can’t help but groove to it at least a little.

When “My Best Friend’s Girl” comes on next, it just feels seamless. Aside from the iconic guitar intro with handclaps, almost everyone can identify with the sentiment of this song. Teenage boys inevitably have some sort of feelings for one of their best friends’ girlfriends at some point and people have been known to go from one friend to another. I’m sure it’s the same for teenage girls. Imagine all the times this was requested at radio stations over the years with the intention of letting somebody’s girlfriend or boyfriend know they were admired and/or missed.

Orr takes over on “Just What I Needed” and there is nothing jarring at all about the change in lead vocals. What a luxury for a band to have two more than capable lead vocalists. I’ve always loved the timing of the intro, too. I don’t know how many times I counted it to make sure it was what I thought I was hearing. Hawkes’ keyboard work on this one is fantastic, too.

“I’m in Touch with Your World” is very DEVO-esque and there’s nothing wrong with that at all. It’s quirky and probably got skipped a lot back in the day by people who wanted to hear “the hits,” but I think it’s great, even with its silly rhymes.

“Don’t Cha Stop” has some killer guitar in it, too. It’s like proto-New Wave if that’s a thing. The Cars were so influential to the California new wave bands of the early 80s. This song could have easily been on the Valley Girl soundtrack if the Cars weren’t too big at the time. Another great contribution by Hawkes and Easton on this one and Robinson’s drums are pretty damn good.

Side Two starts off with another well-known Ocasek classic, “You’re All I’ve Got Tonight” before a trio of Orr songs round out the record. I can remember this one being played on the radio when I was a lot younger and it seemed to be a favorite at junior high dances, too. There is something a little cheesy about it, I have to admit, but not in a bad way.

Orr’s “Bye Bye Love” is a really good song, though. Not cheesy at all and I dig Orr’s bassline here, too. He wrote this one in such a way that he could do interesting stuff when he wasn’t singing (bass player/singer trick) and the song seems a lot more intricate than it really is. The lyrics are great, as well.

“Moving in Stereo” might be my favorite Cars song. This could be a subliminal thing because of its use in the movie, , when Phoebe Cates, well, if you know, you know. Cut me some slack, I was going on 13 when that came out. Anyway, though, “Moving in Stereo” is just a great song. Hawkes’ keyboards are all over this one and the interplay between Orr’s super stripped-down bass and Robinson’s subtle march beat is great. Apparently, it was one of the last songs Nirvana played live, too. I had no idea. Great. Fucking. Song.

The album closes with “All Mixed Up” which, at first, seems like a bit of an anomaly. It has a very different feel than the rest of the album, sounding like this big proggy anthem. It kind of is, too, with the style that Hawkes employs on the keyboards, but then it does rock it up a bit around the halfway point. Whoever adds the baritone backing vocal sounds a bit like Peter Murphy, too. I wonder what a Bauhaus cover of “All Mixed Up” would sound like? Sadly, we’ll never know.

What a great record, though. I should have got a copy back in 6th or 7th grade when I realized I liked it.

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March 2024: About Me




I was in 7th grade in October of 1981. The key things on my mind in those days were things like playing video games, watching movies, and getting into Mr. Casey’s basketball game at lunchtime. I was twelve years old.

Mr. Casey was my science teacher. He was an interesting fellow, to say the least, and could be a bit gruff. My friend, Matt K., was in that class with me and he enjoyed getting Mr. Casey wound up a bit. We were all a little too smart for our own good, I think, or at least we thought so. Mr. Casey was having none of that shit.

Everyday, though, at lunch he would play basketball on the court outside of the portable where his class was located. He would change into basketball clothes, and we would play for 20 minutes or so. I don’t really remember how long the lunch period was for us in those days. It seemed like the games lasted for a long time.

I usually wanted to be on the other team. It was fun to beat a teacher. As I think back, he played with a lot of restraint. He could have easily dominated every game, but he acted more as a facilitator than a superstar. Hopefully he didn’t do it so he could brush up against pubescent boys. I don’t think that was the case at all. He never came off as creepy.

One thing I was oblivious to in those fall days of the year and month I turned 12 was the release of Bauhaus’ second album, . I wouldn’t discover it for another three years, give or take. I was partial to it in a lot of ways, but mostly because I had scored an incredible poster and if you had the poster on your wall, you better know the record.

Mask is a really contemplative record. The band was trying to show they were more than a dark, brooding gimmick with big guitars and a great singer. “Hair of the Dog” sets the tone so nicely. Drummer Kevin Haskins plays this slightly robotic, slightly tribal-ish drum beat with Daniel Ash’s guitar feedback sliding all over it while bassist David J and singer Peter Murphy deliver their parts with sheer economy of movement and pitch.

It’s really brilliant in its manic yet restrained function. “Hair of the Dog” was a song that I didn’t really like when I was 15 or 16 because I didn’t get it. I wanted to be wowed right in my face, not prodded to think and feel slowly. The ability to be both in your face and in your head is one of the reasons Bauhaus were such a great band.

“The Passion of Lovers” is a more ‘classic’ Bauhaus kind of song. It’s very dramatic and there is spooky stuff going on in the background thanks to the addition of keyboards to this record. Where “Hair of the Dog” was cerebral, “The Passion of Lovers” goes right for the groin as the title suggests.

Things start to really blossom (pardon the pun) for me with “Of Lilies and Remains.” It’s weird and disjointed and the spoken word/sing-talk approach is something I love when they employ it. Bauhaus were so good at painting pictures with their lyrics and this song is a fine example of such.

The party continues with “Dancing.” David J’s bassline is quite tasty. Whatever effects they used to get the tone were fucking brilliant. He and Murphy shine on this one, but it’s really the whole band doing their thing that brings it all together.

“Hollow Hills” must’ve been meant to be something of a palate cleanser as it really brings down the mood and pace of the album. Having said that, though, I do enjoy the song. I’ve always liked the gated reverb on Murphy’s vocals. I used to play around with this tone a lot in the early days of Hillbilly. My Alesis Midiverb could make it happen.

Mr. Kevin Haskins plays a mean hi-hat in “Kick in the Eye.” This is another one of those Bauhaus songs where he and David J play the meat of the song and Ash is allowed to just make noise. I love it. Maybe the best song on the record…I don’t know if I can pick just one here, to be honest, but it’s really, really good.

“Ooooh, oooh, oooh, kick in the eye!” Perfection.

David J is again charge as “In Fear of Fear” moves forward, but the saxophone from Ash is also quite righteous. The middle of is just so strong. These songs set the stage for the next few albums so nicely. “In Fear of Fear” is Bauhaus in all their noisy glory.

“Muscle in Plastic” is another forgotten Bauhaus gem. I can’t remember the last time I heard someone talk about it or read something written about it. I don’t think I’m the first person to discuss it, but I probably am today. It makes me wonder about the long-term legacy of Bauhaus, or maybe just this record.

I think history will be relatively kind to the band, but some of their antics in the end might be what many people remember. They cancelled Phoenix the last time and then broke up for good. That kind of sucks, but “Muscle in Plastic” is still weird and great.

Earlier I wrote that I couldn’t pick just one favorite on this record, but I’m changing that to “The Man With X-Ray Eyes.” I forget how much I love this song. It all boils down to Murphy’s harrowing part in the bridge. “I’ve seen too much, wipe away my eyes.” That line just kills me every time and it takes me back to when I first heard the record.

Like many of my peers, Bauhaus was a band that could take me to dark places and also pull me out of them, but not before I wallowed there for a while. That line about “wiping away my eyes” just resonated with me in those days. The 80s were great and terrible and scary and crazy. I wouldn’t want to go back, that’s for sure, unless it was to see a show.

“Mask” is a powerful four and a half minutes. It sums up the record well and let’s the band flex a few muscles before saying farewell until “The Sky’s Gone Out” would come out in 1983.

“The shadow is cast.”

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March 2024: Welcome
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There were lots of times I picked up cassettes, CDs, or records because I had heard good things about a band without ever hearing them. Sometimes you win this gamble and sometimes you lose. Sometimes you even think you lost at first, but really ended up winning. Music is always worth taking a chance on, though, in this book.

One of these “I’ll chance it” CDs is by Beat Happening. Zia Records was having a big sale on Sub Pop stuff, and I got paid on Fridays in the early 90s. I would often go straight to Zia after I left Easy Street and spend $20 or so, but on this particular day, all the Sub Pop CDs were $5.99, so I bought a handful of them.

A lot of the more popular titles were already gone, but I got some good ones and every one of that haul is still in my collection and still gets played. At first, I wasn’t sure what to make of Beat Happening. It wasn’t my favorite from that particular day by far, but there was something about it. stuck with me.

Over the years, I’ve gone back to a lot. It can be quite inspirational when I need to remind myself that good music doesn’t have to be complicated. Keep it simple, stupid, is something that works in all facets of life. keeps things pretty simple.

Beat Happening was a three-piece band in its simplest terms. Vocals, drums, guitar. Calvin Johnson of K Records notoriety played guitar and sang, Heather Lewis played drums, guitar, and sang, and Bret Lunsford played guitar and drums. On you get a chance to hear a bunch of songs sung by both Johnson and Lewis and it’s kind of cool how they go back and forth. Everything else is super simple.

Dreamy is one of those records where I think, “Hey, I could do that” but of course, I never have. It would be really fun to make a really stripped down lo-fi indie rock record, though. I know people who might be into it, too. You never know what will happen. If it does, I’ll thank Beat Happening in the liner notes.

The song that really stuck out to me at first was “Hot Chocolate Boy.” Something about Johnson’s limited baritone range has always been really cool to me. I guess baritone is pretty limited either way, but Johnson keeps his delivery all on the same page and the lyrics are clever and entertaining

I also really like the guitar sound on the song, too. In those early days of owning this CD, “Hot Chocolate Boy” found its way on to a lot of mix tapes and later, CD mixes, for friends. It kind of comes out of left field and I like that in a song.

“Me Untamed,” though, is a cool opener and it flows really well into “Left Behind” which is sung by Lewis. The stark difference between Johnson and Lewis’ vocal style really works for me now. I find myself being pretty stoked when the mood changes between their songs. In fact, “Left Behind” has become one of my favorite tracks on It’s just kind of cool, easy, and free.

“I’ve Lost You” has this big guitar sound that reminds a bit of early Velvet Underground demos when Lou Reed, Sterling Morrison, and John Cale would just layer it on over Mo Tucker’s uber-simple drums (although she was a master at creating a complex rhythm). Now that I think of it, there are a lot of parallels between the Velvets and Beat Happening’s sound.

When Lewis comes back for the awesome “Collide,” the album kind of moves into another gear. I don’t know why I like the song so much, but I do. It’s got this interesting feedback thing going on in the back of the mix and has a bit of the Pixies “loud-quiet-loud” thing, too.

“Nancy Sin” is a fun one. It’s got this straightforward drum beat that is kind of in the front of the mix, so you kind of can’t help but pick up on the beat right away. Johnson’s delivery really sells it, too. “Good girl/bad birl/won’t you be my mentor tonight.”

“Fortune Cookie Prize” is another one of Lewis’ songs. I’m not sure what she’s singing about, to be honest. It might be about a dog or someone she’s got a nice memory of, I have no idea. I just know I like it and the chorus part (“Climb high, climb high/you’re my fortune cookie prize”) slays me.

As the album comes to a close, Beat Happening ends it with a wallop. I look back and wish I would have been in a headspace to appreciate it more when I first got it. “Revolution Come and Gone” sounds like a beat poem set to music. I bet Johnson read his fair share of Jack Kerouac.

“Red Head Walking” is a strong ender, too. It’s short and sweet, characteristically simple, and reminds me of a fully stripped-down Cramps’ song. Imagine the Cramps going lo-fi indie folk and you have “Red Head Walking.”

Who wants to play some stripped-down stuff with me?

March 2024: Welcome




While I love the debut (and self-titled) record by And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead, the first one I bought was . I had seen them on an episode of which was a show on the USA network in either 2000 or 2001 and was blown away. I had to check out a record.

If you aren’t familiar with Trail of Dead, purposefully shortened because I don’t want to write the whole name 20 times in the following paragraphs, there is a lot going on with this band. Their performance on the TV show I mentioned was pure chaos, heavy, and slightly ragged, but also a really cool and great song. Their records are also kind of like this, although they have a real knack for also having these huge, lovely parts of their songs that are lush and beautiful.

As a band, they typify what I hope the end of the world will be like if I am here to see it.

Madonna starts off with pure power. There is a nifty little intro piece that flows into “Mistakes & Regrets.” You just know when the initial guitar part is going to swell into something huge as it goes on for the first 45 seconds or so before the song really kicks in. I’ve seen Trail of Dead referred to as post-hardcore and I guess that is appropriate. It’s also, I guess, heavy indie or power indie? I don’t know.

I just know I like it a lot.

“Mistakes & Regrets” is a wonderful opener, and it has all the elements I spoke of earlier. It’s big but then dissolves into these almost quiet parts that are carried through by a fantastic drum beat. “Totally Natural” comes right in on the heels of its predecessor and just takes it up another notch. Conrad Keely is one of the driving forces behind Trail of Dead and the guy has a serious knack for making super cool shit. These two songs had me hooked from the get-go and I was ready for more.

“The chains lie broken one by one/of the molten sod illusion/of a broken home/of a street fight/It’s a Friday night alone/It’s a bottle warming on the shefl/It’s feeling inches away from death/it’s a street, it’s an icicle/it’s a panic attack, it’s only an act, yeah.”

That ending of “Totally Natural” is amazing and then it does the big rock cliché ending, too. An explosion of guitar and keyboard noise fades into the next song.

“Blight Takes All” has that whole ‘chaotic apocalypse’ thing going on in it. On the one hand, it’s really pretty, then on the other, it sounds kind of hopeless. It’s the tiny, ringing piano part that is layered perfectly in the mix. Keely sounds a bit like Bono if there was still some desperation in the singer/activist. Until now, I never thought about the connection between U2 and Trail of Dead, but it’s there.

I just saw that this record came out the day after my 30th birthday in 1999. It made me wonder what I was doing on that particular day. It was a Tuesday, so I was probably at a school in the Clarendon district as I was doing a program that had me in two schools for the fall semester that year for two days a week each. I was working with 4th graders, too, just like I do now.

That was around the time when one of the boys I worked with was going around asking students at lunch if they wanted to bite his pickle. He would take one of the large pickles they would get at lunch sometimes and hold it up where his penis should be. That was not a lot of fun. He was a piece of work. He’s in his 30s now, though. Imagine what he’s like…

“Clair de Lune” is not a cover of the famous Debussy song, but it’s haunting and beautiful like its namesake. “What good are promises if nobody honors them?” is such a good line. It comes about halfway in and, like “Blight Takes All” there is this really great and subtle piano line that drifts under the whispered line about “promises.” It’s so good.

This record falls into the chasm between records I wish I would have played on and records I’m in love with so I can just appreciate it as a fan. After meeting the dudes briefly a couple years ago when they played Phoenix, I think they’d be all right to hang out with and make some rock and roll music.

There is a slight shift in mood with “Flood of Red” but it has the same sort of swells that make Trail of Dead so great. You can’t get too comfortable with being mellow for too long because a chorus or bridge is going to come along and rock your face off. In this one, it’s a powerful bridge that takes you up a notch before dropping you off a cliff again into a fuzzy indie-rock garden.

As bands like Trail of Dead are wont to do, there are some tracks that are put on to cleanse the palate and fuck with the listener a bit. “Children of the Hydra’s Teeth” is one such odd little instrumental-ish track. There does seem to be a weird little insect-like vocal in the left channel that I can’t quite make out.

“Mark David Chapman” sort of sounds like Sonic Youth and New Order had a baby at first but then morphs back into a Trail of Dead song. It has another cool bridge where the song sort of folds into itself before swelling up to a cool crescendo of feedback laden guitar. Good stuff.

“Up from Redemption” is another space filler that sets up the longest track on “Aged Dolls.” There are some really cool effects on the guitars in the intro of “Aged Dolls.” It’s quite big sounding and then settles down to tell you a story. I love this song a lot.

If the world were to end, I would like for there to be some quiet moments where I could just soak up the moment and experience the love I feel for my wife and children and family of friends. I would want some calm to just appreciate them, if possible, and bathe in the gentle feeling of love. Of course, there would be angst and anger, too, if I wasn’t quite ready to let go.

“Aged Dolls” is a song that sort of some this stuff up for me.

Dig this chorus:

So, I'm sweet on you

I am transparent

So, I'm sweet on you

I am a motherfucking ghost

Haunting. It’s one of those 7-minute songs that doesn’t feel like it is that long. Fucking epic.

“The Day the Air Turned Blue” is a bit of pained piano. Short and not very sweet, but pretty and sad as hell. “A Perfect Teenhood” has a great guitar riff that is super ‘Trail of Dead-y’ and drips punk rock. It’s almost as if the band was like, “you know what, let’s put a total banger on this record right before the end” replete with a dozen “Fuck you’s.”

Jason Reece, the other half of Trail of Dead, is a bad-ass drummer. He’s also a good frontman, too. If I had to bet, I would actually put money on “A Perfect Teenhood” being a song that Keely played drums on, but I can’t seem to find out who did what by looking at two different websites and that is my fucking limit.

“Sigh Your Children” is a bit of a tack on song, at first, but it’s actually quite cool. It’s angsty and one you can sink your teeth into before it morphs into something completely different. There is a hidden track of noise happening here for the last couple minutes. Another one of those, “We do this because we can” things.

This won’t be the only And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead record I write about this year, but it’s probably my favorite. I do reserve the right to change my mind about that.

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March 2024: Welcome
Jon R steel guitar airshow.webp



It’s always a crapshoot when a friend gives you a CD. In this case, it was my friend’s wife. Somewhere around twenty years or so ago, give or take, my friend, Jennifer, gave me a CD her husband had put out on Bloodshot Records out of Chicago. I was already a fan of her husband, Jon, so I knew it was probably really good, but again, you never know.

One of the reasons for this trepidation is, and this has nothing to do with Jon personally or with his professional demeanor, but when I had an affection for people back in the day, it impacted how I heard their music. Many times, I would find myself rocking out to one of my friend’s bands and realize that I might be the only one. I got over this, though.

After I started writing about musicians that I knew, I realized I had to let this go. I had to be way more objective, and it helped me appreciate good music even more. That’s why I can honestly say that I love from 2002.

Again, my buddy Jen gave me this, I think at a meeting that we were both at in Flagstaff or Tucson and I listened to it all the way home, let it repeat, and then again. It stayed in the CD player for a good long while. (Sound familiar?) It’s really fucking good.

I was a big fan of Jon’s band with another dude I admire, Jamal Ruhe, called Sleepwalker. When I heard , I had to put aside my complete and utter allegiance to Sleepwalker and admit that I really appreciate the way Rauhouse plays the steel guitar. There is room in my heart now for multiple Rauhouse projects, especially when he finally invites me to play a song with him.

I’m just not in the right league, but that’s okay.

Let’s dive into There is a distinct feeling of optimism and happiness on this disc. I love that and when I listen to it now or bac then, I smile more. That’s worth the price of admission to any show.

“The Glow Worm” is our opener and it is just charming as all get out. Steel guitar has such a unique sound and, on this track, it’s kind of like being in Hawaii in the 1950s. The war is over, people are getting tan and happy, drinking Mai Tais and making promises to love each other forever.

I’m a huge fan of the songs that Rauhouse wrote for this release and “F86” is one of them. It’s the second track and about 1:10 or so into the song, he just starts shredding before sliding right back into the groove with his capable partners, Tom Ray (bass), Kevin O’Donnell (drums), and Tommy Connell on guitar. As an avowed softy for instrumentals, I dig how this sets up the next song which features the one and only Neko Case on vocals.

“The World IS Waiting For A Sunrise” is short, sweet, and with Case’s lovely voice, you forget there is an absolutely scorching band behind her. The transition into another Rauhouse original, “Circle The Wagons Babe” is perfect. John Convertino from Calexico makes the drums really swing on this one, but just as you’re getting really relaxed and into it, “Who’s The Baddie? Says Alan Laddie” is worming its way into your earholes.

Jon Rauhouse’s Steel Guitar Air Show is chock full of riffs that you just can’t help but get lost in and the record sounds great in my earbuds. Way better than the speakers in my old truck. “Hula Blues” is up next replete with some breathy vocals from the Haole Choir. I love it.

A standout track for me is “Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate The Positive” which features a wonderful turn from Kelly Hogan on lead vocals. She’s got a really wonderful voice, and she shows it off a second time doing a little background on “The Lonely Bull.” These two great tracks are the middle of the record, but things are far from over.

“Beer & Lettuce” is another Rauhouse original, and it is groovy and fun. Convertino is back on drums, and I don’t think I ever realized how much that guy just rules a swing beat. I need to listen to more Calexico. If that’s Tommy Connell on lead guitar, it’s pretty rad, too.

“Summer Samba” changes the mood a little bit, as any good samba in the middle of a swinging steel guitar record should, but I love how the steel guitar almost has a little bit of a Star Trek vibe and hangs kind of low in the mix at parts. I could see this being the background music when Kirk and Spock explore a planet that firmly planted in the Brazilian 60s.

Sally Timms absolutely owns “Perfidia.” It’s up next and the ex-Mekons member shines on this classic. It’s the last song with vocals, so it kind of ends the vocal heavy middle of the record. “Choo Choo Ch’Boogie” is a lot of fun and then there are four more Rauhouse originals.

“Homie’s Parade” is one that Rauhouse and Connell wrote together. It has a little bit of a bluegrass feel to it in the way that Jerry Garcia liked to play a little bluegrass here and there. Maybe it is a slightly Dead kinda vibe I’m picking up on.

I really dig “Agent Burns (Theme)” a lot with its spy movie vibe. Knowing Rauhouse, I bet there is a good story behind this one and I hope I remember to ask him next time I get the chance. It’s a little mysterious but has those great spy riffs in it.

“Can ‘O’ Corn” is another swinger with a cool “weeping” riff that I like. While I listen to it, I can picture a cartoon cat pretending to be crying and then sneaking around and stealing some tuna fish only to find it’s actually a can of corn. Sometimes you need to let a song tell you story.

“Million Dollar Mermaid” finishes it all up. There is a little voice over that mentions Jon “Orchid Fingers” Rauhouse. “Orchid Fingers” is pretty darn perfect. It’s a fitting ender as it is a little bit dreamy and, like many of the songs, the perfect length.

One of my favorite local records of all-time and I love listening to it while I drive across town. Something about it keeps me feeling good about movin’ slow.

March 2024: Welcome
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I went through a phase in my life where I was fascinated by New York. I would spend a lot of time thinking about what it would be like to live there and how I would eventually find my way into the orbit of famous people I admired. This phase was the strongest between about 1988 and 1995. The city still fascinates me, although I know it is now nothing like the New York I fantasized about back in the day.

One of the albums that caught my attention in the early 90s was an embodiment of this fantasy. Dim Stars was made up of Steve Stelley and Thurston Moore of Sonic Youth, Don Fleming of B.A.L.L./Gumball, and Richard Hell. They put out a self-titled record in 1992 and I picked up a copy at Eastside Records in Tempe.

I have to admit right up front that I wasn’t a fan of Richard Hell before I heard this record and I probably wouldn’t go out of my way to see him perform if it was within walking distance of my house, but something about made me a fan. I like him on this particular record because it just sounds so good. The record sounds like the New York of my fantasies.

It’s easy for me to picture walking down the street, maybe somewhere in the Village, and seeing a sign for a bar that you have to walk down a flight of stairs to get to, you know, some dingy basement place. Inside, Dim Stars are playing and that’s where I start to make friends.

“She Wants To Die” kicks things off with just the right amount of fuzz. It’s a mid-tempo kind of number where Hell starts telling a story. There is a bit of Lenny Kosnowski (Michael McKean’s famous character from ) in Hell’s vocal delivery. It’s grungy in the way that Sonic Youth and Boss Hog were grungy, not Seattle grunge. I dig it.

“All My Witches Come True” is another groovy one, but I like “Memo to Marty” a lot more. It’s got a simple, yet perfect bassline (also Hell’s job in this band) under a Pixies-ish guitar sound, and the “Fuck you” part is one I always like. Any song that works “Fuck you” in the lyrics in a cool way, I often like. That’s why PTWKAF has a song called “Fuck You Part.”

There is a kind of Spanish feel to the guitars in “Monkey.” Maybe the guys wanted to do something that sounded a bit like it belonged to Spanish Harlem. I could be reading into things here. This is probably the closed Dim Stars could get to having a sort of ballad and the minor chord stuff that Moore and Fleming do here is pretty great.

“Natchez Burning” is another cool track. It’s got kind of a bluesy/dirge thing happening, but Hell doesn’t really sound like an old blues guy. He sounds like a snotty hipster trying to sound like a real blues singer. Oddly enough, it works. There is some cool guitar noise happening on this one, too, if you listen closely. I have to believe it is Thurston Moore bending some feedback around.

I am not proud of this, but in the 90s, I would often ask people if they’d heard this record. Most people I knew in those days didn’t know or care about it, but it seemed to me that “real” music fans should know about it. Music snobbery is hard, but in those days, I thought it was something that made me cool. I know now it made me more of an asshole than anything else.

Having said that, you really should listen to this record.

“Stop Breaking Down” has a cool shouty chorus and a with funky disjointed bass thing happening, but “Baby Huey (Do You Wanna Dance)” is fucking great. It’s right up my alley. Big, fuzzy, and a super catchy riff. I’m realizing now, too, that it’s also got the whole Lenny & the Squigtones thing happening.

I’m starting to think that maybe Dim Stars started because these guys were all sitting around listening to the Lenny and the Squigtones record and wanted to make their own version. It’s a reasonable theory, I think.

Moore takes over the vocals on “The Night Is Coming On” and it sounds like a different band until the first guitar breakdown. The feeling of comes back when the band is more prominent in the mix. For some reason, they had Moore’s voice way out front on this one during the verses.

“Downtown At Dawn” sounds like Moore and Fleming are kind of blending Nile Rodgers (Chic) and Steve Turner (Mudhoney) together. Hell and Shelley shine on this one, too. The rhythm of this song with that blended guitar attack is great. I don’t think I fully appreciated this song 30 years ago as I would occasionally skip over it.

“Try This” is pretty skippable. It’s kind of a filler song, which is fine, since this record is chock full of really good songs. “Stray Cat Generation” kind of pays homage or pokes fun at the Stray Cats, which really, “Try This” kind of does as well, lyrically, at least.

“Rip Off” is very New York sounding, in my ears. This song sounds like how I pictured New York in the 70s where the media painted the city as a place where literally everyone was either ripping people off or being ripped off. There is a tiny Anthony Kiedis/Red Hot Chili Peppers’ thing going on here, too. It’s subtle, but it is there. Listen and tell me I’m wrong. I dare you.

The album concludes with “Dim Star Theme” and it is a strong ender. These guys weren’t mailing it in, even if they were just aping Lenny and the Squigtones. Unfortunately, there are only a couple of Dim Stars releases. There is an EP with a few other songs, a single, and the LP. That’s all they wrote.

March 2024: Welcome
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Podcasts are a great way to discover music these days. A few years ago, I discovered Cocaine & Rhinestones and it hipped me to the backstory behind a lot of country artists I was familiar with on some level but didn’t know the stories behind the music. If you have any interest in country music or just an open mind, I highly recommend checking it out.

Several of the episodes in the first season are dedicated to Buck Owens & The Buckaroos. I was immediately hooked after listening and started seeking out as much of their music as I could get my hands on. One of the great collections I came across was . Omnivore Recordings put this out on 2 CDs in 2016 and I have to say it is great.

Let me say that there are 56 songs on this compilation, so I’m not going to dissect each one. If you want that to happen, I’m happy to do it. Just Venmo me $50. These things are a labor of love at the moment, but 56 songs are a lot to dive into on a school night.

For me, the most interesting thing about Buck and the Buckaroos is how influential they were in the world of country music. Buck Owens is credited with creating the “Bakersfield” sound and learning about this made all the Buck Owens signs and such in Bakersfield, California make a lot more sense.

One of the most fun shows Hillbilly Devilspeak ever played was in Bakersfield. We spent the day at Magic Mountain riding rollercoasters and such before heading towards the gig. We had played Al’s Bar the night before and crashed at a hotel near the amusement park so we could get our early start.

We also ate some mushrooms. Well, Shane didn’t eat any, but Steve, Brian, and I did, and they were a hell of a lot of fun. I was still feeling their effects as we drove the 90 minutes or so from the park to the gig, and when we got to The Mint, which was eerily similar to an old Phoenix haunt called Liquori’s on the inside, they kicked in again.

While we were playing, I could only really focus on playing music. When I looked at the crowd, my eyes played a lot of tricks on me. We ended up playing really well, though, and people were into it. The guy who set up the show took care of us, and we had a great time. Brian even traded shirts with one of the local ladies and she didn’t need to go behind closed doors to make the exchange. Bakersfield is a friendly place.

Back to Buck!

What I learned was that I like the “Bakersfield” sound a lot. I guess some of that stuff I heard on Hee Haw over at my grandparents’ house on Sunday afternoons sunk in or something. Don Rich played fiddle on this set of songs, and he was a beast. Sadly, he died in a motorcycle accident and the world had to go without what I have to believe would have continued to be a wonderful and highly influential career.

The combination of Owens and Rich on fiddle really makes this collection for me. I kind of guffawed the first time I heard King Buzzo (Melvins) gush over Buck Owens, but now I get it. The man wrote some great tunes, and the Buckaroos could all really fucking play.

Some of the real highlights of this huge collection are ones that longtime Buck Owens fans would probably give me the ol’ Captain Obvious salute for, but I don’t care. One of the great things about music is that it’s new whenever you discover it.

“Come Back” kicks things off and I love the innocence of it. It reminds me a bit of Buddy Holly and while I know Owens wrote a lot of his songs, I’m guessing this is not one of them. It’s also impossible to tell who played on what song from these without diving into a whole mess of catfish I don’t want to fry.

I’m partial to “I’ll Take a Chance on Loving You,” as well. Owens was a master at starting a new chorus with two or three words as the band does a little pause before coming back in. Whoever played fiddle here, probably Rich, really killed it. Nice twinkly piano, too. Sounds like a toy.

On disc one there are quite a few of the slower, waltz-y kind of numbers. Admittedly, I have to be in the mood for these, but when I am, I love the style that Owens and the Buckaroos play. 15-year-old me is cringing right now, though.

During my freshman year of high school, we spent two full weeks square dancing in PE. I now know that this was just a PE teacher taking liberties and fully fucking with us, but a lot of these songs kind of remind me of the part of square dancing where you “Promenade.” That’s all I’m going to say about it, but if you are curious, listen to “Everlasting Love.”

“Under Your Spell Again” is another favorite. It’s quintessential Buckaroos. Owens had a really nice voice and there is no doubt about why he was the man on the West Coast for Country music for so long. I read somewhere that he amassed a 9-digit fortune. Imagine if he were going now. The guy would be a billionaire.

“Above and Beyond” has some great vocals and guitars. The steel guitar here is pretty boss. Not sure who it is, but I wish I did. These songs just take you back to a time where things seemed like they were simple. I know they weren’t, but it’s nice to have these types of romantic thoughts about time gone by. Lots of broken hearts and love gone wrong happening here, too.

“Mental Cruelty” is a fun one. Rose Maddox does the other vocal track on this one about divorce. Pretty racy stuff for 1960. I think Owens went through his fair share of them. It has this line, “All a woman has to claim is two words: Mental Cruelty.” Seems like it hits a little close to home for Buck.

Maddox sticks around for “Loose Talk,” too, and that one is also pretty good. She was a fellow Central Californian. I have to wonder if she played fiddle on these tracks, as well. Apparently, she was quite a fiddler. Good stuff.

“You’re For Me” is another fun one thanks to what I presume to be Ralph Mooney on pedal steel guitar. The dude was just so tasteful in how he played, and he rips this song a new one. Between he and George French (piano..and yes, I had to do the research), this song just kills me.

“Act Naturally” is the debut of Don Rich on guitar and it’s really quite a debut. The song is solid and Rich sounds great, but…I like “Love’s Gonna Live Here Again” a lot more. It has an almost Beatles sound to it and this might be due to the fact that Owens was a fan of theirs. Rich might have been a George Harrison fan, too, but who knows. Some of his leads are kind of Harrison-esque at times.

My favorite Buck Owens doesn’t come until about halfway through disc two. “I’ve Got A Tiger By The Tail” is just a ripper. Unlike a lot of the other songs where there seems to be a formula, this one just kind of steps outside the box. There is a tinge of rockabilly happening here that really shines through a lot. There is a lot of rock and roll in the Bakersfield sound if you listen and it’s very apparent here.

“Before You Go” is probably the last song on this compilation that I get really excited about. It’s got that rock and roll fake out beginning before it starts waltzing. I love the change in tone of this song that happens back and forth. They must have had a lot of fun writing this one. I bet there were some looks in the practice room/studio that said, “you want us to do what?” It works, though. Great song.

This whole compilation is really great. I wish they would have put it out on vinyl.

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March 2024: Welcome
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Zia Records and I have a symbiotic relationship. I support them, they support me. This happened a lot as I was growing up. I spent (and still spend) a fair amount of money there. In the early years, it was a good percentage of my available funds a lot of the time. Now, not so much, but I’m glad they are there.

Local record stores are something that everyone should support, no matter where you live. Amoeba in California, for example, is a pretty cool place. I’ve been to their stores in the bay area and down in LA. When I lived in Berkeley, I was there once a week. It was the same for Zia for many years here in Phoenix.

I’ve written about the big Sub Pop sale in 1992. I got several great CDs during that sale and one of them was by Sebadoh. That record is not the subject today, but it was my introduction to a band that became one of my favorites in the early 1990s. I bought everything the band put out and loved each release for different reasons.

To be candid, some days I really identify with Lou Barlow’s songs and sometimes, I think Barlow is really whiny. It just seems like he’s being way too sad about some girl and being lonely or sick of J. Mascis (his Dinosaur Jr. bandmate) Some days I am more into Jason Loewenstein’s songs. They tend to be a bit more on the punk rock side of the indie/lo-fi thing Sebadoh does so well.

Most days, really, I like Loewenstein’s songs better, but I have a real soft spot for Barlow’s lyrics. Both are great, though, and that’s why I love Sebadoh. If I need to be a little more sensitive, I can always find my buddy, Lou, and if I want to be fuzzy and rockin’, there’s Jason.

I actually got to meet Lou once and he was really great. I think I wrote about that in my first piece on Dinosaur Jr. I haven’t met the other Sebadoh guys, but I certainly saw them a good handful of times.

In 1993, they released a preview kind of thing, , that contained a bunch (not 4 as advertised on the cover) of tracks that would be on their excellent record, , the next year. This time around, Bob Fay was on drums, and he contributed some noisy sound collages to that serve the disc in a good way.

The versions of the songs from are a bit rawer on and because they are surrounded by some outtakes from the recording sessions that were later added to a reissue back in 2011.

Come to think of it, I’ll probably write about Bakesale eventually, too. I really do love that record, but there is something about that always keeps me coming back to it after all these years. Fay starts the party with a short sound collage called “MOR Backlash” that is kind of noisy and cool. When I got this, it was probably the fifth Sebadoh CD in my collection and I was used to their experimental side, but Fay added a whole new edge. It’s a lot of delay, reverb, and crazy sounds, a fucked up “Whole Lotta Love” sample, and cool noises, but it is also short and sweet. He does something similar with John Coltrane’s “Naima” a bit later, too.

Barlow is up after “MOR Backlash” with “Rebound,” which would probably grow to be Sebadoh’s most popular song at that point. It’s a great piece of indie-pop writing. Catchy, great lyrics, and it moves along at a nice clip. I love the line, too, where Barlow sings, “No one lives their life/Doing all the things they say they should.” We can all identify with that.

“Not a Friend” is one of the sadder Barlow songs, but even though it starts off as a bit of a moaner, it builds into something way more self-affirming. The band builds their riff along with Barlow’s increased confidence and by the end, you’re rooting for the guy again. It’s fuzzy and upbeat at the end after starting out sounding like someone is getting ready to drain a lot of blood from their wrists.

Loewenstein contributes “Careful” next, and it has a great pace to it, plus he plays a pretty nifty bass line. When I saw the band play live, the guys would switch instruments a lot, so I am going to assume it was Loewenstein on the bass on the record because it was his song, but who knows…I certainly can’t say fo’ sho’. I just like it.

Fay is back with “Foreground” which has a bit of jazzy piano and some spoken word stuff, probably studio chatter, in the background and the aforementioned “Naima.” “Naima” is on but I’m guessing it is nowhere else because of licensing. Too bad. It’s fun.

Those two create a noisy spacer between “Careful” and one of my all-time favorite instrumental tracks on any record by anyone. “40203” is a song that I just dearly love.

The riff is kind of dreamy with a circular feel. It ascends and descends and wraps around itself. I bet I’ve listened to it well over 1000 times. Sometimes I would just hit ‘repeat’ when I was listening while driving. It seemed to pop up at the perfect time a lot, too, when I would listen to this disc.

If the sun was coming through the clouds in a really beautiful way, for example, “40203” would be on. I don’t know why. I love songs like this that evoke strong emotions in me. As I think about why I like it so much, it is really hard to express in words. I just want to wrap it up in a bow and give it away so that someone else might love it, too.

Until now, I’ve never been curious about what “40203” might mean. It’s a zip code in Louisville, KY. I don’t even want to speculate. It’s perfect, no matter what.

“Mystery Man” is a solid Barlow tune, for sure, and this version is stripped down compared to the track on . I like it, but everything kind of pales for me after “40203” to be completely honest. “Drumstick Jumble” is another Fay sound collage and then “Lime Kiln” closes out .

“Lime Kiln” is a Loewenstein tune that is pretty mellow for him, even with the fuzzed out electric guitar that weaves it’s way in between the distorted acoustic guitar, bass, and tick-tacky percussion that sounds like it is probably found objects. It’s another one to like and if you’re a Kurt Cobain fan, you might even hear something in there that reminds you of your dead hero.

You know, speaking of Cobain, I think if he had lived long enough, he might have put out a record that was not far off from what Sebadoh did so well. Maybe?

Again, I put it out there…if anyone wants to do a band like this, hit me up.

Contact Me
March 2024: Welcome
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Hollywood Alley was a pretty magical place in the early and mid-90s. I saw so many and did so many good shows there throughout the decade that it is really hard to pinpoint too many anymore unless I listen to a particular record. My buddies, Trunk Federation, eventually signed to Alias Records and for a few years during the courting process (I could be wrong about this…it might have been more like months), they seemed to play with all the good bands that Alias had when they came through town, and it was often at the Alley.

One of these bands was Archers of Loaf. I think the first time I actually heard them might have been at one of these shows. I remember people talking about them and I thought the name was brilliant, but it was seeing them live that made me a fan. At one of these shows, I bought . It was the first thing I got from them, and I thought (and still think) it is fucking brilliant.

First and foremost, Archers of Loaf are a great live band. I don’t care if I haven’t seen them for well over 20 years, either. I would get in the car right now and go see them. Eric Bachmann is great lyricist and plays a mean rhythm guitar. Eric Johnson’s lead guitar parts are inventive and cool as fuck, and Matt Gentling and Mark Price, bass and drums respectively, are a fantastic rhythm section.

Vee Vee is strong from start to finish. “Step into the Light” was written by someone outside the band, but it’s a super cool opener. Mostly instrumental, Johnson has some great delayed guitar stuff happening and it does the classic indie rock fuzzy thing as well as anyone. Pound for pound, I’d put Archers of Loaf up against any band. Almost three minutes in, you hear Bachmann’s voice for the first time. The wait Is worth it.

Bachmann has this sensitive yet gravelly yet angry thing that I don’t know if I’ve ever heard done as well by anyone else. He can really sell the sad songs and the “fuck you” songs and the straight up rockers. I was fortunate enough to go see him a few years back in a piano store in Mesa and it was great. They guy can really write a song.

“Harnessed in Slums” is pure power. Johnson has this tone that sounds like some sort of machine hell bent on demolition. The lyrics are spit at the mic with a kind of urban distaste that could only come from a guy who hates cities. I don’t know if this is the case with Bachmann, but it sounds like he wants to tear someone a new a-hole.

“Nevermind the Enemy” sounds like it is a recording of a satellite at the outset, but as I listen to it, I’m realizing that as much as I love the lyrics, I am just as huge a fan of the guitar sound on this record. It makes me wish I was a guitar player who could make this kind of stuff happen. Of course, I can’t, and probably won’t be able to ever, but it is fun to dream.

“Greatest of All Time” might be my favorite all-time Archers song. Back in ’95 or ’96 when I first got this record, I told everyone about this song. “They caught and drowned the front man of the world’s worst rock and roll band/He was out of luck because nobody gave a fuck” is one of the greatest first couplets in rock and roll history. “Throw the bastard in the river!”

For almost thirty years I have loved this song. If you ask nicely, Bachmann will play this song on banjo for you, too. He did it in Mesa. It was epic.

Just when you think the record won’t reach new heights, though, it just keeps going strong. “Underdogs of Nipomo” is a mover. It’s strong, too. Strong enough to pick you up, take you a long, and let you enjoy the ride. One of the things about Archers of Loaf is their consistency. It’s always interesting and not afraid to challenge you as a listener. These guys were not messing around.

“Floating Friends” and “Fabricoh” are both kind of mid-tempo numbers that are the perfect middle pieces to give you a bit of a breather, but both are still sonically interesting. I don’t want to ignore “1985” but it is one of the kinds of odd things that bands in those days were doing a lot. It’s under a minute of something that doesn’t seem to fit at all.

Probably the closest thing to a punk rock song on is “Nostalgia.” It’s angry and kinda snarky and great. “Let the Loser Melt” flows so nicely right out it. “Nostalgia” is kinda shouty and pissed off and then Archers just pull the rug out from under you with a really pretty, contemplative riff. There’s a little math rock happening in “Let the Loser Melt” with the beat Price plays and it works.

Bachmann is a master of staggering his vocal delivery in a way that’s always interesting, too. He controls the mood of songs really well. “Death in the Park” is a bit guilty of making this record go on a little longer than it needs to, but again, it’s a good song. I don’t mind it at all. Maybe I’ve run out of superlatives.

“Of course, I can put you on the guest list” is a great line in “Death in the Park” and “The Worst Has Yet to Come” sounds noisy and jumbled up. It’s a bit manic and fantastic, too. I am a sucker for the way “Underachievers March and Fight Song” starts out. It bobs and weaves to a very satisfying conclusion.

If you aren’t familiar with Archers of Loaf, is a really good place to start, but honestly, I don’t think you can go wrong with this band. They are kind of like Subhumans in the way that all their records are super solid and different people like each one. I will definitely be writing about at least one more of their records this year.

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March 2024: Welcome
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Over the past few days, I’d been listening to a lot on a streaming service to prepare for writing yesterday’s post about it. I’m not proud of using a streaming service, but I’m also not embarrassed. I don’t have a CD player in my living room or bedroom anymore so it’s vinyl in the living room or my computer in the bedroom.

But that’s not what I wanted to write about, really. At the end of , the first song the algorithm would pick was “Vibracobra” off Polvo’s great 1992 record, . The first time it came on after the last song on , I was like, ‘what is this? I know it and it’s great.’

I looked and saw it was Polvo. ‘Holy fuck,’ I thought. I loved this record 30 years ago. For whatever reason, I haven’t listened to it since then. I’ve been relishing revisiting it for the past few days. It’s so damn good.

‘Vibracobra” starts off so lush and kind of awkwardly beautiful. I love how the bass just sort of ebbs and flows like a big, fat, and hungry snake looking for its prey in a blinding light. Steve Popson is the guilty party here and his bass line on “Vibracobra” is epic.

Polvo’s songs are long. They have a ton of shit going on. This is definitely not the band for the ADHD set, although, if you were able to take in pill form, maybe it would have the same effect as Ritalin does.

“Kalgon” is sort of backwards and dissonant. I love it. There is something about it that reminds me of Chavez, who came a bit after Polvo, but it’s kind of like a Chavez song was turned inside and given a half dose of a downer. I suppose it is possible that some of the guys in Chavez were big fans of Polvo.

Especially on the next song, “Bend or Break” which is fucking great. It’s a song that I listen to now and wonder what influence it has had over me in the last 30 years of being away from it. My friend, Alex, made me a cassette tape of this record on one side and Unwound’s in 1994 and I wore that fucker out.

‘Bend or Break” is so good. I don’t even care that it lasts for five and a half minutes. It could keep going if it wanted to do so. “Can I Ride” comes next and it is so hopeful sounding. The late Eddie Watkins’ drums set a great pace and drive the song really well. I’m not sure he and Popson were on the same page through half of the song, but that makes it even greater.

The outro bit with dueling guitars is noisy and beautiful and messy and precise all at the same time. This, again, is thanks to Watkins. Ash Bowie and Dave Brylawski really had something great going on between them and their guitars.

“Sense of It” has that same enthusiasm for joyful noisemaking, “Ox Scapula” steals the scene so righteously. I mean, if you listen to “Sense of It” by itself, you would be sure to think, “What a great song,” but then “Ox Scapula” shows up and says, “Bitch, this is my fucking record. Step off.”

“Ox Scapula” would never use a word like “Bitch.” It’s mute and I am ashamed I even thought it. I’m ashamed to say, though, that I love this riff. It’s kind of like the most fucked up song from a Disney-sploitation film about the Orient ever. Instrumentals like this one make it fun to play fucked up songs.

Popson rules again on “Channel Changer” with a cool, rolling bass line. When the vox kicks in with the bendy guitars, I just drift off in a good way. Oh, , I’ve missed you.

“In the Hand, In the Sieve” is a bit of an outlier here. It starts off with this really fast riff then disintegrates into this slow, plodding riff that builds and builds. It’s got a real power that many of the other songs don’t quite have. Super intricate with lots of parts. I always kind of want to be a fly on the wall in the practice room when songs like this are on. I’d have loved to hear how they put it together.

Is there a bad song on this record?


“The Curtain Remembers” is super clever and cool. Just a ‘groover’ as Robyn Hitchcock would say. “Well is Deep” is the penultimate track and it has a lovely quality to it, too. I really like the guitar line, which is pretty and perfectly plucked then the huge, feedback-laden stuff comes. Polvo was so good.

“Duped” finished things off. It’s so goddamn good, too. There is not a weak moment on From start to finish, it just soars through the noisy, murky, slightly-backwards and definitely twisted world it creates. Their shows in those early 1990’s days must have been epic.

It seems to be indie rock week here at Ergonomic Mischief.

March 2024: Welcome
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There are too many songs for me to do a song-by-song breakdown of Born Against’s Patriotic Battle Hymns (AKA 9 Patriotic Battle Hymns for Children). I’m sure this has been done if you are truly interested in hearing about every song on it. If you want my opinion, this is one of the most important punk rock records to come out in the 1990s.

This is a compilation of Born Against’s recordings from their short time of being a band and it fucking rules. I never got to see them because I don’t think I knew they existed until after they were already gone. I’ll blame it on grunge music and heavy, noisier bands taking my attention away from punk rock from 1989 to 1993. My bad on that.

I would have loved to have seen these guys play live. I can only imagine the energy they would have brought. I have purposefully avoided looking up videos because I didn’t want to be even more disappointed in myself for not having gone to see them when I had the chance. That’s probably stupid philosophy, but sometimes I take this music stuff way too seriously.

The feeling I get when I listen to Born Against, especially Patriotic Battle Hymns is that I am supposed to take this music seriously. I love bands that take this approach, too. Music is important and life changing, so maybe I am doing my part by keeping my imaginary Born Against show in my head pure.

The first song I do want to mention, though, is “Jock Gestapo.” I was drawn to this one because of the title, of course, as there have been some good songs over the years that bashed on jocks. While I love sports and understand the jock mentality when you are the field, pitch, diamond, or court, I don’t get how it can translate to real life. I assume this is what Sam McPheeters is shouting about here. Honestly, I can’t really understand a lot of the lyrics.

Does this matter? Not to me. I love the energy McPheeters brings and what I can hear and make out, I like it. I also really like the way the band sounds. The guitar riffs are interesting and powerful and all of the different drummers who took part in Born Against recordings are capable and seemingly great. The bass could have been a little louder in the mix on many songs, but that’s okay, too. I can hear it and what it’s doing is good enough for me.

“Murder The Sons Of Bitches” is another one that really gets me going. It’s kind of a cross between the DC sound and Jesus Lizard in a punk rock sort of way. Somehow, I doubt Born Against was listening to a lot of Jesus Lizard, but I could be wrong. it would be a much safer bet that they liked some of the DC bands of the time. This one has a great bass sound, by the way.

“Mt. Dew” is probably one that has made them a few bucks on the pay to play streaming services. The name alone has probably gotten a few people to buy the song. It’s a good one, for sure, and “Footbound & Hobbled” is also bad ass. I’m getting sucked in here, yet again, and talking about all the songs, so…

One of the things I like best about the two Born Against CDs I have (and they are both compilations of various recordings) is that they make me want to play this kind of music. I have done my version of it here and there, but I’d still really like to do a band like this. Just pissed off with something to say, 15-minute sets where I have to be carted off stage on a stretcher because I have absolutely nothing left. This idea is something I occasionally dream about at night.

The last songs I want to mention specifically are the two final songs on Patriotic Battle Hymns. “Born Against Are Fucking Dead” is a brilliant title and having been in a band where people made threats against us, it always hits home. Besides that, the song is manic and frenzied and fucking great.

“A Whopper Of A Tale” has a cool, distorted bass line to start it off with some really choice guitar noise, so instantly, I am in. At just under five minutes long, it is also a “whopper” of a song by the standards set previously on this record. It’s got the extend-intro, too, which I always love. The other thing that is great here is the Phil Donahue samples. I grew up watching Phil on channel 5 in Phoenix, so it’s nice to hear his voice. I wonder if he and Marlo know about this song.

I bet they do and listened to it while they were fucking.

March 2024: Welcome
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My buddy, Geoff, used to work at Eastside Records in Tempe. I’ve mentioned it a lot and I definitely loved hanging out there while I waited for traffic to calm down back in the early 90s. I lived on 19th Avenue, just south of Northern, so driving from ASU to there could be a bit of a bear during rush hour. Geoff, Mike, and Ben at Eastside gave me a place to hang out, spend a few bucks, and find a ton of great music that was new to me.

Geoff turned me on to a New York band called Fly Ashtray at some point in 1992. I really liked what they were doing, and I remember asking if there was any more of their stuff to check out. There wasn’t, but what he did have for me that day was a band called Uncle Wiggly. As a skater, this name wasn’t lost on me, but the band spelled it a little differently than the skate brand.

Uncle Wiggly was an off shoot of Fly Ashtray as the trio shared two members, James Kavoussi and Michael Anzalone. Wm. Berger rounded out the lineup for Uncle Wiggly and a band was born. They had a really cool sound, I thought, back then and I listened to the first record of theirs I bought, , a lot.

Because of the influence of a lot of the weirder, indie rock kind of bands I was listening to at the time, my musical career could have really started off in a different way. If I would have met the right people, there might not have been a Hillbilly Devilspeak at all. My first serious band could have been something a lot like Uncle Wiggly.

I like how the band crafted their songs. From what I’ve read about them, each of the dudes contributed songs and they switched instruments a lot, so I’m not going to hazard a guess at who played what. Something tells me I am probably the only person in the world listening to this record at this exact moment and that’s okay.

“Stick Up You Smile” is a fun little opener. “Straighten out your teeth and look away/Stick up your smile for us today,” is a cool opening line. The vocals are layered and work nicely with the fuzzy guitars, loping bassline, and simple drums. These guys probably knew they had something fun and cool from the first time they jammed.

“That movie star/he’s been working so hard/he needs more time to be alone,” is another great line. Lyrically, I like this album a lot, but there are also a lot of heavyily instrumental parts, too. has sixteen tracks over almost 43 minutes, but it never seems like the record is crowded at all, if that makes sense.

Because each of the guys wrote, there is a lot of variety while still sounding like the same band. “Nerve” has a similar feel to “Stick Up Your Smile,” but there is definitely movement and change happening even across the first two tracks. “Morphine Ice Cream” is a cool title for a song and also a really good riff, too.

It starts with a heavily picked guitar riff that kind of restarts the cycle each time that I like. It’s simple and seems like something I could probably play (this always makes me feel good), but it’s catchy and adds to the song. The lyrics are kind of lowbrow silly and nerdy.

“Hope So, Hope Soon,” is kind of just there. It’s typical early 90s indie rock. It’s nice little riff, I suppose, and as a song, I don’t hate it, but it’s not super motivating to me. “Build Your Own Monster” is way more interesting to me. It has a cool bassline and some weird vocal stuff happening as it winds into “That Piece of String,” which is kind of early Pink Floyd/Syd Barrett sounding.

In fact, I have to believe these guys were probably all big Syd Barrett fans. A lot of the tracks have that same type of quirkiness that some of the early Floyd and Barrett’s solo stuff have. “Express” is a spacey riff that kind of ambles along without a care in the world.

“Best Boy” ambles, too, and it would have ended side one if I had the record on vinyl. With any luck, I will have it soon. “Big Epic” is track 9 and I like this one a lot. It’s got a nice feel to it and a snappy drum beat. Most of the drumming on this record is super simple and there is nothing wrong with that at all. The drums do what the song needs them to do.

Tons of cool bass playing, though. I have no issue with that at all.

“Big Epic” has another great line: “The ice cream truck has passed me by again/and you can’t write Syd Barrett songs again.” I wonder if any of these guys were skaters? There is a flow to a song like “Big Epic” that is perfect for riding a ditch.

“Toucan” is pretty short and sweet. Filler, really, but cool. “Oven” is similar, but it has a nice, distorted jangle thing going on over super druggy vocals. This song is the musical equivalent of what opiates are like for me. By the time it ended, I’m not quite sure what happened, but I know something did.

“Ba Ba Ba” is the long track here. It’s got a little Laurel Canyon kind of thing happening in it, mostly because of a really cool organ part. Essentially, the riff just sort of meanders along and the vocals go, “Ba-ba-ba, ba-ba-ba-ba” and then the riff becomes more urgent for about 10 seconds. It repeats this cycle a few times and there is a noisy outro. I like it a lot.

Uncle Wiggly is a band that does a lot of meandering, but it doesn’t feel like time is wasted. makes for good background music or something to listen to and pay attention to, as well. There is definitely enough cool riffage to make the average indie fan happy

“My, My, My, How Are You?” is probably the last really strong song on the record, but that isn’t taking anything away from the last three. They just don’t really explore any new territory. “Spitoon Cleaner” has some cool start and stop stuff going on, but it’s short and sweet.

“Julie in the Greenhouse” never really takes off for me. It’s got some kinda cutesy guitar and bass interplay that devolves into a kinda backwards, jazzy math rock riff, but by the time I get to it. There is a cool Japanese all-girl band called Tricot that does this stuff really well.

“Ol’ Pal” is the last song and this one sounds like a cast-off Dinosaur Jr. riff. It’s a good ender, but if it were me, I think I would have ended with “Ba-Ba-Ba.”

It is on YouTube and might be hard to find online anywhere else. Happy wiggling.

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March 2024: Welcome
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