Unpleasant Twisted Cynic's-ville

Tools: a pale new dawn

Just last week my toilet attempted to take a midnight wiz all over my apartment and I was brought down to my knees (literally) to tightly hold a metal tube that had been punctured by fluctuating water pressure for the greater part of an hour. Fifty minutes and a nightmarish leg cramp after, the plumber showed up and fixed my disobedient plumbing with the daintiest twist of a wrench. Our minuit affair ended in a $100 plumbing bill. After an otherwise restful night, I decided that some changes had to be made.
There comes a time in every man’s life when some things need to be decided upon; things such as a insurance providers, appropriate coverage, weight loss, dieting, 70’s Ramones vs 80’s Ramones, arcade cabinet building, and marriage. But before any of the aforementioned queries can be tackled, a man must have the correct tools to successfully run life’s four-minute mile; in other words what is a man without tools? I’m hardly speaking metaphorically here folks, I don’t mean tools as in knowledge and/or intellectual well roundedness when standing on one of life’s proverbial cross roads. I’m talking about the galvanized and iron foundered tools you buy at the hardware store. Tools that, when used skillfully, posses the power to turn you into the handiest of men.
Today I crossed one of life’s portals, thus leading me into another facet of pseudo-adulthood. Today I maximized an aspect of my life… today I purchased my first complete toolbox, and I’ll point out that this wasn’t a pre-assembled set, no sir! My toolbox was strategically hand picked tool by tool by yours truly. Carefully tailored and designed to cater to any household situations and/or malfunction that may need the attention of variant degrees of brawn, craftiness, and of course tools.
While shopping for said toolbox, I took some things into consideration like; durability, usability, and stainless steel vs. other metals (i.e. When threatening someone with a hand-tool, a stainless steel wrench has more of an effective visual effect than a metal one because of the former’s polished finish. If faced with having to actually carrying out said threat you run the risk losing your tool; a metal wrench has a lower opportunity cost than one made of stainless steel. Conclusion: stainless steel is best for threats and impressing other kin folk, and in comparison metal is more expendable as far as cost go).
Once I had chosen all of my pliers, socket wrenches, and general tool-ery I made my way to the front checkout a paid. As I walked to the car toolbox in-hand, my innards rewarded with the feeling you get when you know you’ve acted efficiently. My gut echoed “John, this was a wise purchase”.
Upon my arrival at the apartment I praised myself for having done well, and proceeded to call family members and friends alike to indirectly inform them of my current status of Toolbox Owner/Craftyman.


Ramones, Murder, and Youtube.

During my daily news-read, I came across this very disturbing article about Linda Stein’s (Ramones’ manager at one point) murder, something I hadn’t the slightest knowledge of.
Linda Stein worked with the Ramones for many years before going into real estate, and was responsible for booking the band’s infamous appearance in London’s Roundhouse in 1976, which turned out to be one of the most pivotal moments in the band’s career, if not the most; an event that defined the future of punk rock. I
won’t go into a long-winded diatribe about the origins of punk rock, but I will say this: The Ramones created and defined punk rock, Malcolm Mclaren just found a way to massively cash in on it.

“What do you think?.. Yeah, that’s what I thought.”

I’ve concluded that lieu of maintaining somewhat of an active blog, I need to provide myself with some sort of daily incentive to keep me a-writin’ (*a-bloggin’.) I wouldn’t say that my life isn’t exciting enough, I’d say it is; subject matter and desire to write are at all time high in John’s-ville, but what good is desire without decision. Problem is that the proverbial topic compass is at such an obtuse angle, that I constantly send ideas off on tangents that usually lead to nowhere (Man, I’m dense!)
With that said, I’ve chosen to give myself little tasks in order to vamp up the atmosphere here at “the-ville.” Who knows? Maybe once I work a couple of holy blog nights into my week, I may just be able to turn myself into somewhat of an avid blogger. So, with keyboard beneath my palms, smugly I venture further into the world of learning to write under various degrees of public scrutiny.

Task #1: Revisiting Records

“Life is musical”, “music is my life”, “I need music to stay alive”, these are all things I’m sick of hearing. Sure, we love our music, but just how discriminating are we when it comes to drawing the line between great records and pure crap. I imagine that by now the “who is this guy…?” lights just went off in you little head: So, who am I to get on a soapbox about music? Well I’ll tell you. I’m one extremely discerning and very boisterous young man when it comes to music. Also, in case you’ve forgotten this IS my blog; my blog my rules, and if this doesn’t sit too well with you, you should follow this link.

With Revisiting Records, I’ll finally have a forum in which I can willfully praise and slam records old or new, and best of all, without any real repercussions. I recently ended a short relationship with a local rag that was interested in my opinion with regards to music. When at first approached with the proposal, I jumped at the opportunity to write for an actual print on paper publication; after a brief stint as columnist for said publication, I took a walk. After my 5th or 6th column I began to witness, mainly through e-mails, the backlash of my invariant attacks on music in general. At the completion of my 7th column, to much relief, I abandoned my position as a wage-free columnist, along with a small group of livid readers. In the end knickers were knotted, and folks got offended.

Revisiting Records will base itself on a simple rating system based on ten categories. The system will play out as follows:

Songs: The most important part of a record, song writing (Poor, Average, Good, Outstanding.)

Sequence: The way a record flows is almost as important as its musical content.

Top Tracks: My picks on the record.

Production: Some records are hindered by their overzealous production, just like other records truly shine thanks to dingy “low-budgetry” during production time. I’ll even go as far as listening to the records through my NS-10’s in order to really nit pick the audio. I can already smell the burning torches.

Lyrical Content: Are the lyrics well written, are they good, or do they read like those you’d find the liner of a Bush record?

Record Title: Some are great, some are funny, and some are absolutely stupid.

Packaging/Artwork: When I was younger I bought Black Flag’s “Slip it in” just because of the Artwork. I’ve always felt that a record’s packaging/artwork should always be an extension of what’s inside the actual record. There are still some artists and labels that hold this part of the record making process to very high esteem, and I’m here to praise ‘em (and maybe even slam ‘em.)

LP vs. CD vs. DIGITAL: Would I buy the LP, CD, or stay Digital?

Personal Notes: Further self-absorbed banter about the record.

Overall Score: Self-explanatory; just a simple1 through 6 scale. 1 is un-listenable/Frisbee-able/burnable, 6 is masterful.

So now broad strokes out of the way, I leave you with my first visitation.

Face to Face
Artist: Face to Face
Album: “Don’t turn away”
Release Date/Label: 1993/Fat Wreck-Chords (originally released by Dr. Strange Records in 1992)

Songs: 78% of this record is brilliant; the other 22% is questionable. Great melodies and choruses can be heard throughout the record, even on the filler songs. For a band’s debut the songs on here sound amazingly well intentioned and very focused; the tracks that stand out are sharp, short, aggressive, and to the point.

Sequence: If I had to judge this record solely on its opening track, I probably would’ve thrown it in the trash right after the opening “1-2, 1-2-3-4” on “You’ve done nothing”, the record’s first song; a track that I can’t stand for numerous reason, one reason being that its cheesy sounding, another being that it doesn’t fit in with the rest of the record. I’ve yet to understand why it was such a staple throughout FTF’s career.
The rest of the record seems to file filler tracks between really great tracks; something that at times works, but not always. “Don’t turn away” becomes a little hard to take towards the end, where almost no good tracks buoy above the filler.
In conclusion, the record flows awkwardly, but it doesn’t find itself terminally affected by a sloppy song-sequencing job. You can chalk that up to the band’s ability to write good tunes.

Top Tracks: “I’m not afraid”, “I want”, “I’m trying”, “Do you care”, “No authority”, and of course “Disconnected.”

Production: “Don’t turn away” is a good example of a record that benefits from shoddy production. I couldn’t imagine these songs sounding any other way, I’m particularly fond of the way Trevor Keith’s vocals sound on this record (similar to “Big Choice”.) According to the band, T. Keith was sick during the tracking of the vocals on this record hence the gangly sound of his voice.
This record has very few overdubs; it was recorded live and apparently to no click.
If you listen closely to some tracks on this record you can actually hear the song start at a set tempo and finish a couple of BPMs over the original tempo.
In the end, many of the production errors on this record are what make it so special. The fact that DTW was done live and with little overdubbing really makes the record sound stripped down and authentic.

Lyrical: Very cut and dry, not much to talk about. The lyrics work very well in context with what’s going on musically. I’ve always felt that that’s one of Face to Face’s main traits.

Title: “Don’t turn away” is a fitting title for this record, it sums up the feel and the mood of the record pretty well. Ironically, the track “Don’t turn away” is not on this record. It was originally released by Face To Face a year before as a single called “No authority” (which included the songs “Don’t turn away”, “No Authority”, and a song called “One way or another”.) “Don’t turn away” is one of my favorite Face to Face songs, I feel it’s a shame that it was not included in the full-length.
Original pressings of the “No Authority” single (EP) are pretty hard to come by, although it is still available for digital download through various MP3 sites.
A live version of “Don’t turn away” also appears on Face to Face’s 1998 live record.

Packaging/Artwork: The artwork on the record is hardly out of this world; once again… the real gold is inside.
I’ve always found that when set in contrast with the title, the photograph of the guy backed into the corner with his head between his arms comes off as slightly melodramatic. Melodrama not withstanding, the artwork may not be great, but it doesn’t completely “strike out”.

CD vs. LP vs. DIGITAL: My record collection would feel little light without a copy of “Don’t turn away”. Verdict: CD and/or LP are a must.

Personal Notes: Good records never sound dated; 15 years after its release, “DTA” still sounds as fresh today as it did to a listener in 1992.

Overall Score: 3.5

TV Party Tonight!

As I placed one of my coveted Fredric Brown novels (thanks Dad) on my bookshelf, I realized that it was time to knock off for the eve. The night was run of the mill, and the urge to drift off into dreamland seemed to be a couple of bus stops away. Being a slave to non-conformity and a routine dogmatist, I dismissed the idea of turning on the television as quickly as it came; NOTE: I’ve come to the conclusion that as technology becomes more widespread, television only perpetuates itself as a medium that is plagued with passive aggressive non-sense that panders to the weaker realms of my persona. After a fleeting spell of emotional blitzkrieg courtesy of my inherent inability to break away my sense of integrity, I decided to placate my self-conflict by firing up the old boob tube, and fire it up I did. I undauntedly flipped through vast tv-scapes plagued by assortments of contaminating publicity that informed me of and very discretely ridiculed my acne, weight disorders, inability to dress myself, as well as other breeds of rather discouraging short comings of mine that Clear Channel thought I should be reminded about right before bedtime; for a second I was overwhelmed at the thought of my newly discovered personal inconsistencies, I felt the insomnia begin to rap at my door, but just like that, my worries were countered and comforted by a gallant voice that told me that I was not completely at a loss. According to the voices coming through my TV, all cures to said disorders were available at the small (risk-free) fee of $19.95; heavens, this is why I count my lucky stars every night, fortunately for us we live in a modern society where most solutions are simply a card-swipe away. Its nice to know that we can buy, rent, adopt, (whatever you’d like to call it) children in third world countries for only ten cents a day, now if that isn’t peace of mind from the Bargain Bin, I really don’t know what is. But I digress.
After a few minutes of steady soldier-like trudging through the rotting carcass and shrapnel ridden cable-scapes I was ready to memo out an “abort mission” communiqué to my troops. As luck of the draw would have it, just as the MEDEVACS and Apaches were touching down, I surfed onto what at first glance seemed to be some sort of Comedy Network/Channel. I collected myself and decided to tell the troops to stand-by and hold their positions as I further inspected the images that flashed through my screen. Once the analysis was through I realized that all the ducks were fixed neatly in a row, this was hardly uncharted territory; the channel’s content seemed over the top, the “hosts” seemed to be quite sarcastic, and the general production value seemed to be geared towards someone with a very short attention span; two and two together, this was either (another) poor man’s MTV, or it was most certainly a comedy channel. Before I go any further I’d like to make it explicitly clear that I’m well aware that getting down on religious fanatics is synonymous to shooting fish in a barrel (by the way; easier said than done, as proven by Penn Gillette), heck its become damn-near faux pas, that aside I will also like to point out that its one of my favorite pastimes. Back to my TV watching experience:
Comedy or not, whatever it was that I was witnessing on my TV, it was so strangely comedic it almost came off as conceptual art. It was a no holds barred, no punches pulled, thong in crack protestant rock n’ roll show, complete with rock n’ roll aesthetics and lest we forget attitude. I had landed on a local protestant network, and I was just in time to witness the holy onslaught of a protestant “nu-metal” band, I couldn’t believe my luck. Just as my senses began to corner into frenzied overdrive, the camera guy sent me an indirect TV treat by giving me a detailed close up of the man behind the microphone, whom for this performance had chosen to go with stage attire resembling that of Slipknot, or any other band that’s ever been on stage at the Ozzfest for that matter. It was also very endearing to see their jumpsuits decorated with what appeared to be numbers from bible passages.
Just before our rockin’ protestants broke into song, the masked and jump suited lead singer in a kind of raspy demonic voice went into a long inaudible rant (certainly about the advantages of god and/or being down with Jesus; I heard a couple of “he is risens” and “god rocks” somewhere through out the mask-muffled diatribe), to which the adoring public responded in immeasurable yelps and amens. I was beside myself, these rockin’ children of the lord really knew their audience, and boy did their audience love ‘em for it. I mean, really. I don’t exactly remember how many black sheep of god stocked the band’s personnel, why with all the masks and uniform jumpsuits it was difficult to keep track, but all I can say is that it was nothing short of an on-field baseball team. All masked, all dressed, all-in-all pretty confusing stuff.
All of the sudden the boys let ‘er rip, they went into what appeared to be the first number. Drop D (DADGBE) guitars and some serious jumping and head banging, all in the name of god of course. I was taken aback by the whole matter, it was now abundantly clear to me that the only thing that could be more awful than the real Slipknot would most certainly have to be a rosary and bible totting clone of just that. As things began to really cook and my urge to turn off the TV began to fade, my train of joy came to a derailed halt. The image on the screen froze (YIKES!), and a big red circle with an “X” running through its center appeared over the frozen image of god’s take on corporate rock. As you can imagine I was slitghtly confused by that moment. “What exactly is it that I’m watching”, I asked myself. A second later, just over the “X”ed out circle appeared some text that read “The message is clear, but the actions are not”; more befuddlement, more arthritis of the mind. “This is not in the name of god…” “This does not speak the language of the lord…” an angry voice processed over the image with the circle and “X”. Just at that moment, out of the corner of my screen came a stout, and rather ugly man in a neatly pressed shirt and tie. With conviction in his eye, he appeared to be looking directly at me as I attentively sat waiting for him to give me a good reason as to why he’d brought such an entertaining moment to such a abrupt, and need I say sour stop.
“Don’t be fooled!” said the fat man in a stern judgmental tone, “god does not approve of this, this is by no means in the name of the lord…” “…this has temptation written all over it!” he huffed as beads of sweat formed on his forehead whilst angrily clutching a bible in his right hand. “The only thing clear about this inappropriate celebration of god’s word is the fact that it is designed to mislead you, it beckons you to stray from a path, the path that is righteous, the untainted path!”, harsh words from a harsh looking individual. I actually sort of began to sympathize with the band after a couple of sentences, this guy was really lacing into them. I decided I’d sit in for a spell and allot the man with an ill disposition a just amount of leeway to explain himself, but after hearing the phrase “the lord doesn’t want you to…” about sixty times, everything began to strike a sourly familiar chord inside of me regarding my days in grade-school, so I went ahead and gave him the old heave-ho. Magically the TV went off.
As I lay in my bed that night waiting for the day to close the register on me, I had a near epiphany, a fresh new idea dawned on me; It wasn’t just me, I came to the conclusion that its not just agnostics, atheists, common folk, non-religious folk, folk singers, George Carlin, ballerinas, painters, auto-repairmen, Marilyn Manson, etc… that enjoy the slamming of overzealous god nuts, god nuts themselves enjoy participating in this wonderful sport. I know it sounds like a stretch; it even seems to cancel out. But I think it makes sense to say that self-righteousness and fun are not necessarily mutually exclusive, just look at Steven Colbert.