Heavy Rotation

There are a few songs lately that I have been returning to over and over and with which I have been tormenting my poor friends via Facebook.  It seems when a song grabs me, it holds tight and will not let go.  My obsessive nature has no boundaries, apparently.

In order of bearded awesomeness…

5. The Tune Yards – Bizness

A ukelele, two saxophones, a bass, some drums and an amazing voice.  And it was recorded in the studios of the best radio station on earth.  So different and fresh and strange and cool.  When Merrill says, “C’mon do it,” that’s exactly what you want to do.


4. Gary Clark, Jr. – Bright Lights

From the opening riff to the soulful voice to those badass mirrored shades, this song just drips cool.  And Doyle Bramhall is a heck of a guitarist in his own right.


3. Charlie Parr – 1922

A National guitar and a voice and aesthetic right out of a Woody Guthrie song with a healthy dose of the blues and all the things that make American music worthwhile… Charlie Parr.  Genius.


2. The Sheepdogs – How Late How Long

Sometimes we all long for the simpler rock and roll times of the 1970s, when rock and roll was full of guitars and drums and a bass and smacked you right in the groin with a wall of power.  The Sheepdogs are the cure for your malaise.  Makes me want to jump into a Dodge Charger and drive fast.  Thanks to IBA for introducing me to this bit of awesomeness. (I kinda dig how Ewan Currie stares into the middle distance when he’s playing at the beginning… cracks me up!)


1. 4onthefloor – Junkie

Forget for a moment that the gritty riff, the primal yowl of Gabriel Douglas, and the thumping drums are hitting you like a sledgehammer of rock, and just bask in the glory of the perfect beard.


Three Underrated Rock Frontmen

**Disclaimer – This post is about rock and roll and the videos herein contain some pretty naughty language.  Proceed accordingly.**

Ah, the frontman.  The pinnacle of rock and roll fame.  Well… not necessarily.  Sometimes, the frontman is so completely identified with the band as to be almost at one with it.  The band itself is the focus of the fame.  In my opinion, that is the sign of a great band, but rock and roll also craves superstars.  So, tonight, while walking and listening to music, it dawned on me that there are certain frontmen whose fame never exceeded the fame of the bands they fronted, but maybe they SHOULD have.

1. Ed Kowlaczyk – Live

People remember Lightning Crashes and I Alone off of the album Throwing Copper.  But this band had a really great debut album, too.  The video below proves Ed was a showman early on.  He certainly had intensity, but his philosophic journey turned many people off.  He always was the face of Live, but he never received enough credit for being an incredible frontman with a fantastic voice.

2.  Paul Westerberg – The Replacements

The band had a reputation as a bunch of drunks who often were so wasted they couldn’t even perform.  But the truth is, they were inspiration for a whole host of bands that would follow them and, along with Husker Du and Prince, defined the Minneapolis scene in the 80s.  And the main reason was Paul Westerberg.  Never flashy, he was simply an incredible songwriter who could walk the fine line between love and disgust and between punk and pop.  He has seen some success as a solo artist, but his fame is indelibly tied to the ‘Mats.  Heck, more people know who Tommy Stinson is, because he played with Guns ‘n’ Roses.

3.  Zack de la Rocha – Rage Against the Machine

Tom Morello is a killer guitarist – one of my favorites – but I liked this band because of Zack de la Rocha.  His forceful delivery and biting social and political commentary appealed to my angry and activist sides.  He ended up leaving the band and never achieved the same level of success as with Rage.  Without him, Rage had lost their distinct voice and the remaining members teamed up with ex-Soundgarden frontman Chris Cornell to form Audioslave.  Zack was an electrifying presence and his voice and delivery were as unique as they were angry.  And how many guys can flip off the crowd and make it work?

Wear It On Your Sleeve

This morning, while driving into work, Radiohead’s “Fake Plastic Trees” came on the radio.   Now, I have no emotional connection to this song, although Radiohead is a great band and this is a great song.  Maybe it was something in the plaintive delivery of Thom Yorke, but I found myself starting to cry.  And believe me, there is nothing like a 275 lb, 42-year old man driving to work in the rain and tearing up to make you go… huh?  I imagine it was just the culmination of an emotionally draining week, or just plain old being tired, but something hit me in just the right spot to start the waterworks flowing for a short time.  It was not a sobbing fit, just a gentle eye watering cry.

All my life, I have worn my emotions on my sleeve.  While I may have attempted to construct a placid exterior, my emotion would always end up overrunning any obstacles.  The benefit was that everyone knew how I felt.  The downside was everyone knew how I felt.

As I have aged, I find it more difficult to control when I get emotional.  Maybe it’s because I have fewer reasons to worry about outward appearances, not that I have ever been anything less than shameless.  I don’t experience fits of rage (strings of imaginative curses aimed at other drivers while driving, notwithstanding) or have a wild temper that runs amok.  Usually, the extremes of my emotions manifest themselves in either giddy laughter or crying.  I’ll find myself doubled over laughing over something generally less than hilarious just because I need the laugh.

And I think that’s where the crying comes from as well.  I cannot control myself when faced with a manipulative, sappy, sentimental sad movie. It never fails that I have to somehow hide my face and the lurching shoulder spasms.  For example, both Titanic and Schindler’s List left me a blubbering mess, for different reasons. (The little girl in the red coat… manipulative, but incredibly effective!)

So, do not run screaming into the night should you hear me gently sobbing during a screening of The Lovely Bones, or listening to almost anything by Sarah McLachlan.

Does Everyone Stare?


I change my clothes ten times before I take you on a date.
I’m in a cold sweat, panic makes me late.
I know you never asked for this, I know
My shots will always miss
My shots will always miss
Does everyone stare this way at you?
I only look this way at you.
I change my clothes ten times before I take you on a date.
I get the heebie-jeebies and my panic makes me late.
I break into a cold sweat reaching for the phone.
I let it ring twice before I chicken out and decide you’re not at home.
Does everyone stare the way I do?
I only stare this way at you.
I never noticed the size of my feet
‘Til I kicked you in the shins.
Will you ever forgive me
For the shape I’m in?
For the shape I’m in?
Does everyone stare the way I do?
I only stare this way at you.
I want to write you a sonnet but I don’t know where to start.
I’m so used to laughing at the things in my heart.
Last of all I’m sorry ’cause you never asked for this
I can see I’m not your type and my shots will always miss, always miss!
Does everyone stare the way I do?
I only stare this way at you.

End of July

It has been a long interesting week.  I have spent part of it tending to the removal of weeds from a rock wall.  It felt good to touch the dirt, to feel it cake my arms.  The smells of grass and clover and weeds all mingle to create a purely summer smell.  And, for one so hesitant to bask in the heat of summer, I poured sweat more this week than in a long time.  And it felt good.  Left to my own devices, chances are slim that I would have ventured out and been productive.  But, having a responsibility this week to care for someone else’s garden is a great motivation.

Life without cable television is quite good, actually.  Anything I have a firm desire to see I can usually find on the internet.  Have spent more time with music, which is always a good option.  The owner of the small company for which I work lent me his copy of the biography of John Adams by David McCullough.  Excellent read.  And movies… catching up on movies: Red (funny – especially John Malkovich), The Town (Outstanding), True Grit (the Coen Brothers’ version, which I already like better than the John Wayne film) and, today, 13 Assassins, which was excellent in a way only a fan of movies about samurai could truly understand.

My ex-fiancee and her son are still on my mind.  This week they seemed to be there a little more often.  There is still guilt there, but it is not as acute.  Sometimes they appear vividly in a dream, or a familiar song, or a smell, or a memory just floats to the surface for no reason.  I hope they are doing well.

Yesterday, my dear friend and her sister were in town on a fundraising bike tour – raising money for MS research.  It is always a treat seeing her.  It meant an early morning getting them back to the start point for today’s leg of the ride, but was totally worth it.  I don’t know how they ride 50+ miles per day for a week.  But they do!  And for a good cause, as well.

Oh, and the rain.  Apparently 5 inches of the stuff came down in a monsoon-like deluge yesterday.  Believe me, I was out in it briefly and I think the collar of my shirt is still damp.  My heart went out to the MS Tram riders who were camping out at Lake Park!

It’s also intriguing how often my mind wanders to thoughts of her.  Yes, she returns tomorrow after a week away.  Not many moments went by without a thought of her.  Is that ridiculous or pathetic? I’m sure she thought little of me while enjoying a break from her busy life.  Everything is moving very slowly (sometimes painfully slowly, especially for someone as impatient as I) but there is something new and interesting about that approach.  Once upon a time, this part went by in a blur, and we all know how that  turned out.  Maybe I need the slower pace to grow and develop… to come out of this cave and cage which I fashioned and find a way to be a man.  But my heart does ache sometimes.  Incorrigible romantic.


Can’t Keep Johnny Down

Watched this video this morning, which was a submission for a fan video contest.  Suddenly found myself all choked up watching this little kid.

Man, sometimes emotional reactions really do blindside me.

And now I cannot get this song out of my head!  “Outnumbered a million to one…”

Open Letter to a Horrible Band

Just because you really like a song does not mean your band should cover it.  I’m talking to you Quietdrive, and the travesty that is your vomit-inducing cover of the classic Cyndi Lauper gem, “Time After Time”.  Your cover of that song is everything that the original is not… and that is not a good thing.  Your rabidly excruciating version of this song makes me want to drive into oncoming traffic.  A good cover should either pay tribute to the excellence of the original, or re-invent it.  What you did to this gorgeous song was unforgivable… you made it unlistenable.

The original was full of pain and longing, sparsely arranged and carried almost completely by Cyndi Lauper’s singular voice.  It was damn near a perfect song.  The Quietdrive version is a neo-Emo, over-produced, over-guitared, middle-of-the-road, vanilla voiced bag of donkey crap.  Who in the room when you were recording this steaming pile of lameness actually said, “Yeah, that’s awesome.”  That person needs to be dropped into a deep karma canyon.  And your band?  You need to be condemned to the Holy Halls of Rock Valhalla where the true gods of rock can use your bones as accessories for their exceeding badass-ness.

As for the idiotic college radio DJ who foisted this hot mess upon my ears, you need to turn in your tragically hip credentials at the door and never, ever darken my radio again.