“Woah, slow down there maestro. There’s a *New* Mexico?” – Montgomery Burns

I don’t normally like to do two random posts right next to one another, but it’s been a couple weeks and I don’t have any one subject worth posting about.  (But at least the first one’s long.)  So…Simpson’s quote in the title…and here we go…

  1. Saw Iron Maiden with my brother last night.  I think it was my 7th time seeing them, if I’m counting right.  Maybe eighth?  It gets hard to remember.  It was Dave’s 10th show though.  (He seemed sure.)  Maiden is one of my favorite live acts and they were in rare form last night, all looking to have a ton of fun playing for a crowd that seemed largely unfamiliar with their newer material.  (That always drives me nuts.  They put out a new album last year, have been touring behind it since, and their setlist has been online the whole time.  Look at the set, buy or–ugh–stream the album, and sing along!)  Didn’t buy a shirt last night because they didn’t have the football shirt at the merch booth, so I’ve ordered it from their website.  The regular shirts were $40, and there just wasn’t one I liked enough to pay that much.
    Ghost opened for Maiden.  They’re OK, not great.  I like two songs; in fairness they did play them both.  I’ve really TRIED to like them.  I like what they THINK they’re doing, and the music is strong…but the vocals are kind of weak, in my opinion.  The guy just sounds like he should be fronting a power-pop band, not a willfully Satanic black-metal act.  But, they set a decent tone and served as a strong opener for Maiden.  I think they probably brought in some people who would’ve otherwise been on the fence or not gone at all, too.  So that’s good.
    Maiden’s this whole other thing, man.  I sometimes forget to mention them as one of my favorite bands, but they definitely are.  Steve Harris is one of my top bass influences, and Bruce Dickinson has inspired a lot of the screamier side of my vocal technique (although I don’t do it even a fraction as powerfully).  Their sound is so massive and their songs so energetic and their stage show so fun that seeing them is almost a life-changing experience…from the first time you see them onward, you just start including the phrase “I saw Maiden this one time and…” in your concert conversations.  Good show last night. Not the best I’ve ever seen them, but maybe the most fun I’ve ever seen them have.  And that means a lot as a fan.
  2. I was very disappointed to see that in the space of two days, Message author Eugene Peterson took a stance in support of the LGBTQ community, then immediately back-pedaled when it threatened his bank account.  Coward.  But then, he’s made a whole career of misrepresenting the words of Christ.  Why should he be expected to stand behind his own?  (Sorry…I just think transliterations are a bastardization of scripture that should be avoided.  There are plenty of proper translations that are plainly readable. I do own a copy of the Message.  It sits next to my copy of the Book of Mormon.  Because I put the same stock in them both.)
  3. Speaking of books… I’ve been reading Denis Johnson’s “Jesus’ Son” so named after a line in The Velvet Underground’s “Heroin.”  And that’s fitting.  It’s a bunch of semi-related short stories all told by the same narrator (known only as “Fuckhead”) and all of the stories involve drugs in one way or another from what I can tell.  It’s a quick read and a fun one. Plays with your head a little.  I can see why people were raving about the guy in the days following his death.  Wish I’d discovered him before he passed away.
  4. Bought a couple cool Summer hats at Levine Hats in downtown St. Louis.  They’re both of the straw variety and kind of trilby-shaped.  Although one’s a lot closer to a traditional fedora shape.  Most people don’t know the difference…as a quick primer, what Indiana Jones wears is a fedora.  What you THINK is a fedora is a trilby.  I like both of the hats.  They’re nice ones and they’re doing a great job keeping the sun out of my eyes.  🙂
  5. The new record is going okay.  I’ve sort of started on vocals in that I did a few takes and didn’t like them.  I’m a little too loose in my presentation.  I want to get a little stronger and tighter in my approach and present something I’m really happy with.  The vocal track is a large part of why I’m taking almost a full year on this one.  I want this record to be my best vocal performance to date.  And I think the songs are strong enough to make that a real possibility…  But the first takes aren’t there yet.  🙂
  6. I’ve got a gig coming up with the Feldman Group at the end of the month (the 29th, I believe).  It’s at a little bar that Mike plays a lot because they’re pretty loyal to him.  It’s not the kind of place I’d normally hang out, but they treat Mike and his band well.  And a gig’s a gig.  It’ll be fun.
  7. Doctor Who was REALLY FUCKING GREAT this season.  Sad Peter Capaldi’s leaving just so they can get all the fan-girls back with a younger, prettier guy again.  Or there are rumors that they might case a woman as the Doctor this time, too.  Which I feel would be a mistake.  Not because I won’t keep watching…but because I think MOST people won’t keep watching (see the Ghostbusters reboot).  There’s a formula to that show…you just can’t stray too far away from it and keep the fanbase.  Casting a woman would be a transparent publicity stunt to show everybody how PC they are that would end up tanking the ratings after a couple of weeks.  The legacy of the show and likely the actress they’d shoehorn into the role would both deserve better.  But of course, everything’s pure speculation at this point.  Personally, I’d love to see them offer the role to Simon Pegg.  Or failing that to an actor EVEN OLDER than Capaldi.  Like if Max Von Sydow isn’t doing anything…
  8. I’m up late because I forgot that I needed to do laundry.  Seems to happen to me a lot. Should really just set a day and stick to it.
  9. It was announced earlier in the week that Nick Lowe will be coming to town in October with Los Straightjackets along with him.  Tickets go on sale tomorrow.  So…in other news…tomorrow I’m going to be buying tickets to see Nick Lowe with Los Straightjackets.  How could I possibly pass up seeing one of my favorite pop singers with one of my favorite Mexican Luchador surf bands?

And that’s where I’m going to stop, because I’m tired.  I’ll try to post again soon.  I think I’ve got a thing or two coming up that merit posts of their own, anyway!

————

Current Listening:

  • Still Maiden. Mostly the stuff they didn’t play at the show.  🙂
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“What is it with cherubs? I mean, are they barfing or something?” – Millhouse Van Houten

As long time readers of the blog (if any) know, the Simpson’s quote in the title means this is a random post.  However, I’ve been told there are some folks passing around my blog address to members of the McGuire Family so they can read the post I wrote about Momma McGuire.  I’m touched by that.  In case you’re one of those folks and you only got the general blog address, the direct link is here: https://derekbrink.wordpress.com/2017/06/12/rest-in-peace-momma-mcguire/. Thanks for stopping by!

Now…here’s the usual format…

  1. I’ve learned that St. Louis staple bar/restaurant Cicero’s is closing.  That’s sad to learn.  Been around since before I was born.  They say that they have “determined it no longer makes sense to continue.” Which doesn’t really answer any questions.  To most people in town the news comes as a shock and the announcement ITSELF doesn’t make sense…but I guess they probably have their reasons, some of them probably stemming from the original owner’s death last year.  (But I read the release and it’s a bitter mess with no real information in it.  We’ll never know what really went wrong, I’d imagine.)  I’ll miss Cicero’s.  I kinda fell in love with somebody there, once.  But she determined that it didn’t make sense to continue, too…so there you go.
  2. I’ve been sick today.  I blame Burger King.  I haven’t gone to Burger King in probably close to a decade for lunch/dinner (I’ve had a couple breakfasts), so I guess my resistance was low.  Or the sauce they gave me for my nuggets was bad.  It’s kind of defeating to have food poisoning.  Eating’s the one thing I do really well and I even managed to fuck that up.  Stayed home today.  Think I slept for about 6 hours of what would’ve been my 8 hour work day.  And now I’m writing this, which is the first thing I’ve done that you could call “productive” all day.
  3. I think I mentioned some time ago that I’d started reading Paul Auster’s novel “4321.”  Well, I’m within the last quarter of the book.  I put it down for a while and took longer than I meant to in order to get back to it.  It’s a great book, but it’s a difficult read.  (As an example, the sentences are very long, complex sentences that seem like run-ons, but are grammatically correct.  I counted one particularly long one and on a page with 38 lines on it, 21 were one SENTANCE.  Not paragraph. Sentence.  And there’s 866 pages of that.  It’s a tough read, even though it’s great.  It’s like scaling Everest, if you really like climbing mountains.  After this, I’m going to read some short stories by Denis Johnson, with whom I was unfamiliar prior to his death, but who came highly recommended by those mourning him.  Even if they’re hard short stories, at least they’ll be SHORT!  🙂
  4. I’ve picked up a TON of new music in the last couple weeks.  Just among the new releases, I’ve picked up stuff by Jason Isbell, Jade Jackson, Cheap Trick, Flogging Molly, Roger Waters, Glen Campbell, and Los Straightjackets.  And it feels like I’m missing one or two…  So far no stinkers…  But I also don’t have a frontrunner for my favorite album of the year yet.  There’s plenty in the running, though.
  5. Had a bit of a power outage on Saturday night into Sunday.  I was without power for 9 hours.  Some others in town hit at least 24.  Because every storm in Florissant is absolutely the first one we’ve ever experienced.  In fairness, it was a pretty aggressive one.  Knocked down some branches at the house, too.  Although I was up for it, and it didn’t seem that bad.  Over in about 30 seconds.  But I guess that’s enough.
  6. Don’t have anything to update on the progress of my next record (“It Could Be Worse.”)  I need to do vocal takes, but keep putting it off.  Which may be a good thing, actually, as the song “No One Leaves St. Louis” needs a small re-write because it mentioned goddamn Cicero’s in a way that implies it’s open…  So for once my laziness is a blessing in disguise.  It’s going to be a good record though, and I’m excited about it.  I have set up the microphones in a somewhat experimental way for the vocal takes–I want to use the room to create a natural reverb and I think I’ve got a decent approach…just need to actually TRY it now.
  7. I paused between entries 6 and 7 to deal with my stomach issues again.  I have no idea what I was originally going to write here.  I’m just hoping to make it to work tomorrow at this point.  Don’t worry…I’m staying hydrated.
  8. I think I noted previously that Dave and I have tickets to see the Descendents play in St. Louis in October.  Last week it was announced that The Get Up Kids will be opening.  I LOVE The Get Up Kids!  in the early 2000s, they were regularly in my player right next to the Descendents.  I associate those two bands with one another, and I’ve never seen the Get Ups, either!  So the show became a two-fer for me!
  9. There’s a cool guitar pedal board thing I really want to buy.  But it’s a little bit expensive and I’m not in a regularly playing band right now, so I’m having trouble justifying it.  If I were at least playing at a church every week, I could maybe talk myself into it, but we’re not there yet.
  10. I’ve been lazy about getting plugged in to a church.  Got used to sleeping in on Sundays, mostly.  Plus, there keep being other factors keeping me away.  Like a Memorial Day picnic, or the person I know at the church is going to be out of town and I don’t want to sit alone, or there’s a storm that knocks out my power overnight, or I’ll look at the clock and realize it’s 4am and I’m still up so there’s no way in hell I’m waking up in time, and stuff like that.  God probably understands that, huh?

Well…this is a bad post and I’m exhausted from being sick.  So I’m going to stop.  I’ll try to be interesting again soon.

————

Current Listening:

  • Jade Jackson – Gilded — Heard a lot of this record milling about in Barnes & Noble while my brother shopped for a Father’s Day gift for our Dad.  Liked it a lot, asked who it was, and bought it.  It was produced by a member of Social Distortion (although it’s NOTHING like them), which might have something to do with why I liked it.  Good folky rock.
  • Jason Isbell – The Nashville Sound — Pretty good.  Not his best album (that’d still be “Southeastern”) but it’s got some deep hooks and I like it a lot.  For the first time in a while, the rock songs are stronger than the ballads.  So that’s pretty cool.

Rest in Peace, Momma McGuire

I’ve been meaning to write for a while. I’d thought my birthday would prompt it, but here we are two weeks later and I’m just now writing something. There are reasons, but most of them boil down to “I wasn’t sure what to talk about.”  Unfortunately, I’ve got something to talk about now.  Elenore “Momma” McGuire passed away on June 11.  That’s not a Blues singer.  She’s the mother of the guy that’s probably the closest thing my Dad’s ever had to a brother.  I even call him Uncle Dan.

I guess the easiest way to describe it is that Momma McGuire was a matriarch not only to Dad and Uncle Dan, but to pretty much their whole group of friends.  That group of friends formed a club in the 60s known as The Gluttons.  The Gluttons are still a functioning, dues paying club to this day (albeit with a mostly newer membership) and celebrated their 50th anniversary in 2014.  It started out as a bunch of high school friends. Most of us at one point or another said “we should form a club” to our high school friends.  But these guys actually did, and they kept it going.  For the most part, the original membership is still in contact, though some have either moved or passed away.  Life takes different people to different places, and for myself, life placed me in the pool of the Gluttons Club as a kid, where I learned to swim, where I snuck my first taste of beer, and where I met the McGuire family.

The great shame of the Gluttons is that the members’ kids didn’t really grow close.  We all recognize each other, but for as small as St. Louis is, it’s also easy to not see someone for years at a time, and if you weren’t at the Club at the same time you might not be best friends with the other kids.  So it goes.  But I did manage to grow fond of most of my “Glutton Uncles” as Dad has always called them.  And if there’s one thing that can be said about the “Old Boys” amongst the Gluttons, they all loved Momma McGuire.  And she loved them too.  She contributed to most of their delinquencies back in the 60s.  On that note, she is very likely indirectly responsible for me being born, as she once saved my Dad’s life.

I’ll spare all of the details…but the short version is my Dad was raised in a Baptist home by good Baptist people.  Dad himself was also a good Baptist, but those Gluttons sure were a bad influence on him.  (**wink**)  After one such night of influence, Dad went home a shade of green that he found himself needing to explain to my grandmother.  Now…my grandmother was a kind, generous, warm person…  But there is no doubt in my mind that she would have killed Dad if she knew the truth.  Dad, of course, said that he’d gotten sick–I believe saying “it was something I ate.”  Grandma picked up her telephone and (I’m sure with a wooden spoon in one hand) dialed the McGuire household, speaking to Elenore, asking questions one might expect her to ask.  Momma McGuire replied telling her that “oh, yeah…I think just about all the boys got sick.  I don’t know what they ate, but it must’ve been bad…”  She fed Grandma the same load of crap my dad did.  (Because she loved those boys.)  And Grandma bought it, my dad lived, and eventually I was born.

Decades later, Dan and Don (Dan’s brother) were throwing a birthday party at the Gluttons Club for Momma McGuire.  Dad said he’d help get the place cleaned up and showed up to do so.  A couple hours went by and the McGuires weren’t there yet, so Dad called and asked if they were still coming.  They consulted Elenore and said something to the effect of “well, Dave’s over there doing all the work himself right now…”  She replied, “He still owes me.”

That’s a good story. I hope my Dad doesn’t mind me writing it down. (I’ll edit it if he does.)

The last time I saw Momma McGuire was in 2014.  She would have been 88 or 89 then, but you’d have guessed younger.  Sadly, we were both at a funeral for a member of the Gluttons family.  Barb Bolesta had died too young.  I wrote about that here.  I’d gone through the receiving line already and was milling about as one does at a wake.  In through the door came Momma McGuire.  We were well acquainted, of course, and I went over to say hello.  “Hello young Mr. Brink” she said and kissed me on the cheek–the first and as it goes last time she ever did that.  I was wearing a suit and I remember briefly feeling like I was at a mafia meeting and I just got made.  (If the mafia existed.  Which, of course, it doesn’t.  And if it did, it would be awesome.)  That was immediately followed by her pointing right at me and saying, “Is there coffee?”  And I said, “Yeah, it’s downstairs…” to which she threw a dismissive hand in the air and said, “AH! …of COURSE it is!” and she wandered off.

That’s a pretty good story too. Mostly because I also hate stairs.

It was late in the day this past May 29th when my dad called me and told me that Momma McGuire was in hospice and wasn’t going to make it.  I don’t often hear my dad cry.  It’s not fun.  By coincidence of the calendar, that was also my birthday…but who can you possibly hold that against?  Nevertheless, that’s got a little bit to do with why I haven’t written, I think.  Hospice is one of those awful things that in its kindness is also misery.  I go back and forth on whether or not it’s a blessing or curse that most people in hospice don’t know they’re there.  And what’s better for the family?  To sit around waiting for someone they care for to die, or for it to happen quickly?  I’ve never been sure, even having had some experience in the field…

I don’t know arrangements yet, but I did tell people at my office as early as May 30th that I may need to take a day off with very little notice.  Because of COURSE I want to go to the funeral.  She saved my Dad’s life, and I owe her.

Elenore “Momma” McGuire was 91.  It’s hard to feel shortchanged on how much time she had or how much she packed into it.  91 years is a good run.  And for at least 90 of those, she had the demeanor of somebody much younger.  A boundless energy and a joy of living.  “Feisty” is a good word for it.  If I live into my 90s (ha!) I hope I have even a fraction of her same energy.  I don’t even know if she meant to do it, but Momma McGuire drew people to her and when they walked away they felt better, even if they were already feeling good.  That’s a rare gift.  I’m glad to have known her and even though the memories are good, it hurts my heart to know that the last time I’ll be in a room with her, she won’t be able to make me feel better…

But damned if I won’t find a cup of coffee at the service.

More “Worse”

I’ve taken some major steps forward in regards to the recording of my next solo record, “It Could Be Worse,” so I thought I’d give you some updates.  If you don’t care, then there’ll probably be an everything/nothing post in a couple days or something.  If nothing else, my birthday is Monday so that’ll probably motivate me to write something.  But for now, I wanted to write a post for my fan.  Singular.  I have one.  Hi, Angela.

I think I’ve got all or at least 99% of the instruments recorded.  There’s guitars, bass, keys, drums, and even a little harmonica.  It’s sounding good (if I may be so bold).  There’s a little bit of a different feel to this one.  For my own sake, I burned a CD of just the music tracks to listen to and check levels/performances, etc…and most of the songs hold up as a good listen, even without the vocal parts, which I’m not sure I’d say about a lot of my back-catalog.  (Some of it, sure…but a lot of it definitely needs words…)  It’s turned into an interesting mix of laid back, moody stuff and punk-influenced pop-songs.  Yet it gels pretty well.

All told, I think it’s going to be about a 40-minute record (give or take).  Some folks could probably fit it into their morning commute.  And I think that’s good.  Ever since CDs came along and offered everybody 80 minutes to mess with, albums got too long.  Sometimes it’s nice to know you don’t have to take the whole day off to listen to every damn idea the writer had in the past couple of years.

I was going to wait until we were a little closer to release in 2018 (I’m thinking March–which means we’re about the gestation of a baby away), but why wait?  Here’s the track list, so you can choose what song you’re looking forward to the most based on absolutely no other information:

  1. So Anyway…
  2. Nobody Else
  3. Everybody Shut Up
  4. What I’m Dying For
  5. No One Leaves St. Louis
  6. Who I Am Today
  7. Amanda, I’m Tired
  8. That Was Then
  9. I Still Believe
  10. Always

Looking forward to sharing it with you in a bit.  Haven’t done final vocals yet.  I usually end up doing three vocal takes I think are going to be “final” so if it sounds like I’m almost done and may as well release it in August, you’re way off…  I’ll do a couple vocal takes on each song, then the mastering process usually takes me about 30 mixes of tweaking and compromise…so even though the instrumental stuff went pretty quick, there’s still a long haul before it’s done.  And once it IS done, I plan to set it down, not listen to it for a month, then relisten and fix the stuff that I would’ve wanted to fix after it was released if I DID put it out in August…  It’s a different approach than I’ve taken in the past, and I hope it’ll keep me from issues like wishing I’d turned up the vocals a little bit across the board (“Trigger Warnings…”) or wishing I’d gotten one more drum take on the opening track (“Grounds”) or that I’d worked a little harder to put fills into the drum parts (“Ink-Stained Fingers”) or whatever (Uhh… “New Year’s Eve” maybe?).

Anyway…that’s your window into where I am on the project for now.  Next time I’ll talk about something else and probably also this again because it’s all I’m doing in my free time.

Thanks for tolerating that!

————

Current Listening:

  • Chris Bell – I Am the Cosmos
  • Me

Chris Cornell – 1964-2017

I can’t claim to be the biggest Soundgarden fan.  I like them.  Their music has always been right there on the edge of my consciousness…  But in the great grunge war, I chose Team Pearl Jam and all others were casual listens at best for me.  Soundgarden fit into that group.  Which is no shame.  They’re there alongside Nirvana, STP, Screaming Trees, etc…  It’s good company, and they all get a spin from time to time…and I sure like Soundgarden better than I like Cornell’s later work in Audioslave, with no disrespect intended.  (Even the latter-day Soundgarden resonates with me better than Audioslave–it’s not just fond memories of my youth.)

That said…I was very sad to hear today that Chris Cornell is dead and that it has been ruled a suicide.  It took me back to the day Kurt Cobain died.  At that time I was a big Nirvana fan; they only got relegated to the “they’re not Pearl Jam” section after the Foo Fighters took off.  I remember my high school making counselors available, my friends writing essays about how important he was in English class, and my band putting together a tribute set (which included a version of “Lithium” that I sang so off key that it made it sound like Kurt was singing ON key).  And I remember thinking it was so weird that one of MY generation’s musical heroes was dead.  I was 13 then.  I’m 36 now.  I’ve seen it happen a lot since.  But when Scott Weiland died, I remember thinking, “Well…yeah…we all knew he had problems…”  With Cornell…it’s different.  This feels deeply significant.  This feels like Kurt Cobain.  It feels like things are unfinished and wrong.

Maybe it’s just that it’s a similar kind of death.  Most of the grunge/rock guys who’ve died from anything other than natural causes have been overdoses or similar.  In fact, most people seem to have assumed they were going to hear the same about Cornell, too.  I clicked on an article just ten minutes ago that was TITLED: “Chris Cornell’s Death Ruled a Suicide” and the first comment was some jackass’s one-word reply…  “Drugs.”  Didn’t even read the title, I guess.  Drug overdoses are always sad and often sudden…  I don’t mean to take away from them…  But if you know someone’s an addict, there’s a part of your brain prepared to rationalize the news pretty immediately upon receipt.  Hence, “well…yeah…we all knew he had problems…”  Suicide, though?  Suicide rips the deceased out of the arms of those who would’ve held them forever.  Even when you see it coming, you kinda don’t.

As a casual at best fan, I definitely didn’t see it coming with Chris Cornell.  As a dedicated fan in the 90s, I didn’t see it coming with Kurt Cobain either, even though there were definitely very public signs in his case.  As a fan, it’s not really in your power to know that the star is burning out.  You’re not one of the people they’re able to reach out to, you’re a voice among a sea of voices…  But your heart still sinks a little when it happens.  You still want to write an essay.  You still want to get your band together and learn “Jesus Christ Pose” in time for a tribute set in front of your friends…  You still choke up a little bit the first time you say it out loud…  And like I said, I’ve never even been a HUGE fan.

But…come on…  “Rusty Cage” is a GREAT fucking song.  Johnny Cash even saw that and covered it.  (In fact, in my mind it’s more of a Johnny Cash song than a Soundgarden song.  Cornell himself more than once stated that, “he made it sound like he wrote it” as a compliment.)  I mean, “Spoonman” was stupid…  but RUSTY FUCKING CAGE?  Timeless.  As is “Hunger Strike” and “Say Hello to Heaven” and “Fell on Black Days” and “Black Hole Sun…”  I may not know many deep cuts, but the guy has a hell of a greatest hits album.

When I got home tonight, I went to my record shelf and pulled out my pink-vinyl copy of the “King Animal Demos” which was a Record Store Day exclusive release a few years ago.  Hadn’t listened to it since that time.  I set up my phone and streamed it “live” on Facebook.  Facebook (of course) wouldn’t let me save it and keep it accessible because it’s got copyrighted music in it (although, y’know…they’ll let a guy live-stream himself murdering a stranger…but whatever…), but for about 30 minutes, me and about 40 people had a good time.  The point wasn’t to keep the video.  The point was to quietly honor someone whose music shouldn’t have stopped the way it did.  Jesus, man…he played a gig just a few hours prior to killing himself.

Grunge music was all about chronicling the bad stuff.  In fact, most rock music is about that in one way or another.  Oh, sure, you’ve got the occasional happy-as-shit hit song that’s on everybody’s lips for a Summer…but look through your “Great Songs!” playlist that I KNOW you keep on your MP3 player or Spotify app or whatever.  Count how many of those songs are about walking on sunshine or being in love on a Friday.  I’m going to bet it’s way less than 50%.  Rock music is mostly about pain, rejection, sadness, and loss.  Just sometimes in a major key…  That’s something I struggle with from time to time.  Like Rob says at the start of the movie High Fidelity, “What came first, the music or the misery? … Did I listen to pop music because I was miserable? Or was I miserable because I listened to pop music?”  And it’s not even JUST pop music…  The Christian hymn “It Is Well With My Soul” has a devastatingly sad backstory.  (In brief, the composer’s four daughters died in a ship-disaster.  When he went overseas to reunite with his wife, he passed over those same waters and floating above the place his children drowned wrote, “when sorrows like sea-billows roll…”)

I’ve always felt that the goal of most music is commiseration.  In my own writing career, I’ve tried to make my overall message the very simple mantra of “you are not alone.”  I’ve always thought that if we can sing in sorrow’s face, then the fucker might not stick around too long…but since it’s the audience, we’ve got to acknowledge that it’s there, too.  Rock is a genre that means well in trying to say, “We’ve all been there…so let’s sing together… Big and loud on the chorus, folks!!!”  But sometimes that gets lost.  Sometimes the pain is real, and sometimes the guy writing it needs somebody to stop yelling requests and start listening to him more closely.

For whatever it’s worth, Chris…  I’m sorry we were cheering so loud that we couldn’t hear you.  I hope you’ve found peace, where you are now.

The toll-free number for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255 (TALK).  Or you can visit them at https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org, where you can also chat with someone online if you’d rather not call.

“Please do not offer my god a peanut.” – Apu Nahasapeemapetilon

Alright, here’s what’s been going on lately…

  1. Y’know how I’m basically a big, grumpy, immature child? Well last night my printer broke down, I got pissed off in the way I reserve EXCLUSIVELY for inanimate objects and kicked it…and I’m pretty sure I broke my middle toe.  It’s bruised up and hurts like a bastard.  After talking with several people who I know have had broken toes, I’ve been informed that all they’re going to do if I go to the doctor for it is tape it up and tell me to keep taping it up until it doesn’t need it anymore.  So I’m going to save my fucking $100 Urgent Care copay (SCAM!) and spend it on medical tape and cotton balls instead, and I’ll probably be walking with a cane for a bit.  Y’know…even as I was in mid-kick, I was thinking, “Man…grow the fuck up…” and then bam.  But I still feel like I won the fight.  I might be wounded, but the printer’s in the trash.
  2. A couple of weeks ago, some jerk stole my bank-card number and started buying apps off of Google.  (At least I think it was apps.  Had about a dozen charges for $3 each.  Makes sense.)  I don’t know for sure, but I think somebody hacked a small-business database or something and went from there.  My bank (Regions) was great.  They froze the card before it reached $50, informed me of the problem same day, informed me I’d have ZERO liability for the fraudulent charges, put in a claim, issued me a new card within a week, and the money was back in my account before I’d even used my new card for the first time.  So they did a GREAT job keeping a customer.  (That said, I have been with them for 19 years and this was my first problem…so that probably helps.)  I do find it funny that the first time I’ve ever worried about theft came AFTER they introduced the chip cards that are supposed to be so much safer…but I’m sure that’s a coincidence, huh?
  3. Ray Davies (formerly of the Kinks) released a new record called “Americana” last week.  It’s different from what I expected, but in some ways just unfolds the next layer of what he started with “Working Man’s Café” in 2008.  “Americana” is a great name for it, because that’s absolutely what it is, stylistically and in lyrical theme.  It takes a dedicated listen, though.  The first time I heard it (in my brother’s car) I knew there’d be enough there that I’d like it, but I knew I was missing a lot of it, too.  The second listen, I picked up a little more, found some things clever that I’d overlooked on the first listen…  The third listen, it fully clicked and I knew it’s destined for the Top 10 this year.  Good record.
  4. Writing on the new record is going okay.  I’m taking the rest of this week to organize some of the stuff that I’ve already done.  Getting the lyrics all typed and saved, getting guitar chords actually WRITTEN DOWN rather than just in my head, figuring out how a couple of the looser-structured tracks are actually going to end…  Stuff like that.
  5. Record Store Day took place last Saturday.  I’m a little frustrated by the whole thing these days…my hate of hipsters has finally clashed with my love of art and the hate seems to be winning.  Doesn’t really feel worth the trouble, since the stuff I’ve ended up with is stuff I could’ve bought even this evening just as easily as fighting the schmucks on Saturday.  And a lot of the stuff I REALLY wanted was sold out the second the doors opened and is going to sit unopened on some hipster’s shelf until they throw it away.  But, in all, I’m happy with the purchases I was able to make.  I picked up the Drive-By Truckers “Live in Studio” six-song release.  Picked up the final installment of Big Star’s “Complete Third” on vinyl.  And then on Monday, I went to a Slackers (think about how stupid that is) and picked up the RAMONES limited edition set of their first 10 singles.  Spent a little too much, all told, but it was stuff I wanted and especially that RAMONES set is pretty limited (only 6500 copies made).  So it feels worth it.  Plus, hearing “Blitzkrieg Bop” on 45 is something everybody should do at least once.
  6. I have Netflix!  I’ve never had it before!  (My former roommate did, but I rarely used it if he wasn’t already logged in.)  I signed up because of the relaunch of Mystery Science Theatre 3000.  I’ve always loved that show and it’s good to have it back.  Lots of fun and laughs.  Plus, there are a bunch of documentaries I want to see, but not enough to buy them, and of course the handful of original-content series that are worth it (looking at you, Kimmy Schmidt).  So…I’ve become one of you, basically.
  7. I need to get a new briefcase.  It’s got to wait until next month, since I spent more than I should on Record Store Day (and the week preceding)…but the bag I’ve been using to take my laptop to and from work is falling apart already (I’ve had it less than a year, I think).  I miss carrying a briefcase, and this seems like a good opportunity to buy one.  They even make them with padded laptop bags included now, so that works.  Thinking I’m going to go to a Wilsons outlet to buy it–wanna get something nice.
  8. I’m also looking into paying way too much for CD storage.  I’ve run out of space in the stuff I’ve already got.  I’ve found a huge shelving system that’s supposed to hold about 1600 CDs…which actually might not be quite enough (which is why I won’t be throwing out the old stuff), but it’ll look cool and organized.  So I’ll probably be ordering that soon.
  9. My birthday’s coming up.  May 29.  I’ll be 37.  I should make a list…
  10. Had a good rainy day in St. Louis today.  Wish I’d have opened up the windows and listened to it a little.  Maybe put on the Big Star record in the background…supposed to rain again Friday.  Maybe then.

Well that’s it.  I’m going to bed now!

“Worse” News

As I’ve mentioned in a previous post or probably more (it’s hard to be sure; I don’t read my own blog), I’m working on a new record for release in early 2018.  It’s called “It Could Be Worse.”  And this is an update on how it’s going…

It’s going faster than I thought.  I’ve got an album’s worth of stuff written and I’m still writing.  Some of it is crap.  That’s why I’m allowing myself time to filter it out.  At the same time though, it’s going smoothly enough that I downloaded the full version of the “EZDrummer” software that makes programming and building drum tracks super easy.  It’s a fun and versatile recording/writing tool that I can’t recommend enough to any friend who’s looking for good music software.  (They apparently have stuff for other instruments too, but I only needed the drum stuff, personally.)

The songs I’ve got for it are a weird mix.  Some of them are fun and goofy.  Some are downright sad.  Should be a pretty bipolar listen, but that’ll hopefully keep it interesting to listen to, as well.  A few of the ones I’m SURE I’m going to want to use are semi-unfinished lyrically.  My process is sometimes lengthy.  I might tick on a single phrase or even WORD for weeks, months, or even years.  Sometimes that leads to a lot of half-written verses that are waiting for as good of lines as the ones already on paper.  And sometimes that gets compromised…and sometimes it doesn’t.  Then there are the songs where I’ve got them completely done in an afternoon.  All of that’s been going on so far.

I like how it’s working out up to this point.  Haven’t hit a slump or wall with it yet.  One’s coming. They always do.  But that’s another part of why I’m scheduling to take the time to work on it and take it slow.  The upside to getting so much done on the front-end of it is that I’ll have plenty of that time left later.  The mix-down stage is really what I’m concerned with, and I’m giving myself plenty of space for that.

The one thing I should probably schedule during Summer is a photoshoot.  My friend Tara did the photos for the “Ink-Stained Fingers” album in 2014, and I was able to keep using stuff up through the front cover of the “Trigger Warnings & Sunshine” record.  One photoshoot can get you a LONG way.  And I need to do a new one.  This record’s not the same tone as the previous ones…and I don’t look the same as I did in 2014, either…so new pictures are in order.  Although, I think I’d like the cover to be something still-life…I don’t know.  We’ll see what happens…  The point is, I should schedule that for a time where outdoor shots are doable without the photographer freezing…  I wonder if Tara would be interested in working together again…

Anyway…that’s where we are.  I don’t know if this post was interesting for anyone but me.  If not, I’m sure I’ll write something else soon.  Until then…sorry.

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Current Listening:

  • Guided By Voices – Do the Collapse
  • Craig Finn – We All Want the Same Things