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Thursday, January 26, 2012

Beer new arrivals for the house

The house beer supply was running low so it was time to restock. Normally we go for a mix of ol' standby's and beer we never tried - this time it's all stuff that's new to us. Between the Mrs and I there were a few beers on our list going in and a few impulse buys. I'm most eager to try the Big Muddy Monster (brewed near where I went to college so there's a nostalgic appeal) and the 5 Vulture Oaxacan style dark ale.

left to right
Chocolate Stout (American Stout from Rogue Brewery-Newport OR), Big Muddy Monster (American Brown Ale from Big Muddy Brewing-Murphysboro IL), Yeti Imperial Stout (Russian Imperial Stout from Great Divide Brewing Co.-Denver CO), Walker's Reserve Porter (American Porter from Firestone Walker Brewing Co.-Paso Robles CA), and Zywiec Porter (Baltic Porter from Zywiec Breweries PLC-Zyweic Poland).

Two full six packs (the Pandora's Bock and 5 Vulture Chile Beer) and a make-your-own sixpack.
left to right
Great Lakes Edmund Fitzgerald Porter (American Porter from Great Lakes Brewing Co.-Cleveland OH), Purple Haze (American style wheat beer with raspberry from Abita Brewing Co.-Abita Springs LA), Pandora's Bock (bock from Breckenridge Brewery-CO), 5 Vulture (Chile Beer from 5 Rabbit Cerveceria-Chicago IL), Hazel (American Dark Wheat Ale by Uinta Brewing Company-Salt Lake City UT), Café Negro Coffee Infused Porter (American Porter from BridgePort Brewing Co.-Portland OR), Dark Rain Black Pale Ale (American Black Ale from BridgePort Brewing Co.-Portland OR), and Buffalo Bill's Blueberry Oatmeal Stout (Oatmeal Stout from Buffalo Bill's Brewery-Hayward CA).

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Disnëyzende Neubauten

Once the fervor over Disney's Joy Division t-shirt dies down I think calm heads will prevail and everyone will realize that the real issue is the lack of selection in the Disney post-punk collection. So in an attempt to get ahead of problem, here's my suggestion for the next mouseification: Einstürzende Neubauten.

Monday, January 23, 2012

REVIEW: GUIDED BY VOICES – Let's Go Eat the Factory (2012)

GUIDED BY VOICES – Let's Go Eat the Factory (Guided By Voices - January 17, 2012)

The classic Guided By Voices line-up returns with an adequate facsimile of their glory days.  

As far as reunited bands go, the much heralded Guided By Voices return appears be a success in meeting fan's expectations and touching on past glories. Let's Go Eat the Factory, their 16th, is the band's first album since disbanding in 2004. More importantly, it's the first album with the revered mid-90's line-up since 1996's Under the Bushes Under the Stars.

Like the best GBV albums, the new one is a hook heavy hodge podge of lo-fi indie pop full of quirky musical twists and Robert Pollard's wonderfully weird and occasionally ridiculous lyrics. But also like even the best GBV albums, the quality is erratic and filler mingles with the gems, throwing off the momentum. I'm a long time GBV fan, but I don't think they've ever made an entirely great album (although 1994's Bee Thousand and 2001's Isolation Drills come close). For me part of being a GBV fan means having the willingness to sort through the throw-aways and focus on the winners. MP3 player technology has made listening to the band much easier - I no longer have to keep the skip button at the ready - I can just program my faves and hit play.

One of the charms of GBV is how excessively prolific they are. It's as if they're accepting a challenge to put out X number of songs in a year. But ultimately they could use an editor - someone to say no. They're not a band that makes choices - it seems like once the song is finished it's guaranteed a spot on the album. They already have another new album in the chamber and there's a third 2012 release being discussed. Three albums in one year is funny, but I'd love to see the band finally put out one focused, great album. They can save the lesser songs for b-sides or rarities collections.

Let's Go Eat the Factory is an enjoyable album with the usual mix of punchy power pop, lo-fi garagey indie-pop, and hippy-ish experimentation (aka "dicking around").  The four or five best songs here stand up to the 4 or 5 best songs on just about any other GBV album. But this one seems to be a bit thinner on the next tier of songs. The result is an adequate album that might have sounded more substantial fifteen years ago, but today sounds more like a decent recreation of the GBV glory days rather than actually reclaiming any of their previous glory.

STANDOUT TRACKS: There's a great 3 song run of "Hang Mr. Kite", "God Loves Us", and "The Unsinkable Fats Domino" that probably plays a big part in me coming back to this album more than I though I would.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

REVIEW: GARY NUMAN - Dead Son Rising (Redeye 2011)

GARY NUMAN - Dead Son Rising (Redeye 2011)

Electro-industrial epics dominate Numan's 16th album - his best in years.

Reviewing a 2011 release before I start in on the 2012 releases. I didn't even know this one came out until I finished my year end list, but this most likely would have come in around #20 had I heard it in time.

Gary Numan makes great sounding records. Whether it's new wave synth pop or dark industrial dystopian grooves he's always had a gift for making his records sonically exciting, creating just the right soundscapes to compliment the batch of songs he's currently armed with.

Gary Numan's influence on the industrial electro-metal music in undeniable, and it's almost impossible to discuss Dead Son Rising without mentioning how he's incorporated the style of some of his best known followers into his current work. Sure, the Trent Reznor influence is felt on Dead Son Rising (more than on his last few albums), but this is most definitely a Gary Numan record in every sense.

Gary brings elements of Tubeway Army and Replicas into the electro-industrial era with a wall of distorted keyboards, electronically treated guitars, and one of the most distinctive voices in rock. The album is sinister in tone, heavy on menacing, slow chugging keyboard riffs that build into epic choruses. He slows it down a few times, including two sparse piano numbers, but the album is at it's best when he's forging ahead with angular rockers with monster bass lines.

All of the songs come from a batch of unused demos from his last two albums (2000's Pure and 2006's Jagged). but the record sounds like a cohesive piece rather than random songs thrown together. That's something else Gary has always done well - he knows how to sequence an album and pace the songs perfectly. This isn't one of his best albums overall, but it is his best in 20 years and should satisfy fans of any era of his career.

STANDOUT TRACKS: "Big Noise Transmission" (which reminds me of a modern take on Bowie's "I'm Afraid of Americans") and fuzz-synth filled "Dead Son Rising"

 And if you haven't seen/heard it - here's the fantastic video for "My Machines" by Battles with Gary Numan on vocals - one of my favorite songs and videos of 2011.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

surf-a-gogo: artfully defaced album covers

Jive Time Records in Seattle runs a few fantastic graphically oriented music sites, but my favorite is Deface Value - a collection of decaded album covers. Most of my faves are the deliberately manipulated covers, but I'm also quite intrigued by at few of the "found" covers. There's loads to like - here are few of my faves.

This Zappa collage by dinagadia is simple, but works so damn well it could have passed as the actual cover.

Another simple alternation, this collage by Jules Gayton makes me laugh everytime I see it.

As long as I've been shopping in used record stores I've had a fascination with records people wrote on. I've always treated records as a bit too sacred to write on, so I'm a bit envious of people liberated enough to deface their album covers. This found copy of Help! just amazes me.

Out of everything on the site, the cover that intrigues me the most is this altered copy of Steve Martin's A Wild and Crazy Guy (“Grabbit” by Harmony Korine). Maybe there's a sentimental attachment since it was one of the first albums I ever bought, but in this form it's such a haunting image.

There doesn't seem to be much turnover on the site lately, but that doesn't really bother me since I seem to go through all of the covers again every time I visit the site.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

FINALLY GIVING A SPIN TO: Rising by Rainbow (1976)

FINALLY GIVING A SPIN TO: Rising by Rainbow (1976)

FINALLY GIVING A SPIN TO is one music nerd's attempt to fill in some of the gaps in his music vocabulary by checking out albums he never got around to hearing, deliberately avoided, or just previously neglected. No strict guidelines other than only choosing albums I've never heard all the way through before - at best familiar with only a song or two - and listening to the album in it's entirety.

 PRECONCEIVED NOTION: Rainbow is just another metal band I don't need to hear.

While watching VH1's Metal Evolution documentary over the weekend I noticed two different musicians being interviewed wearing t-shirts featuring the cover art to Rainbow's album Rising, which is what sparked me to give it a spin. I wasn't into metal growing up, so Rainbow is a band I've never paid much attention to. I've never heard a Dio album, but I do have a soft spot for Ronnie James Dio's vocals on Black Sabbath's Mob Rules (especially the overdramatic "The Sign of the Southern Cross"). In the past few years I've finally  gone beyond the Deep Purple hits and checked out full albums, so I'm pretty familiar with Ritchie Blackmore's work.

Rising came out in 1976, the band's second album, recorded with a new lineup after Blackmore sacked everyone but Dio. Hearing this album for the first time 35 years after it's released, it's hard to separate what might have been original back then from what's cliche now. It's over-the-top and stone faced serious, which makes it seem ridiculous on the surface. But there are some fantastically strong riffs and stellar playing from an incredibly tight band - which make the outright goofy lyrics seem a bit charming. Dio delivers his vocals with such passion and sincerity it's hard not go along for the ride, even though part of me thinks Rainbow had a least a small influence on Spinal Tap's lyrics. And the keyboards - those are Viv Savage keyboards.

"Run With the Wolf" is exactly the type of song I've made fun of Dio for for years - a tale of beasts and evil, but it's got a strong groove and the second half of the song builds around Blackmore's excellent soloing. The song about an obsessive fan, "Starstruck", is a solid boogie blues number with a killer hook that could have come off of a Deep Purple record. The shortest song on the album, "Do You Close Your Eyes", clocks in under three minutes and starts out like early Queen and Quadrophenia era Who, which had me quite excited, but it quickly fell into more generic metal pop. "Stargazer" is the big prog rock epic, complete with the Munich Philharmonic Orchestra, that I'm a little ashamed to admit how much I enjoyed. The album closes with another eight plus minute number, a faster rocker that dips into Judas Priest territory and has an ending that reminded me of Blotto's "Metal Head".

If I heard this when I was younger I never would have given it a chance, but now it's an album I surprisingly enjoyed enough to buy and it makes me check out some other Rainbow records. I never thought I'd like an album with lyrics as unintentionally silly as "There's no sun in the shadow of the wizard" and "Ride the carousel and cast a magic spell, you can fly".

FINAL VERDICT: Solid record I was wrong for avoiding. Glad I heard it enough to buy it and plan to give it more spins in the future.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

the current beer rotation

There's always a Mexican and British beer represented - at the moment it's Smithwicks and Tecate, which bookend the photo. Also appearing, l to r: Leinenkugel's Fireside Nut Brown (a big fave of Mrs Agogo), the thoroughly awesome Resistance IPA from Two Brothers, Three Floyds' Jinx Proof continental-style pils, also from Three Floyds the Pride & Joy light ale, A Little Sumpin' Sumpin' Ale from Lagunitas (quickly becoming a staple for the Mrs), and the hoptastic IPA Modus Hoperandi from Ska Brewing in Colorado (who have one of my favorite brewer websites - yes, there's ska). Running low on a few of these and looking forward to restocking with a new batch of old faves and a few new ones.

Hoping to make it to Half Acre this weekend (especially after seeing them on WGN news this morning) - sad to discover there's no Daisy Cutter in the house.

Monday, January 2, 2012

FINALLY GIVING A SPIN TO: the Hangman’s Beautiful Daughter by the Incredible String Band

FINALLY GIVING A SPIN TO: the Hangman’s Beautiful Daughter by the Incredible String Band

This year I plan to listen at least one album every week that I've never gotten around to listening to in it's entirety. They might be albums I know only one or two songs off of, but more than likely they'll be albums that are totally new to me. I have no plan of attack in how I'll select the albums, but they'll most likely be albums I've seen referenced in reviews of other albums or those albums that I just know of but have never actually heard.

For the inaugural "FINALLY GIVING A SPIN TO" I'm going with a band I had a hunch I wouldn't like and avoided for many years, Scotland's psychedelic folk eccentrics the Incredible String Band. I'm sick of seeing them mentioned in articles without knowing what they sound like (it's hard to read Mojo without seeing a String Band reference). From what I've read, their third album, 1968's the Hangman's Beautiful Daughter is their deifinitve album, so that's where I'm starting.

My main fear was that this was going to be too hippyish for me, and that's what it turned out to be. This album is what I imagine always playing in the head of Neil from the Young Ones. Much of the instrumentation is intriguing, especially some of the Eastern instruments I'm not very familiar with, and they create a great ambiance. But the amatuerish communal vibe doesn't work for me, it sounds dated to my ears to the point of feeling more like a parody, which I know it's not. At times I hear little bits of Syd Barrett or Frank Zappa, but I think both of those artists went into the studio with better songs. Strangely I also hear a bit of Chris Knox occassionally in the vocals and some of the improvised percussion - I'm curious if he was an ISB fan. I'm not exactly sure what I was looking for in this album, but I think if they were even a little weirder or had a more outgoing sense of humor I might be more interested. This is one of those albums that I'll have to just accept that I'm not the target audience for. Although I'm glad I finally gave it a listen.