Thursday, May 29, 2008

I weep for the young people of the world...

...just about anytime I read the comments section of any popular website.

Case in point: Brooklyn Vegan's post about the Staten Island Music Festival.

It's funny. Often when meeting someone for the first time here in NYC they will ask where I'm from, the assumption being that I'm a transplant. I'll reply that I'm a native New Yorker but then usually add "Well, actually I'm from Staten Island." Yet, the other day I met a guy who told me he was from Boston even though he was actually from Cambridge or somewhere. Which begs the question, why I am making qualifications? SI is legitimately part of New York City.

Being from Staten Island is kind of like having an asshole brother. It's okay for you to make fun of him but if anyone else does they're crossing the line.

Here was my response to the comments section hateration:

Not everyone in Staten Island is a Sopranos-wanna be with an orange tan.

Not everyone in Williamsburg is a hipster douchebag with a trust fund.

It's too easy derive a sense of superiority by painting the people of the world who are a bit different than you with broad strokes. At least half of the above commentators should be ashamed of themselves.

Staten Island may not have the grandeur or the concentrated young person populace of certain areas of Brooklyn. It does have some beautiful parks, cheap rents, a distinct lack of pretension and a whole lot of elbow room. It has it's flaws to be sure but I'm certain most of the elitist posturing is coming from those who have never stepped foot in the borough. Your cluelessness and need for acceptance is abundantly evident. Whomever you're trying to impress will see right through you.

Staten Island will be gentrified soon enough. Remember what Williamsburg was like 15 years ago? You don't? Oh that's because you've only been here for three. I hope your band/theater/art project works out and if not I hope you at least get laid a lot before you head back to your hometown. (Sorry. I couldn't resist.)

The other thing that makes me weep for the youth of America: A Shot at Love with Tila Tequila

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

The Majestic Amateurism of The Four Plugs

Hey it's a 45 not from the 90s.

When I was first learning use the software which I use to make my podcast and convert vinyl into MP3, this 45 was my first test subject. I had forgotten that I still had the MP3s until recently so I decided to post here them for your enjoyment.

I first heard of the Four Plugs via a Johan Kugelberg list of his top 100 punk singles in Ugly Things Magazine. He repeated it again in his list of the top 100 D.I.Y. singles:

12. The Four Plugs -Biking Girl (Disposable Records UK 1979) The subtle charm of marginal culture: Truly marginal culture where 1000 singles were pressed more than 22 years ago. How many got lost? How many are never being played? How many are stored in a box in the attic? How many are being played repeatedly on turntables that cost ten times as much as the recording and pressing of this given 45? "She used to be my biking partner/she used to be my biking girl. We used to go for rides in the country side". A true punk rock/diy statement issued by the Damaged Goods people, who knew their Chesterton and Thomas Browne.

I suppose the hearing someone who is completely atonal sing a tender ballad is always "charming." "Biking Girl" stands right at the precipice of there slippery-slope of punk/D.I.Y. ethos and actual outsider art. The A-side is ever so slightly more conventional but it's no slouch either.

Play or Download The Four Plugs "Wrong Treatment"

Play or Download The Four Plugs "Biking Girl"

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

The Unblinking Ear Podcast Episode III: Reference of the Niche

Episode I: The Fat, Glum Menace and Episode II: Attack of the Drones are still up. (Is Mad Magazine hiring writers by any chance?)

Thanks to SILive's Marooned blog who gave the podcast a ringing endorsement. And special thanks to "broface," whomever that might be. (I have my suspicions.)

Play or Download The Unblinking Ear Podcast

Friday, May 23, 2008

This Moment in Slack History: Morsels from the Last Great Era of the 7 Inch Record

"This Moment in Slack History" collects songs from 90s indie 7 inches. For further explanation, please see my original post here. And if you like what you're hearing please check out Mike Lupica's Anti Static podcast, which has a similar concept but much better execution. You can check it out here or subscribe to it via iTunes.

The Grifters "I'm Drunk"

I had previously posted a Grifters song a while back. Since no one has headed my call to put out a proper compilation of all their marvelous 7 inch releases, I'm just going to have to post another one. "I'm Drunk" comes from their split single with Guided by Voices on The Now Sound label. The 4 GBV tracks are nothing spectacular but the lone Grifters cut on the flip is awesome, approximating something like Can covering Johnny Thunders covering "Steppin' Stone."

Play or Download The Grifters "I'm Drunk"

Apparently someone has beat me to the punch on posting this. The You Shall Know Our Discography blog. You can find the contents of the entire 7 inch including the GBV cuts here. I stand corrected on saying the Guided By Voices cuts are nothing special. Three are Pollard throwaways but "Uncle Dave" sounds like prime lo-fi GBV to my ears. Thanks for posting this YSKOD so I don't have to. Check the rest of their blog for lots more 90s indie obscurities.

As long as were on the subject...

...of dissing Scarlett Johansson, let's say fuck Lost in Translation. This is Bill Murray's finest on screen moment:

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Dear indie dudes,

Maybe you should remind yourself that you're trying your best to persuade others that you're into really cool music and that makes you a special, desirable kind of guy. Try remember that cool music is generally not made by hot actresses.

Scarlett Johansson covers Tom Waits: were you really waiting for this all your life? Her album, Anywhere I Lay My Head, dropped yesterday and while the reviews haven't exactly been glowing (from what I've seen they tend to fall in the 5 out of 10/2 and half starts out of five/letter grade C range) I'd still be willing to bet that her album is going to outsell, oh I don't know, Barbara Manning's entire catalog combined. Though from the soporific nature of the above clip perhaps Johansson is actually trying to compete with Ambien.

And then there's She and Him, the collaboration between M Ward and Zooey Deschanel. Deschanel certainly has a better voice than Johansson and deserves credit for actually writing most of the songs on their debut album, Volume One, which is a pleasant enough listen. But come on, would you really be buying an album of countrypolitan affectations if said mega-cutie was not involved? Well, maybe you would but the whole thing reminds me of this dude I knew a few years back who was ostensibly a punk/hardcore kind of guy but couldn't stop raving about the debut album of Australian soap star Natalie Imbruglia. He's now some kind of bigwig for AOL music, which I suppose is unsurprising.

This just in: Lindsay Lohan is apparently releasing an album of Destroyer covers. That oughta finally resurrect her career. I can't wait to hear her take on "The Bad Arts."

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

The Unblinking Ear Podcast Part Deux

So the first Unblinking Ear podcast was a rousing success. It was downloaded a grand total of 19 times. For my second podcast I'd like to get that number up to an even 20 if possible. So if you didn't download the first one (which you still can, here), here's your chance to earn a special place in my heart while listening to some rather excellent rock n roll music.

Also, I may have figured out how to remove all the clicks my tongue and teeth make when I speak. Damn sensitive microphone.

Play or Download The Unblinking Ear Podcast

Thursday, May 15, 2008

It's official: Indie rock is trival


What was Pavement’s name before they were Pavement? Ok, ok, that was easy. Correctly name four bands that Calvin Johnson has been a member of. Stumped you? Perfect! We’ve created an Indie Rock Trivia night with our secret crew of rock geniuses, hosted by the one and only Zach Galifianakis. You’ll be asked to form teams, so get your smartest friends together to win our super-fantabulous-over-the-top prizes. More on that later! We’ve also lined up Brooklyn’s own Les Savy Fav to perform live and help your brains recover from the exercise.

This actually might be a lot of fun if only because I'm sure Mr Galifianakis will make it so. In case you were wondering, I have no idea what Pavement was originally called. Was it SM and the Sound of White Privilege? As for Calvin Johnson's bands I could only get 3 of them without looking it up.

But at least I didn't think they meant this guy.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Paleontology for Dullards: A Consumer's Guide

"Paleontology for Dullards" rates records I've found in used LP bins by assigning them a cash value. For further explanation, please see my original post here.

John Felice and the Lowdowns Nothing Pretty
As some of you may know, John Felice was a member of a very early incarnation of the Modern Lovers and subsequently the leader of the Real Kids who released some rather wonderful records in the late 70s and early 80s. Like Jonathan Richman, Felice has both a love early rock and a romantic streak which informs his songwriting though with a nastier edge than his former bandmate. Felice does not share JoJo's world view of innocence and puritanism. (It's been acknowledged that Felice was the "Hippie Johnny" of "I'm Straight.") While Richman's post-Modern Lovers records display a cloying naiveté that turned off many of the admirers of his first album's raw RnR, Real Kids fans will likely really dig Felice's first solo outing. Nothing Pretty was released in the late 80s on legendary Boston label Ace of Hearts (home to Mission of Burma and the Lyres) after Felice had disappeared from the scene for a while. While not the classic that the Real Kids self-titled long player was, Nothing Pretty more than satisfies as another dose of Felice's exuberant, straight-up rock n roll and world-weary, heart-on-his-sleeve sentimentality. Songs like "Perfect Love" and "Dreams" revel in trashy rock n roll fun but others like "Nowadaze Kids" and "I'll Never Sing That Song Again" (which quotes the Real Kids classic "All Kindsa Girls") exhibit a cynicism that evoke genuine sadness and disappointment. Most stunning of all is the album's title track which sounds like the best ballad the Replacements never wrote. The chorus of "There's nothing pretty in my life anymore" might look like self-pitying mopery on paper but when Felice sings it the effect is heartbreaking. His lack of pretension leaves no doubt to his sincerity. Hard to find for years, Nothing Pretty was reissued by the fine folks at Norton Records not too long ago. I was lucky enough to stumble across this treasure but now that it's readily available I highly recommend you plunk down your cash for this one. That is, of course, unless you don't already own the first Real Kids album.
Price paid: $6 Rating: 100%

Scritti Politti Cupid and Psyche 85
I really like those early Scritti Politti records. Even "The Sweetest Girl" single, their first move towards pop, sounded pretty swell to my ears. But this? I swear to Christ this sounds like Jermaine Stewart or something.

Price paid: $3 Rating: 16.7%

The Skids Scared to Dance
When I first dropped the needle on this 1979 disc and "The Saints are Coming" blasted from my stereo my first thought was "Wow, this sounds like the missing link between the Clash and U2." This notion was only strengthened when I found a fairly terrible collaborative cover of the tune by the very Clash-sounding Green Day and even more U2-sounding U2 mentioned in an Onion AV Club entry about overblown charity songs. If you've ever wondered how the new wave transmorphed into the "big sound" of 80s modern rock ala U2, Echo and the Bunnymen and Big Country (founded by Skids guitarist Stuart Adamson) this as good a place as any to start. At times this mix of punk bluster and stadium bombast is effective such as in the aforementioned cut and "Into the Valley," a top 10 single in the UK. Mostly though, it comes off as very stiff and static, missing the immediacy of most of their new wave contemporaries and not really having the chops to hang with the laser light show contingent. It's not terrible though. Not as good as the Stranglers. Better than the Boomtown Rats. Please enjoy this clip of the Skids miming to "Into the Valley" where singer Richard Jobson moves the mic from his mouth before completion of the lyric for every single line of the song.

Price paid: $4 Rating: 50%

David Peel and the Lower East Side Have a Marijuana
Have you ever thought that the best part about the MC5 was not their incendiary music but their 60s counterculture "rock n roll, dope and fucking in the streets" lyrics? You haven't? Yeah, me neither. But on the off-chance that you're curious as to what their lyrical content might sound like in the context of poorly played folk music, you should check out David Peel. Released on Eletrka in 1968, the same label that put out the earliest LPs by the MC5 and the Stooges, Peel's debut LP in not without it's charm, if you want to call it that. He embraces the role of thorn in the side of the establishment so fervently it almost sounds quaint 40 years later. For all the furor caused by the MC5's use of "motherfucker" in the intro to "Kick Out the Jams," Peel's repeated use of the 12-letter expletive in the chorus of "Up Against the Wall" must have seemed like a vehement act of confrontation and subversion. Today it and other hippe rallying calls like "I Like Marijuana" and "Show Me the Way to Get High" sound rather silly but kind of fun in a hanging out with a bunch of mischievous but ultimately harmless burnouts kind of way. At the very least Peel never encourages you to put flowers in your hair. Note: Rocket From The Crypt seem to have lifted the "Everybody smoke pot" chant from "The Alphabet Song" for the coda of "Take That" from the Circa: Now album. Also note: After stints on Elektra and Apple (at John Lennon's behest) Peel formed his own label, Orange Records, which released some of the early works of Mr GG Allin. How's that for lasting influence?
Price paid: $0.70 Rating: 100%

Bob Marley and the Wailers Catch a Fire
Speaking of marijuana...

I kind of hate Bob Marley. Let me restate that. What I really hate is the sort of jackass who buys a copy of Legend, grows white boy dreads and tries to separate himself from his privileged suburban upbringing by smoking lots of grass, vapidly philosophizing about Rastaman vibrations and generally acting like a douchebag. Meanwhile, the only other thing in their music collection that resembles reggae is probably a Sublime CD. Go choke on a hackysack, you mindless, annoying, petruli-reeking, waste-of-DNA fuckheads!

Anyway, the proliferation of this poor example of humanity is hardly Marley's fault. In fact, his music is not nearly as mellow and/or passive as one might expect. Quite the contrary actually as the first three cuts on Catch a Fire, "Concrete Jungle," "Slave Driver" and the Peter Tosh-sung "400 Years," practically seethe with barely suppressed rage and aggression. It might be hard to hear a song like "Stir It Up" divorced from any sort of cultural context but it you can you'll hear what is undeniably an extremely talented group of musicians creating an potent groove. I'm admittedly a Jamaican music dilettante but stating the Wailers were as good as or better at doing what they did as anyone else seems like a plausible claim. It's definitely good stuff. I'm still not entirely enthralled enough to consider myself a Marley fan but I'm impressed enough to want to listen to more of his work with an open mind.

If case you're wondering my copy isn't the original zippo lighter cover pressing. Now that would've been a find.
Price paid: $0.70 Rating: 100%

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Feeling depressed??

Well here's a reason to continue living: Bob and David are back together!

(Wrong David. Other guy not named Bob.)

Odenkirk and Cross are collaborating on a new sitcom for HBO. They co-wrote the pilot. David stars. Bob directs.

From The Onion AV Club:

I was lucky enough to attend the pilot taping of Bob Odenkirk and David Cross’ new HBO sitcom on Friday evening, and I’m pleased to report to you, legions of Mr. Show enthusiasts, that it was damn funny and entertaining...’s the premise, a genius mixture of actual sitcom signifiers and the desire to wag fingers at actual sitcom signifiers: David Cross, after falling too hard for the trappings of Hollywood but finding no real meaning, has quit show business. He now shares a house with two wacky roommates—an idiot uber-liberal (Upright Citizens Brigade’s Matt Besser) and a gruff uber-conservative (played by Eric Hoffman with an assist from a wardrobe department with a keen eye). Also in the mix: a hottie neighbor and her precocious, Hollywood-haircut-sporting son, Little David. (Yes, that would make Cross “Big David.”) Except for Cross, who’s always best at playing himself, the characters occupy a weird sitcom world: They’re no less believable or ridiculously broad than on most sitcoms, but with Cross as the voice of reality (as it were), they work. Pick up Besser’s hippie (he loves “morning hugs”) and plop him into Two And A Half Men and you’d want to murder him, but here he makes sense.

So after establishing the main troupe, it’s on to the plot, which took pointed, funny shots at fairly easy targets—To Catch A Predator and fleeting Internet fame—but brought exactly the sort of slight sophistication to them to steer far, far clear of MadTV territory while never seeming schoolmarmish. (Those who like Cross’ stand-up, but only to a point, should be just fine.) A pair of terrific guest stars show up to liven up the house and the plot, too: Mr. Show’s John Ennis and indomitably weird spirit Zach Galifianakis, one of those rare performers who doesn’t act funny, he just is funny. When Zach is mistaken for a child predator, hilarity ensues. I don’t want to spoil any more, but I’ll add that one of the funniest moments is also the most meta: After Hoffman delivered a catch phrase (“I do. Your boner!”), Odenkirk passed some “I do. Your boner!” shirts out to audience members, then told them to give him reactions as if they’d been waiting for the line. Pretty awesome.

This is good news for them and for the world at large. Though I must take umbrage with one point of the AV Club blogger. I thought Let's Go to Prison was pretty funny.

For the entire summary of the pilot taping, click here.

Patton Oswalt spent 20 days on Staten Island...

...and didn't think to call me once.

Between March 5th and today I spent a total of 20 days in Staten Island, NY.

FOUR separate times, while driving around late at night or, more often as not, when the dawn was breaking, I saw something weird through apartment windows.

Hold on. I just realized something.

I was able to glance through so many apartment windows as I passed because there seemed to be a lot of ground floor apartments. Motel-style apartment buildings with the doors just open to the street.

That might sound kind of dangerous, except for this fact:

Through four of the un-shuttered windows, I was able to see, hanging on walls...samurai swords. Japanese combat weapons, always more than one, arranged on mahogany racks and hung on the walls. Hanging, sharp and ready, in ground floor apartments in Staten Island.


Shintauro Ishimura, Humble Blade and Righteous Strike of the Peony Court, suddenly appears in a mini-mall parking lot on Hylan Avenue in Staten Island.

"By the gods of blood and honor, I seem to have stepped into some sort of time-spasm, and been catapulted forward centuries, to a strange, frightening world of the future!"

"Holy fuck! A Jap in a dress! You look like that Crouching Dragon asshole I saw in the movie!"

"Citizen, this one would know what city I find myself in."

"This is Staten Island, Mr. Miyagi. And I ain't a citrus. I'm Tony."

"Why does the air smell like breaded pig?"

"''Cuz it's lunchtime."

"Is that your domicile?"

"What, you looking at my window? Yeah, that's my Pussy Palace."

"Am I correct in perceiving a ceremonial trio of combat blades on your wall?"

"Them ninja swords? Yeah, I won 'em at the fair. My cousin worked out this killer system for when you're shooting water in the clown's mouth to blow up the balloon on his head. I also won a beer mug that says, 'If it smells like fish, eat it.'"

"What is the magical, glowing window beside them?"

"That's my plasma screen."

"Are those gods which cavort within it?"

"It's DANCING WITH THE STARS. Those ain't gods, they're fags. And Penn Jillette."

"Citizen, this one fears that sky dragons are fast approaching. Truly, this is a land of dark wonders and glittering dangers. Will you join me in blooding steel with the un-righteous?"

"Uh...heh-heh. I guess that sounds cool. But my GIRLfriend, right? Who I fuck all the time? She'd be pretty pissed if I just, uh...heh-heh...went off with you. I mean, I've got a GIRLfriend and everything, so I, I can't. Okay, I gotta go."

"Citizen, you are unaware of your destiny..."

"I GOTTA GO. Okay? I gotta go. I can't...I'm not saying you're not strong...but...girlfriend. Girlfriend!"

"Take my hand..."


He runs to his SUV with the Black Crowes decal in the back window. For a moment, his flailing legs cause his cargo shorts to hitch up, revealing the phoenix-shaped birthmark on his left thigh.

But Shintauro is unable to see it. As Tony drives away, Judas Priest blaring on his stereo, a sky dragon materializes behind the time-lost samurai. As the sky-beast flares its flame-glands, Shintauro mutters a prayer to the Winter Sun and draws his blade.

Vincent Faurino, manager of the Male Ego hair salon, watches from his front window, and realizes his recurring dreams were prophecies.

If he would have called me, I would've told him that it's HYLAN BOULEVARD, not Avenue

To read the rest of this post Check Patton's myspace blog, May 10th entry. You may need a myspace account to view it. (Though since it's 2008, I'm sure you have one.)

Monday, May 12, 2008

The Unblinking Ear Podcast Begins!

Hello all,

So I have finally decided to do something I've been contemplating for a long time. No, not suicide. I've finally put together my very own podcast. I tried to do this once before when I made my best of 2007 mix but most of you seemed to complain it was far too long at an hour and a half. This new one is only half an hour. You get top quality rock n roll with my soothing voice back announcing songs in the approximate time it takes to watch an episode of "The Office." (That is if you don't TiVo it and fast forward through the commercials.) I hope you enjoy it. Please feel free to leave some comments and let me know what you think.

Play or Download The first Unblinking Ear Podcast

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

This Moment in Slack History: Morsels from the Last Great Era of the 7 Inch Record

"This Moment in Slack History" collects songs from 90s indie 7 inches. For further explanation, please see my original post here. And if you like what you're hearing please check out Mike Lupica's Anti Static podcast, which has a similar concept but much better execution. You can check it out here or subscribe to it via iTunes.

Fuck "Like You"
With a band name like Fuck, you probably don't expect acoustic guitars, do you? Despite their provocative name, Fuck were not especially abrasive though their records could be rather schizophrenic, rarely adhering to the same style for more than one song. Commercial or even remotely populist considerations were evidently very low on the list of priorities. I've always sort of considered Fuck something of a gentler cousin to Bay Area contemporaries Thinking Fellers Union Local 282. "Like You" is from their 2nd(?) 7", release of their own Rhesus label. Clear vinyl with "sleeves" made up of pages cut out what seems to be children's books. Thus, each copy was unique. This sleeve pictured above is from my copy. I think Gravity Records did something similar using fashion magazines with a Mohinder 7". It's a bit of a contrast from these days where everyone is literally sharing the same MP3 file. Ah, nostalgia. Anyway, Fuck is apparently still an active outfit with a new LP in the can. You can check out their official website here if you'd like.

Play or Download Fuck "Like You"