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March 17, 2006

Friday Charts - 3/17/06

Here is the latest entry in the Friday Charts, showing you the most popular albums as decreed by members of an internet forum. Links indicate a place to sample music or read more about an album.

1. The Flaming Lips - At War With The Mystics
2. Ghostface Killah - Fishscale
3. The Yeah Yeah Yeahs - Show Your Bones
4. Tapes 'n Tapes - The Loon
5. The Fiery Furnaces - Bitter Tea
6. David Gilmour - On An Island
7. Ben Harper - Both Sides Of The Gun
8. Morrissey - Ringleader Of The Tormentors
9. Calexico - Garden Ruin
10. Jedi Mind Tricks Presents Army Of The Pharaohs - The Torture Papers

fishscale.jpg

Ghostface Killah's "Fishscale" makes the biggest splash this week. As a former huge fan of the Wu, (I once made a pilgramage to the Wu-Wear store on Victory Blvd on Staten Island to get the shirt depicted in the cartoon on the San Diego Serenade logo), I am glad that members of the Clan are still respected. Ghostface would not have been my first pick to be the member of the Wu with the most staying power, especially after his "Who the fuck knocked our buildings down?" verse on Iron Flag's "Rules." I probably would have put him below Method Man, the GZA and maybe even Raekwon, but he seems to be the top dog these days. I listened to a few songs from the album, and thought that "9 Milli Bros." which features the whole Clan including ODB was a highlight. There's something about hearing all nine of those familiar voices on the same track that is oddly nostalgic for me.

As an additional note for the curious, I learned today that Fishscale means "high quality cocaine and has subsequently been assimilated to be descriptive of anything of high quality or good."

Other new additions include the Army of the Pharoahs, described as a underground hip hop supergroup, and Morrissey, whose work with The Smiths taught me that it was just a fact of life that I was never going to like every artist that is critically acclaimed.

Some Pogues Music To Drink To In Honor Of St. Patties Day


The Pogues play "Body Of An American on Saturday Night Live

It's easy to be cynical about St. Patrick's day, especially if you're on the sober end of a drunken buffoon vomiting green beer all over you. I think it's best to embrace the holiday for what it is, hopefully get out to see a good band (The Scotch Greens at the Liars Club at 7:30 anyone?) and kick back some Guinni. If Guinni is not the plural for Guinness, it should be.

If you can't make it out to see any music and just need a soundtrack for your somber drinking at home alone, then the Pogues should suffice. The band has reunited and is playing sold out shows on East Coast for the next few days, and since they won't be coming out here, I've put together a selection of live Pogues recordings and a few oddities for you. Because of Shane MacGowan's appearances in the above video, or even worse in the Alex Cox movie "Straight To Hell", he gets the reputation that he was sort of the ODB of Irish folk punk, always teetering on the verge of collapse, prevented from implosion by a competent group of musicians. I personally find the guys voice comforting, and find the musical achievements of the band a testament that he actually has something going on in terms of musical talent. And if that's not the case (very likely) the music still sounds great turned up loud. Anyways, here are some MP3s:

-The above SNL performance of Body Of An American
-Live cove of Rod Stewart's Maggie May
-Live performance of Big City
-Interesting "Old West Mix" of If I Should Fall From The Grace Of God
-Live performance, appropriately enough on Christmas, of The Sick Bed Of Cuchulainn
-Classic Irish Pub song The Wild Rover
-Live performance of Sally MacLennae

And just to show you that it's probably a good thing that Shane and the Pogues patched things up, here is a cover of "Cracklin' Rosie" by Shane's project after he left the Pogues, Shane MacGowan and the Popes.

Robert Walter's Super Heavy Organ at Winston's

Robert Walter played at Winston's last night and showed off his patented brand of Heavy Organ funk to a packed house.

Robert Walter on the Keys

The show started off strong, but the audience wasn't exactly rapt at Winston's. If you weren't standing towards the front you were liable to hear just as much chatter as funk. That all changed when Robert brought out a special guest:

Karl Denson

Fellow Greyboy All-Star Karl Denson. That shut people up. The Super Heavy Organ was a trio tonight, so adding a saxophone to the mix really added a cool dimension. A bit towards the jazz end of the spectrum, away from the funk, but overall it was very nicely balanced. Robert Walter always puts on a good show, he always looks like he's just in a blissful state while playing the organ, which is fun to watch. Adding in a cool stand up bass player and an amazing drummer who looks kind of like Charlie Watts, plus Karl Denson, doesn't hurt either. More pictures below:

Robert Walter Banging his Head
Robert Walter

Karl Denson and Bassist James Singleton
Karl Denson and Bassist James Singleton

Karl Denson Eyes Closed
Karl Denson played so hard at times it looked like he had to squeeze his eyes shut as tight as possible to keep his eyes from popping out

March 16, 2006

Clap Your Hands Say...Backlash?

The CityBeat publishes a piece decrying Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, who play at the Casbah on Wednesday the 22th. Combs takes the role of Elaine Benes, wondering how everybody can like "The English Patient." I don't really know who is going to shows at the Casbah to be "seen" (by who?) but I can also understand the feeling of being underwhelmed with the band. I like their CD, and saw them at the Troubador a few months ago and enjoyed it, but it is not the reinvention of the wheel, or the second coming of the messiah, or god forbid the messiah reinventing the wheel, that some would have you believe.

Some opportunistic Craigslisters have already sought to capitalize on the hopeful backlash that Combs' article will inspire: http://sandiego.craigslist.org/tix/142594413.html

For all you other fans out there who can't get a ticket or won't pony up sixty bucks or so, Muzzle of Bees has posted some great live MP3s of the band including new songs that aren't on the album.

The CityBeat article is on point regarding one more thing: Stella Artois is a Miller in a gussied up bottle. Yuck. Hipsters, what happened to the good old fashioned inexpensive PBR?

Giving the People What They Want - Tapes 'n Tapes Live from SXSW

Making the Friday Charts may have been a mistake. People turn up looking to actually download the albums of the artists I mention and no doubt go away feeling cheated and hating my blog. Sorry, but most of those artists I have minimal interest in even listening to, let alone providing people with MP3s of. However since a ton of traffic seems to be coming from those search results, I've decided to give back a little something to that particular group of traffic.

Tapes 'n Tapes - The Loon

The top artist that people come through looking for is Tapes n' Tapes, which could be a sign that their music truly does rise above the hype. I will personally have to give it another listen, nothing grabbed me about it the first time. But nevertheless, here is my gift to all of those Tapes 'n Tapes fans. The band performed a live set on the radio for KEXP down at SXSW yesterday and I got the MP3s. It's a short set, only four real songs, but a chance to get a taste of the band. If you're not familiar with the band read this interview with them over at *Sixeyes while the performance is downloading. MP3s below:

1. Intro
2. Just Drums
3. Manitoba
4. Interview
5. Insistor
6. Cowbell
7. Outro

List of San Diego Bands playing SXSW and Good Alternatives for Missing the Shindig

The UT provides a list of San Diego bands who will be part of the SXSW festivities. I have never seen any of these bands in concert, and the only ones I have ever heard were Castanets, who i took the rare step of deleting off of my computer. I have a huge hard drive, so that step is very very rare. Among other artists who have met this rare fate include Joanna Newsome, The Decemberists and The Futureheads.

So I would most likely be checking out the non-local bands were I to be in Austin. Since I'm not, and you likely aren't either, there are fortunately good enough concerts this weekend to keep you entertained. Tonight, as mentioned yesterday is Robert Walter's Super Heavy Organ at Winston's. That's the best small venue show of the weekend.

The Scotch Greens

Except for Friday, which we'll call the best really small venue show of the weekend. You may not think of live music when you think of the Liars Club in Mission Beach, but it works surprisingly well, especially given the copious amounts of booze usually flowing within. Friday night, The Scotch Greens, who have been touring with Flogging Molly play. I had never heard of them before, but you can listen at their myspace page and from the first few seconds you can tell that the show is going to be fun as hell. They call them selves a Roots Punk band, and from what I can tell from listening, that means that the guitar driven country style punk gives way to an occasional banjo solo, sort of like the Meat Puppets with energy and if they could sing. Check out "Deaf Girlfriend" on myspace, and try not to get excited listening to it. Highly recommended! UPDATE: The band goes on early, possibly as early as 7:30 and will be done by 9:00. Start your night off right!

toots!

Saturday Toots and the Maytalls plays at the HOB. They played Street Scene two years ago and I thought they were tremendous. You'd imagine that they could end up sounding like a Vegas style approximation of what a reggae band could sound like, but that's not the case. They were brimming with energy, the band was incredibly tight and Toots was still the man.

Sunday is Flogging Molly also at the HOB. I'd recommend them to anyone, although it is understandably the kind of crowd that could scare people off. IIt's sold out, so it doesn't really matter.

March 15, 2006

In Honor of the NCAA Tournament: One Shining Moment

The NCAA Tournament is undoubtedly the greatest sporting event in the country. The first two days are rivaled only by the Super Bowl for the televised event that can pin you to the couch for the longest and in the gambling department, but I give the Tournament the edge because, unlike the Super Bowl, you are guaranteed to have drama at some point in time.

Unlike the Super Bowl, the games remain the central attraction of the NCAA Tournament, except for one small exception: One Shining Moment, which plays as the background music to an end of tournament highlight real that CBS ends coverage of the championship game with. Love by many, no doubt loathed by an equal amount, One Shining Moment one of my favorite parts of the tournament. It never fails to send a few chills up my spine, especially since I remember an obscene amount of the highlights, teams and players they show.

The song is pretty much songwriter David Barrett's meal ticket. Though performed in later years by Luther Vandross and Teddy Pendergrast, Barrett has himself opened for Art Garfunkle. The lyrics to the song are the stuff of Successories posters and the music is a step up from John Tesh territory, but I still love it. Fun Fact: Evidently One Shining Moment is a package deal with a piano Prelude called "Golden Street" which typically plays as the players on the winning team finish cutting down the nets. This is the part that everybody impatiently tolerates, waiting for the real part of the song to kick in. Sort of like this lengthy intro before I give you the good stuff after the jump...

Unfortunately, no DVD of One Shining Moment highlight packages exist. Fortunately, we have YouTube, which has two of the most recent montages. I will be monitoring the YouTube situation closely for the next few weeks. If my dad still has the Beta tape of Syracuse's 1987 Championship game loss, I imagine that there are tapes floating around out there of every title game played, and we just have to hope someone uploads them.


Syracuse from 2003



UNC in 2005


Enjoy the tournament.

UPDATE: Over at Just My Show, there is an interview with song writer David Barrett about the song.

YET ANOTHER UPDATE: 2006 Florida Gators One Shining Moment can be viewed below:

Live Hold Steady from SXSW 2005 - Rock and Roll Before The Internet

Everybody seems to be going to South by Southwest down in Austin this weekend. It sounds pretty awesome in terms of the sheer hugeness of it, but everybody seems primed to identify the acts that are going to blow everyone away and become the next big thing. One can only imagine the pressure that would be on an act when SXSW seems to be one of the major tastemaking events of the year, the NFL combine of the music world perhaps. I prefer to let others scope the bands, make the claims, and then sift through the hype myself. If I discover or am still listening to an act a year later, then that's a sign to me that the hype was for real.

The Hold Steady's Craig Finn at the Casbah in San Diego

So in honor of the fact that The Hold Steady have gotten more play in the past two months in my house than all of 2005, I decided to post their 2005 SXSW performance for everyone to listen to. I'm upset that recordings of the show they played at the Casbah in February hasn't turned up online, especialy since it featured several additional songs, some of them new, but what can you do. The band's popularity had obviously increased greatly by the time they got to San Diego. The first thing you notice is that the audience doesn't shout along to the opening notes of Hornets! Hornets! Songs that now seem classic just months later are introduced as New, since Separation Sunday was still two months from coming out. Stevie Nix in particular is said to be "A song about Rock and Roll Before the Internet" which would be a great title for a music blog. Despite the unfamiliarity of the audience, the band still brings it, and the recording is pretty solid. If you can't make it to the event this week, I suggest you download the MP3s, open a beer, and sit back and smugly listen with the knowledge that you'll be able to pilfer the best live recordings in just a few days time.

1. Intro
2. Hornets! Hornets!
3. Hostile Mass
4. Your Little Hoodrat Friend
5. Stevie Nix
6. Don't Let Me Explode
7. Chicago Seemed Tired Last Night
8. Positive Jam
9. Killer Parties

Your Favorite Band plays Blind Melon's. That's the band name. Just read the article.

Your Favorite Band

While browsing through listings of San Diego bands on Myspace, I came across Your Favorite Band. Before I had even listened to their music, I thought they might be a great fit for the National High Five Day concert. I mean, compare that flyer to the one of the Bo Dukes:

The Bo Dukes

They look like they could share a bill don't they? Unfortunately it didn't end up working out, but after I got a chance to listen to their music, I realized that it was even more of a shame. Even though they can't play for NH5D at Blind Melon's on 4/20, Your Favorite Band is playing almost a month beforehand on the same stage, Blind Melon's, tonight, March 15th at 10PM. I recommend you get out there and see them. Despite the confusing Who's On First style band name, YFB has an energetic sound, replete with gratuitously awesome guitar solos, drum solos, and, on their song Never, even bass solos. They sound cool in their MP3s, and undoubtedly even better in concert.

The band plays frequent shows in San Diego, they played the Epicentre earlier this week. For more show dates and for three more MP3s, check out their myspace page.

Robert Walter's Super Heavy Organ - B3 There or B3 Square

Robert Walter

This Thursday, Robert Walter brings his new Super Heavy Organ project to Winstons. Robert is without a doubt one of the finest bringers of the funk there is today, and the man makes the coolest facial expressions you'll see as he coaxes the sounds out of his Hammond B3 organ. In addition to being one of the founding members of the Greyboy All Stars and his previous excellent work with the 20th Congress, Robert is also a San Diego native capping off the elusive trifecta of reasons you should go see him:

1. Brings the funk.
2. Cool facial expressions while performing.
3. From San Diego

In all honesty, it will be the coolest show you get a chance to see all week. Those of you who are only familiar with the Greyboy All Stars should prepare yourself for a less jazzy, more funky style show, as the previously mentioned Super Heavy Organ plays a much more prominent role. There are still large elements of jazz, the just as prominent saxophone and occasional wind instrument, but the band truly brings it home when they have all cylinders blazing on the funk. It's the kind of show where on the live recordings, you can hear the audience yelling in approval when some really awesome music is happening onstage. The 20th Congress was actually the first band that focused on instrumental improvisation that I ever saw back in college where i wasn't looking at my watch the entire time, so if you're wary of instrumental bands that feature extended soloing, be assured that these guys were able to convert one who was staunchly in that camp just a few years ago.

The best thing about seeing artists such as Robert Walter is that you can get a little taste of what you're in for beforehand. There is a 20th Congress show online that was actually recorded at Winstons several years ago, but I'm posting this Super Heavy Organ show, since that is the line up that is coming through tomorrow. Give these tunes a listen, and then go check out the band tomorrow.

1. Maple Plank
2. El Cuervo
3. Inside Straight
4. 34 Small
5. Parts & Holes
6. Corry's Snail and Slug Death
7. Hardware->
8. 2% Body Fat
9. Kickin' Up Dust
10. Little Miss Lover
11. Blues for J

March 14, 2006

Check Out The Hype Machine

The Hype Machine is an interesting and very well done way of finding new music. The sheer amount of music blogs on the internet can make navigating to all the worthwile ones a daunting task, and can make finding the rare gems in an undiscovered blog near impossible. The Hype Machine attempts to make this problem easier by scouring music blogs for posted or linked MP3s, and then posting links and information about these MP3s. By then dozens of MP3s that get posted on any given day, you can instantly download the ones that sound appealing, and click through to the blog entry for further information. You can also use the Hype Machines reports about MP3s as podcasts. That means that you can set up iTunes to automatically download the posted MP3s from any of the blogs they represent, (or the entire site, which would be quite the eclectic mix of music.)

This features would make the Hype Machine valuable enough on its own, but they add in another interesting touch that makes it a great way to discover new music when you are sick of listening to your own collection. The Hype Machine features its own radio, based on the MP3 feeds of the websites it scours. You can listen through Windows Media, Winamp, Real Player or the sites own stand alone flash player. The flash player provides an nice interface, and the music streams quickly with links to the original blog posting and the artist info on amazon.com. All in all, I highly recommend the website as a great new way to scour the ever expanding world of music blogs and the abundant resources they provide.

The Hype Machine's address is: http://hype.non-standard.net/
San Diego Serenade can be found on The Hype Machine at http://hype.non-standard.net/list/650
If you'd like to automatically download any MP3s I post, in iTunes click "Advanced" then "Subscribe to Podcast" then enter this address: http://hype.non-standard.net/playlist/blog/650/rss/1/feed.xml

March 13, 2006

The Velvet Undergound's Squeeze

squeeze.jpg

There are few things more frustrating or enticing than the knowledge that some people are able to listen to music that you cannot. The music fan that has obtained access to vaulted materials, or a pre-released copy of an album, or maybe just an rare piece of vinyl that you aren't willing to shell out the excessive ebay prices for can be one of the most obnoxious people you will ever encounter. You know why, of course. Whatever they have heard and you have not is undoubtedly the artist in questions "greatest work" or a "lost classic" or "superior in every way to the version they released...you know, the version that you listen to." The internet has lessened the divide between the lost classic elitist and regular Joes a bit. Brian Wilson's Smile, for example was far easier for a casual fan to research and track down on various website than it would have been a decade ago when it circulated on patched together mix tapes. Smile, of course, was also one of the rare lost works where the elitists opinion was right.

I think it is time to extend the debate to the masses on another album that many people are unable to listen to: The Velvet Underground's "Squeeze." Squeeze is the infamous "last" Velvet Underground album, released after all original members save for Doug Yule had gone their separate ways. It is long out of print, and was available only on vinyl, copies of which sell for around 40 to 60 dollars on ebay. This super rare status of the album by one of the most name-droppable bands of all time makes me positive that there is at least one person out there who have assumed the contratian position that Squeeze is the Velvet Underground's greatest work.

If there are indeed people out there who believe this, it should be noted right off the bat that they are wrong. However, I feel like the album is not an outright disgrace. Towards the end of the Velvet Undergrounds career, their sound shifted immensely as members other than Lou Reed or John Cale got involved. I think this is a good thing, as the world needs more "Sweet Janes" and "Rock and Rolls" and less "The Gifts." The album Loaded features several prominent songs where Doug Yule sings, and much of Squeeze sounds like it could have come from the same sessions that produced Loaded's "Lonesome Cowboy Bill" or "New Age."

So Yule obviously had the "generic late era Velvet Undergound" sound thing down, all the way to the backing Lou Reed style vocals on songs like "Caroline" and "Friends." But if you look at the credits for Loaded, the wrting is still all Lou Reed, (he shares credit on only one song.) Yule could write a catchy sounding tune, but songs such as the Rock and Roll/Sweet Jane sequel creatively titled "Jack & Jane" and the idiocy of "Dopey Joe" demonstrate his struggles with lyrics. Taken as a whole album, the mediocrity of the album can be a bit underwhelming, but if these songs had been included on the Peel Slowly and See box set, or the deluxe edition of Loaded, I bet that few people would be able to identify them as outliers.

But I think that the debate deserves to be a bit more widespread than just what I think. Last.fm statistics show that between 60 and 120 people have listened to the songs from Squeeze. Compare that to the more than 20,000 people who have listened to other VU songs such as "Heroin," "I'm Waiting For The Man" or even "Sunday Morning." That's why I have put this zip file of the MP3s from Squeeze up on the site. I believe they are a vinyl rip, but the quality is acceptable, and I don't believe that you'll be able to find a better digital copy. So download, take a listen to what Doug Yule hath wrought and once you've heard for yourself, head on down to the record store and tell that ultra-hip clerk that you're finally calling his bullshit.

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