Up on a School Night With Bad Times

Let's use first names. Dusty wanted me to send him some shots of his band that he thinks I took after hours waiting for him to finally take the stage (on a Tuesday no less). Sadly Dusty, I took no pictures, only a non-representative, poorly videotaped portion of your band's second song. Jeff looked over at me and said that I'm probably loving this because I'm a big fan of Yes. Yes, he was right on. I'm also a fan of the long list of obscure psych bands you channel (Captain Beyond, hello). I just got done reviewing the latest album of faceless drivel by some French uber-psych hacks named Turzi that can't hold a candle to your love of Guru Guru. Ummm....can I start a label and sign you already. SRSLY?

Other than the Deathly Fighter, the only Columbus band I've been head over heels for in the past few months is The Moon and Bad Times, though I wish they'd shorten it to just Bad Times (10X more killer, trust me). Be known, this is only the first time I've seen them in the flesh. And to the bloggeratti, there's simply no audio for you to dwnld right now. Simply wait, good things come to those that. Or venture to Columbus to say you were there, as I'm sure some higher profile shows will come their way once the Columbus Alive (sic) finds out how good they are. Until then -- my lo-tech addition.


Live at the Ohio State Fair

The Ohio State Fair has been an Elliott Family tradition for as long as as I can remember. Unfortunately the 2007 pilgrimage was met with plenty of rain, therefore we spent much more time with the cattle and pork, than we did with the midway and the colorful people that inhabited it.

So, even though my summer of festivals has become a bust (sorry festival fanatics but I bought a house), I decided to leave you with a picture of my adventures at the largest state fair in these Great United States. It's a junior pig handlin' competition, jus' so y'alls know.


Introducing...Pale Young Gentlemen

Just look at that picture; a cello, stiff postures, period clothing, a guy in suspenders gripping an acoustic. The Pale Young Gentlemen had me scared before I even cracked open their eponymous debut. Would this be the work of a cut-rate Decemberists, drooling over literature and making parlor games out of pop music. Or could it be the work of some group huffing the same Eastern-Euro fumes smelt by Beirut's Zac Condon? Truth be told, it's a little of both, but in the best way possible. You're going to get a bit sea-sick within Pale Young Gentlemen's adherence to trad-instrumentation and Muse Machine pretension (the kids gotta latch onto somethin'), still it's charming, pulling a listener into a forgotten time that sounds equally like today.

There's plenty of drama, pure melodrama, to be seen here. As if Madison, Wisconsin lends a man nothing in environmental atmosphere and forces one to the stages hidden in stuffy high schools and community theaters. Let's think of those Great Lake States as a mini/little Scandinavia, taking great pride in the stoic...the nuance of songwriting, expressing human tragedy through artistic means. Bergman on overdrive, or Red Bull. Matthew Reisenauer has that voice, much like Rufus Wainwright or Antony, it's arresting in its theatrical grip, a tad of acting (the faux-Brit enunciations, the stuttered emotion), but perfect foil to the weeping melancholy of his piano playing.

There's really no need for cello, or chanted choir, or bass, or guitar for that matter on this disc. Songs like "Saturday Night" and the gripping finale, "Single Days" get their point across simply through Reisenauer's fragile narrations. Randy Newman gets many props from the band and as such it's warranted. Imagining Randy Newman's soundtrack to The Point, maybe Pale Young Gentleman should be producing their own show of morality amongst the societal -- only it would include characters named Nikolai and Fraulein, clad in knickers and cravats. It's totally cool to hearken back to a time your generation never knew as long as you can sense it into song; making us all wonder what it felt like.


Put..Put..Put..Puttin' on the Hits

It was last week that RN'R Robertson and I were commenting on this show and many other things from our childhood. He thought it was more jake than it actually was, and I thought it was less jake. Then we realized we were using an adjective that probably derived from Cleveland. Jacob's Field? Lo and behold, this was a syndicated show and was more than likely sandwiched between Small Wonder and This Week in Baseball on Saturday mornings. It was my dream to be a contestant on this show an lip-sync Peter Gabriel's "Sledgehammer," just like the video.

A horrific scene indeed. So very jake.


Look What the Rookie Did

Canadian Pop?

Fortunately/Unfortunately the be all, end all, resides with the New Pornographers. And
I really can't argue against such a statement. Mass Romantic was the supergroup at the height of their powers and everything after that has been akin to cool water (it's hard to admit you don't like it or need it, right?), but it's not something you bring up in normal conversation.

"Oh I had some great fucking water yesterday."

With Challengers though, I'm getting a bit sick of the cream and sugar (not to mention the worst album cover in the history of album covers). It was such a relief to get the latest project from Jason Zumpano. In the Co. of Ghosts is nothing to get excited about, it's simply a quaint album of piano instrumentals from the guy who lent his namesake to possibly the most underrated band in the realm of Canadian Pop. Geez, listening to Goin' Through Changes for the first time in maybe seven years brought back a tidal wave of memories. Slept on for sure.

But back to Ghosts which is another quiet triumph for the equally slept on Catbird Records. The CD is a dying format for sure (can't remember the last one I bought), but Mr. Catbird always has something up his sleeve. Jason Zumpano's latest was not intended for public display, it was an artistic trade with friend Jason McLean. Now that it is available for thrifty consumption by the rest of the world, we get both halves. Zumpano's extremely cinematic penny arcade scores (very Vince Giraldi) and hand-numbered, hand-pressed, prints from the mind of McLean (very Seussian, Goldbergian, and Kolchakian). Not something you'll be putting on your year-end top-ten or pumping on the car stereo, but something that will be cherished as a artifact of artists bucking the trend when most people are hard-driving the past in search of fast-money for the immediate future.


Live from Muscle Shoals

The brother and I had to make an emergency trip to Birmingham, Alabama for reasons I won't divulge here. Another story, another time. We were to leave on a Sunday and return on a Monday. Thirty-six hours in the Suburban with the Elliotts and Co. This wasn't a vacation, far from it, but knowing I would be traveling South, visions of touristy pit-stops to Rock City and Graceland passed through my head. But I've been to both (highly recommended btw), and the line to B'ham kinda pinballs between the two.

Muscle Shoals was the only destination in the entire state (besides the beach, but that's not too lovely) I could desperately think of. Then again, I wasn't sure what (if anything) was there. I knew a lot of music was recorded there (and later have discovered a ton of music was made there), but in terms of a landmark, a museum, a famous diner, I had no clue. Neither did any of my companions. And when my caravan finally obliged to my wishes of driving 90 miles off of I-65 to take a little adventure, there was already tension in the car.

When we rolled into the thick humidity of Muscle Shoals, it looked like every other, small, depressed, and rustic Southern town. There wasn't a mention of music, or music legends, or even a convenience store that sold little guitar magnets. My family was bit miffed, frustrated, ready to strangle me, till we spotted a fairly unadorned studio down the road. It was Fame Studios, the home of the original Muscle Shoals sound. There's a laundry list of artists who recorded there, simply to be backed by the Swampers; the studio's renowned session team. Aretha, Wilson Pickett, Little Richard, Candi Stanton, (to my mother's amazement) Paul Anka, all logged time there for it's room effects and the mix of country, soul, and funk provided by the owners.

Further into the 'burg, tucked away on Jackson Highway was Muscle Shoals Sound Studios, perhaps better known as thee M.S. place of refuge. Many including Dylan, Cher, Traffic, Jimmy Cliff, and Paul Simon traveled there for similar reasons. Being a point on what is known as the Mojo Triangle, it's a city nestled directly in the middle of Nashville and Memphis, so the miscegenation of black and white style was more apparent here than anywhere else during that time. Alas, it was closed, and we didn't get to see inside the final piece of the puzzle. We also never made it to Shiloh. (Sorry Uncle Jeff).

I've read and been told by a few people now that the definitive Muscle Shoals track is "I'll Take You There" by the Staple Singers. In case you're unfamiliar, or need a recap I've provided it for you.


Definition of a GBV Geek

Too much time apart. I know. Being separated from the internet for a good two weeks opened up some horizons. I rejoined nature, bought a house, traveled to the deep South (more on that later), and tried my best to have some semblance of a summer vacation, all without a computer screen staring me in the face. Excuses, excuses. As a result, I've got plenty piling up to talk about and a mailbox spilling over with new music. So bear with me.

First though it would be inappropriate of me to ignore Robert Pollard. I owe him heaps of gratitude. Once again though he's inundated the indie palette with a gobstopper of new flavors, to lukewarm responses. The Takeovers, the Circus Devils, the Silverfish Trivia, it's really all too much. Not that it's all bad (in fact it's somewhat of a banner year so far, compared to the past few), it's just not all gold. Not to mention another double dose of Bob on Merge in October (hope it's gold and platinum). And a fucking singles club? Flooding the market? Who knows? There was a time when I would purchase every single piece of wax the man created (I've got a full shelf of releases to prove it, even the Howling Wolf Orchestra record), but as of today, the Guided by Voices geek in me has subsided. Is it age? Quality of material? Is the GBV Geek an endangered species?

There was once a time when these mutants roamed the earth in considerable numbers. An indie-rock equivalent to Dead Heads (I've met tape-traders). They could name each of Bob's gazillion drummers in chronological order, owned Bee Thousand on multiple formats, made covert pilgrimages to Pollard's former home on Titus Ave. in Dayton (Mullet Graceland?), subscribed to his "literary" magazine, EAT. Guilty, Guilty, Guilty, Not-Guilty. Some went as far as making music inspired by Uncle Bobby's DIY, regular-guy, thrift-store arena rock. Semi-Guilty. I love the fact that such mania spurred a community of non-musicians to buy a four-track the first time they heard "Game of Pricks." But alas, it seems the love has waned, these days listening to Guided By Voices is more nostalgic trip than new and exciting. Sad but True.

The Knights of Infinite Resignation however, still find Bob's well half-full. I've met this guy in some capacity, and it's likely we spent most of that conversation drunk (years ago?) discussing the hierarchy of Mr. Pollard's output. It's refreshing to know that shameless adoration for GBV can still be placed in song without a hint of self-consciousness or irony. Coming across as Cheap Trick-lite, alone at the Tascam, TKOIR's latest single, "Paris Hilton and Captain Beefheart" is a humorous side declaring "there was always something wrong with my GBV shirt/ you thought my Chuck Taylor's weren't so cool." From a songwriter who readily admits to talking about the Cleveland Browns during concerts, oddly quotes from Camus in his liner notes, and survives on mac & cheese, this is quite entertaining power pop -- a one-man Franklin County Art Brut. Sure, this might never escape the basement, it probably won't and he's probably fully aware of that reality, but as a reminder that the GBV nation is alive and well and anticipating and creating, this is a tiny, piece of ephemera sorely needed.