Artist: The Jimi Hendrix Experience Album: Electric Ladyland Released: 1968 Label: Reprise Choice Song: Burning of the Midnight Lamp
HIS: I’ve been doing this rock and roll thing a long time. I’ve been playing in bands for over 15 years, I’ve toured all over the country and I’ve been working in the “industry” for almost 6 years now. So you could say I’ve been around. But I wouldn’t say I’ve been around The Block just yet. I’ve been up and down The Block. I’ve hung out at a lot of houses on The Block. I’ve even been to a Block party or two. But I’ve yet to make it all the way around The Block. I’ve hung out with plenty of my heroes and I’ve become great friends and collaborated with some people I’ve always very much admired. I’ve been on some pretty big stages and I’ve hung out with some pretty heavy hitters. So, at the risk of sounding like a douchebag, it takes quite a bit to impress me. HOWEVER! Anyone who’s been tuned in to this blog for more than a few minutes probably knows how I feel about Jimi Hendrix. To me, there are no others when we’re talking about Jimi. To me, Jimi is the beginning, the middle and the end of rock and roll. He is everything we should try to be and none of us will ever come close. Surely, the girlfriend can tell you that I recently confessed to her that I don’t like listening to Jimi with other people around because he does some weird shit to me, but it goes much deeper than that. Even though he died twelve years before I was born, I’ve always felt that Jimi was as close a friend to me as anyone I’d never met. Jimi Hendrix’s guitar often makes me cry. So all of my cool mule, unimpressed candor went completely out the fucking window last week when I was invited by a friend to sit in on a mixing session at Electric Lady Studios. AKA The House That Jimi Built. Yea. I was freaking out. Like a little girl meeting Cinderella at the Magic Kingdom, I approached the front door of the Electric Lady with sweaty palms and a fluttering heart. Holy shit. I’m going to hang out in Jimi’s studio. And then after we were buzzed in and found our way down the stairs to the waiting room, I looked around thinking so many thoughts about Jimi and his records and his guitars and the studio and me and my dad and everything that his music has meant to us and I realized I was smack in the middle of a rare, “Holy fucking shit I can’t believe I’m actually here” moment. And then I slowly went through the songs that Jimi recorded here and I wondered what this place looked like in the late ’60s. And then I wondered where he sat and where he tracked his guitar and where they hung out and if they went outside to smoke or if they stayed down here. And then, just as I was thinking about how amazing it must have felt for Jimi to finally have built his own studio, his personal pleasure dome, one of the biggest bands in the world (I won’t say which) walked out of Studio A. And I was very unmoved. Because I’ve been down that Block.
HERS: Everything you need to know about a man you can tell by the way he treats his guitars. The HIS to my HERS has 6 in our apartment, and many more back home. Make no mistake these guitars are the most precious things in life to him (in addition to the records). He’s roughed them up over the years, broken their strings, sprung their springs, dented, scratched and rendered them out of tune. You can see the scars, stickers and tough love. He pushes them to give him the most out of life. And they do. Always with one by his side and no further than just out of reach, they are both his security and his release. One stands unplayed in the closet for months only to reemerge as if it were his latest brand new toy. His jeans are worn until they’re tattered, his shirts holed in the elbow, his hair long and untrimmed until a cut is essential. But at the first hint of a problem, the guitar goes in the shop. He loves them all equally for different moods, sounds and seasons. He needs them all. They’ll never leave him. Don’t drop it, scratch it or knock it against any wall. Until it’s time to rock, that is. And then he can play the living daylights out of the thing until sweat splashed the body from his brow and blood from his fingers drips down the strings onto his Doc Martens. But in the morning he’ll open the case gently, dust it off ever so carefully, wipe it clean, re-pack it perfectly so and journey on with it to the next show. Everything you need to know about a man you can tell by the way he treats his guitars.
Artist: Santana Album: Abraxas Released: 1970 Label: Columbia Choice Song: Samba Pa Ti
HIS: When I was a kid I used to steal away to my father’s record collection, quietly pulling out certain albums and slowly going over and mesmerizing every inch of the artwork. I was far too young to operate the old man’s hi fi so this would have to be my only connection to his massive stacks of LPs when he wasn’t around to drop the needle for me. I’d sit there for hours, pulling out record by record, remembering exactly where to return it so as to not disturb the alphabetic rigidity of my father’s collection. Some covers made me think of the greater universe (Boston’s Boston, ELO’s Out Of The Blue), some gave me nightmares (Emerson, Lake And Palmer’s Brain Salad Surgery, Jimi Hendrix’s Axis: Bold As Love) and still some made me wonder what each band member on the cover was thinking (The Who’s Who’s Next).
But then there were a few others which forced me to stare in befuddled amazement. The most important one of these was Santana’s Abraxas. I had no idea what the fuck was going on here. Of course, I had yet to hit my hallucinogen phase, so of course I couldn’t fully appreciate the psychedelic bazaar that was the Abraxas cover. All I knew was that it was exotic and wild and scary and engaging and that as soon as my dad came home we were going to put on this record.
HERS: The boyfriend and I recently moved in together. Typically when a girlfriend moves in with a boyfriend, the mixing of their stuff usually involves at least one couch getting thrown out, her filling up his closet with shoes and their bathroom overflowing with buckets of test-sized cosmetics. This isn’t exactly the case here. I mean, mostly anyway. Sure, the Irish Spring soap has been replaced with a fragrant “stress-relieving” body wash** and a purple loofah (What is a loofah??) and the bed has doubled in pillows. But there’s no ManCave with a leather couch and no garage filled with phallic toolbox toys. There are, however, right next to my vanity, no less than 6 guitars. While other women move into garages of sports cars, I’ve moved into a makeshift music studio. It could be worse. Guitars stack up nicely in their cases and amps sit handsomely while doubling as great laptop desks. Though all are heavy. Very, very heavy. I was watching him play the guitar just yesterday, actually. When he’s on stage rocking out and the amp is turn-it-up-to-11 loud, it’s hard to really appreciate the intricacy this instrument requires. But when he’s messing around quietly and manipulating the thing, it’s a different story all together. Sometimes he hands me a guitar and says, “you do it.” I’m useless. My hands feel too small, the guitar itself is heavy and I can’t seem to reach my fingers far enough even though I can hit a full octave easily on the piano. No wonder he idolizes icons like Jimi Hendrix and Carlos Santana. In all my boyfriend’s 6’4” glory, his guitars look like finger puppets in his hands. Carlos stands about 5’10” Google tells me, but still the guitars look like putty in his. He plays the guitar like it’s a piano with countless keys making it do whatever he wants in any which way. I wonder how many guitars Carlos had in his first apartment he shared with a girl.
Artist: Vee Vee Album: Archers of Loaf Released: 1995 Label: Alias Records Choice Song: Greatest of All Time
HIS: Indie Rock Then: “Rock” was the operative term back then. Like ‘em or not, pretty much all of the first gen indie rock bands did just that. They rocked. They had Marshall stacks and Big Muffs and gnarly guitars and thundering drums and attitudes and not much style but a shitload of substance. Not only could they write great songs but also they had the chops to play them. Bands slugged it out on the road, winning over fan after sweaty fan on a van circuit of small clubs and DIY shows around the nation. Handmade tapes and 7”es exchanged hands and that’s how careers were made. The bands reeked of the utmost honesty. “This is who we are. You’re gonna dig it or you’re not. But we’ll be here doing it either way.” The Minutemen. Butterglory. Dinosaur Jr. Red Red Meat. Sonic Youth. Pipe. Afghan Whigs. Wingtip Sloat. Red Krayola. Mudhoney. The Fall. Pavement. Thinking Fellers Union Local 282. Guided By Voices. Superchunk. Polvo. And of course, in my opinion, the greatest of all time Archers Of Loaf.
Then somewhere along the line, “indie rock” just became “indie.”
Indie Now: For very obvious reasons it really isn’t known as “indie rock” anymore. Now it’s just kind of “indie,” which often means nothing, seeing as so many of these young “indie” bands are releasing records on huge record labels. Somewhere along the line, the angry drummer was replaced by a drum machine or a floor tom situated at the front of the stage. Boys and girls who can barely mimic their way through the simplest of Velvet Underground songs bury their hookless, soulless, songless tunes in oceans of reverb and delay. Volume and attitude are a thing of the past and, thanks to the internet, most fans are won over before many bands have even played enough shows to get great. Too many bands have Twitters and Facebooks and Soundclouds and Instagrams and Bandcamps before they even have a fucking record. Even in the age of superconnectivity, you don’t really get that brutal honesty anymore. “Hey we’re gonna make this record because it’s kind of what everyone else is doing and how else are we gonna get signed if we don’t fit this indie mold?” Sweaters. Local Natives. Freelance Whales. Friends. Grizzly Bear. Miike Snow. fun. The Weeknd. Washed Out. And you wonder why we long for the past. We saw Archers Of Loaf last night and sure enough they rocked. It was one of the most refreshing things I’ve seen in a long time. There they were, just a bunch of knuckleheads - rather unfashionable knuckleheads - up there having a fucking blast, sweating their hearts straight into their guitars, rocking the fucking crowd’s brains out. There was no pretense. There was no faking. There were no coverups. There were just four dudes who could write the hell out of a song and play the hell out of their instruments and put on one hell of a show. You don’t really get that type of honesty anymore.
*This post is a gross generalization. Deal with it.
HERS: Like Archers of Loaf, I hail from the Tar Heel state. Watching them play in New York last night, I was taken back home. Not that I listened to them in my days of youth — I’m far too uncool for that. But there’s something about the guitarist’s Adidas Sambas, the bassist’s torn jeans, and the lead singer’s shy side (sorry drummer, I couldn’t see your outfit, but you rocked) that reminds me of the kids I grew up with. Skaters with long hair and baggy jeans, theatre nerds who flocked together proudly, dark artsy types, quiet musicians, and grungey wannabes. I miss those kids. I miss those times. It all makes me miss North Carolina. Looking at the band rock their way into the screaming, jumping, raucous crowd, I wondered where these guys all lived in North Carolina. And what it would be like to live again on tree-lined streets. If I could live again in North Carolina, where would I go? Where would I fit in? What would it be like to smell freshly cut grass when you walked out your door? See trees from your bedroom window? Drive to the grocery store? Who would I be if I hadn’t ditched the south for New York City? We’ll never know, it doesn’t really matter and most likely I’ll remain equal parts of both. Kinda like Archers of Loaf. They’ve got this huge loyal following to show for all their hard working and harder rocking through the years into today. But no matter how grey Eric Bachmann’s beard gets, they’ll always be those kids from North Carolina who sure know how to rock.
Artist: Alabama Shakes Album: Boys & Girls Released: 2012 Label: ATO Choice Song: I Found You
HIS: The Hype Machine. What a tricky and unforgiving beast it can be. One minute you’re a nobody, the next you’re King Shit and The Golden Boys (bonus points if you can tell me what this references), and the minute after that you’re being swallowed in so much scorn and backlash that you’re wondering why all of these people who’ve never even bothered to come see your band play hate you so much. That or you’re selling out Terminal 5. So that’s the unforgiving part. The tricky part, of course, is delivering. 99 out of 100 times these buzzybuzzybuzz bands who the blogs just CAN’T get enough of have been together for less than a few years, play some kind of bullshit electronic music that does not translate to a live setting or just plain can’t really play their instruments. But this isn’t their fault. You see, the most important thing for a band or musician is the period of being unknown. Those first few years when nobody gives a fuck about you is when you figure out who you are - your musical pubescence, in other words. It’s where you make your mistakes and it’s how you come out the other side a light-the-fucking-ceiling-aflame band that can blow most national touring bands off the stage. It’s the hunger to succeed and to have people hear your voice that makes a band get better. However, when The Hype Machine gets rolling, bands aren’t afforded that time and they pretty much all suffer because of it. It wasn’t always this way. People used to earn their way up the ladder (now I’m not tirading here about how the internet has destroyed “earning it” because that’s another conversation for another time). You used to start in a basement then you’d move up to a VFW hall then maybe a local bar then probably a bigger club then up and on to a big proper rock and roll club and finally, if you were lucky, you’d end up in a massive theater playing to thousands of adoring fans whom you’ve earned with each and every single show you’d played in their town. But this took years and hundreds if not thousands of shows. But with each and every passing show, you learned something. And as the crowds got bigger and bigger, you’d slowly figure out how to touch each and every one of them. That was the learning curve. However today we have bands who go from playing in front of ten friends to selling 2500 tickets in less than a year and they simply haven’t learned how to translate to those bigger crowds. Be it technical ability, banter, stage presence, setlists or the idea that lights are also part of the show, so many bands who’ve reaped the rewards of The Hype Machine also fall flat on their face because of it. So what am I getting at here? The Alabama Shakes are maybe the most egregious beneficiary of The Hype Machine in a long, long time. They’re fucking EVERYWHERE. But the difference between Alabama Shakes and so many of the other buzz bands who can barely rock their way out of a paper bag… these motherfuckers can play. Surely it’s due to years of toiling in the local bars of Athens, Alabama, in total obscurity, working their way through standards and covers. But no one gave a fuck. And now that they do, these guys know exactly how to rock your socks off. HERS: Ugh, I love this album! I love it! So much! And I know I’m not the first. And I know they’re absolutely everywhere. And I know my voice is one in a sea of join-the-bandwagon followers. I know that they’re blowing up and that everyone is going to claim them as their own kinda unknown band that really everyone knows about and already loves. They’ll say they were there from the beginning. That they knew of them before everyone else did or before they were in heavy rotation on MTV. But I just don’t care. Because they’re great. SHE’S particularly great. And I just want to put her into a category all its own. Not the newest indie hipster band. Not the overnight sensation that popped up on MTV. Not the unknown band that goes major. I just want them to be in the category of hard working awesomess. When did loving music become some rat race of cool? What other thing do we love, but only admit we love it if we were the first and then pretend to be over it—or even deny it all together—once everyone else loves it too? What is that?! If you like it, you like it. Own it! And get over yourself! These guys rule and they’re gonna be huge and then they’ll put out a second record and everyone will have an opinion and I just don’t care. Because I want her to succeed. SO BADLY. So just take the pleasure in enjoying the music. Nobody cares about your opinions. It’s not about YOU. A funny thing to say when I self publish yet another self-important music blog. But still! I just love them! And I want to scream it from the hilltops. Or at least from my self-important cred-less music blog.
Artist: Bruce Springsteen Album: The Wild, The Innocent & the E Street Shuffle Released: 1973 Label: Columbia Choice Song: Rosalita (Come Out Tonight)
HIS: Yea dude, I know. I know exactly what you’re thinking (if you are a frequent reader of our blog), “But you’ve already done three Bruce albums already. In fact, one was just last post.” Yea well. Sometimes plans need to be altered. And hopefully any time you alter a plan, it’s for a good reason. See, I had planned on pulling out something a little more heavy. Maybe Railroad Jerk’s “Speed The Plough” or Killdozer’s “Intellectuals Are The Shoeshine Boys Of The Ruling Elite.” But something very special happened to me last night; something that I’ll likely never forget. I saw Bruce in concert for the first time ever. Here’s where you say, “WHAT?! But dude I thought you were soooooooooo Jersey and sooooooooo rock and roll?” Yea well, why don’t you take a minute and quickly read my entry for Bruce’s Live Boxset? That should shed some light for you. But now. Back to last night. Sold out. MASSIVELY sold out. Tickets were going in places for over $2000. And there were she and I, battling the mid-afternoon reality and impending depression that we weren’t going to be able to score tickets and that I’d miss The Boss yet again. But at the eleventh hour, we scored a miraculous pair of tickets that sat us fifteen rows off the stage, right above where Clarence used to stand. We got to the Garden about an hour early, freaked out over our seats, grabbed a pair of beers and settled in. What ensued was unquestionably the greatest rock and roll concert I’ve ever seen. Bruce pulling a ten-year-old kid onto the stage to sing the chorus of “Waiting On A Sunny Day,” Little Steven’s fiery intro to “Rosalita,” Clarence’s nephew Jake Clemons hitting most of the notes the Big Man used to lay down (unfortunately for Jake, no one can ever hit those notes. Those are The Big Man’s notes and only the Big Man could ever play them), Nils Lofgren’s famous guitar soloing and myriad other E Street-isms were all on display in full force and Bruce and his band gave a performance that could hardly be matched by a band one-third their age. Nearly four hours of hits, both old and new. Nearly four hours of ass shaking, foot stomping, fist pumping and chorus screaming. But the best moments of the night were Bruce’s two tributes to his right hand man; to C. First, early in the set, the lights in the house went down and the only one left illuminated was the spotlight that shone stage right, just there on the massive spot that the Big Man used to make look so little. It shone on his absence and Bruce reminded us not to be sad because as long as we’re here and the band is here, Clarence will be here. I wish I could tell you if there was a dry eye in the house but I couldn’t tell. My eyes were too full with tears. The next tribute - one that fit the E Streeters much better - was far less solemn, because, after all, it’s the E Street we’re talking about here. As the band was wailing through their night-closer “Tenth Avenue Freeze Out,” Bruce ran out through the crowd, onto a platform that was set up in the middle of the general admission crowd and began to sing the verse, “When the change was made uptown and The Big Man joined the band.” It was just there that the band stopped on a dime and Bruce directed to the crowd where the jumboscreens played a two-minute montage of the Big Man to the Garden-rattling cheers of the 20,000-strong crowd. It was a funeral party. A rock and roll goodbye for the Big Man. A sendoff that only Bruce and The E Street could give. Wish I could tell you more, but those damn tears have a way of fighting right back onto your cheeks at a time like that.
HERS: Over the past year plus, I’ve watched my own boyfriend’s band perform numerous times. Whether they’re playing for 7 or 70 people, they put on the same hard rocking, sweat-filled, sprint-paced, spirited rock show. It’s not just because he’s from Jersey and has a strong sax in his band that people compare him to Bruce Springsteen. For his entire life, he’s been eyeing The Boss. Sure he’s learned some moves and mixed them with his own. But it’s less about how he moves and more about what he stands for. Rock n’ roll. The common man. And having a blast. Probably beers, too. But until last night, he had never seen Bruce Springsteen and The E Street Band live. Hard to believe, but true.
And it was no less than a life-changing concert. I don’t say that in a cliche way, either. I fully mean it. To kick off the night the band walked into the stage with every single ceiling light on in the whole place. They simply took their places, picked up their instruments, and to an uproarious applause, began to play. No opener. No light show. Just rock n’ roll — as only Bruce Springsteen and The E Street Band can deliver. They treated Madison Square Garden like it was just another bar they were playing on just another night surrounded by their closest friends. Show me some other megastar band that has that feel about them when playing to 20,000 people. From the first note they went from 0 to 60 and didn’t stop for almost four hours straight. Bruce sprinted around the stage, pulled fans up to sing with him, slapped their hands, handed them the mic, even drank their beers, and crowd-surfed. Were they at some Blarney Stone or even the Stone Pony, I’m guessing the show would be just the same. And leave it to Bruce to make you feel like this very show you just happened to get tickets to was personally tailored just for you. Maybe it’s because both Bruce and we have lost someone dear to us in the recent past (Clarence!). Maybe because you always hear that one song you were hoping they’d play and you assume they’re playing it just for you (Rosalita!!). But probably it’s because Bruce seems to always feel your pain and share in your joy no matter who you are or what’s going on (Bring On Your Wrecking Ball!!!). Of course, this means I fully wept through no less than 5 songs. Some rocker I am. Meanwhile to my right, my boyfriend was playing cool, methodically watching every move and mentally taking notes on it all. It was possibly the best concert we’ve ever been to (to date) — and we’ve been to quite a few (as chronicled in this blog). They don’t call him The Boss for nothing.
Artist: Bruce Springsteen Album: Wrecking Ball Released: 2012 Label: Columbia Choice Song: Wrecking Ball
HIS: Like I’ve already said many times during the life of this blog, being a kid who grew up on the Jersey Shore Bruce is a part of my blood. I often consider him nearly as close of a friend as the kids I actually spent my childhood with on those dirty and beautiful beaches. So I can’t really remember the first time I’d ever heard Bruce but I do remember that I had made my way through Bruce’s catalog very early in life. And I do remember not initially associating Bruce with home. I guess that’s part of being ingrained with something. You don’t know why it’s always there, exactly. It’s just always there. It was due to this fact that Bruce’s Jerseyhood was one of the last things I remember discovering about him. I first remember sitting in my parents living room, listening to Born In The USA over and over and over again. It was the biggest record in the world back then. And I remember being so enamored and digging and deeper and finding Born To Run. And i remember falling in love with that sax and the mystery underneath the pulled-low hat of the Big Man and his dark, exotic skin. And i remember going even further and listening to The Wild, The Innocent and I remember falling in love with how raw of a record it was. And I remember wondering to myself what ever became of Rosalita? And then I remember finding Greetings From Asbury Park. And I remember… Wait a second. Asbury Park? Like, Jersey Shore Asbury Park? No. Bruce couldn’t be from Asbury Park. Bruce was huge. He was the biggest singer in the world. He had to have been from New York City. Or Hollywood. Or Dallas. Or Memphis. He had to have been from someplace famous. He had to have been from someplace spectacular. Bruce wasn’t average. He wasn’t normal. No way Bruce could have been from the Jersey Shore. No way Bruce could have been from my neck of the woods. Nothing that magical came from the Jersey Shore. But he was. Just forty miles north of me. A straight shot up the Garden State Parkway. Along a beach that was connected to my very own. There he was - a restless kid from the Jersey Shore - just like us.
HERS: What is it about Bruce Springsteen that makes him so goddamn all-American and embraced by basically every soul-bearing person in the world? Is it the torn jeans? The tatted shirts? The fact that he can still pull off a choker? Think about it for a minute. Ninety-nine out of 100 guys who slaps on a pair of tight worn-in pants with a sleeveless button down shirt looks ridiculous. But not Bruce. You just can’t NOT like The Boss. That would be heartless. And unpatriotic. But why is that?? We’d never elect Justin Bieber to be our president, but if Bruce Springsteen ran I think he’d really have a shot. Except he’d probably never be caught dead wearing a suit. But he’d do it his OWN way, damnit! Why can’t you shake the hand of the British Prime Minister in jeans, working boots and a plaid shirt?? This is America after all, isn’t it??? And maybe that’s precisely why listening to Bruce has the effect on people that it does. Like anything is possible. Like the suffering you’ve worn in your life has been worth it. That you’re not alone. That’s it’s not always pretty and wrapped up nicely in a pop star package. Because he’s just like you. He’s human. But listening to a new Bruce album is a unique thing. We’ve heard the classics over and over for years. Now with this new album, all is possible. Which song will become an anthem your own kids will sing? Which song will make you cry? Which song will make you want to hug your woman and call your father? Any of them. All of them. Because he’s singing right to us. To you. To me. And he means every word.
Artist: Neil Young & Crazy Horse Album: Rust Never Sleeps Released: 1979 Label: Reprise Choice Song: My My, Hey Hey - Out Of The Blue
HIS: Neil Young is always a bone of contention among rock nerds. Most everyone will agree that Neil is one of the finest songwriters of his or any generation. This truth is universal. However, the ship begins to inevitably rock at first mention of Neil’s superiority as either a singer and guitar player. Many say his voice is worse than nails on a chalkboard. Many others say that his guitaring is remedial at best. But here’s the reality. Neil is as great a guitar player as he is a singer. (And Neil is one of the greatest singers of all time.) Not because he can burn your house down with his virtuosity or blow your mind with his range. His greatness lies in his severe limitations. You hear a Neil guitar and you know exactly who’s playing. You hear that voice wail and it’s unmistakable. As any given trip through Guitar Center will prove to us, it’s really not that hard to be a really good guitar player. Any jerk can learn the notes on a scale and can practice until they’re “blessed” with Yngwie-esque speed. Plenty of people can hit the high notes when they sing and run through an octave just fine. But rare is the artist who can speak to you with his guitar and rare is the singer who can take his mangled, painful voice and break your heart every time he sings.
HERS: Look, I’m gonna say something and it’s gonna piss you off. Big time. I get Neil Diamond and Neil Young confused. I KNOW! I KNOW! It’s inexcusable. They’re wildly different people!! With wildly different sounds, songs, voices, albums, personalities, opinions, backgrounds, and outlooks on life and mankind as a whole. BUT! They do have the same name, are roughly the same age and have those EXACT SAME crazy bushy eyebrows. And apparently that’s all it takes in my case. Because I just wrote a whole post on Neil Diamond. Fail. I’m that easy to fool. I realize it’s totally ridiculous, embarrassing and shameful. But I’ve gotta be honest. Listen, I’m guessing if/when I have a bunch of kids and they grow up and look back at our music listening habits and TV watching patterns they’re going to look at us and ask, “How the HECK did you keep track of which Jersey Shore fist-pumper was which and which Mob Wife was which and all the different Bachelors and Bachelorettes, all the winners and losers of American Idol, Survivor, America’s Got Talent, X Factor and Dancing With The Stars?! Not to mention all the Britneys, Christinas, Pussycat Dolls, Jewels, Avril Lavignes, Hilary Duffs, Ashlee Simpsons….” OBVIOUSLY I realize that neither Neil falls in the lowlife category of a number of these flash in the pan pseudo non celebs. I get it. I’m totally off here. Heck, one is anti-immigration and one is freaking Canadian for crying out loud! You’d think that would help me clear up the situation. But no. It doesn’t help. And yes, I’m absolutely going to get a serious lecture because of this post. There’s a chance I’ll be full-on dumped. But if we can’t expose our deepest, darkest hidden feelings for all the public to see on our nerdy, trivial, and self-important blogs…where else CAN we be in society today?!?! It’s a question Neil Diamond would probably very much like to discuss. Wait…or is it Neil Young? CRAP!!
Artist: Pizzicato 5 Album: The Sound Of Music Released: 1995 Label: Matador Choice Song: The Night Is Still Young
HIS: Matador Records; icons of guitar-driven indie rock, classic 90s culture, garage classics and Japanese retro-leaning, 60s hipster throwback Shibuya-kei! Wait. What? Matador put out a Shibuya-kei record? What the fuck?! That was approximately the reaction I had as a teenager when I first bought this album. For those of you who don’t know, shibuya-kei was a late-90s movement in Japanese music that blended the modern sounds of electropop with classic stylings of 60s hipster lounge music. Think Burt Bacarach meets The Sugarcubes. Still with me? Good. Now you understand my reaction when I first heard that Matador Records, arguably my favorite record label of all-time, had signed P5. Of course, here I will refer you to our Das Damen post where I explain how there are certain record labels you just trust, whether or not you think you dig the style of music of a certain record they’re releasing. Matador was one of the best at this. It may not have sounded like Pavement or Yo La Tengo or Thinking Fellers Union but you knew that there had to have been something special about the record you weren’t sure you wanted. Only because it had that iconic waving flag on the back and if they said it was cool, then yea it was probably pretty cool. So of course I picked up this CD if only for that waving flag and for a long, long time I wasn’t sure exactly what it was about. In fact, I’m still not sure exactly what it’s about. But I loved how it sounded. And I loved its songs. And I loved this band. And in the end, isn’t that all that matters?
HERS: You truly can’t judge a book by its cover. Because if the owner of said record collection were a book cover, he’d be the Encyclopedia of Punk Rock sold used at a supercool East Village bookstore (a book I recently bought him). But were you to actually start reading that book, inside you’d find a few unexpected chapters. More than a few, actually. You’d find some old Italian music, some folk love songs, old timey soul music, and even the very surprising Kelly Clarkson chapter. Wha?! Usually when a guy is all, “I love all kinds of music,” he typically hands you some obvious jazz CD he burned you or sentimental singer/songwriter stuff he wrote back in college. Instead, he puts this record on and I’m listening to some Japanese pop group he loves that I never knew existed. But this isn’t new. These are the kinds of unexpected layers I’m dealing with (even over a year in) that continue to surprise me everyday. Before I elaborate further, let me remind you that this is the man who forces me to watch entire Iron Maiden concerts on the Palladia channel while quizzing me on my Maiden knowledge (which is lacking, apparently) and following it up with required Black Breath listening sessions. Meanwhile, ice skating? Loves it. The Artist? Dying to see it. Sure he fell asleep during The King’s Speech, but if he’s up late watching some terrible romantic comedy when he should just turn in and go to sleep, he’s hooked until the obvious and painfully cheesy end (I’m talking to you, Something Borrowed). Also fruit. He’s a football-sized, 6’4” man who cannot get enough fruit in his life. And I’m not talking about the way I eat fruit (i.e.- an excuse to eat peanut butter or Nutella by the spoonful). I’m talking about strictly pure raspberries, apples (green only), and strawberries (stems off so you can eat the whole thing). As dessert, no less. Just goes to show that when a guy takes you on a date to see King Tuff at the Knitting Factory, there may be more than meets the eye.
Artist: Bill Conti Album: Rocky - Original Motion Picture Score Released: 1976 Label: United Artists Choice Song: Going the Distance
HIS: Like any kid my age I have a deep-rooted connection to the Rocky movies and the inimitable music Bill Conti created for them so it never seemed odd to me that sometimes in the morning I play the Rocky soundtrack. You know, pump myself up, get myself ready. Whatever. These songs gets me going. Now I say it never seemed odd, but that doesn’t mean I would ever have told anyone about this habit. Until of course I took a drive to Asheville, North Carolina with my cousin and the keeper of this blog. My cousin and I are very, very close. Despite our near-decade difference in age (he’s older), he and I have been close friends pretty much since I was born and though he now lives in Texas, we remain close to this day. So of course when he told me he was traveling from New York to Asheville for an art show (he’s an artist by trade, traveling around the country selling his artwork at galleries and fairs and festivals) me and the girlfriend decided to hop in the van and tag along. Now, despite my lifetime of rock and rollin’, I am not a late-night person. If I can be asleep by 10 and up by 7 I’m psyched. My cousin, on the other hand, has always been a night owl. So we left town around 7pm and hit the road, 13 hours of highway ahead of us. Cousin driving, me shotgun, girlfriend in the backseat. I think I lasted until midnight. Then out. Like a light. I slept for the next ten or so hours, occasionally waking up to ask cousin, “Hey man you ok? You need me to drive?” before immediately falling back asleep. I woke for good around 7am. We were deep into Tennessee and about two hours from Asheville. Cousin’s eyes were visibly drooping and he was fading fast. “Dude. Why don’t you let me drive the rest of the way?” He assured me he’d make it, so long as he could play the Rocky soundtrack to get him through the home stretch.
HERS: Before I played sports, I was a silent shy tomboy who wore umbro shorts and baggy tee shirts. A bra if my mom could get a hold of me long enough. In addition to team sports, I ran a lot. Still do. But as a teenager, I would lug around any necessary piece of equipment that would allow me to listen to music along said run. We’re talking enormous disc men that skipped with every step and bulky “sports” walkmen — including the one that was my sisters’s that I dropped down the gutter in a rainstorm —sorry! I obsessively made running mixtapes, strategically planning out which song would play when and at what mile I’d need it most. These mixes would include songs like Van Halen’s , “Right Now!” or “Jump!” There was definitely “Stairway to Heaven” and “Born to Run.” Obvious classics. I think I even included the Superman movie theme. But nothing compared to anything ROCKY! With my mom being from Philly, we’d always run the museum steps and raise our hands. And before any sports game, my dad would always “bom, bom, bom, bom, bom, bom, bom, bom, bom!!” me from my house to the car. Rocky music is genius. It immediately represents any underdog who ever attempted to get ahead. Anyone who ever tried to make a comeback or last minute rally. Anyone who wanted to go from nobody to somebody. It was this kind of music that helped me crack that shell of mine and become a strong power chick, both on and off the field. Because if Rocky can do it, hell, so can we! AAADRRRIIIEEEENNNNNNEE!!!!!
Artist: The Everymen Album: Hello, Nice Evening. We are The Everymen. Released: 2011 Label: State Capital Choice Song: Rotten Smokes (featuring Kurt Vile)
HIS: Yea yea yea. You can call this shameless self-promotion but I’m not going to. And I’m not going to because this blog has yet to reach the worldwide stature that it will soon reach and I’m pretty sure that anyone reading this blog (and especially reading this blog on the regular) already knows I play in this band. So there. Deal with it. But I figured it was a good record to cover since I’m going into the studio tomorrow to mix our debut full-length. It’s going to be called New Jersey Hardcore and I’m fucking terrified of it. Terrified because a part of me thinks that it’s the record I’ve been waiting my whole life to make and I hope it lives up to my own internal expectations. What do I mean by that? I mean that I’ve been playing in bands for more than fifteen years. I’ve toured all over the fucking place playing to packed halls and (more often) playing to less than ten people. But in all those years I never really felt like I was being honest with myself. I would write songs and play in bands and make records that had some sort of genre-defined, preconceived sound. I was in a “punk rock” band or an “indie rock” band or an “art rock” band and those parameters were all rigidly defined. But when I started writing songs as The Everymen, I didn’t want any of that. I wanted to be honest and write the songs that I had to write, no matter what they sounded like. But then I started writing. And I started thinking that the songs were too simple and everything about it was very whatever. After a brief period of abandonment, I had somewhat of a revelation. “Who gives a fuck how simple these songs are? Who cares if they’re all in the same fucking key, using the same fucking chords? I sat down to write some songs and I let whatever was to come out of me come out.” And The Everymen are the result. So here were are, two years into the life of the band and while we haven’t sold out any clubs or haven’t done any big time touring, I can say that this is by far the most successful band I’ve ever played in and the road ahead of us is paved with beautiful expectations and exciting unknowns. It’s weird what honesty will bring out of you.
HERS: I’m attracted to guys with serious passion. And not the telemundo type rose petal passion you’re thinking of. We’re talking life passions. Aspirations. Hobbies. Pastimes. But sometimes those passions turn into obsessions of a weird variety and you find yourself dating terrible terrible artists most of the time. With a few manic photographers, addicted gamers, anime freaks and sneaker-a-haulics mixed in there to keep it interesting. Soon you find yourself crossing off “passionate” on your PRO list and replacing it with “someone who moderately likes stuff.” But then those guys are boring. And soon you find yourself right back with the terrible terrible artists. It’s a vicious cycle. Until I met this guy. This man of many records. It took a while for him to even tell me the name of this band he’d only mentioned a few times, which is rare in the dangerous genre of “band douches.” Usually when dealing with this type, you ask how their day was and they respond, “I’m in a band.” Or you ask how something looks on you and they somehow twist their answer to circle back to, “I’m in a band.” Red wine or white? “I’m in a band.” Got it. Hey, are you in a band? But this wasn’t the case at all. He seemed almost shy about being the front man of a band he created and writes all the music for. But I’ve been lucky enough to watch him put his heart and soul into his music, his literal blood, sweat and tears into his live shows, and everything he’s got for the chance to share music that makes people dance around and have a good time. And I’ve realized his type of passion is in a category all its own. He’s not so much wearing the passion as much as it’s driving him. Sure his love of music, making it and sharing it comes naturally. But it’s his drive and dedication to hard work and the inability to do it any other way than the right way that I find downright irresistible. That’s the passion I’m talking about. He’s not in a band to tell people he is. Or to be some made up idea of what a rock star is that doesn’t really exist. He’s in a band because he loves to rock. And he loves to share those moments with other people who love to rock. No matter where he is on the bill he gets there to see the very first band. He stays until the end. He carries everyone’s equipment. He books other bands who book his. He gives away more records than he sells. He just wants people to hear the music. Any way they can. To boogie to it. To have a good time. His band will rock the earplugs out of your years, but at the same time he’s humble, even shy on stage. And that’s how you know it’s pure. To me your passion isn’t what you show on the outside, but what’s driving you on the inside. It’s about more than just the band. It reveals a lens into who you are. What you stand for. It’s pure. And it’s a passion that I think seriously rocks.
**And oh yeah, the band is actually really good. This also rarely happens.
Artist: V/A Album: Pietre Preziose e Oro Fino: Old Music and Folksongs from South Italia Released: 2011 Label: Moi J’Connais Records Choice Song: Serenata a San Giovani
HIS: I’m about 6’4”. I have dark blonde hair. I’m incredibly fair-skinned. I have blue-green eyes and a beard that goes from light blonde near my ears to brown around the cheeks to dark, rusty red at my chin. So you can imagine the shock of people when I tell them that my heritage is predominantly Italian. Three of my grandparents were little, raven haired, olive skinned, typical Italian-Americans but I can only attribute my size and light hair to my 6-foot-tall Polish grandmother. But the members of my immediate family are unmistakably Italian-Americans. My sister is the spittin’ image of Alyssa Milano. My father looks like Sylvester Stallone. But when I tell people of my cultural background, many don’t even believe I’m telling the truth. "Wait. Were you adopted?!" is the first thing most people say, half-joking. "No," I tell them. "If you shave off this beard I actually look a lot like my father. Except. You know. Like a foot taller." "Oh. Ok so then you must be Northern Italian. A lot of Northern Italians are fair skinned." "Nope. My family’s about as southern as you can get before being Sicilian. And we all know that Sicilians aren’t really Italians." "You sure you weren’t adopted?" And even though my physical appearance and my stubbornness would indicate that I am in fact a huge Polska, I’ve always identified more with the Italian side of me, even going so far as having moved to Rome several years ago to do what Italians do best - nothing much at all. But when I found this record, I felt an immediate and intense connection to it. There’s the adage that goes something like, “My grandparents were Italians. My parents were Italian-Americans. I’m American-Italian. My kids will be American.” Meaning the further we go and the more the pot melts the less we represent where we’ve come from. And that’s ok. That’s how time works. But when I come across something like this - field recordings of traditional Southern Italian folk songs - I feel a strong connection to these songs, even though I’ve never heard them before. These are my people. This is where I come from. And these songs make me feel like home. After all, some of the voices on this record could be that of my great-grandmother. You never know…
PS Don’t tell the Jewish keeper of this blog that one of the common Southern Italian folk instruments heard on this record is called a Maranzano. Translation: Jew’s Harp.
HERS: As if it weren’t enough that I’m a fitness freak. That I do juice cleanses. Yoga. That I wake up at 6:30am to run. But I’m also a vegetarian. You’d think I’d find some hippy treehugger to date. But instead I apparently fancy the rock n’ roll tough guy type with tats and a complete mental library of every Death Metal band ever. Go figure. But despite our differences (I own 7 pairs of workout sneakers. He owns 7 guitars.), we do have one thing in common: Italian food—or so I thought. Growing up in my family we had weekly “Family Meetings” where we’d decide the week’s dinner menu. Very democratic of my parents, right? Usually it involved filling in the nights that weren’t pizza night (mom’s homemade recipe) or taco night (dad’s specialty) with some sort of pasta. So when I met said Italian owner of molto records, I figured at least we had Italian food in common. Right? Right?! Not exactly. Wait. So you’re telling me his enormous New Jersey Italian family wasn’t eating Grampa’s bowtie noodles with cottage cheese like my Jewish family was?? No fresh soft pasta from the local Italian specialty store? No light tomato sauce with a drizzle of parm? No. Instead they were dining on something called gravy. Not tomato sauce. Gravy. We’re talking more tomatoes than I can list, more spices than I own and more meats with more flavors my veggie-loving tongue has ever touched. Way outta my league. So while us HIS and HERS found common ground over time (me learning to cook pasta aldente, him loving my mom’s salad dressing, and all that running coming in handy when he wants to split a box of pasta for linguini and clams), would I survive my first trip home to meet his parents? “She’s a vegetarian,” he told his mom over the phone. Silence. “So I’ll make her chicken.” True story. But as I approached their door at midnight on a cold winter evening, equipped with fresh mozzarella, red wine, and a sausage (finding that at EATALY was a whole other story that proves vegetarians should not be allowed in such aisles), there sitting outside the door were two pots. One huge and packed with his mom’s famous signature gravy. And another smaller one right next to it packed an open mind and lots of love. And no meat. Now we’re cooking…
Artist: Lover Boy Album: Get Lucky Released: 1981 Label: Columbia Choice Song: Working For The Weekend
HIS:I’ve always been surrounded by rock and roll. My first concert was Bon Jovi, Warrant and Sam Kinison at Giants Stadium when I was five. My parents have several photos and VHS tapes of me mimicking my all-time hero Bruce Springsteen with my father’s way-too-big guitar slung over my six or seven year old body, sleeves rolled up, Glory Days playing on the hi fi. But one of my earliest rock and roll memories was sitting on our basement stairs as my mother cut my hair while we listened to my dad’s cover band practice. The band was called V-Tach, a humorous take on the fact that the band consisted of all doctors. If I recall correctly, they didn’t play many shows or even practice that often but they were very, very good. They played the standards of the day and Van Halen, The Hooters, ZZ Top, Dire Straits and a handful of other popular rock and roll acts of the 1980s all got the V-Tach treatment. But my favorite V-Tach cover was Loverboy’s “Working For The Weekend.” Don’t know why but it was. As soon as I had my own record player and as soon as I started buying my own records rather than just pilfering my father’s collection, this was one of the first LPs I bought.
HERS: The recent death of Whitney Houston has reminded all us 80s babies of the collective childhood we shared growing up in that decade. And thinking back on it, it kind of makes you wonder. Being under the age of 10 in the 80s was all about embracing stuff that was way too old and way too sexual for our comprehension. Maybe that’s what years 0 to 10 are for anyway. But the 80s were particularly over our heads. We were kids and thought all the fluorescents and hair spray were super cool and pretty! Little did we know it was to keep all those coked out crazies up all night partying all night long. We danced like we were “Simply Irresistible” and touched ourselves “for the very first time” to Madonna’s “Like a Virgin.” Our mothers must have been psyched. We plastered George Michael all over our walls without knowing he was more interested in our brothers than us. Jessica Rabbit was a “cute cartoon” we doodled all over our notebook. We danced like Michael Jackson grabbing our crotches and thought that “Hot For Teacher” tune sure was catchy! Who knew we were carrying on such Risky Business with all our cluelessly Dirty Dancing. Clueless I was (and stayed that way until approximately 25, let’s be honest). And as this 1981 album is as old as I am, it falls smack into this category. From the cover art to the album’s name, the band’s name, and basically every song, it just oozes pure sex. I guess “The Man” caught up come the 90s and the sex that made everything sell back in the 80s got dumbed down a bit and mass marketed. Julia Roberts would capitalized on it all by becoming America’s sweetheart after playing a hooker in Pretty Woman. Next came boy bands and Britney Spears. Now “sex” was manufactured. Which is I guess about the time everyone with a brain turned to grunge and went the opposite direction. Typical. Though there is one perk thanks to being an 80s baby. Those years aren’t permanently and publicly documented on Facebook. Yet, anyway.
Artist: Adele Album: 21 Released: 2011 Label: Columbia Choice Song: Someone Like You
HIS: Wow. So Adele won six Grammys last night. In a music industry that is apparently in a tailspin (not true), Adele has scanned over six million copies of 21 in the U.S. alone and counting. Over time this album could very well hit ten million copies sold. Adele is the biggest artist the world has seen in a long time. And while people who know me may very well think that I can’t stand Adele, it is in fact quite the opposite. Like most everyone else, I fucking love Adele. The general misconception of music snobs is that we hate anything that’s popular and while I can’t speak for everyone I can speak for myself and say that I don’t hate everything that’s popular. I hate most things that are popular because popular music is a creation of marketing departments, press campaigns, stylists, songwriters, producers, touring the artist and creativity, in that order. The last thing most popular music is about is the talent and the songs. Very rarely does an artist who is a genuine world-class talent and has the balls to challenge the status quo creatively break into the mainstream. Why it is that way is another talk for another time. We’re lucky to get someone who is this talented in the mainstream once a decade. Whitney Houston (unquestionably), Fiona Apple (arguably), Beyonce (obviously) and now Adele (without doubt). Her voice speaks for itself and while I’m sure those six million records were in fact a product of marketing, press, stylists, songwriters, producers and touring, Adele’s voice is the most important ingredient and the biggest reason those six million records have been sold. No one’s pulling the wool over our eyes with gimmicks or flashy dance routines in an effort to mask a mediocre voice (SEE: Madonna, Britney Spears, Lady Gaga). No one here is being fooled into buying a product that is as empty as a bag of Frito’s. This record and more importantly this artist are about as real deal as the real deal gets. HERS: Last night on the Grammys (in addition to Whitney Houston) there was a theme of breakups. Somebody had done did somebody wrong and they were all at the Grammys. (See! Stars really are just like us! They get dumped! Really!) But the three of the lot dealt with it in three different ways. First up: Katy Perry. Just weeks after Russell Brand filed for divorce she took to the stage. Not only did she debut an obviously brand new break up song (as if to say, “I write songs when I’m emotional”), but she rocked a skintight space suit (“See how skinny I am without you?!”), and a bright blue crimped hairdo (Um…I’m a bit lost on the point there). Okay, fairly well played. I mean a national Grammy performance surely makes a bigger splash than any drunken latenight email telling him how you really feel. Then there is the will-they-ever-not-have-to-be-at-the-same-awards-shows tension between exes Rhianna and Chris Brown. Like a game of last man standing, they’re both so desperate to shout out, “See! I’m still here! I’m not a woman beater! I won’t be beaten down! People still buy our records!” And even though the necklines plunge lower, there’s a new tattoo of the week, a new dance move, a new color to dye their hair, it’s all a game of the silent treatment played out on national television. Which is fun and all, except no one is making a move. And maybe no one really cares anymore. Lastly there is Adele. Girl got played. Her heart is downright broken. She’s still shaken. So she wrote not just one song, but a whole record about it. A freaking phenomenal record. Everybody loved it. Her songs kept shooting to the top of the charts. And then she got nominated for a whole boatload of Grammys. Oh yeah, and then she won them ALL. Six Grammys in total. And that, my friends, is how it’s done. Who’s Prom Queen now, bitches?! Adele, that’s who.
Artist: Buddy Holly Album: Buddy Holly Released: 1958 Label: Coral Records Choice Song: Rave On
HIS: This album might as well be called “Buddy Holly’s Greatest Hits.” It’s got all the classics. Just look at the tracklist and you might think you’re holding one of those cheesy “20th Century Masters” CDs. Peggy Sue. Listen To Me. Everyday. Words Of Love. Rave On! Those are five of the greatest rock and roll songs ever written and they’re all here on a single album. Appetite For Destruction be damned. This may be the most singular collection of rock and roll music ever made. I consider it arguably the first definitive footprint of rock and roll. It’s the first draft of our thesis statement. But the greatest thing about this album - the thing that’s always intrigued me and endeared me to it more than the music - is its eery cover art. Record packaging back in those days had a certain vibe. Good times. Sunshine. Smiles. Laughs. But this cover is dark. It’s foreboding. It’s almost frightening. Buddy doesn’t even look like Buddy. He looks sad, somber, like he already knows his fate. Gone is Buddy’s Texas-sized smile. He’s taken off his trademark glasses so they won’t break in the plane crash. He’s worn a nice clean suit so they can take him straight to the funeral parlor. He’s probably being told to look at the camera but instead he’s looking straight past it, as if he’s staring down the ghost of himself. HERS: Not all that long ago, there was no rock n’ roll. What would a guy like the HIS to my HERS do if he were born at a time when it was all petticoats, horse carriages and lutes?? I mean he’s not just some guy who owns a guitar to hang on his wall and pick it up every once in a while. This isn’t a ‘just for show’ game. In fact, the man owns no less than 7 guitars, 3 enormous amps, and more pedals and wires than anyone could fit anywhere—I know this because many have overflowed into my apartment. If he doesn’t pick up a guitar at least once a day, he just doesn’t feel right. When he does have a guitar in his hands, he can’t hear you. He won’t respond. And he’d rather not be touched. He daydreams about his next guitar purchase and cruises eBay building his dream guitar wish list. He’s not just a product of his times. It’s in his blood. It’s who he is to the core. I can’t imagine what he’d be doing, who he would be or how he would survive if not for rock n’ roll. The man can’t even stand to put on a suit for fancy functions. If born in the waistcoasts and top hats era, he would have been screwed. (Actually, I take that back—he’d rock a sick top hat.) In this post I’m sure the owner of said record collection will tell you more about the history of it all and how Holly would influence basically every single rock n’ roll icon to come in his blink of a career. But judging that Buddy Holly only had 23 years to change the face of music forever, it was clearly in his blood, at his core and he also couldn’t help but release the rock n’ roll within. Goes to show we just are who we are. Can’t help it. And hopefully you find a guitar or something to hold onto for the ride.
Artist: Cocteau Twins Album: Stars and Topsoil: A Collection (1982-1990) Released: 2000 (Recorded 1981-1990) Label: 4AD Choice Song: Heaven or Las Vegas
HIS: This record reminds me of being a kid on the verge of young manhood. Not because it was a band I’d ever listened to; I’ve really only just discovered them very recently, though they’ve always been there in periphery of my life. It reminds me of being a kid because for the first time in a long time I’ve been presented a band with whom I am totally unfamiliar yet who I dig very, very much. It’s the first time this has happened to me in a long time and it is a nice feeling. It reminds me of discovering Pavement and The Pixies and Dinosaur Jr and The Flaming Lips and Archers Of Loaf when I was just a kid who had no idea what the fuck he was doing. I mean, I don’t know it all. I don’t claim to. But I know a whole lot of people who know a whole lot of things and by the time I come across a new band, I generally have some insight to what the band in question is about and whether I like it or not I generally develop some sort of preconception. But not the Cocteaus. Like I said, they were always there, flitting across the corner of my eye. But I never was given the speech or made the Mixtape. Other than the name, I knew pretty much nothing about this band. But FUCK is this record good. It’s one of those albums that also kind of makes me wish I were a kid when these records were coming out. Listening to these songs evokes in me imagery of sitting on a bedroom floor with the girl you have a pre-teen crush on while she plays you her Cocteau records and you innocently and nervously try and make out.
HERS: Longest. Work. Week. Ever. I face-plant into his bed like a log unable to move. Luckily, if he’s not out until 3am, he’s in bed as early at 9pm sometimes. Some party animal he is. It’s 10pm — the earliest I’ve gotten to bed in weeks. Maybe months. He puts on a record in the dark. “What is this?” I say into the pillow. “Cocteau Twins,” he says. Cocktail Twins? I ask. “Cocteau Twins,” he repeats. Cock Two Twins? I butcher. He’s already asleep. Wait, I thought I was the overtired, overworked one?? Snores. Time of sleep: 10:03pm. The guy is so good at that. Sometimes I can feel the stress of life in my hips (I think it’s a chick yoga thing). So there I am in the dark. Attempting to relax my hips or whatever. I’m laying still for the first time in ages. I’m so fucking zen right now. And I tune into Coke-Whatever-Twins spinning on the record player. Whoa. I’m surprised by this one. Unexpected in this dude’s collection of such…ya know, harder, rockier, punkier, rougher, death metaly, “knock your teeth in” stuff. I can’t tell if it’s new or old, chicks or dudes, youngsters or music vets. But I’m all kinds of wrapped up in it. And it’s totally relaxing the tension in my hips. Until I realize. It’s time to flip the record. And this 6’4” enormous Italian Polish dude is between me and the record player. And he’s passed out. Cold. But in addition to learning how to “properly” handle records and album sleeves and the like, I’ve also perfected the “climb over the giant while he’s sleeping and flip the record with one hand without waking him up.” Because it’s not the climbing over him that would wake him up. Instead, it would be the scratch or skip or a record being IMPROPERLY flipped. And you don’t want to wake the Sleeping Giant in such a manner. Trust. But I take my chances. Because this is one record worth flipping over. And after all, this is the type of music worth climbing over your man for. Any girl would tell you that. And while you’re chatting with her, ask her about the tension in her hips.
HIS: You may remember the previous post when I said that we’ve all become pussies and that everyone out there is afraid to rock. Well not EVERYONE is afraid to rock. Brain F≠ (pronounced Brain Flannel. Deal with it.) is not afraid to rock. Brain F≠ embrace the rock and kick your teeth into the back of your fucking skull (sonically, of course). That may have something to do with me calling this my #1 album of 2011. It could be that. It could be the vocal interplay that is just so perfectly off-kilter. It could be that her wobbly vocals are the perfect mix of slightly drunk and kinda slutty, making it absolutely perfect for punk rock. It could be the chugging drums. It could be the absolutely palpable energy on each and every song. Whatever it is, this is the most refreshing album I’ve heard in a long, long time. It’s just lo-fi enough but not so muddy that’s it’s unlistenable. It’s just fast enough but not too fast that the band loses one another. The guitars are just loud enough but let’s face it, the guitars could always be a little louder. Shit oh shit oh shit oh shit I love this record and I really, REALLY hope there are big things on this band’s horizon. And anyway, Brain F≠ are from Charlotte. The fact that I’m even fucking blogging is proof that I really like things from Charlotte (Just like Brain F≠, HERS is a white-hot Queen City Special as well, as if you didn’t know).
HERS: My hometown of Charlotte, NC has changed a lot since I spent my first 18 years of life there. Today it’s growing at exponential rates, it’s the second biggest banking city in the country next to New York and it’s one of those cities, also like New York, that because people flock to it from all over the country people assume nobody’s actually from there, right? But I am. And so is this band, Brain F≠ (Brain Flannel). So when the owner of the record collection at hand told me that some band from my hometown was one of his new favorites, I got curious. Do I know them? I thought, forgetting how huge Charlotte has become since the days when my friends and I would spend our nights hanging out in our cars atop empty uptown parking decks. But after further exploration, I realized that one or some of them went to my middle school (rumor has it). Okay, sounds like no big deal, who cares, whatever. But you have to understand how kickass Piedmont Middle School was and what a one-of-a-kind experience it was. I’ll set the scene. Imagine the mid-90s. And we’re 6th graders. A lot of overalls, Adidas, Pumas, plaid, slouchy jeans, windbreakers were big, lots of band instruments, big stage productions, feisty sports teams. We were the Piedmont Pirates. Colors were black and red. Our dances were held at 3pm after school for safety reasons. We were basically awesome. Lots of hippies. It because it was an “Open” magnet school (which I’m convinced stood for “super open-minded,” the curriculum was all about learning styles and how each particular student learns best. Basically imagine a “traditional” books, blackboard, lectures and tests type school. And then think the opposite. We were sitting on the floor, working in groups, everything was hands-on and there were lots of field trips. We were whale watching, catching insects on the baseball field, building a real Berlin Wall to separate the class for the whole week, doing simulated astronaut trips into space at a museum, inventing our own products, running “mini-societies” where we each had our own businesses and where there was “real money” circulating. (It should be noted that neither my “Sprinkle Brush” invention that allowed you to brush your teeth in bed nor my button-making business were all that lucrative.) And I had enough perspective at the time to know that not all schools were like that. Not all schools were asking you how you learn best or exploring history from all points of view or regularly digging into hard topics like race relations and community violence. It was awesome. Sure other schools made fun of us for our initials being “PMS.” But we were Piedmont Pirates and didn’t stoop to such sillyness. Instead, we embraced it like the hippy thinkers we were. PMS! PMS! PMS! So if these kids did go to Piedmont then it makes total sense that they’re just gonna rock out hard and rock out their own way and just rock rock rock any way they darn well please and then rock some more. And even if they didn’t, they’ve got the spirit of the punk rock Piedmont Pirates!!
Artist: The Endtables Album: The Endtables Released: 2010 Label: Drag City Choice Song: Circumcision
HIS: This shit makes me yearn for punk rock. FUCK. Is everyone a pussy? Is everyone afraid to rock? When did a distorted guitar become uncool? When did “connecting” with the audience become more appealing than “fucking them up”? Now I’m not gonna posture here and tell you how fucking tuned in I was when this record came out. In fact, the original EP contained herein was released before I was even born and I didn’t know this band existed until Drag City unearthed them two years ago. Part of me thanks them for it. The other part of me wishes that they’d never discovered this gem if only because it reminds me what huge pussies we’ve all become. Glockenspiel, anyone?
HERS: Punk rock is to HIS as hip hop is to HERS. He might not look like your typical punk rocker. Beard. Lots of plaid. Glasses. But it runs through his blood. And his Doc Marten boots for that matter. He grew up on it. It’s his go-to. And for a guy who refuses to stand anywhere other than against the back wall at concerts, punk rock is one of the only genres that will get his ass straight to the front and dancing like a maniac. It raises his fist, stomps his foot and bangs his head like nothing else. Nothing else will replace it. Nothing will even come close. It’s not a phase. It’s who he is. Now this all sounds very cool and hardcore and tough. The following will not. Because in the past twenty years or so there has emerged a plethora of white girls who just looooove themselves some hip hop. They love it! Wahoo! Rap! They bob their heads and flail their arms like Eminem. They know all the words. And they sing them. Out loud. On the treadmill while running off all those pesky calories to a playlist filled with hip hop called, “Run, Girl!!!!!” But I can’t talk tash. Because I’m pretty much one of them. I can’t deny it. Middle school consisted of a lot of blasting Biggie in my Volvo, singing Queen Latifah’s, “U-N-I-T-Y!” at the top of my lungs while strapped into droopy overalls (and my own Doc Martens), hearing Nas takes me right back to junior yearr spring break in Myrtle Beach, the first mp3 I ever owned was A Tribe Called Quest and on our first date I absolutely said my favorite band was The Roots. But he still called the next day even though he quite possibly threw up in his mouth a little bit when I said it.
So while he may turn up his nose at my ridiculous hip hop obsession, and while I might admit that bands like The Endtables are a little too rough and tumble for me, at least we get what it’s like to love a certain type of music so much. Because that’s what it’s all really about, right? Passion. And maybe I’ll have a record collection of my own stuff someday for him to listen to—a collection that I’m sure would only make him want to turn on The Endtables at full volume. Forever.
Artist: Grateful Dead Album: American Beauty Released: 1970 Label: Rhino Choice Song: Box Of Rain
HIS: One of the greatest television shows ever made was Freaks And Geeks. To those of you who don’t know, get to know. During the program’s sole season, there was not a single misstep. From the themes to the styling to the soundtracks, everything about this show was pretty damn perfect. It took everything that was weird about being a teenager and put it in terms we were all familiar with. It wasn’t a saccharine take on adolescence like Saved By The Bell or California Dreams and it was hardly as overly melodramatic as shows like The OC or Degrassi Junior High (yea, fucker, I’ve watched all of those shows). It defined growing up perfectly as nothing happened, nothing happened, nothing happened and then something happened. That’s youth. That’s growing up. We’re too young and too helpless for anything to happen. We’re too naive to make anything change for ourselves. Which is why every tiny nuance of our meaningless high school lives seem so goddamn important at the time. It’s why we’re the only fucking thing in the world that matters when we’re young. And then at one point, or perhaps a series on tiny, interconnected points, we realize how big the world is and how much is happening outside the confines of our town. We realize that there’s an entire world outside of that town we hate so much growing up (only to realize how special that town is when we leave). This moment happens for Freaks And Geeks’ main character Lindsay as she dances around her room while American Beauty plays on her hi fi. It’s the most special scene from an incredibly special show.
HERS: Growing up, my dad’s job was “Director of Substance Abuse and Drug Prevention for Mecklenburg County.” Huh? As a second grader there was no way I could remember all that. So when teachers asked me what my dad did, my usual answer was, “something with drugs.” The teacher’s eyebrow would raise and they’d most likely jot down “background check on this Newman kid.” Drugs were not allowed in any which way around my house or person in general. Dad had a single beer at most on any occasion. Mom never made it through a full glass of wine. Even caffeine was a drug. So you can imagine my shock when Dad told 8th grade me I would be going to see Grateful Dead in concert with my 11th grade sister. Like, for real? Let me backtrack a moment. You know that girl in middle school? The one who takes group projects super seriously. The one who thinks a single beer will ruin her GPA forever. The one who reminds you of Reece Witherspoon from Election. Hi, that’s me. Well, with a little Tom Girl added in. I was a nerd and an athlete which meant drugs were bad — superbad. Immediate anxiety sunk in. “What if I get a contact high?” was my first question. “It’s in a closed arena!” Dad must have been so proud. But the rock n’ roller in him knew I needed this concert. And I needed it bad. The night of the big show my dad dropped my sister, her friend, my friend Rebekah and me off at the coliseum. It must have been hard for him not to go with us. I later learned this was a consolation prize for a no-parents slumber party my parents had forbidden my sister to attend. Not quite sure on the reasoning on that one. I’m guessing an entire Coliseum full of drugs and hippies was way worse than whatever my sister’s rebel friends had planned for that slumber party. Anyway, my much cooler sister went straight down to Orchestra “to spin,” I could only assume. Rebekah and I headed to the upper level. “Wait, does smoke rise?” I wondered. And there we both sat cross-legged right at the railing, immediately above stage right peering down on the crowd. I was fascinated. And convinced I was totally high. I wore the tie-dyed shirt I bought at that concert like a badge of honor. And when Jerry Garcia died later that year, I got my Lindsay Weir on by playing Grateful Dead’s Greatest Hits CD over and over again. I had seen The Dead. And now The Dead was dead. I thought that experience had changed me. That it had made me way cooler than before. I even thought that all the way up until just recently when I was taken to see Phish for the first time as Madison Square Garden (another closed arena?!) at age 28. But when a friend turned to me and screamed, “Hey, you want some Molly?!” and I politely and awkwardly declined I realized I might as well have still been that 8th grade sitting cross-legged on the upper level staring in awe at all the cool kids. Yup, long live the nerd. But I’ll always have my one night with The Dead.
Artist: Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.Album: Funeral ServicesReleased: 2001Label: Brotherhood Records Choice Song: “I Have A Dream”HIS: My whole life, my mother was a special education teacher at my middle school in our little town in South Jersey. While I often joke that my town is “the South up North” the reality is that growing up, ours was often a town of outright racism. Black families would move in and face such brash harassment that they’d be gone in a few weeks’ time. I went to high school with two black kids and a half-black, half-Puerto Rican friend. But the surroundings had little effect on my family as my mother - who was brought up in a wildly diverse inner city - taught us from a young age tolerance and acceptance no matter what. And it didn’t just apply to blacks or Puerto Ricans. It applied to everyone. Whites, junkies, drunks, special ed students. We were all the same and there was absolutely no reason to treat anyone any differently than the person next to them. And often we all convened in my mother’s classroom. Room 109. Her slogan was “109 Anytime!” and people took her up on the offer, as her room was a constant flux of her own special ed students, other teachers, former students, regular ed students, jocks, hippies, junkies, blacks (however few of them were at our school at a given time) and whites. When I was very, very young I was hanging out in 109 after my elementary school had let out, waiting for my mother to finish helping some of her students before we could head home to meet my dad and my sister for our family dinner. My mother sat across from one of her students who was very visibly brought up in a troubled household. It was winter and he had no jacket. He wore shoes with holes in them and his hair, face and hands were filthy. My mother finished her extended lesson with him and bid him a good weekend. “I’ll try but some n*gger family moved in next door to us so…” My mother stopped him mid-sentence. “Excuse me?” She asked. The student started again. “I said some…” My mother cut him off. “I heard exactly what you just said and if I ever hear you say it again you’re gonna be in some serious shit.” She then asked me to wait in the hall while she talked to this student. On the ride home I asked her why she got so angry at this boy. She told me about growing up in the 1960s and 70s and how she lived through the race riots in Jersey City and how they were a violent extension of the generally non-violent Civil Rights movement and she explained as best she could to a nine-year old what exactly racial intolerance was. She told me that no matter what a person looks like, how they speak, where they live or what they do, what matters is who they are. When we got home, she instructed my father to take me to their room where we would read all about the American Civil Rights movement and more importantly Dr. King. The conversation lasted hours, through our family dinner and well into the evening as I tried to grasp what my parents were trying to explain to me. I was then given a task by my mother. “Go to the library tomorrow and ask the librarian about Dr. King. Bring home some books and we can talk about it more.” And we did. For weeks and weeks we discussed as a family the tumultuous times they lived through. But after our familial focus had shifted elsewhere (most likely football) I continued the education my parents had started. I devoured books and cassettes and video tapes about Dr. King, Malcom X, W.E.B. DuBois, Medgar Evers and scads of others. I remember then not understanding why it interested me as it did but in hindsight I think it was a survival tactic. Some part of my young brain thought that the more I knew, the more information I’d absorbed, the less likely I was to end up stuck in my hometown, cursing the black family who moved in down the street without ever having bothered to introduce myself to them. In hindsight once again, it’s taught me so much more.
HERS: My mom knew exactly what she was doing sending me to school across town. There was a reason my high school football team’s rival school had the same colors as us. There was also a reason we were rivals. Not that many years ago they were the white high school who passed their old, used up uniforms down to the all black high school in town who couldn’t afford any better. And even though the school’s halls had since integrated the colors remained as a constant reminder of its past. Growing up in North Carolina, the history of The South and the African-American story was interwoven in every lesson. There was no separate “AFAM Studies” to focus on it. It was everywhere. It had to be. Because it wasn’t just some distant tale found only in dusty text books. It was current, it was present, it was ongoing. It was us. I was so-called “bussed” to my school for the pure purpose of integrating it. And that decision wasn’t even made all that long ago. I’ve written about it before and I’ll probably write about it again. But spending the better part of my education as a white girl who was a minority in schools with such deep and complicated histories on the other side of town instilled in me life lessons no book could ever teach. But the lessons weren’t just happening at school. The race discussion was a constant between my mixed group of friends as the local paper would often call on us to come represent as picture proof of why integration was so important. And it came home with us, too. Every MLK Day my mom would pull out the “I Have a Dream” speech record to listen to in full, which would inevitably spark a family discussion. As a kid I’d lay on the dining room carpet next to the record player and listen while staring up at the ceiling and out the window. I mean the man might as well have been singing, I always thought. And since I’ve left my southern hometown for the northeast where not everyone grew up like me, I realize the man might as well be making that same speech today. Because we’re still working on that Dream of his and still fighting for those equal human rights of which he sings. Who gets to be a citizen? Who gets to be considered family? How foreign is foreign enough to strip someone of equal treatment and the right to human decency? And the challenge MLK set before us remains as well: How does one fight such wars without the violence of war itself? So I bought this record for myself this year here in Brooklyn to continue my mom’s tradition. And this Monday I put it on, laid on my back and stared up at the ceiling and out the window, listening and searching for clues from yesterday to a greater tomorrow.
Artist: Future of the Left Album: Travels With Myself And Another Released: 2009 Label: 4AD Choice Song: Arming Eritrea
HIS: As most bands are obliged to do, Future Of The Left hit the road to promote this album. They came to the US for a lengthy American tour which hit my favorite rock club on earth, Maxwell’s. I took the trek into Hoboken with a few friends and as they usually did, Future Of The Left lit the fucking room on fire. Andy, the singer, made his usual jabs at the knuckleheads in the crowd while Kelson, the bass player, danced into the crowd, stealing and chugging folks’ beers mid-song. But their incendiary set was far from the most memorable part of that night. That came after the show, as me and my friends decided to splurge for the incredibly expensive cab ride from Hoboken to NYC. Our driver was a young Puerto Rican guy who was apparently very into talking with his fares. As we pulled out of Hoboken and toward the Holland Tunnel, our young Puerto Rican driver made an illegal turn into the Tunnel’s toll booth lane. After paying the toll we were directed into a small parking lot just before the tunnel’s entrance by an attractive, young police officer. She walked up to the driver’s side window and then motioned for the young Puerto Rican to lower his window. What followed went something like this:
COP: Do you know why I’m pulling you over? DRIVER: No. But how you doin, girl? COP: Excuse me, sir? DRIVER: How you doin? You look good tonight. Lookin’ too good to be out here. COP: EXCUSE ME? If you don’t stop it, sir, this will not end good for you. Give me your license and registration. (He handed over his documents) DRIVER: Seriously, girl how ‘bout instead of givin’ me a ticket you just give me your phone number. I wanna know you. (A very, very long pause followed as the cop stepped away to consult with her colleagues and speak briefly into her walkie talkie. She returned to the window.) COP: Sir the only reason I’m not going to give you a ticket is because if I do I will have to be present on your court date. And I never, ever want to see you again. Now get the hell out of here.
It was the most awesome move I had ever seen.
HERS: Look. I will go to some hard rocking, head-banging, can’t-hear-anything-for-three days-after rock shows with this man. I will stand at the front of the stage with him for a Fu Manchu show. I will travel the country chasing the Archers of Loaf reunion tour (even helping him drive home at 2am). I will even lug this man’s enormous amps up and down the stairs of my apartment and roll it any and everywhere in New York City (and New Jersey, of course) so that he can melt people’s faces off rocking live shows AND you will find me standing front and center at those shows cheering him on. I can take a lot of loud rock. Sometimes I actually even like it. Other times, I do not. This is one of those times. Look, honestly, I just feel like he’s yelling at me! Stop yelling at me! Enough with the nails on the chalkboard! You’re angry! I get it! Ahhhh! Stop yelling!! The truth is I really know nothing about these guys. Never heard of them. Don’t know whether they’re some pillars in the evolution of rock or not. I haven’t even Wikipedia’d them. All I know is that I hardly made it through the whole album. And that’s saying a lot considering I’d hope my ability to take on harder and harder rock has been increasing since the beginning of this blog. Maybe I’m just out of my league when it comes to this one. And I’m just fine with that.
Artist: The Strokes Album: Angles Released: 2011 Label: RCA Choice Song: Under Cover Of Darkness
HIS: It’s funny when a band gets this deep into their career. You’d think it’d be easier and easier to sell records at this point but in fact it’s often quite the opposite. Let me explain what I mean. When it comes to these huge, multi-platinum bands there is often the MASSIVE debut which lights the world on fire. Then the band tours the world for 18 months, rapidly playing larger and larger venues and at one point becomes the biggest band in the world. All of it leads up to their wildly anticipated sophomore effort, which depending on the band either destroys a career or amplifies it ten-fold. Then if you have that tangibly successful follow-up, you can change direction with the third album. You can get weirder or more pop. You can do whatever you want because it usually takes two solid albums to lock a fan in for a third so most people will buy whatever you make no matter what. Bands, producers, managers and labels are aware of this and often times these huge bands have made all of those people enough money to warrant a certain level of creative control. So the third album is where bands experiment. And then they start to collaborate with legends or start new projects or go solo or play in venues which are drastically smaller than they’re used to but they still remain one of the biggest bands in the world. Then you get to the next few albums. The fourth, fifth and sixth albums. You’ve already identified and then reinvented yourself. You’ve already cemented a core, worldwide fan base. The gimmicks have all been used and all of the angles that critics take have been exhausted. These efforts are often just another album by a band that is still huge but has creatively hit their ceiling. This is where things get really hard. You’re not new and fresh, you’re not reinventing your sound, you’re no longer the commodity you once were but there are still millions of people looking at you and waiting to hear what you’ve got. Hopefully, you’ve got a collection of really good songs because that’s about the only leg you’ve left to stand on. So it is with this album. It’s certainly not The Strokes greatest. It certainly is not their worst. It’s another record by The Strokes. That is all. But it’s pretty good.
HERS: So I’m a Jew from the South whose elders mostly came through Ellis Island (minus the one who was straight off The Mayflower). The owner of said record collection is a big Italian type whose Polish side weighed in just enough to make him multiple feet taller than the rest of his enormous Italian family. And blond. None of these backgrounds or upbringings are really all that different when you get down to it. Of first importance is family. A close second is food. So you can imagine the levels to which my anxiety rose when the words, “I just want a plain bagel with nothing on it” came out of his mouth as we were literally walking into a bagels and lox brunch with my aunt and uncle who’d yet to meet “the tall Italian fellow she’s dating.” I immediately picked a fight. Which is always ideal just before you introduce your boyfriend to family. Who knows what I made it about, but in reality we were fighting over cream cheese. That’s right, cream cheese. I don’t really think of myself as “that Jewish” or whatever. But I will fight a bitch over some lox and bagels. We walked in silence the rest of the way. Jesus Christ, just eat the fucking cream cheese and lox on that goddamn bagel and be cool! I was silently screaming inside my head while being anything but. I entered in a full panic. Oh my god, what am I doing?? What if he hates bagels and lox and I’m forever banned from eating one of the greatest Jewish inventions of all time while being forced to chug dry stale plain bagels for eternity?!??!?!?!? (It should be noted that we’d been only dating for less than 3 months at this point. I’m insane. I get it.) Cut to brunch where he’s happily charming the high-waisted pants off my adorable aunt and uncle, politely eating the lox as my uncle exclaims, “I’ve always hated lox!” They’re all belly laughing while I’m realizing I’m an idiot and that no man should ever be forced to eat basically raw slimy salted fish if he doesn’t want to. And while we’re doing the whole honest realizationst hing, maybe I should admit than I’m more “that Jewish” than I thought.
So why bring up lox while talking about The Strokes you’re wondering? Because on a recent weekend morning at The Lower East Side’s best lox spot we found ourselves in line behind Julian Casablancas and his adorable son. My boyfriend was psyched on his rock n’ roll sighting. I was more psyched on his lox and bagels breakfast request—a weekend institution he now cannot live without. After all, if a man is willing to eat your people’s peculiar food and you’re willing to listen to all his music, then there’s really nothing else you can’t conquer, right?
Artist: Little Joy Album: Little Joy Released: 2008 Label: Rough Trade Choice Song: Keep Me In Mind
HIS: My mother has cancer. She’s been battling for five years now. And over that time, we’ve each had our own little ways of trying to brighten up her day. A lot of her friends will send her text messages telling her how awesome she is. Others will come and visit or send flowers when they can. My sister will go to my parents house and make my father dinner, which makes my mother very happy. One of my contributions is to send my mother new music to spin as she sits in the incredibly boring “Chemo Throne,” as I call it, while the cancer-battling drugs slowly drip into her system. I try and keep it new and in the last few years she’s gotten very hip to Bon Iver, Kurt Vile and Sonic Youth among several others but one of her favorite “chemo albums,” as she calls them, is Little Joy. She said no matter how shitty she felt, no matter how bummed out she got, Little Joy always made her smile and forget - if only for a minute - where she was and what she was going through. She loved the album so much that she wrote the band a letter (I know all you pre-internet kids remember writing letters to your favorite bands when we were kids). I forget exactly what the letter said but I do remember how, in true mom fashion she implored the band to change the album’s name from Little Joy to Lotta Joy because that’s what it brought her as she sat in her “chemo throne” slowly watching the drugs drip, drip, drip trying to make her better.
HERS: Confession: I’m not a big book reader. Wish I were, believe me. But the constraints of New York life make it quite difficult. I fall asleep 2.5 seconds after my head hits the pillow at night. My subway ride isn’t long enough to warrant pulling a book out. And even when I do attempt to get nose-deep in a good book, all I can think of is every article, magazine, newspaper and blog post being published at that VERY moment! And immediately I have to put the book down and click over to my Google Reader. What if I miss something current?!?!! So goes the sprint speed of life in New York City. We’re literally moving too fast to read the words on the page. Pathetic, really. But thanks to the existence of this blog, I’m forced to stop. And listen. And in it’s own little way, each new album is just like pulling out a brand new book you’ve never read. You get invited into a world you’ve never heard before. Meet people you never knew. See things you’ve seen a thousand times over in a completely new light. Now let’s go a little further with this metaphor, shall we? Accordingly, this makes the HIS to my HERS a full-on literary genius. Meanwhile, I’m at a solid 5th grade reading level. Sigh. Except people don’t talk about records the way they talk about books. You’re not some well-read, highbrow masterpiece the more “classics” to which you’ve listened. You’re just an old fogey who loves rock-n-roll and probably calls in requests to your local oldies radio station. But hey, ain’t no shame in that! Whatever type of library you’re barking up, I cheers to it! Because while reading one half of a book page in bed puts me immediately to sleep, for whatever reason I can lay flat staring up at the ceiling and listen to an entire record. Sides A & B. Don’t ask me why. So go the “little joys” of this other kind of “library” I’m exploring. And thankfully the stacks are packed.
Artist: Ten Years After Album: Positive Vibrations Released: 1974 Label: Chrysalis Choice Song: Without You
HIS: It’s always funny when you can hear a band’s influences as soon as you listen to their record. Sometimes those foundations just shine right through. It’s also funny when you hear a new band and right away you know what they were listening to when they wrote those songs. What’s really REALLY weird is when you become incredibly familiar with a newer band and then somehow accidentally stumble upon their influences. For example, the other day I was watching the Woodstock movie and became completely enraptured with Alvin Lee’s fiery late night guitar solo. So I went down to the record store which is coincidentally two doors away from me and picked up the first Ten Years After album I saw. I put it on and was not terribly moved. It was pretty standard blues-based rock and roll played by Englishmen. But then I stopped paying attention somewhat and a few moments later, I was convinced the maven of this blog had switched records to some My Morning Jacket outtakes that I’d never heard. I could have sworn that we were listening to the Kentucky weirdoes as not only did the voices on the album sound just like Jim James’ but also the production, even down to the drum tones, echoed just like the latest MMJ album ‘Circuital.’ Now I don’t know if James and Co. dig Ten Years After. They could very well hate the band. But I’d be willing to bet - and I ain’t a betting man - that somewhere along the line Jim James had himself a Ten Years After phase.
HERS: I could be that girl who says something ridiculous like: Buying records is JUST like buying shoes! They always fit no matter how your size fluctuates. They match whatever mood, phase or current life stage you’re in. You can buy a million and they look just as pretty all lined up on the shelf as they do on your feet. You’ll never really regret the purchase so much as look back later in life and think, “Oh I was so crazy and trendy and crazy back then!” But I won’t. Because my feet are too wide to wear fancy pumps, my calves too muscular to fit in fuck-me boots and we New Yorkers walk a million miles every day so we wear our shoes HARD until they literally fall off our feet. And then we buy the same exact ones again. Records, instead, are like old family photo albums. You pull them out just to pour over them. They take you right back to where you were at that exact moment in time. All of a sudden the smells you smelled that day come right back to your nose. You remember who you were then. And who you wanted to be. You don’t laugh at your style as much as wonder where that jacket you were wearing went because between the time that photo was taken (or when that album came out) and now, it’s all right back in style. As if no time has passed at all. Because records are timeless. Even ten years after.
Artist: Bob Dylan Album: Bob Dylan’s Greatest Hits, Vol. 2 Released: 1971 Label: Columbia Choice Song: Stuck Inside of Mobile With the Memphis Blues Again HIS: I’ve gotten into several arguments regarding the genius or (in my humble yet professional estimation) lackthereof in Bob Dylan’s music. I know what you’re probably thinking. You’re probably thinking I’m a nut. You’re probably thinking “Fuck this clown. Bob Dylan is the greatest songwriter that ever lived.” You’re probably thinking that I’m an asshole. Trust me. I’ve tried. Time and time again I’ve tried to go deep into Zimmy’s catalog and make that same connection that so many millions of others have made. For Christ’s sake, Jimi Hendrix - the man whose feet I can be found worshipping at - loved no one like he love Dylan. That should count for something, right? Well. No. Bob Dylan is criminally overrated. Let me break it down for you the way I see it. Before you get all huffed and puffed, hear this. I do think that Bob Dylan is great. I do think that 40 or 50 of Bob Dylan’s songs are among the best songs that have ever been written. But I think most everything he’s done beyond those 40 or 50 are bullshit. Bob Dylan has made so much more bad music than he has good music. If Bob Dylan were a baseball player, he’d be 50 for 1000 lifetime. Now each of those 50 would be grand slam home runs. But, in keeping with my baseball analogy, you’re talking about a guy with a .050 average. A guy with a .050 average never runs on to the field at Shea Stadium. A guy with a .050 average is probably stuck inside of Mobile, selling cars and talking about those 50 grand slams he once hit. So we can continue to ignore those pieces of garbage Bob Dylan has sent out into this world and focus on those 40 or 50 greatest hits. I’m fine with that. Because those are some great fucking hits. That is why I think Bob Dylan is criminally overrated and that is why this is the only Bob Dylan album I own.
HERS: Below, a conversation with my Dad via email about Bob Dylan.
ME: How did you discover Bob Dylan? DAD: At a record store. The saleswoman said I might enjoy the album (Freewheelin’). When I brought it home I loved it. Then I heard him in concert when I went to see a Joan Baez concert. A friend and I went to a concert when he was in transition between playing acoustic guitar and electric. It was a big deal at the time. When he came out electric after the intermission the friend asked if we could leave. So we did. ME: Wow, you left?! Must have been pretty bad. DAD: I was fine with Dylan on electric guitar. I only left because my friend asked if we could. Some of these songs on this album are more recent and I’m not so familiar with them but some bring back very warm memories. My connection with Bob Dylan and you is that you put several of these track on my iPod and I would think of you when I heard them while I was out on a run. Mom and I both loved Bob Dylan. I might have been more comfortable than she was when he went electric although we didn’t know each other then. I hope this helps. Gotta go. I love you.
NOTE: If you want to see what a kid’s face looks like when he hears music for the first time, put your parent’s favorite music on their iPod. It kinda looks like that.
Artist: Blue Öyster Cult Album: Tyranny and Mutation Released: 1973 Label: Columbia/Legacy Choice Song: The Red and The Black
HIS: I wish we could go back to the time when it was ok to rock. Before - for some inexplicable reason - nearly every last drip of testosterone was drained from rock and roll. Of course there are still plenty of bands out there who rock and rock hard. But there used to be a whole lot more and few of them rocked harder than BOC. Unfortunately, most people only know to reference that goddamn Will Ferrell skit (which has nearly destroyed any usage of cowbells at any point) and those people need to get some goddamn knowledge dropped on them. These guys rock so hard and they are so much more than ‘Don’t Fear The Reaper.’ But I digress. First of all, how many bands have the sack to name their fucking band BLUE OYSTER CULT? I mean, come on. If that doesn’t scream cock and balls, I don’t know what does. Also, when did it become uncool to rock? When did guitar solos become lame? When did ridiculous lyrics and song titles (like ‘O.D.’d On Life Itself’ or ‘Baby Ice Dog’) become a thing of the past? When were 160 beats per minute deemed lame? I sure wish people would rock like that again.
HIS: People always debate what makes a musician great. Is it a mastery of his or her instrument or is it the indelible stamp they put on that instrument? Is the one soulful note Jimi Hendrix plays better than the sixty technically perfect notes Eddie Van Halen plays? In my opinion, it is. The most important thing about becoming great at your craft is creating your own voice. The greatest musicians are the ones you recognize after hearing only a few notes. Neil Young is one of the greatest guitar players of all time. The funny thing is a lot of people think Neil should stay as far away from a guitar as possible. Neil can’t shred like any jerk who works at Guitar Center, which is exactly why those jerks are stuck working at Guitar Center. Because they’ve spent their whole lives practicing their scales and their notes and their shredding rather than recognizing and cultivating any sort of style of their own. When Neil plays the guitar, you know it’s Neil and there is no mistaking it. And when Chrissie Hynde sings, it is the same way. She could never do with her voice what so many trained singers could do. She didn’t have a massive, multi-octave range. She couldn’t hold notes over 16 bars of a song. But what she did do, she did better than anyone. There are few more discernible and beautiful voices in rock and roll than that of Chrissie Hynde.
HERS: Androgynous Hoochie. This is how someone recently described my style. What does that mean, exactly? A slutty-looking lesbian? A whore who dresses in dude’s clothing? Sure, I have an inability to wear any other shoe than my beat up brown shit-kicker boots. And it’s not my fault they’re making jeans tight these days. Or that I have a booty bigger than most. What can I say, a girl needs a frilly top or twenty in her wardrobe. Hell, maybe I do dress like an androgynous hoochie. But so did Chryssie Hynde! And not in the Britney Spears in a “business suit” that transforms into a stripper’s outfit sort of way. After all, the front woman rocker chick is a pretty precarious spot. You carry a lot up there. You’re the voice, the look, the sex. And Hynde pulled it off better than most. She balanced her substance with style just like her outfits. Blazers, ties, hot pants, heels, boots, make up, hair—you name it, the woman rocked it. And she rocked it however she damn well pleased. She was sexy with a serious edge. And when you can rock on top of that? Ain’t no pretending. Maybe “androgynous hoochie” ain’t such a bad thing after all.
HIS: The first bass guitar I ever owned was a relative piece of shit. It cost my dad $150 and was certainly not something you’d see on any stage outside of a high school talent show or garage practice space. But it would get the job done and would give me a chance to learn the bass guitar without having to get my untrained hands all over my father’s quiver of fine bass guitars. At the time - and thanks to him - I was really into Yes so as soon as we left the guitar shop and before we even got in the car, he quickly showed me a dumbed down version of the bass line to “Roundabout.” There we were in the parking lot, one guitar nerd extraordinaire and one blossoming guitar geek, bass propped up on the old man’s thigh as he plucked out one of Chris Squire’s most recognizable parts. It is one of my most prized memories. Anyway, I took home that relative piece of shit and tried to learn more songs from Fragile, only to realize that Chris Squire is on some seriously next level shit. So I gave up and learned a bunch of Op Ivy, Weezer and Minor Threat songs instead. But I never got rid of that relative piece of shit and now fifteen years later, it still gets as much use as any of my other guitars. That relative piece of shit has outlived at least 2 Fenders and even though it’s now covered in stickers, dried blood and battlescars, is one of my most prized instruments. I’ll never get rid of that relative piece of shit.
HERS: They called this band YES because when anyone from anywhere who played any and every kind of musical instrument asked to be in the band, the answer was YES. Musical instruments were essentially required in my family. My aunt is a hardcore piano teacher to tiny little children with insanely skilled fingers. So my sister and I were in lessons before we realized not every kid growing up had a required 30 Minutes of Practice A Day Chart to stopped any other activity labeled as “fun” until that practice was fulfilled and the chart updated. If you have a stepping stool up to the piano bench in order to reach it, chances are you’re way young learning this thing. Come 4th grade my sister was carting her cello around everywhere and practicing up a storm. My choice to play the trumpet when I hit 4th grade three years late was solely based on finding a smaller, less heavy instrument than hers and also one that was way louder. Success. Funny how my parents weren’t as stringent when it came to me practicing that trumpet 30 minutes a day. But learning how to read music and play those instruments is something that never leaves you. Clearly the other whatshisname on this blog took it to his core and it shaped his whole life. But practicing trumpet in a small confined space and lugging a huge cello back and forth to school will teach you life lessons you won’t find anywhere else. And to that I say, YES! (I just couldn’t help myself!)
Artist: Dinosaur Jr Album: You’re Living All Over Me Released: 1987 Label: SST Records Choice Song: Raisans
HIS: The mid-90s. What a fabulous time to be a kid. From Bart Simpson to Dazed and Confused’s Wooderson to Norm MacDonald, slackerdom was not only acceptable, but it was pretty fucking cool. The word “Eh” couldn’t have been more important to a vocabulary and clothes were only cool if they were unironed, dirty and ill-fitting. “Fuck it, man” was the pervasive mindset and J Mascis was the king. Yea dude. I know this record didn’t come out in the mid-90s, but that’s when I discovered it. That’s when it came into my life like a Big Muff hurricane and left a beautiful disaster in its wake. This is another of the myriad records that I could write about forever, so in an attempt to box myself in I will simply make a list of the albums that meant more to me than anything during my weed-hazed, C-average, slacker-as-hell High School years (‘97-‘01).
10. On Avery Island - Neutral Milk Hotel 9. Brighten The Corners - Pavement 8. Energy - Operation Ivy 7. Green Mind - Dinosaur Jr 6. Icky Mettle - Archers Of Loaf 5. Fuse Time For The Working Force - Plugspark Sanjay 4. Pinkerton - Weezer 3. Life - The Cardigans 2. Doolittle - Pixies 1. You’re Living All Over Me - Dinosaur Jr
HERS: Phases in life are so curious. You feel so adamantly about something. But only for a specific period of time. Then your feelings give way and they hook onto something else entirely. Plus they can all change on a dime. Take 1995 for example. This was a point when I was seriously obsessed with Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman (obviously). Middle School Me was VCR’ing every episode on VHS so I could watch it later. I even wrote into PARADE Magazine to tell them so and got published on Christmas Day, 1995. No big deal. Around that time I was equally as obsessed with the movie Speed, Seventeen Magazine and my older sister’s Oasis CD. But cut to 1999 and all that was behind me as I was onto Garth Brooks, shopping at Marshall’s and a preppy bob haircut (not the best look for me). By 2003 it was all The Roots, hoop earrings and finding a pair of Seven jeans that fit (none of them did nor will they ever fit my ass). Today you look back at that former phase of yourself and ask: Who the hell was that? Turns out, it’s you all along. Every phase builds on the previous iteration to make up what we see today. Pull back the layers and they’re all still there. However, I’m guessing when it comes to the HIS to my HERS of this here blog, he’ll have plenty to say about this band being one phase he never grew out of. I’m guessing Dinosaur Jr is that way for a lot of people.
Artist: Don Caballero Album: American Don Released: 2000 Label: Touch And Go Records Choice Song: You Drink A Lot Of Coffee For A Teenager
HIS: Records are like postcards from the past. Any record you own has some sort of tie to a moment in your life. Whether or not you acknowledge that time is up to you. But those times and those memories are all in there, waiting to be reactivated. There are certain records which take you to a nebulous place. They remind you of high school or college or the beach or your ex girlfriend or that time you got arrested or that time you took mushrooms. Then there are other records which remind you of something very, very specific. I remember the day I bought this record. I remember driving up the Garden State Parkway to Jack’s Music Shoppe in Red Bank. I remember that I’d parked illegally in a bank parking lot. I remember getting a buttered roll - a classic New Jersey breakfast treat - before I went in. I remember first looking at the guitars Jack’s sold in the back room. I remember flipping through the racks, looking for whatever band I had read about in the Aquarian that week. I remember hearing the bell ring, indicating that someone had just come in the store. I remember seeing a guy who looked a little haggard out of the corner of my eye. I remember looking back into the racks. I remember that same guy lining up directly across from me on the other side of the rack. I remember looking up for a second. I remember looking back down. I remember thinking, “Holy. Fucking. Shit. I’m standing a foot away from The Boss.” I remember thinking, “What the fuck do I say to Bruce Springsteen.” I remember looking back up again. I remember Bruce looking up and giving me a nod. I remember freaking out, grabbing the first LP whose album art looked halfway decent and getting the fuck out of there as fast as I could. I remember getting to my car and thinking, “What the fuck did I just buy?” I remember getting home and putting the LP on my dad’s hi fi and I remember thinking, “This is probably gonna suck.” And then I remember thinking, “Holy shit. This rules.” And thus began my lucky and unintentional obsession with Don Caballero.
HERS: At an early age I found myself frequenting coffee shops. I blame the show, FRIENDS. I wasn’t even drinking coffee at such a pre-teen age (one hot chocolate, please!). But I was meeting with friends to “journal” (yikes), write pretend screenplays on legal pads by hand (all starring Keanu Reeves for some strange reason) and gossip about our super dramatic pre-teen lives. Ugh, Pre-Algebra!! One place in particular was a coffee shop called La-Dee-Da’s and I could walk to it (a serious score for a girl without a driver’s license who wanted to walk everywhere like the city girl she would become). Of course this made my parents nervous as they saw caffeine as a serious drug (definitely addicted!). But working in these bustling coffee shops made me realize how I loved to work amidst the madness. Whether it’s a bullpen office situation, loud noises, high energy, work in the field, I do my best stuff when I’m feeding off the energy around me. Aka, no boring silent cookie-cutter office cubicle setting. Not only do I feed off the surrounding energy, but I plug into music that feeds even more energy and puts me into my own world. I’m not sure where I’d be without music as my soundtrack to my daily working life. And when you talk about stellar work music (or just music in general), this Don Caballero album is just so freaking good.
Artist: Kris Kristofferson Album: Please Don’t Tell Me How the Story Ends: The Publishing Demos 1968-72 Released: Recorded 1968–1972, Released 2010 Label: Light in the Attic Records Choice Song: The Lady’s Not For Sale
HIS: Remember back when men were men? When the only thing men had with their whiskey was ice. When men wouldn’t be caught dead at “brunch.” When men let women go in before them and when they did, they held the fucking door. When beards didn’t mean an aptitude toward things hip. When beards meant you were a fucking man. When men saw a problem and they fixed it. When men didn’t know what the fuck a pedicure was. When the only thing a man needed was his woman, his dog and a six pack. Yea I don’t because I wasn’t born until the early-80s. But I’ve heard stories, goddamnit. Now we have men who have no problem discussing feelings. Men who take “mental health days.” We have men who sip mimosas at Sunday brunch and get their breakfast sandwiches with egg whites. Men everywhere, PLEASE LISTEN UP. We’re men. We’re not women. We’re not boys. We’re men. And that’s fine. There’s nothing wrong with that. That’s why women like us. So let’s get back to basics. Let’s batten down the hatches and reclaim our manliness. Let’s make our fathers and grandfathers proud. Let’s eat a rare steak, drink domestic beer that has no fucking pumpkin spice and not worry about whether our shirts are ironed. Let’s be men. Where do we begin, my completely pussified friend? Square one. We begin with Kris Kristofferson. A true man amongst men.
HERS: Kris Kristofferson’s songs are almost haunting. He’s just a man with a voice and a guitar. And not in the cheesy singer songwriter way, either. When he sings you can hear his heartbeat. His heartbreaks. It’s like he’s whispering into my ear while laying in bed in the dark hours of night, like he’s…WAIT - IS THIS THE GUY WHO DATED BARBARA STREISAND?! No way! Have I mentioned I went through a serious Barbara Streisand phase in my teenage years? Oh man I was obsessed! So serious was my Babs phase that many nights you could find me in my room silently belting out all the songs on her 2-Disc Live “The Concert” Album, dramatically lip syncing straight into my mirror. Even the parts in between songs where she’d chat with the audience. And man, did that audience love my jokes. Her songs were just so passionate and full of raw emotion and such power that they really spoke to 7th grade me in a profound way. It made me ponder deeply on my life. Think about love and where my own future lover might be right at that very moment. Now I know. I was belting out, “Nobody, nobodyyyy’s gonna raaiiinnn oonnnn mmyyy paaarraaaaaaaaade!” by myself in my room. But so was he. I mean, trade Babs for Pavement and Dinosaur Jr but whatever, it’s totally the same thing right? Right?! Obviously our paths were destined to cross 15 years later, right? Yeah. Obviously.
Artist: AC/DC Album: Back In Black Released: 1980 Label: Atlantic Choice Song: Hells Bells
HIS: One of Rivers Cuomo’s greatest lines comes off the Pinkerton album when, during the song “Falling For You,” he asks the person to whom he’s singing, “What could you possibly see in lil’ old three-chord me?” It’s so much more than his lack of guitar prowess he’s worried about here. He is professing his inadequacy as a man, a lover, a human being. “Why can’t I be better for you? Why can’t I be more? Why can’t I be Led Zeppelin? These three chords are all I’ve got.” For Weezer - and most of their fans - shortcomings were hip. “I can’t see so I wear these big glasses. I don’t have much style so I rock these nerdy sweaters. I don’t know how to shred on the guitar, but I can write these cheesy love songs.” On the one hand, they were rock and roll anti-heroes. They were the meek inheriting the Earth. On the complete other hand? AC/DC. They never said, “Sorry but we’ve only got these three chords.” They never said, “How could you love us if our songs are so simple?” AC/DC said, “Fuck you. These are the three chords. And these three chords fucking rock. We’re not Led fucking Zeppelin. We’re AC fucking DC. Deal with it, pussy. Now let’s rock.” And the world is all the better because of it.
SIDE NOTE: This song is played just before every New York Giants kickoff when they’re playing at home. Thus, it always gets me jazzed.
HERS: So I went to this crazy hippy camp growing up. My parents paid all this money to send me deep into the mountains of Appalachia for three weeks. There we were split into male and female tents, stripped of our right to shower daily (or in privacy for that matter), also stripped of our shoes (hippy kids don’t wear shoes, silly!) and tasked with working the farm. Ya know, for fun. We milked cows, we scrubbed floors, we aggressively gardened. It was, ya know, camp! Right? A plethora of things happened to me during my time at this camp. I got fleas. My braces fell out. I lost my glasses. I got homesick. I got diarrhea…while camping. Don’t get me wrong. I love nature. But when I’m only allowed to shower twice a week and in groups (cut to a whole group of naked pre-teen girls surrounding me and my friend, Lee, who are proudly wearing full piece bathing suits), I’m far less likely to roll around in the dirt. Anyway, of the many, many choice memories I have from this camp, I do vividly remember one that’s never left me. Throughout the summer, one of my tent mates thought I could use some “cool” education. So she took to teaching me lots of little things that summer. The most important of which were the words to the entire song, “Shook Me All Night Long!” by AC/DC. This, apparently, was the key to coolness. And there I was, sitting on the end of my tent repeating over and over out loud, “She was a fast machine, she kept her motor clean, she was the best damn woman that I ever seen, she had them sagless thighs (er, sightless eyes?), telling me no lies, knocking me out with those American thighs!” Take that, hippies! Milk your own darn cows!
HIS: Stank. It’s one of the more emotive words when describing, listening to, or writing rock music. “That’s a stankin’ bass line”… “Dude, have you heard this band? They’re stanky”… “Yo I dig that guitar part but can you stank it up a bit?” It just says so, so much about so many things. Is it filthy? Is it slutty? Does it groove? Does it thud? Yea? Then it’s probably stanky. And there are very few bands who stank harder than Foghat. These motherfuckers Stank.
HERS: In the car growing up, my dad always listened to 99.7 WRFX The Fox with John Boy and Billy on in the morning. It was a rock station. And John Boy and Billy were hilarious. Two rocker geezer dude types from the South. They made redneck jokes and rocked out to songs loud and hard enough to make my dad slam his fist against the driver’s wheel (ever so gently as not to hurt the Volvo, of course). And to me, at that age, every one of the songs they played on that station sounded like Foghat. Have you listened to this song all the way through? Ain’t nothing slow about it.
Artist: Bruce Willis Album: The Return of Bruno Released: 1987 Label: Motown Choice Song: Respect Yourself
HIS: BRUUUUUUUUUUUUUUCE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! BRUUUUUUUUUUUUUUCE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! God, I really can’t ever talk enough about Bruce. I mean, he’s really the only artist that has been in my life from birth. I remember dancing to his videos around the advent of MTV. I remember trying desperately to hang my weathered baseball cap out of my back pocket just like his. I have videos of a four year old me with my dad’s Telecaster, hair slicked back, sleeves rolled up pretending to play along while Born To Run played on my old man’s hi fi. I mean, is there anyone greater than The Boss… Scooter… Bruce Springsteen?
Wait. What’s that? Oh. Shit. Wrong Bruce? Bruce Willis? WHAT? I don’t own any fucking Bruce Willis records. Wait. I guess I do. I mean, she had to have pulled it from somewhere in my collection. Oh wait. No I remember. I was on tour with a certain band who often indulges in food challenges along the tour route (“Bet you can’t eat that 3lb. burger/5 Baconators/72oz. steak”). We were in Boise and I believe the challenge was to eat 5 footlong hotdogs in a row from a hot dog cart outside of Boise’s fucking awesome shop, The Record Exchange. While the unlucky fellow who’d been challenged was probably throwing up in an alley, I popped into the shop and picked this piece of shit out of the dollar bin. So now every time I am reminded of Bruce Wills’ music career, I think of footlong hotdogs.
HERS: Let’s just say what we’re all thinking: Bruce Willis is The Man. I’ve got such a man crush on Bruce Willis. And not like a crush that a chick has on a dude, but like a dude crush. An “I wanna be your beer buddy” crush. A crush that makes me want to watch sports with you and throw darts kind of crush. Not the type that has me posting Die Hard posters all over my room. Or the type that thinks were we to actually meet we’d hopefully make out kind of crush. And also not the freaky stalkery I want to be friends with all your daughters kind of crush. But I wanna, like, BROdown with you kinda thing. Bruce is unexpected you know? He’s beaten the odds. He’s the Everyman AND The Man. He’s high living but I bet you can still find him slumming it every once in a while in a dive bar. He might own that dive bar, but whatever. After all, he is the bald guy who got dumped by a Hollywood hottie. But he’s The Man, so he wasn’t ashamed to say that it bummed him out as a father and a husband. But then he picked his shit up and sure, maybe he went for the hot young hotties, but he married that hot young hottie! Because you know what? He’s both badass AND family guy. He’s both an action star and he’s kinda funny. He’s got businesses and financial ventures all over the world, but he’s just a guy who loves to party. And if he wants to put out a record on Motown and have a band and be a rockstar, sure why not! He’s Bruce Willis. And he’s The Man. And that’s that.
Artist: Thursday Album: Full Collapse Released: 2001 Label: Victory Records Choice Song: Paris in Flames
HIS: Yea go ahead. Talk your shit. Make your fun. But I’m not ashamed to say it. There was a short period back there in my youth where I was pretty into emo bands. Now, I was never the ‘emo’ kid. I never had the hairstyle or the jeans or the terrible acoustic “sideproject.” I was never in a band whose moniker had anything to do with car crashes, starlight, lullabies, the weather, the seasons, a girl’s name or a day of the week. I never practiced my guitar moves when no one was looking. And even though I owned a fair amount of emo records, CDs and 7”es, I could never commit completely to that scene. Mainly because that scene was terrible. My roots were always firmly planted in the indie rock world. But being an angsty New Jersey teenager, it was near-goddamn-impossible to not at least be somewhat involved in arguably the most maligned genre of all-time. For example, after seeing Piebald and The Juliana Theory at Starland Ballroom when I was 16, I went home and made this girl that I met at the show a Guided By Voices/Pavement mixtape. I also remember catching early afternoon emo basement shows in New Brunswick or Asbury Park then hauling ass to sneak into Maxwell’s or The Court Tavern to catch some of New Jersey’s then-best indie rockers like Plugspark Sanjay, Prosolar Mechanics, Aviso’ Hara or Bobfields. So I always kind of had my feet in both buckets. And you couldn’t possibly be a Jersey emo kid (or - more accurately in my case - a kid from Jersey who occasionally listened to emo) without getting pretty into Jersey emo Gods Thursday. I still stand by this record. Go ahead. Talk your shit.
HERS: Emotions. They are tricky little suckers, aren’t they? They fuel decisions both good and bad. It’s like mind control. Because you can’t bottle up those emotions. Oh no, they’ll find their way out any way they can. And sometimes in forms you won’t like very much. Emotions will make you yell at your own grandmother. They’ll force you to involuntarily poop your pants. They’ll make you kick a cat. Or, in some cases, even record an entire genre of music that’s like your middle school diary put to a soundtrack of rock. So that in addition to all weird clothes you wore in your angsty days, the green nail polish and smelly hair product that reminds you of those times, you ALSO have an album full of sounds that just really spells out exactly how you were feeling at that moment for all to hear. Look, everyone turns to different kinds of music in emotional times of hardship. For some it’s that Sarah McLaughlin puppy-adopting song or R.E.M.’s “Everybody Hurts.” And for others, I suppose it’s Thursday’s “Paris in Flames.” Everyone says, “I’m Hurting” in a different way. And, damnit, some just have to sing it!
Artist: Drive Like Jehu Album: Drive Like Jehu Released: 1991 Label: Cargo Music/Headhunter Records Choice Song: Turn It Off
HIS: Allow me to refer you to an older post where I could hardly contain my excitement. I feel the same way right now but I will do my best to keep myself reeled in. I’d venture to call this one of my ten favorite records. And I love talking about it. And I love talking about them because the conversation is never just about Jehu. The conversation is about Pitchfork, Rocket From The Crypt, Hot Snakes, Obits, Sultans and The Night Marchers. John Reis and Rick Froberg were apparently never satisfied. They were constantly moving and shaking and making new music and putting out new records and forming new bands. At one point it seemed like they were writing new songs just so they could start new bands. Their enthusiasm in this regard is unmatched. And like any endeavor in this life, enthusiasm begets excellence. And these dudes are fucking excellent. I have yet to hear a record of either or both of theirs that I haven’t dug. But if you could pile up all of their collected output, this album would sit firmly on top.
HERS: In every relationship, no matter how short or long, how casual or serious, you always learn something. Either about yourself or the other person. Could be anything from, “Man, I hate Thai food so much” to “Man, I’ll NEVER date another older woman with two kids from Lithuania who wants to move in with me after a month ever again! And I’m SERIOUS this time!” In the case of this relationship, thanks to the current amount of hard rocking music like Drive Like Jehu in my life at the moment, I’m learning to embrace my anger. Because ya know, we ladies are raised to be nice and friendly and smiley and polite. And say yes and thank you and please. And suffer through situations we don’t like. And be nice to assholes who aren’t nice to us. And move through life with perfect grace and flawless skin and no curse words while we just smile like we care at douchebags, dicks, jerks and even our fellow bitches who get in our way and try to fuck with us instead of looking them square in the eye and saying “Back off you slut or I’m gonna choke you because I’m tired of your shit and damnit I’m gonna stick up for myself in order to protect my needs and what I want out of life instead of letting you steamroll over me because you’re an asshole, asshole” like we’re all thinking inside our heads, except we’re not suppoesd to be thinking things like that because girls like that are frowned upon and cast out of society simply because we don’t just comply and adhere to all the rules like little perfect perfect princesses!! Or whatever. Phew. Wait, what was I saying? Oh right, I’m embracing my anger. That was it.
Artist: Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark Album: The Pacific Age Released: 1986 Label: Virgin Choice Song: Live And Die (Forever)
HIS: Funny how sometimes all you really need is one song. One major smash hit can make your life (so to speak). Look at OMD. People will be listening to “If You Leave” forever. That song is a legend. But when you really think about it, OMD were hardly a one-trick pony. I mean, these guys had hit after hit after hit up their sleeves. Who doesn’t remember such classics cuts as The Dead Girls, King Of Stone, Sealand, Walking On Air, Julia’s Song, Never Turn Away, White Trash, Enola Gay, The Misunderstanding, Apollo, Georgia or Very Close To Far Away? ……. um…….well…….Ok. So maybe they only had that one song. Whatever.
HERS: Listening to this record this morning with the window open, the brisk winter air swooshing in (is 50 degrees brisk? what’s up, winter?), a fuzzy blanket in bed and a book in my lap (I do in fact have a job - I just had a little time to spare is all), I was whisked back to the 80s. And the following visuals came to mind: my pale pink Reeboks, my gray double cassette/radio boombox with an enormous antenna, my dad’s Honda Accord, Barbies and their kickass RV every Barbie should own, the Saved By The Bell graphic open, Casey Kasem’s Weekly Top Forty, my huge and bright red Sally Jesse Raphael glasses (far before their hipster comeback), my headgear (gross), slap bracelets, hot dogs with cheese injected inside of them, enormous bow headbands, stirrup stretchpants, Sabego shoe laces and the Charlotte Hornets. Nothing like the very best neon memories of the 80s. Sigh. Anyone have a scrunchie I could borrow?
HIS: Steely Dan are one of those wildly polarizing bands. When it comes to them, there is no Like. You either Love the Dan or you Hate the Dan. I can’t tell you how much shit I’ve gotten from peers about my love of Steely Dan. I also can’t tell you how it’s always impressed the fathers of my former girlfriends or my high school teachers when they’d find out that I’ve seen Steely Dan more times than they have. But I fly my flag high and I fly it proud. I fucking love Steely Dan. Some of my all-time favorite guitar parts come from Walter Becker. Some of the weirdest pop songs ever strung together come from Fagan. It’s weird to think that these guys who were so subtle and nuanced were at one point one of the biggest bands in the world. They didn’t smash your face sonically like Jimi did. They didn’t pummel your speakers like Zeppelin. Their songs never soared like The Doors or The Stones. The Dan seeped into your subconscious when you weren’t really paying attention. They didn’t kick down your front door with sexiness. They didn’t grab you around the waist at the bar and pull you into the back seat of their car to make out. The Dan snuck into your bed while you were on the verge of falling asleep. And then you let them fuck your brains out.
HERS: Let’s talk pretzels for a moment. Every Christmas break my family would escape the south and take off for our annual winter wonderland adventure where we’d take plane, trains and automobiles through what would be my future home: The Northeast. We’d fly into Philadelphia, cab it into the city and spend a few days there with my grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. The minute we landed it was mandated that we make the cab stop on Rittenhouse Square just long enough for my mom to pop out to grab a hot pretzel from a street cart (we got one for the cabbie, too, of course - we’re not masochists!). They. Were. So. GOOD. And you couldn’t get them anywhere else quite like that. The adults would then all go out for Chinese while some lucky family member would stick with us kids and watch the movie Caveman. (Ringo Starr? Dennis Quaid? Shelley Long?! A classic!) Then we’d take the train up to New York for a quick look at The Tree (“Kids, the tree! Look at the tree! It’s the tree!) P.S. - We’re Jews. Not that that matters when it comes to The Tree. Then we’d escape via “Limo” up to Connecticut to see more grandparents (whose lack of heat in the house was made up for by the fact that they got MTV, a channel we weren’t allowed to watch - which in retrospect, might explain the existence of this blog). Every year I hoped that this “Limo” would be an ACTUAL limo. Stretch. With a driver. And not the crowded van it always turned out to be that we’d all piled into and shared with a bunch of strangers. Looking back, I’m not quite sure why we didn’t take MetroNorth into CT. I’m sure my parents looked into it, but maybe it was because they serve beer on those trains. Probably. Sometimes we’d fly out of New York, sometimes we’d do the exact trip in reverse and fly back out of Philadelphia. But it was always a blur and the one time I had to wear a winter coat. Had I only known I’d be back to this concrete jungle for good one day, I might have paid a bit more attention instead of burying my nose in my diary (old school blogs) to write down everything my family was doing (nerd). And when the Y chromosome of this blog pulled this album out, slipped the record out of its sleeve and tossed me the album cover to examine last night, it immediately took me back to those hot Philly pretzels. The music, on the other hand, took me back to my dad’s Fu Manchu mustache, which was only shaved off somewhere in between 2007 and 2010. Turns out Steely Dan’s music isn’t the only thing that stuck around far past its 70s heyday.
Artist: A.C. Newman Album: The Slow Wonder Released: 2004 Label: Matador Choice Song: On The Table
HIS: You know those references that you just don’t get but you like anyway so you kind of just shrug and go along? Like the time a NASCAR Radio commentator referred to Kyle Busch as “the Tabasco on the grits.” Or when a girl once told me that one of my old bands sounded like “robbing someone but in a dream.” It’s times like these where you say to yourself, “I have no fucking idea what that means but it sounds awesome so fuck it.” Well someone once called A.C. Newman the “Elton John of his generation” (or something to that effect). Again, I don’t really know where this comes from and I can’t make that connection even when trying my hardest. But still, Elton John is one of the few Kings Of Awesome, so we’ll let’s go with it. I guess what I’m trying to say is that this record rules. Like, seriously, seriously rules. I’d venture to call it one of the best and most complete albums of the last decade. And even better is that due to Newman’s name and punctuation, he’ll probably always be the very first artist in my iTunes catalog (Gasp! Mentioning iTunes on a record blog?? For shammmmmme). So even when I’m not sitting intently by my hi fi - even when I’m tied to my desk, typing away at work - I really can’t ever escape how rad this record is. It sounds like running through a forest. But one that’s in a city, with the girl of your dreams and you’re being chased by death metal. Catch my drift? No? Fuck it. Just go with it.
HERS: This is as good a time as any to tell you that my last name is Newman and talk about the effect it’s had on my life. Because you care. First off, this is what “the man of the blog” prefers to call me. Newman. No pet names, no cutesy foolery, just Newman. However, he’s not the first. When I got sick in the 2nd grade for a week with the flu, people started calling me FLUman. Seven-year-olds are a tough crowd. Then in high school, a handful of my dear friends lovingly called me JEWman (though Mom was less than psyched on that one when it was hollered across the soccer field as a cheer). And in college, I did it to myself the first week of school by running for Class VP under that name. NEWMAN FOR VP! For some reason, I thought I’d tap into the great love of Seinfeld that still embraced the world in 1999 to convince people I would totally rule as a school leader. But I probably just wanted to juxtapose a picture of the fat, tubby mailman that “Newman” was on the show with an adorable picture of me posing in front of the Eiffel Tower (because that was relevant in any way?!). Regardless, it worked because I was elected and forever simply known as “Newman.” Surely, it could be worse as last names go. Luckily it isn’t one of those obvious disaster names like “Doucher” people attempt to convince others is pronounced, “Doosh-AY.” Seriously, this happens. And obviously A.C. Newman digs it. I mean, who really needs a first name when you’ve got a last name like Newman?! Perhaps I should take a note out of his book and throw out my first names completely to just land on Newman. From the sounds of this album alone, it’s clearly working out for him.
HIS: You know what I hate? I hate when people say, “Oh I listen to everything! Except country. Teehehe.” Listen here motherfucker, you do not listen to everything. You probably don’t listen to most things. You probably have shit taste in music and wouldn’t know a good tune if it cock-slapped you in the cheek. Your musical spectrum probably resembles Danny DeVito’s wingspan and I can only assume you’ve purchased more than one movie soundtrack in your life. In fact, let’s try it out. Let’s have a test. Let’s have you listen to “everything.” Actually, let’s not even bother with “everything.” Let’s just have you listen to “something.” But I’m going to pick that “something” and that “something” is going to be heavy, dissonant, dark, angry and growling. That “something” is going to be Unearthly Motherfucking Trance. Hey chooch, still think you listen to “everything?” No? No. You don’t listen to everything. You probably really only listen to John Mayer, Gnarls Barkley, Kelly Clarkson and your “indie band” The Killers. You’re an idiot.
Please note that I can only ascribe the anger in this post to the fact that I’m listening to UT while writing.
Please also note that I think Kelly Clarkson is fucking awesome.
Artist: Weezer Album: Pinkerton: Deluxe Edition 4 LP Set Released: Box Set - 2010; Originally released 1996 Label: DGC Choice Song: Falling For You
HIS: There are certain records that immediately alter the course of your musical consumption for the rest of your life. For me those records are Doolittle by The Pixies, Life by The Cardigans, Icky Mettle by The Loaf and Weezer’s Pinkerton. Taken one at a time, I could go on and on discussing who I was before I heard those records and who I became afterwards. But we’re talking about Pinkerton here, so allow me to focus. Pinkerton was one of the records that led me to evolve from angry, slam-dancing hardcore kid to less angry, horn-rimmed rock kid. By the time I’d purchased Pinkerton I was of course familiar with the Blue Album. In the mid-90s it was impossible to not be. But Pinkerton grabbed and sucked me in hook, line and sinker. I think it was not only due to the excellence of the songs but also to the unabashed openness that Cuomo displayed lyrically. Most important, however, was Pat Wilson’s drumming. At the time Pinkerton came out I was a very dedicated drummer. I was practicing hours and hours a day, playing along with the records of my favorite drummers and to that point I’d never thought of Weezer as being a very drum-centric band. Then came Pinkerton. The evolution of Wilson’s drumming astounded me. On the Blue Album he was a guy who played the drums. On Pinkerton he became a Drummer. The way Wilson could interweave these relatively complex and ridiculously interesting drum parts underneath songs which were inherently very simple opened my eyes to the possibilities of creating music on my own.
HERS: I assigned myself this album early into dating when he told me it was one of his ALL TIME TOP FAVORITE ALBUMS EVER that he listened to OVER AND OVER AND OVER IN HIS TEENAGE YEARS. I listened to this album’s songs like “Tired of Sex,” “Pink Triangle,” and “Why Bother?” searching for clues into his soul—what does it all MEAN?! Clearly it wasn’t to be taken literally, but it got me thinking. What were MY all time top favorite albums ever as the Delia*s-catalogue-ordering, Claire Danes-wannabe, Doc Martens-my-mom-bought-me-rocking, Calvin Klein jean-wearing, sporty tomboy jock/nerdy brownnosing teenager I was? What would those albums say about me if someone went listening? (Though I’m guessing he’ll hate most of these—minus one or two, maybe—and proclaim that we never would have been friends in high school, despite the fact that he would have teased me relentlessly, only to reveal a secret crush on me later.) My imaginary 90s playlist would have looked like this:
Ani DiFranco, “Not A Pretty Girl” Veruca Salt, “American Thighs” Dishwalla, “Pet Your Friends” No Doubt, “Tragic Kingdom” Outkast “Aquemini” Live “Throwing Copper” Soundgarden “Superunknown” The Cranberries, “No Need To Argue” V/A “Rave Til Dawn” (compilation) Barenaked Ladies, “Rock Spectacle” 10,000 Maniacs MTV Unplugged Oasis, “What’s The Story (Morning Glory)?” R.E.M., “Automatic For the People” Beastie Boys, “Check Your Head”
Which really explains everything and nothing at all about teenage me, doesn’t it? So while I listened intently to his iconic 90s album, I knew there were plenty more to come and that I should just keep listening instead of attempting to read between the liner notes.
UPDATE: His reaction after reading, just as I suspected, “GOD you used to listen to some terrible music. Seriously, though. Dishwalla???”
Artist: Das Damen Album: Jupiter Eye Released: 1987 Label: SST Records Choice Song: Girl With The Hair
HIS: I’m gonna get all dinosaur on your ass and tell you about the old times. Way back when before we had Pitchfork or Spin.com. Back before fresh, young, experimental artists were playing late night tv or licensing their music to car companies. Back when discovering new bands was all a result of being at shows or trading tapes or reading Forced Exposure or the Aquarian or watching 120 Minutes. Or simply wandering into the record store without any impending purchase in mind and flipping through the racks, settling on an album based on cover art, intriguing name or title, and of course record label. There are certain record labels whose tag on the back were just as important as the name on the front. Those little label logos meant that while you may not know what you’re getting sonically, you know it’s gonna be fucking good. Those labels were a stamp of approval. An impersonal personal guarantee. An assurance of quality. I’m talking about labels like Dischord, Touch And Go, Sub Pop, Matador, Homestead, Flying Nun, Rough Trade, Merge and scads of other, smaller imprints. One of the most important of these, of course, was SST. In my life I’ve probably owned a hundred SST LPs, CDs and tapes and I could probably count on one hand the ones I didn’t like. I mean, shit man, we’re talking about the place that gave us Dinosaur Jr, Black Flag, Meat Puppets, The Minutemen, Saccharine Trust, Descendants, Subhumans, Husker Du, Soundgarden, Bl’ast, Screaming Trees, The Dicks and of course Das Damen. This place was like an all-star team. I can certainly remember the first time I bought Jupiter Eye (on CD so many years ago) and I can certainly remember that I had never heard of Das Damen before. I was probably looking for a Dinosaur Jr record and came across this album whose art kicked ass. I picked it up for further inspection, noted the SST logo on the back and marched immediately to the register, never worrying that I might be wasting my money on a record I’d never heard by a band I knew nothing about. SST thought it was cool thus it had to have been cool. I trusted in that. I sure hope kids still trust labels like that.
HERS: Most New Yorkers aren’t New Yorkers at all. We didn’t fit in enough in our hometowns to stay, but when we get here, where we’re from is all we’ve got. I’m a southern girl from North Carolina when I’m here in the Big Apple, but back home I’m a New Yorker. We make precisely no sense like that. So when I took the HIS to my HERS to my hometown, I wanted to show him everything. The hood on the West Side of town where I went to high school, the Bojangles we’d skip 7th period Latin at, the Dairy Queen we ran to from soccer practice, the NASCAR Hall of Fame, the park where I drank my first beer (a 40oz OE, obviously), the amazing grocery store that is Harris Teeter — ya know, the important stuff. Stuff I desperately ran from when I fled north for college and some of the stuff I miss the most. Ain’t that how it always goes? Mostly I wanted him to get that old school southern feel where people are people and really know each other, really touch each other, hug each other, go slow, sip slow, cook slow, talk slow and do it up right, nice and sweet. Stuff I didn’t even realize was a southern thing until I left. Unfortunately we didn’t have time for it all because it was a hot and humid 90 degrees in the middle of brutal southern summertime, the AC on my mom’s old Volvo wasn’t working and his patience was running thin. I’d gotten a dude who hates to fly all the way to NC and now he’ll never really get where I’m from. All he’ll remember is that it’s fucking hot in North Carolina in the summer. But we had time for one more stop on our whirlwind tour. And as this relationship has a habit of doing, we veered off course. Instead, he showed ME something about my own hometown. Typical. A record store, at that. Also typical. It sits minutes away from my house on a street I drive every time I’m home. Never saw it before. In we walk and within seconds he’s already shaking hands with the owner who’s called him by name and they’re rapping about music and life. Before I know it the classic southern moment I was chasing all day was happening right here and now. But this wasn’t all that typical come to think of it. Because this happens in almost every record store I step foot in with the guy no matter where we are. Maybe it’s not a southern thing then. Maybe it’s just a good people thing. Or a people thing period, as opposed to a machine, an automated service or computer. I realized that perhaps what he likes so much about record stores is what I love so much about my hometown. And there he goes again. Making me see my own world in a different way. Anyway, we walked out with a lot of music that day (typical), including this record.
Artist: Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band Album: Live/1975–85 Released: 1986 Label: Columbia Choice Song: Rosalita (Come Out Tonight)
HIS: I don’t even know how to tell you this. In fact, I feel ashamed even saying it. What’s the matter with me? Where did I go so wrong? Ok. Deep breath. Here goes. I’ve never seen Bruce Springsteen And The E Street Band live. Ever. I know. I’m a terrible human being and a despicable representative of the state both Bruce and I hold so dear to our hearts. I’m second-rate Jersey boy. I have no excuse. Only shame. I guess it was something I figured I’d always get around to. I mean, growing up on the Jersey Shore, Bruce was always there, whether on the radio, playing a show or just hanging in town. So yea, I stupidly thought, “I’ll go soon! Next tour. I promise.” And then rock and roll’s greatest tragedy struck. Clarence Clemons died. His death hit me remarkably hard, as it did Bruce fans everywhere. I entered a mild and brief depression and grieved the death of a man I never met but knew so well. It still hurts to think about. But they’ll go on. There will assuredly be more E Street tours. They’ll find someone to try and fill The Big Man’s size 16 shoes, even though the thought of someone else playing those parts is laughable. And as I’ve promised myself so many times, I’ll get tickets and find my salvation at the altar of rock. But I’ll never see the E Street Band that I grew up with every day. To quote Scooter himself, “I’ll never hear Clarence play the end of Jungleland again.” To quote someone else entirely, “Let’s love each other while we’re still here. ‘Cause one day one of us won’t be.”
HERS: Do you remember that moment when you realized your parents were real people? Like actual humans who weren’t perfect and didn’t do the right thing all the time. People who had lived a whole life before you were born. A life in which they probably made a few mistakes along the way, hit some hard times and struggled to find their path—just like you. You forget this when they’re you’re parents. You figure they’ve always been the straight living, boring, status quo types. Because you’re a teenager. And you know everything. I learned of this shocking truth slowly through life by piecemeal nuggets of information. Like that my mom got into NYU against her father’s wishes, and went anyway. Or that my grandparents thought my dad’s crazy fro and hippy clothes were too “gypsy” for my mom. Dad played the drums. Mom was a tough chick substitute teacher in Spanish Harlem. Dad met his best friend at a Boston sit-in for civil rights. And it goes further up the family tree if you keep on looking. My mom’s dad courted her mom for over 10 years at her family’s soda pop shop in West Philly until she said yes. My dad’s mom rebelled against her family by leaving a waspy upbringing on a Darien, CT horse farm to marry my dad’s activist dad who fought in the Spanish Civil War with the Abraham Lincoln Brigade. But I really should have known that my parents weren’t the robot goody two shoes I thought they were growing up. Because my Dad loved Bruce Springsteen. And that alone was really all I needed to know. Because inside the buttoned up, routine-loving, uber disciplined man was that hippy-dressing, fro’d out, civil rights protesting dude who loved to rock. That’s who he always was before he hunkered down to make a life for baby me. And what Bruce represents for so many who love him is that he never changed. Rock star or not he will always be that dude from Jersey wearing dirty torn jeans, a sleeveless shirt and scruffy hair who blends into the bar just drinking his beer and shooting the shit before he casually walks on stage to rock everyone’s face off. Only to blend back into the bar again like it was no big deal. And as if his music weren’t already great enough, that everyman quality—like he’s weathering life as best as he can, just like the rest of us—only makes him even greater. If you saw Bruce Springsteen on the street—you’d never know he was an international rockstar. And if you looked at your parents today, you also may not be the wiser about the life they led before you came around. Lucky for all of us, the music they love can tell us everything we need to know about the people they really are.
HIS: 11 facts about Fu Manchu that you could probably figure out just by listening to any one of their recordings:
1. Fu Manchu are from Southern California.
2. Fu Manchu like muscle cars.
3. Fu Manchu smoke a fair amount of pot.
4. Fu Manchu love volume.
5. Fu Manchu love distortion.
6. Fu Manchu love riffs.
7. Fu Manchu enjoy listening to hardcore records.
8. Fu Manchu sometimes eschew choruses for guitar solos.
9. Fu Manchu are very hairy.
10. Fu Manchu fucking rule.
11. This is the best Fu Manchu album.
HERS: This came out when I was 16 years old. I was unaware at the time. In fact, I was unaware that Fu Manchu was more than just a mustache, a fictional evil dude and a some weird gross sex act getting its 15 minutes of fame on urban dictionary, until earlier this year. A band, too? Okay, sure. At 16 years old, I was hanging out at this coffee shop called Seven Seeds in my North Carolina hometown most nights. It was this smokey warehouse with wall-to-wall couches, loud music, slackers everywhere and live music or spoken word depending on the night. My friend Karen would drive us there in her kickass dark blue Volvo sedan and we’d just hardcore hang. Drinking our coffee. Feeling awesome. Hanging out in the dark, smokey, music-filled 90s cliche, no one could touch us. I’d come home and my mom would accuse me of smoking since I was drenched in the smell from my oversized overalls to my low top Doc Martens to my dad’s plaid shirt I had tied around my waist (a good look) without even touching a cig. Tons of us underaged teenagers who weren’t cool enough to break the rules and actually go drinking hung out there, too. Not sure this was the initial purpose of this oversized Central Perk in empty uptown Charlotte at the time. I’m guessing it was the actual 90s slackers (who’d graduated at least high school by this point) aiming to get their Seattle on, maybe, doing the coffee thing. And while I was unaware at the time, as I was of so many things, I’m guessing those dudes were jamming to Fu Manchu.
Artist: Patsy Cline Album: Patsy Cline’s Greatest Hits Released: 1967 Label: Decca Choice Song: I Fall To Pieces
HIS: I missed the boat on country music. I think it was because I grew up in a town that identified heavily with the American South (despite the fact that I grew up 2 hours from Manhattan and 1 hour from Philly). Flannel, hunting, lifted pickups, rebel flags, chewing tobacco, NASCAR and of course country music were all huge in my town. The keeper of this blog (an actual southerner) refers to my hometown as “The South Up North.” Due to this I always felt like a semi-out of place punk rock weirdo in that weird little town that I miss so much. And as youth is wont to do, I rebelled against the norm and disavowed any and all country music as it was pretty much the majority of what you heard growing up. My mistake. Of course there is plenty of country music that is fucking putrid and I’m glad I never got into but there are some that I have slowly allowed to burrow into my heart. I’m thinking of Alan Jackson, Toby Keith and of course Garth. But what mostly gets me is that because I had kept such a closed mind, I missed the entree to the classics. The Johnny Cash, the Waylon Jennings, the Dolly Parton, the Hank Williams and of course the Patsy Cline. Luckily, somewhere along the line I realized how fantastic these people were. I fell in love with how honest, forthright and candid their songs were. And I noticed that each of their voices tore me up inside, but each in their own unique way. It was something that rock and roll never did to me. Johnny made you wanna fight. Hank made you wanna hang out with your pals. Dolly made you wanna call everyone you’d ever wronged and apologize. Waylon made you wanna drink. And Patsy… oh Patsy. Patsy made you wanna dance with the girl.
HERS: There’s something about how low Patsy Cline’s voice could get. It just made those songs of sorrow, angst, and heartbreak sound so perfect. And haunting almost. Her voice was somehow rough and smooth, but solid all at once. Like nothing could shake or break it. But when you listen to her lyrics, it becomes obvious that plenty shook her. Even the titles of her songs are so raw and vulnerable: “Faded Love,” “Why Can’t He Be You?” or “You’re Stronger Than Me.” And teenage me dug her so much. SO much. I stole one of my dad’s CDs of her and played it in my 3-disc CD changer stereo (fancy!) over and over again. I sprawled out on my blue fuzzy rug in all my teenage angst and felt like Patsy Cline totally got me. At the time I thought she was some old-timey country grandma from the depth of her voice. But to know now that she died when she was only 30 is crazy to me. She was just a young woman singing with the sounds of a much older soul. Like the older aunt or grandma who’s seen it all, lived to tell the tale and will sit you down and tell it like it is. And in my mind, she’ll always stay that way. Just like, in my mind, I’ll always stay that teenager lying on the floor, feeling the weight of the world and listening to Patsy Cline to make it all better.
Artist: Sigur Ros Album: Med sud I eyrum vid spilum endalaust
Released: June 2008 Label: XL Song: Gobbledigook
HIS: The eternal quasi-indie-music-snob debate: Are they signing in a made up language? Are they singing in slang? Is it just Icelandic? Or are they just making up Icelandic words? Well, I’ll let you figure that out for yourself because Sigur Ros is one of the few bands whose lyrical content doesn’t really matter. The songs are insane. The sounds are unbelievable. The images are arresting. Of course it’s easy to understand why some people can’t get into Sigur Ros, though. Their incredibly long songs really don’t hit paydirt until they’ve gone through long and arduous ambience and when they do, (as I previously mentioned) you can’t understand what the hell they’re saying. This record though is for some reason so much more accessible than their previous efforts. These are almost pop songs. They have definitive verses, choruses and bridges; something very few of their songs have ever had. I won’t say it’s their best work but the funny thing about this band is that the music that isn’t their best is still light years ahead of a lot of band’s pinnacles.
HERS: Listen kids, if you’re ever going to smoke a joint on a quiet winter weekday evening and lay in bed with someone cute while listening to records until you hazily fall asleep…this is the record you’ll want to listen to. Hypothetically speaking, of course. Hypothetically. That is all.
*NOTE: Oh, one more thing. Should you partake in such an activity, there’s a chance you’ll have some wild idea that you should listen to ALL that cute someone’s records. And blog about them. For all to read. This will seem like a great idea at the time. There’s a chance you’ll even execute said idea. Okay, now that really is all. Hypothetically, of course.
Artist: Iron Maiden Album: Number Of The Beast Released: 1982 Label: EMI Choice Song: Hallowed Be Thy Name
HIS: YES! YESSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS! Since I was told of her decision to start this blog I have been waiting to write about this fucking album! And I’ve been thinking about all the things I’m gonna say but I’m just too fucking excited! YESSSSSSSSS! As you can see, when it comes to Maiden I can hardly contain my excitement. This band is so fucking awesome on so many fucking levels and this album rocks my fucking face off. AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Seriously. Iron Fucking Maiden! YES! My only regret is that we can only post one song at a time. I wish we could post the whole fucking album! AHHHHHH IRON MAIDEN!!!!!!!!
HERS: Self expression is so important. Without that outpouring of emotions that just bottles up inside and festers, we as human beings would whither from within. And for centuries and centuries, human self expression has taken a variety of shapes. Art, poetry, dance. All obvious ones. But where in the tool kit of self expression is eardrum numbing deafeningly hard rocking noise? Honestly? Women are constantly begging their men to tell them how they feel, talk about their emotions and wax poetic about whatever the hell is going on inside their mysterious minds. But maybe the same old therapy couches, coffee shop talks and four-hour long phone conversations don’t work for everyone. Isn’t it time we accept the reality that maybe neverending pillow talks when eyelids feel like cinder blocks may not be the keys to our lovers’ hearts and heads! It’s time to embrace alternatives! Perhaps it’s rather a drum set or a guitar plugged into an amp so loud it blows the roof off. Perhaps it’s Iron Maiden cranked up to the maximum volume!! Have you seen how enthusiastic fans of this band are?! And how could they not be the healthiest of individuals? Sure the band is kinda dark and loud and ragey. But we sit motionless and silent listening to classical music. How, when you listen to or play music like THIS—screaming your guts out and putting every inch of energy you’ve got into playing the loudest, fastest and hardest you possibly could play an instrument without it crumbling in your hands—could you NOT feel complete and like anything is possible after!! So in the spirit of Iron Maiden, I say perhaps it’s not a matter of, “turning down the volume and just listening to me for a second, damnit!” Perhaps, in fact, it’s time we truly connected and expressed ourselves by turning the music up instead—WAY UP—and let true human self expression lead the way.
Artist: Tom Waits Album: Rain Dogs Released: 1985 Label: Island Records Choice Song: Gun Street Girl
HIS: There are a few bands who for whatever reason I’ve just never gotten into. It’s not that I dislike what they’ve offered, it’s just that I’ve never even bothered. I know I should have and I hope one day I might devote the fair amount of time that bands like Codeine, Sleater-Kinney, Soundgarden, Felt and Brian Eno so deserve. But the one I mostly regret is Tom Waits. I think it’s mainly due to the dude’s output. I know plenty of people who sing his praises any time they’re presented the chance and thus far what I’ve always heard of Waits’ music I’ve dug. But for whatever reason I missed the boat. Of course, it’s one of those “where the hell do I begin” kind of things. So I began here, for as much as I know this is the benchmark of Waits’ canon. It’s wild. I love it. It reminds me of my childhood when records were events and not nearly as disposable as they are now. This is one of those records that you can’t really put on in the background. It’s best served when given your best and most focused attention. It’s the one that you put on the turntable, gather your friends around, shut the fuck up and listen to everything.
HERS: Raspy voices rule. In our post American Idol world, we’re obsessed with belting out the high notes. But there’s nothing like a raspy voice. Especially when they sing soft. I feel similarly about raspy voices the way I feel about scruffy beards. There’s something soft about their roughness. KnowwhatImean? Raspy voices have texture. Depth. A history. Layers. Stories for days. They’ve lived. Been knocked down and knocked around a bit. Chances are they fought back. They could say very little and everything you need to know all at once. Raspy voiced singers don’t really have to play by the rules. They’ve already broken the first one by not really being very quote-unquote “good” singers. Truth is I know very little about Tom Waits. But his style seems all over the map on this record alone. And his voice follows suit, shifting and morphing with every song. I get the idea that this guy does whatever he wants. He certainly does on this record. And that raspy, unexpected, unpredictable quality of his voice makes you lean in and listen a little harder. Truth still is that I still don’t know much more about Tom Waits after listening to this record than I did before. In fact, now I have even more questions. Raspy voices will do that.
Artist: Crooked Fingers Album: Breaks In The Armor Released: 2011 Label: Merge Records Choice Song: Went To The City
HIS: Man oh man this dude does something to me that few dudes do. I’m talking serious Johnny Depp/Kris Kristofferson/Neil Diamond-man-crush action here. Every time I go to see him play I get too nervous to go introduce myself after the show, which seemingly half the crowd inevitably always does. Every time I see him at another show or around town I just kind of stare like a creepy stalker. I’ll admit it. It’s weird. Maybe it’s because Archers Of Loaf were one of my earliest rock and roll obsessions. Maybe it’s because they remain my all-time favorite band. Maybe it’s because when I think of musical genius, this dude sits right up there with the best in my humble estimation. And because of my undeniable man-love for this dude, I concern myself with his well-being. Ever since the the Loaf dissolved, Eric Bachmann has made some of the saddest, most somber records I’ve ever heard and it has always pained me to hear such despair flowing out of him. Maybe it’s due to my emotional investment in this dude’s entire recorded output. Maybe it’s simply my man-crush. But part of my just wants him to be happy and to get what he’s long deserved. Judging by the sound of this record, for the first time in a long time he is happy. And that makes me happy.
SIDENOTE: The amount of people who tell me I look exactly like this guy only lead me to believe that I actually look exactly like this guy. And I’m fine with that.
HERS: When you start dating someone new, there’s a lot to learn. A whole new person’s likes, dislikes, personality quirks and personal tastes are absorbed. And they yours. How he drinks his coffee, which teams he roots for, and which tiny acts of kindness weigh in big time. But early on, I realized I had a lot of learning to do. This guy would be harder to pin down by just the early “oh he drinks his coffee black, loves the New York Giants and gets abnormally psyched when you give him clean socks” things that I learned about him. There were layers that required peeling back. So like the total nerd that I am, I started a Google Doc. Don’t laugh, this shit is useful. Do you know how many unknown bands, links, names, articles, music videos and types of foreign lingo were thrown at me in the first month alone? I had to write this shit down! I started keeping track of songs he’d reference, bands I needed to listen to (hence the blog), concerts I’d be going to and people I’d be meeting. There’s no Dating Music Nerds for Dummies, people! Look, I wasn’t memorizing Pitchfork and Brooklyn Vegan so I could wax poetic about stuff I clearly didn’t know; I was merely taking notes. Because whereas it’s cool to be a novice and interested and worthy of teaching, it’s way NOT cool to be all clueless and ignorant and all “Wait, who are the Reigning Flaming Night Jackets again?” I’m just saying. I had to keep track because he kept throwing curve balls. I couldn’t just go with: He likes rock. Or: He’ll listen to anything loud that includes a drum solo. Because when he was professing his undying love for Archers of Loaf, he threw in that he also loved the lead singer’s solo act—a man and his guitar on the stage singing pretty. Huh? He worships at the feet of a guy who rocks out like crazy loud and hard with one band one night and then goes home to sing solo, from the heart, to crisp emotional melodies to tell us how he really feels? Sounds like someone else I know. Noted.
Artist: The Misfits Album: Walk Among Us Released: 1982 Label: Rhino/Slash Choice Song: Hatebreeders
HIS: Understanding the timeline of The Misfits can be a tricky thing. This was their 8th release but their first full length. They had recorded two full-lengths prior to this, one of which didn’t come out until 1997 (Static Age) and one of which was never released (12 Hits From Hell, not to be confused with the EP 3 Hits From Hell which came out after 12 Hits was recorded… see what I mean?). Because of this I really have no recollection of my personal history with The Misfits which is an odd feeling to me because I can usually remember the exact moment I first heard a band that I love. I think it may speak to the fact that The Misfits were always kind of around. Much like Bruce Springsteen, when they weren’t right in my face (or on my stereo) they were always in the periphery. Playing on the overheads at the Jersey skateparks. Playing in between bands at basement shows. Playing on mixtapes in my friends’ cars. You were never more than a few minutes away from a Misfits song. I guess it comes with the territory. We Jerseyans wear our pride on our sleeves and when you’re one of us, you’ll always be part of something. Odd as it may seem to some, The Misfits feel like home to me. They’re one of the few bands that no matter where I am in the world I can listen to and be brought right back to Jersey. So I guess it really doesn’t matter when I first heard them. It matters more where I’ll be, somewhere down the line, when I’m feeling grown up and lonely. And then I’ll hear “Hatebreeders.” And then I’ll think of my hometown. And then I’ll be happy.
HERS: This gives me a headache. Honestly. It’s not that they don’t do what they do well, it’s just that I’m SO not into what they do. In the least. We can be honest here, right? (Famous last words if this tumblr comes up tomorrow as “My Ex-Boyfriend’s Record Collection I No Longer Have Access To (dot) tumblr (dot) com.”) Look, I know they’re a legendary band and all and that people love their loud, fast, gnarly, punk rock sound. In fact, HIS blurb is probably about how they had a “PRICELESS IMPACT ON THE MUSIC SCENE AS A WHOLE, WHICH MAY NOT EVEN EXIST TODAY AT ALL WERE IT NOT FOR THIS BAND,” but I just don’t dig it. Maybe it’s a chick thing. Or maybe just a me thing. My mom and I had a radio battle from the time I was old enough to sit in the front seat. She wanted her NPR news or classical music and I wanted whatever music I was listening to at the time that WASN’T boring old news radio. Now, while I was never into the Misfits or anything of quite that heavy metal punk caliber, still I’m sure flipping back and forth and back and forth between 106.5 The End (alternative) to 99.7 The Fox (rock) to Power98 (hip hop and R&B), was enough to give my mom the headache listening to this album gives me. She was never the revenge type, but I’m sure she would laugh at the irony that now I’m the one waiting for my boyfriend to fall asleep in the car so I can secretly turn on NPR. Call me what you will or scoff at the nerve I have to write about anything in the first place since you’re probably an expert on all things right and wrong (as well as good taste and bad, of course) and how I’m just a nerd with a blog. But I legitimately have a headache right now. Then again, when it comes to the Misfits, maybe that was the point. In that case, mission accomplished.
Artist: Emerson, Lake & Palmer Album: Brain Salad Surgery Released: 1973 Label: Manticore Choice Song: Toccata
HIS: I grew up in a household of sonic diversity as James Brown faded into the Allmans, The Rolling Stones segued into Electric Light Orchestra and Yes jockeyed for turntable superiority with Steely Dan and it was only natural for me to take a great interest in the racks of vinyl my father kept in a long closet down a long hallway on the second floor of our home. Some of my earliest memories are of that record collection and how before I was allowed to operate the hi-fi’s needle I would sneak upstairs long after my parents had gone to sleep and run my fingers past the crumbling spines of my father’s LPs. One at a time I would pull the records from their places, carefully remembering where they belonged as to not disrupt the alphabetical rigidity of the collection. I would sit Indian style on the wood floor and gaze into the covers of The Wild, The Innocent And The E Street Shuffle, Abbey Road, Thick As A Brick and Tales Of Topographic Oceans. They all presented a different story for me and night after night I’d wonder what each record sounded like once it was pulled from the sleeve and called into action on the turntable. They were all magnificent save one. Emerson, Lake and Palmer’s Brain Salad Surgery was one LP I was consistently too afraid to pull from the stacks. It was the cover that gave me nightmares. Now that I’m older, I realize that this is one of the more interesting album covers I’ve ever seen.
HERS: So this one time at band camp… (no seriously, I actually went to band camp). It’s not a joke (seriously, stop laughing). I grew up playing the piano but come 6th grade, I could pick any instrument I wanted. Sixth grade me was PSYCHED! And I went immediately to the trumpet. Don’t know why. Just did. And soon thereafter, I found myself with a few friends at band camp. It. Was. Awesome. It was on a college campus that served soft serve ice cream in the cafeteria (AS MUCH AS YOU WANTED) and you got to live in real dorm rooms (LIKE A SLUMBER PARTY EVERY NIGHT!) and do basically whatever you wanted all the time (MOVIES ALLLL NIGHT!!!!). Clearly, this was a life changing experience. Oh right, and we got to play a lot of music. Which was awesome. We were a huge group with timpani and everything. We played all sorts of stuff and put on this massive concert at the end. But the coolest part was when you came home (that’s right, it only gets COOLER) because you’d hear everything differently. You’d just spent an entire week listening to different sections of the orchestra and so you’d hear those separate parts in any and everything that came across your ears from then on—in movie soundtracks, commercials, any song really. It wore off after a while, but it was like hearing in High Definition for a bit. And that’s what I thought of while listening to this song with all its drama, sound and motion. Because ya know, that’s how the cool kids from band camp see the world. Just FYI. Okay, I’m gonna go nerd out now and pull this giant metaphysical wedgie out of my shorts. Bye now!