Tuesday, August 31, 2004

21 & Done

21 years and the godfathers of indie rock, Guided By Voices, are done with their latest release, "Half Smiles of the Decomposed." I keep mentioning this, but I'm guessing I'm not going to be missing them too much. Sure they are one of my favorite bands, but they've got one of the biggest back catalogues I've ever seen. It's almost impossible for even the biggest GBV fan to keep up with. Plus I'm guessing Bob will still be recording.

Anyways....this last album is basically what you would expect: a flamboyant and over-the-top rock album. It's impossible to compare any GBV album to anything else, but this latest does have the typical Who-like sound with a couple of Mott the Hoople singalong. However, there are no homages to any particular sound of past GBV albums. What you get is a surprisingly dark effort. There are a few up-beat songs, but for the most part it is full of disjointed ballads and even a couple of political songs (huh?) on "Sons of Apollo" and "Sing For Your Meat." Didn't see that coming. The best song on the album? It would probably have to be the last song, "Huffman Prairie Flying Field." Usually GBV albums end with a loud and brief rock song. Here, however, you get a very well-crafted song. Probably one of the best, if not the best, pure rock song I've heard all year. All-in-all it may not be the best GBV effort in the catalogue, but you will get the most emoting from Bob since "Isolation Drills." It is very good and very surprising and anybody with a GBV bone needs it because this is a great ending to the best art-rock of the past decade plus. RIP GBV!

Tomorrow I'll try to post about my latest purchase. I'll briefly summarize: I think I may have a new album to absolutely obsess over and push off on everybody else.

Saturday, August 28, 2004

Tonight There's Going to Be a Clambake

Yesterday my copy of Superchunk's "Clambake Vol. 3" in the mail. The Clambake series, FYI, is a set of official bootlegs released by the band. Vol. 1 is a collection of various acoustic performances. Vol. 2 is pretty bizarre. It's a live soundtrack they performed at the San Francisco International Film Festival for an old Japanese silent film "A Page of Madness." It's really interesting, but very difficult to listen to. Vol. 3 is a performance at Merge Record's 10th birthday party in 1999. I've seen Superchunk live once back in 1998 and I remember it as being just a crazy, sweaty pop-punk show. They had so much energy and just bounced off the walls. This latest Clambake really captures what I remember. I really love the versions of "Watery Hands," "Slack Motherfucker," and especially the closer "Precision Auto."

By the way, Volumes 2 & 3 are available here. Vol. 1 I didn't have a chance to get before it went out of print. I ended up paying $35 for it on eBay. It's worth it, but I'm a huge Superchunk fan. If you don't know Superchunk, you should probably not start with a Clambake. A nice introduction would be something like last year's "Cup of Sand." It's only a b-sides collection, but they aren't throwaways. Plus it's 2-discs for only $15. Can't beat that!

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

Half Smiles of the Decomposed

Just a quick reminder that the last Guided By Voices album "Half Smiles of the Decomposed" comes out tomorrow. I'll definitely be picking mine up, that is if Hastings shows an ounce of intelligence. Actually Hastings has been very good at getting Guided By Voices albums the day they come out. Hopefully tomorrow won't be different. From the reviews I've read, it's supposed to be their best stuff in years.

It'll be a little bittersweet saying goodbye to Guided By Voices. Basically they have been a solo band since Tobin Sprout left the band almost a decade ago. Also, for some reason, Bob Pollard also records solo and will likely continue to do so. So in reality, Guided By Voices aren't really going away. Besides, it's not like there is a shortage of back catalogue. Still it'll be a little sad to not have the yearly GBV day when they're latest album hits the shelves.

Of course, I'll post a review in the next couple of days.

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

The Secret Weapon

Did anybody happen to catch St. Louis natives the Sklar Brothers special before the Cardinals game tonight on ESPN2? It was an hour long show about their quest to get Jose Oquendo inducted in the Baseball Hall of Fame. I know it was supposed to be light-hearted and funny, but the more I watched the more it started to make sense. I'm a big advocate of every position being considered for induction, especially closers. So I guess it makes sense to induct the innovator of the utility position. Afterall this was a guy that can play every position, and play them well.

In the end, the Sklar Brothers of course don't exactly get Jose inducted into the hall itself, but they did have a nice little induction ceremony at the utility closet. Somehow it's fitting, I guess. I'm guessing there will never be a way Jose will get inducted, that is until he takes the helm when LaRussa retires and leads the Redbirds to six World Series championships over the next decade. I like this guy's idea at the Post Dispatch Cardinals board tonight:

"Well, of course first he would have to manage a game at every position: Start as 1B coach, then move to 3B in the same inning (following Pujols). Then switch to the pitching coach and take out Marquis for Calero. Then move to hitting coach and instruct Taguchi on the proper technique for the squeeze play. Then move to manager in the 9th and call for Izzy to warm up, and then go warm him up in the bullpen as the bullpen coach/catcher. That should do it...."

I didn't notice if the special was going to be airing again anytime soon, but I highly suggest checking it out if it does. If nothing else, it's a great tribute to one of the '80's most underrated and likeable ball players. Plus the Sklar Brothers are typically pretty funny.

Hip hip Jose!!

Monday, August 16, 2004

More Good Music!!

Sorry I haven't been blogging lately, but the new Madden came out last week and has rapidly destroyed any miniscule life I had before. On the day I bought it I did pick up a great new album. Talk about contrasting purchases. First with the manly-man Madden game. Then I pick up the new Iron & Wine, "Our Endless Numbered Days."

I will admit that I hadn't really checked out Iron & Wine before, but with all the hype around it I figured I'd have to at some point. I am not disappointed in any regard. It's like Nick Drake has risen from the dead. This is the most delicate music I've heard all year. It's so soft and unassuming, but powerful nonetheless. Plus Sam Beam's voice is simply beautiful. The best description I've heard describe it is that it's like he's sitting on your shoulder singing directly into your ear. What's funny is that with all the hype I expected something kind of hip. I guess it's hip, but in the same way that Garrison Keillor is hip. Besides anything else, it's just simply relaxing. I slept in nice and late today, took a shower, and had a shave. Then I put this album on and sipped an egg cream while not doing anything, and just felt great. Also check out the video to "Naked As We Came." It's short (2 1/2 minutes), but just beautiful.

A month ago I was whining that 2004 was turning out to be a lame year for music, minus Modest Mouse, Now It's Overhead, and Wilco. Well with the addition of this Iron & Wine, the Good Life, and Pedro the Lion, it's actually turning out to be a nice year for music. Plus the new Rilo Kiley comes out Tuesday, and the last Guided By Voices in a week. October still looks like the big month for music with new stuff from American Music Club, Cake, Jimmy Eat World, REM, and Son, Ambulance. Hooray!

Saturday, August 07, 2004

One More Joins the World Series Express

I can't believe the Cardinals got Larry Walker. I've always liked Walker. He's another 5 tool player to add to the best lineup in baseball, NAY the best TEAM in baseball. I love the fact that this guy that has spent almost all his career in batting 3-4-5 is suddenly going to bat 2nd, 6th, or 7th. That's just how incredible this lineup is.

Plus Larry Walker is a class act and will fit right in with the St. Louis faithful. I loved seeing him leave the game halfway through beating up the poor, poor Reds and return to the dugout to give hugs to his teamates. Then watching him tear up thinking about leaving Colorado in his press conference.

Is this a huge move by Walt Jocketty? No, but it's a great vanity for this team. This team can compete with anybody in the league, but now they have to be the front-runners for a championship. I think this is going to energize this team the way Will Clark did a few years back (not that they need any more energizing). Plus they will likely have Walker for an extra year, whereas Will the Thrill retired after the season. Welcome to St. Louis, Larry. I'm sure you will love every second of it.

Foregone Conclusions

I posted a month ago about Pedro the Lion. At the time I was digging them but not enough to obsess about, thinking they were a little boring. A couple of weeks ago I picked up their latest album, "Achilles Heel." I really dug it the first few times I listened to it, but I put it away for a week not totally convinced by it. Yesterday I pulled it out again and now I finally get it. Maybe it's because I recently found out that American Music Club is releasing their first album in ten years and Pedro the Lion reminds me of a more accessible AMC. At first listen Pedro the Lion is not nearly as depressing as AMC and sound much more upbeat, but the deeper you dig into their lyrics you find some incredibly sad things like this section from "A Simple Plan":

We fought for a decade corruption and greed
It gave me a purpose, a reason to breathe
But now that it's over, now that we've won
It's back to my bedroom alone with a shotgun
To think of my family no longer compels me
With all things in common they'll manage without me

Wow, that's horrible! It's also a big reason I listen to the music I do. I'd rather be challenged by music and opened up emotionally. I'm always more motivated and alert when I'm listening to thought-provoking music. Sure it's nice to rock or dance, but it's usually more depressing and sad to do that while alone than listening to Pedro the Lion. Think about that.

Seriously, check this album out. It really is beautiful. Think American Music Club meets Coldplay meets Death Cab for Cutie. If you get sad easily, just sit back and enjoy the sound because this is the happiest sad music you'll hear.