Known Johnson

November 26, 2008

The week in rock

Filed under: Music — Tom @ 6:00 pm

This is now overdue, as I have other new acquisitions to talk about, but let’s get started with the stuff from the previous couple of weeks before this week, shall we?

Good stuff - all of it, seriously

Let’s go left to right, like we’re reading:

The Police – Certifiable: – Two CDs, two DVDs recorded live in Buenos Aires, 2007, on their reunion tour, on which they pissed off a bunch of stiff yuppie fans who couldn’t handle songs being changed up a bit from their original formats. Me, I love it, and maybe I wouldn’t have hated hearing the songs basically played straight, but my thinking is, if I want to hear the album versions of things, I’ll listen to the damned albums. For a very mainstream band, The Police put on what amounts to a weird show. They are in great form here, but I have to admit I haven’t even touched the DVDs yet – I’m satisfied with the audio portion. One big complaint, however: the packaging is terrible and cheap feeling. The CD/DVD trays are made out of some flimsy recycled plastic crap that feels less substantial than a 2-liter soda bottle, and these are glued to thin paper-board, rather than a sturdier cardboard box that you might be expecting from a 4-disc set. There’s also just a small book of pictures, no text . . . it’s just a really cheap package all around, designed as if it was an afterthought. I’d link it on Amazon so you could listen to clips, but it’s a damned Best Buy exclusive, so just go pick it up if you’re so inclined.

Brad Paisley – Play: You read that right, Brad Paisley, country singer dude. Except here he hardly sings. It’s a guitar album, you see, and it’s pretty hard to classify it as a country guitar album – he pays homage to his influences, from (and I’m guessing here, just based on the styles he displays) Joe Satriani to Les Paul to Danny Gatton. It is tasty good stuff. Admittedly, there are four vocal songs, but those have been unchecked in Itunes so I don’t ever have to worry about hearing them again. I just don’t know who he’s trying to aim this one at. I can’t imagine most country fans are too interested in this more rock-styled album, and I would bet most rock listeners are going to turn their noses up at someone so aligned with country. It’s too bad, they are all missing out on one of the better examples of how instrumental albums should be handled (it’s at least as much about songcraft as showing off licks.)

B.B. King – One Kind Favor: Is King fixin’ to die or something? Because this is one dark album. The album is a meditation on the end days of a man realizing his mortality, but besides that, it is a complete reinvigoration of King as a musician. He sounds fresh and excited to play. How much of that is due to a nasty brush with the flu in early 2007 (when you’re 80, the flu ain’t nothing to mess with) or due to the incredible talents of producer T-Bone Burnett, there’s no telling until he speaks up about it, but the fact is that this is King at his best. It’s raw blues from one of the early masters, and there aren’t many of them left anymore.

Jeff Loomis – Zero Order Phase: The one thing that pretty much destroys my interest in death metal, and I’ll bet there are many others who would support me on this, is the vocal style. It’s either a deep, gutteral growl or a whiny, shrieky yell, neither of which are particularly intelligble, but that never really matters because the lyrics are usually another weak spot – if you pay attention to them. The music, on the other hand, can be incredible – intricate, complex, sometimes incredibly powerful and even beautiful, but then those ridiculous vocals come in and ruin everything. Loomis, the guitarist from Nevermore, has obviously heard my pleas and released an instrumental death metal record. Perfect! And it is – it’s friggin’ great stuff. Fast, hard, heavy, and then there are those moments of surreal beauty, and not a one of them spoiled by the devastation of hearing “GRRRROOOOWWWWWWL!” suddenly appear over top of it.

Guns N Roses – Chinese Democracy: Would you believe that? Fifteen years we’ve been hearing about this. And you know what? It’s really good. But you’ll be hearing a lot of bad reactions and I’ll tell you why: everyone wants to make sure their opinion on this is registered. Don’t pay attention to them. I’m seeing reviews from people who 1) care only for Appetite For Destruction, 2) can’t listen to music by any band that doesn’t have Slash in it, 3) never liked the band in the first place, and 4) those who liked both Use Your Illusion albums. The first three don’t have much good to say about it, but they can be discounted immediately – what reason would anyone accept the opinion of someone who just plain won’t like anything by what is called Guns N Roses today? The last one is the one where the reviews are going to matter – they are people who are not simply attached to a band lineup for nostalgia purposes and will give the music a chance, but I do admit there is the annoying problem of the fanboy, those weirdos who think anything and everything touched by their objects of desire is 100% golden. Those are easy to spot, however. It’s safe to say I’m not one of those. I’ve said it before, I’m saying it again: I don’t care what the name is, I’m just looking for good music. Call it GnR, call it Axl’s Guitar Club For Men (seriously, you should see the credits – so many guitarists,) whatever. The music would remain the same, and it’s pretty damned good if you open your mind. Sure, it’s excessive and in places it might be too excessive, but it manages to feel like a big, grand rock album, the likes of which we rarely see these days. I don’t want to see this kind of thing make a comeback, but one big epic like this once in a while is a refreshing change of pace from the sometimes too-earnest, straight-ahead, stripped-back rock that has been dominating the market for so long. So, if you’re of an open mind, Chinese Democracy is a surprisingly strong album that wants to be a really great one, and it comes very close. No link – another damned Best Buy exclusive . . .

November 24, 2008


Filed under: Tech/geek,Weird — Tom @ 1:47 pm

It’s test time . . . see what the abuses of your youth, or even present age, have taken on your hearing. This completely unscientific test will give you an idea of what of the upper range of frequencies in your hearing are gone for good due to ridiculously loud volumes at concerts, night clubs, headphones, etc. Warning: be very careful with the volume as these tones are piercing, to say the least. Don’t lose your hearing while testing it, okay?

Fessin’ up: my left ear could clearly hear up to 17kHz while my right ear could only make out 16kHz. Not bad for nearly 36 years old, according to the chart. Wearing earplugs at concerts and listening to music at decent volumes has paid off, apparently.

November 20, 2008

Take that, wonderheart

Filed under: Music — Tom @ 11:28 pm

Three days early, the new “Guns N Roses” (here’s the ‘ – please place the apostrophe wherever appropriate, I never quite know where it goes) is playing through my headphones right now. And I put the band name in quotes because, as we all know, it’s GnR in name only, but, unlike many others, I don’t give a dump. Is it good music or bad? So far . . . surprisingly good. Call it GnR, call it The Axl Rose Show, I don’t care. If it’s good, I don’t give a rodent’s scrote who is the name that takes claim for the music.

Is it a decade and a half of work good? What would be? I’ll view it like any other album – it came out this year, and if I keep listening to it, I like it. I think I’m going to keep listening to it – it’s at least as good as the best parts of Use Your Illusion I & II together. And guess what? It’s actually fun. Chuck Klosterman agrees.

Oh, and the absence of Slash? Not really all that big of a deal. Keep this quiet, a little secret, you know . . . but between you and me, there are lots of really, really good guitar players out there – some are even better than Slash! Shocking, I know!

November 18, 2008

What’s up?

Filed under: Baby makes FOUR,General,Ipod/Iphone — Tom @ 3:38 pm

It’s an adverb. But that’s beside the point. It’s been a while, and there’s been a lot going on. I’ll forget most of it as soon as I start typing.

If you’re not keeping tabs, in two weeks, we will someone be given access to another tiny little person who will, in the words of Amanda, our first tiny little person, “pop out” of Alissa’s stomach. And because I’ve been asked this a million times at work, yes, we actually finally have a name . . . but you’re going to have to wait a couple weeks to find that out.

Unless things change drastically, this tiny little lady will “pop out” in almost exactly two weeks. It seems she is breech and has chosen to stay that way. I’m not going to go into details, because they’re complicated and medically . . . stuff . . . but C-section is the way to go – no turning her around prior to birth. No worries, however, neither mother nor daughter are in any danger whatsoever. It’s just that things, as they are wont to do, got complicated, and she will be coming out “the other way.” Everyone is perfectly healthy.

Our Christmas tree is up. Yes, it’s early, but I’ve got to get the damned box out of the house so we can clean up before the baby arrives. Priorities . . . Hey, at least we waited to actually decorate it.

Speaking of decorating . . . with the economy the way it is, it looks like people really aren’t going to be out buying houses, so we’re going to have to settle in to dealing with our now over-small house for a while, which means I’ll be busy soon decorating our new resident’s room like I did Amanda’s three years ago. I had held off a while back because we had every intention of selling, but things just got worse and worse, and I think we’re just kind of stuck now for a while. I’m looking at it this way, however: how cute and irresistible to a young family is a house with two custom, hand-painted kids’ rooms? We’re just going to have to figure out how to deal with no storage, no space, etc. for far longer than we’d planned.

Now I know why they call it “commercial radio.” I installed a new CD player in my truck this weekend, one through which I can use both my Ipod and Iphone with one plug that also charges whichever is connected at the time (this is more difficult that it seems – Apple likes to change things up and screwed up car installs with the latest Iphones and Ipods) but also allows me to use USB flash drives, which is pretty neat-o. Anyway, I have been playing with Pandora internet radio on my Iphone the past few days and have to say it’s pretty great – very good sound quality, very good song choices, and free – and so have been taking my Ipod cable, used in my truck for sound, into work to charge while I listen. I went out at lunch today, grabbing my Ipod to listen while I drove . . . but forgot that cable. I was forced to listen to radio on the approximately 20 minutes of drive-time that I endured. Do you know how many songs I heard in that entire time? One full song, and one partial song. The rest of the time was commercials – most of them, strangely, for insurance or cars, two things I would think very few people are actually shopping for all that often. Oh, and beer. An interesting, possibly dangerous, mix, to be sure.

And, like I said, as soon as I started in on this, all my intended news would just go drizzling away. Such is life with my brain lately. I set out with good intentions, only to stand, confused, in the aisles of life’s grocery store, an empty cart before me, and no idea what I was there to put in it.

November 12, 2008

The Jimi Hendrix Experience reunites – Mitch Mitchell, RIP

Filed under: Music — Tom @ 2:40 pm

Another legend gone. Noel Redding rejoined the band in 2003.

November 8, 2008

Gnarls Barkley covers Radiohead’s “Reckoner”

Filed under: Music — Tom @ 5:19 pm

. . . and it’s nearly dead-on. Why that would be a surprise to anyone, I can’t imagine. Cee-lo is one of the few men who could tackle that song and not butcher Thom Yorke’s vocals. Truly awesome:

November 5, 2008

Movin’ on up

Filed under: General — Tom @ 8:42 pm

A few weeks ago, I introduced into Amanda’s ever-growing vocabulary the phrase “Who you gonna call?” and the obvious answer, “Ghostbusters!” We tortured mommy with it a few times. “This is what you teach your daughter?” Yep.

Today, on the way home, after my mom informed me that she had been getting her to repeat “President Obama” all day, I decided to try and instill some knowledge in her. That’s what a good dad does, after all.

Me: “Who was the first president?”

Her: “I don’t know.”

Me: “George Washington. Who is president right now?”

Her: (something that resembled) “George Washington.”

Me: “George Bush.”

Her: (giggles) “Daddy, that’s funny.” (more giggles) “Bush Bush.” (This went on for a while. You know how kids are.)

Me: “Okay, let’s try again. Who was the first president?”

Her: “Georwatonush.” (giggles)

Me: “And who’s movin’ on up . . . to the east side . . . to a de-luxe apartment in the sky.”

Her: “Daddy.” (Not an answer, just a plaintive sigh of distress.)

Me: “George Jefferson.”

Her: “George Jefferson.”

Me: “And who was the first president?”

Her: “George Jefferson.”

Me: “No, he’s moving on up. George Washington was the first president. Who is president now?”

Her: “George Jefferson.”

Me: “George Bush. Who’s the next president? Grandma said you were saying it all day.”

Her: “George Jefferson.”

I overloaded her with Georges, and of all of them, Jefferson stuck. But she got me back. “Daddy! Who you gonna call?”

Update: Holy shit . . . I just read about these racist Obama things going around, one of which involves the Jeffersons theme song and the White House. Please do not take the above as some kind of racist joke. It is not. I am actually quite proud of our country for this momentous occasion – regardless of how anyone voted, this is something of which to be extremely proud. I even have a post partially written (and not enough time to finish it yet,) saying much of what has already been said by many others, about how this may represent a corner being turned, but it seems that maybe I’m proven wrong by the presence of the racist messages and images being sent around. It was expected at some point, but I hoped maybe a little more time would pass before the dirt would fly again.

Part of me thinks this should just be removed all together, lest people get the wrong idea and think I’m trying to make up for it by making good with this little update. Thoughts? Did anyone find anything offensive in this until I pointed it out?

November 2, 2008


Filed under: Ipod/Iphone — Tom @ 9:14 pm

I really am a pretty big fan of Brian Eno, in a general sense, not just for his music. I like the way he thinks, even if sometimes he drifts off into floofy new-aginess once in a while. That’s okay because sometimes that’s just how truly unique individuals are, and when they keep coming up with just plain nice stuff like the album he did with David Byrne this year (Everything That Happens Will Happen Today – yes, you need it) I say, let ’em be a little “off.” And once again, he’s turned out something just plain nice, this time with fellow musician Peter Chilvers, for the Iphone/Touch, in the form of an app that creates music in a unique way – touch the screen and a chimey note rings out. Where most music apps are focusing on trying to recreate a particular instrument’s environment in the artificial world of the Iphone, Eno and Chilvers opted to treat the Iphone as its own instrument that works in its own way. It also features an Eno staple, delay, that is variable by the user, so what is played eventually becomes looped back and incorporated into the ongoing music, which should be no surprise to fans of Eno’s ambient music. Or it can simply create random new music on its own. Its simplicity is its beauty. The name pretty much defines it: Bloom.

I love it. Even more a testament to how brilliant and simple it was, Amanda loved it too – she simply tapped her fingers around the screen and created circle patterns while the sound chimed away around her. But you really need to hear this thing on good headphones – it’s beautiful. If you have an Iphone or a Touch, grab a copy for $3.99 on Itunes. It’s one of the few apps I’ve paid for and if you’re into ambient music, it is easily worth the money.

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