24 April 2008

'Jesus, I/Mary Star Of The Sea'

OK, after a brief hiatus with a steady diet of nothing but Dëthkløk and Viva La Bam, I'm back and ready for action so on to business.

Billy Corgan--Svengali, fan of pro wrestling, lover of comely female bassists (I mention that only because I'm jealous). He is an accomplished lyricist, poet, and musician with a keen sense of melding Prog Rock vastness with saccharine-laced Pop melodies. He is also notoriously difficult to work with, and the fact that all of the incarnations (save a one album) of the Smashing Pumpkins, Zwan, and Corgan's solo material were just variations of Corgan and drummer Jimmy Chamberlain are a huge testament to that fact. Still, the man knows his craft.

Zwan, a mini-Alt super group, was a brilliantly jubilatious (if that's not a word it should be) band and much too short-lived. In less than a two year period between Pumpkincarnations (another word that should be) Zwan formed, recorded, toured, began in-fighting, and broke up. They spawned one album, the amazing Mary Star Of The Sea, which produced at least one radio-friendly single, Honestly (plus it has the wonderful Paz Lenchantin):
The album featured several other songs in a similar vein (Lyric, El Sol) that reflected Corgan's new found spiritual enlightenment.

The highlight came in the form of the titular track, Jesus, I/Mary Star Of The Sea, which is really two songs in one. At over 14 minutes, the song is epic to say the least. The first part, Jesus, I, is paraphrased from a 1833 hymn by Henry F. Lyte (and Matthew 16:24).

Jesus, I've taken my cross
All to leave and follow Thee...
I'm destitute, despised, forsaken
All to leave and follow Thee...

After several minutes of a chiming guitar loop, the music starts to swell into the religious frenzy of a mosh pit with the repeating lines, Jesus...reborn..., which give way to the rest of the hymn:

So perish every fond ambition
God and trouble are all I've known
Yet how rich is my condition
God and heaven are all my own...

The music continues with an onslaught of soloing guitars in an almost free form jam. This continues (perhaps a bit too long) until it reaches a plateau of beautiful chord construct. The tempo shifts to a slower pace but once more explodes though this time with more restraint and purpose. Corgan returns to vocals once again at almost 9 minutes into the song with some of the best lyrics he's ever penned (well, at least they are my favourite):

Rooms full of salt, fault my pluck
And a poets charm so far, ever far
Little stars that burn the holes in my soul...
And everything just feels like rain
The road we're on, the things we crave
And everything just feels like rain
The nights i sleep, what's left to dream
When everything feels like rain...
Drift as I dive, find the deep
Out of reach of all light
Stars, ever far
Listless tides along the changing shore...

The song's languid rush finally gives way and seems to fly off into space or drift out in the tide. This track is certainly a journey.

And just because, here are those comely female bassists and their Fender P-basses:

D'arcy Wretzky

Melissa Auf Der Maur

Paz Lenchantin

Ginger Reyes


Zwan - Jesus, I/Mary Star Of The Sea

Don Caballero ruined me (but it's my fault)

My heart runneth over with the Don Cab. I've spent several years trying to recover from my obsession with this band. Well, it ain't working. Here's three tracks from various live bootlegs to demonstrate why I couldn't give up the ghost.

When I think about it, there's nothing like plundering the deepest and darkest corners of your music collection. It is important to listen to live bootlegs of your favorite band, whoever they are. They might play your favorite song in a way that differs drastically from the album. Or, if they're like Don Caballero, you're just wondering if they ever pulled this shit off in a live environment.

Once I got over the flashy drums of Don Caballero, the guitars started to seep into my mind. They changed my whole sensibility on what I expect from a guitar player and how I listen to them. And of course, they influenced what kind of guitar pedals I bought (Akai Headrush, I miss you) and how I (try to) play. I think I just heard some hipster-eyes rolling. Anyway...

Their music is irrational therapy for me. There is something about Don Caballero that causes me to fold, unfold, and level off. I don't care what happens to me when I hear this stuff because I know that nothing will ever go wrong ever again. Sometimes, you just have to give in and realize that life really is this good.

I recommend all of their albums but my favorites are American Don and What Burns Never Returns (Mike Jolley told me I would hate this album (he was wrong (dead wrong!))). Nothing can stop this band, I tells ya. Not even a 75% lineup change. Thank God they're still good and still out there touring and recording. It helps me sleep at night.

Don Fanallero - an excellent resource

Another video - "Railroad Cancellation"

Hey look - it's yours truly (from 2001):


Sarah Harmer "Around this corner"

I was a band geek in middle school, I admit it. And though I did not continue my band geek career any further, the ridiculously advanced classes at my middle school and private tutoring made me comfortably companionable with my instrument and not a bad clarinet player, if I do say so myself. As what happens when I start hanging out with someone new, my relationship with my first rented clarinet inspired me to find out all there was to know about clarinets and clarinet players. So the result was the permanent seed in me tuned to listening for a clarinet, and that alone may be the first reason why I was hooked on Sarah Harmer's "Around this corner" the very first time I heard it.

Perhaps the second reason "Around this corner" alone made me buy the album was that I imagined the song fit that part of my life perfectly. But then, isn't that the reason so many songs become precious? The smooth, round clarinet tones permeate the album 'You Were Here,' and add breathy interest to well composed songs. Harmer's following album 'I'm a Mountain' loses the clarinet and focuses more on an acoustic guitar sound that sells itself a little short, I think. Maybe I was just expecting something more smooth and round once again. Choice of instrument is not all that 'You Were Here' and 'I'm a Mountain' have going for them, however. Harmer's music composition skills continue to impress, even without the clarinet. Yeah, I just cannot let that go.

Interestingly enough, all the songs on the Sarah Harmer myspace music profile come from the 'You Were Here' album. Alas, "Around this corner" is not there.

I did eventually own my clarinet, by the way, and I sporadically, maybe not so often, get it out and play it lovingly.


09 April 2008

Searching for Caviar

Anyone who has seen the Charlie's Angels movie or happened to listen to the radio at the time the movie was out will have heard Caviar's "Tangerine Speedo." They may not, however, have heard anything else from this band. Based in Chicago, they manage to create exceptional music without having any locatable presence in the news, on the radio, or online. They're myspace page is frustrating to me, with an overlay of traditional style Asian music that cannot be turned off. Though I suppose the layering of different sounds and inputs is what makes their first album one of my favorites.

Their self-titled first album is filled with everything that would make a band humongous if they wanted to take advantage. Instrumentally, their skills are amazing; and, though they don't need it, they generously overlay superb playing with layers of overdubbing, synthesized sounds, and generated drum beats. On top of all this geniusness are clever, memorable, and often filthy lyrics that tickle the brain in the best way possible.

I am not proud to say that I have not yet heard their second album. The Eagles' article about it makes me question why my obsessive enjoyment of the first didn't become fanatic impatience for and consumption of the second. Overall, it seems as though they are a very hard band to pin down, and perhaps that is best if the non-existence of a public persona makes for music like this.

Hmmm, 'embedding disabled by request' means y'all will have to go and look for your own selves.


07 April 2008


Shortly after high school, I begrudgingly started community college and began working as a sad sack security guard. Fastbacks are a prime example of the music that kept me from suiciding. One day while killing time at Sound Exchange (R.I.P.) in Jupiter, Florida, a promo copy of their 1994 album, Answer The Phone Dummy, caught my eye. I remember guarding this car dealership all day one Sunday and I’d brought this album along. Sometime around 6:30am, while I was eating stale Oreos from the gas station, I put Fastbacks on while watching the sunrise. Magic!

And here it is, 13 or so years later, and this band still gets to me. How I ever got by without this record is a mystery to me. I need everyone to dig on this album. It saved me and LeEtta’s lives the other night while we were driving on the highway at night in the rain. The songs I picked are “Went For A Swim” and “And You”. You need to know that dueling female pop punk vocalists are on a list of things to live for.


Went For A Swim” and “And You”


Fastbacks – “Waste Of Time”