Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Stuck in My Head 11.30.2011

Sister Luck (Croweology Version)
by The Black Crowes

Worried sick my eyes are hurting
To rest my head I'd take a life
Outside the girls are dancing
'Cause when you're down, it just don't seem right

Feeling second fiddle to a dead man
Up to my neck with your disregard
Like a beat dog that's walking on the Broadway
No one wants to hear you when you're down

Sister luck, there's screaming out
Somebody else's name
Sister luck, there's screaming out
Somebody else's name

A flip of a coin might make a head turn
No surprise, who sleeps
Held my hand over a candle
The flame burnin' but I never weep

Sister luck, there's screaming out
Somebody else's name
Sister luck, there's screaming out
Somebody else's name
What a shame

Sister luck, there's screaming out
Somebody else's name
Sister luck, there's screaming out
Somebody else's name
What a shame 

I love the alternate versions of the Black Crowes standards on this album (the "Soul Singing" is AMAZING). Something about this song really struck me on the train this morning. Acoustic, bluesy, and I feel like that re-invigorated the band...then, of course, they went on an extended hiatus right after. 

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Back to the Classroom

I am taking an acting class starting this week.

Which is kinda freaking me out. I mean, I have taught acting and improvisation to High School students, but other than that, I haven't been in a "classroom" environment since 1994. It's not that I ever felt I had nothing to learn, but I'm a big believer in learning by doing. I've done a LOT of doing in the past, Jesus...17 years.

The thing is, so much of what I do, how I approach the work is rooted in the script itself. What is this show? What style does it require? How to I best play THIS character in THIS play. I've often found that prescribed schools of thought about acting can get you into trouble. Trying to use "method" in a Shakespeare or Moliere piece is rather counter-intuitive and, frankly, playing against the intent.

This all comes from my early training, of course. The wisdom of Jeff Green, who's acting classes were really all about style work. What is this play? What style does it require? Truly, one of the most important moments of my acting life was playing Valere in Tartuffe with Jeff directing.

I was DEEP in my "fucking Al Pacino kicks ass and I am a Method actor" phase. Jeff had developed a conceit for the rehearsals and production where we had a giant "flower" in the middle of the round playing area. When we moved, we had to stay on the lines of that design, all crosses, all moves were arcs, no straight lines. On top of that, we were in full Restoration dress, with the physicality that requires. Arms outstretched, on the balls of your feet, generally, as Jeff called it, "that poncy French shit."

Well, there I am, all Mr. Pacino/DeNiro/Brando wanna be, bemoaning that I didn't "feel it." So, Jeff made us run my big scene over, and over, and over again. Well into the double digits (my weak memory says 60-75 times). We did it until I broke, stopped thinking,  just hit my marks and said my lines, and suddenly (magically, even) the scene worked.

What's really idiotic about my attitude is that I really didn't know shit from shinola when it came to "Method." We, really, had no "Method" training. It was part of the style work we did, but not a intensive course, by any means. My concept of "Method" was watching "Method" actors, and reading a few books.

Honestly, I don't think I ever really had a philosophy of acting until I read David Mamet's True and False: Heresy and Common Sense for the Actor. I know, I know, people hate it, think it's stupid, but "speak the words, brave and true" tripped a trigger, for me. It led to a path where what seemed to take so much effort, so much self-inflicted torture, and made it seem not so hard. Trust the play, trust the director, trust the rest of the cast. Listen, believe, and respond.

I sometimes think there's a deep-seated inferiority complex with actors. This raging desire to make what we do harder than it really has to be. Which is not to say I think it's easy, no, no, no, but I think many people try to complicate it so much. K.I.S.S. - Keep It Simple, Stupid. How much time to we spend agonizing over our choices? Trying to find the "right" one?

The trick is, there is no "right" choice.

There's only the choice you make right now, and it cannot be "wrong" if you commit and follow it through. You're living in the moment, right? Then why the hell are you trying to plan out your whole performance in advance? You wouldn't do that in the real life...would you?

That's all really just me pontificating, now. Take what you will.

So, yeah, starting tomorrow night I'm starting a class in Meisner technique. Now, I'm no expert in, really, any school of acting, other than my own, but my reading makes me feel like this is a school of thought that will work well for me. But who knows? It's been so long since I operated without a character or play to rely on that I am rather scared about it. No, I don't feel I "hide" behind a character, but I have come to rely on the world that the playwright and director have built for me to drive my choices and moment. This is a situation that removes that crutch.

I hope I don't fall down.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Sometimes I Marvel at Frank Herbert

I must not fear.
Fear is the mind-killer.
Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.
I will face my fear.
I will permit it to pass over me and through me.
And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.
Where the fear has gone there will be nothing.
Only I will remain.

That's genius, folks. It's true, it's wise, and it's in a book with major plot and thematic elements revolving around giant worms. And people wonder why I say an entertaining story, ripe with allegory, makes a stronger point than any amount of "serious" drama.

So, thanks Frank. I needed it.

Only I will remain.


I think I've mentioned here before, I've been alternating reading Dennis Lehane's Kenzie and Gennaro series (I'm up to Sacred) with various one-off books. Non-fiction has always been a good palate-cleanser for me, and, lately, that's been rock biographies. It's allowed me to not be overcome with, well, sameness, while reading a single series. On top of that, it's inspiring on both ends, as I've been working on music more, and I've also got a writing project in the detective, neo-noir genre in the embryonic stages.

The latest rock bio was When Giants Walked the Earth, by Mick Wall. It's a pretty comprehensive, in depth exploration of the creation, career, dissolution, and legacy of Led Zeppelin. Now, dear reader, I can't know what your own feelings about Led Zeppelin are, but I can share mine...

When the band came together in 1968, as Jimmy Page's attempt to revive and reinvigorate The Yardbirds (they were actually billed as The "New" Yardbirds, at first), in which he was the last of a epic line of lead guitarists, it was a bit of a watershed moment for rock. The hippy/flower-power moment had really run it's course, and the scene was ready for something new. Page had a concept, a band that would mix the "light and dark," as he called it, the acoustic and electric, the melodic and the powerful. He set out to find the players to bring that concept to life.

Zeppelin, on disk, represents the best of 70's hard rock. Tunes and melodies liberally lifted from blues classics (often without credit, as Wall points out), mixed with John Bonham and John Paul Jones' amazing rhythm section, Page's epic guitar, and Robert Plant's unmistakable vocals. You really can't argue with the greatness of those albums, even if there are limp tracks. Nobody's perfect.

Now, the live Zeppelin, which I freely admit to having no first-hand experience with, and can only judge based on film and album, The Song Remains the Same, as well as the How the West was Won materials, was a beast capable of amazing flights of musicianship, and stultifying indulgences. Yes, yes, John Bonham was (arguably) the greatest rock drummer of all time, or at least his time, but I maintain that no one needs a 45 minute drum solo. I've only watched the full "Moby Dick" drum solo in The Song Remains the Same once, when I saw it in a theatre, every other forward. Same with Page's unending guitar solo.

I've never been overly into "jam bands," with songs stretching longer and longer to accommodate various solos. As a musician, I can get off on the display of chops, but there's a point where even that loses it's hold on me. It's especially hard for me when the recorded material is tight and powerful.

To sum up; Zeppelin represents the best of 70's rock, and also the worst of it's indulgences.

To Wall's credit, as he was/is actually friendly with all of the surviving members of the band (although Page apparently wan't nothing to do with him since the book's release), he's straightforward about all the highs and lows of the band's career. I think he's maybe too harsh about the rare performances since John Bonham's death, and the breakup of the band. Certainly, the charity concert at the London O2 arena in 2007 has been noted by many as a pretty sterling gig from a reformed band, and Wall just sorta brushes it off.

As you might expect, the book covers a lot of ground. With Wall trying to explore all four band members, and manager Peter Grant, who he (correctly, I think) positions as a major force in all aspects of the band's output. Since he knows all of the guys, and has repeated interviewed them, I felt his observations and conclusions were pretty solid.

His depiction of Bonham, in particular, is interesting. He almost depicts the man as bi-polar, with his epic partying on tour merely a mask for depression over being away from his home and family for months on end. This, tied in with what seems to be a intrinsic need to be what the people around him want him to be. There are descriptions of Bonham misadventures that, with no exaggeration, position the man as almost a monster. Attacking women, drinking insane amounts, and destroying property for seemingly no reason other than loneliness, and the idea that's what expected of him. While Page and Plant indulge in what might be called "normal" rock star hedonism, and Jones, seemingly, removes himself from that scene completely, Bonzo just leaps, head-first, into the deep end.

Wall spends time on Page's heroin use, and the S&M games he liked to play with groupies. Really, however, it's clear he wants to dig into the guitarist's occult beliefs, and his interest in the teachings of Alistair Crowley. There's a long section of the book about Crowley, and what might have drawn Page into that belief system. Pointing out that, unlike the popular perception, Crowley really wasn't a satanist, but more of a pagan, with a belief system that embraced all human weakness as somethign to be explored fully. It's pretty obvious Page was into Crowley, he purchased many of the homes where Crowley had lived and conducted rituals.

"The Hermit" -by Jimmy Page?
Wall takes some pains to not paint the guitarist as some frothing Satan-worshiper, but points out how much of the imagery, lyrics (apparently, you don't have to play Stairway to Heaven backward for it to be "the most Satanic song, ever"), and "jokes" (like the Crowley quotes inscribed in the vinyl of the first pressing of Led Zeppelin III) are tied to Crowley. That Page craved power, the power to make his creative visions manifest.

Now, if you want to get in a twist about that, the book will offer some ammunition for you. (Possibly why Page has now ended his friendship with Wall) Me? I could care less. Good music is good music, and I figure whatever sort of belief you want to have is your business. I got no truck with Scientologists, either.

Although, I was really drawn by the discussion of "The Hermit," the artwork on the inner sleeve of Led Zeppelin IV. It's credited to an artist that apparently no one has ever heard of, is obviously inspired by the tarot and the teachings of Crowley, and Wall begins to make a case that art-school-trained Jimmy Page may have created it himself.

Who knows? Page ain't talking.

There is one annoying thing about Wall's book. He's taken a tactic of writing large sections of the book in second-person "You are Jimmy Page, you've grown tired of session work..." etc. It's a decision that wears out it's welcome pretty fast (maybe for him too, there are far fewer of these asides in the latter half of the book), and leads to wall covering the same information over and over again. I think ever John Paul Jones interlude was about arranging some song for some soul artist. If it felt insightful, it would've been clever, but, alas, it doesn't. Even "inside" Page's head, there's only so many times I wanna hear about how uninspired he was by his session work.

All-in-all, I found When Giants Walked the Earth a pretty decent read. It's well researched and has a lot of information right from the horses mouth, so to speak. If you're a fan, you'll probably want to read it, if you haven't all ready. Wall clearly loves the band, but isn't afraid to speak up about things that disappointed him.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Stuck In My Head 11.23.2011

Pay Me
By TomWaits

They pay me not to come home
Keeping me stoned
I won't run away
They say it's easy to get
Stuck in this town
Just like Joan
You know I gave it all up for the stage
They fill my cup up in the cage
It's nobody's business but mine when I'm low
To hold yourself up is not a crime here you know
At the end of the world

I kick my foot at the lights
I breathe it in all night
There's a light on a canvas tree
Money from home supporting me
They pay me not to come
I won't eat crow
Ill stay away
And though all roads will not lead you home my girl
All roads lead to the end of the world
I sewed a little luck up in the hem of my gown
The only way down from the gallows is to swing
And I'll wear boots instead of high heels
And the next stage that I am on it will have wheels

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

So the New Thing I Saw in RAIDERS This Time

So, I'm watching Raiders of the Lost Ark Sunday night. Happy as a clam.

We're near the end of the film, Indy's rode the Nazi sub to their secret base. He's hiding watching Belloq disembark with the captive Marion Ravenwood...

And all of the sudden, all I can see is the Nazi guard on the right side of the screen.

A guard who apparently had some sort of run-in with...something. He's got a bandage on his head, and one arm in a sling. Yet, he's still got his machine gun. It's really obvious as the shot above begins, but I, unfortunately, couldn't find a screencap that showed it better.When he first walks into frame, the damage is very obvious and clear.

I'm facinated by this now...what the hell was the idea? Did Marion kick his ass? Is it just a dumb joke to put in the corner of the frame? What?

I know it's not just happenstance, or utterly random, or a mistake. Spielberg, at some point, said "get a bandage on his head, and his arm in a sling." I can applaud the random, Monty Python-esque bizarreness of it, if that's the deal, but I'd really like to know if it's that simple.

Monday, November 21, 2011

You Could Say I've Been Waiting For This

Official from

Well, things are starting to heat up down on E Street.

A lot of you have been hearing that Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band will be on tour in 2012. That is absolutely correct. The European dates run from the middle of May until end of July and are being announced this week. Info on the US dates and the World tour dates will coming up shortly.

In addition, we want you to know that the music is almost done (but still untitled), we have almost settled on the release date (but not quite yet), and that we are all incredibly excited about everything that we're planning for 2012. That's all the info we have for right now, but we'll get back to you--real soon.

The first dates to be announced are all in Europe, early to mid Summer. No conflict with SDCC, thank God.

Lots of questions...What's the format of the tour? What's the tone of the album?

How do you replace Clarence? I really hope they bring the throne back out, and leave it empty for him. I feel like that would be fitting.

Time will tell. 

Friday, November 18, 2011

Stuck in My Head 11.18.2011

Ah, let's turn the Wayback Machine to about this time of year, 2009....

New Fang
By Them Crooked Vultures

New fang,
No thang.
Had it made
To parade,
Found a sucker,
Now I want another.

Stand up,
Step aside,
Open wide,
Handing out and on
Until the feelings gone

Want to?
Yes, I do.
Wanna learn,
Taking turns getting carpet burns.

Loose lips,
Lipstick spit.
Come or go,
I think it's both I gotta know.

Sometimes you break a finger on the upper hand,
I think you've got me confused with a better man.
Sometimes you break a finger on the upper hand,
I know you've got me confused...

For a better man.

No slack,
Couldn't quit,
Gums flap so
Here's your teeth back

What I left
Far behind in a time
When my mind was like a landmine.

By the lake,
Too much, too young,
Every button gonna come undone.

No joke,
Nothing left,
So you go baroque.

Sometimes you break a finger on the upper hand,
I think you've got me confused with a better man.
Sometimes you break a finger on the upper hand,
I know you've got me confused...

New fang, passing over
No point waiting around for

New fang passing over
No more waiting around-ah

New fang, New fang
They can't wait, no-oh

New fang, newwwwww 

I love this band, and that album, so much. In a very real way, it/they inspired the music that I've been writing ever since. Great live act, too. Cool all around. I remember having to record this Austin City Limits episode, and being so excited to watch it.

I wish they'd record another album.

RAIDERS Returns to the Big Screen

Always my favorite Raiders poster
Frankly, the thing I am most excited for this weekend, is that a new restored print (I think it might be digital) of Raiders of the Lost Ark will be showing at Chicago's Music Box Theatre. I LOVE seeing this film in a theatre with an audience, it's just smashing to hear the crowd enjoy the adventure together.

I'm always on the lookout to see "important" films in theatres with audiences. This started, in earnest, when I saw a restored print of Gone With the Wind in an theatre in (I believe) 1998. I had always been "meh" about Gone With the Wind. I respected it for it place in history, the artistry involved, but watching it on TV never impressed on me it's entertainment value.

I was shocked at how incredible Clark Gable is in that film. He's hilarious! It's a performance that just lives by hearing laughter around you. It's never the same in a living room. There's also, truly, no way to understand how incredible the shots in that film are without being overwhelmed by the imagery. The absolute same can be said of Lawrence of Arabia. I still shudder thinking about seeing a 70mm print of that in 1989. Glorious. (I'm not buying that until there's a Blu-Ray)

I'm a purist. Movies are made to be seen in large groups, with overwhelming imagery and sound. It's supposed to be an event to connect with the humanity around you, and revel in how you can all react together to what's on the screen. Yes, yes, I'm very happy technology has advanced to where I can see amazing, film-like presentations of movies I love in my living room. There's a place for that, but that is not where movies live and breathe. Like theatre, we're supposed to be together in watching a movie.

But I digress...

I love this
Star Wars lives in my heart as my favorite series of films. The place where my cinephilia sprang full form as that Star Destroyer rumbled over my head. It lives in a special place nothing else can touch.

But, for my money, Raiders of the Lost Ark is perfect. It's the most brilliant execution of the exact film that was intended that has ever graced the screen. All the elements are exactly right for the style and genre that was being attempted.

The script? Perfect. The cast? Perfect. The filmmaking? Perfect. All the pieces are executed exactly as they should be. No one made a wrong turn. No idea seems shoehorned in, the internal logic is impeccable. It's simply the greatest "popcorn movie" of all time. It's a living example that you can make blockbuster entertainment, and it doesn't have to be dumb.

It also doesn't have to feel utterly preposterous. One of the saddest things, to me, is that we never really got a sequel to Raiders. Yes, Indiana Jones returned, but there's a rough edge, and a realism, in Raiders that none of the sequels ever come close to.

Yes, Raiders is filled with humor, but, almost immediately, the humor began to take over the franchise. The first film was astounding because it WASN'T a cartoon, it felt real. Indy hurt, he bled, and in a realistic way. Yet you could still get comedy out of it, the scene between Marion and Indy on the Bantu Wind is engaging, funny, and yet clear that what Indy has gone through took a toll. With each sequel he bounced back that much more easily.

This too. By Tom Whalen
To be clear; I love all the Indiana Jones films, deeply. I just simply hold Raiders as miles above the rest. Temple of Doom got darker, but also cartoony. Last Crusade and Crystal Skull both play more like Bob Hope and Bing Crosby "Road" pictures, comedies first and foremost, rather than adventure films. They all have their great moments, and are entertaining, but they can't touch the original. Not at all.

(And...No, I don't see anything in Kingdom of the Crystal Skull that deviates all that far from Last Crusade. They're actually the two Indiana Jones pictures that seem most connected, tonally, to me. You wanna talk to me about the refrigerator bit? Then you have to acknowledge that the fighter plane in the tunnel is as dumb, if not dumber. Yeah, the aliens...I know, but I don't see it as that far removed from the "magic" we see in the rest of the series. Your mileage may vary.)

Long story short, there's a, well, magic, in Raiders of the Lost Ark that many films have tried to replicate, but no one has been able to.

I can't wait to see it again.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Nose to the Grindstone

I've found myself in a fairly fertile period, musically. I think this can be credited to a few things, one, I'm playing guitar a lot, with Bus Stop performances going on. I'm certainly play acoustic more than I have in a long, long time. That's led me to some nice things, including music for a set of lyrics that have been sitting around for over half a year.

Of course, I have a LOT of lyrics that have been sitting around for half a year. That's a whole 'nother issue.

Second, I just feel inspired. This may come from all the Rock Biographies I've been reading, or the positive energy from the people around me. Either way, it's great. I've just come to a point where I'll play a riff, or a progression, and I'll think "that sounds pretty good," and I'm OK with that. Sometimes I still get caught up in the "make it more complicated" thought process, but not as much as I used to. I'm feeling good about my rhythm playing, even if I can say my lead work could be better. I love putting down a drum beat, and playing over it.

But yes, oh faithful reader, here it comes...

Do you think he has some free time?
God, the drum machine is starting to bug me. I really need to figure out some way to make the drum lines more organic, more connected to the guitar and bass parts. What I'm doing is fine, it keeps the beat, but I'm just not good enough at programming the damn thing to do the cool stuff that's in my head.

It comes down to this, find a drummer (Dave F, where are you when I need you?), or figure out how to do it myself. I've been looking at some electronic kits. I'm not a drummer, but I know I can keep a beat, so it might just be a step up from the machine, but it would be live. Or, I could put everything aside and, y'know, put some time into REALLY figuring out how to program the machine. Either way, I want something MORE...

The reason is simple. I feel really good about the riffs and songs I'm putting together. It's the best stuff I've ever figured out, and with the equipment I have, now, I can make it sound really, really good. So, here's the deal, and I know I've been saying this FOREVER, I am looking forward in the schedule, the time has come to really focus and get this set of tunes done. Make them work, and make them work well.

I may end up shaving the number of tracks I wanted to have down a bit, which seems like a bit of a cop-out, but it'll also get me to "finished product" faster if I say "EP" instead of "LP." At this point, after so much time, I think that's just being realistic. I also think it's time to stop mucking around with the 6-7 tracks I have "in process" all at once. I intend to start from scratch, and take one track at a time, percussion, guitar, bass, vocals, mixing, mastering...then onto the next track.

The honest truth is I'm lost on some of the work I've done before. I can't even remember what exactly I was thinking when I made certain choices. This is a chance to wipe the slate and regroup (Thank God I've been taking better notes about what, exactly, I'm playing), and actually move forward with finished progress to mark my path.

I think I need it.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011


Do you like joy?

Jon Stewart started talking about attending a Bruce Springsteen concert with that question. I found it hilarious, because it was true. I could ask the same thing about seeing The Muppets, Disney's 100% well-handled return of Jim Henson's creations to the big screen. 

The bottom line is, I think you'd have to be pretty cold-hearted to be of my generation and not be moved by this film. It's chock full of good will and positive energy. Even if you find nits to pick, the overall effort is so energized, and so on-task to the spirit that Henson himself imbued the characters with, that you have to let it evaporate.

I defy anyone to watch the sequence where The Rainbow Connection is fully performed to tell me this film doesn't capture the spirit of the Muppets. Yes, elements are updated, but not changed. Star/co-screenwriter Jason Segel has imagined a history that leaves untouched the "classic" Muppet projects, but sets up a quest/road picture that, yes, sows some seeds of discontent between the old team.

Personally, I had no problem with that. The characters did not become coarse, or stray from the personalities we remember, but they had moved on in logical ways. Fozzie still, desperately, trying to stay in showbiz. Piggy moving into high fashion. Gonzo becoming a plumbing magnate.

Yeah, that last one was odd, but IT'S GONZO. Plus, I chuckled heartily at the gentle dig at fears of "toilet humor" seeping into the proceedings.

There's a number of jokes like that, where Segel, with co-writer Nicholas Stoller, and director James Bobin stick in elements that, I'm sure, fans were terrified might rear up in a "re-invention." "The Moopets,"  ghettoized, crude versions of our familiar troupe comes right to mind. (Frankly, I'd have liked to see more of them...the idea tickles me so much...a "perform off" with the originals, or something. It also provides a funny celebrity cameo.)

Special kudos to Chris Cooper, who is nothing short of wonderful as Tex Richman, and my friends can thank him when I'm driving them nuts with, "Evil Laugh....Evil Laugh..." Let me just say this...the man can rap. Also, I can't tell you how much loved Uncle Deadly and ESPECIALLY Bobo the Bear as his partners in crime. Bobo SLAYED me in almost every scene. Genius work from Muppeteer Bill Barretta.

I really enjoyed Segel and Amy Adams as our main human protagonists. They were cute, which is pretty much the whole job. There's also Walter, our new Muppet. He, in many ways, drives the story. Just about every original character gets a good bit, or two, but there is a lot of ground to cover. I think Gonzo got a bit of a short shrift.

The new songs, by Flight of the Conchords member Bret McKenzie, are pretty good. I enjoyed all of them, but some of them, specifically Man or Muppet, sound an awful lot like Flight of the Conchords numbers. I'm luke-warm on that show/band, so your mileage may vary.

I also wonder about the Gary (Segel)/Walter relationship. They're brothers, but one is a Muppet? Then Mary (Adams) refers to Walter as Gary's "friend?" Aren't they brothers?

Aw, the heck with it. Long story short, if you were worried about someone coming in and screwing up the Muppets, allay those fears. You can question if it's as good as Jim would've done himself, but it's a loving, respectful love letter to his creations.

One last bit...Thank you, God for Zach Galifianakis as Hobo Joe. Brilliant. Utterly.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Stuck In My Head 11.15.2011

OK, the "Slash featuring Myles Kennedy" live album Made in Stoke, came out today. I downloaded it this morning, and was enjoying it on the train. This is, as mentioned before, my favorite Appetite for Destruction track, and Slash had put together a really awesome band (they're making an album together now). I think Kennedy just kills this...

Rocket Queen
Originally by
Guns N' Roses

If I say I don't need anyone
I can say these things to you
I can turn on anyone
Just like I've turned on you
I've got a tongue like a razor
A sweet switchblade knife
And I can do you favors
But then you'll do whatever I like

Here I am
And you're a Rocket Queen
I might be a little young
But Honey I ain't naive
Here I am
And you're a Rocket Queen oh yeah
I might be too much
But honey you're a bit obscene

I've seen everything imaginable
Pass before these eyes
I've had everything that's tangible
Honey you'd be suprised
I'm a sexual innuendo
In this burned out paradise
If you turn me on to anything
You better turn me on tonight

Here I am
And you're a Rocket Queen
I might be a little young
But Honey I ain't naive
Here I am
And you're a Rocket Queen oh yeah
I might be too much
But honey you're a bit obscene

I see you standin'
Standin' on your own
It's such a lonely place for you
For you to be
If you need a shoulder
Or if you need a friend
I'll be here standing
Until the bitter end
No one needs the sorrow
No one needs the pain
I hate to see you
Walking out there
Out in the rain
So don't chastise me
Or think I, I mean you harm
Of those that take you
Leave you strung out
Much too far

Don't ever leave me
Say you'll always be there
All I ever wanted
Was for you
To know that I care

Axl's current Guns lineup is playing Allstate Arena tonight, and I have to admit I was tempted, just to see it. However when I scored Muppets preview tickets, there really was no contest. Zombie Kermit beats Zombie G'NR every time...

Creeping In Around the Edges

I was intending to be in a good mood yesterday. That was my plan. I had a rehearsal last night, and I'd scored tickets to see an early screening of The Muppets tonight. What did I have to be grumpy about?

Well, I spent most of the day fighting off a lingering feeling that I was a loser. It's a sensation that I'm quite used to, honestly. That I'm a fool, that these people who claim to like me and enjoy my company, well, I've just somehow fooled them. Ditto the people who actually think I'm talented. It was a gray day. That's probably the best way to put it.

Now I know that my life is nothing to be upset about. I'm healthy and comfortable. Plus, without getting into detail, I also got hit with a pretty solid reminder that things could be much worse yesterday. Life plays no favorites, and we all ought to cherish and value what we have. It makes me feel like a selfish ass to feel like this, in the face of that.

That said, I also have a right to be sad. To let those things around me that nag and pull down on me, well, to let them have their way. I know a hell of a lot of people out there think I'm a downer, even if I prefer to call myself a realist, but, y'know, damn it, I can be light hearted, at times, too.

I don't even really know what it is. The extension of Bus Stop at Raven Theatre being cancelled because Paula Wagner may be bringing it back to Broadway? Probably part of it. I like this cast, and, frankly, the money would've been a nice supplement to my saving for the 2012 SDCC.

I also, and look, I'm not trying to denigrate anybody, but I'm spending time trying to make myself excited about the projects I have on the horizon. I'm still stinging a little from a role I was after, in a interesting production with a company I want to get involved with, going to an Equity actor. Hey, that's the way it goes, the decision makes sense, and I understand why things went the way they did.

But it stings. Especially since I'm finding out a lot of people I really love to work with are going to be part of it. It also leaves me in a position of doing a show which, without a doubt, will be excellent, but in which I have VERY little to do....

Y'know, this is silly.

We all know what my problem is. I think too fucking much. I'm always trying to plan three steps ahead, and it leads me down this path of, not just hoping, but expecting certain things to happen. Of expecting certain events to play out the way I want, and trying to prepare for THAT, rather than preparing myself for when they don't. It's really clear I ought to, y'know, think about preparing myself for disappointment.

Frankly, this probably has more than a little to do with the change to fall/winter weather. We had a long stretch of warmth in October, and now our time has run out, and we're heading into winter, for real.

I'm certain to snap out of it. I know I am. Thank God I'm gonna let The Muppets have their way with me tonight....

Monday, November 14, 2011

Stuck in My Head 11.14.2011

by Black Sabbath

I want to reach out
And touch the sky
I want to touch the sun
But I don't need to die

I'm gonna climb up
On the mountains of the moon
And find a distant man
A waving his spoon

I've crossed the ocean, turned everything
I found the crossing near a golden rainbow's end
I've been through magic and defied reality
I've lived a thousand years and it never bothered me

Got no religion
Don't need no friends
Got all I want
And I don't need to pretend

Don't try to reach me
'Cause I'd tear up your mind
I've seen the future
And I've left it behind


I have so many films in my Netflix queue, sometimes I forget why they're there. Right now, however, between episodes of Chuck, I'm in a run of Jeff Bridges films, inspired, I'm sure, by seeing True Grit. Well, right off the beat, I threw in The Last Picture Show, which I hadn't seen for probably 20 years. It'd been so long, I couldn't remember what happened in the film, honestly. Which is actually great, as the film had the ability to surprise me. I would also say, at 20, I don't know that I was old enough to really "get" it.

Bridges was the draw, but the whole cast is quite amazing. You couple that with Peter Bogdanovich's brilliant direction, and the glorious black and white photography, allowing almost infinite depth of focus. Things in the far background are almost as clear as the foreground actors. It created this sense of place and time that was almost overwhelming.

In a lot of ways, it was overwhelming. I have a deep desire to own this film, now, because it made me so very sad. I don't know, maybe it's passing 40, feeling my options narrow, but It was almost breathtaking how much I felt the characters in this picture. The pervasive, almost oppressive, sense of loss. It felt real, and true.

The truly interesting thing is that the film embraces characters of all ages, people of this small Texas town at the beginning and end of their lives. All feeling the loss of something. The through line is clear, loss, and dealing with loss, is a lifetime endeavor. Be it Sonny (Timothy Bottoms) and Duane (Bridges) leaving high school, and finding exactly how limited their choices are, or Ruth (Cloris Leachman) and Lois (Ellen Burstyn) finding how trapped they are in the choices they have made. The high school princess, Jacy (Cybill Shepherd) learning of the sacrifices and compromises to ensure a "good" life.

All this is played out in front of the passing of the town, itself. Sam the Lion (Ben Johnson), who owned the pool hall, the cafe, and the picture show, passes away. Eventually, the woman he left the movie house to can't continue, and closes with a final screening of Red River, with Sonny, Duane and Billy (Sam Bottoms), the local half-wit, the only patrons. The scene is steeped in a true feeling of passing, with only these three boys (one of them oblivious) to reflect on it. You see how the giant heart of Sam, how he cared for the people of the town, and stood in as a surrogate father to the young men around him, can never truly be replaced.

I almost don't have words for the epic performance Ben Johnson gives as Sam. It is awe-inspiring. The Last Picture Show belongs to Ben Johnson, and he got a absolutely deserve Best Supporting Actor Oscar to show for it.

He marched through the film, with the twinkle in his eye of true love for these young men, that can turn to steely resolve when they stray from the correct path. You see the power that even his presence has over them, the pride and joy they take from his company, when he bans a group of boys from his pool hall.

Then, with one beautiful, brilliant monologue, Sam lets Sonny see that even he, too, cannot escape the specter of  loss, regret and sadness. I couldn't take my eyes off Johnson, the character that seeps from his face, the life that his squint hints at, as he spoke one of the best film speeches in my memory.

Despite the fact that I know doing movie monologues is a bad idea, I think I may have to use this one. I FELT it, deep down inside, as Johnson spoke the words. It made me think about my own life, and where I am now. I don't think I breathed. at all, during that scene.

That's also the highest honor I can make to Bogdanovich's movie, as a whole. I felt it, I felt like I understood those people, and that time. It tore me up, but the honesty of it all was absolutely enthralling.

Highest Recommendation.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Stuck in My Head 11.11.11

Ramble On
by Led Zeppelin

Leaves are fallin' all around, time I was on my way
Thanks to you, I'm much obliged for such a pleasant stay
but now it's time for me to go, the autumn moon lights my way
for now I smell the rain, and with it, pain
and it's headed my way
Aw, sometimes I grow so tired
but I know I've got one thing I got to do

A-ramble on, and now's the time, the time is now
Sing my song, I'm goin' 'round the world, I gotta find my girl
On my way, I've been this way ten years to the day
Ramble on, gotta find the queen of all my dreams

Got no time to for spreadin' roots, the time has come to be gone
And though our health we drank a thousand times
it's time to ramble on

A-ramble on, and now's the time, the time is now
Sing my song, I'm goin' 'round the world
I've gotta find my girl
On my way, I've been this way ten years to the day
I gotta ramble on, I gotta find the queen of all my dreams
I tell you no lie

Mine's a tale that can't be told, my freedom I hold dear
How years ago in days of old when magic filled the air
'twas in the darkest depths of Mordor, mm-I met a girl so fair
but Gollum and the evil one crept up and slipped away with her
her, her, yeah, and ain't nothin' I can do, no

I guess I'll keep on ramblin', I'm gonna
Sing my song/Sh-yeah-yeah-yeah-yeah, I've gotta find my baby
I'm gonna ramble on, sing my song
Gonna work my way all around the world
Baby, baby/Ramble on, yeah

A-do-do-n-do-n-do-n-do, my baby/Baby
A-ramble on, baby
A-do-do-do-do-do-do-do-de-do-de-do-de-do-de-do-de, yeah, yeah/
I can't stop this feelin' in my heart
Everytime I feel I will leave, I really gotta part
Gotta keep searchin' for my baby/
Baby, baby, baby, baby, baby, baby, baby, baby, babe
I've gotta keep a-searchin'for my baby
My, my, my, my, my, my, my baby/
Yeah-yeah, a-yeah-yeah, a-yeah-yeah
My, my, my, my, my, my baby/
Yeah-yeah, yeah-yeah, yeah-yeah, yeah-yeah, yeah-yeah
Ooh, my, my, my-my, my-my, my-my, yeah/
I can't find my bluebird, I'd listen to my bluebird sing
but I, I can't find my bluebird
I keep a-ramblin' baby/ Ah, ah, yeah
I keep a-ramblin', baby/I keep, keep, keep, keep, keep
Babe, babe, babe, babe/
I keep a-ramblin', baby, baby, baby, baby, baby, baby, baby
My, my babe
Bay-ya-by/A-goodbye, goodbye, a-goodbye, baby
Well, something's wrong

Props to whoever transcribed those lyrics...impressive accuracy.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Art is Not Black and White, and We Don't Have to Agree

I recently put up my feelings about the Lou Reed & Metallica album, Lulu.

My reaction, as I would describe it, is that it's hard to like, unlistenable in places, but worthy of more thought than, I felt, most people were giving it. I think any project this odd, and, I'll say it, brave, deserves a bit more consideration than was being afforded to it.

Immediately, I was getting reactions like "you love Lulu?!?!?"

No, I don't "love" Lulu.

I think I love Junior Dad, and I might love Iced Honey. Both of those tracks are very interesting, and got stuck in my head. So, yeah, I dug those tracks. My endorsement of the album, as a whole, would be as an interesting experiment that, as experiments often do, fails most of the time.

But, you know what? It IS art. It is an expression of an emotional state. The lyrics can be repugnant, but they're repugnant with a point. The co-mingling of the Reed and Metallica sensibilities apparently was exciting to Reed for this material.

It has to be understood that Lars Ulrich must've been the spark of Metallica's involvement. Lars has grown into a guy who's into artistic expression, with his love of modern art. It's easy to see that putting the band, that he has put so much of himself into, into a box with limited freedom is something he wants to fight against. I think the rest of the band agrees. Who wants to be doing the same thing you did at 20, when you're 40? No artist does.

But I digress....

The point is, how the fact that I find some interesting things on Lulu, that I don't HATE it, suddenly translates to "I love it." Trust me, I don't expect to be popping that CD on all the time. Listening to that kind of record is work, and frankly, most people (including myself) usually don't want music to be work. I get that, and it's a completely valid opinion.

But, well, OK...This is what I'm feeling:

I love Jackson Pollock. LOVE his paintings. If I was looking at  "Number 8," just marveling at it (because I would), and some guy came up and said, "y'know, I dig the colors, it's kind of pretty, but my 3 year old could do that," I wouldn't jump down his throat, screaming "why do you hate it!?!!?"

Because he doesn't. He may not appreciate the technique, or the intent, Pollock put into his canvases, but he does like the colors. That's not "getting it," but neither is it hating it.

Even if he did HATE it, walked up, stood next to me, and said "looks like somebody took a dump on the canvas," what's that to me? How does that impact my reaction to it, and why should I care that the beauty I see is completely lost on him? I'm the kind of person who'd be interested in why he feels that way (hence I love reading well-written reviews), but I don't consider that a referendum on if I'm "right," or not. 

Of course, I blame the internet, and our world of easy slander. What the fuck, right? They're rich and famous, and don't have a "real job," so I'm justified in saying they suck. Plus, it makes all of us feel better if there's a "right" and "wrong," and we can position ourselves as firmly, without question, on the right side.

Every, single time I think about this subject, I think about when Superman Returns came out. I saw it, I cried at John Williams' Superman Theme during the opening credits, and when I walked out of the theatre I was happy. I thought it was a well-made film, that captured the tone of the character correctly.

I, by no means, thought it was perfect. I felt like it was shackled by the connections Director Bryan Singer wanted to make to the Richard Donner's first film, as well as Superman II. I felt Brandon Routh was a decent actor, who had a good feel for the character, but was hamstrung by the clear direction to "do it like Christopher Reeve."

When I mentioned these criticisms on a couple of message boards I frequented, you would've thought I'd burned a flag. People were raving mad that I had "trashed" the film. Which I couldn't get, because I was always clear to say I liked the movie quite a bit. It just seemed like, and here's the rub, the second I said something that these folks disagreed with, they stopped reading what I was saying. From that point on, my posts were only there to find grounds to say I was "wrong," making them "right."

Now, hell, I'll still defend Superman Returns, but it's become a rather reviled film. I find some of the people who were so mad at me using the very same arguments I did, and proclaiming that the film "sucked."

Hey, everyone's entitled to change their minds.

Still, I wonder how much more communication we'd have, how many ideas might be really heard and considered, if we'd just start applying "I think." Your opinion is just what you think, period. Mine is just what I think. No more, no less, and none of us has a direct line to the universal worth of any work of art. Art is supposed to inspire discussion, but when that discussion ends up feeling like a competition, what's the point?

With that, your moment of zen...Pollock's "Full Fathom Five," from 1947.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Hot Damn, Do I Love This Song

AND this band. One of the best new acts out there.


I saw this in a theater last Wednesday night, and now the CD and DVD versions are available, as well as a Blu-Ray, which is currently exclusive at Best Buy (Though, oddly, the Blu-Ray, alone, is not available on their site). They also have a special edition Blu-Ray that includes a "Rash" T-shirt, similar to what Geddy Lee wears during the show.

It's a great show. I reviewed it when I saw it last July, and my opinion has not changed. Rush is a consistent band, their setlists rarely change during a tour, so the show you get in this set is pretty much exactly what you saw if you went. With an annoying exception, but I'll get to that.

The production here is exactly the way I like to see concerts filmed. The audience is as much a part of the show as the band. Lots of crowd shots, and that helps make the "live show" energy palpable. It's just cool (to me) to see a row of guys air-drumming a Neil Peart fill in unison. The band's fans LOVE them, and love to watch them execute their parts perfectly.

There is a certain element of "been there, done that" here. Rush has put out 5 live albums in the last 13 years, essentially one album for each tour. For hardcore fans, like myself, that's kinda awesome, you get a quality record of the show you saw. Rush, I have to say, is not a band that requires bootlegging of every show you've seen. I caught the Snakes and Arrows tour two times in 5 days, and the shows were identical (save one song). They were great, and I was happy to be there,'s not like Springsteen, where I want a record of every show I was personally at, because it's always different.

It's cool to see Marathon in the setlist, and Presto's appearance reminded me how much I love that album,  but playing the Moving Pictures album in it's entirety also just replays songs they always play anyway, Tom Sawyer and Limelight have been on all five of those live albums. That's not a criticism, because I'm a fan, and I love having a record of the tours, but...I think I'd have loved the in-process Clockwork Angels album more.

The fact is, it's a live album, and it's aimed at fans, anyway. In that sense, it's exactly what it's supposed to be...

That said.

Where is the I Still Love You, Man video that closed the show? That was a highlight of the whole evening for me. You couldn't have included it as a bonus feature? I can't embed the video here, so follow that link, it's great.

It's a beautiful film, and well worth your time, if you're a fan. It was also incredible on the big screen.

Video Intro (The Real History of Rush Part 2: "Don't Be Rash")
The Spirit of Radio
Time Stand Still
Stick It Out
Workin' Them Angels
Leave That Thing Alone!
Video Intro (The Real History of Rush Part 17: "...And Rock and Roll is My Name")
Tom Sawyer
Red Barchetta
The Camera Eye
Witch Hunt
Vital Signs
Drum Solo (Love For Sale)
Closer to the Heart (with new 12-string acoustic intro)
2112 (Overture/Temples of Syrinx)
Far Cry
La Villa Strangiato (with polka intro)
Working Man (reggae intro)
Video Outro (Meanwhile..Back in 1974)/Credits

Monday, November 7, 2011


One of the offshoots of my Kindle ownership is real rebirth of my love of Rock biographies or autobiographies. I ate up Mustaine: A Heavy Metal Memoir by Dave Mustaine, and I have a couple others on the wishlist, right now. I've been working on series books recently, specifically Dennis Lehane's Kenzie and Gennaro novels (good stuff - LOVE the characters), and the rock books have been good "palate cleansers" between each mystery.

I'm a Guns N' Roses fan. So much so that I've even entertained seeing Axl Rose's new version of the band when they play Allstate Arena next week. Yes, I know, I'm supposed to hate Chinese Democracy, but I don't. Sue me. I do know, in my heart of hearts, that's not REALLY Guns N' Roses. Guns N' Roses was five crazy, committed kids that joined up in Los Angeles and changed the face of rock. They really did, they weren't your run-of-the-mill glam hair metal band. They were something really different, dangerous, and , I really believe they laid the groundwork that allowed for the acceptance of Grunge a few years later.

You can argue the fact. No worries. Just my opinion.

Duff McKagan was there. Guns N" Roses original bassist was actually from Seattle, and part of the punk movement there that eventually morphed into Grunge. He was actually roommates with Mother Love Bone's doomed singer Andrew Wood. McKagan forms the living link between what was happening in Seattle, and the eruption in LA that effectively killed the "safe" glam acts.

As with most people who live in interesting times, and do interesting things, McKagan has put pen to paper and written a book about it, It's So Easy (and Other Lies). Now, I've read Slash's book, I'm really not interested in reading Steven Adler's, and it's unlikely that either Izzy Stradlin or Axl Rose will ever tell their stories. So, really, I feel like, as far as first-person accounts, this is about as good as we're going to get.

I couldn't help but compare Duff's book to Slash's, it's inevitable. Slash spends much more time detailing life as an addict, and there's quite a bit more salacious content there. Duff, frankly, comes off as a tremendously centered guy, but also well aware of how fucking hard it was for him to get there. He's also very aware of his fallibility. He spends time making it clear that he simply cannot, ever, drink alcohol again. Thing is, I think he's far more interested in sharing how he got to where he is now, rather than wallowing in where he was.

Which isn't to say he hides from his past. Oh, no, he does an excellent job of explaining his cycle of addiction. Booze, then coke to bring him back up, then booze to take him back down, rinse, repeat. He did do heroin, not to mention crack, but shied away from injecting. Preferring to place a bit on the end of a cigarette, and smoke it that way.


So, yeah the rock and roll excess is there, and the stories of friends taken way too early. Yet, he spends much more time exploring his own rehab process. "Good pain," as he calls it, bicycling, kickboxing and meditation. He, literally, it seems, exercised himself out of abuse. He even talks about, upon returning to LA after cleaning up, the rumor was he's had a facelift and liposuction. Certainly, Duff is one of those guys who wore his excess on his face. Running sores, and the whole bit.

 The transformation is striking, and it's more than just physical. You really get an image of McKagan as a bit of a lost soul. Just in love with the idea of being in a band, and 100% committed to it when it happened. He relates stories of listening to a crowd chant "bullshit," waiting for a show already hours late, with Axl Rose not even in the city. Trying to drown the embarrassment, acutely aware the HIS BAND WAS LETTING THEIR FANS DOWN, in booze, then coke, then boozed. Rinse. Repeat. then berating himself for not calling a band meeting, or making some effort to put things back on track.

Mostly, I got a sense of a guy who's just pretty normal. The book starts with Duff discovering two kids making out a groping during his daughter's thirteenth birthday party. He freezes, and wonders what else the kids might be doing, rattling off a litany of "questionable" activities he's indulged by his teen years. It's an endearing way to begin, and it's only strengthened as we follow him in his work to earn a Bachelor's Degree in Business. He recounts leaving a Velvet Revolver show in a limo, and taking the time to call a professor with a question about some on-line course....

"Duff who?!?" is the instructor's response, and you get the sense McKagan reveled in it.

It's a good read. It reminded me of the Rush: Beyond the Lighted Stage documentary, in that Duff really does feel like a regular joe. There may be mythologizing going on here. If anything, it's in the sense that McKagan had goals, be it in Rock and Roll, getting clean and sober, or trying to gain an education, and he applied himself, and worked to accomplish them. It's listening to stories from a colorful guy who did some stupid shit, but now has his head on straight.

That's pretty cool, to me.

Friday, November 4, 2011

I Can't Get Sick, I Can't Get Sick, I Can't Get Sick

I think I have a cold. Not terrible, but it's there. Itchy throat, stuffy head. The nose isn't running yet, but I feel it coming. Man, I hate this time of year, the temperature swings make me particularly vulnerable to a cold.

Ah, well, what can you do?

It's just poor, poor timing. Shows all weekend, some auditions to sit in on Sunday. I do not need to feel crappy. Bear down, and lots of hot beverages, I guess.

In other news, Bus Stop has officially been extended until January 14th, so I'll be playing Virgil twelve more times. It's nice, the show is fun, and the extra money will be really helpful going toward my SDCC trip. It's the first time, in 20 years of doing this, that I've had a show extended. So, that's cool.

As to Comic-Con, damn, they are taking forever to get registration up this year. It's maddening. It's bad enough that they tend to sell a billion tickets at the convention the year prior. I mean, last time I went, in 2010, all of the full weekend tickets with preview night had sold during the 2009 convention. Essentially, it created a situation where, in order to have a "full" convention experience, you had to go every year.

Thankfully, the convention organizers have acknowledged this, and. apparently, taken steps so it won't happen again.

Of course, we don't know that, since registration hasn't re-opened. 

And, now for your audio/video enjoyment, my theme song (or it ought to be):

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Lou Reed & Metallica's LULU

Good Lord, what a hornet's nest.

Judging from the critical reaction to Lulu, the collaborative album by Lou Reed and Metallica, that was released on Tuesday, you'd think all the CDs arrived slathered in shit. As usual, this move generated a massive freak-out from the "old school" Metallica fanbase, questioning the band's apparent desire to "destroy" their reputation. Leading to yet another round of "why do they call themselves 'Metallica?'' and other assorted fan wankery that basically amounts to telling an artist that they can only do exactly what they did when said fans discovered them, ever.

Of course, with that kind of thought process, Master of Puppets would never have happened. Metallica would be in a basement club, somewhere, cranking out a revised version of Seek and Destroy for the 25th time. That would be fine, but they also wouldn't be Metallica, a band that, from day one, was progressing. Progressing toward more melodic songs, longer, more complicated arrangements, and then back to more simplistic ones. The watchword was "change," and change motivated by whatever was turning them on at any given time.

Which, folks, is how it should be. As Eddie Van Halen once said, in his more lucid days, "As an artist, I'm egotistical enough to think that what excites me will excite other people" (or something like that). Any artist, in any medium, can only create things that draws an honest reaction from themselves. Personally, I've always felt Metallica was better at this than many other bands, and honest about it. You could love it, hate it, or endure it, but they were giving you where they were at the time.

Which doesn't mean it always works, but, come on, it's just a fucking album, people. It's not even a "Metallica" album. If everyone was being honest here, this would've been released as a Lou Reed album, or ever "Lou Reed featuring Metallica," the interviews seem to indicate that Metallica saw themselves as supporting Reed's vision, rather than influencing it. Honestly, the fact that the boys tried something completely out of left field, and in most respects, dropped the ball, doesn't bother me as much as the fan whining.

All that is prologue to my actually talking about Lulu. If you want the short form, it's a mess, clearly a project conceived and recorded in a hurry, a huge swath of it just does not work, but with some really interesting things going on that make it well worth the time, in my opinion. If you don't want to slog through the weirdness and bad choices to get to the good stuff, I understand, and more power to you.

Again, I point out, this is more of a Lou Reed album than Metallica album, and to try to judge it in terms of the latter is a fool's errand. Metallica contributes some pretty spectacular riffing, but the songs are rather one-note and monotonous, as Lou Reed is sort of known for. The ultimate result is "hey cool riff," followed by, "is it gonna change at all?" This is further compounded by the fact that all the songs are at least eight minutes. Point? It's a Lou Reed album, with Metallica contributing some riffs. If you're absolutely compelled to view this record in comparison to the artist's prior work, Reed's work provides the only fair comparison.

The first two tracks, Brandenburg Gate and The View exemplify all the criticisms heaped on this album, they're atonal, without melody and Reed's vocals are utterly jarring over the music. It's just a goddamn mess, and harder than hell to sit through. Track three, Pumping Blood, gets a bit better, as Reed's vocals become more intense, and I found myself actually trying to understand what he was trying to convey lyrically. Then Mistress Dread, which offers up the most "thrash metal" riffing on the album, and that caught my ear.

Perhaps it was low expectations, or maybe my ear was acclimating to the album, but, as I listened, I was getting drawn in. Then Iced Honey, where things start to really come together. Not easily, in fact, downright painfully, but with this track, you feel the "Lou Reed" and "Metallica" gears start to mesh. I actually think I may love this track, I've found myself re-listening to it several times. You see the ambition, the musicians working together to make somethign different, and I admire it. Cheat On Me, the next track, which ends the first disk, continues along these lines. On both these tracks it's still atonal and not melodic, but the cadences are coming together, it feel like a unified song. So, if nothing else, I can say the first disk ended strong, for me.

The second disk is stronger than the first. Frustration, Little Dog and Dragon continue along the same lines, it's not top-tapping, or pretty, but things feel unified and the lyrics are certainly provocative and interesting. Then comes Junior Dad, which is, and I mean this, quite amazing. Like most of the album, it's too long, at nineteen minutes, but here, finally, we have melody and Reed actually doing his "talk-sing" thing, rather than the more spoken-word style of the rest of the record. It's a real smack in the face, as to what this collaboration could've brought us. I get why James Hetfield and Kirk Hammet said they found the song very moving. The lyrics, which I interpret as being about feeling like a disappointment, hit home for me, as well.

This sentiment will likely continue
I'm not going to make any sort of case for Lulu as album of the year, or anything close to it, because that would be silly. It's not an inspired album, but it is an interesting one. It may not be of interest to you, personally, but I can certainly see the reasons for doing it. Lars Ulrich has always had the "bohemian artist" streak, and I'm sure part of him just loves doing these projects because of the fan reaction. This is not a mass-market album, and I can't imagine that anyone who worked on it ever thought it would be. The audience for Lulu will find it, and I would guess that audience will be a Lou Reed audience.

Best Tracks:
  • Iced Honey
  • Junior Dad

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

I Woke Up This Morning

Acutely aware that, despite my declaration last night:

I didn't even TOUCH the guitar. 

This makes me sad. It makes me feel like I let myself down. The worst part is, I'm stewing in it right now. I keep getting on my case about it.

I've almost paid off my 24-track, which means I've had it almost a year. So far, my output has been...nothing. Not one song, not anything. I put up a rough version of one song on soundcloud, but that's it (and that number has changed drastically since then). This is really poor form, on my part. 

I think, in a real sense, my desire to bring in other voices has hobbled me. Mainly because I seem to have very little time to bring in other voices. Paulie C is still open to laying in basslines, but I need to get him tracks to listen to, chord charts, and let him prep to do it. Have I found the time to actually do that work?


I suck.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

The Cost of Piracy

I caught this article on

I'm always frustrated, and amazed, by people who feel, without reservation, that there's nothing wrong with this. Even beyond this guy, who's just blatantly making money on the backs of someone else's property. Yet, still the reason this guy thinks it's OK is indicative of a social mindset that's rampant.

Music, comics, digital books, it doesn't matter what the content is, there seems to be a vast disconnect to the idea that someone created it, someone put up the money to put it into a professional format, and someone paid to distribute it. Just because something can be made into an ephemeral format, like a digital file, has reduced the value of the work, the work itself, to nothing.

I get that the comics companies haven't yet figured out that the digital format should be less than the physical product. It'll come. They're too busy trying to appease the retailer market right now, because it's the only income stream they can count on. That might change if they embraced the $.99/$1.50 for a digital book price point, but they're scared.

I don't believe that would change the mindset, anyway. You can download a song for $.99 on Amazon, which I think is very reasonable, and you usually pay less if you buy the whole album in one fell swoop. Not that anyone cares about full albums anymore, except us fogies. Yet, piracy is rampant, and musicians can't even look at their actual music as a source of income anymore. It's a loss leader to try to sell T-shirts and other merch, and the profit ratio on that stuff is piss-poor, too.

Yes, Gene Simmons will sell you anything with "KISS" on it
There's a blues/rock guitarist I follow a bit named Joe Bonamassa. Extremely talented, works a lot, tours, and I got on his mailing list. I get e-mails about new music, but mainly it's about bobbleheads, or expensive lithographs. Which is fine, but I despair that music isn't about music anymore. It's all KISS, now, branding focused.

Which has always been, and will always be, part of the picture, but I worry for what will ultimately happen. It already kinda has, I firmly believe, for example, Marvel is more a movie company now, than comic book publisher. The needs of their movie/TV arm are driving choices in their comics publishing. "Corporate Synergy" as an editorial strategy. That makes me sad.

And I get it, brave new world, and all that. I understand you have roll with the times, and adapt. I think there are very smart people who've figured out how to give away their music, or comics, or novels, and make up the difference with ancillary revenue sources. Good for them, but I, again, am sad that the idea, the intellectual property, the story, the song, the germ that's supposed to drive the whole engine, is not the financial focus.

Plus, it's easy for Radiohead, or Neil Gaiman, artists who've established their "brand" under the old system, were marketed by large record labels and publishers, and now want to treat this as like checking out books form the library. Artists who either give away their work, or publicly state they aren't concerned. They've already established other revenue lines, and their value to their audiences. That's their right, and I support it, but what about the kid making demos, or comics, or writing in his basement? He doesn't already have a movie deal, or a world tour set.

In the old days, that kind of marketing plan would be called selling out. I try to imagine a punk band in the late 70's looking to T-shirts and keychains as their main income, and it's just...ridiculous. Bill Watterson was against licensing his strips for coffee mugs, let alone taking a check for a Calvin and Hobbes TV series. Now, I'm not a militant about it, I get that this is the way of things. I just feel like an artist should be able to sell his art, and make a living. If that makes any sense. He or she should also have the option of NOT using cafe press to put their logo/characters/face on a pair of panties to make a living.

Yes, I'm old, and I'm growling at the kids to get off my lawn. That, however, doesn't make my point less valid.