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Archive for September, 2006

This Sucks!…Try This: Only In America, Volume 2

Monday, September 18th, 2006

This is all Jeff’s fault.

You see, a couple of weeks ago, I sent him Paris, the new album by Paris Hilton.  I had heard a couple of tracks and didn’t think they were half bad.  Jeff, however, hadn’t heard the album, wasn’t planning on hearing the album, but was forced to then hear the album after I sent it to him.  Nevermind that he got a great post out of it; Jeff was prepared to exact his revenge upon me by sending me something he felt was equally shitty, and exact that revenge he did.

And so begins what will hopefully be a continuing series between myself and Jeff, and perhaps some of my other favorite bloggers:  This Sucks!…Try This.  You know what I’m talking about.  You eat or smell something awful, and just have to share it with somebody else.

Jeff sent me Only In America: Volume 2.

AllMusic describes this album as having "some of the weirdest records of the second half of the 20 century."  But I feel like that almost does a disservice to the word "weird."  This record is fucked up.  And yet, it’s a car wreck from which I cannot turn away; I eagerly listened to the entire thing.

And of course, in the spirit of This Sucks!…Try This, I now have to share some of it with you.

Where to start about Only In America: Volume 2?  For starters, I wouldn’t call any of the songs "good."  Not by any stretch of the imagination.  Some are bad in a nondescript way: they suck, but not enough for me to really single them out for sucking.  Some are so bad, they brought a huge smile to my face; and some are so bad they border on absurd.

For example, there’s "Stinky Poodle" by Tangela Tricoli (download) which, although sung warbled from the perspective of said poodle, had to be a clear inspiration for Phoebe’s "Smelly Cat" on Friends.  I’m positive the producers heard "Stinky Poodle" first.  There’s "Evil Dope" by Phil Phillips (download), a drug cautionary tale sung by what sounds like Jesse Jackson on helium ("whoo! I feel good!"), and let’s just say that "Listen, Mr. Hat" by William Howard Arpaia is not what you want it to be.  It definitely does not sound like something written by Trey Parker.  (Maybe Matt Stone.  We all know he’s the Andrew Ridgeley of South Park.)

Speaking of drugs, a lot of these songs seem to have some kind of drug theme.  Some are just plain trippy, and some have a message about drugs, but I can’t tell if they’re really pro-drug or anti-drug.  There’s an instrumental called "LSD ’67" which I imagine would have turned Timothy Leary straight, and conversely, a song like "Ernie The Narc" (in defense of the Narc) would drive anybody to heroin.

Only In America: Volume 2 isn’t just originals, however: there are covers, too!  There’s some young school choir taking a (dreadful) stab at "Little Deuce Coupe," and a band called Lucky Charms performing "Wipeout" as part of some radio talent showcase.  If you want to hear the ultimate in covers, though, check out Lost Dimension’s take on "Purple Haze." (download)  Upon hearing this track, I couldn’t help but wonder: how the hell did they get a tape recorder in my high school drummer’s basement?  (Andrew or Mike will attest: our high school band sounded just like this.)

I’ve saved my favorite track for last.  "Chicago Policeman" by Harry Burgess (download) is a gem.  It goes from being a song about a dream a youngster had of becoming a cop to a justification for beating the living shit out of dirty "hippies, yippies, & communists too."  The whole tune is sung quite jovially.  There’s even a key change!  I love it!  I hate it!  I love it again!

In listening to Only In America: Volume 2, I couldn’t help but think: I didn’t deserve this, Jeff.  I mean, yeah, I sent you Paris Hilton, but at least Paris had Auto-Tune.

You can purchase Only In America: Volume 2 if you’d like, but I wouldn’t recommend it.

Rachel Fuller Presents IN THE ATTIC, 9/14/06

Friday, September 15th, 2006

Last night was another wonderful concert event with Rachel Fuller.  (That’s two in one week!)  At the intimate Joe’s Pub on Lafayette St, Rachel presented  IN THE ATTIC – which, if you’ve followed Rachel at all, you’ll know is an extension of her hugely successful IN THE ATTIC webcasts, featuring performances and collaborations by a variety of artists.

Last night’s show featured:

Foy Vance
Martha Wainwright
Pete Townshend
and, of course, Rachel Fuller

Rachel’s shows back home are literally done "in the attic," setting up a comfortable, intimate and informal atmosphere.  The Joe’s Pub show felt like you were there with them in the attic, witnessing a group of musicians and friends making an impromptu bit of music for an appreciative audience.

Foy opened with a cover of "Crosstown Traffic."  I had no idea how powerful that song could sound on one acoustic guitar.  He performed a few others, including "Gabriel and the Vagabond," which was featured on Grey’s Anatomy.  Fantastic.  Buy Foy’s EP here, or you can buy the above single on iTunes.

Although I’ve read many an article on Martha, I’d never really heard her perform before (other than her appearance on IN THE ATTIC a number of months ago).  The emotion she puts into her music is riveting.  I unfortunately don’t know the names of the songs she performed past "Factory," but wow, what a fantastic performance.  Buy Martha’s album at Amazon or iTunes.

What can I say about Pete’s performance.  It was a fan’s dream set.  He played "Greyhound Girl," "Endless Wire," "Let’s See Action," "Blue, Red & Grey" (on ukelele), and "In The Ether."  The new Who album comes out 10/31, and everything I’ve heard so far has been unbelievably good.  Check YouTube in a few hours for last night’s performance of "Man In A Purple Dress" on Letterman.  And you can stream "It’s Not Enough" and "Tea And Theatre" from the new album here.

Rachel’s set was terrific.  She lost any nerves she might have had on Monday and the crowd, which I expect was filled with many diehard Who fans, was both impressed and captivated by her unbelievable command performance.  She opened with two covers that I don’t think you’ll ever hear back-to-back again: "It’s a Motherfucker" by Eels, and "Blue" by Joni Mitchell.  She continued with "Cigarettes and Housework," "Happy To Be Sad," and "Just Breathe."  Rachel was cool, collected and clever – and completely in control.  I walked away even more impressed than before.  You can buy her EP, Shine at Barnes & Noble or iTunes.

Each artist performed a few solo songs and a few collaborations.  Martha, Pete and Rachel joined Foy for "Indiscriminate Act of Kindness," Pete and Rachel joined Martha for "Factory," Rachel joined Pete for "In The Ether," and Pete joined Rachel for "Just Breathe."  For the finale, the group sang "I’m One" and "Shine (Theme From IN THE ATTIC)."

After the show, there was a meet & greet with the artists and many familiar friends and fans.  Although Martha wasn’t there, Foy, Pete and Rachel posed for many photos and made a lot of people very happy.

Rachel’s next IN THE ATTIC gig takes place on 9/28 in Chicago.  You’d be a fool to miss it.

Many, many people were using the video camera function on their cameras, so I expect you’ll see plenty of clips on YouTube soon enough.  I just took my photos.  Lots of photos.  They’re broken down by artist for easy viewing.  (You’ll find shots of Rachel or Pete in each artist’s folder as well, from their collaborations.)  Plus, there’s a special gallery of photos I took of fans meeting Rachel and Pete.  Check it out – you may be on there.

Photos:  Rachel Fuller Presents IN THE ATTIC, 9/14/06

Here are a few of my faves.  Enjoy.  And special thanks to Trrish and Ozzie for getting me a ticket!

Pet Sounds at 40

Thursday, September 14th, 2006

This post comes a little late, as most blogs have picked up on the 40th Anniversary of Pet Sounds, but in fairness, I started this post a few months ago before the site went live.  So sue me.

I was a latecomer to Pet Sounds.  Having only previously known the Beach Boys from their surfin’ hits, I listened to the entire album and just didn’t "get" it.  I couldn’t understand its appeal and what was so special about the songs.  About three years later, it somehow all fell into place, and I was able to appreciate the scope of Brian Wilson’s musical vision.  Pet Sounds was considered a commercial failure for the Beach Boys, but along with SMiLE, it constitutes their best (and most critically-acclaimed) work.

Capitol Records, obviously cashing in whenever possible, released the Pet Sounds 40th Anniversary Edition on August 29th.  One would think there’d be nothing left to release after The Pet Sounds Sessions box set (which is amazing, albeit exhausting) as well as the DVD-Audio mix of the album, but lo and behold, they’ve found a DVD full of stuff to throw in.  Damn you, Capitol Records, you’ll get my money, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it.

In celebration of this anniversary, as well as the 40th anniversary of the release of "Good Vibrations" and the double-platinum status of their greatest hits collection The Sounds Of Summer, the four remaining corpses members of the Beach Boys gathered together on the roof of the Capitol Records building.

l-r: Brian Wilson, original Beach Boy David Marks, Bruce Johnston, Al Jardine, Mike "Hang On To Your Ego" Love.  *shudder*

Ah, yet another "hell freezes over" moment in the life of a Brian Wilson fan.  Not that I’m surprised; after resurrecting all of Pet Sounds live and the entirety of SMiLE, reuniting with Mike Love was really all that was left for him to accomplish.

Will the Beach Boys really reunite?  My guess is that they’ll do a couple of concerts together and that’ll be it.  Nobody can (or should) have to tolerate Mike Love for more than a couple of hours, least of all Brian, who’s been sued by Love (also his cousin) at least twice in the past 10 years.  It’ll be interesting to see and hear if it happens.  I must admit the thought of those voices together again is an appealing one.

So anyway, now that Pet Sounds is re-released, it’s worth picking up if you don’t have it already.  For an example of the extraordinary musicality that surrounds this CD, here’s a goodie from The Pet Sounds Sessions box.

The Beach Boys: Wouldn’t It Be Nice (Stereo, background vocals only)

For more on the Pet Sounds re-release, including complete tracklistings, check out Pet Blog.  All sorts of cool info there.  Did you know that Brian had never heard of the iPod?

Best Album Title since…

Tuesday, September 12th, 2006

I’m not a Yo La Tengo fan.  And not for any particular reason – I just haven’t really heard much of their stuff.  But I did notice that their new album comes out today, and it’s got an unbelievable title.

But oddly enough, I can’t find it on Amazon.

Rachel Fuller at Barnes & Noble 9/11/06

Tuesday, September 12th, 2006

Last night, Rachel Fuller played a quiet and intimate set at Barnes and Noble on 22nd and 6th.  I arrived early enough to get a great seat and some nice close-ups.

Rachel is a terrific up-and-coming singer-songwriter, and her background as a classically-trained pianist is showcased in her compositions.  Rachel impeccably performed five songs: "Cigarettes & Housework," "Shine," "Imperfection," "Just Breathe," and as an encore, "Pleasure Seeker."  Three of these are currently available on her new EP, Shine.  You can also stream a number of her songs at either her solo page at The Independent Artists’ Company, or her page of duets/compositions with Pete Townshend.

Rachel seemed a touch nervous until her hands touched the keys.  Each song had its own delicate touch, especially my favorite, "Imperfection."  Pete joined Rachel on "Just Breathe," which, like the others, was both soft and introspective.  It was interesting to note that the entire store seemingly fell silent when Rachel started playing – not just the section where her audience was seated.  With songs like these, you don’t need to fight to be heard.  Seems the quieter you are, the more people pay attention.

Rachel has four upcoming Barnes and Noble appearances in the next few months.  (If that link winds up not working, go to Store Locator and "Find an Event by Author.")  They’re free.  If you’re in the vicinity, stop by.  You’ll be glad you did.

You can also find more on Rachel at her In The Attic website.  If you haven’t seen In The Attic – a semi-regular streaming show featuring her, Mikey Cuthbert, Simon Townshend, Pete Townshend and unbelievable guests like the Flaming Lips, The Eels, Martha Wainwright and many more – it’s well worth checking out.  She’ll be doing more episodes as the Who tour progresses.

Select photos below.  You can see the whole batch here.