Unknown Mortal Orchestra and the R-Future Pop Fetish

It seems there have been plenty of (especially Scandinavian and Australian bands, no stereotype mind you) bands who exist in a time vacuum -- Tame Impala, Dungen, the Hives, Cut Copy, Wolf People -- perpetually unwilling to admit to cribbing New Order or Cream or the New Bomb Turks or Jethro Tull for sonic ignition. But there are few who fully take from it, absolutely accepting that things like the synthetic heartbeats of '90s hip-hop and the dusty psych circus of Sgt. Pepper's could assemble the perfect album. Ruban Nielson, and his Unknown Mortal Orchestra could be mistaken for an offshoot of the Elephant Six (they did allow the British-led Minders into the fold -- and Beulah was from the West Coast, so UMO is plausible) but it's all very future-forward. Compelling in the album's adherence to the rhythm. It wasn't until I interviewed Nielson that I realized it was all constructed of some great riffs and a bevy of samples intricately woven. But we're in a new age -- one where this couldn't have been done on four-track, but doesn't sound a digital nightmare -- and it might just be the first truly psychedelic record that can list Garageband in the thank you credits. That said, it's effervescent pop music. A Retro-Futurist flare-gun shot across the frontier. You can name-check a flurry of groups -- even the Avalanches come to mind -- but it doesn't inhibit Nielson's penchant for a good hook. Hooked for Summer. Easily one of the year's finest. Here's a video.

Burger Tour 2011: Swenson's

Last Summer it was the Cincinnati Chili Quest. And besides missing out on Blue Ash Chili (which I intend to ascend before August is out) – I believe, by your readership that it was a success. So the foodstuffs programming has become a priority for W.O.W. Now? We enter the world of the Mom and Pop Burger Tour. Yes, I admit that much of my ongoing Burger Tour has been wholly inspired by George Motz’s excellent Hamburger America book and the accompanying Hamburger GPS iPhone application, but being from Ohio, I am in a fairly perfect centrality to much of America’s hamburger origin.

I plan to make this Tour much more extensive than the Chili Quest, if only because I intend of venturing outside of the Ohio borders to evaluate the many genre of hamburgs. Therefore, Burger Tour, in direct inspiration from the excellent Pizza Slayer will have a “fair and balanced” metric to determine whether a burger pilgrimage was worth the effort. Though we thought we could just measure the quality of these burgers with “pickles” (Adam’s ideas), here are my determined criteria:

History/Tradition/Current Atmosphere 
(Has it stood the test of time? Does the charm enhance the experience?) 

The Burger 
(How does it taste compared to the myriad American burgers?) 

The Hype
 (Was it worth the trip? Does it hold up to the hype?) 

I fully intend to rank these burgers in a critical light, not unlike albums reviewed on P4K.
So that assumes that the ultimate burger is a perfect 10.0 -- should that be possible among the myriad American burgers. 


658 E. Cuyahoga Falls Avenue
Akron, Ohio

The Hamburger GPS was what initiated by Burger Tour. Driving home from my first trip to New York City this year -- I consulted the application for a place to eat lunch in Akron. I knew by the depth of history, that you can easily just see from the interstate, there would be something worth stopping for in Akron. Little did I know about the wonder of Swenson's.

Though the car-hop motif has been a staple for a very long time -- Swenson's has been serving their double-deckers since 1934 -- and this drive-in has been here for almost 50 years. I imagine nothing has changed. The "servers" literally sprint from car to car, depending on your headlights being on or off, to serve you. It got a little confusing for me because I ordered "to-go" burgers, but they were always grateful and friendly to be doing what they were doing everyday. 


I ordered the Galley Boy. It won a Food Feud on some network a few months back -- and they were certainly correct (though I have yet to have a Skywae). I'm not sure if the Big Boy came before the Galley Boy or not, but they were similar. A special sauce (similar to tartar) on a double decker thin pounded cheeseburger. Everything was assembled to accent concentration of flavor. It was a masterpiece.

Atmosphere -- Though I encountered 4 separate servers within the time I was there, and the delivery was much longer than anticipated, but everyone was friendly, the surroundings were very Akron-centric (worn to a quaint character) and the restaurant looked and operated as if it were an institution in the community for years.


Burger - This is the best double-decker I have ever encountered. Swenson's is setting the bar high for this genre -- and I've been to Frisch's a million times all over the world at this point. The Big Boy is only a memory.


Hype - Swenson's was easily accessible off the interstate. In fact you can face the interstate while you eat from your car if you want. Any trip to Cleveland, Akron, or Canton -- or a travel farther East, should include a stop at the many Swenson's locations in North East Ohio. Though I can probably vouch that the North Akron location is the most authentic (correct me if I'm wrong). Most people I've met from this area agree with the Food Network's assumption that Swenson's tops Skywae in the double decker department. Most people from the area swear by Swenson's. So it was certainly worth the trip and worth the hype. 


Not only am I following the path of the Burger GPS, but I'm taking your suggestions. K's in Troy -- is NOT on the Burger GPS, so that's a perfect example of how Motz is negligent of knowing them all. 

The Garfield Ride?

It Exists. Lebanon Outlet Mall. When did John Davis sign off on this one? Couldn't some theme park in America have a Garfield World? I Hate Mondays.

Journey to Centralia: Spring Break Edition

Centralia, Pennsylvania is a “town” I’ve wanted to visit for quite a while now. Of course “town” is Centralia’s parenthetical reality, because there’s nothing really there – yet once there was a thriving community in the hills dependent on the anthracite coal underneath. I’ll spare the details of how Centralia came to be what is now, you can read extensively about the history of the underground mine fire or watch this informative, if somewhat romantic documentary of the youngest “citizen” of the “town” (whom I don’t believe lives there now). Some refer to Centralia as a “ghost town,” and being that Centralia has gone from a population of 1,600 in the ‘70s to a scant one-hand’s worth of lifers there when I visited in May of 2011, that description is not apt because there’s not even the spectral evidence that a town was even there. All that’s left are dead-end roads and street signs, a few steps leading to nowhere and a graveyard (where the Centralia lifers – even those who die elsewhere – go to rest forever). The houses that remain sit dull and stubborn.

On this day you can see that the fog (or maybe sulfur smoke from the belly of the subterranean inferno) was so dense, Centralia appeared an apocalyptic wasteland – pure Mad Max scorched earth. In the two hours I spent exploring the “town” I didn’t make contact with another person. I walked the deserted streets trying to piece together just how Centralia was laid out – up on the hill was a stately church, the vicinity around the intersection of Route 61 and 42 was the “town’s” most densely populated “neighborhood,” the tear in the earth where the fire is worst was obviously a grand park leading back into the Pennsylvania wilderness which surrounds Centralia and no doubt shielded it from the world at large. Driving through the hills leading up to Centralia – taking 61 North from Interstate 76 – you can see how Central Penn. (or for that matter all of the Rust Belt) has suffered for lack of industry, for lack of interest in keeping these communities alive.

Each little mountain town, sealed off from the next, became more quaint, and somewhat more hopeless the closer I drove towards Centralia. The final few miles between Ashland (another recommended stop, if only to see the Whistler’s Mother Statue) were as desolate and lonely as they come. There was an Omega Man scent in the air. It was nearly a meditative journey – finding a centre in nothingness or humanity’s void/mistake. Then again, I might have endured carbon monoxide poisoning sticking my head in gaseous gapes in the earth. It was early May and already the foliage was booming – moss at every rock, some glowing with incandescent greens. Are there really no experiments with this soil? Of course there are conspiracy theories. The mineral rich ground below Centralia is the key to our energy crisis – and the government knew about years ago. Prompting a fire, prompting health concerns, prompting panic (as a boy is eaten by the overgrowth) and then prompting a mass evacuation of small town America.

It’s a nice (let’s say intriguing) place to visit, but I wouldn’t want to live (within 150 miles of) there.

Contact me, should you want a travelogue -- it's a very easy trip travelling between NYC and Ohio.


The New Psychedelic Horseshit (For Now)

In the midst of recording and creating and spanning time -- Matt Horseshit has recruited a new member, who Wednesday night was responsible for manning strangled guitars, rhythm guitars, and Casio-control. When the three of them all lurch over their stations, it gets incredibly real. I think Matt was just trying his best to top the transcendent Gang Gang Dance show from the night before. "It's a competition." This is likely the line-up you'll see when the band hits the road with a brief stint with the Swirlies.