Friday, July 30, 2010

Top 10 Albums, #6 - The Sinister Urge

#6 Rob Zombie - The Sinister Urge (Geffen, 2001)

The Sinister Urge (named after a film by Ed Wood) is the second studio album by Rob Zombie without his old band, White Zombie. It follows his debut solo album, Hellbilly Deluxe: 13 Tales of Cadaverous Cavorting Inside The Spookshow International, as well as American Made Music To Strip By, a collection of remixes of the songs on Hellbilly Deluxe. Sinister Urge picks up where his first album left off, full of industrial guitars supporting lyrics based on old movies and comic books. The album continues Zombie's obsession with classic horror, featuring samples from movies that the average American moviegoer has never even heard of, including (but not limited to) Horror Rises From The Tomb, I Drink Your Blood, and The Curious Dr. Humpp.

Musically, the album is more experimental than Hellbilly Deluxe, which, aside from audio samples, is more straight-ahead industrial. Sinister Urge features more instrumental variety, including horns, turntables on several songs and string arrangements (most noticeable on "Bring Her Down (To Crippletown)" and "Dead Girl Superstar"). Notable guest appearances on the album include Ozzy Osbourne singing a duet with Zombie on "Iron Head" and a guitar solo on "Dead Girl Superstar" by Slayer's Kerry King. Additional drums were provided by (among others) Tommy Lee from Motley Crue and Josh Freese of A Perfect Circle, Nine Inch Nails and The Vandals. DJ Lethal of Limp Bizkit and formerly of House Of Pain and Mix Master Mike from the Beastie Boys provided the turntables.

I first heard Rob Zombie when the Hot Rod Herman remix of "Dragula" from Hellbilly Deluxe was featured in the movie The Matrix. I listened to the soundtrack for the movie obsessively, and "Dragula"quickly became my favorite track. I bought Hellbilly Deluxe and it was instantly a favorite album. So when Sinister Urge came out I excitedly bought it, expecting more of the same. It took me longer to get into the album than Hellbilly Deluxe, but that time was worth it, as I know consider Sinister Urge to be a superior album, and it remains my favorite Rob Zombie album.

Favorite Tracks: "Never Gonna Stop (The Red, Red Kroovy)," "Feel So Numb," "Bring Her Down (To Crippletown)," "Scum Of The Earth"

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Top 10 Albums, #7 - The Crane Wife

#7 - The Decemberists - The Crane Wife (Capitol, 2006)

There was a time that I didn't really care who The Decemberists were. I had never heard them, but the way people talked about them made me think I wouldn't like them. I eventually checked out this album on the recommendation of a friend, and it is a great album. Every song is an individual masterpiece on its own while holding together to create a solid work of art all together.

To truly talk about this album the way it deserves to be talked about, I would have to go into each song individually. I may do that someday on a future post, but for the purposes of this Top 10 list I'll be brief. Frontman Colin Meloy writes lyrics like 19th-century novels, and the band sets those lyrics to music that is a unique blend of folk and rock that transcends folk-rock with a variety of instruments. The title tracks are based on an old folk tale (a shortened version of which can be found here, along with lyrics to the songs), and the stories themes can be felt throughout most of the songs, making this a sort of concept album. 

The album's only real flaw is that it's not the album that has their best song, "The Mariner's Revenge Song."

Favorite Tracks: all parts of "The Crane Wife," "The Island," "O Valencia!," "Summersong," and the bonus track "The Culling Of The Fold"

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Top 10 Albums, #8 - Good News For People Who Love Bad News

#8 Modest Mouse - Good News For People Who Love Bad News (Epic, 2004)

Good News For People Who Love Bad News is the album that broke Modest Mouse from underground favorites into mainstream popularity. Many of their previous fans hated this album for that, but I might never have given Modest Mouse a second chance if not for this album (in high school I had downloaded some of their songs, but at the time I was very into punk rock and immediately dismissed the band after listening to the songs). Good News is more optimistic in some ways (specifically the lead single, "Float On," an upbeat plea not worry when band news comes because "good news will work it's way to all to all them plans") than previous albums while still holding on to a good deal of their earlier melancholy. The album is a polished pop album, but still has some roughness to it, most noticeably on "This Devil's Workday," where Isaac Brock channels Tom Waits as the Dirty Dozen Brass Band replace most of the rest of the band. Throughout the album, traditional rock guitar, drum and bass mix with banjos, horns (courtesy of the DDBB), and various other instruments.

Favorite Tracks: "The World At Large," "Float On,""Bury Me With It," "The View"

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Nickelodeon Nostalgia

Earlier today, my Wikipedia-surfing led me to this page listing 1990's Nickelodeon shows. I grew up in the 1990's, and like many people my age I watched Nickelodeon almost constantly. I'm in a nostalgic mood right now from writing about Green Day's Nimrod earlier, so I thought I'd write about some of the shows I miss watching every week. This post solely contains the live-action shows I watched. I may write about the cartoons and game shows in a later post.

The Adventures of Pete & Pete - If you don't already know this show about brother Pete and Pete Wrigley then I just don't know what to tell you. This show was hysterical, amazing and groundbreaking. This is the benchmark for any live-action Nickelodeon show to follow. The show launched the career of Michelle Trachtenburg and featured a long list of celebrity cameos. I'm holding back on saying too much because I could go on and on about the show. The soundtrack is available for sale, featuring the theme song, "Hey Sandy," as well as other songs performed by Polaris (which was actually 3 of the 4 members of Miracle Legion). I recommend picking it up even if you didn't watch the show. Then pick up some Miracle Legion and frontman Mark Mulcahy's solo work.

The Secret World Of Alex Mack - Secret World followed the adventures of a teenage girl who is accidentally covered in an experimental chemical from a local company. Upon returning home, she discovers that the chemical has given her special powers, specifically telekinesis, the ability to shoot electricity from her fingers and the ability to turn into a puddle that can move around. Helped by her best friend and her sister, Alex has to hide from the company as they constantly search for her. This show is possibly the first sci-fi I ever watched, and Larissa Oleynik, who stared as the title character, was my first celebrity crush.

Space Cases - A group of slackers in a space academy accidentally take off on a space ship, accompanied by their teacher, a former captain and a robot. If Secret World is the first sci-fi I watched, Space Cases is most likely the second. Jewel Staite, who played one of the students until her character was replaced at the end of season 1 (by a girl from another dimension that only she could talk to, who all the other characters assumed was an "invisible friend), was later cast by Joss Whedon as Kaylee, the mechanic on the space ship Serenity on the TV show Firefly and its spin-off movie Serenity.

Salute Your Shorts - A sitcom about a group of campers at a summer camp called Camp Anawanna. I remember going to boy scout camp and being very disappointed that my camp experience was nothing like the show. Years later, I worked at a camp for a few summers. After that experience, I can't help but feel offended that the only supervision ever shown was occasional interaction with the camp's head counselor, "Ug" Lee. There were two episodes that I remember the most. One involved a wimpy camper nicknamed Sponge trying to gain weight so he could compete in a wrestling tournament, while a larger camper nicknamed Donkeylips tries to lose weight for the same purpose. The other involves two campers faking an illness to get out of swimming, then scheming to get into a freezer full of ice cream.

Hey Dude - A sitcom about a group of teens working at a dude ranch in the wild west. I sadly remember very little about the show aside from how much I loved it back then. I do remember a Native American guy and one of the teens went on to play the role of Josh on the TV spin-off of Clueless, taking over the role from Paul Rudd. One of the other teens was played by Christine Taylor, who went on to a successful film career (and also married Ben Stiller).

Roundhouse - A sketch comedy show that predates Nickelodeon's more well-known sketch show, All That. Again, it's too long ago for me to remember much about it aside from loving it. I do remember that one of the actors always moved around on a motorized recliner, and I always wondered if it was just for the show or if he used a wheelchair beyond the show. I also remember a sketch that was an advertisement for dehydrated drinking water. I was surprised that there was a Wikipedia entry for this show, as I have yet to meet anyone other than me or my sisters that remember it.

Top 10 Albums, #9 - Nimrod

#9 Green Day - Nimrod (Reprise, 1997)

Green Day were my first taste of punk rock, and Nimrod was the first album I heard by them. Nimrod came out when I was in 7th grade, making this the oldest album on my list, reaching back in my life further than any of the other 9. “Good Riddance (Time Of Your Life)” was getting substantial radio support, and my parents bought the album for my sisters, both of whom were in high school at the time. Given the obscene nature of some of the songs, that single was the only song I was allowed to listen to at the time.

Sometime in 8th grade, though, I snuck the album to my room and listened to it. At the time, the only music I really listened to was some musical soundtracks and Weird Al, so when I heard “Nice Guys Finished Last” it was a mind-blowing experience. It was a crazy roller coaster from there, from the rockabillyesque bassline of “Hitchin’ A Ride” to the borderline thrash-punk of “Take Back,” from the ska-punk ode to crossdressing “King For A Day” to the the acoustic “Good Riddance (Time Of Your Life),” ending with the chiming guitars of “Prosthetic Head.”

Favorite Tracks: “Nice Guys Finish Last,” “Redundant,” “Worry Rock,” “Good Riddance (Time Of Your Life)”

Monday, July 26, 2010

Top 10 Albums, #10 - Hybrid Theory

Since I'll be talking about music a lot in this blog, I decided I should start it off by talking about my top 10 favorite albums ever. So each day for the next 2 weeks (following a M-F schedule), I will post the next part of the list, starting today with #10. Enjoy.

#10 Linkin Park - Hybrid Theory (Warner Bros., 2000)

Hybrid Theory was an interesting album. An (at the time) unique blend of eletronics and organic rock without being electro-rock, a combination of hip-hop and hard rock while staying away from the rap-metal and nu-metal that were popular at the time. Linkin Park created a unique, amazing debut full-length (they had already released an EP of the same name) that skillfully balanced traditional rock vocals from Chester Bennington and rap vocals from Mike Shinoda over a solid drum (Rob Bourdon) and bass (Brad Delson for most of the album, the role was later filled by LP’s original bass player Dave Farrell, who had left the band prior to recording) foundation with borderline metal guitar (Delson, again), with additional beats, keyboards and turntables by Mr. Hahn (Joe Hahn). From the opening track, “Papercut,” to the closer, “Pushing Me Away,” there is not a single throw-away track. I’m not a fan of instrumental tracks, but even “Cure For The Itch,” performed entirely by Mr. Hahn, is enjoyable.

I got this album a little while after it came out, in my junior year of high school. I had seen the video for “Crawling” during the few month span that I watched MTV and enjoyed the song. My dad had some free albums from Columbia House, so I convinced him to get Hybrid Theory. I used to lie on my bed for hours, listening to this album over and over. After a remix album, Reanimation, they followed up with the disappointing (to me, at least) Meteora, and I kinda stopped listening to them for a while. While preparing this list, I pulled it out and started listening to it again and remembered how much I loved it.

Favorite Tracks: "Crawling," "One Step Closer," "In The End," "Pushing Me Away"

Friday, July 23, 2010

forgetters to release vinyl, no word yet on CD

Punknews just confirmed Vinyl Collective's post earlier today that forgetters will be releasing their first official output in September.

For those who don't already know, forgetters is the new project from Blake Schwarzenbach, former guitarist/vocalist of emo/punk legends Jawbreaker and indie rock powerhouse Jets To Brazil. He is joined in the project by Kevin Mahon, original drummer for Against Me!, and by Caroline Paquita. Schwarzenbach was expected to release an album a few years ago with his group The Thorns Of Life (with Aaron Cometbus and Daniela Sea), but, sadly, the group broke up before any official recordings could be made.

The release will be a double 7", which is cool if you like vinyl. I would prefer CD as I don't have a record player, but it appears that digital downloads will also be available, so I'll probably end up doing that.

I do agree with Vinyl Collective, though. Blake should just get Jawbreaker back together.

Artwork and track listing below. Samples of the songs can be found here.

1. Vampire Lessons
2. Too Small To Fail
3. Not Funny
4. The Night Accelerates

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Tom Gabel is my generation's Bob Dylan

The phrase “so and so is this generation’s Bob Dylan” is thrown around a lot. It’s been used to describe Conor Oberst, John Mayer, Joshua Radin, Rage Against The Machine and countless others. Basically anyone who plays acoustic guitar or sings songs with a political consciousness. A Pepsi commercial from the 2009 Superbowl even compared Dylan to (of course, the same commercial equated John Belushi to Jack Black and Gumby to Shrek).

But I write here today to make the bold claim that Against Me!’s Tom Gabel is, in fact, my generation’s Bob Dylan. I make this claim based on the fact that both committed one of the worst sins a musical entity can commit: They changed.

Bob Dylan started in the music industry by playing original and standard folk and pre-war blues (see 1962’s Bob Dylan). From there, he went on to write some of the most important political songs on his generation (“Blowin’ In The Wind,” “The Times They Are A-Changin’,” “Masters Of War,” “A Hard Rain’s a-Gonna Fall,” etc). For a few years he was king of the American folk revival.

Then, in 1965, Dylan shocked the music industry by playing an electric guitar at the Newport Folk Festival. The crowd booed (though some accounts attribute this to a reaction to sound quality and set length) and many of Dylan’s fans and friends in the folk scene turned on him. Dylan went on the record Highway 51 Revisited and gained new fans, as well as older fans accepting his new style. He continued to write and record music in a variety of styles, but he never again wrote the sort of political folk songs that had gained him so many fans.

Against Me! burst onto the Gainesville, FL, scene in the late 90’s, playing impromptu shows with that were often just Tom Gabel on acoustic guitar, sometimes joined by their early drummer playing a homemade drum kit built around a pickle bucket. A typical young punk, Gabel often wrote songs about anarchism, or about the art of music and what he considered to be the problems in the music industry. A handful of EP’s were released as little more than acoustic guitar and drums (Against Me!, Crime as Forgiven by Against Me!), occasionally with bass (another self-titled release, often referred to as The Acoustic EP).

On their first two full length albums (2002’s Against Me! is Reinventing Axl Rose and 2003’s Against Me! as The Eternal Cowboy), the duo expanded to a full, 4-piece band, and they had begun including electric guitar along with the acoustic. Their switch to electric was not fully welcomed by their fan base, but it was not as shocking as Dylan’s switch. Many fans were more upset that for Eternal Cowboy, the band switched from small record labels like Plan-It-X and No Idea for the larger (but still independent) Fat Wreck Chords (reportedly, a fan went as far as slashing the tires on the band’s tour bus in anger over the switch). Against Me! further alienated early fans with their second Fat Wreck Chords album, 2005’s Searching For A Former Clarity. The album was polarizing to fans as it left behind all traces of the band’s earlier sound, with acoustic guitar only on the slow-strummer “Joy.” The lyrics still contain political and artistic angst, but only echoes of the band’s earlier anarchist leanings remained.

These decreasingly subtle changes would be enough to inspire anger in the fragile world of punk rock, but the true fallout came when the band signed with Sire Records, distributed by Warner Music Group, for 2007’s New Wave. The album contained very little political ideology and traded punk completely for a larger, arena-rock style. Very few of the band’s earlier fans liked it, and most turned their backs completely on the band, despite statements from the band in press that this new style had been their desire from the beginning.

When Against Me! started out, Gabel wrote semi-folkish songs with a strong political ideology. He outgrew the style and the ideology, but many of his fans refused to grow with him, much like Dylan before him. What specifically brought me to writing this, however, was a song on their newest album, White Crosses. The song, entitled “I Was A Teenage Anarchist,” is Gabel’s explanation of why he outgrew the political ideologies of the band’s earlier songs and an attempt to connect his past to his present. Upon hearing the song, I was immediately reminded of Dylan’s “My Back Pages,” from Another Side of Bob Dylan, recorded the year before the infamous Newport Folk Festitval Performance. That song has been interpreted as Dylan doing the same thing Gabel did on “Teenage Anarchist,” removing himself from the politics he outgrew while trying to connect his past to his present. The comparison between the two songs is made more poignant by the inclusion of an acoustic version of “Teenage Anarchist” on the iTunes preorder of the album.

It is worth noting that Gabel himself might see the connection between himself and Dylan. The deluxe edition of White Crosses contains a track entitled “Bob Dylan Dream,” detailing a dream Gabel had that Bob Dylan was his roommate and the two were good friends, claiming “I never mentioned my collection of his albums/I never bothered him with intrusive questions.”

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

A Brief Introduction to the Library Punk

So here it is. I've finally started a blog. I hope to start posting thoughts on music, movies and information technology.

A brief introduction for anyone who stumbles across this blog:
I live in Dunkirk, NY. I recently finished grad school at the University at Buffalo with a Masters degree in Library Science. Unfortunately, library jobs are few and far between around here, so I'm working part time retail until I either find something here or find a job further away worth moving for.

I chose the name for the blog to show two of the main topics I plan to cover, music and library-related topics. I also plan to talk about movies and Web 2.0 stuff.

Not much of a first post, but I plan to start posting more. I have a lot of opinions on the aforementioned topics so I'll start posting those.