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.

————

Current Listening:

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

“Are you there God? It’s me… Duffman!” – Duffman

Felt like doing a random post, but don’t have a lot to talk about.  So here’s a concise one, with a concise Simpsons quote in the title.

  1. My brother and I went to see (comedian) Dana Gould the other week.  I’ve been a fan of Dana’s since the 90s, but haven’t ever seen him live.  It was a fun night and worth the 20 year wait!  Haven’t laughed that long or hard in a VERY long time–he’s got some really killer, next-level material.  After the show, we got to meet him (Dave had met him previously in the 90s back when Dave was also doing comedy).  He’s a nice, friendly guy and doesn’t charge for his autograph, so I’ve got a poster that will be going up on the wall soon.  He spelled my name “Derick” for some reason…but it’s still cool!
  2. I’ve made some upgrades to my guitar effects board, going into working on the new album.  Putting something new on the floor is a good way to generate inspiration.  Sometimes even just swapping out something for something else you’ve not used in a while works out pretty well.  And this time, I did both.  🙂  I basically went from this…
    13561805_627705870720140_484273615_n…to this…
    board.pngIn order of the chain, I’m running the following: TC Electronics PolyTune (just a tuner/kill-switch that silences the whole thing), MXR DynaComp compressor (evens out the quiet sounds), ElectroHarmonix NanoPOG (new addition, generates an octave above and/or below the note you’re playing to make a big-ass, weird noise), Line 6 MM4 Modulation unit (chorus, flanger, phaser, and vibrato are the settings I have dialed in), Boss Blues Driver (used as a mild-distortion), MXR 78 Distortion (a slightly more aggressive distortion–I think of this as a “Hot Rod” sound in my head–plenty of “crunch” to it), TC Electronics Dark Matter (a big, rich, deep, gritty distortion I mostly use for leads), ElectroHarmonix Freeze pedal (holds individual tones/chords indefinitely and is a weird, cool effect), MXR Carbon Copy analog delay, Boss Digital Delay (I have two delays because they each have a different tone and different settings), Boss Fender Bassman (used mostly as a preamp for when I plug direct into a board rather than micing an amp), and finally a Danelectro Fish & Chips EQ, which I basically use just to add a little treble sparkle on top of my sound because the pedal chain is so long!
    So…yeah…plenty to play with.  Should be an interesting album!
  3. As I’m sure you’ve noticed, I’m a big pro-wrestling fan.  WrestleMania was this weekend and the Raw and SmackDown shows that followed on Monday and Tuesday were both great shows.  We saw the potential retirement of the Undertaker at Wrestlemania.  Then at Raw, we saw the return of Finn Balor (a personal favorite), the return of Kurt Angle (with whom I have no quarrel), and the debut of a tag team called The Revival (who I REALLY like–they remind me of the Brain Busters/Horsemen or the Minnesota Wrecking Crew–good old-school brawlers).  Then on SmackDown, we saw the call-up of Japanese sensation Shinsuke (pronounced “shin-skay”) Nakamura, who is known as the “king of Strong-Style.”  Basically…when he kicks you, you stay kicked.  It’s kind of an exciting time to be a fan, assuming they book it well!  🙂
  4. Pouring rain and tons of thunder outside right now.  Gonna be a rough night’s sleep.
  5. My niece Tessa got baptized on Sunday.  She was immersed (although Methodists will also sprinkle a baby if the parents ask for it, but I think they strictly do immersion for anyone who walks/talks for themselves).  I’ve got some serious issues with the Methodist views on baptism–it’s pretty much the only thing that keeps me from being one of them–particularly as it applies to the baptism of children.  However, in Tessa’s case, it’s a semantic difference for me, since she’s of an age to make the decision for herself, so who cares if it’s an inward sign of an outward condition or if it’s the moment of salvation or what, since the mode’s the same regardless?  All that aside, her heart’s in the right place and that’s what counts.  When she got dunked under, she splashed up a bunch of water and soaked the pastor and a lot of the front row, too which was fun and funny (and covertly made my point for me about how being sprinkled when you didn’t ask for it just doesn’t feel great now, does it?).  Proud of the kid for a lot of reason, but the fact that she sorta Brinked up the occasion is definitely on the list!
  6. I was a bit sick last week.  Feeling better this week.  I think the whole thing was at least partially related to some tooth-problems I’ve been having.  In fact, I have a feeling a LOT of my medical problems have been related to my teeth.  Need to just go in and get it all taken care of.  I’m not sure why I haven’t.  I guess it’s just that it’s so time consuming.  I’m not afraid of the dentist or of the pain or whatever…I had four wisdom teeth come in with three of them coming in WRONG (sideways and half covered in gums, etc)…pain isn’t something I fear anymore.  I just don’t want to take more time off work if I don’t need to…but then again, if they’re fucking me up, I probably need to, huh?  I just wish it could all be done in a sitting, is all…

And that’s it.  I’m going to try to go to bed before the thunder inevitably shakes me out of it…or before tornado sirens go off, should that happen.  (I’ve got a tornado siren right outside my window…louder than shit, those things.)

————

Current Listening:

  • Still Aimee Mann’s “Mental Illness” because it’s a really great record.
  • Also started listening to the Old 97s release again today.  I bought it a couple weeks back, but only listened to it about a time and a half.  (It’s good–just got distracted by Big Star, mostly.)  Really solid record and a lot of fun.  Need to listen to it more.

25 Years of Lists

A friend of mine posted a Facebook status listing his favorite movie for every year he’s been alive.  (It started with Spaceballs…which I saw in theatres…so I’m old now.)  Hi list got me thinking about doing the same thing, but with albums…which got me thinking about a retroactive list I’ve been wanting to do for a long time.  Friends of the blog will know I put a lot of time and effort into putting together my annual “Top Ten Albums” lists every year.  Well, I’ve long-since wanted to do top ten albums lists for every year I’ve been alive…but fuck, that sounds like a lot of work.  So I’ve done the next best thing…

As you’ll see below, I’ve scrolled through Wikipedia and just noted the stuff I’d definitely put on those lists if I did make them–just the no-brainers.  In most cases, there weren’t 10 to consider, playing by that rule–a couple years only have TWO entries!  (I could probably still pull off top tens, but I don’t want to do it and you sure don’t want to read it, so this is shorter.)  There’s some stuff that would have made a top ten that isn’t here at all because it wasn’t a “no brainer.”  I’m just listing the stuff that might’ve contended for top-spots.  No runners up.  (Difficult task, believe me!)  And since I did this all in one sitting and just scanned through each year on Wikipedia ONCE, please pardon any omissions.  For the most part these lists are in no particular order–although I am listing my album of the year for that year as the first entry each time.  And there’s some occasional commentary here and there I hope you’ll enjoy.

One more thing…  I’m only going from 1980 to 2005.  From 2006 onward, I’ve got top ten lists on this blog, and you can start reading them here, if you’re interested. Now…let’s go!

  • 1980:
    Queen – The Game
    Rush – Permanent Waves
    Pete Townshend – Empty Glass
    Tom Waits – Heartattack and Vine
    Motorhead – Ace of Spades – (That’s right…when I was born, Motorhead released Ace of fucking Spades.  You’re welcome.)
    REO Speedwagon – Hi Infidelity
  • 1981:
    Rush – Moving Pictures
    Frank Zappa – Tinsel Town Rebellion
  • 1982:
    Iron Maiden – Number of the Beast
    Lou Reed – The Blue Mask
    Willie Nelson – Always on My Mind
    Frank Zappa – Ship Arriving too Late to Save a Drowning Witch – (My all time favorite album cover.)
    Judas Priest – Screaming for Vengeance
    Bruce Springsteen – Nebraska
    Prince – 1999
    Descendents – Milo Goes to College
  • 1983:
    Styx – Kilroy Was Here – (Yeah, I stand by it!)
    Iron Maiden – Piece of Mind
    Yes – 90125
  • 1984:
    Van Halen – 1984
    Prince – Purple Rain
    U2 – The Unforgettable Fire
    Replacements – Let it Be – (By far the ballsiest album title they could’ve released.)
  • 1985:
    Descendents – I Don’t Wanna Grow Up
    Tom Waits – Rain Dogs
  • 1986:
    Queen – A Kind of Magic
    Elvis Costello – King of America
    Metallica – Master of Puppets
    Van Halen – 5150
    Husker Du – Candy Apple Grey
    Judas Priest – Turbo
    Iron Maiden – Somewhere in Time
    Slayer – Reign in Blood
  • 1987:
    Replacements – Pleased to Meet Me
    Husker Du – Warehouse: Songs and Stories
    U2 – The Joshua Tree
    Anthrax – Among the Living
    Prince – Sign O’ the Times
    Sammy Hagar – I Never Said Goodbye
    Def Leppard – Hysteria
    Pink Floyd – A Momentary Lapse of Reason
    Rush – Hold Your Fire
    Yes – Big Generator
  • 1988:
    Iron Maiden – Seventh Son of a Seventh Son
    Pixies – Surfer Rosa
    Weird Al Yankovic – Even Worse – (I am absolutely not kidding.)
    Queensryche – Operation: Mindcrime
    Living Colour – Vivid
    Van Halen – OU812
    Elton John – Reg Strikes Back
    Metallica – …And Justice for All
    REM – Green
  • 1989:
    Replacements – Don’t Tell A Soul
    Lou Reed – New York
    Pixies – Doolittle
    The Cure – Disintegration
    Queen – The Miracle
    Tin Machine – Tin Machine
    Pete Townshend – The Iron Man
    Nine Inch Nails – Pretty Hate Machine
    Rush – Presto
  • 1990:
    Queensryche – Empire
    Primus – Frizzle Fry
    Damn Yankees – Damn Yankees
    Extreme – Pornographitti
    Pixies – Bossanova
    Anthrax – Persistence of Time
    REO Speedwagon – The Earth, A Small Man, His Dog, and a Chicken – (Still one of my all time favorite album titles.)
    Styx – Edge of the Century
    Uncle Tupelo – No Depression
  • 1991: (VERY hard year to pick a favorite! Also a banner-year for marking how much changed with the influx of grunge.)
    Pearl Jam – Ten
    Motorhead – 1916
    Queen – Innuendo
    Mr. Big – Lean Into It
    Yes – Union
    Primus – Sailing the Seas of Cheese
    Van Halen – For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge (aka “FUCK”)
    Metallica – Black Album – (I’m not a big fan of the album, but it deserves to be listed.)
    Spin Doctors – Pocket Full of Kryptonite
    Rush – Roll the Bones
    Nirvana – Nevermind
    U2 – Achtung Baby
  • 1992:
    Dream Theater – Images and Words
    Lou Reed – Magic and Loss – (Probably Lou’s best work.)
    KISS – Revenge – (A rarity to see me give props to KISS, but it’s a great album!)
    Elton John – The One
    Cure – Wish
    Pixies – Bone Machine
    Extreme – III Sides to Every Story
    Tragically Hip – Fully Completely
    REM – Automatic for the People
  • 1993:
    Rush – Counterparts
    Living Colour – Stain
    Anthrax – Sound of White Noise
    Pete Townshend – Psychoderelict
    Nirvana – In Utero
    Posies – Frosting on the Beater
    Pearl Jam – Vs.
    Motorhead – Bastards
  • 1994:
    Queensryche – Promised Land
    Johnny Cash – American Recordings
    Kings X – Dogman
    Cheap Trick – Woke Up With a Monster
    Nine Inch Nails – The Downward Spiral
    Yes – Talk
    Rollins Band – Weight
    Live – Throwing Copper
    Stone Temple Pilots – Purple
    Alice Cooper – The Last Temptation
    Dream Theater – Awake
    Black Crowes – Amorica
    Pearl Jam – Vitalogy
  • 1995:
    Van Halen – Balance
    Extreme – Waiting for the Punchline
    Primus – Tales from the Punchbowl
    Alanis Morissette – Jagged Little Pill
    Son Volt – Trace
    David Bowie – Outside
    DC Talk – Jesus Freak – (Which I’m maybe a little embarrassed about…but it is very well constructed and mixed.)
  • 1996:
    Descendents – Everything Sucks
    Audio Adrenaline – Bloom – (I know…but this was actually a good year for Christian rock, and this record is one of the reasons I say that.)
    Newsboys – Take Me to Your Leader – (The other reason I say that.)
    Lou Reed – Set the Twilight Reeling
    Stone Temple Pilots – Tiny Music… Songs from the Vatican Gift Shop
    Sloan – One Chord to Another
    Black Crowes – Three Snakes and One Charm
    Rush – Test for Echo
    Spice Girls – Spice
    Johnny Cash – Unchained
  • 1997:
    Cheap Trick – Cheap Trick (’97)
    David Bowie – Earthling
    Live – Secret Samadhi
    Queensryche – Hear in the Now Frontier
    Foo Fighters – The Colour and the Shape
    Sammy Hagar – Marching to Mars
    Radiohead – OK Computer
    Dream Theater – Falling Into Infinity
    Spice Girls – Spice World
    Modest Mouse – The Lonesome Crowded West
  • 1998:
    Dropkick Murphys – Do or Die
    All – Mass Nerder
    Sloan – Navy Blues
    Refused – The Shape of Punk to Come
  • 1999:
    David Bowie – Hours – (One of my favorite Bowie records, in general.)
    Paul Westerberg – Suicaine Gratifaction
    Black Crowes – By Your Side
    Misfits – Famous Monsters
    Nine Inch Nails – The Fragile
    Get Up Kids – Something to Write Home About
    Live – The Distance to Here
    Dream Theater – Metropolis Pt. 2 – Scenes from a Memory
    Melanie C – Northern Star
    Foo Fighters – There is Nothing Left to Lose
  • 2000:
    Queens of the Stone Age – Rated R – (This might be the only QOTSA album I genuinely like, and it’s a work of genius.)
    Union – The Blue Room
    Aimee Mann – Bachelor No. 2
    Pearl Jam – Binaural
    Johnny Cash – American III
    Iron Maiden – Brave New World
    Alice Cooper – Brutal Planet
    All – Problematic
    Modest Mouse – The Moon & Antarctica
    Godspeed You! Black Emperor – Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas to Heaven
    Sammy Hagar – Ten 13
    U2 – All That You Can’t Leave Behind
  • 2001:
    Drive-By Truckers – Southern Rock Opera
    Dropkick Murphys – Sing Loud, Sing Proud
    American Hi-Fi – American Hi-Fi
    Mark Lanegan – Field Songs
    Rufus Wainwright – Poses
    Stone Temple Pilots – Shangri-La Dee Da
    Live – V
    Tenacious D – Tenacious D
  • 2002:
    David Bowie – Heathen – (Another of my all-time favorite Bowie records.)
    Dream Theater – Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence – (Although it took me YEARS to come around on it.)
    Flogging Molly – Drunken Lullabies
    Wilco – Yankee Hotel Foxtrot
    Get up Kids – On a Wire
    Bruce Springsteen – The Rising
    Aimee Mann – Lost in Space
    Foo Fighters – One by One
    Johnny Cash – American IV: The Man Comes Around
    Hank Williams III – Lovesick, Broke and Driftin’ – (A great album that is so deeply connected with some memories in my life that I have trouble listening to it.)
  • 2003:
    Drive-By Truckers – Decoration Day
    American Hi-Fi – The Art of Losing
    Neil Young – Greendale
    Warren Zevon – The Wind – (Recorded while Zevon knew he was dying of cancer. A moving listen, with that in mind.)
    Iron Maiden – Dance of Death
    My Morning Jacket – It Still Moves
    Frank Black – Show Me Your Tears
    David Bowie – Reality
    Billy Talent – Billy Talent
    Alice Cooper – The Eyes of Alice Cooper
  • 2004:
    Modest Mouse – Good News for People Who Love Bad News
    The Hold Steady – Almost Killed Me
    Alanis Morissette – So-Called Chaos
    Motorhead – Inferno
    Old 97s – Drag It Up
    Drive-By Truckers – The Dirty South
    Arcade Fire – Funeral
    Elvis Costello – The Delivery Man
    Brian Wilson – Smile – (I’m cheating with this one, but it deserves to be recognized.)
    James Blunt – Back to Bedlam – (I know…shut up…)
    U2 – How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb
  • 2005:
    Aimee Mann – The Forgotten Arm – (Probably my favorite Aimee Mann record.)
    …and You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead – Worlds Apart
    Antony and the Johnsons – I Am a Bird Now
    Ryan Adams – Jacksonville City Nights
    Bruce Springsteen – Devils & Dust
    Dream Theater – Octavarium
    Sufjan Stevens – Come on Feel the Illinois
    Frank Black – Honeycomb
    Michael Penn – Mr. Hollywood Jr., 1947
    Coheed & Cambria – Good Apollo, I’m Burning Star IV, Volume One: From Fear Through the Eyes of Madness In Space
    Neil Young – Prairie Wind

Congratulations if you read all that…boy the movie-list idea sure would’ve been shorter and more fun, huh?

On Writing “Worse”

I’m going to go about this a little differently than I have in the past few years and start talking about it WAY in advance.  I’ve mentioned that I’m working on some new music, but I don’t really know where it’s going, etc, etc…  Well, I’ve made some directional decisions over the past week or two, so I’m going to start talking NOW, knowing that it’s not coming out until 2018.  But, yeah, as of now, the new album is officially in progress, as far as I’m concerned…

I’m taking my time with this one and I plan to finish it, shelve it, relisten to it a month later, and tweak it THEN, after I’ve had time away.  I’m approaching this one differently from all perspectives, and the key element for me on this project is TIME.  I keep rushing and regretting, so we’re taking this one slow.  (VERY earliest I’ll even be CLOSE to done will be November or December, but I’m thinking a February or March 2018 release seems right for this one.)  I think the only time rushing a release ever served me well was “Something to Look Forward To,” which has become one of my favorites in my catalogue…but lightning in a bottle and all that…

Anyway…  I’ve got a “track one.”  And I’ve got an album title.  Both of those are critical and mark the “start” for me.  And we’re there…  Now, I don’t know everything that’s going to be on it yet, but there are presently seven songs on the slate to at least demo, three of which are revived material from the dying days of The Social Gospel. (Respectively “Fighting Drunk,” “That Was Then,” and “What I’m Dying For” are under consideration–they might not all make the cut, but I want good studio versions of those at some point.  In particular, Dave and I did do “Fighting Drunk” on our Two Hangmen EP, so it might get the axe just based on that–we’ll see.)  The rest are new.  I’m thinking a total of 10 songs.  11 tops.  I want a nice short listen on this one.

I’ve floated the album title by a few people and gotten a range of responses; mostly positive.  I like it…  It’s one of those titles that can be taken a couple different ways.  It can either be seen as optimistic or pessimistic, and I think that’s going to be a good summary of where the lyrics seem to be heading on this record…  So the title is (at least as of now) going to be “It Could Be Worse.”  (I briefly considered releasing a follow-up record one week later titled “Worse,” but I don’t think I have the energy to commit to that long of a joke.)

I’m going to be going for “Americana meets Punk” with a Big Star acoustic tone.  I’m re-structuring my guitar pedal board right now to fit the project.  I see the main guitars being the 1973 Martin, the Rickenbacker 360 (electric), and the Rickenbacker 4003 (bass).  There might be a Strat or something that slips in on some solos, but I want to keep myself limited to just a few instruments to lock in a unified tone, even though I’m planning on going back and forth between punky yelling and sad ballads. I’ve demoed one song just to test some ideas for mic-placement on the acoustic and I liked what I got…so it’s time to start talking

…and I’m going to talk about this one a lot more than the others…promote it…get excited about it…  Hopefully that generates some interest.  But even if not, I’m a big fan of PROCESS.  I like seeing how things unfold for other musicians, so why not open the door on my own stuff?

So that’s where we are… I think this is going to be a good one.  I just hope you don’t get tired of it listening to me talk about it for up to a year!

————

Current Listening:

  • Aimee Mann – “Mental Illness” – I’m a huge Aimee Mann fan.  “Mental Illness” came out today and it’s already in my top 10 for the year.  (Probably top 5, but the year’s still young.)  It’s a really beautiful, sad, warm, quiet little record.  Really acoustic-based and rooted in dysfunction and sad stories.  I’ve taken to saying that Aimee’s music makes feeling screwed up feel a lot less lonely.  And that’s a gift.  This is a great album, and the broken among us need it in their collection…we’ve probably needed it for years.  Glad she gave it to us.

But Only If I KNEW I’d Succeed…

I’m sick, but SUPER awake, so I thought I’d share something I’ve had saved in a note for a while for a rainy day…

I don’t remember if I talked about it at the time, but several months back, I attended a church function that posed a question I couldn’t answer.  It was one of those fun, “imagination-land” questions that should’ve been a relatively easy answer, but I couldn’t come up with a good answer.  I’m probably butchering the exact wording, but it was to the effect of, “If you could do any ONE thing, and you knew God would give you the money or resources or whatever you need to accomplish it, what would that thing be?”

The answers around the room were a wide spectrum.  One kid said he’d shut down Trump Tower.  One woman said she’d set up a group to help underprivileged urban teens.  Another person said they’d finish their college education.  Another would write a book.  I passed on answering.  Because I couldn’t think of anything to share.  In part, I think it was an age and experience gap.  The person asking the question was approximately 25.  I’m 36.  A good, honest, real answer would’ve been, “…it’s cute that you’re still young enough to have the “what if?” dreams…but I’m creeping up on 40, my lights are on, and I’ve got extra cash to buy stupid crap.  I’m fine.”

I do think goals change like that over time.  You get hit with some realities…or at least you get to know yourself better and figure out who you are and where you’re content…  Or…  You just don’t want to give the real answer, because it’s too hard of a left turn…

Because the truth is, I’d build a pudding pool.

It’s exactly what you think it is.  A pool big and deep enough to swim laps in, filled with pudding instead of water, and you eat while you swim.  Banana pudding.  And the pool itself is made of Nilla Wafers.  I’d be happy there.  I’d even be happy if that were the last thing I ever did and I died there.  Because, let’s face it…that’s a single-use item.  And it’s a solo-use item.  Just think about your own body and hair and things…there’s no way you’d want company in that thing.  But then again, that might be a good litmus test for a relationship…if you’ve found the person you’d let into your pudding pool, you might’ve found THE ONE.  (That might’ve sounded more sexual than I intended, and I apologize.)

But…  That doesn’t really help anybody.  I don’t think God would go out of His way to let me have that.  Seems like the kind of thing I’d have to fund myself.

I really don’t know if the church-discussion would’ve gone anywhere else if I’d shared that.