Dec 25 2010

here it is christmastime

Merry Christmas, from deep in the heart of Texas.

Dec 8 2010

keep towson weird

Last night I went to the Recher Theatre in Towson, Maryland for the second time ever.  The first time was about nine years ago, and I saw Wilco.  Which is kind of weird because the Old 97’s – who I saw last night – mentioned that the first time they’d played there was opening for Wilco in 1998.  Also weird was that they compared Towson to Austin, Texas.  I’ve never been to Austin, but I imagine there’s no way it’s as cool as Towson.  And the Old 97’s and I know cool.  We know it’s way cooler to promote your new album on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno instead of a show that people actually, you know, watch.

Nov 2 2010

over the cliff

Yesterday I stood at the mouth of the precipice, facing the void below.  Today I plummeted to the bottom.  I’m so glad Rocktober is finally over.  It might be time for another hiatus.

Jul 26 2010


They might as well just go ahead and change the name of the [music is good] page to [hotrod is good].  ‘Cause I fuckin’ OWN that joint.  I’ve had top billing for the last three cycles now.  My valuable and insightful commentary on the Old 97’s and Liz Phair and David Bowie may rank among the greatest works ever written about music.  I’m sure that’s the reason for my prominent placement, and it has nothing at all to do with me being one of only a dozen music lovers still using Vox.

Jul 20 2010

i don’t think you knew you were in this song

Long-time readers (and probably those who have been around for only a short time, for that matter) know there’s little I like more than arguing about music.  The first person I “met” on Vox was Jodi, who lured me in by being a little bit right before revealing how very wrong she usually is.  And of course there’s my years-long War Over Nothing with Dabysan that predates Vox by almost a decade.  But neither of those lengthy and amorphous arguments compares to the debate over the first track on The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars.

At some point in 1992 or 1993 Vrabel and I were in the lab and decided that we wanted to listen to David Bowie.  He put in a CD and pressed play.  I noticed immediately that “Soul Love” emanated from our shared speakers.  I was a little confused.  “Hey, why’d you skip the first song?”  His reply was as terse as it was erroneous: “It sucks.”  I could barely believe it.  “Five Years” sets a foreboding (and somewhat menacing) tone for the rest of the record that follows – a record that, I might add, ends with a track called “Rock ‘n’ Roll Suicide.”  Ziggy Stardust starts with the end of the world and ends with the end of Ziggy.  Skipping the first song changes everything.  It’s easily the best song on the album.

My argument was welcomed with a shrug, which caused me to up my game.  At that point, “Five Years” became not only the best song on Bowie’s best album, but the best song Bowie had ever written.  I stupidly challenged Vrabel to name five better Bowie songs – to which he replied: “The next five songs on Ziggy Stardust after ‘Five Years’.”  We had quickly reached a stalemate.

The other night at the Old 97’s show, the band mentioned they were going to play a track off of their new covers EP.  As the spare drums kicked in, I had a pretty big grin on my face.  Vrabel turned to me.  “I suppose you feel vindicated,” he offered, following that observation with, “I feel like I just lost the longest argument I’ve ever had.”  In all fairness, it was a pretty crappy cover.  Bowie is a tough act to follow.

Old 97’s – Five Years

Here’s the entire setlist:  Streets of Where I’m From / 504 / Dance With Me / Lonely Holiday / W. TX Teardrops / No Baby I / Indefinitely / new song (something something Champaign, IL) / Can’t Get a Line / Melt Show / Stoned / Question / Up the Devil’s Pay / Barrier Reef / new song (Every Night Is Friday Night) / Here’s to the Halcyon / Smokers / Doreen / Four Leaf Clover — encore — Bel Air / Five Years / Early Morning / Timebomb I know this is the first time I’ve seen “Here’s to the Halcyon” live, and I’m pretty sure I can say the same for “504.” And they changed up “Bel Air” in a way I’ve never heard before.  I always liked that one.  “I’ll stomp a mudhole in your heart” are words to live by.

Jun 30 2010

costello music

The Old 97’s kick off their summer tour this evening, and they’re marking the occasion the way bands have done since time immemorial: with an email blast.  One item in particular stood out.

While on the road, Old 97s will be selling, Mimeograph, a newly recorded, four song EP that includes covers of “Rocks Off” (The Rolling Stones), “For The Girl” (The Fratellis), “Driver 8” (REM) and “Five Years” (David Bowie). This special release, only available to purchase physically at the show or through the their website, will also be available digitally beginning July 6, 2010.

I guess three out of four ain’t bad, but man that fourth is a doozy.  Consider my feelings on this issue decidedly mixed.

Jan 29 2010

ain't nobody gonna see eye to eye

J.D. Salinger died today.  I can tell because it was all over my Facebook feed.  And I honestly have no idea why.  I guess it's supposed to be shocking.  Or sad.  Or significant.  But I'm struggling to understand any of those common reactions.  The guy was over ninety years old and he hadn't done shit in the last fifty of them.  Oh sure, he supposedly kept writing while living the life of a hermit, saying at one point "Publishing is a terrible invasion of my privacy."  But that doesn't make him relevant.  It just makes him a pretentious douchebag.  Like everyone else in America, I read The Catcher in the Rye in ninth grade.  It didn't change my life.  I didn't even like it that much.  It was a school assignment, and I was a good student so I did it.  I have had literally no interest in re-reading it in the two decades since.

The title of this song by the Old 97's, however, comes from that novel.  It's a reference, if I am not mistaken, to Holden Caufield's sister.  Which ordinarily wouldn't matter, but that line in the coda – "I believe in love, but it don't believe in me" – is one of the best ever in any medium and had nothing at all to do with Salinger.  So I guess it's fair to say that he at least inspired something worthwhile.

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Jan 19 2010

white noise swells

I've got the Old 97's on repeat lately.

This song has been especially relevant for at least a week.

If not longer.

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Nov 1 2009

workin’ on a broken man

My heart wasn’t in it – not for one single minute.  But even though I slacked through most of the month, I’m not about to shirk on the obligatory encore.  Rocktober doesn’t end until the Old 97’s take the stage.  Which means that today – finally – our long national nightmare is over.

Sep 19 2009

the believer

Last night I headed to the Black Cat for a second consecutive evening. 
I needed to exorcise the demons of Wednesday
night's debacle
, and fortunately the Thursday night headliner was
both energetic
and talented.

Rhett Miller called his backing band the Serial Lady Killers.  The last
time I saw them, they were the Believers, but it was the same band. 
And I had the same mixed feelings both times.  I've got no qualms about
a solo
acoustic Rhett show
but it's strange seeing a band that's not the Old 97's performing Old
97's songs.  It's kind of like going out and running into a friend
who's cheating on their significant other.  (I guess.  That's never
actually happened to me.)  On the other hand, it's always preferable to
be at the Black Cat instead of the 9:30 Club, and it's never as crowded
as an Old 97's show.  And Rhett is not so deluded to think that we're
there to hear only the solo material.

And, as I learned last night, he plays songs that the rest of the band
doesn't want to play.  It hadn't occurred to me that I hadn't seen the
Old 97's play "Nineteen" in a while, but I guess that's one they don't
want to do.  My favorite Rhett Miller solo song is an Old 97's outtake
that he rerecorded for his second record.  I always wondered why it
never made it onto an Old 97's release.  But I guess if the band isn't
interested in performing "Nineteen" any more, they probably also aren't
interested in performing the song written as a response.  I knew going
into the show he wouldn't be playing this.  It's a duet, and Rachael
Yamagata isn't a Serial Lady Killer.

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