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Album Reviews

Locust Abortion Technician

290401330This CD will warp and twist your mind like no other music. It has for me. First there’s the cover art…two happy clowns playing with a cute dog. Nothing could possibly be more misleading. Then turn to the reverse side and you’ll see a photograph of a baby that looks like he has Down’s syndrome. And we’re off to Locust Abortion Technician!!!

Wait for the slow beginning with a conversation about regret and then listen to it melt into easily one of the most bizarre, nightmarish, acid-drenched albums ever to creep up from the gutter. Locust Abortion Technician will force you redefine the meaning of “weird.” This is the Butthole Surfer’s best and most avant-garde album, filled with tape loops, slowed/sped-up/reversed vocals and special effects, sludgy distortion and chaotic song structure. It is a crazy, schizophrenic mess that will get inside your head. I love it like coca-cola!

The Butthole Surfers prove to be masters of the studio, as they create some  “music” that you would think spilled out of an insane asylum from a freaky netherworld. This is THE album to play if you want to freak out or disturb all people within listening range.

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Top Ten of Ten

Top Ten of Ten: #10 John Mellencamp “No Better Than This” (2010)

342774501It was the end of August 2010. Less than 2 months before I got married when Denielle shows me an article in a magazine. I read it and I got skeptical. I was like, “Nah…I’m just not interested.” I did more reading and decided to preview it. The night before we drove out to Michigan for Labor Day Weekend at my dad’s place, I decided to pick it up. We listened to it in the car and I honestly could not contain my enthusiasm. It’s that good! We now live in a world of computerized recordings. John Mellencamp’s approach on his new record label debut, “No Better Than This”, is refreshing. The entire album was recorded with Mellencamp and his band all playing live in one room using a 55 year-old tape recorder and just one vintage microphone. It was captured in three historically important locations: Sun Studio in Memphis, TN (where Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, and Jerry Lee Lewis all first recorded); the First African Baptist Church in Savannah, GA and at the Gunter Hotel in San Antonio, TX. The songs on No Better Than This reflect classic American musical traditions including blues, folk, gospel, rockabilly, and country, while addressing themes like the need for hope, the nature of relationships, and narratives that focus on amazing occurrences in everyday life. John Mellencamp says of the album, “It was absolutely the most fun I’ve ever had making a record in my life. It was about making music – organic music made by real musicians – that’s heartfelt and written from the best place it can come from.” The title of the record nails it because I feel that his popularity in the 80’s and 90’s was great BUT now he is “No Better Than This.” Now we are married and we listen to this one at least twice a month in some fashion. Go check it out! This one is a major accomplishment!

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Top Ten of Ten

Top Ten of Ten: #9 Tool…..Lateralus (2001)

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So I have a guy named Matt Duve to thank for getting me into the band Tool. In high school he would periodically loan me tapes to listen to. When I first heard the album Undertow, my life changed. Flash forward to the year 2001. The album Lateralus is released during a time when our country was invaded by terrorists. However, I was personally moved and deeply touched by Maynard and the gang in a very positive way. Everything about Tool’s fourth album is an experience, starting with the packaging, which consists of liner credits printed on a translucent plastic sleeve over the CD and a booklet that layers anatomical representations atop one another. The first page pictures musculature and blood vessels; the next, bones; the third, internal organs; and so on. It’s worth describing the packaging of Lateralus because it says much about the astonishing music within. While it remains in the Tool tradition of trance-inducing progressive metal, Lateralus is tighter, clearer, crisper, and all around a notch above their admirable previous releases. Aenima was flawed by muddy production and a certain predictability. Don’t get me wrong, I truly enjoyed that album. Undertow had a cleaner sound but wasn’t as confident or adventurous. It was an adventure in high school that catapulted me into the world to begin my Tool adventure but I have moved on since then. With Lateralus, Tool have raised an already lofty bar still higher by coming up with a collection that kicks major ass. Lateralus, like I said was released in 2001, it has got to be one of the more groundbreaking musical releases since the mid-80’s and early 90’s. Lateralus is a long, well thought out musical masterpiece that draws parallels to Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon.” This whole record is just full of amazing progressive rock and it is nearly impossible to fathom that human beings actually wrote and then performed this type of music. Every song has layers and sub-layers and sub-sub-layers. You do not listen to this album…you surrender yourself to it. The experience of Lateralus penetrates deeper than the brain — it is deeply spiritual and uplifting. Nothing comes close to obsessing my world of the first decade of the 2000’s like this one. TOOL ROCKS!

 

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Concerts

Concerts: The Flaming Lips Concert Aragon Ballroom 7/7/11 CHICAGO

623778477My wife Denny and I went to see The Flaming Lips last night at the Aragon Ballroom in Chicago, Illinois. This a historic ballroom located on West Lawrence Avenue approximately five miles north of downtown in the uptown neighborhood, it was built in 1926. Starting in the 70’s many rock concerts took place here. A nickname for this venue was called the “brawlroom” because of the tough crowds. The architecture inside here is very Spanish looking with the different columns and such. I have been to dozens and dozens of concerts. BUT this was one concert hall that I just never went to before. Upon walking in here with my Benedryl-induced wife, we were deafened by this band called Marnie Stern. They were freaking loud! Weird, but they did have a technical style to them. I’m guessing the guys in the Flaming Lips chose them as their opening band. I’m sure they like them. My wife did not care for them so much. However I thought it wasn’t bad. It certainly set the mood for the live band experience. First we we approached the main floor arena area and were going to just stand in the back and watch. But I knew her feet would hurt and she’d probably stumble over since she was a little fatigued. Then I looked up and saw the historic looking balcony mezzanine section.

We went up the stairs and looked around at the audience of freaks (which consisted of dudes wearing bunny ears and animal costumes). The girls seemed to look normal but the dudes were funny with their outfits of choice. Anyway, we made it upstairs and scrambled to find a sitting area. We finally located ourselves behind these 2 thin columns. I actually grabbed an extra chair from the back and just plopped it right down next to her seat. We had a pretty ok view (about two thirds was viewable from our vantage point) We were content because we were sitting and could comfortably enjoy the show. There was about a 30 minute gap before Wayne Coyne (lead singer and songwriter) and the Lips took the stage. Lots of artsy synthesized vamping music set the mood. A couple next to us introduced there selves to me. I won’t mention their names but I think they were tripping on acid. Lots of smiles and hugs and touching were among them. Anyways they were harmless and it was all good. I saw a couple of guys from work there too. So it was good to be there among friendly mellow people. Now Wayne Coyne is a nice guy. He’s real friendly and tries to get the crowd in the mood. He succeeded. He talks a lot about the music in between songs and speaks well. Wayne warned us of all the flashing lights that would be used during the Flaming Lips performance and that if at any time if we felt sick, that we should take a break and grab some water. I thought this was an incredibly polite spiel, as most bands would not even bother to warn the audience of such things. A half moon sized lcd screen lies behind them all lit up in multiple colors and screen shot images.

The show begins with an image of a nude silhouette girl dancing around drums and slowly starting to bang them as the countdown begins to this freak ride we were about to take. The members arrive one by one through the screen. A door appears out of nowhere as they are entering through the screen. Big ballons drop from the ceiling. Confetti shoots from multiple sides. Wayne arrives inside of  a big air bubble and starts crowd surfing as they push him all around. It is a funny sight. Lots of gimmicks were used to enhance the show. Loud sounds from these guys weren’t bad. You could say that these guys are psychedelic rockers! What we were in for was a real treat as they began playing their 1999 release The Soft Bulletin. in its entirety. Bulletin was a major turning point for the band as it was a critical success and truly their most artistic one yet.  The album is considered one of the best in the band’s catalog. They really stretched it out to about 90 minutes. Like I said their was fog sprayed at the audience by Wayne as he wears a nice suit and jeans with what looked like a fur scarf around his neck. His hair is semi long, salt and pepper tones that match his beard. He even puts on these big hands and tries to pickup a balloon and throw it. There were serious moments too when he speaks of someone who lost a friend who was supposed to come to the show but died. So the song “Waitin’ for a Superman” was dedicated to him. Then there’s a mini encore break and they come out to do an INCREDIBLE cover of Pink Floyd’s Brain Damage/Eclipse. Probably the best cover I have ever heard of this song. As before I mention this ginormous half moon projection screen so there are thousands of stimulating images that accompany the tunes before, during and after the floyd tribute. The song ends with this close up of a real human heart beating. Then it gets calm.

Now I should mention that there’s an interesting camera that captures the band shot from the just beneath section of the front row so its looking up and you can see the drummer and practically the nose hairs of the singer. But very inventive camera-work for sure. That being said, they conclude with their biggest hit and the official theme song of Oklahoma City….”Do You Realize? ” It was also played at our wedding reception and is a special song for me and my lovely wife. A very gnarly rendition of it was done that was inspirational even with projection images of giant bunnies and naked cheerleaders dancing around. Wayne gets emotional and bids the Chicago fans a fond farewell and says he loves this audience in particular as his favorite. Then the house lights come on and its over. “Please come again!” We stumbled out like cattle and drifted into the dark streets of the uptown and headed back to our car with muffled ears, enthusiasm and tired bodies. She and I had a really fun time. This was like a circus freak show. Visually, musically and vocally stimulating and entertaining. Loved it!

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Top Ten of Ten

Top Ten of Ten: #8 Smashing Pumpkins “Siamese Dream” (1993)

643721148I listened to this album more than any other when I was in high school. Even more than Nirvana or Pearl Jam. When I was in cross country we were heading to practice in this guy’s sport car and he was playing this unusual tape. I was memorized by the intense wailing guitars. Then ferocious pounding of the drums and the way the snares and bass were in perfect unison. Then there’s this soothing voice that clashes but actually blends quite well with the rhythm. I asked the guy who was playing. I was like….Smashing Pumpkins? Now that’s an interesting name for a band. I was in my bedroom watching MTV and suddenly a video comes on by the Smashing Pumpkins. The song was entitled “Today” I was hooked. I bought that album “Siamese Dream: and was in pure heaven. I couldn’t get enough of it. Billy Corgan is a great song writer. James Iha is an awesome guitar player complete with strange sound effects. The whole band is great. I will say that while their first album “Gish” was a good one and their 3rd DOUBLE ALBUM. But those two were clearly opposite approaches to their unique and brilliant magic that was perfectly placed on this perfect Sophomore effort. None of their material EVER rose to this level. Don’t believe me. Listen the the track…Geek U.S.A. This is pure adrenaline that just hooked me like a tar pit trap. I refuse to say any more about it. Check it out!

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Top Ten of Ten

Top Ten of Ten #7 Beastie Boys Paul’s Boutique (1989)

501186805This was a kaleidoscope of hip hop! They were all over the place with this offering. This is a hot record! Tons of sampling that you don’t hear in this day and age was used everywhere on this one. Many hints that their punk roots were emerging as well. Now a lot of records came out in the 80’s. LOTS! But I find this one to be the most creative and controversial too. Nowadays their are so many copyrights and such when it comes to “borrowing and/or sampling other artists music. Beck does it now especially on his Odelay album. BUT….Mike D and the gang really were the masters of this turf. They matured since “Fight For Your Right To Party!” As they themselves put it in a track from Paul’s Boutique……”The Sounds of Science”: “expanding the horizons, expanding our parameters.”  CHECK IT OUT….It’s a masterpiece!!!!