Archive for the 'Music' Category

07
Oct
20

Menthol’s Stress is Best…

A resurrected draft from seven years ago. An act that was always coveted but became more so after a random car-aoke of sorts.

Simplistic moments sometimes create the best memories. I cherish a grocery store run with a friend, his sibling, and the right record.

A song’s greatness isn’t always revealed immediately. The number of tracks that slipped by me for not hitting upon first listen is unquantifiable. The 90s were a time of album consumption. Some records required a few skips in order to be enjoyed. Songs had to meet this formula: upbeat, loud, the lyrics were irrelevant. A song that didn’t meet this criterion was skipped.

Menthol’s ’95 Brad Wood produced debut was one of the best unheard acts of the mid-90s. A trio based out of Central Illinois and raised on New Wave. This record brimmed full of smart, professorially-like lyrics, over driving guitars that created imperfect sonic noise. An act proving distortion could be melodic and integral to storytelling. 25 years later, this record is personally spun from front to back with catharsis-like vocals, bone-breaking drum hits, and a yearning for Chicago’s 90s sound. But today’s adoration is owed to an impassioned fan being transported back to a simpler time when this album debuted.

Years back, I visited a friend’s parents’ house. It is a few days before Christmas and all his siblings are present. My friend was tasked with a grocery run. We asked his older sibling Blair if he wanted to roll, he happily obliged. Before departing, Blair grabbed a disc.

Older brothers are cooler than you, hip to what you don’t know exists. Blair was invested in integral 90s Chicago rock; Triple Fast Action, Hum, Smoking Popes, among others. My friend took copious notes from his brother and owes his listening habits to him. Menthol’s debut was going to fuel our trip.

This Capitol Records release contains 12 punchy songs brimming full of sexual innuendo, crunch, and glam-infused muscle. As a younger listener, I would jump around, pick and choose what was worth hearing. One of the strongest tracks on this record didn’t possess the formula I was exclusive to. “Stress Is Best” is sandwiched between “Francis Scott Key” and “Bedhead, Redeyed, and Bewildered”, tracks my simple mind liked. But all it takes is one key, holy shit the emotion and energy this track creates to see the song’s true potential.

My boy at the wheel, Blair strategically skipping a few tracks to unleash the monster that is “Stress Is Best”; a slow burner, one where the wick is ignited and its destination causes a distortion filled explosion of ups and downs of the record industry. A melodic strum with a slow and deliberate vocal delivery opens this soon to be cataclysmic monster. Mid-point, the introduction repeats itself as the distortion-heavy instrumentation slows down to take a much needed reprieve from pummeling of instruments.

This is when Blair became electric, he knew the volcanic eruption had been percolating; as soon as Menthol’s powerful attack returned, he strategically rotated from his captain’s chair and peered into my eyes as he unleashed, “Tearing down red woods!” at a throat destroying decibel. Like he had been rehearsing these lines since this record debuted and now was the time to unleash them. Flawlessly ripping through the remainder of the three and a half minute track with such vocal precision all I could do was stare.

I hear this track now and picture this impassioned fan spewing me with his spittle as he impersonates Menthol’s Balthazar de Ley with authenticity and inspirational energy from the captain’s chair. Music can turn the ordinary into life affirming moments. The right song and confidence to perform possesses that power. Turn it up, don’t hesitate to perform, and give songs off coveted records time, and multiple chances to shine.

Menthol :: Stress Is Best

Nerdy Show’s podcast on Menthol

06
Sep
20

Self Performs Subliminal Plastic Motives in NYC (Draft Resurrection)

A post began in January of ’14 after spending 24 hours in NYC to witness sElf perform their debut record Subliminal Plastic Motives. A review of sorts.

I take risks for music. Sometimes I lay it all on the line for an experience that would haunt me if missed. My younger, less in-tune sElf didn’t care, the present is all that mattered.

I was immersed in a job I deplored. Without a solid new prospect, I walked away after my term ended. At the moment, all I could think of was freedom from the shackles this monotonous five day a week slog presented. Fast forward some, I was presented the opportunity to move into my girlfriend’s condo; she knew I was struggling to pay rent after cobbling a few odd jobs together to form a paltry monthly salary. The relationship had heated up, and the alternative to her offer was finding as many roommates as possible.

Matt and Cool J said it best, “Cause when you’re broke, your middle name is so-what”. Shame didn’t exist in the conversation between my girlfriend and I when she asked what I could afford to pay her in rent. Her face remained stoic as I broke down my expenses and income. A brief period passed in silence – seconds felt gelatinous – and she presented her plan, or financial expectation, of me officially shacking up beside her. She cared for me, this landlord was generous: her rent request was attainable, it might even leave a -tiny – surplus at the end of the month.

Matt Mahaffey, the pop mastermind behind sElf, announced at the end of October his act was going to be playing 2.5 months from now in New York City to commemorate a re-issue of their wide-ranging debut Subliminal Plastic Motives. My financial woes didn’t exist after this announcement was made. A sElf gig in New York City, my favorite city like ever, wasn’t going to be a special opportunity; this was an obligation. Instinctually I fired up Southwest Airlines’s website to see the new depth of the red my financial situation would be.

“I’m struggling to hear this, you’re paying me a subsidized rent because of your work situation. And I hear now you’re going to New York City to see a band”, said my girlfriend. A band, please, girl.

“Well, yeah…but with rent, I can’t swipe my credit card through your wallet; Southwest happily accepted it,” I sheepishly said.

When you’re only making so much per month, your line of credit is the equivalent of a side hustle, without it, you’re incapable of doing anything besides groceries and rent. Subliminal Plastic Motives was worth any titanic-like battle between my girlfriend and I.

This record strutted down a different path: it was distortion heavy, the grunge feel was there thanks to Mike Mahaffey’s guitar work. But jazzy piano samples, purple-robed funk, crunchy bass interspersed with lounge-ready piano renditions made it unique. A 90s record ran through an anti-status quo filter.

Mahaffey and his crew ripped through the record in its entirety at the semi-intimate Gramercy Theatre in NYC. His sElfies, a tribe of fans following his quirky and funky pop movement, packed this 500 person capacity venue.

The beauty of a 20-year-old record is the time it’s had with listeners. A fan, perhaps one from its inception, has spun that record countless times — maybe the disc even lost its life after too many plays. sElf being an act who only toured so much, and wasn’t one to consistently play gigs in the 00s, most songs off this record had never been experienced live. The energy and enthusiasm coursing through the venue was palpable. I was amped!

We place the needle down on a record from our youth hoping for that nostalgic period; maybe it’s an escape from our current reality and a yearning for a simpler time. I was ready to be transported back in time.

Mahaffey is a loud and proud Prince fan. He marches onto the stage holding a wax copy of SPM as Prince’s “1999” instrumental kicks in; Matt adlibs over the music:

I was 20 when I wrote this, forgive me if it’s old as fuck/The scene was all grungy there was Big Muff pedals everywhere/ you try to run from my distortion you know I didn’t even care/ They say 2000 ZERO ZERO party over/ Tonight we’re going to party like it’s 19-95. 2000 ZERO ZERO party over/ Tonight we’re going to party like it’s 19-95. Don’t you wanna go, don’t you wanna go back to 19-95…

Upon completion of “1999”‘s new verse, the quartet tore into SPM’s opener, “Borateen”. After ripping through the album at a blistering speed, the treasure chest was unveiled:

  • Brooklyn (intro)
  • Dielya Downtown
  • Glued to the Girl
  • Trunk Fulla Amps
  • Empire State of Mind (teaser)
  • cont. Trunk Fulla Amps
  • Meg Ryan
  • Titanic (featuring I Fight Dragons)

Today, during what is a national pandemic, the thought of traveling cross-country to experience music is surreal. This opportunity presented itself, and I took a chance. Reminiscing on this event makes me grateful for gambling on my relationship and credit score. Nothing should be taken for granted because uncertainty is real. sElf in NYC, performing the record that introduced me to their movement, created an adventure; one that was once in a lifetime. You don’t have to understand the last sentence, only so many can fathom what music presents to us.

sElf is an act that altered my musical and friendship trajectory. This light review is a much needed flashback and reminds me why we become so invested in music. The timing is irrelevant, what is transpiring around me doesn’t matter, full-time I’m buckwild for sElf.

23
Aug
20

Forgotten Species’ Hades Fades EP (Draft Resurrection)

A draft resurrected from 2014 about a well-respected Chicagoan, one responsible for three acts held in reverence. Acts become quickly forgotten by most, but I take pride in continuing to find present-day connections to these bands lost in obscurity.

My listening habits from my teenage and college-era were formative in what I still listen to. You remove an act from my listening repertoire, the trajectory would have been life-altering. Chicago-based artists have given me more than the city itself. Vivid, timeless memories were crafted thanks to their recorded output and live shows.

Blake Smith is a serial band founder. The Chicago-based artist has been an integral piece in three cherished, still spun today rock-based acts; Fig Dish, Caviar, and Prairie Cartel. All witty, all powerfully orchestrated, and all still queued up long after they’re defunct. Smith is a trusted source, after many years, and countless spins, I have an idea of what to expect from his next venture: Consistency.

His latest experiment: Forgotten Species. A quartet churning out accessible power-pop. The debut Hades Fades EP beautifully showcases Smith’s ability to create guitar-heavy noise-pop songs. A band founded by Blake wouldn’t be one without Brit influences, melody poking through fuzz, and hooks disguised as tasteful noise. Five tracks, no filler, all strong and tasteful reflections on late nights, perplexing romantic interactions, urban mis-adventures. Smith expertly narrates and choreographs what looks to be another coveted rock-based outfit.

I discovered Fig Dish’s unreleased 3rd LP Onamism in 2020. This was a plea to record labels willing to hear the band out as they searched for a new home after being kicked to the curb from A&M Records. Upon purchasing a functioning record player, my goal was to attain any and all records from artists that made me who I am today as a listener. Fig Dish’s 7″ and Prairie Cartel acquisitions nicely padded my collection.

Stream via Spotify:

20
Aug
20

Local H’s No Fun E.P. (Draft Resurrection)

A post began in 2014. This EP was sent to me in July of this year after I realized it was missing from my digital collection. The duo never gave up any of their intensity when this pandemic struck. I’d argue they cranked the dial further than they had had it. Chicago’s strongest, most innovative rock duo continues to give me reason to spin their entire discography.

Streaming is overwhelming. Any stream has come from within my tiny mind, there isn’t a shelf showcasing an arsenal of records making suggestions. I have amassed a large collection of albums and don’t have the brainpower to call all of it to my frontal lobe when it’s selection time. Some records will be forgotten.

Local H’s No Fun, a 6 song E.P. from 2003, was lost in the chasm of albums, E.P.s, and singles only available via physical media. This extended play consists of three originals and three reinterpretations. All are loud, full of cathartic and hearty vocals care of Scott Lucas, and brandish an impenetrable arsenal of sound. Scott and Brian flex their newfound prowess as the new iteration of Local H.

On “No Fun” Scott pleads how the charade is up, the band is bullshit and reeks of insincerity and incompetence through powerful instruments of mass destruction; H places themselves as the head of state in “President Forever” as they proclaim their ability to do whatever the hell they want. A song debuted during GWB’s term, though with lyrics like, “I’m President forever/accountable to no one no more”, it screams at our anti-leader. “Fuck Yeah, That Wide” found inspiration within Primal Scream’s “Kill All Hippies” by borrowing and slightly modifying the line, “You got the money, I got the soul!” to create a psychedelic freak-out. “FYTW” at the time was H’s longest song with a running time of nine minutes and 47 seconds.

Scott shares his influences and current listening habits with his live audience. Most live gigs include a cover song. H tackles The Godfathers’ 1988 tell it how it is “Birth, School, Work, Death” through riff-heavy distortion and emphatic proclamations. And the pandemic timely “I Just Want Something To Do” originally penned by The Ramones has Scott and Brian passionately plugged into their thunderous sound begging for some human contact.

St. Clair debuted as the new timekeeper of Local H on their 2002 LP Here Comes the Zoo. This follow-up demonstrates how cohesive of an act they became through a small body of work. With newfound synergy, Scott and Brian masterly tear any skeptic into shreds in 28 minutes.

Local H :: No Fun

Local H :: Cooler Heads

Local H continues moving forward in 2020:

Scott Lucas LIVE from the Empty Bottle’s rooftop during the pandemic

More Upcoming Drive-in Shows

Local H asking you to take action

15
Aug
20

Moving Day Loves Digital Media (Draft Resurrection)

A post began in 2013 on the eve of saying goodbye to another apartment. I wasn’t a gypsy in my former life. Though every 12 months, it was time to move. There wasn’t one reason why this was always the case; but it continued to happen. Drafts from my past are comical to relive. Some make me realize I am the same person, mindlessly living through this ongoing chapter, while others are afterthoughts as I slammed that chapter shut lifetimes ago.

Damn, another lease is up. It’s time to pack up my goods, squash them strategically into my ride, and begin anew. As slightly nomadic, my physical music collection is non-existent. I desire a collection representative of Rob Gordon’s — but before that curation, a permanent residence; or enough means to hire professional movers to safely pack up my collection and treat it as a sacred artifact.

As much as I yearn for yesterday and its tangible music mediums, there is something to be said about being a music fan in 2013. Forget boxes, crates of dusty wax, heavy hardwood shelves to haul. Today’s collection is digital. Pack that laptop and continue your Siamese twin connection with your phone. Your music collection is ready to be shipped.

Ideally, I’d love to peer around my place and be surrounded by musical experiences; records, CDs, gig posters, merch. Today’s streaming options are missing that unreleased 1997 LP from a little known Chicago act, amongst countless other cherished oddities. A light CD collection must exist. My CD collection resides in my car; smashed in the dash, vertically placed in the console, haphazardly in the doors.

When this gypsy-like chapter in my life ends and a new chapter of permanent residency begins, a long-term goal, one that I will attack with great enthusiasm is building a physical, hard as hell to move music collection. Until then, do I have the option to go month-to-month?

05
Aug
20

Hawksley Workman’s What Would You Say to Me, Lord (Draft Resurrection)

A draft from January of 2014. At this point, life had evolved, musically I was more open. I was invested in an intimate relationship. My girl and I shared a vital musical interest. This six-year-old draft’s topic makes me proud. Hawksley Workman has pushed my wife and me through these surreal, sometimes doldrum-inducing times. But now that I’ve meditated on how his influence impacted my trajectory, I couldn’t stomach most of what I said when this draft began.

Like a great book, the timing of its appearance into your life matters. This often referenced artist means more to me today, and when listening, I see him through an updated lens.

There was a time where a somber, not cranked tune was embarrassing to my ears. The sad truth, it was a concern for what others thought of my listening habits. Who was even going to hear it? Hawksley Workman has proven through various albums, artistic endeavors, and virtual shows, he’s an artist to proudly showcase. No shame in an artist with the wherewithal to create virtuosic unique pop, but it’s his simplicity and heartfelt songwriting that helps him to stand alone amongst my collection.

The song I was sharing back in 2014 was the opposite of what I thought this blog was: hype worthy, adrenaline inducing music meant to jumpstart an evening. A sound appropriate for a place of worship didn’t fit this blog’s agenda. My original writing screamed of someone sharing a weak, shame inducing song; upon the post, I’d have to duck and hide from the inevitable onslaught of criticism.

“What Would You Say to Me, Lord?” blends seamlessly on Between the Beautifuls; a delicately blessed 12 track record full of intricately woven instruments played with light dynamics to let Workman’s expressive and quirky vocals shine.

A fitting closing track where the tempo is scaled back and the feeling it creates is one of uplifting joy. Light piano accompaniment runs throughout; the hushed delivery of the angelic harmonies complement this rapture inducing hymn. Simply, I find this song peaceful. It’s accessible for most, a song I wouldn’t hesitate to place into a playlist if my Mom and I were on a cross-country road trip where when not deep in conversation, the music is the topic at hand.

Hawksley Workman :: What Would You Say to Me, Lord?

26
Jul
20

Chicago Got Lucky (Draft Resurrection)

A draft created in 2013. Even though its contents were about two former 90s Chicago acts, I found connections to them this year. Loud Lucy, a bright and powerfully expressive trio, created a cohesively formidable debut record in 1995 and vanished almost as quickly as they stepped onto the scene. Earlier this year, I discovered their one and only record was on Spotify after believing MP3s were my only listening source. Then Fig Dish, a witty power-pop quartet fronted by Blake Smith, a serial band founder who has given me countless listens over two plus decades. Smith contributed to “High, Wide, and Stupid” off Local H’s latest record Lifers.

A lost tribute album re-emerged this month: Wikipedia reminded me of its existence while researching oddities. You Got Lucky is a collection of Tom Petty songs reimagined from various artists of the 90s. Two former staples in my Chicago rotation were enlisted for this covers record.

Loud Lucy, a trio signed to Geffen Records was a one and done act. Their debut Breathe was a collection of 12 tracks that showcased the bands ability to rock, create tracks with sudden acceleration around Christian Lane’s excitable vocal range, and made me question why this melodic guitar-heavy act disappeared. Cover or not, this is an additional Loud Lucy track; and one with Veruca Salt’s Louise Post on backing vocals.

Loud Lucy :: Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around

The alt-power pop quartet Fig Dish showcased their high-energy Chicago sound over the course of two whip smart, consistent full-lengths. On this rendition, the quartet remove the brightness of Petty’s original for a slow-burn care of chugging guitars, a formulaic 90s crunch, and sludgy feedback that when at its apex is ready to burst out of the gates with the furious pop propulsion Fig Dish excelled at.

Fig Dish :: Don’t Come Around Here No More

29
Mar
20

Golden Oldies…

 

R.A.-The-Rugged-Man-feat.-Slug-Eamon-Golden-Oldies-Audio_featured_image

Someone is confident when they can poke holes in themselves. The quickest MC to 8 Mile yourself is the inevitable winner, right? Your favorite artist ages, as do you. That looks unique to us all; for me, it’s slowing down, not giving a shit about what’s hot, returning back to my classics, and inevitably, proof your body has experienced a passage of time.

“Golden Oldies” is an ode to owning your age in a soulful, smooth hip hop number care of R.A. The Rugged Man and Slug of veteran duo Atmosphere while Eamon – perhaps taking place of Nate Dogg- invigorates this old man tale through his emotive hook. Each MC spits what their old man tendencies are; “I’m not trying to dance to trap music or dubstep, I’m the old man in the club with a headache upset,” admits R.A, while Slug sincerely rhymes, “Laid down for a nap first, then I took the stage, my back hurt, my skin looked like suede..”. Yea, I feel you, guys…

Thanks, Spotify for providing a curated playlist of new releases that are aurally sound to my ears. This will provide a push for me to write again, share my scatterbrained thoughts on music, and provide a slice of sanity in these current times. It’s been a minute, and times sure ain’t the same; thankfully, music is formidably pushing me through this surreal era of ours. 

 

16
Jan
16

Nashville, The Features, and Skulls…

Your favorite artist consistently turns out new records. They have a sound and overall vibe you’ve come to expect. But they don’t stay the same. They’re always tweaking who they are as an act. Evolving helps them to stay in the game. Why make the same record twice? Each record presents itself a new opportunity for the listener, too. And when that opportunity is a visit to their hometown for a rock show, you bite. If you’re lucky, you string along a few friends to jump start the night. Or in my case, the weekend.

You take away the music, you remove so much; the trips, the random conversation, an unexpected local showing you the town, impersonating Prince amongst Nashvillians, etc. I learned on that first trip outta state to see a show that those opportunities should never be turned down. Ever. The show is the final destination, but it’s the journey leading up to the gig that creates timeless memories. Last weekend in Nashville, I was part of a modern-day classic in the making.

An act not featured enough on this rarely breathing blog was The Features. Why? It was once said they’re too tough to put into words and whatever was said wouldn’t be doing the band justice. Shit, no doubt it’s a tough endeavor. See them live, get lost in their records, it’s a fair statement. The truth? It’s the best band you’re not spinning. A quartet stringing together anthems of love, longing, family, and anything else that in the end really matters. Those themes are backed — formidably — by melodic sunshine, aggressive and danceable grooves, and a  passion and energy always ready to jump off.

My attendance at shows isn’t what it once was. And forget the now a days it’s quality over quantity, because at one point, rarely was I not at a show that was worth noting somewhere or generated conversation tomorrow and a week later, too. The objective of catching quality, intimate live music hasn’t changed, nor has the desire for antics — this past weekend further corroborates this. But today, priorities have evolved and every moment of this experience is special. Nothing is taken for granted. I got into music to be entertained aurally. Over time, I realized it’s so much more than something to hear. The Features and Nashville gave me a reason, countless, really, to continue to be a fan of music and every other opportunity and experience it creates.

31
Mar
15

If I only knew being a concert technician was an option…

Earlier in my life I had to pick a profession, perhaps a trade. Ultimately, something that would afford me a living of some sort. Awhile back, like yesterday and today, music was at the forefront of my thoughts, and when it came time to pick something to focus on in school, I wanted it to be music based. The kicker though, my musical talent was nil. So the thought of entering into the business on the business side of things was perhaps my only choice. When this life altering decision time presented it self, the industry was almost at the point of a radical overhaul due to the internet and what it was — at the time — slowly doing to physical record sales. I decided against it and chose something radically different. Fast forward a decade plus and for most artists, stepping out on the road and performing live gigs is how one makes a living. Enter the concert technician.

A working professional doing what they love. For a very respectable wage, too. The Wall Street Journal shares an excellent write-up on what we all used to know as the roadie and how this gig has evolved. With so many artists having to tour, and for many, tour extensively, there is a great demand for tech production crew gigs.

Roadies: Unlikely Survivors in the Music Business

 




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