Friday, October 29, 2010

Astounding News!

Shhhhh.... I'm working on a Unified Consumption Theory.

The basic premise is that we should throw the food pyramid back at the corrupt government who made it and instead eat food in the proportions of how much work it takes for one family to create it before the innovations of the last two hundred years.

A few examples that ran higgildly piggidly through my brain as I came up with this theory:

Vegetables - Easy to grow. Throw some seeds in the ground, water, fertilize, hoe, pick, reap your rewards. Sure, lots of work but nothing compared to everything else... so eat lots of vegetables.

Fruit and Nuts - Medium easy. Plant some apple seeds or raspberry plants, prune, water, wait, grow, grow, a few years later you climb or gather and eat.

Grains - Not as easy as it first appears. Sow seed, water, fertilize, hoe, etc. Then gather up a whole bunch of it, thresh it, sweep up the grain heads and grind them into a flour and make your bread. Or your pasta. Quite a bit of work goes into that one loaf so go sparingly. And this loaf has lots of the germ and vitamins still present. Want fluffy white bread? There's more work involved so by my theory you can eat even less of it.

Sugar - I'm no expert on extracting sugar from beets or growing sugar cane. Heck, I'm not an expert on anything. However I suspect that it takes quite a bit of work. Extended boiling and evaporation may be involved (which it certainly is for maple syrup, which falls into this category) so you have to gather up or cut lots of wood for the fire - loads of work! So use sugar sparingly. As for honey, not a lot of work to harvest but how often do you find bees nests? And hive cultivation, I would suspect, is quite a bit of work so again, go easy on honey.

Meats - If you raise meat then you have to raise grain to feed them... but you don't have to thresh, grind, etc. the grain. Or two hundred years ago you could hunt it. Work but deceptively not as much work as all that threshing. Eat meat. Enjoy meat. Your body knows what to do with it.

Milk and cheese and butter and eggs- Again, you raise the dairy cow and you sit on a bucket and milk away. Then you churn the milk for butter or add cultures and time for cheese. Eat medium amounts.

Beer and wine - This stuff literally grows on trees so enjoy all you want. Or perhaps it takes medium work to ferment and grow the items that go into these. Enjoy moderately.

Chocolate - Now this stuff really does grow on trees. And I can't say anything bad about our friend Chocolate.

So how does this translate to more modern foods?

Ice Cream - Forget the guar gums, look at a package from Breyers. Cream, eggs, sugar. The Cream is medium, the eggs are easy and the sugar is labor-intensive. Plus the hauling of ice and the work involved in churning. Go easy on the ice cream but yogurt and custard are more permissible.

Soft drinks - Water is ultra-easy. High fructose corn syrup and/or aspartame are not. Consider it a treat.

Ring Dings - You've got highly refined "sorta" flour and waxy nearly chocolate-like stuff and sugary whey-based filling. Yeah, a rare treat.

Frosted Sugar Pops - Puffed corn meal coated in so much sugar that you smell it in your urine. It's like candy for breakfast!

What am I missing?

Wednesday, October 20, 2010


I am not quite sure
If I’m fully recovered
From my night shift stint

Stone’s Trace Festival
Beats that Johnny Appleseed
By a country mile.

Another great date
Just me and my lovely mate
And Andrew the Great.

Leonard’s Lane is not
A bowling ally. Big oops.
It’s a halfway house.

He had him a beard
And a burger and collar.
A nice thank you lunch.

The bigwigs are back
Visiting our humble burg
We sure is such hicks.

Still recovering
From one nasty, icky cold
My eyeballs still itch.

Mr. Socialite
Is having lunch with others
Two times in one week.

On this day back in
The year 1945
My father was born.

Some weekends are foul
But this time I can say, “Wow!
“What a great Sunday!”

Met a guy for lunch.
Hoped for friend material
But he was all gab.

A refreshing day
Because I no longer work
With cussing sailors.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Retro Review - P. Hux - Kiss the Monster

Here's an excellent 10+ album! Two years later and I'm still listening to it regularly. Outstanding power pop from one of America's many under-appreciated songcrafters. The song "Bones" is, quite possibly, one of the most perfect songs ever written.

Parthenon Huxley makes writing a phenomenal song look easy. His ninth and latest album, Kiss the Monster, is crammed with eleven timeless songs that effortlessly capture the youthful awe of a summer day at the beach. It’s no wonder he’s been called the American Andy Partridge and spent the better part of eight years as the singer/guitarist for ELO Part II, capably filling the unfillable shoes of Jeff Lynne.

Speaking of E.L.O., “Yesterday” has the amazing power pop feel of this group with subtly distorted guitars and lyrics that expertly capture the tentative moments early in a relationship (“Now I don’t want to scare you / And say too much too fast”). In “Perfect” The Spongetones meet REM with a breezy and hopeful song that layers Parthenon’s relaxed vocals into harmonies the just beg you to join along. “Come Clean” is a song about confession (“And when I finally tell her everything / There might be nothing left between us”), starkly admitting that the line of “it was just physical” is poppycock (“effing really effing matters”), while some unorthodox bass noodlings adorns the subtle string orchestration. Frail vocal harmonies will squeeze your heart in “Better Than Good”, a sunny summer day on the beach where an autumn breeze ominously intrudes. The album closer is “Everything’s Different Now”, a gentle, beautiful lullaby to his daughter (“I’m under your tiny thumb”) filled with great lyrics every parent will understand: “Everything’s different now / There’s no more ‘More of the same’” and “One day you’ll get me back for making you look like me.”

As good as these songs are there are two that will simply drop your jaw, revealing why P. Hux is a songwriter’s songwriter. “My Friend Hates Me” opens with a creamy tube-drenched guitar that leads to a crunchy rhythm, poppy “Do Do Dos”, an astounding melody and line after line of humorous lyrics as to why he lost his friend - “Maybe I’m just a loser / Maybe he’s back on drugs / Maybe I was an a$$hole / Maybe he needs a hug.” Do you remember that great A.M. radio pre-disco sound? P. Hux nails it in “Bones”, a ballad full of Wurlitzers, light electric guitar, horns, real strings, and a romantic chorus set to a melody so achingly good mere mortals are unworthy: “I’ll take everything that you’ve got / Even the stuff you don’t want / Take the good and the bad / I want it all.” Wings? Hall and Oats? Novices!

Kiss the Monster should come with a warning sticker- THESE SONGS WILL STICK IN YOUR HEAD. It’s obvious that this man has been drinking from the wells of Joe Jackson, Gin Blossoms, Elvis Costello, The Beatles, XTC, and Fountains of Wayne. There’s an enduring quality to these songs, a gentle truth free of musical clichés and trendy studio gimmicks. What else do I have to say?!?!? BUY THIS ALBUM!

Review - Ty Tabor - Something's Coming

I don't mean to sound like a crusty ol' curmudgeon but I know that this man is capable of so much more. And The Choir, while it's a good album and I'm grateful that they release new music even if it IS five years between albums (at least it's not ten years and counting like Daniel Amos) but it's not the classic that all the raving fanboys are saying. It's solid B songwriting with A+ production.

Music nerds such as myself have a detailed and complicated relationship with the artists who supply the fodder of their addiction. Case in point is Ty Tabor. He is a founding member of King’s X, a band whose early albums filled my life with hours of enjoyment. Then they put out a few mediocre albums and I stuck with them. Then Ty released a solo album which I dutifully bought, mostly to find out if he was the reason for the magic of King’s X. It too was somewhat bland though often showing promise if only the right producer had taken the reigns and prodded the artist to greater heights. For over a decade now I’ve been dutifully buying King’s X albums with the unmet hope that they will one day hit their earlier greatness. I have also spent the same decade buying Ty Tabor solo albums with the same “ho-hum” results.

Something’s Coming is the sixth time I’ve forked money over to this man and once again, or rather “still”, he has some great ideas that just need a strong driver to force him to go that extra mile to make it superb. The good news is that if you liked his past solo albums then you will not be let down. Furthermore if you liked his stupendous guitar tone in the past then you have nothing to fear for Tabor coaxes another bevy of tones that will leave guitar-tone-junkies drooling on their amps. These astounding tones are used to form intense walls of sound for songs that, for the most part, don’t get out of third gear.

Lyrically this album has some strong moments but for the most part Tabor remains somewhat aloof, eschewing the painfully personal lyrics of his Jelly Jam side project, lyrics whose vulnerability made them horrendously appealing. Instead he looks to themes of personal liberation, clearly evident in “Free Yourself” which sports an unorthodox guitar solo that will leave some scratching their heads. Tired of being yanked around, “Politician’s Creed” takes aim at both sides of the aisle and seeks freedom from their equally greedy tyranny. In “Mr. Freeze” Tabor uses his relaxed southern voice to implore tolerance in the arena of ideas with “I don’t expect you to be like me / So don’t expect me to be like you.” Gorgeous vocal harmonies adorn “Slow Down Sister,” a slow simmer of a song which cautions an un-named woman against giving up her freedom by rushing into marriage. And so it goes through the rest of the album, culminating in the ominous “Something’s Coming” where a massive end of album chorus caps lyrics of “I don’t know what it is / But I can fit it / It’s in the air.”

Something’s Coming won’t spin your head around with musical innovations, but it’s not trying to. At this stage in his career Ty Tabor can easily write and record great songs and sees little need in shaking up his comfortable routine. The result are professional, well written songs a bit too much on the comfy side. Maybe I’m expecting too much but it’s difficult to be content with a nicely dressed gourmet burger when you know darn well that the man is capable of filet mignon tender enough to cut with a rubber spatula.

Review - The Choir - Burning Like the Midnight Sun

The Choir knows how to treat their fans well. Burning Like The Midnight Sun is their twelfth album in a hundred zillion years. Or almost thirty. Look, this isn’t a statistics lecture and you’re getting me off track. The point is that this time around the band went hog-wild with fan friendly flotsam. You can buy the album, with its lovely tri-fold format full of nice artwork created somewhere near a computer but not with a computer, or you can download the album and rip the band off by sharing it with your friends. You can also get the “Directors Cut” CD which plays the album in full with the band rudely talking over the music. Sure, they’re telling about the making of the album and the stories behind the songs but still… MANNERS, PEOPLE. The complete freak can get the “Stems” DVD which has all the parts for each song broken out into its own track so you can mix and remix your own version of the album. Or said freak can just listen intently to, say, just the drum tracks or backing vocals until their eyeballs shoot out of their head. It’s a free country.

But all the options are worthless unless the music is good. Which would be the question. Is it? Or maybe the question is “Will the reviewer answer the question before his editor gives him the axe?” I’ve been writing for this hear paper for about half as long as The Choir has been cranking out albums, though suspiciously I seem to have dropped off their Christmas Card list. Hmmm…. In a nutshell, or a clamshell if you’re feeling rich, Burning Like The Midnight Sun is a fine, fun album. Not their best, though. Not the “instant classic” that many of their fans claim. But then again, what do I know? If “many of their fans” hail the album as a classic and this one old grouch in Indiana says it’s a strong A minus my guess is that most listeners would do well to disregard said reviewer. In which case I’m out of a side-job so forget you read that.

This time around the band heads back to their roots, recalling their spartan Chase the Kangaroo days (that’s one of their early albums, 1988, to be exact), conjuring up sonic textures akin to The Church and Cocteau Twins while simultaneously forging ahead. Translation: it sounds a bit like their late 80s albums but instead of being a boring rehash the band packs in lots of fresh ideas. There’s lots of gauzy guitars and spacey sax floating around in linear melodic lines that draw you in, stuff that sounds simple until you realize how the two guitarist are dancing around each other (though in the studio they didn’t, or at least they didn’t in the many “making of” cuts they posted on You Tube, another friendly gesture to their fans) and hooking in the bass. Unlike some past efforts there aren’t loads of layers, instead stripping back the bark to effectively focus on the core of each song. A few of the songs rock, though none as hard as their excellent Kissers and Killers, a few songs dreamily drift by in anesthetic glee and at least one will leave you scratching your head at their psychedelic wit. Since it’s been five years since they released their last album, O How the Mighty Have Fallen (in my meager opinion a creative pinnacle and available from the bands website for a disgustingly low price), the band hit the studio hungry – unlike many of the albums by bands with their tenure or “Grammy-nominated” status there’s no sign that they are phoning it in.

Lyrically The Choir has always been a favorite of fans because of their willingness to flay open their hearts, writing candidly about friendship, marriage, and parenthood. “Friendship” they have covered as many of these songs are about (wait for it…) themselves! Yes, drummer/tambourinist/lyricist Steve Hindalong wrote songs about a humorous run-in at the airport involving their bassist, Tim Chandler, a song in honor of second guitarist Marc Byrd hitting a milestone birthday (“Legend of Old Man Byrd”), a song about the passing of Tom Howard (“A Friend So Kind”) and a ditty about an occurrence years ago when their sax player Dan Michaels fell off a four foot stage (“I’m Sorry I Laughed”). Two songs (“The Word Inside The Word” and “It Should Have Been Obvious”) remind us that Hindalong is more poet than theologian (‘Nuff said) and “That Melancholy Ghost” is an excellent, echo-drenched song about a nearly grown daughter who is plagued with depression and the pain and helplessness a parent feels in the face of a child suffering.

This leaves the relationship songs. The relationship songs… where did they put those again? Huh? Oh yeah… on the “Directors Cut” Steve mentions that his revealing “insider secrets” of his marriage on past albums has caused negative tensions with his wife so he scaled that back. Good for his marriage, bad for us. The lone track that almost touches on this subject is “Between Bare Trees,” a song which likens the necessity of winter “death” to make way for the colorful explosion of spring to relationships that also undergo tough seasons that clear the relationship rubbish, clearing the way for better times. The album highlight comes at the very end with “Say Goodbye to Neverland,” a song about growing up even if you’re pushing fifty. Just as the rest of the album contains a sprinkling of lyrical references to past albums, Neverland contains multiple meanings: aside from the obvious Peter Pan reference it’s also the name of guitarist Derri Daugherty’s previous studio, the contents of which were liquidated in his divorce, an event that no doubt forced much inner searching and growth. While most of the song is a midnight vigil of stark piano and sobering lyrical melody they allow the beast known as Tim Chandler to fuzz out a bit near the end before reining him back in. Like the rest of Burning Like The Midnight Sun the song works magnificently. And if you want to find out what the title means, well, I’m not gonna spill the beans. Buy the album. Better yet, buy this album and their previous album. You won’t regret it. Or maybe you will… I’m just some hack music critic, not a fortune teller.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Surprise surprise... musical musings!

I had a revelation last night while washing the dishes.

It had nothing to do with dish soap making my hands soft as silk (though it IS true that my velvety hands are the result of my relaxed, pampered lifestyle). Rather I was listening to music to pass the time and decided on an early album by Guster. Hearing their breezy vocal harmonies and intoxicating melodies impressed upon me just how easy they made it sound. Sure, they probably spent a week working out just the right chords for one song or singing harmonies, polishing and perfecting, but in the end if all sounds so effortless.

Just prior to doing the dishes I had been in the basement for my weekly “music hour.” This week I decided to play the electric guitar and buzzed through some old and new favorites. I’ve been playing guitar now for close to ten years and I can honestly say that I really haven’t improved all that much, at least in the past five years. Not that I practice or take lessons, which I suppose would help. No, the only thing that currently helps my playing is a beer or two, and that only makes me sound better to me.

Contrasting the two items, the easy perfection of the Guster songs and my struggled mangling of a guitar that even at $300 is about $250 above my skill level, put me in mind to think about my own songs. Last year was a bumper crop of songs while this year has been busied with a few ideas but very little output. The songs I write follow the form of my playing – gasping, struggling things birthed in anguish and tension. Usually I get a melody idea for a song and if it sticks around long enough for me to remember it by the time I get to a recording device then I know it’s a keeper. Later I fumble around to figure out guitar chords or compose music around the melody that may or may not be in the same key. Instrumental parts for bass, guitar, keyboards, or accordion come to me as ideas in my head, not as a natural, instinctive overflow of my playing so I have to do my best to hammer out how to play the part of the chosen instrument and practice it a few times so it can at least be played technically without errors, though there isn’t quite enough skill in my fingers to bring out an emotional aspect, like how Eric Clapton can make the guitar spring to life full of emotions? I got none of that. The result is a sterile though functional song aching to be given all the little detailed nuances that real songs have when played by real musicians.

I recently had someone over and he asked me to play a song that I had written. Give me a CD player and I could but not with a guitar in my hand. For me the studio is as much an instrument as the bass or drums. But that’s me, I guess. Most of my musical life has been spent in solitude so the studio has had to step up and be my bandmates. I remember years and years ago when I was writing and recording songs with a high school friend he wanted to try playing live. Aside from the fact that it would mean him showing up with his guitar while for me it would mean days of programming MIDI plus packing up, loading, unloading, and setting up keyboards, drum machines, and a Commodore 64 (which would mean a TV, computer and giant disk drive) plus all the MIDI cables there was also the issue of the purpose. Why play live? The songs had been created so why bother playing them over again? My wife finds it bothersome that when I play songs of others I’ll rarely play the song through – once I get a verse or two and a chorus played what else is there? Repeat the same chord progression again a few times? Or maybe I’ll just skip to the next song I want to play.

Rambling done. Time to get back to the stuff of life.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010


Humpty Dumpty Day
When we all sit on a wall
And crack our poor skulls.

Play some Irish tunes?
Sure! I’ll play about anything.
Practice that squeezebox.

Nix those Irish tunes
And the accompanying
Beer and fellowship.

‘Tis a long weekend
So make a big ol’ breakfast
And let your hair down.

What was that you said?
You have tadpoles in your socks?
You are one weird dude.

Joints and booze at lunch
Labor unions raise prices.
Labor Party blues.

The third shift is done
Back to working the daylight
Work is still boring.

I really, really,
Really, really, really, uh,
Really love my wife!

Dinner is super
Or perhaps it is supper.
I get so confused.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Since I Can't Write My Own...

Since I'm unable to come up with my own material I thought I'd steal from a 1970 Reader's Digest. Quite illuminating. If there was voter fraud then and has been it's highly unlikely that it stopped during the 2008 election. Or the 2010 election. Or the 2012 election. Or the 2004 election.