Known Johnson

April 29, 2007

Check your mail, Keneally fans

Filed under: Music,News — Tom @ 11:19 am

I’m always happy to find a puffy package in the mail box. In fact, it’s become my usual way of getting music these days, having gotten fed up with just not finding my particularly brand of stuff locally all that regularly anymore. But yesterday was extra-pretty cool: the puffy package in question marked the arrival of the long awaited remastered, expanded editions of guitarist Mike Keneally’s first two albums, hat. and Boil That Dust Speck numbers 354 and 145, respectively (hand-signed and numbered by the man himself, of course!)

The good news is that these are some of the best reissues I’ve ever seen. Very often, when old albums are reissued, they resort to poor scans of album artwork, resulting in blurry booklet photos and text (take the Atlantic-years Rush remasters (Presto through Test For Echo) – these look absolutely awful.) Not in this case – these almost look better than the originals, especially in the case of hat. AND they include some brand new, hand-written follow-up liner-notes that fill in the gaps.

I watched a bit of the hat. DVD last night and was really impressed – these were clearly well thought-out and lovingly put together. The recording-session footage is eye-opening – it’s thrilling to watch musicians like this putting incredibly complex music such as this together and having fun, and the 2006 reunion of the hat. band was nice to see, but it certainly illustrates that there’s a real chemistry between Keneally and current bassist Bryan Beller that just isn’t there with Doug Lunn, talented as he is. There’s also a ton of interviews and 30 audio tracks on the DVD that I simply ran out of time to check out, but those will be fun to explore another day.

The Dust Speck DVD has a 90 minute making-of feature that should be interesting, but I’ll have to set aside an evening to dive into that. That’s in addition to 20 alternate mixes and unreleased tracks, plus a Drop Control session (Keneally’s former band) that was originally intended to somehow be fit in the middle of Dust Speck‘s running order, but the album material was simply too long for it to work out.

Ladies and gentlemen of the music industry, THIS is how reissues should be done. Unless the band has absolutely nothing else to offer, there is no excuse not to append old releases with extra material – on a separate disc! This makes me need these and want to need these, and makes owning them fun. Yeah, the upgraded sound is nice, but when you get hours of extra stuff, that really makes it all worthwhile.

April 28, 2007

What is up

Filed under: General — Tom @ 8:43 am

I guess it’s a pretty big sign that we’re officially parents when I pass up seeing Crowded House, one of my favorite bands, who stopped in Phoenix for their first official tour date (besides a couple of warm-up dates) in eleven years . . . but we will be going to see the Elmo Makes Music show next weekend. Ah, the things we do for our kids – Crowded House would have been half the cost of Elmo!

Amanda has expanded her vocabulary to an astounding degree in the past couple of months, which makes it a lot of fun doing pretty much anything with her. She says “bye-bye” to everyone and everything, usually several times, and often during dinner will exclaim “Mama! Mama! Hi!” and wait for a response, then turn to me and blurt out “Dada! Dada! Hi!” Dogs are now “dawlaks,” birds are “birlaks,” but cars and cows are pretty distinct – however, we’re wondering if she’s from Boston because car has the distinct Boston accent: “caw.” The most amusing, however, is that while she can clearly pronounce “mama,” “dada,” and calls my dad “poppa,” my mom is not whatever form of “grandma” she could pronounce but instead is something along the line of, and I write phonetically here, “buhlooblyshbloo.” Hey, a name’s a name, and when she calls out “buhlooblyshbloo,” you know who she wants.

I picked up a pair of gloves for, believe it or not, the glovebox in my truck. It seems I run into situations where I need some gloves and never have them with me, so I got a cheap pair to keep with me, thereby proving wrong the Death Cab For Cutie song “Title And Registration”: it is not inaccurately named now. (Lyrics here for those unfamiliar.

Let me tell you, I am sadly excited to try out Turtle Wax’s Liquid Clay Bar. I’ve been claying the cars once a year or so and it is no exaggeration to say that if you want the absolute best wax job ever, this is a vital step. Claying removes a bunch of junk that cannot be removed by washing alone, as the clay picks up road-borne contaminants that mar your finish. When you’re done, you literally have a glass-smooth finish. The problem with clay is that, if you drop it, well, you’re done – use that on your car and you’ll likely rub dirt into the paint and scratch the hell out of it. Well, Turtle Wax has come out with a simpler solution (literally) that, from reviews I read, actually does exactly what clay does, and many claim in less time. So I grabbed that and a bottle of what many are claiming is a great new high-tech wax, Meguiar’s NXT, for what I hope to be a faster wax process than the – I kid not – two day, four step process I’ve had to go through (clay, and then three step Meguiars wax process.) We’ll see – no matter what, it’s what I’m doing to both cars because they both need waxing badly. Sounds like a pretty exciting weekend, eh?

April 27, 2007

Superdrag: Last Call For Vitriol

Filed under: Music,Reviews — Tom @ 8:07 am

Details magazine editor Bart Blasengame claims that “If you don’t like Superdrag, you don’t like rock n’ roll,” it says that right on the sticker on the cover of 2002’s Last Call For Vitriol. I like rock n’ roll and I like a good challenge. The hyperbole amuses me. Could Superdrag possibly live up to this? I don’t feel like I have a choice – I have to find out.

Within moments of “Baby Goes To 11,” it’s pretty clear, I’m safe – I do indeed like rock n’ roll. In fact, I must love it because I love what I’m hearing. Here is what the Foo Fighters have tried so hard to be since the first couple of albums – raucous, ballsy, gritty rock – without so often overdoing it. But it’s when they turn things down that really grabs me as a listener, such as on the mid-tempo “Extra-Sensory” or the outright acoustic ballad “Safe and Warm,” where the band displays not only self-control but sensitivity. But it’s “Way Down Here Without You” that creates the album’s centerpiece. A lush tune of longing in a Beatles-meets-Beach Boys vein, it’ll have you replaying the song a couple of times to catch all the subtle nuances – I know because that’s exactly what I had to do a few times.

It’ll also have you frustrated to know that this was likely Superdrag’s final album. Vocalist and guitarist John Davis found God after years of hard drinking and put the band on hiatus, recording and releasing an album of Christian-themed music in 2005 on Tooth & Nail Records. From all accounts it is a decidedly different direction obviously, but quality music nonetheless. I think, however, it’s safe to say most fans will hope for Superdrag to continue on doing what they do best.

In the meantime, Superdrag has four albums and one compilation of unreleased material to explore. For fans of Foo Fighters, the Posies, Cheap Trick, and Guided By Voices, this is essential stuff. And, of course, fans of rock n’ roll.

April 26, 2007

Cross vs. Cross

Filed under: General — Tom @ 11:38 pm

One’s a comedian, one’s a violinist, but don’t tell that to fans of the comedian, who are apparently too daft to actually read genre labels and are certainly too stupid to click on sound clips to check out what they’re buying. DGMLive reports that former King Crimson violinist David Cross’s albums on Itunes are currently getting a bunch of bad reviews from angry comedian David Cross fans who apparently blindly buy anything with his name attached. He’s a funny guy – not for everybody, but he’s certainly got a unique take on events and stupid things that he encounters. He’d probably find this pretty funny – and he’d probably have a few harsh words for the violinist David Cross’ music.

On the upside for comedian David Cross, his publicist should love this – get his name on anything possible. Perhaps . . . squagels?

(Warning: headphones needed – but stick around for the part about squagels that starts at about 3 minutes in. Seriously hilarious.)

Don’t be oppressed by the tyranny of round!

April 25, 2007

Overlooked Alternatives: Bill Callahan, ELP, Marillion, Robert Pollard, Porcupine Tree

Filed under: Music,News,Overlooked Alternatives — Tom @ 9:03 am

Big week this time. Lots of great stuff out to keep everyone busy for a while. How will we have time for it all?

Bill Callahan – Woke On A Whale Heart: Formerly known as Smog, Callahan sheds the “band” image but continues to put out music in basically the same style as his previous album, A River Ain’t Too Much To Love. Mostly acoustic, the album does have it’s share of electric moments and doesn’t wallow in the maudlin. Callahan is a storyteller of the finest order and, like good stories, they bear repeating and get better with age. His deep, tobacco-soaked drawl and conversational tone make listening to his music seem like sitting with an old friend, but his observations are both wry and deep. This is a rewarding listen for those who like music that gives the listener much to chew on. I’ve got more to say about this, but I’ll save it for a review to be coming later when I’ve given the album a little more time to sink in.

ELP – Tarkus (Remaster): Oh, come on, I couldn’t pass up an opportunity to mention my favorite album about an armored armadillo-tank. This time it’s being reissue in newly remastered form by Shout Factory, and I hear it’s a good remaster (better than the Rhino one, at least.)

Marillion – Somewhere Else: You know, I could talk about this here, or I could just send you over to the two reviews on Blogcritics (mine and Glen Boyd’s.)

Robert Pollard – Silverfish Trivia: That’s two weeks in a row for Pollard, but only this is technically a “new” release, since last week’s was a compilation. I honestly have no idea what’s in store for us with this EP, other than more of Pollard’s typically collage-type lyrics and Who-meets-prog-meets-punk-meets-Beatles melodies. Sounds awesome!

Porcupine Tree – Fear Of A Blank Planet: The master of prog-metal returns. Steven Wilson, hot on the heels of his second Blackfield outing (and one of the year’s best albums at that,) releases what many are considering his masterpiece, which includes the 17-minute “Anesthetize,” with guitar-guest spots from Alex Lifeson of Rush and Robert Fripp of King Crimson.

Speaking of Fripp, if any band today could be heirs to the King Crimson throne, it’s Porcupine Tree, and for good reason: an uncompromising commitment to quality music that has resulted in album after album of incredible music. I just wish I could say what this album sounded like . . . but I’m still waiting for mine. See, I got caught up in the whole “limited edition” debacle, and it turns out that, for this one, it was very limited (reports are between 5000 and 7500 copies worldwide). I’d placed my order at DAmnazon (see what I did there?) only to have it kicked back a month, which means I ain’t gettin’ one, at least not from them. Of course, Ebay’s got them, but prices have already gotten ridiculous. All is not lost – I may have tracked down one store online that claims to have them in stock at retail prices, but we’ll see if they actually ship or not. I have learned my lesson: don’t wait to order the special edition.

What’s the big deal, what’s the big difference? The standard edition comes in a jewelcase with a 12 page book while the limited edition has a 40 page book in a box with a CD and a DVD of the album 5.1 DTS. Granted, I can’t utilize that DVD yet, but someday . . . At this point, I just want the beautiful packaging. I can get the music at any store, but this package is my desire.

Idol something-or-other: “Idol gives back”

Filed under: TV — Tom @ 7:38 am

All right, I admit it, I’ve run out of things to play off of “idol.”

It’s “Idol Gives Back” week, where the contestants sing songs of “hope and compassion” or some other such crap, which means it’s just another night of typically bad songs with a few highlights, but this time, votes count toward charity. Awwww.

Chris starts things off with a . . . not awful . . . rendition of Eric Clapton’s “Change The World” where he managed to not sound nasal the entire time. Granted, this is an entirely back-handed compliment, especially given what was to follow: Melinda, taking a completely vanilla Faith Hill song and making it her own, followed by Blake’s surprisingly straight-up take on John Lennon’s classic “Imagine.” Despite what the judges said, it was good, and proves that Blake is likely headed for success after Idol no matter what the outcome is.

And then there’s Lakisha. I can’t hide my dislike for her anymore. I’ve nothing against her voice, because she has powerful pipes. It’s just that she chooses terrible material. Tonight she chose some Fantasia song that I’ve never heard of, which is becoming a trend with her – picking a former Idol contestant’s commercially-available song. It seems like a kiss-up to viewers who know these songs but a bad move when it comes to the judges, who can only say what I’m thinking: the songs are too new and they lack some personal meaning to her. I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again: she’s not going to make it. She doesn’t have it.

Phil followed with a Garth Brooks song that either never sounded country or that Phil had completely neutered of its country-origins, and the judges properly (but lightly) scolded him on that. That said, it was a decent performance and, as they pointed out, he seems to have found a comfortable niche to work within. That raises a question in me, however: shouldn’t performers work in the niche that they’re interested in, not in the one that listeners respond to? I realize that this is for votes and all, but the judges were encouraging Phil to pursue a country career, but I have never gotten the feeling that Phil was particularly a country guy – he’s more a Michael Bolton crooner type. Just a thought.

What have I told you about Jordin? That she’s going all the way, right? I’ve made the prediction of at least top 3 in the past and even suggested number 1 at least once, and now I’m saying that’s certain, unless viewers do something really awful and stop voting. Tonight was no different. It’s not just her voice, either – it’s a conviction that comes through in her performances, such as in last night’s “You’ll Never Walk Alone,” where her emotions nearly got the best of her and had her trembling by song’s end. Age shouldn’t make a difference, but at just seventeen, she’s a powerhouse to be reckoned with.

Bottom three: This is easy: Chris, Lakisha, and Phil. As I look at some of the Idol pages, many are saying it’s Lakisha’s night to go. I’d like to say I disagree, but they’re probably right, but it’s not based on quality of performance. She and Phil far out-performed Chris, but Chris seems to have a strong grasp on the female market right now, who don’t particularly care if he can sing, only that he’s . . . I guess . . . “cute” (I would say “a creep,” but then I’m not female, am I?) So, yeah, I’ll throw in with everyone else and say, “So long, Lakisha.”

April 24, 2007

We got the funk

Filed under: General — Tom @ 11:41 pm

I’m in one of those, for lack of a better word, funks. It’s taken me a couple of weeks to realize it, but it finally hit me tonight. Except it’s like a reverse funk, where it’s just too much of everything going on at once. Too much information, too much here and there, too much . . . ruckus (“could you describe the ruckus, sir?”) Today felt like too much too much, I realized tonight, just now, really. I spent half the day stressing out – I’m not kidding – about whether or not I was going to get the extremely limited edition of Porcupine Tree’s new album, Fear Of A Blank Planet. Long story short: a tiny run of a luxurious package and a bunch of assholes buying multiple copies to keep sealed and displayed on their shelves and a tardy me placing an order for said limited edition equates to doomed prospects. Can I just say I hate collectors and the collector mentality? Buy things because you love them. Buy things to open, play with, and enjoy, not simply display in their original shrink wrap. Their monetary value may come from being pristine, but their sentimental value comes from being tangible.

But, good news, I may have tracked one down, but I won’t know until I hear back from the one online store I found that claimed they had them in stock for very decent prices (forget Ebay, they were going for ridiculous prices already.) Anyway, the stress I placed on getting this special edition took me away from simply enjoying the prospect of new music, which is just dumb, but it kind of illustrates to me that I’m just not focusing at all right now. I’ve been seriously neglecting this site even while I’ve maintained a kind of silent resolution to write more here, so I’m going to get back to that.

Most of all, I just need to get my head unstuck, get it unwrapped from all the tight cords of discontent and confusion that I’ve gotten enmeshed within lately. My biggest problem is that I’m a consumate researcher and I’m not content until I feel I’ve thoroughly dug deep into everything I can on whatever happens to be in my mind at the moment. Right now it’s this Porcupine Tree album, for the past couple of weeks it was the upcoming Genesis remaster/remix box set (which has been a convoluted debacle in itself that I will detail at a later date.) It’s always something, and since I’m a music fiend, it’s almost always something music. So on nights like tonight when I get a moment to think, I am hit with what you all are probably thinking: this is crazy. I need times like this, or I might turn into one of those damned collectors – it wouldn’t take much. Just a tiny push in one direction, just a bit more obsession and a little less clarity . . .

April 22, 2007

Snakes & Arrows preview clips

Filed under: General — Tom @ 5:34 pm

Everyone’s favorite enemy, Walmart, has short sound clips available for Rush’s new album, Snakes & Arrows (link found via Rush Is A Band.) And it sounds real good – judging by “Far Cry” and the other 6 minutes of it at Walmart.com, that is.

April 18, 2007

Idol observations: country week, part two: the shocker!

Filed under: TV — Tom @ 10:49 pm

Well, I really didn’t expect this one. Okay, fine, we all expected most of the show – a bunch of crap like the group sing-along that I can only imagine butchered some country “hit” that I’ve never heard of, plus the completely awful Ford-sponsored video (to A Flock of Seagulls’ “I Ran” – it was as bad as you can imagine), and then an almost believable lip-syncing by Fergie to some completely forgettable new song, followed by the usual teasing of the bottom-three reveal. But the bottom three – that was the surprise. Except for one, it was entirely different than I picked: Lakisha (my choice), Blake (?!), and Sanjaya. And the biggest surprise of all was that Sanjaya’s reign of terror has ended. Now what is vote for the worst going to do? Get behind Chris? And Lakisha had better watch out – she is not long for this show.

Overlooked Alternatives: Nine Inch Nails, Michael Penn, Robert Pollard/Guided By Voices, David Torn

Filed under: Music,News,Overlooked Alternatives — Tom @ 10:32 pm

In light of the horror that took place at Virginia Tech, it seems ludicrous to talk excitedly about new music coming out this week, but I suppose that’s part of being human and moving on. We just have to deal and get back to real life, and part of real life is finding things to enjoy.

Obviously, I wasn’t there, and not many of us were, but those of us with children, even those of us with very young children like me with my precious 19 month old daughter, are automatically transported there for just a moment in imagining ourselves in that situation, with our children on that campus, in those rooms, with that madman stalking them with his weapons. It doesn’t take much to worry a parent.

As much as I keep the victims in mind, I also keep their families in mind and how they deal with the sudden, completely unexpected and horrible loss to a complete asshole who felt he was somehow bigger and better than everyone else. I cannot imagine their pain.

But we deal with tragedies by getting back to normal life, and normal life with me is music.

Nine Inch Nails – Year Zero: Reportedly the first of a two-part set (the second part coming sometime next year, from what I understand,) this concept album tells about a government conspiracy to cover up some kind of nation-wide water-poisoning, or something like that. It’s very complex – as I’m sure many of you have seen by now, there are tons of websites connected to this album that have bits and pieces of the mystery embedded in them. It’s pretty fascinating if you’re into such things, and if you’re not, well, luckily the music is getting good reviews.

Michael Penn – Palms & Runes, Tarot & Tea: A Michael Penn Collection: I’ve always found something slightly lacking about Penn’s albums as a whole, but I’ve liked a whole lot of his individual songs. The brother to actor Sean Penn is a superior singer-songwriter with a distinctive voice, both vocally- and lyrically-speaking, and this set pulls together a far more cohesive album than one might expect from such a wide-range of years (1989-2007). It doesn’t hurt that many of the tracks are alternate takes or brand new recordings of old tracks, but even 1989’s hit “No Myth” manages to not stick out like a sore thumb, blending in with the newer tracks to make a fantastic album experience.

Robert Pollard/Guided By Voices – Crickets: Just over two years ago Robert Pollard said goodbye to Guided By Voices and now bids farewell to the label he created while in the band that launched so many of his side-projects, not to mention GBV singles and EPs, Fading Captain. He’s decided to form a new label for upcoming releases, but before the launch of that he’s clearing out the cupboards with this two-disc set of favorites from the series which also features 6 never before released tracks. And as far as I know, the only place to get a copy of this thing is over at Luna Music’s site, the store that has been the portal through which so much of his hard-to-find paraphernalia was to be found. At $19.99, 56 songs, and a 48 page booklet with tons of artwork and other stuff, this is a great thing for the hard-core fan and newbies alike.

David Torn – Prezens: Freak-guitarist Torn pairs up with recent collaborators Tim Berne (saxophone), Craig Taborn (keyboards and other stuff), and Tom Rainey (drums) for his first solo album in many years. For those familiar with the names, you’ll note that this is basically Berne’s Big Satan with Torn sitting in, but leading, or his Science Friction band with Torn in control, but the sound is decidedly David Torn’s otherworldy brand of weirdness. As with everything Torn does, this is going to require some serious dedication to really appreciate, and that’s exactly what makes it so rewarding.

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