Known Johnson

April 30, 2008

Return of the Kings

Filed under: General — Tom @ 8:26 pm

Wow, these guys have GOT to get some better management/promotion people – three weeks from release date and I just happened to check their website to find that the new King’s X album, XV, will be in stores May 20. What is going on with that? No mailing list to keep fans informed of what’s going on, few updates on the website . . . this is a recipe for exactly the situation the band finds itself in where it feels like the industry has shunned it and the listening public has forgotten it. I can’t place the blame entirely on them, we all know how crappy the industry treats musicians, but that’s when bands like this need to pick up the threads and knit themselves a strong community. And King’s X has had a very strong community of fans backing them for as long as I’ve been on the internet. They just haven’t figured out how to exploit it the way that other similarly small, niche-oriented bands (King Crimson, Marillion) have. King’s X is still stuck relying on word of mouth at a time when word of mouth just isn’t good enough – especially when there are so many reliable, cheap alternatives. Fans WANT to help. Let them.

That said, it’s time to place orders – because unless you’re in one of those lucky cities that will stock this, you’re going to be hitting Amazon like I am. And while there, scroll down and check out the early preview mp3s that have been posted. This album sounds like it is going to kick ass.

(And look at that – while on that page what do I find but a second “Dug” Pinnick solo album that I had no idea existed. What did I tell you about no promotion? These guys are digging their own holes, I’m sad to say. This music is way too good to be this ignored, but they’re doing it to themselves.)

Duke’s End

Filed under: Music — Tom @ 7:16 pm

So Phil Collins announced his “musical retirement” this week. First: we’ll see. I think we’ve all gotten pretty jaded about retirements after seeing just about everyone retire and then stage a major comeback a few years later. I have few doubts that, should Peter Gabriel offer to tour Genesis one last time Phil would jump at the chance – but my guess is that Phil’s retirement was spurred on by exactly the opposite of that. I had my suspicions that the final installment in the remix/surround-sound box-set treatment of the Genesis catalog would be followed by a short tour involving Peter Gabriel, since that is his material and it has been held off for last – and delayed multiple times – but Peter Gabriel rarely looks back. My guess is that Phil got a final “no” from his old friend Peter and that sealed the deal for him.

Second: a hearty “shove it” to all you snotty little indie wankers who are celebrating. Like this retirement means anything to you anyway. Phil Collins is a fantastic drummer – maybe you never cared enough to pay any attention or dig into the old Genesis catalog, but there’s some incredible stuff going on in there. If all you know of Phil Collins is Disney soundtracks and “Sussudio,” you are painfully shallow. Not to mention his voice – it’s an icon. Maybe what it came to represent in the late 80s and through the 90s was adult contemporary pap, but through the 70s and early 80s, Collins was the man. I love his voice, and I’m not ashamed to say it. I can’t say I’m a huge fan of his solo career, but I’m a Genesis fan, through and through.

I don’t know what prompted this. That’s not true. I guess it’s just three days of seeing all the gloating by idiots who really have nothing to say but just want to jump on the bandwagon. Never underestimate the attraction of an easy target for small-minded morons.

Gimpin’ about

Filed under: General — Tom @ 4:40 pm

I have forsaken my Shoe as of this past weekend on account of two things. One, after walking with it for even a short while, I develop a sharp pain in my ankle. I attribute this to a sickening “dislodging” that I feel coming from my ankle as I lift and set my foot back down. I think, after two weeks, it had simply taken too much abuse being oddly angled in two directions. Two, I was just sick of it. Sick of lumping about, very slowly, sick of being dependent on everyone, and I really missed driving.

And, I hate to admit it, but this Shoe brought out one of my worst OCD tendencies – a fear of gross germs. I had to wear this to bed for fear of damaging my toe, and I simply could not put this thing in bed with me after having worn it outside, on the street, in bathrooms without cleaning. Every night I would take it off and douse the bottom with Lysol and let it sit while I took a shower, then I’d clean it off, making sure nothing was sticking to it. Even then, I didn’t feel entirely confident it was clean, but something had to give.

So for the past few days I’ve been gimpin’ about without my Shoe and it’s been okay. My toe is sensitive, but I’m being very careful with it. I don’t bend down on that foot, I don’t lean on that foot, I don’t do anything dependent on my right foot. I’m still kind of amazed at how sore it can get from doing very little. I fear going to my doctor tomorrow for the follow up and finding out that I’ve just undone two weeks of healing, but I think maybe I’m overworrying.

What I safely worrying about is tomorrow night’s Rush show. I can gimp about the house and even around relatively long distances at work okay. But that’s nothing compared to a concert, where I’ll be walking much farther than I’ve walked and standing for much longer than I’ve stood in nearly three weeks. This is one of those times when I wish I had a cast or crutches or something recognizable as the medical implementations for healing a broken bone. If I have to spend the concert sitting, and I’m the only one, I’m going to look like the fuddy-duddy who doesn’t really want to be there. If you are there and you see me looking concerned, it may just be that I’m praying that the crowds on the way out are gentle with me and don’t step on my foot.

Grammar lesson for today.

Filed under: Peeves — Tom @ 1:05 pm

The word is voilĂ , as in “surprise!” Or, literally, in French, “see there,” not, as many seem to believe, just a random sound that people like to say, which is spelled a variation of “walla.”

April 26, 2008

Clumsy me

Filed under: Annoyances — Tom @ 3:15 pm

Well, I did it – the thing I’ve been fearing for months. I deleted my playlist for my Ipod, a list of about 115gb of music I’ve been compiling since I got my 160gb a month ago. I meant to simply delete something from the playlist and, in a haze of stupidity and self-assured blindness, I didn’t pay attention to the little pop-up box that warned me of something, so certain that it was just asking me if I definitely wanted to remove that from the playlist. No, it was actually asking if I definitely wanted to delete that playlist. And I didn’t. The moment that I did, I began spewing a list of sounds that simply cannot be transcribed, for they probably didn’t make much sense (aside from the random swear words – those I’m sure did come through loud and clear,) but they approximate what it would sound like if someone had stabbed me without warning.

Obviously, the good thing is that the music is still there, but it still took me over an hour this morning to cull a new playlist together that somewhat approximates what had been carefully put together over the past month. And I know it’s not everything. I’ll get to work and want to hear some obscure thing and surprise it won’t be on there. And that really annoys me, because when the urge strikes, I need to have those weird, obscure things at hand – that’s the whole point of upgrading to this ridiculously huge beast. Now I’m starting all over again. Itunes has been syncing with my Ipod for nearly three hours, having loaded nearly 11,000 songs, and there’s still 4,000 to go. Here’s to fresh starts. (sigh)

Peter Gabriel – “Burn You Up, Burn You Down”

Filed under: Music — Tom @ 9:06 am

Peter Gabriel UpIn my travels from music store to music store, I occasionally come across unusual things. For a while I kept seeing this weird copy of Peter Gabriel’s 2002 album, Up, mixed in among the other regular ones. It didn’t have the typical spine text the other copies of Up had – instead, it had big block lettering (the font appears to be plain ol’ Impact, if you’re curious.) It was decidedly unsubtle and unprofessional. It looked to me like a pirated copy. Used, at $8.99, it wasn’t any particular bargain, and I never bothered to look very closely at it because I already own it. After a few months, I finally just picked it up to see what was the deal with it. Flipping it over to look at the back, that’s when I went “whoa.”

Yes, something was still fishy with this, but the “whoa” moment was the inclusion of “Burn You Up, Burn You Down” in the track listing, along with “Don’t Leave” – the early title of “No Way Out – both of which are only found on the extremely rare UK promo. “What is going on here?” I carefully examined the packaging and could not come away with a feeling that it was not a bootleg. I’m very familiar with promos and this was not a promo – it had no label logos or anything typically found on a promo, just a cheap looking line of text at the bottom with a copyright for Interscope . . . which is weird in itself, Real World/Virgin being Gabriel’s UK label. Nope, this was not legit. But if even if it were a pirated copy, having the original of “Burn You Up, Burn You Down” was more than worth it – I can’t afford the promo. However, who’s to know if it really is the original and not the remix that showed up on Hit a few years later? I bought it anyway.

I’m thrilled I did – but the funny thing is that I didn’t bother to check it out until yesterday, a couple months after I found it! And what played when I spun the disc for the first time was indeed the much sought UK promo. What’s the difference? A different tracklisting, for one – not only is “Burn” added into the tracklisting for great effect (and it should NEVER have been left off) but what we know as album closer “The Drop” is track number 7 here. This makes much more sense – the dramatic “Signal to Noise” needs to be the end of the album and no matter how many times I’ve heard this album, I always think it’s the end. But the big thing here is getting “Burn You Up/Down” in its original form, unadulterated by the remix and untouched by the odd addition of compression that made Hit so loud (odd because Gabriel’s remasters, from which these songs are sourced, are exemplary – some of the best I’ve ever heard.) I’ve included both versions here for comparison – put on the headphones and turn up the volume. Make note of how piercing and shrill the highs are in the Hit version compared to the original. That’s compression at work – it is what is ruining music right now.

Hit version


Deleted Up promo version:


April 25, 2008

Billy Joel – Songs from the Nylon Curtain

Filed under: Music — Tom @ 11:43 pm

nyloncurtainFor whatever reasons, perhaps the same dumb, young metalhead tendencies that Chuck Klosterman notes in Fargo Rock City kept him from admitting any interest in pop for ages, I never bought any Billy Joel albums, despite always kinda liking quite a bit of his early stuff. I finally gave in for some strange reason a few weeks ago and ordered a copy of his early live album, Songs in the Attic, and 1982’s The Nylon Curtain, the former because it seemed to steer clear of the songs that long ago became overplayed radio fodder and the latter because it sounds like a lost Beatles album.

And now that both have arrived, I am kicking myself for having spent so many years Joel-less. As I mentioned above, when I was younger, I suffered from a condition that Klosterman described so well in his book – the odd, complete deafness we metalheads had toward anything outside of our chosen genre. If it was pop, if it was catchy, or, worse, pleasant, it was terrible, awful music that must be ignored. The thing was, I had seen Billy Joel in concert years before and it had indelibly stamped some of his music in me – much of Nylon Curtain, in fact, “Allentown,” “Goodnight Saigon,” and many of his older, now lesser known songs – and I’d forced the memory into submission because, I felt, it wasn’t cool to like the “piano man.” Well, maybe it’s still not. I also don’t care anymore – I can’t deny the power of a bunch of great songs. What’s more, this era of Joel’s music is very obviously a template for fellow pianist Ben Folds, who, for a while at least, was deemed pretty cool. Billy’s okay in my book, and so is Ben.

If you’re looking to pick up some old Billy Joel, skip the remasters and head straight for the cheap old versions. The sound is sparkling clear and stunning. The acoustic guitar in “Goodnight Saigon,” for example, has that very live, “in the room with you” feeling that gets lost in modern remasters due to EQ choices, compression/limiting, and other things that are done to them to (ahem) “modernize” them. I know the Billy Joel remasters are not considered bad, but they absolutely cannot surpass the sheer beauty of sound I’m hearing in these 20+ year old discs. They won’t make you look cool, however. Even the remasters with their nicer packaging can’t do that.

Beck – Sea Change MFSL

Filed under: Music — Tom @ 4:37 pm

seachangeOf interest to a few readers, Mobile Fidelity will soon be releasing their version of Beck’s Sea Change. This should be really nice – the album was well-recorded to begin with, with a lush, deep, somber sound, which should give the MoFi people something really rich to mold and bring out details that have previously been hidden by traditional mastering techniques. I wish I could say I have the original to compare it to when it arrives, but it is one of those albums that fell victim to any one of many factors that lead to it finding a new home many years ago. That won’t happen again – I’ve missed it for a long time, and am thrilled to see that this audiophile pressing is coming along in the next few weeks or so (presumably, since it can now be ordered.)

Also coming soon, for big Beck fans, is MoFi’s version of Odelay. I think their info is mistaken – it reads as if it’s the new two-disc deluxe, but it most likely will be the single disc issue with no bonus cuts. If it is two discs, it’s a steal, being cheaper than the deluxe! Alas, I’m not that big of a Beck fan, so Sea Change will suit my needs . . .

April 24, 2008

Words fail me

Filed under: General — Tom @ 9:20 pm

Worst Karaoke Session Ever – Watch more free videos

Phone home

Filed under: Annoyances — Tom @ 1:32 pm

Filed under “I don’t get it” – you bring a cellphone to work so you can have it with you to get every call . . . and then you leave it on your desk and walk away. In the meantime, it can ring and ring and ring with your irritating little ringtone over and over again. This, by the way, is the only time said phone rings. One of these days I’m going to start smashing phones.

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