30 June, 2013

It's Butt Week!

You know how we do: The last week of June / first week of July, to celebrate our transition from the first half of the year to the second - and believe me, with six inches of snow in May, this has been a wonky first half of the year, still feels like Spring - we talk about butts. Some people build idols to ancient fertility gods, some people participate in Old World themed festivals, some people waste a good deal of food and throw tomatoes at each other...

Fuck every last person in Barcelona. Seriously. Fuck 'em.
... we here at SD&A, however, just talk about butts. Butts that wiggle, butts that jiggle, bouncing quarters off of butts, playing grab ass, getting a piece of ass, just talking about butts.
Why? Because there is no human body part as equally and simultaneously sexy and doofy as the butt. Think about it: Somebody has a nice ass, don't you take a gander? Don't you appreciate it? Don't you also momentarily forget that right in the middle of the thing is a hairy little hole that smells like shit? See? It's things like that that make me want to celebrate butts for a week. And what better way to kick off Butt Week than with song? Because of course there's a band called Charlies and of course they named their record Buttocks.

I am just the luckiest man on the planet.

29 June, 2013

The Life and Times of Harvey Milk (The Band), Episode 3: The Pleaser

A Sound Design and Assembly Original Miniseries
Produced by M. Martin
Tonight: 1997's The Pleaser
Written by Charlie Pauken
Put the speakers in the windows and string up the Xmas lights around the patio, kids, and then after that, stock the kegerator, because this is The fucking Pleaser, probably the most daunting record Harvey Milk made at this point precisely because it's a straight forward, no frills rock and roll record. Who's that band that has that song "Party Rock Anthem"? Yeah, fuck those guys, The Pleaser is chock full of party rock anthems. Fast paced, four on the floor beats mixed with a little southern boogie-woogie and power chords.
I've heard some interesting rumors about this record. One being that the band wrote all of the songs that appear on it because they were asked to open for Melvins. Knowing that there were some clods out there that would write off Harvey Milk as a Melvins clone because both bands play slow, Harvey Milk decided that they were going to concoct a batch of songs that were the exact opposite of Melvins. The other rumor I hear about this record is that each song is supposed to be an homage to classic 70s rock and metal, so one song is supposed to be in imitation of KISS, one song is supposed to be in imitation of Lynyrd Skynyrd, then one for AC/DC and one for Ram Jam and one for Thin Lizzy and so on. But these are just the rumors I've heard.
Not that this really has anything to do with the review, I just thought they were little fun facts (well, fun rumors) that I wanted to get out of the way.
This record doesn't take forever to get started, there are no sound collages, the tape machine is not Harvey Milk's blank canvas to go all Jackson Pollack on. No. "Down" starts with a plain old fashioned kick in the nuts, you know, the kind that takes seven seconds to register pain in your abdomen. It's the kind of rock that you don't hear anymore (because I'm old enough to tell you that all of a sudden), the kind of rock that old issues of Rolling Stone would called "southern-fried" and, yeah, there are hints of Skynyrd in this, but it's as though Harvey Milk managed to find an element of Skynyrd that I might actually like and exploit the hell out of it. And, shit, there's a dual guitar solo. A dual guitar solo. They're on some Thin Lizzy shit with this record.
Speaking of Thin Lizzy, Phil Lynott would be splooshing his leather pants if he were alive today to hear Stephen Tanner's bass work on "Get It Up & Get It On", another up tempo one that will have you wondering how selections from The Pleaser (and The Glasspack's Powderkeg) were left off the Dukes of Hazzard soundtrack. I mean -
What?
Yeah, Dukes of Hazzard. The one with Johnny Knoxville and Seann William Scott.
Whatever, fuck you, dude. That movie was fucking awesome and so was the fucking soundtrack.
You know what? You do this every time you come here. I make a pop culture reference and you give me that snobby fucking haute culture look like I'm that one cousin you don't talk to at the family reunion because I drive an El Camino with a bitchin' cassette deck and you drive a fucking Beamer with an iPod dock. I think it's time you either just stopped coming her altogether or learn to accept the less-than-high-brow tendencies around here but, either way, just let me get back to the goddamned record review.
Prick.
So, great. We missed the rest of "Get It Up & Get It On" because I had to stop to address your concerns. But I guess it's worth noting that if you weren't down with the track listing for the above-linked soundtrack, you're not going to be into The Pleaser.
Getting back to the damned song, though, "Get It Up & Get It On" is definitely a showcase for Tanner's bass playing. I might have said that this was a straight forward record, but it also exemplifies the musical prowess of the band. After two records of solid, mind-bending weirdness and pained dirges, they break out such an up-beat, party friendly record that you'd hardly recognize them, but they don't for a minute treat this record as a chance to relax and just play something in the style of old favorites that they grew up on, no, there's a fantastic level of musicianship on this record - you know, because this is a trio of fantastic musicians - and if anybody thought they were good because they played so slow that they could take their time to think about the next note, they'd be smacked senseless by the chameleon's trick they pull on The Pleaser.
OK, I'm pretty sure that whole paragraph made no sense. Moving on.
"Shame". What can I say about "Shame"? Well, for starters, if you walk into an Atlanta titty bar and this isn't in the DJ's collection of go-tos, than you might want to have a word with the management about the guy. This song is the sight of a lithe woman with legs that go up to her shoulders through a cloud of cigarette smoke and, brother, can she work that pole. She might have 80s weathercaster hair but it detracts not from the Cirque du Soleil level of skill she exhibits on that stage.
As the song progresses, the layers of guitars increase, playing the main riff - as much as I hate the word "riff", that's what's on this record: riffs - at different intervals, giving the guitars an almost synthesizer feel, à la that old school 70s hard rock I keep mentioning. And the reason it sounds so good is not because Harvey Milk did their homework, they lived through that era, which dictates the authenticity of the record.
"Red as the Day is Long" is the first Harvey Milk song I ever heard, years ago listening to Pandora Radio while playing flash games on the Adult Swim website and getting tanked on night shift after I first started working at the hostel. This one holds a special place in my heart because it was not only my introduction to the band but because it was so godawfully weird sounding and catchy at the same time. And to this day, I don't know the goddamned words. I think Creston is singing "Lay me down and feel my prayer" but I know that's wrong and I don't care. I'll sing those words. Why not? It's the fourth song on the record and the slowest moment so far, with little twinges of jangly country rock thrown into the mix of bent-noted dirge that evoke images of a stoned Waylon Jennings as the song carries on its relaxed waltz.
Things pick up again for "Misery", with the equivalent of a goddamned NASA missile-launch for a fleeting intro and then it's on to a verse that makes it impossible to not tap your foot in time to between those missile launches. I'm even having trouble writing this right now because I can't stop bobbing my head. And aint it weird that the two strip-club worthy songs on this record are named "Shame" and "Misery"? Seriously, some southern reader please inform me as to whether or not these songs are present in the strip clubs down there? Because they ought to be.
"U.S. Force" is as unstoppable as the chorus announces that U.S. Force is, whatever U.S. Force happens to be: "U.S.! Force! (Force!) We're unstoppable! No remorse!" Take that as you will, I like to think it's a cheeky little stab at blind nationalism and bullshit foreign policy. But we're here to discuss the music and I'm not a political science major. Shit, I'm a step and a half away from a green card marriage to the first Canadian woman that would entertain the notion (hint hint, ladies).
"What I Want" is a total horn-thrower with a to-die-for start-stop earworm for a chorus; this is the one that gets stuck in your head, with big big chords and drumming that makes drumming look easy. The drums are, on the surface, pretty basic until you actually pay attention to them and hear all the little nuances and syncopation going on underneath the basic beat. I'm pretty sure this was Paul Trudeau's next to last outing with Harvey Milk, and the sessions for The Pleaser must have lost him thirty pounds through sweat alone.
"Lay My Head Down". Jesus Christ, "Lay My Head Down", this is the fuck track on this record, a blues number in the traditions of Muddy Waters and Screamin' Jay Hawkins (real blues aficionados are hereby called upon to correct me) that is so sparse and dryly recorded that you can hear Creston's fingers on the fretboard that eventually builds to a section of loud pained ascent and a solo that just makes you jealous that you can't play guitar that well. And then it comes back down into that slow, smokey blues worthy of a place on your fuck-jams mixtape. This is the kind of baby-making music you put between "Dazed and Confused" and "Dondante".
You know what comes next? "Rock & Roll Party Tonite", the title of which basically sums up this record. "We're having a rock & roll party tonight! I don't care what you've been told, party tonight! It's too late to be too old, party tonight! Because we're having a rock and roll party tonight!" And the best part about this KISS homage? That the word "party" is screamed by all three band members à la "TV Party". Equal parts hard rock and punk with a little ironic "fuck you" thrown in.
And then we close out with "Anthem", which opens with a bass and drum intro that would be welcome on any Unsane record and a chorus that is simply the word "Alright!" over and over again. You don't get too much more party worthy than that: "Alright!"
This record is fun as hell and you are a lesser person for not having heard it, your parties have suffered for not having played it. So you kind of need to get on it if you haven't done that yet. Just want to let you know, though, this is the only Harvey Milk record that sounds like this.
Next time on "The Life and Times of Harvey Milk (The Band)...
Either part two of 2004's The Kelly Sessions by M. Martin or 2006's Special Wishes

26 June, 2013

Prince Tries His Hand at Fallen Tree Removal

22 June, 2013

The Life and Times of Harvey Milk (The Band), Episode 2: Courtesy and Good Will Toward Men

A Sound Design and Assembly Original Miniseries
Produced by M. Martin
Tonight: 1996's Courtesy and Good Will Toward Men
Written by Charlie Pauken
Question: What begins with a low ominous piano chord and some accelerating tinkling then just changes gears into a high-pitched bee-sting guitar note and snare drum that sound simultaneously and speed up (that eventually inform Shellac's brilliant "End of Radio") to come to the sound of a blue whale dropped from a hundred miles up into the oceanic pole of inaccessibility? Harvey Milk's second full length, the double album, Courtesy and Good Will Toward Men.
This was the first full Harvey Milk record I ever heard and jeeze Louise, Doc, it killed Einstein.
By the time Creston actually gets around to his birth-of-a-monster howl, six minutes and six seconds have passed. They're playing with pitch, they're playing with silence, they're playing with tempo... "Pinnochio's Example" is already a big damned brain fuck of a song, and then it changes up again with soft, battered whisper-sung lyrics about crafting Pinnochio from Geppetto's perspective over quietly strummed guitar, bass, and table-saw whirring in the background. This is the first ten and a half minutes of this record.
And then, ever so seamlessly, Spiers and Tanner easily bring us into "Brown Water" with delicate and gentle interplay before the whole band brings the heavy back. Few things are as epic as the things Harvey Milk manage to pull off, and "Brown Water", while admittedly samey and even a bit overwrought in its seemingly never-ending crescendos, plays to the band's talent for sweeping grandiosity: It's a straightforward arena rock lighter-flicker. Most bands would close their records with this one, Harvey Milk are just closing out side A. There are still three more sides to this fucking thing.
"Plastic Eggs" is just everything you've ever wanted in the sound of stoned evil. Electric Wizard wish they wrote "Plastic Eggs", OK? It's like that. But it's by the time we get to "Plastic Eggs" that the realization begins to set in that the diversity, humor, emotion, and sex that appeared on '94's My Love... may be just playing navigator in the passenger seat. So those elements are still up front, they're still guiding the way, but it's definitely the stoner element in the driver's seat here. And, brother, that cloud of dope smoke is thick; you may as well be inside the bong by the time you hear the opening dirge of "My Broken Heart Will Never Mend", a carefully timed, unsyncopated, right on the damned quarter note piece of heavy metal music that alternates between lumbering bullying and more grandiose, ascending, just-on-the-tip-of-"Space Oddity"-era-Mick Ronson guitar soloing that starts big and mean, becomes something utterly beautiful, and, for the briefest of moments, becomes its own lullaby before getting back into the big crashing business and the beautiful solos. Really, this is a song chock full of juxtapositions that in the hands of less competent bands (read: any other band) would be considered contradictions.
Have you been keeping score? Because we just went through four songs and we closed out sides A and B. Now we're on side C with "I Feel Miserable", an absolutely beautiful piece of dual guitar strumming that is so plaintive and calming that you'd have to wonder why it's called what it is. The warts and all production on this number, with audible amplifier buzz and hum, do not diminish the simple elegance of the work here. It's as if that little navigator in the passenger seat we talked about earlier is making more concrete decisions in terms of where to steer this record. Especially when we get to "The Lord's Prayer", which is simply Creston singing in that battered whisper of his over a simple piano arrangement. By this point, it's easy to suss out why these numbers weren't intermingled with the heavier songs: They are so quiet and understated that to sandwich them between all the previous heaviness would've made them sound out of place rather than showcased. They needed a stage of their own. And you'd think this theme would continue with "Sunshine (No Sun) Into the Sun", judging by that song's intro, but no. It's a brief intro of almost Donovan-esque acoustic guitar before the band get back into that towering Juggernaut business, the musical equivalent of the killing machine at the end of Caligula.
The better part of "Sunshine (No Sun) Into the Sun" is the sound of fucking dread. It's the worst, most paranoid acid trip you've ever had squared. And, at the same time, it's almost a little comical: You can hear the bass notes bending and sliding as though they were manipulated by tape machine's varispeed control and you'd think the guitar was down-tuned beyond belief with how much you can hear the strings slap around on the fretboard. And there's enough tape experimentation on this between the overdubbed guitar solos and flourishes of Mission of Burma tape sounds cutting in and out of the mix that save this song from being simply a scary animal and make it something genuinely appealing. One of Harvey Milk's finer moments? Well... No. But if they had just played this song straight, it would hardly be any fun. And it certainly wouldn't be smart.
"Go Back to France". Fuck, what can I say about "Go Back to France"? If you don't love the multiple drum kits on "Go Back to France" and all the whacked out Björk-via-music-concrete tape experiments, you are clearly not my age and you did not have a crush on Dina from Salute Your Shorts... Or the short version: I can't say for certain that you're human. You're probably the kind of twat that has a Whitney Houston best-of in your cassette collection next to the Phil Collins best-of cassette. You probably have the musical sensibility of someone whose never picked up an instrument and considers Poison to be the pinnacle of eighties music. Thus, I can't talk to you.
"A Good Thing Gone" starts off as another big slab of stoner metal before a brief sampling of an answering machine tape and then there's some church organ and then there's a vocal solo before getting back to business. It's as weird and beautiful and heavy as anything else Harvey Milk do, but on a record of this length, it's almost tiring at this point. But when we get to "One of Us Cannot Be Wrong", a Leonard Cohen inspired piece for acoustic guitar and voice, [EDIT, 2 July, 2013: Yes, it's a Leonard Cohen inspired piece, because it's a Leonard Cohen song.] we have a strong ballad that brings the listener in closer and enjoy the truly intimate feel that would be heard later on the bootleg of Creston's appearance at the Caledonia Lounge in Athens, GA, performing mostly Leonard Cohen songs (whom, I believe, he said was his favorite songwriter).
And that's where we encounter the issue with the double LP: It's a work out to get through one. You need to have nothing to do but sit around with a six-pack if you really want to pay attention to it. And it gets worse when you have to review it and really pay attention to it. Fuck, man, if I ever try to review The Minutemen's Double Nickels on the Dime, I think I'll be ready to be put out to pasture. I mean, you can hate how I write when I review records all you want, you try to sit here an analyze (with a light and jovial tone full of vulgarity) a double LP sometime. All of it. Song by song. Even though I like this record, I still want a Vicodin right now. Just the mild one, 5mg hydrocodone, 500mg acetominophen.
"The Boy with Bosoms" closes things out and, damn, if I aint ready for this thing to close out. Again, I like this record but I'm ready to go the fuck outside. "The Boy with Bosoms" is another one in the Harvey Milk canon that juxtaposes heaviness and gentle passages but it's also an interesting entry into their canon for the fact that these elements are now blended more fully with each other rather than simply going heavy-gentle-heavy. As the tumult occurs, there is gentle singing and organ sounding. (Heh, I said "organ sounding".) (Was that joke too obscure?) I dare say that for where Harvey Milk were at this stage in their evolution, this is perhaps the most fully realized of their works. They would go on to ditch a lot of the showcased special instrumentation later on but they would remain fully weird, the kind of band Hunter S. Thompson would have probably hated but also appreciated. They ran counter to convention more than any band they were compared to. They were smart and only got smarter, and played as simply as they played complicated. They were at times as simple as the Modern Lovers and other times had more layers to their songs than The Downward Spiral. They gave not a fuck about whether people liked them and even doubted that people did but still aimed to put out the best things on wax that they'd always wanted to hear but never got out of their favorites. "The Boy with Bosoms", for this era of Harvey Milk is the ultimate expression of those conflicts as it melds them together - the heavy, the gentle, the weird, the sexy, the pained, the beautiful, the apathy, the doubt... OK, so I'm getting lofty in my praise again but, really, this song is the last of a particular era of Harvey Milk. They would go on to record The Pleaser after this; a collection of uptempo arena rock songs they concocted because they were going to tour with Melvins and did not want to be compared to the guys who were making weirdo sludge metal a decade before them that they so erroneously got compared to.
OK. OK. OK. Fuck you. Fuck you, I'll say it: Courtesy and Good Will Toward Men is the new White Album. Tell me I'm wrong, I'll shrug. When I ask for a genre redefining record as far as experimental stoner metal goes, what are you going to point me to? Some pussy-assed bullshit like Rated R? Motherfucker, I have a copy of Rated R. "Nicotine valium vicodin marijuana ecstasy and alcohol", right, got it. What the fuck ever, guy. "Ooh, Josh Homme cribbed a line from a Björk song!" Get the fuck out of here with that. It's fluff. (And I say that as a guy who likes that record.) Who sampled Gustav Holt on their first goddamned record? And not because they could but because they had to because that was the only way the song worked? No. No. You want a real goddamned time? You want something that actual inspires you? You want something to move you to fucking tears? Something that will change your life for the better? Something that feels as good as the first time you heard Ramones or Television or Nirvana (I said it) or Led Zeppelin I or the opening notes of "Black Sabbath" or when David Yow went "Ho!" at the beginning of "Boilermaker" or when you throw the horns and scream along when Lemmy sings, "That's the way I like it, baby, I don't want to live forever!" or those beautiful stunted tom-tom beats at the beginning of "Ether" (my brother Joe knows what I'm talking about)? You do yourself right and march your sexy ass to the record store and you pick up a goddamned Harvey Milk record.
Hallelujah, holy shit, where's the Tylenol?

Next time on "The Life and Times of Harvey Milk (The Band)...
Either part two of 1996's Courtesy and Good Will Toward Men by M. Martin or 1997's The Pleaser
Stay tuned...

15 June, 2013

The Life and Times of Harvey Milk (The Band), Episode 1: My Love Is Higher Than Your Assessment of What My Could Be

A Sound Design and Assembly Original Miniseries
Produced by M. Martin
Tonight: 1994's My Love Is Higher Than Your Assessment of What My Love Could Be
Written by Charlie Pauken

My Love Is Higher Than Your Assessment of What My Love Could Be is arguably the first Harvey Milk record, and I say arguably because technically, the first Harvey Milk record is the self-titled one (aka "the Bob Weston one"), and the first three and a half minutes of the record, which is only the first half of the album opener, "A Small Turn of Human Kindness", combined with the front cover would probably make those unfamiliar with the band think that they just bought a damned art school record: It's a pastiche of china cymbal, a tape flub, a false-start on an electric piano than an arpeggiated chord repeated over and over on said electric piano, cymbal swells and fluttering slide guitar work, the odd bass chord for good measure after a brief tom-tom solo that leads to a sonorous, droning cello. That's all in the first three and a half minutes, in that order.
But the thing is that it's not some dick-off attempt at music concrete. No. This was orchestrated that way. (Creston Spiers, the front man for the band is? was? a high school music teacher.) From there, the song moves into just the very stripe of dirge metal that casual fans usually cite when referring to them as a stoner metal or sludge metal or doom metal band or when people make the half-assed comparison to the Melvins, a band that lives to piss people off and revels in its own in-joke-ness even as they phone it in. Harvey Milk, however, are beyond any of that nonsense. So earnest in their work and composition are they that I'd go so far as to piss you off and suggest that this is a jazz band playing heavy music that sounds nothing like jazz. (Sorry, I watched all twenty hours of Ken Burns: Jazz last week.) There's real passion for song and consideration for arrangement in this music, mon petit illiterati, and even when shit gets weird, you can tell they're getting weird not for the sole sake of getting weird but because if they didn't get weird, the song would be incomplete. So it's necessary, just absolutely goddamned vital to the existence of all eight and a quarter minutes of "A Small Turn of Human Kindness", to have four movements to the song, in a linear, rollercoaster fashion of quiet weirdness, loud asphyxyiating dirge, quiet somber weirdness, and a loud mid-tempo recall of the opening movement played flawlessly on the bass by Steven Tanner replete with a one note guitar solo courtesy of Creston.
Hello. This band's name is Harvey Milk. You probably missed the part where this was an instrumental.
After that brief tutorial in what the hell to expect from now the hell on, you can hang with "Women Dig It" where, after a lengthy, crawling drum intro courtesy of Paul Trudeau, you are finally treated to the sound of Creston's voice. And I won't lie: I was turned off at first, you might be as well. Trust me, the man can sing, we'll get to that later, but here it is a pained and pitchless howl, the kind of screaming any singer worth their salt would kill to be able to do. It's gruff, broken, rough around every edge, but it aint Tom Waits's signature rasp, if I dare say it, it's closer to Louis Armstrong. That kind of gruffness. It is the sound of a man who is absolutely determined to empty his lung capacity with each syllable. It is not the sound of a voice, it is the sound of a man pushing air out of his body in a manner that has to pass by vocal chords to do so. In short, it's power. And as that voice grew on me, I realized that it was the sound of power. (Hyperbole!)
The third and fourth songs rank among my three favorites on this record. The third song on this record is "The Anvil Will Fall", one of the most pained and beautiful songs I've ever heard. It showcases classical / jazz guitar structures and delicate, lilting singing. You can hear the words here, and this is one of the very things I like about Harvey Milk as a "metal band": They don't deal with subject matter that is typical metal. There's no doom and gloom, there's no Satan, there are no bongs or easy lays or hard times on the road. Here are the opening lyrics:
My mama's first love was a vile ex-Marine
But the blood and guts in her heart could have washed Pilate's hands clean
Her lips were like an anvil dropped from a cliff
The fall had almost killed him and then that anvil hit
Who writes lyrics like that? Jesus, did you read those? And then, after a big distorted clanger, the band samples Gustav Holt's "The Planets: Jupiter: The Bringer of Jollity" and has this choker-upper of a line: "Let my love be the lantern that guides your ship through night." Again, who writes lyrics like that? And then, even after repeated listens, I can't tell if they used a pitch-shifter on Creston's voice or if they brought in a child singer to hit the soprano notes at the end of that passage and I could give a flying fuck either way. It's goddamned moving. And to cap off this big sweeping emotion-fest? The most bombastic piece of metal music you've ever laid ears on, one big soaring crescendo over and over again with that pained howl pushing all that goddamned air out to sing, "Your love is like an anvil, cold and black as me." It's enough to make me want to strip naked and jump off a cliff. (Hyperbole!)
I mean, let's get right down to it: If you don't like this band, we seriously have to reassess our friendship.
And then the band switches gears for the fourth song, "Merlin is Magic", which, seriously, is the sound of joy. I can't put this shit into words. Fuck. Damnit. Just trust me on this, OK? "Merlin is Magic" is seriously the sound of happiness. What fucking metal band plays the sound of happiness? None. Not a damned one. I mean this song... fuck. It's like this, when I saw Harvey Milk at the Triple Rock two summers back, I made it a point to shake Creston's hand after the set (he was the last guy on stage) and say, "Thanks for playing 'Merlin is Magic', that's one of my favorites."
Yeah, am I some sort of creepy super-fan? No, I just love the shit out of this band. So there. When was the last time you loved a band?
After that, you have "My Father's Life's Work" which begins as a gentle lullaby with doubled guitars and harmonized vocals and then moves into quite possibly the loudest the blues have ever been played. And even as the "low point" on the record, it's hardly a misstep. And it could hardly be considered generic. Maybe it's just that it's a straightforward rock number after two of the most unique and stirring rock songs ever composed. (Yes. Composed.)
"Where The Bee Sucks, There Suck I" is a master class in tumultuous, swirling arpeggios - and not the Dave Mustaine variety, either, no, think Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie - played over and over again at break neck speed by the guitar and bass simultaneously, basically the sound of whiplash. Like I said, some folks lump Harvey Milk in with sludge and stoner and doom but if they had paid some actual attention, they'd see that this band works outside of those categories more frequently than they work within them. Take "Jim's Polish", for example. The acoustic guitar intro on that sounds like something that should have been on Led Zeppelin I, a piece of classical, Segovia-via-Page-esque work and then, yeah, OK, so it moves on to the big goddamned metal-fuck-you music. At first it's a dirge, then it's another Indy 500 time trial. It should be interesting to note that when the band play slow, they play incredibly slow and break everything down to the bare minimum of chords needed and play just as much with silence as they do with sound; when they play fast, they'll convince you that they have seven fingers on their left hands. It aint wankery, though, it's exactly the notes that need to be there; again, I'll bring in Bird Parker and Gillespie. Every band should want to be this heavy, sure, but - and this is the most important part - every band should want to be this smart.
"F.S.T.P.", for all the Melvins comparers out there, sounds closer to Shellac than anything else. You want to make comparisons, buster? There. I gave you the right one. And then there's the dissonance of the thing... Within each thrust of the dissonant chord blasts that break up the silent rests, there are the harmonics that ring out that shape a collection of chiming sounds, making the blasts of noise palatable. The length of the song, twelve and three quarter minutes, is only made to feel excruciatingly longer by the start-stop pulse of the song which, to casual listeners, make the song seem almost tuneless until the eight twenty mark when the song shifts into its melodic second movement. And, really, there's no other way to describe the sections in these songs than "movements".
And you want to get your weird on? Then look. The fuck. Out, hoss. Because you know how we're ending this shindig? With "All the Live Long Day", a retelling of the twelve apostles as a John Henry-esque rail crew. This is the one I tell everybody about, and is the third of my favorites on this record. The opening is a repeated, distorted bass note, some drums, but at the very forefront is a sledgehammer pounding a pipe while Creston rattles off the biblical names and the various tasks they perform: surveying, laying ties and setting rails, tapping spikes... You know, what a rail crew does. Again, the material being mined here isn't typical metal bullshit. It's brainy, it's inventive, it's out there, it's fun and godawful beautiful. And we're only a third of the way into the song. After that, can you guess what happens? Yeah, the heavy gets brought, son. A great big nasty lurching heavy, the kind that's almost fuck-to-able. It pulses and lurches and throbs and just gets down to biscuits (yes, I meant to say "biscuits" instead of "business" because, come on, biscuits) making the most heavy, clattering use of only two notes since Big Black's "Steelworker" (to be clear, I'm talking about the Pig Pile version, not the Lungs version).
Now, while I would start off any Harvey Milk virgin with Special Wishes, you won't get hurt or be disappointed by My Love Is Higher Than Your Assessment of What My Love Could Be. In fact, if you're nerdy about music and bands and records and want to trace Harvey Milk's evolution, than this is, obviously, the one to start with. It's a perfect balance of weird and heavy and smart and it commands every bit of your attention.

Next time on "The Life and Times of Harvey Milk (The Band)...
1996's Courtesy and Good Will Toward Men

13 June, 2013

It seems like I've been writing everywhere but here, lately.

I had a pretty decent stretch of record reviews there for a minute (and by "decent stretch", I mean I did two), and M. and I have this plan to review the entire Harvey Milk discography starting sometime before 2014 but I haven't really written anything here in a few weeks. Stories About Prince is still going strong and I'll import the latest ones later today, and you can see in the right hand column that I've been tweeting pretty decently because all I need to do anymore is get one little dinky thought out here and there, and I just wrapped up the first draft of my third (technically my fifth but the first two sucked so don't count) novel the night before last and began editing last night and then I started a tumblr which I'm really using only as a second twitter but I'm not really writing here as much as I used to. (And, hey, I did warn you about that nearly a year ago.)
But as far as some leisurely writing goes, I've been over at the EA Forums and, lately, in the dream thread, I've been recounting some of my finer, more surreal, more star-studded moments. Let's enjoy them together...
I swear I'm not making any of this shit up, but I am editing a few things for the context of SD&A readers as opposed to EA forum members.
26 December, 2009 (I do not remember this.)
Last night I dreamt that I got the deluxe edition of the new Jesus Lizard record. After Lance Reddick (The Wire, Fringe) gave me an application to the Burger King he managed (replete with a psych-eval wherein I was described as "subject prefers two drinks"), I ran home to play it. Track one was a "making of" featurette where David Yow explained to John Lennon (played by John Cusack) how this record was recorded. It was recorded in one take with the band in the back of a box truck parked in the warehouse next to the Wikipedia building. The rest of the record sounded like Rage Against the Machine. I was indifferent to it.
5 November, 2012 (I have a vague recollection of half of this.)
Night before last, I dreamed that I was on a woman's volleyball team, only I wasn't a woman, I was that guy with Down Syndrome who wrote that open letter to Ann Coulter. And instead of volleyballs, we were using light bulbs. It was weird.
Last night, I had a dream that I was watching the special features on the Pig Pile DVD. Apparently, according to my subconscious, there's footage of Steve [Albini] working in a White Castle, slowly and clumsily putting together ten sliders for Lori Barbero from Babes in Toyland.
14 January, 2013 (I don't like remembering this one.)
An elderly Korean lady was trying to seduce me in the basement of the house I grew up in. While this was going on, there was a torrential down pour outside and I figured that I'd rather not go to work.
5 February, 2013 (This one was just weird.)
Last night, I had a dream that [forum member] Mandroid made me a ginormous double cheeseburger at my grandfather's house, which is odd because I have never met her in the flesh. Also, when I picked it up, it turned into a slider. That whole thing was weird.
20 March, 2013 (I actually had a pretty good time right up until I was mortified.)
It was the 90s and I was working on Late Night with Conan O'Brien. Last night, two bands played, Breeders and Deftones. I ran sound for the Breeders and they were pretty good. They wrap up playing "Cannonball" and we cut to commercial and we start setting up Deftones' gear. I'm under the impression that I'll be joining them on stage playing guitar so I go up to Stephen Carpenter and ask him, "Hey, Chino, what are we tuning to, tonight?"
He gives me a shitty look and I say, "You know, in case you need to use my guitar... or... pedals... or anything you need." He continues to give me a shitty look until I slink off stage.
It wasn't until maybe five minutes ago that I realized that it was probably because I called him by the singer's name.
18 April, 2013 (You want a fun ride, man? Eat a Vietnamese sandwich before bed.)
I had a few different dreams last night, a lot were weird, probably due to the bánh mì I ate before bed. The first I can remember was that I was in Barter Town, waiting to go into Thunderdome against Baron Harkonnen. Then it was determined that my punishment - for whatever crime I'd committed - was that I was to have to watch the entire series run of "the most boring sitcom in New Zealand", about a wolfman and his roommate, while playing a board game with arbitrary rules and pieces that changed from chess pieces to checkers to key tags. I actually wound up getting pretty good at it.
Then there was some shit with my old boss and the girl from the liquor store going through a box of my old shit, nothing personal, just some old guitar tab books and the driver's manual for my old Ford.
I then wound up bunking for the night with a prematurely balding hippie girl and her talking dog. She disappeared and I got stuck with the talking dog who would not shut the fuck up and go to sleep; he just kept rambling about how he was a shitty sleeper and how he was probably going to be up all night, chewing on things. I put my shoes on the night stand.
Then there's some shit I can't remember.
Anyway, I had to go to the supermarket to put in an application, got shot right down. I got out side and it had blizzarded while I was inside, my bike got covered in snow. I brush off my bike and walk out to the street to assess the situation and determine that it's going to be a lot easier / safer if I call a cab. So, I go back over to the grocery store to get the building number off the building so I can give it to the cab company I'm about to call. Well, other people are calling cabs, too, and nobody can find the goddamned building number, everybody's spazzing. In the fracas, a mailman bumped into my bike right after I spotted the building number. I mean, I have the phone in my hand and I'm about ready to dial the cab company. This mailman, though, starts yelling at me, "Wipe that mud off my boot!" "Wipe that mud off my boot!" His friends are holding him back telling him to calm down, it's just mud, just an accident, this mailman yells back, "I don't ever let another man scuff my boots!" He points at his boot and tells me to wipe it off.
Me? I try to diffuse the situation and say, "OK, OK, let me get a napkin or something."
He yells back, "I don't want you to use a napkin!"
I ask him what he wants then.
"Use your hand!"
Now, two things happened at that point. The first was that I recognized the mailman as Matt Dillon. The second was that I made up my mind to tell him to fuck off.
I was just about to do that when I woke up.
But I am curious, now, as to what is the most boring sitcom in New Zealand.
27 April, 2013 (I'd like to know what these records were.)
I have no idea what the fuck my subconscious was on last night. I know I had more than a few scotches before bed in anticipation of my day off today.
WARNING, this one is pretty star-studded.
ANYhoo...
So, my brother landed a gig as Bette Midler's unpaid assistant, which, as I witnessed while visiting him and Ms. Midler at my grandfather's house in NYC (y'know, instead of Waterville, OH), is a thankless series of chores and tests from a verbally abusive sociopath. Note that that sociopath is not Ms. Midler but the young, white, suburban, gangsta rapper wannabe she keeps around; Ms. Midler herself is usually pilled the fuck up, like Judy Garland.
So after the last test, something about fetching a magazine from the kitchen table and then having the magazine constantly be the wrong one, I say fuck this and tell my brother he's quitting and we're going back to Chicago (where neither of us are from) and he needs to grab his stuff and go to the bathroom because we have a long drive, I'll handle Steven Tyler.
Yeah. Steven Aerosmith Tyler. Apparently, that's who I need to talk to about my brother quitting working for Bette Midler.
Steven Tyler looks positively emotionless as I list the various offenses against my brother on behalf of the suburban rap-dude and, by extension, Ms. Midler.
My brother tells me he's ready and I tell him to wait up while I grab my vinyl records. There was a green one with red writing on it one top of the stack, and a black one with fire on the cover on the bottom. I don't remember what the middle one was.
So my brother and I take off from NYC, there's this big, sweeping crane shot on my car crossing the bridge. (Is the Brooklyn Bridge still a thing? I think that's the one we were crossing.) My car, in this instance, is a leopard print low-rider Caprice with 22s. Riding along with us, for some reason, is the dad from The Wonder Years as portrayed by Peter Stomare.
As we drive along, I begin telling my grandmother (who is not with us, by the way) that we'll have to get a place to stay because there's no way we can make it from NYC to Chicago in a day. And then, no, wait... Chicago's only six hours from Toledo and I had some friends in high school that made it from Bowling Green (half hour south of Toledo) to NYC in twelve hours (that actually did happen), so, no, grandma, I take that back, I think we can pull this off in one shot.
The only problem? Well, aside from not looking at a goddamned road map before getting in the car, I'm now driving from the backseat and this fat kid's head keeps flopping in my line of sight every time I look around him at the highway interchange. I keep pushing his fat head out of my way and I have to make a choice soon between the R20, some other one, and US65. Well, between dealing with his fat head and traffic, I wind up on the R20.
The R20 immediately brings us into a travel plaza with a bunch of Empire Records and TGI Fridays and shit where I grab the fat kid by the head and throw him out the window and park the car.
I see his brother run up and then just stand there. Doesn't do anything as the fat kid starts crying. I get out of the car and the fat kid comes running up to me and asks who's on my t-shirt. I tell him, "Black Sabbath," as I walk inside the travel plaza to check a road map.
Well, I'll be a fucked duck.
The bad news is that the R20 runs south to Philadelphia. The good news is that we have our options: We can pick up St Rte 16 in Philadelphia and head west from there or, you know, if we want an option that makes some kind of goddamned sense, we can still turn around and pick up US65.
So, my brother comes in and I explain to him what's going on. When I turn around, I find I'm in one of my high school class rooms with all the lights turned off and there are some aging hair metal guys and Tawny Kitaen - hood-of-a-car-Whitesnake-video era Tawny Kitaen, not whooping-motherfuckers-with-a-shoe era Tawny Kitaen, mind you - are having this fancy roast beef dinner. Both of these hair metal guys look like a cross between Howard Stern and Geddy Lee. They're laughing and I tell them about how, when I threw the fat kid out of the car by his head, that Ratt's "Round and Round" was on the stereo.
This instantly ingratiates me into their company and the one Geddy Stern comes over and extends to me a spoon, on the end of which is a blue balloon covered in mashed potatoes sitting atop a Salisbury steak. I take the balloon and begin slurping the potatoes off and this Geddy Stern says to the other Geddy Stern in a horrible fake cockney accent, "Just like a tit!"
Then we all smiled.
Then I woke up.

Compare that to the simplicity from the night before when all I dreamed was that [forum member] Erawk was my high school bus driver. Me and some of the guys made plans to ask her exactly what bus drivers do between the time they drive kids to school and drive them back. That riddle was never solved.
5 May, 2013 (For all of the hullabaloo surrounding it, I never did get into Arrested Development. I'm a 30 Rock man.)
I hope you're a fan of Arrested Development-esque sitcoms, because one of those debuted in my subconscious last night. It's called This is the Son of a Bitch that Killed my Sister.
The premise is this: I'm new in town and the pesky girl scout from down the block takes a shine to me, nothing untoward. Think Dennis the Menace and Mr. Wilson. Well, one day, after I shoo her away, she gets smacked by a bus.
Racked with remorse, I go to the family to seek forgiveness, turning the tables on myself. Now I'm the annoying neighbor and the girl's father is the "Mr. Wilson", if you will. Each episode, replete with laugh track, features my repeated and nearly successful attempts at gaining forgiveness from the girl's father until her brother walks in, introducing some new member of the community - his football teammates, the PTA, the priest - indicating me with the show's catchphrase, "This is the son of a bitch that killed my sister," causing the father to snap to and remember that he hates me as well as stirring ire in the heart of whichever new community member is featured this week. A Benny Hill style chase ensues until I am eventually caught and beset upon by the angry mob.
It's a little one-note but I think the pilot will really sell it.
6 May, 2013 (I ate four classic roast beef whatever fuckoff whatchamacall'ems that night. Some nights, I have neither a sense of shame or dignity.)
You know those big ass buildings that you see at county swap meets? I was in one of those, last night, except this was the size of an acre and all the doors were open, revealing vast prairies. Part of the building was a cage, large enough to hold several elephants, with a concrete floor. Inside the cage was a man, smoking a cigarette, and outside of the cage, with me, was a rancher.
A pickup truck pulls into the building and four men get out, three are Hispanic, one of them being exceptionally short (though not a midget). The fourth man, the white man, is lead over to the cage door, which I am unlocking. I guide the man in and close the door behind him, turning to ask the rancher if he wants me to lock it. He says it won't make no difference.
The first man inside the cage stamps his cigarette out on the floor and taps the white man on the shoulder and says, "Hey, man," as they both walk over to where the three Hispanic men are standing. The first man blindfolds himself and the white man is looking confused. The first man produces a dagger and says, "Here, man," tossing the dagger to the white man. As the white man goes to catch it, the first man pulls a gun out of his pants and shoots the white man in the face, once. He then takes his blindfold off.
The first man, the rancher, and the two tall Hispanic men look at the short Hispanic man who wipes a tear from his eye and nods. The three Hispanic men left in the pickup truck.
Don't eat Arby's right before going to bed.
10 May 2013 (Nonagon John uses his real name as his online handle so while I'm pretty sure that he doesn't mind his identity being public, I'm still going to err on the side of caution.)
Last night, I invited forum member John [redacted] to a barbecue. Then I remembered he's a vegetarian. My attempt at making veggie burger patties from scratch involved a lot of carrots and a lot of pulsing the blender. It was seriously close to something like twenty minutes (in dream time) of peeling, chopping, and blending these damned carrots.
14 May, 2013 ("Jumbo Danzig" was coined by Steve Albini in reference to Type O Negative's Peter Steele.)
What do you get when you put a teen comedy in the underground dome from Vic & Blood, replete with crazed, cultish Earth repopulation scheme? You get the perfect setting for my new Danzig cover band where I, as Zach Galifinakis on vocals*, am joined by forum members RSMurphy on keytar and Mason on triangle during our rendition of "Cantspeak" where I needlessly sex things up with a sassy little strip tease. Then, when a bunch of jocks from the high school show up (remember, this is a teen comedy after all) to make fun of us, the joke. Is on. Them when the club's capacity audience rallies around us as we perform "Mother", with [RSMurphy] now on bass and Mason on guitar and, I can't be sure, but I think Ty Webb was on drums.
It was actually pretty awesome.

* Would that count as Jumbo Danzig?
28 May, 2013 (Nobody here gets to use the title Soft Taffy. I'm keeping that.)
Last night, I was the company rep for a trashbag manufacturer and I faced off against 30 Rock character Devon Banks in a trash-bag triathalon. Round one was seeing who could use a plunger to extract the most crushed beer cans from the pile of french fries and chicken nuggets sitting under a heat lamp. I won. Round two was folding garbage bags in the manner specified by the committee; nine times over, all length-wise. Well, I blew that shit. Round three was an obstacle course for taking out trash and I would have loved to have run it but the next thing I knew, I was dressed in a kimono and in a sequel to some cheesy 80s teen-sex-romp, the title of which I never hear. Like the fifth in the series or some shit.
Apparently, the box office returns for this franchise were pretty low and the producers, whoever they were, were desperate to try anything to avoid another flop. How do I know this? Enter my cousin, 1980s Anthony Michael Hall with a pompadour who passed by me with a Don LaFontaine voice over - "You loved him as Rufus in..." Anthony Michael Hall walks by dressed like Ducky from Pretty In Pink - "Then Rufus came back in..." Anthony Michael Hall's character has become more defined, now; the pompadour's bigger and he's been given a pimp cane - "You had to have more Rufus so..." Anthony Michael Hall apparently went Hawaiian in the third one, still looking like Ducky or Buster Poindexter or something but now in a Hawaiian shirt - "Rufus sent shivers up your spine in..." Anthony Michael Hall, still with the pompadour and the round sunglasses and pimp-cane, but now wrapped in gauze like a mummy, the fourth installment in this series was either something along the lines of Scooby-Doo or a bad slasher flick - "And now, Rufus returns as your cousin."
I was in a Xmas flick with whoever the fuck this Rufus character was, who was supposed to be my cousin. Rufus is wearing a kimono similar to mine, has bling all over his fingers, the cubic-zirconia tipped pimp cane, the round sun-glasses, and has a Santa cap on his ginormous pompadour while a black bikini clad woman sits on his lap.
I can't remember what he asked me to get, but it was in - wait for it - a trash bag. So now I'm wondering, "Is this the obstacle course? I have to be in a bad Xmas movie dressed in kimonos with Anthony Michael Hall as fucking Rufus?" But anyway, I go digging for whatever Rufus wants out of the trash but I get distracted by a fully in tact, brand new, glossy Asian porn mag titled Soft Taffy. So I say, what the hey, and decide that I'm going to peruse the pages of Soft Taffy. That's when my aunt Pam (and she's a real person) storms in and demands to know what I'm doing.
I tell her, uh, I'm reading Soft Taffy.
That's when aunt Pam starts slapping me with her purse like Ruth Buzzi and demands to know where I got my hands on Soft Taffy. I tell her that its Rufus's. So she storms off to Rufus's room and proceeds to beat the shit out of him, calling him a smut monger.
Meanwhile, I go to the kitchen, still in my kimono, and explain to my parents what just happened. My father laughs and my mother shrugs and then I woke up.
13 June, 2013 (There's just something about Carrie Brownstein dressed as an Indian chief...)
Last night started off as a Portlandia sketch - you know, quirky, smart, but not laugh out loud funny - about Little Big Horn. In the sketch, an extra and I, as Indians, were dueling on a log over a pond as Carrie Brownstein, our chief, was prepping us for the arrival of the 7th Calvary. It was then that a tornado siren went off, ruining the sketch - or maybe that was the point, to make it a sketch within a sketch - and all the extras had to stop what they were doing until the siren stopped.
But then the sky grew dark and we could hear a faint rumbling* and, out of nowhere, this huge gang of sparrows, pheasants, pigeons, and peahens just encircled the pond and the surrounding trees and we realized, oh, shit, there's an actual tornado coming.
So all of the cast start looking for cover and all we can do is duck down around these trees, there's nothing but open prairie surrounding us, this pond, these few trees on one side of the pond, and all these fucking birds. I'm running back and forth looking for cover but none of the birds are letting me near the trees and bushes they're sitting in.
For some reason, a giant white cinder block building with maroon and navy accents appears in the near distance and I shout to my castmates over the rising wind that we should take cover in that building.
So we run over to it and, as we come up to a large, open bay door, there's a parade of navy and maroon clad baseball players and cheerleaders coming out, laughing, yelling, spraying champagne on each other, just having a good old time.
My recall here gets a little hazy but the gist is that I'm Clint Eastwood, a retired NYC cop moving into this small town that, unbeknownst to me, is run by this retail magnate played by Powers Boothe. Like I said, shit gets fuzzy around this point. I think my former partner got murdered in the middle of it and there was Ruth Wilson (aka the hot red head from Luther) and I think I had a daughter and I'm not sure that those all weren't the same person.
ANYhoo, in the end, the sheriff's department and I are held hostage in one of Powers Boothe's WalMarts, trying to get out, and Powers Boothe's brother / lackey takes a handful of over the counter pain meds and starts dousing the store in gasoline before covering himself, forcing Powers Boothe to run away in fear, thus allowing for us to escape before he lights himself ablaze.
As the sheriff's deputy - played by Gary Cole - and I are walking to my place, he asks me what I'm thinking of doing now, I mutter some cheeseball action movie line about moving back to New York City where it's safer. Gary Cole and I laugh and get in my super tiny roadster - it's so small that I have to stick my head out of the roof and I have to reach around Gary Cole to put the key in the ignition, and hightail it out of town as it burns behind us. Ahead of us is a pickup truck containing the aforementioned Ruth Wilson and immolated brother / lackey, now without even a scratch on him.
Right about where there would have been end credits was where I woke up.

* I just remembered, one of my fellow extras noted that a tornado really does sound like a train coming through. Then he smiled and made some smart ass remark about, "Do you think it will whistle too, Charlie?"
I told him to shut the fuck up and look for cover.
So, if you've ever wondered what goes on in my brain, that's what it does when it gets to run riot.

07 June, 2013

It's Friday: Let's Piss Off Republicans!

I'm watching last night's episode of Hannibal and Eddie Izzard gave a guy a Colombian necktie, which was pretty awesome. So I Google Image Search Colombian neckties because, fuck it, why not. And in the "similar searches" space, I spied this...
 
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