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Entry date: 5-31-2024 – Go Figure – Letters to My Friends

Dear Friends,

 

Summer camp continues to be low enrollment. If I were a betting man, I’m guessing my presence at summer camp will not be needed after tomorrow. That’s okay. I’ve got some other things I could be doing and if not, I’m happy to continue working with the kids I’m working with.

 

*****

 

We had a good Hillbilly practice last night. It was only our second practice of 2024. We worked on two songs and one of them is new. The other is an old one that Trent and Liam had never played. Both sounded really good and we might even play the new one when we open for CNTS (AKA CUNTS) in a couple weeks.

 

The new one is a riff Liam came up with and I had a “proud dad” moment, for sure. We tweaked it and with a bit more massaging, it might be our first really good new song in a long, long time. I can’t wait to work on it some more.

 

***** 

 

I can’t believe Dallas killed Minnesota last night. It’s a good thing I’m NOT a betting man because I definitely would have put money on Minnesota in that game. How do you not show up for an elimination game on your home court? Well, just ask the Suns.

 

Speaking of the Suns, I think I am all for them going after Lebron James and son next year. Why not? They don’t have a chance with the team they’ve got. If James were to come here, you could almost guarantee that Chris Paul would follow, too. It would be the NBA equivalent of Sun City versus the rest of the Greater Phoenix Area.

 

*****

 

Music really is all about timing. If songs are not “In time,” they won’t sound very good and will leave the listener feeling uncomfortable. Our brains need syncopation. This is why the beat of music is so important to how much we enjoy it.

 

At least that is what I would tell students.

 

Sometimes, though, as a listener, we are just not ready for a particular song, record, or band. Such was the case in 1989 when I got my first CD player and shortly after, my cousin, Ben, gave me a CD he thought I would enjoy. The band in question was pretty new and not on my radar at all.

 

I popped the CD in, though, because usually Ben and I were on a similar wavelength with music, and he knew what I liked as well as anyone. I listened for a bit, and it was very different from most of the other music I was Listening to at the time. I didn’t really dig it very much at all.

 

When Ben asked me what I thought, I said, “They are like a super angry Depeche Mode.”

 

Now, as I think of it, that wasn’t a dis. I like Depeche Mode a lot, especially their very early stuff, and I also typically like angry music. I play angry music, too, and would be in a Depeche Mode style project if I knew how to do that stuff, I’m sure.

 

I kept the CD, though, and it stayed in my collection. In fact, I’m looking at it right now as I type. I’ve had it for about 35 years. That’s mind blowing to me.

 

As the next couple of years passed, I kept hearing about this band more and more. I’d laugh and make my “angry Depeche Mode” comment and sometimes people would laugh, too, and say, “Yep, that’s exactly what they sound like.” Sometimes people  would also get pissed and tell me that I really needed to listen to it again.

 

I promptly ignored them until the summer of 1991.

 

While I was still technically living in Berkeley, albeit also technically homeless at the time, I had tickets to see Lollapalooza at the Shoreline Amphitheater outside of San Francisco in Mountain View, California. I had tickets for both days of the festival and one of the bands playing that day was the angry Depeche Mode band.

 

On the first day, I made sure I watched them because there was a palpable buzz about them by this time. They were fucking great. I couldn’t wait to rub it in to my Phoenix friends because they had melted down (and melted their equipment) in Phoenix and aborted their set pretty quickly a few weeks earlier.

 

I’m talking about Nine Inch Nails, of course, and the CD Ben had given me was Pretty Hate Machine. I’ve been pretty critical of the band’s other work, even publicly, but Pretty Hate Machine is a really good album. I even love it.

 

For me, though, I think Trent Reznor kind of shot his wad on the that first record. The later stuff just seemed like a watered-down version of Pretty Hate Machine with the possible exception of a few songs, here and there. I’m sure true fans of NIN would want to fight me about this, but it is how I feel.

 

After going to Lollapalooza and seeing NIN twice, I was hooked. I started listening to Pretty Hate Machine a lot. As the band geared up for their first big headlining tour the next year, they played a couple of warm up shows in Phoenix at a small club and Alexa and I got tickets to see both of those shows. They were fucking magnificent.

 

Those were the last time I went to see them, though. They got so big and so famous that something was just kind of different for me. I still love Pretty Hate Machine, but I don’t listen to it very often.

 

The first side has all the hits. “Head Like A Hole” and “Terrible Lie” just kick the shit out of you from the get-go, but “Down In It” rules, too. There isn’t a bad song on the record, either. The second half is pretty darn good, too.

 

“Sin” has some pretty gnarly moments. One of the things I like about how Reznor uses noises is the way they are processed sometimes to sound like the notes in the verses and choruses are just scraping each other to death with metal shivs.  It’s kind of his signature thing. Every song is a battle to the death.

 

“That’s What I Get” is super Depeche Mode-ish. “The Only Time” is a good one, though. I always liked that line: “Lay my hands on heaven and the sun and the moon and the stars while the Devil wants to fuck me in the back of his car.” Then he comes back with “Maybe I’m all messed up in you.” Perfection. The song just sounds so good.

 

 

It really is funny, though, how I was so ready to just dismiss this record when I first got it. The timing just wasn’t right. I missed out for a while.

 

*****

 

See you tomorrow.



The first thing that popped into my head.


This bird feels the need for speed.

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Jane McClung
Jane McClung
5월 31일

I had never heard anyone refer to NIN as an angry DM but I knew who you were referring to immediately. Pretty great! Happy Friday! 🙂

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That’s awesome!

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