Thursday, May 28, 2009

Record Review: Old Empire

This week's issue of the Metro Times has my review of Old Empire's Queen City Quandaries. I really like this record, and I’m particularly intrigued at the whole idea that it was inspired in part by characters from WKRP in Cincinnati. If I were forced into like, a Brewster's Millions situation, the first thing I'd do is commission different artists I like to make music based on the complex relationships of the characters from my favorite 80’s TV shows.

Here are a few I thought were fairly obvious perfect matches:

Small Wonder - Deastro

Little House on the Prairie - Bonnie 'Prince' Billy

ALF - Björk

A few that might seem less obvious but I have a hunch would be fantastic:

The Dukes of Hazzard - Okkervil River

Three’s Company - Pop Project

Cagney & Lacey - Yeah Yeah Yeahs

Miami Vice - Telefon Tel Aviv

Seriously... This could produce some great stuff.

Monday, May 25, 2009

A Special Treat, A Country Music Treat

All through college I worked at an animal hospital where the “Young Country” station played, literally 24 hours a day. I recognized that it was very helpful and often calming to the animals to have constant sound, but it made my already high dislike of country music grow stronger. Then one weekend, I was working late and the station played some kind of ‘Classic Country” show highlighting music of country’s “Golden Age.” I have no idea if they still have this show, but that night, at least two songs came on that totally blew me away. Because of the nature of the job, I missed who these songs were by, but it certainly intrigued me… But other than eventually getting into Johnny Cash and some Willie Nelson, Tammy Wynette and George Jones, I never really took the time to explore more classic country stuff. Until recently. The coinciding release of John Doe & the Sadie’s new record Country Club, and my having an actual working record player have gotten me obsessing about country music lately. There is no more fitting type of music to listen to on a record player than old school country, and the cheap prices of used records makes it totally worth taking a chance on something you only have a hunch about. So various trips to local used record shops have netted me some country gold lately. Here’s some of the stuff I’ve picked up:

Eddy Arnold - This Is... (RCA 1970)
First of all, I got this two record set for 10 cents at Record Time's big Record Store Day sale - all $1 records were the bargain price of ten pennies. It's the exact kind of heartbreaking, cracklin' country I love - "I'm sending you a big bouquet of roses - one for every time you broke my heart..." It also includes a purdy cover of the old Bee Gees song "I Started A Joke" which Arnold proves works best as a country ballad.

Dottie West - Feminine Fancy (RCA 1969)
This is one of three records I got at People's Records for less than three bucks that hadn't even been opened yet. I don't know a lot about Dottie West, but with an album name like that, and a track list that included her versions of "D-I-V-O-R-C-E," "The End Of the World," and "I'm Sorry," I figured it was worth a gamble. Though I'll still take Tammy Wynette, Skeeter Davis or Brenda Lee versions if forced to choose, West has a beautiful voice and this record is fantastic.

Charley Pride - Amazing Love (RCA 1973)
One of the "never been opened" three from People's. Though I had certainly heard his name before, I didn't realize before finding this record that Charley Pride was black. This is still a rarity for country, so that's pretty rad. He had tons of huge hits, but from what I can tell, none of them are on this record. However, the very last song is called, "Mr. Joe Henry's Happy Hand-Clappin' Open Air Rhythm Band" and it totally sounds like something from School House Rocks. So that makes up for it.

Jim Reeves - ... and Some Friends (RCA 1969)
The third of the "never been opened" three from People's. This is a collection of duets between Mr. Reeves and other country folks. It's has it's moments, but I have to deduct major points for the song, "But You Love Me Daddy" which is a call-and-response style duet with a child. I don't like sentimental songs about children, and I really hate when children sing. Combined, those two characteristics are enough to make my head explode.

Wanda Jackson - Lovin' Country Style (Stetson 1962)
Wanda Jackson (Ms. Jackson if you're nasty) is responsible for "Funnel Of Love," one of my favorite songs of all time. So when I saw this at Car City, I had to pick it up. Her voice is brash and twangy and perfect. I love the little write ups on the back of old records, and this one starts with "From Wanda Jackson to you - Lovin' Country Style - a special treat, a country music treat." Exactly.

Sonny James - My Love/Don't Keep Me Hangin' On (1970 Capitol)
Apparently this guy's pretty much tied with Alabama for number of chart topping country songs or something. But I can settle this: as a general rule, most all musical acts named after a geographical location are terrible. So Mr, James wins. Plus his version of "My Love" ("My love is warmer than the warmest sunshine, softer than a sigh...") is great.

Kitty Wells - Greatest Hits (MCA 1970)
The song, "It Wasn't God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels" is easily in the top five of songs that get stuck in my head for no reason. It is as if my brain, after hearing it once, knew repetition could force me to like it. That song alone, plus the amazing dress she's wearing on the cover, were reason enough to pick this up. I also loved that it had a song called, "I Gave My Wedding Dress Away." Because I did. Stuffed in a garbage bag and dropped off at Goodwill.

If you've got some suggestions for old school country goodness, please do let me know...

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Wonder Twins Review: Music 4 Mutts @ the Royal Oak Music Theater 5/16/09

If there's one thing we have in common besides having shared a womb, it is our love of and advocacy for rescue animals. Also our love of music (regardless of some of D'Anne's more questionable musical affinities). So obviously a show that was put on to raise money for the Michigan Humane Society caught our attention. So read the piece, and then go do something to help animals. Here is a short list of ideas in case you need a jumping off point:

1. Donate some money to the Michigan Humane Society
2. Volunteer to be a foster home for a needy pup or kitten
3. Advocate the adoption option to anybody you know looking to bring a new cat or dog into their family.
4. Kidnap the male and female Pekinese pups that live behind my mom and have them sterilized so they can't breed them anymore. Then return them with a note that says, "You're welcome." Make sure to return them though - because who on Earth wants a Pekinese?!

Buy Yourself a Present for Joe Cocker’s Birthday

Today is Joe Cocker’s birthday! I am not a Joe Cocker fan. I didn't even like the show The Wonder Years! So why do I care that it is his birthday? Well, really I don’t. BUT there’s a company that makes detailed replicas of t-shirts worn by famous music folk called Worn Free… and they have one of the coolest Detroit-related shirts I’ve ever seen. It just so happens it's a replica of one of Cocker’s shirts from 1977:

Pretty sweet, yes? So happy birthday to you and your awesome shirt, Joe Cocker. Buy it for yourself (or for me) today.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Record Reviews: Starfucker, Flatfoot

I've started doing some stuff for Tiny Mix Tapes again now that Detour is "transitioning out of the daily blogging game." My first review since picking up the slack is for Starfucker's Jupiter EP. It's super fun electro-pop, jammy jammy time summer music. I also had a review in last week's Metro Times for Flatfoot's new record. Somebody told me I should "update this more often." This was both flattering and stressful and now I can't think of anything to write. Hey, thanks a lot.

Oh yeah! Hamtramck Clean Sweep is this Saturday. My girlfriend and I will totally be there, making our little city-within-a-city a cleaner place. This means we'll be picking up a lot of Hot Cheetos wrappers and grocery store handbills. If you want to help out as well, you should. Here's the info you need.

Friday, May 8, 2009

This ain't no party, this ain't no disco... it's the Ferndale Public Library

So the Ferndale Public Library is starting to put together a collection of local music for folks to check out... Also, looking at their first couple posts, they're starting a really promising music related blog. It's even geekily named The 780.00s - which is where music starts in the Dewy Decimal system. I get confused by said system, but I do still picture a little green book worm with glasses and a tie named "Dewey" when I think about it, thanks to a poster that hung in my elementary school library. Anyhow, this new FPL music blog may or may not be written by the one my sister refers to as, "the girl from the library that you cried in front of." It's a long story, and that's not the point.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Amazon 1 Star Reviews

My friend Meghan posted a link on the FaceSpace today to Cynical-C Blog that frequently features one star Amazon reviews of classic movies, music and literature. Very funny, yet intellectually frightening! Though my favorite was a review for The Sounds of Music (“This movie was made in the sixties, we live in the 21st century, GET OVER IT!“), here are some highlights from classic albums featured. I have not corrected any of these for spelling or punctuation (obviously):

Pink Floyd - Dark Side of the Moon
“Why this album is so popular will always be a mystery to me. I guess if you take a lot of drugs anything will sound good.”

“IF you were born after 1965, don’t even think of wasting money on this… If you’re saying to yourself “But it was so popular and it was in the charts for years”, remember that millions wasted money on bell-bottoms and mood rings.”

The Beatles - Abbey Road
“… the song “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer” could have been written by a child.”

“I just dont like it because it sucks! Dont listen to the moronic 5 star reviewers below.”

The Beatles - The White Album
“Only music arty farty music critics continue to ramble on about their music. For the need of something to say.”

“…it is unbearable to listen to it gives me the shrivels!”

Jimi Hendrix - Are You Experienced?
“This guy is way overatted just because he died young.”

“…all this album is is a bunch of blues tunes that go nowhere.”

Of course this piqued my curiosity about albums that I feel are classic and what one star reviews they might’ve gotten… So I paid Amazon a visit and went a searchin’ for some of my favorite records. Enjoy...

Liz Phair - Exile In Guyville
“Of course, don't ever, ever - EVER! - criticize something a woman has done, especially if she's one of the ordained favorites of insular media critics otherwise they will smite you with the inevitable ‘You have a short ****!’”

Sonic Youth – Dirty
“If I wanted to hear this I could go down to the local foundary yard and listen to them cutting steel.. FOR FREE.”

Neutral Milk Hotel – In the Aeroplane Over the Sea
“I really think singing lessons are a path in which this artist needs to travel.”

“It sounds like its been recorded in a bedroom with no carpeting or furnishings to speak of, and using a guitar found in the shopping trolley of a can collecting toothless old lady.”

Belle & Sebastian – If You’re Feeling Sinister
“This album makes me increasingly violent as time goes on.”

“I don't get it. Maybe it's cuz i'm not gay.”

My Bloody Valentine - Loveless
"Like something my parents would listen to."

"This music is so stupid and weird not in a good unique way but just an uncomfortable way like when you are at someone's house and you don't like them and want to go home but you can't and you probably have to spend the night in their living room...."

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Wonder Twins Review: We Are Michigan - Standing Up for GLBT Rights @ The Magic Bag in Ferndale Thursday April 30th

Today’s Metro Times features the 2nd "official" Wonder Twins column – you can look forward to these deals every other week if my math works right (it does not often work right). This time around we talk about the “We Are Michigan - Standing Up for GLBT Rights” concert event at the Magic Bag last Thursday night. The main draw for us was the fact that it was raising awareness about gay issues in Michigan, AND we’ve both been wanting to see Chris Bathgate for about a year now. Though D’Anne is way more gay for Chris Bathgate than I am, I was really taken with his performance and demeanor and will certainly take every opportunity to catch him live when he plays around these parts. Although the event had a decent turn out, I wish more folks would’ve been there. Then again, because less people were there, I think it brought down the lung cancer threat level to “code yellow” rather than the usual “code red.” So that was a plus. Also, have I mentioned that lesbians are crazy? They are crazy.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Ye shall not round the corners of your heads, neither shalt thou mar the corners of thy beard

Although I think it’s more a passion for facial hair than Biblical duty, the boys of Child Bite have beards you can’t argue with. They also have a fundraiser coming up this Thursday at the WAB to raise money for their trek up to Anchorage where they’ll be competing in the World Beard and Moustache Championships. For serious. They need cash dollars for gasoline, which they are expecting will cost them a cool $1500. This is because Alaska is very, very far away. No word on whether Sarah Palin will be one of the judges, but we can hope, yes?

Speaking of beards, on Friday May 1st I flipped my calendar at work to reflect the fact that April has been lost forever and now a picture of ZZ Top graces my office space. I know you think this is because I have an exclusive fan club ZZ Top 2009 calendar, but you are incorrect. It’s because my calendar is a freebie from The Henry Ford, and apparently opening this month (May 16-Sept 7) is “Rock Stars’ Cars & Guitars” featuring (can you guess?) cars and guitars -- that belong to rock stars! Among the guitars featured are ones that belong to Alice Cooper, Gene Simmons, Jimi Hendrix, and apparently like, all the guitars Cheap Trick’s Rick Nielsen has ever owned. Also his John Deere riding mower. No joke. Between that and the cars (yes, ZZ Top’s Eliminator and… wait for it… Soundgarden’s 1986 Chevrolet Beauville G10 Van), it should be pretty sweet.

For those of you hippies who have beards but can’t look past the awesome fact of a band from Detroit participating in the WBMC and are horrified at the eco-implications of a $1500 gas bill and/or look down on the glorification of rock star vehicles, you will probably be intrigued by the new record by Ann Arbor folk duo Nervous But Excited. It’s called Anchors {The Green Album} and they obsessively took all precaution to make it the greenest record ever. From packaging and promo material to tracking and using as little gas as possible by car-pooling, they've thought of everything. They even took into account the energy their equipment used and offset this using renewable energy credits. Exhausting, yet admirable! One of my Ann Arbor area favorites, Chris Bathgate plays on the record, as well as a slew of other local folks who are awesome. Check it out.

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