Monday, August 16, 2010

Breaking News: Chicagoan's Laziness Creates Singularity... Sort Of

My brutal, soul-crushing summer of peanut-filled, candy-coated torture is finally over. I thought it was over at one point last month, but it seems that was just a moment's reprieve which my employers used to lull me into a false sense of complacency so that they could start the cycle of abuse anew, thus keeping my pain fresh and entertaining. Fuck you, candy factory. But no, really. It's seriously over now, and I can write long jumbles of awkwardly-formed sentences that nobody will ever read until I'm blue in the face! Oh... that sounds a lot less exciting in 12 point Georgia typeface.

Anyway, I was going somewhere with all this. Last month, when I was under the impression that the nonstop work-fest was over, I began writing about this badass show I went to. However, I am lazy. As a result, I put it off for a few days (that is to say I didn't want to do the very minor coding required to turn pictures into fancy picture-links, and so took a break from the whole thing), and then work unexpectedly started beating me mercilessly with a morning star for another month. So now we're going to pretend that the Large Hadron Collider at CERN has ripped a little hole in the fabric of time, and the effects of the teeny black hole have rippled from Geneva to the United States, declining in potency at the outer reaches of the affected area's diameter (incidentally, it is currently 1999 in France). You and I and all of everyone in the US have now been propelled backward in time to [gasp] August 13th, 2010. The people are strange, their customs unfamiliar, and their garb exotic. They speak in a tongue you barely understand. Can you survive as a living anachronism? CAN YOU?!? Probably.

Oh man, that was way harder than just changing what I wrote before to cause it to make some sense would have been. Somehow I always end up doing more work being lazy than if I actually try. There's probably a lesson to be learned somewhere hereabouts, but I'm not bright enough to figure out what it is, so... here's the stuff I wrote before:

Please excuse the long absence. My employers have been trying to kill me, southeast Asian sweatshop style. 35 days in a row, 70 hours a week for over two months? Though geography's never been my strongest subject, I was still a little surprised that I didn't realize Cambodia was located in the American Midwest. I need to work on being a bit more cosmopolitan... at least then I'll see my ass-rapes coming.

So speaking of things happening where you wouldn't expect them to happen, how about a "four hour death-march of surf music"... in Indiana? Sources say that two weekends ago there were a number of individuals in the small farming communities lying northwest of Indianapolis scratching their heads over countless guitar-shaped crop circles placed neatly between the windmills in the farmlands outside their houses. There have been reports of females with few teeth and loose morals becoming impregnated with fetuses which gestated, reached maturity and were birthed within twenty-four hours. Rumors that these fetuses came riding out of their mothers' birth canals on surfboards while wailing on Telecasters have not yet been confirmed. And a group of Indianapolis locals claim to have seen strange lights and heard otherworldly sounds emanating from The Melody Inn last Friday night. I am stepping forward, at great risk to my own safety, to proclaim to the world that the rumors are true. We have made contact with intelligent extraterrestrial lifeforms. On Friday, August 13th, 2010, The Space Cossacks landed in a cornfield in western Ohio, stowed their spacecraft in an abandoned barn, and teleported into The Melody Inn in Indianapolis, Indiana, whereupon they used a Cossackian Mind Melter (which they had cleverly disguised as a Fender Stratocaster) to melt my brain, scramble its remnants, then reassemble said remnants into an improved version of the original model. Strangely, they did not probe any anuses... I guess they decided to leave the rectal penetration to my employers, who have long since proven their competence in such matters.

Dubbed the "Indiana Surf Explosion," this seemed to me more like a "let's torture this poor guy by making him play for three hours" explosion. Ivan Pongracic is in THREE of the four bands that played on Friday, and he's no Lazy Daisy when it comes to composing and playing his music. Every song he played during his falange-punishing session of surf madness looked so difficult that following the movements of his fingers made my head hurt. I can't imagine what it would do to my soft, baby-like girl-fingers if I were to play that fast for that long. Congratulations, dude... your digits are made of diamond-encrusted granite.

Anyway, the first band to play was a Shadows tribute band called The Troubadours. If you don't know who The Shadows were (which you very well may not if you aren't into surf - they never really made much of a splash in the US), I strongly suggest clicking the album cover below.

Herein you will find experiments designed using early prototypes of Cossackian Mind Melters. Listen at your own risk. Neither I, nor the aliens who created this technology, can be held responsible for any injuries that you or those in your vicinity incur as a result of exposure to the reverb surf-rays that are emitted during this procedure. Pay extra special attention to "Prelude in E Major," because it's super fucking awesome. It's actually sort of the only reason I picked this album to post... it's kind of a spaghetti western-themed country/surf record, so it's probably the worst possible choice, as a matter of fact. However, the Italian/cowpoke feel of the record makes it one of my favorite records of all-time. But I digress...

So The Troubadours are a sort of father/son endeavor. Ivan Pongracic, Jr (lead guitarist of Madeira/The Space Cossacks) and his father, Ivan Pongracic, Sr play lead and rhythm guitar, respectively. This makes the Pongracic Jr's anachronistic love for classic surf (all of his bands seem to play in a style that pays homage to the surf kings of yore) a bit more understandable. Starting the show off with this kind of sound was a great idea. It really set the tone for the night, and for the remainder of the show, everyone seemed to be playing much closer attention to the musicianship being showcased than they otherwise might have. For pretty much the entire set, the crowd ate this shit up, and the whole band seemed to be really surprised by their reaction. The performance was a feel-good experience, aided by the fact that Pongracic Sr was clearly having a blast... I've never seen an old dude rock out so hard. Faithful renditions of The Shadows' songs, flawless musicianship and a goofy, this-is-all-about-having-fun attitude made this segment of the "Surf Explosion" much more entertaining than I expected. I'll be keeping an eye out for Troubadours shows now.

Next up was the only band that didn't involve any Ivan Pongracics whatsoever.

Named after a short promotional cartoon created for the American Petroleum Institute in 1956, Destination: Earth! are sort of like the Gwar of spacey surf-rock. They play heavy, loud music in crazy alien-astronaut costumes... helmets with visors, fingerless gloves, spiky shoulder pads, the whole nine yards. They also have curious stage names: 7-Zark-7, RSDW40 and Raider-X. The singer's stage name is taken from a comic book I used to read when I was a kid called "Battle of the Planets." More accurately, it was taken from the cartoon that the comic was based on. 7-Zark-7 was a robot who sort of served as the narrator of the show.

The other two members' stage names are totally unfamiliar to me, but I would imagine there is a very nerdy explanation for them somewhere on the Internet. I missed most of their show due to some issues I was having with a tee shirt (none of your business), but I did catch the first ten minutes or so, and it was pretty badass. It sort of didn't fit with the rest of the night though. They shared the stage with some pretty dedicated musicians, and I don't know if their playing was quite up-to-snuff. Though I missed about two-thirds of the show, so I very well could have been absent for some of the "oh shit" moments that make bands like The Space Cossacks seem like such a big deal. Regardless, I will keep this band in mind when I'm bin-diggin'. Pretty decent stuff when not compared to the forces of fucking nature they played with at the Melody Inn. I was, however, disappointed by the fact that at no time during what I caught of the show did they say "Thank you for that unsolicited testimonial," after people applauded. See for an explanation of that reference. Other than that, no complaints. But the most important thing about this band as far as I'm concerned is that the bassist bears a striking resemblance to Lucius Malfoy of Harry Potter mythology.

See?? Every time I see the dude, I picture him swatting at a shivering, sobbing house elf... at one point during the show, I think I even yelled "You leave Dobby alone!" Fucking Death Eaters in surf bands... what's a Muggle to do? Some samples of the intergalactic version of Gwar:

Destination: Earth! - Running Out Of Limits
Destination: Earth! - Adventures In Newspace

Next up was the reason I dragged my overworked, overtired, irritable ass out to the car and drove three and a half hours to Indianapolis... the mighty Space Cossacks.

Though I missed the beginning of the show (tee shirt thing again), I caught the songs I came to see. Their performance of "Tsar Wars" (see shitty video below) made my night.

If only this band were reuniting for keeps. I would love to see them again. I talked to rhythm guitarist Mark English while I was pillaging their merch table, and he told me that this reunion tour went so well that they may do another next year, so I may be taking another surf pilgrimage pretty soon. He also told me that the band had only practiced three (count 'em, three) times before playing this tour due to the formidable distances currently separating the band members' homes (we're talking different time zones here). Considering how spot-on the performance was, I kind of had a stroke when he said that.

This was one of those rare occasions where someone who completely missed the boat on a great band got to see them live AFTER the break-up. Big deal for me. It's Lifter Puller's turn now.

Last up was The Madeira. I didn't even know that Ivan Pongracic had another band until we saw them play at the end of this show. I was expecting more classic-style surf, but I was way off base. This is some weird stuff here. It's like classical Arabic surf, if there could be such a thing. They use a lot of double harmonic scales and the like (sort of Egyptian-sounding stuff for any non-music geeks that might be reading this) and it gives the whole thing a sort of nomadic, desert-wandering kind of feel.

Furthering this whole Middle-Eastern atmosphere is the fact that they convey a lot of imagery and mood through their song titles (at least on their latest record, Carpe Noctem - I don't know much about their older stuff yet). For instance, the track "The Saracen"; Saracen is a word that was once used in Rome to refer to people who lived in the deserts on the outskirts of Syria. So now as you listen to this song, you imagine a guy standing on a sand dune with his head swaddled in cloth, the ends blowing in the wind, his visage obfuscated by a cloud of sand, and you're feeling a bit more connected to the desert-world that this record lives in. But it's not all crazy sandy weirdness. There's still a definite loyalty to classic surf, as evidenced by their song entitled "Surf Fidelis". Fidelis is the Latin word for loyalty, so I would guess this song is about loyalty to his musical roots (pure conjecture, absolutely no facts to back that up - though Fidelis is the Latin word for loyalty). And that song does sound a lot like a Space Cossacks song, so I guess the title suits it pretty well. Another song on this record, "Tangaroa," sounds like some straight-up sixties surf rock. I could swear I've heard this song before from an actual sixties surf band, but nothing's coming... if anyone knows what I'm talking about, leave a comment. I just can't place it. There's also a song called "El Fiaco" on Carpe Noctem which, depending on whether you're speaking in proper Spanish or in Spanish slang, could mean either "The Skinny Man" or "The Piss". For purposes of self-entertainment, I choose to believe that they intended to convey explanation number two here. <-- I know there's a joke in there somewhere, but as I said before, I am a very lazy man.

In addition to all of the aforementioned badassery, a lot of the progressions are quite like 60's progressive rock... a bunch of Emerson, Lake & Powell style stuff going on there (note the difference between the names "Powell" and "Palmer"... I'm not that stupid). Like how the band plays with the capabilities of their instruments, for example. In the song "SOS (Stomp On Stomp)", there's this growling going on at one point, and you can tell it's a guitar, but just barely. There were times during the show where I wasn't sure which amp the weird noises were coming from because they didn't match either guitarist's hand movements. But the most important thing I would like to point out about this band is their diversity. They play a huge array of different styles, and somehow find a way to make it all sound like it belongs on the same record. This band deserves more attention than it will ever get, and that makes me sad. Do yourself (and them) a favor and catch a show if they ever come through your town. It's worth whatever pittance they'll be charging at the door.

The show ended with a really weird surprise, and it was a great way to finish things off. After The Madeira played their last song, the other members of The Space Cossacks got on-stage to play a song with the members of The Madeira. Two bassists, three guitarists and two drummers. It was like Slipknot surf rock, except not as shitty as that sounds. Sliprock? Surfknot? I took a video of the performance, but it was super shitty, so I'm using the one taped by the venue instead. See below for an experiment that probably should have failed, but kicked ass anyway.

Look at that shit! It's like an evil surf army. I was intimidated and elated and a lot of other things that end in "ated" all at once. A little bit of what you missed when you didn't go to this amazing fucking show:

The Madeira - Tangaroa

The Madeira - The Saracen

The Madeira - El Flaco

I was going to post pictures of all the pretty records I bought at the show (two were clear, one was purple, and the other was red), but:

A.) I couldn't find my camera.

B.) Nobody would care anyway.

So I'm going to skip that part for now. I may come back and add it in later.

Okay, so I'm seriously back to doing this on a regular basis now. Next week, I'm going to see FUCKING LIGHTNING BOLT. There's no way that's not going to be fun to write about. I think I need to do some drugs before I go. Can you still get Benzedrine? On a related note, there's a good chance I'll still be pretty high when I'm writing about the show, so you should probably come back and check out the train-wreck that results. Now get the fuck off of my blog. Nobody invited you.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Act now, and get a second dose of rock 'n' roll at no cost to you!

I've been pretty lazy about this thing lately, so assuming that anyone actually reads this, I am doing a two-fer today of two of my favorite obsessions. Surf and garage revival bands, bitches. You may not know this, but the in the nineties there were some pretty good surf and garage groups rocking the fucking pants off of pretty much every area of the United States. Labels like Estrus, Sympathy for the Record Industry, GetHip, etc. released some really great records, many of which are pretty tough to find information on. That's unfortunate too, because the two records you're about to hammer into your brain like a railroad spike are a couple of the most incredible collections of songs to come out of the decade. Get ready to have your balls rocked right off your crotch.

First, a taste of each band to convince you that it's worth the full download.

The Space Cossacks - The Defector

Fireballs of Freedom - Swamp Wolf

I'm pretty sure I just saw your head collapse on itself. Mine did too. A bit about each band/record:

This band is what the Ventures may have ended up sounding like if they hadn't gotten so much money for playing other peoples' songs. Definitely influenced by the album The Ventures In Space, this record was released on MuSick Records in 2000. Though it wasn't technically released in the nineties, I still consider it part of the 90s surf-revival, as most of this band's run was between 1996 and 1999. The Space Cossacks are doing a reunion tour right now, by the by. They'll be playing in a bunch of places in California, some spots in the South, and a bunch of other areas that aren't fucking Chicago. Bullshit, dudes. They are going to be playing in Indianapolis in August (I think), so if you live around the Chicagoland area and happen to like this band enough to make a 3 hour drive, it's do-able (if anyone reading this wants to split gas, I'd consider driving). It's also just a reunion tour rather than a full-blown reunion, so consider that this is probably the only chance you'll ever get to see them if you decide you really like them. As far as I know, they're still broken up. My personal favorite track on this record is the title track, Tsar Wars.
Here's a link to a list of shows being played on the reunion tour if anyone's interested:

Now defunct, Fireballs of Freedom are rumored to have eaten six peoples' grandparents, set the entire country on fire and left a tip at a Denny's comprised entirely of pennies. They're so awesome that my bones break when I listen to them. It's hard to hear this record over the snapping of your entire skeleton, but certainly worth the strain. Welcome To The Octagon was released on Estrus in 2001, so again, not from the nineties, but still part of the same sort of "movement". Their earlier releases include the title "Total Fucking Blowout"... how could you not want to listen to that?! Carnivorous beasts, these guys. Favorite track: Out of My Head.

So really, more updates this month. No lie. Until then, try not to play these records in public for the safety of passers-by. At low volumes, they're hazardous to the health of any unsuspecting Joe Regular that happens across them. At high volumes... I can't even begin to imagine.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

A Journey To The Moon... of Motherfucking Saturn

Since I haven't been doing shit on this blarhg recently, I thought I'd post some links to some really cool shit that isn't music or video game related (mainly because I don't feel like researching anything I don't already know a lot about). Anyone like sci-fi novels? Not like turdy little whizbang fests such as "Sphere" or anything. I mean like Asimov or James Blish. If you have no idea what the difference is, do yourself a huuuuge favor, and download these books.

Click to download

There should be four books in this download, and together they make up the Hyperion Cantos Saga. Here is proof that sci-fi isn't all just spaceships and aliens and laser guns. It can be pretty beautiful when it wants to be. For instance, Simmons is a HUGE fan of Keats, and that becomes apparent early in the first novel. So to all those who say that sci-fi novels aren't real literature, I pose the following question: Can your favorite antagonist ride the currents of time and cause people to hallucinate and impale people on his/her spiky tree to suffer for all eternity? Okay... while I may not have made the point I was trying to, I certainly made a pretty awesome one. Read these books, or the Shrike will find you and... well you'll see.

Also: Interesting tidbit... the main antagonist in these novels is named after an unusual bird of prey that doesn't hunt its meals. It straight up MURDERS them. See below for a more thorough explanation.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

This Sounds A Bit Like Goodbye

Alex Chilton died last night. I'm pretty bummed out about it. I sort of don't even really feel like writing this, but it seems like a nice thing to do for the dude that got me back into music again.

So Big Star were my Beatles or Stones. The only other band I've ever liked that much is Bright Eyes, and to be honest, I really don't think I'd care that much if I heard that Conor Oberst died last night. I'd be a little sad, but I'd forget about it within the hour. Definitely not the case here. I'm actually sort of surprised as to how upset about this I am. My whole day has been mopey bum-fuckery since I found out.

For the past couple of years, I've been steadily amassing a collection of records with which Chilton was involved to sort of pay homage to Big Star, and you can bet that's pretty much over. Their records were pricey when Chilton was alive, and the bids are already starting to creep up on eBay. And unlike Michael Jackson's stuff, I'm assuming that these prices will remain firmly parked at the "sky high" level. I'm usually a fan of sniffing out hard-to-find gems for cheap, but with this band, I just wanted as many little pieces as I could get my hands on of the history of what was, in my opinion, the most important pop group of all time.

Tuesday, as I drove home, I was thinking about how great it was that I could see a Big Star show pretty much whenever if I felt like driving far enough. That's over now too. And right now I'm trying to listen to Radio City, and it's just making me sad. Hopefully that goes away soon. God, I feel like I'm a kid and someone just told me there's no such thing as Santa. This is the most affected I've ever been by the death of a (semi) celebrity.

Anyway, enough with the oh-well-Pooh-ing. Here's a video of a senator for whom I now have much more respect, and some downloads in case you don't know Big Star well enough to be sad about this. I WILL NOT MOPE ALONE, MOTHERFUCKERS.

First, the video:
Click Here
(sorry, can't embed)

Now, the music (click the album cover to download a record):

Number One Record: Big Star's first record. A little more mainstream. A probable thumbs-up for lovers of classic rock in general.

Radio City: Big Star's second record, recorded without the help of guitarist Chris Bell, who was institutionalized at the time. First signs of the awesomeness that was to come are shown in this record.

Third (or) Sister Lovers: Same record released under two different titles. This is easily the most beautiful record I've ever heard. I know it's a stupid cliché, but this record was WAY ahead of its time. Kangaroo is one of the prettiest songs I've ever heard.

I really wanted to post their latest album (entitled "In Space", which I think is a reference to a record put out by another one of my favorite bands - The Ventures), but I couldn't find it during a fairly extensive Google search. It's too bad, because nobody ever talks about that record, and it is GREAT. Three times I've listened to features about this band on NPR, and not once did they mention the fact that the band reunited and released a record of entirely new material in 2005. Maybe I'll set up a computer with a sound card and rip my vinyl copy to post on here this weekend.

Alex Chilton, I'm very sad that you died. I'm gonna go get drunk in your honor.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Dear Parking Nazi

I hate parking tickets. I know that most people hate parking tickets, but I hate them A LOT. Anyone living in Chicago knows what assholes the "meter maids" (and I use this term pointedly) can be. They hand tickets and boots out with an unbridled passion that seems not to fit the context. You're not researching genetically modified crops and singlehandedly feeding Africa. You're not painting the fog over London at dusk. You're handing out parking tickets. AND everybody hates you.

Despite the risk of actually egging on the issuance of a parking ticket to my plate number, I decided that I dislike being irritated by the apparent lack of discretion used when charging people what seems to be a standard $50+ for any parking violation, regardless of location or degree of severity. I've recently realized that if I make a situation funny by being an asshole, my anger appears to pretty much disappear. For instance, I temp at a Nestle` plant here in Illinois, and the woman for whom I'm filling in has her walls/desk/everything in her office short of the dust plastered with "inspirational" quotes so sappy that even the cleverest de-motivational calendar couldn't have counteracted their sickening after-school-special grade vapidness. Things like "the only job where you start at the top is digging a hole" and "when someone shares something with you and you benefit from it, you have a moral obligation to share it with others". She even has a bulleted list tacked onto a cork board entitled "12 Proven Ways To Get Along Better With Everyone", and from what I hear, this lady may benefit from reading her own ridiculous list. These types of things burn me up. It may seem like an insignificant thing to get so upset about, but I really think that quotes are detrimental to our culture, especially since they've become so damned popular in offices (where groupthink is mostly what you see from one end of the cubicle rows to the other). They generally offer only a fragment of a much more in-depth story, and it is therefore extremely easy to manipulate the meanings of their words. You can very effortlessly make it look like a famous and/or credible person agrees with you on an issue to which they were actually strongly opposed. "United we stand" is often chanted by politicians and... well, there's no nice way to say this, so... rednecks alike to show their distaste for political dissent directed at the moral majority. That quote (uttered by Abraham Lincoln - see what I mean about attaching a name to an idea to give it credibility?) is in no way relevant to our current situation. It's about civil fucking war. They should be shouting it IN Iraq instead of ABOUT it. Or in any of the other many many places where it's relevant, which does not include our extremely well-off, non-war-torn country. I really think quotes are for idiots most of the time.

So to save my sanity, I discreetly put up a couple of my own quotes, sort of shoved in between the ones that were already there. One was from Tom Cruise, so you probably already have an idea as to what sort of comedic value the posting of these quotes may have. It read as follows:

"You don't know placentas. I do. I've studied placentas. I know dozens of ways to prepare them. I know what wines go with them. What do you know?" -Tom Cruise

The other was from the reigning king of crazy, the great Gary Busey. It read as follows:

"...your shadow, the dark side. C.G. Hume writes about it, in terms of the fact that every one of us has a dark side. And my dark side, my shadow, my lower companion is now in the back room blowing up balloons for kids' parties." -Gary Busey.

To my surprise, my mornings improved drastically.

Now back to the parking issue. In this situation, I applied a tactic similar to the one mentioned above, and I present it to you now so that you too may enjoy in the legible and ineffectual bitch-slappery of one of the least important legal officials in the entire world. I hope reading it is as vindicating for you as writing it was for me.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Well after this, I should think nothing of falling down stairs.

Deepest. Rabbit. Hole. Ever.

So when I said "tomorrow" I guess I meant "in three days". But you should really give me a break because HOLY SHIT is there a lot to go over here. This record is not the end of the line as far as the Badass Express is concerned; there are about a million stops along the way, and likely many more to come. This band is connected to that band which is connected to this other band and so on and so on, as far back as 1991 (probably earlier, but I've only had two days - during which I was all full of lazy - to research this crap). I doubt I'll have much time to talk about many of these bands in this post, but I'll have tons to say later. As for the record in question - so friggin' much to talk about.

Since I bought it, I have listened to this record from beggining to end about 5 times a day. I'm already about halfway through my third listen today, and it's not even 9AM yet. It has gone with me into every building or vehicle I've entered and has been shoved into just about any available disc-playing apparatus in my line of sight. I've nagged my girlfriend, my roommate, my ex-roommate, her boyfriend and a co-worker to listen to this band, and I've sent numerous messages to people over the Internet encouraging them to dig on this record. It's really that good. I haven't been this excited about a band since I first gave Lifter Puller's "Fiestas & Fiascos" a good once-through. But the proof is in the pudding, and you look hungry. So without further ado (for the time being anyway... don't want to go making promises we all know I can't keep), I give you !!drumrolldrumrolldrumrollCYMBAL!!! Das Boton! Bitches.
Das Boton - Bon Ham

Das Boton - Vic Firth

Just in case you didn't read the post just prior to this one, this record is called "Soda Drip". The disc (CD only... suck) is available for purchase directly from the label at A download is also available from the iTunes store for about $8 at I'd recommend throwing down the extra couple of bones for the actual CD. The album art is excellent (see post from Friday). If you're a personal friend of mine, I'm willing to toss out some mp3s via email or something, but I don't want to dissemminate free copies of these songs all willy-nilly to strangers and such. These guys are career musicians, and I'm guessing they don't make much bank on record sales. They deserve your nickles and dimes. So as long as there isn't already an easily accessible download for this record, I think I'll just let it stay that way as long as it can.

First I should probably say who does what in the band, as I'll probably be talking about individual members pretty often in the following paragraphs. Das Boton is:

Ryan Rapsys on drums
Bill Dolan on guitar
Karl Ropp on bass

If you know anything about local Chicago music during the 90s, you may remember Bill Dolan. He was the guitarist in such bands as 5ive Style and Heroic Doses, both of which I was totally unaware until yesterday, which is unfortunate, because they're really pretty great. It seems the guy is somewhat of a giant in Chicago's local scene, and has been for this entire current decade and the greater part of the last. And rightly so, as he is one of the most proficient guitarists I've ever heard in modern music. His riffs are solid, he knows how to use (and how not to OVERuse) his wah, he uses pitch harmonics tastelfully, and he doesn't overshadow the rest of the band. He's also just technically proficient, which sounds boring, but makes all the difference in the way the band sounds. For interested guitarists, he's got some tutorial peices on that are extremely useful. Use as a springboard. But the thing I admire most about this guy is that he knows when to shut up. Knowing when not to play has always seemed, to me, like an admirable quality in a lead musician, though I almost hesitate to call him the lead because...

...Ryan Rapsys OWNS on this record. His playing is ridiculously tight and in-synch with the rest of the band. He sticks to the bass on his lows and sort of plays around with the guitar on his highs. He mutes his cymbals left and right, but somehow manages not to make it sound repetetive and gaudy. He definitely under-plays his strengths, resulting in a modest sound that really compliments the rest of the band without pushing them in one direction or another. He is definitely not the band's metronome, as many drummers in independent bands are. He knows his place in this musical machine, and doesn't drum to impress, though there are times when you almost don't notice how complicated the rhythm he's playing is until the guitar and bass let up just enough to make the drums pop a little. Watching him play makes the band just that much better. His movements are precise and quick. It's almost like watching an athlete, there's so much physical control involved. He also plays drums for Euphone and does a bunch of his own solo stuff - mostly brainy, mathy techno. I'm not too keen on his other projects, but that's just because there isn't a lot of techno I like. I know... Squarepusher is awesome, Aphex Twin was crazy innovative, blah blah blah. I'm not saying it sucks. I just really hate most of it (Aphex Twin's "Goon Gumpos" excepted). But I digress. This guy is definitely my favorite member of the band.

I haven't checked out much about Karl Ropp yet, but I did find out that he's part of a Rockford, IL-based pop rock band called "The Snaggs". They're really pretty good, and they have a song called "Hipsters" that I feel will help me deal with living in an area almost entirely saturated with snotty rich(ish) kids with questionable musical interests and ridiculous taste in clothes. The vocals are a bit cheesy, as are some of the guitar riffs, but that seems to have been the aim, and for what it is, this band is really quite listenable. Plus, some of the guitar riffs are really great, and more than a little unexpected in context. It probably won't become one of my favorites, but I'll be listening again for sure. As for his contribution to Das Boton, Karl Ropp is really sort of a background musician on the record. I'd like to see them live, because I get the impression that he's much better than the justice this recording fails to do him would suggest. He also sticks to the other instruments like glue and melds his sound with the rest of the noise going on. He really does a great job filling out the low tones in this band, which seems like an obvious thing for a bassist to do, but I'm surprised at how many bassists don't seem to grasp the concept when playing music like this. Everyone wants to play lead whatever. This guy's okay with dropping back a bit, and that makes him okay in my book.

In summary, I can't get enough of this shit. It's this crazy mashup of oldschool funk, R&B (as in Little Richard... not Toni Braxton), surf and maybe even a little psych/garage. Once in awhile, it gets a little Jimmy Hendrix-ish when Bill Dolan really gets going, then they drop back into mellow Ventures-Play-Telstar style surf, then cut off all at once, picking back up again a second later with a nice peppy 4/4 rock riff. During some of the songs - most notably during "Vic Firth" - they get a little more modern and play some darker, heavier bits that remind me a lot of The Sound of Animals Fighting's album "Tiger & The Duke", only slower, more technical and more musically diverse. The versatility of this band is amazing. Throughout all of the key changes and style-shifting, they manage to make the whole shebang sound totally cohesive. This is what I think music needs right now. Better blending, more bands drawing from the knowledge and experience of other bands from different backgrounds, and most importantly, a solid understanding of how to use their instruments and write songs. This shit RULES and if you don't buy this record, you're out of you fucking mind. It's probably the best record to come out of 2009 as far as instrumental projects are concerned. And if my endorsement means anything, it's definitely my favorite record of last year. You need this record like I will need to punch you in the neck if you don't listen to it. Don't want to get punched in the neck? Then buy the record. You get good music and no neck-punches. It's a win-win. I don't even know why you're still reading this. Hello? Hello? Have I been talking to myself this whole time? Shit.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Out with the old, in with the... um... old.

So recently I've decided to lay off the whole "discovering the great bands of yesterday" kick I've been on for the past two years or so and get the hell back into new music. I seem to be doing alright with this, however I find that I still tend to like stuff that sounds like it came from the 50s/60s more than records that are actually breaking new ground. For instance: I was bumming around the Internet yesterday, and I found this little piece of frackin' awesomeness:

They're called Das Boton and the record is "Soda Drip". I think they're an instrumental band (although I have seen one video where some singing was happening and didn't really like it). They do this crazy mishmosh of classic rock styles in a pretty eccentric way. They even have a song that is almost strictly oldschool, Ventures-style surf, which made me pee my pants a little the first time I heard it. I don't know much about them yet, as I just came accross this record yesterday and I couldn't find a download, but as sure as my middle name is "Verbose," I'll have something to say about it tomorrow. I'll have this CD (yes, I'm actually going to go to a record store and buy a CD with legal tender) as quickly as I can snake through the ridiculous amounts of Friday traffic I'm anticipating after work. I'll post some divshare links once I've secured my copy, but for now, here's some live radness:

So since I actually have to do at least a little bit of work today to avoid having to stick around for 12 hours, I'd better hop to it. Hope you enjoyed the appetizer. Be sure to come back tomorrow for the main course.