Steady State is once again tonight at Havana Social Club, Seattle from 7-9pm and free as always! Below is a playlist from earlier this year. Next week, I’ll be taking a break, then I will be back on Hallow’s Eve’s Eve, October 30th!
Swing it on by!
Steady State is once again tonight at Havana Social Club, Seattle from 7-9pm and free as always! Below is a playlist from earlier this year. Next week, I’ll be taking a break, then I will be back on Hallow’s Eve’s Eve, October 30th!
Swing it on by!
30 Years Ago: XTC - The Big Express — revisited. Originally released October 15th, 1984.
1984 was a rich year in pop music, both in the US and the UK.
Prince, Madonna, Bruce Springsteen, Van Halen, Lionel Richie, Cyndi Lauper, Hall & Oates and many others represented the US for global pop radio domination that year.
In the UK… Duran Duran, Frankie Goes To Hollywood, Depeche Mode, Culture Club, Bananarama, Wham!, Eurythmics, Thompson Twins, and many new bands such as The Smiths were contributing to just as powerful a pop music legacy.
In the meantime, XTC and Virgin Records were working to bring back commercial momentum to its train that accelerated in 1979 yet stalled in 1982, mainly due to the band’s sudden retirement from touring. 1983’s mostly pastoral and ethereal Mummer was the first XTC album that was a noticeable commercial reversal from their previous album, in this case, the highly lauded English Settlement. Understandably, XTC chose a completely different approach than Mummer for their followup album.
The Big Express didn’t make XTC pop stars once again. In the end, it was just as much as a commercial failure as Mummer.
However, The Big Express is XTC’s greatest album. It’s the first XTC release to prominently display their love of, and accurately simulate Captain Beefheart and The Beatles; moreover, due to the offbeat arrangements of the songs (all by Andy Partridge, except two by Colin Moulding) married with the expertly layered production work of David Lord, plus top notch album sequencing, The Big Express stands out above the rest of XTC’s catalog.
And yes, it’s a despair-ridden fucker of a musical that dares the listener to get it. One is either a devout worshiper of The Big Express that has seen its light — or darkness. Or one just wants to start walking in the opposite direction of this album, never caring to see it or hear of it again.
Let’s make this clear: Virgin Records were complete shit at choosing good singles for The Big Express. One reason the deep cuts on this album far surpass the singles, is because some of those cuts were simply better potential singles.
"You’re The Wish You Are I Had" was the obvious initial single that never was. Beatles mania, love it or have it, was making a big comeback in 1984. Lyrically, "You’re The Wish" is the most straightforward and lightest song on the album — an unrequited love song. It’s also one of the few songs on the album that follows the tried and true A-B-A-B-Bridge-B-Coda pop song format. What’s not standard is the production on "You’re The Wish You Are I Had", which is its key. The very jazzy and quiet verses prepare the amplified stomping catchy McCartney-esque choruses. The bridge features an electric guitar being completely mangled and flayed, yet this bridge still adds to this pop song masterpiece.
"I Bought Myself A Liarbird" was another obvious choice of a single that never was. Since the song is about XTC’s former manager — and eventually a decade-long legal nightmare — Ian Reid, perhaps Virgin or the band dismissed the idea of releasing this single based on the lyrics alone. That said, it’s a short ditty with an opening guitar line so catchy, it’s impossible to let loose from one’s brain.
"The Everyday Story Of Smalltown" is clearly the most vaudeville track, and perhaps its strongest single choice. As perfectly described in the book by XTC & Neville Farmer called XTC Song Stories, “Ladies and gentlemeeenn! [sic] Introducing the inimitable XTC, imitating Alice Cooper, playing ‘Autumn Almanac.’” It’s hard to imagine a song that prominently features a line of kazoos being a classic single, but “Smalltown” has an unmatched orchestration for a guitar-pop song. This song is maybe the best production work that David Lord has ever done. Imagine if The Kinks’ Arthur had been given a song with the crescendo and drive of The Who’s “I Can See For Miles.”
Now, the actual Big Express singles chosen are great songs, with Moulding’s “Wake Up” being a great single choice, with its trademark stereophonic Beefheart guitar daggers.
However “All You Pretty Girls”, a lush Broadway-esque sea shanty, and “This World Over”, a sparse epic with a relatively shy lyrical delivery about the very heavy topic of Cold War armageddon and paranoia, just dragged and crawled in the context of 1984 pop radio, but excel as part of the album. And these songs do belong on Side A, and they work very well as Side A. But it would be shame if Virgin or the band chose these songs simply because they were on Side A, and “that was just the formula to follow when releasing singles.”
Now, I’m not a record label executive, much less a major label statesman of any kind. But one wonders how different this album’s reception would be if the “right” singles were chosen. As seen with a Certain B-side for 1986’s Skylarking release that did essentially bring pop stardom back to XTC, it’s possible a smart single choice could have brought that attention sooner circa The Big Express.
Every song on this record is a masterpiece, wildly varying in styles, but the two best songs on The Big Express are the final two.
Moulding’s “I Remember The Sun” is his most underrated song, period. Channeling Beefheart through the druggy jazzy haze of Steely Dan, this song sounds like a foreshadowing to the best work on Skylarking.
But if The Big Express has a thesis song, it’s the finale “Train Running Low On Soul Coal.” The sentiment of this song is why the Occupy movement of the past few years happened at all.
Of course, the history of humanity is nothing other than higher society benefiting from the toil of “lower classes.” There’s nothing surprising about the theme of “Train Running Low On Soul Coal” — in Partridge’s case, having to work for Virgin Records.
What’s remarkable is how visceral the song is about expressing the panic and anxiety of the rat race. Most political songs talk about rebellion when expressing working class discontent. This song is describing a breakdown in a highly detailed metaphor. “Train Running Low” is the best political song I’ve heard for that reason, and it wasn’t even conceived as a political song.
For some reason, when The Big Express is brought up among XTC forums, The LinnDrum is brought up as a scapegoat. Sure, this drum machine is heavily used on the album. However, there is another album from 1984 that also has an exquisite production that makes heavy use of the LinnDrum. It’s this album called Purple Rain by Prince & The Revolution. That album has sold rather well — 20 million copies well. Enough about the LinnDrum ruining XTC’s chances in 1984.
When I first heard The Big Express upon release, I knew there was something truly great somewhere in this record. I was always defending the virtues of this record to my friends, even though I didn’t comprehend what those virtues were at the time. In fact, I didn’t fall in love with this record or “get” it until 1990!
I cringe at the cliche of the phrase “cult following”, but in this case of this album, it’s quite accurate.
The Big Express requires patience — perhaps, years and years of patience. I never force this album on people. I simply spread the Good Word about it, and sometimes, a friend will come back and report on falling in love with it due to my recommendation. I’m married to this album for life. Sometimes, I never want to hear it again for years, but I simply can’t live without this album.
How Do You Save a Ghost?
I’ve been living in Seattle for over 13 years, and living here would not have happened — as well as coming out of the closet— had I not met a friend I once had named Chris Vandebrooke (pictured above twice in the maroon T-shirt.)
I first met Chris through the Internet. In the late 90s, e-mail was still the dominant form of keeping in touch with people virtually — although the Web and Usenet were both growing as alternate ways to do the same. From the day he joined one of many of the music-based e-mail groups I ran, he was extremely generous and enthusiastic about sharing and talking about music.
He was the first drummer in the Seattle band, Engine Kid. I didn’t make the connection until years later, when he told me to clarify a story. But I’m aware that many people remember Engine Kid fondly. Greg Anderson — currently of Sunn O))) — was a member of Engine Kid at the time that Chris was, for reference.
In 1999, before Coachella, its main promotion company Goldenvoice (now owned by AEG Live) did a trial run of a smaller festival called This Ain’t No Picnic (name clearly taken from the Minutemen song of the same name) in 1999 and 2000. Chris e-mailed me before the year 2000 This Ain’t No Picnic, and wanted to go to the festival. He asked if he and a friend could crash at my place in Costa Mesa CA in Orange County, where I co-rented with a (to this day) very close friend named Ned. As Ned and I were always happy to help people and make new friends, we said “Sure!”
Chris and Jef Hoskins (pictured above in the blue sweater) came down, we hung out. And it was one of those weekends where I felt I had met a couple of long lost best friends that were separated from my childhood. We all connected so well. Unusually well.
I decided to repay the favor by flying up to Seattle, where they lived, and asked to hang out there. Before I did so, both Chris and Jef let me know that they were both gay, though just friends, and wanted to be sure I was aware of that before flying up. (Keep in mind that acceptance of homosexuality wasn’t a given in the year 2000 in America.) I had no problems with that at all, so a plan was made. That weekend ended up being a packed, insane whirlwind of a trip that involved both Portland and Seattle, me driving around all the time, meeting tons of people, seeing stuff that I would never see inside the shell of Orange County or much of Los Angeles.
Despite some moments of tension during the trip, my weekend in the Northwest was unforgettable. What I liked most about the trip, aside from falling in love with Seattle, was seeing cities where there simply were no cultural boundaries that did exist like they did in California — notably in regards to sexual orientation and music taste. In both San Francisco and Los Angeles in 2000, both cities were very accepting of gay culture. But there still was a subtle segregation. There very much was a “Gay people go HERE and do THIS, whereas straight people go THERE and go THAT” mentality in California, overall.
In the Northwest, anybody can dig anybody and like anybody, or “try” to be something else, just because. And no one will care or judge at all or be more concerned than necessary. Southern California is very status oriented overall. There are plenty of exceptions, but mostly, people who grow up in Southern California are led to lead a rather linear life. I needed to escape that mentality. So by the time I came back from the trip, and felt really down, I know I had to move to Seattle as soon as I could. I finally did so in early 2001.
Another key detail in wanting to move to Seattle was that I was in the closet at the time, and I needed to start over in a place that would allow me to come out to my own pace. Starting in 2003, and finally in 2008, I was out.
Just after I moved in 2001, I didn’t see as much of Chris as I was hoping, although I definitely hung out with Jef quite a bit. Anyway, I was aware that both Chris and Jef wanted to leave Seattle, and they both moved to Bay Area in 2003. I was sad to see them go, but I understood why they felt they needed to move.
The last I heard of Jef was that he found steady work promoting films and art, which involved constant travel. He never cared to be on The Grid regarding the Internet. So I hope he’s doing well. I miss him.
Chris is another story. By the end of the 2000s, I had heard that things were spiraling out of control in his life in many ways. I last talked to him in 2007 or so, and he told me briefly that everything was fine. Not too long after, I heard — via many friends of mine in San Francisco, none of whom knew each other, strangely enough — that a combination of bad habits and health issues essentially drove Chris out of San Francisco.
I heard nothing concrete about where Chris was, or if he was even still alive, until this past week. He is alive, thankfully, although he’s apparently homeless and not doing well at all. He was last seen in Hollywood, but I’ve heard of sightings in Seattle and Portland as well.
I don’t know what to do.
It feels completely helpless to let life take its course on him. On the other hand, I don’t think I would help at all if I tried to intervene in any way.
I realize it’s a cliche to believe that the people who change and improve your life the most are always secure and accessible to you. That is thankfully the case with many people in my life. Sadly, not in Chris’ case.
Jef, if you read this — what’s up? Please tell me you’re OK. I need to catch up with you. I think about you quite often.
Chris, if you do read this, just realize that I do think of you very often, and if you’re not happy where you’re at right now, I hope you figure out what will make you happier — especially what will make you make your close ones happier — and obviously stay alive for many years to come.
P.S. I just heard from a friend that Jef Hoskins passed away beginning of July of 2013. I only found out now (October 11, 2014)
(The above is a link to a Capitol Hill Seattle Blog entry titled ‘Shut it down’ — Rally, prayer against I-502 marijuana shop Uncle Ike’s at 23rd and Union)
Mixed feelings about this…
On one hand, I won’t side with people protesting a legal pot shop because it’s right next to a church. There’s a liquor store right across the street. Based on this alone, it would seem the protesters are promoting a double-standard.
But there are bigger underlying issues to consider, one of which is the rapid transformation of the Central District of Seattle. For decades — probably on this same corner of 23rd & Union — numerous African Americans were jailed for possession of cannabis.
Now a rich entrepreneur (yes, rich white male, how’d ya guess?) partners with another owner who won the legal weed lottery to make lots of money selling weed on that very same street corner. Ian Eisenberg, the co-owner, has had run-ins with fraud in the past: http://twiki.cageyconsumer.com/CyberspaceRuling.
It’s a sad ironic twist in the gentrification of the Central District, but it’s also another painful reminder of the centuries-old discrimination against African Americans being able to own property and business. Ask any African American or other person of color who has tried to buy property or a business in America — even in the “lefty” cities — and compare notes with a white business owner doing the exact same. The differences are, across the board, pretty disturbing. This is hardly a myth. Denying this is denying that there is domestic violence against women in America,
So, yes, while I support the right of Uncle Ike’s cannabis shop to exist, there is something more important and complex about the reasons these people are protesting the store — unrelated to pot and churches — and they need to be heard, and made public.
Steady State, at Havana Social Club in Seattle (1010 E Pike St., Capitol Hill). 7-9pm tonight.
Feel the voib.
Over a decade ago, I worked with Tetris creator (and Tetris Company co-owner) Alexey Pajitnov during a one-year contract onsite at Microsoft at zone.com, which is now a subdomain of MSN Games.
My job was to be Alexey’s game prototyper — He’d come up with ideas for games, and I would hash out the ideas into a workable, playable game prototype. Promising game prototypes would be enhanced with game-play parameter knobs I would add, to fine-tune the “playability.” If a prototype got greenlighted, it would get a budget and become a fully fledged game, where my prototype would be handed over to a lead engineer to make the game lean & attractive, with minimal changes to the game logic I created. After usability tests, the game would cycle through redevelopment again and — eventually. hopefully — become a live game that anyone with a working web browser could play.
I was lucky, and i was able to help get one game out there, called Mozaki Blocks (tm). I just checked, and it’s still live — so that’s a good sign, especially after a decade.
Anyway, the news of this movie obviously reminds me of this one job I had, and it still remains one of the most enjoyable jobs I’ve ever had. And I had been hired after my darkest period of unemployment ever. So this job truly saved me.
Regardless of how good or bad this movie turns out to be, I’m always happy to hear that Alexey is still at it. There was never a dull moment working with him, which was a main factor in making the job enjoyable and interesting.
Follow @SteadyStateSea from 7-9pm tonight live at Havana Social Club (havanasocial.com) in Seattle, as I play stuff! It’s free to attend as always. Here’s what I played last week. I live-tweet the songs as I choose them. I also draw them, which ends up as the promo pic of NEXT week’s Steady State.
Hari Kondabolu’s Waiting For 2042 is the most important American release of 2014. Not just in comedy, but for any audio recording. Consider it hyperbole, but I haven’t listened to any release more than Waiting For 2042 this entire year, and no other release has resonated as clearly, for better and worse.
"Importance" is something I rarely attribute to the quality of a music/rock/pop/comedy/etc. release. There are very "2014" jokes in this album, which I know will seem less important with the passing of time. However, the very tactful, surreal, and obviously hilarious takes on racism, misogyny, gay rights, and other cultural topics are more than enough to keep this listenable for years to come. Moreover, this is something that can be shared with the family, and that timelessness is what ultimately makes a quality release.
Of course, there are several classic comedy albums since the 50s, but I hesitate to put many of them on pedestals because I find that many cults of comedy seem to gravitate towards the SCREAMING WHITE MAN. This is a personal issue I have with these albums. What comedians like Lenny Bruce (especially circa mid 60s), Bill Hicks, and George Carlin say are very key and important, but that wall of SCREAMING WHITE MAN is a barrier to me. There’s one recent exception, which is Eddie Pepitone and his amazing album A Great Stillness. Pepitone is definitely a Screaming White Man, but his fragility in his delivery eliminates that barrier. For that reason, Pepitone is an exception.
Kondabolu is very confident without being cocky. He’s happy to publicly offer alternate perceptions or criticisms to his observations, which is what makes his comedy unique. He makes his bits educational without being “mansplain-y.” His comedy is not linear, leading to the occasional surreal takes and confrontation, like on “My Healthcare Plan”, “Flamboyant Heterosexuals”, and “Breastfeeding.”
The key to why Waiting For 2042 is important is a result of the sham of the current American media’s treatment of racial issues, many outlets seemingly bought into the “post-racial” perspective. Kondabolu tears into this notion non-stop without having to directly address it. Sadly, this album dropped mere months before the tragedy of Ferguson, Missouri. In a sad sense, the points raised in this album couldn’t have been better timed. I hesitate to recommend a comedy album for people dealing with that terror, but I will highly recommend Waiting For 2042 as an education release with comedy elements.
Outside important cultural issues that Hari Kondabolu raises, extra gold stars get thrown at Waiting For 2042 for telling the best Rolling Stones and Weezer jokes I ever heard.
Tonight in Seattle, Hari Kondabolu is performing new material at the Comedy Underground in Pioneer Square tonight. http://www.harikondabolu.com/shows/
The Best Reason To Quit Facebook
When I first joined it in 2009, it was like an invitation to a free, giant party with all sorts of friends I knew from different circles and brand new bright friends as a bonus. It was early enough in the party such that one could have private conversations with a few people without having to yell over the party’s din. It was a really exciting time. As opposed to Friendster or Myspace, Facebook felt like “The Real Deal” as far as a utopia of virtual friend connections. Despite being in my late 30s at the time, I was naive enough to let the euphoria lead me too far inside.
I left Facebook the other day (i.e. deactivated, not deleted) because it felt like the morning after that geological micro-era. I had become an addict. I know this because shortly after I left, my brain was still heading over to the browser itching to check out Facebook like it had become a reflex.
I was no longer surprised to find out other people had the same relatively obscure tastes in music and art as I did. That natural joy of meeting such people randomly in real life was now gone.
I was tired of being a cheerleader and sympathizer to everybody equally: whether it was my closest friend, or someone whom I never actually met but had a few good comical comments with, that one day. I had become exhausted.
The primary reason I left Facebook is because I was tired of donating so much of my thoughts and creativity to what is basically a cult — except this cult is one in which barely anyone realizes they play a part. All of that energy could have been invested in myself instead. At the time, however, the impulse to share those thoughts, or nuggets of wisdom, or creativity was more important than me, in essence, because I had become addicted to the immediate reaction of my friends.
Except they’re not really reactions as much as simple reflexes. In a similar way that the writer of “LMFAO” is rarely actually Laughing One’s Fucking Ass Off at the time, a thread of “OMG“‘s or “!!!!!“‘s is rarely a stream of earnest surprise or cheer.
It’s healthier to hear information through a filter, really. It’s more natural. Social media is great to getting out potentially unfiltered news quickly — long before any major media reports on it, if they choose to report it. (Ferguson, Missouri on Twitter is a good example of this.) Otherwise, I don’t think humans are meant to deal with it naturally. The 2014 Israel/Palestine conflict is a good example of something that the Internet is terrible at arbitrating on its own. The truth is: almost everything fits in the latter category.
I recognize my naivety of the above. Nothing I’m saying is intended to be shocking or a revelation. And I’m aware of the irony of posting this on yet another social media site.
On a final note, there is nothing wrong with the Internet on its own — at least yet anyway. We’ve just happened to arrive at at time when major corporations have figured out how to twist and manipulate the Internet as a media source just as they have to done to TV for decades. And if the phrase “Kill Your Television” is open to interpretation beyond TV, why not the corporate-run Internet?
If you live in Seattle, a free drink is waiting for you. Seriously.
Tonight (Sept 11th), it’s not just another Thursday evening post-happy-hour DJ weekly with yours truly….
EACH ATTENDEE gets a free $6 Drink Ticket! That will get you a free well drink (beer, wine, etc) or get you a major discount on a cocktail. More free drink tickets may be available, depending on attendance.
There is no cover.
*You’re totally free to bring your friends too*
Q: What is this?
A: It’s an attempt to have a small house party right in the heart of Capitol Hill in 2014. It’s also just me playing tunes using two old iPods as “decks” for two hours (like every Thursday) while my friends make friends with my friends having free drinks. That’s all!
Q: What music?
A: Free form. It’s mainly deep cuts from the 60s to today: hard rock, psych rock, R&B, dance, disco, post-punk, punk, glam, new wave, indie, weirdo, whatever plus just maybe the occasional hits.
Q: I can use these drink tickets WHEN?
A: September 11th, 7 - 9pm, 2014. Pacific Daylight Time. Not before, not after!
Q: Oh, I can’t make this, or I Don’t Want To Go…?
A: No worries! Hey, stuff happens, that’s the way it goes.
A: It’s been 6 years since I started playing tunes on a weekly basis at Havana Social Club. I’ve managed to stick around all this time and develop a close relationship with the people who make Havana happen. It’s also rare for a weekly gig to last 6 months, much less 6 years. So, this is my way of expressing gratitude to Havana and to my friends over the years for showing up. I’ve made new friends over those years too. And I figure the best way to get allz youze guyz and galz together is free drinks. So, have a drink on me! :-D
Havana Social Club is at 1010 E Pike St in Seattle, between Poquito’s and Sam’s on the north side of Pike. Enter through the parking lot.
Of course, this event is 21+.
Dear AMP Radio and good citizens of Calgary, Alberta, Canada:
I’ve visited your city years ago, and I am very fond of it. Combined with Banff, it’s a treasure. And you have one of the most beautiful record stores in the world, Recordland (although Sloth Records had better selections on my visit, but that’s beside the point.)
Unlike many of my peers, I’m not bothered at all by your decision to embrace a broadcast stream of radio hits that are edited down.
You may not realize that I have extensive experience in editing sound files, as a hobby and — on occasion — for my profession. I also have been a collector of pop records (as well as underground records) since I was 9 years old.
For a healthy amount of money, I will happily edit down your playlist pop songs for you. In many cases, for certain songs, I will REALLY edit down these songs to what I feel are the “bare essences.” Efficiency is an abstract we all need to strive for, in these times of slimming down and increasing resource throughput. And I could generate radio hits that do not even reach 30 seconds in length. In some cases, some songs after my treatment may not even hit the 3 second threshold.
You don’t have to take my offer, and that’s clearly your choice. However, there are advertisers of your fine radio station that may be saddened to know that their potential ad space could be severely shortened without employing my services. Please make the right choice.
Relocation is not an option. It’s the digital age, duh.
We must stop using the word “generation” in the media.
The word is as disappointing a media construct as the word “race” is destructive as a media construct.
"Baby Boomers", "Gen X’ers", and "Gen Y’ers" are only useful for statisticians dealing with population size. That’s it.
The Internet and various world tragedies have changed far more minds than the notion of belonging to a fabricated union based on highly fluid age boundaries. Even then, such a notion is merely a balloon destined to descend, deflate, die, and change nothing.
Today, I posted a mini-rant on Facebook around the old, current and perpetual audio medium war. It was inspired by a posting by Oliver Wang on his great blog Soul Sides. Here is that entry. I agree with the entry, but the resulting comments from it on various Facebook threads exhibited that there are certain technical issues that are still misunderstood by many. I posted most of the following off the top of my head earlier today, and I was kinda blown away by the positive response. So here it is, with some slight changes and amendments to make it a little less sloppy
HAPPY BIRTHDAY @comedyminusone !
Count Floyd - “Reggae Christmas Eve In Transylvania” from the Count Floyd EP (1982)