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September 28, 2007

Friday Random Top 10

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Wow! Last weekend of MLB and the National League is a mess! Cubs are in the middle of their classic choke job, Mets and Phillies tied for first. But I wanted to show some love to the Colorado Rockies. They’ve won 11 games in a row and are right in the mix for the playoffs. The Rockies are a team run like they way we want the Twins to be run: Middle of the pack payroll, players coming up from the minors, good pitching, timely hitting. Matt Holliday, pictured above, is nearly leading the league in average and RBI's and is one of those players who if playing for New York or Boston would have a cool nickname be a household name. We should all root for the Rockies to make it to the playoffs.

Any here’s this week’s top 10, what’s yours?

1. What’s Wrong With Me? – X
2. Do as the Doukhobors Do – Pete Seeger
3. Are You My Flower? – The Carter Family
4. John Henry – Bruce Springsteen
5. Slipping (into Something) – The Feelies
6. My Hometown – Bruce Springsteen
7. Accidentally Like a Martyr – Warren Zevon
8. Jimmy Jazz – The Clash
9. Dear Prudence – The Beatles
10. Beanbag Chair – Yo La Tengo

September 26, 2007

Where Are They Now -- Urban Guerrillas??

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As someone who went to the University of Minnesota in the early- to mid-1980’s I was lucky enough to be present during the high point of the “Minneapolis Music Scene.�? Everyone knows about the Replacements, Husker Du, Soul Asylum, The Suburbs, etc. However there were a lot of other bands that didn’t get that level of national recognition, but were great bands anyway. I’m sure any college town/major metropolitan area has their share of them. One such band was the Urban Guerrillas.

A couple of months ago when I reviewed the Replacements Let It Be album as part of my ongoing 30 best loved albums series, the comments section quickly became a forum about the Urban Guerrillas. The biggest issue seemed to be that they basically disappeared – no web page extolling their virtues; albums never converted to CDs or .mps3’s; no reunion concert as a fund raiser from some poor musician’s medical bills. Lucky enough I knew someone who had their two albums on CD, ripped from the actual albums themselves.

The Urban Guerrillas were one of those perfect bar bands for people in their late teens and early twenties: alcohol and sex fueled dance music. Throw in a little politics and you have a perfect storm to create a nice little local following. The titles of their two albums really describe where they were coming from: Darwin’s Theory of Pelvic Revolution and Attack of the Pink Heat Seeking Moisture Missiles. Listening to the albums today brings back many fond memories seeing them live and just having a blast. Drinking beer and hooking up with members of the opposite sex went part and parcel with their shows. Although the albums are fun, they don’t do justice to what the band presented live.

Then they broke up and went on with the rest of their lives. Like I said googling Urban Guerrillas basically brings up nothing on the band. My pal Timmy the Freak and I were discussing this sad fact a while back and The Freak said that he wanted to start a web page dedicated to the Urban Guerrillas which I thought was a good idea. So this post is an opening salvo: Use the comments section to list your Urban Guerrillas story. Let us know if you have tapes of concerts or unreleased CDs. If you know where members of the bands are give us that information too, hopefully with this information we can develop a good web site dedicated to this fun band and who knows…. Maybe even a reunion show.

If interested in receiving a copy of the Urban Guerilla’s two albums drop me a line at freealonzo@comcast.net. Or leave your name and e-mail in the comments below.

UPDATE!!!!!

Both UG albums and the elusive "backyard" tape are now uploaded on archive.org. All three can be easily downloaded for free. Sound quality is pretty good too.

September 25, 2007

30 Best Loved Albums - The 2nd 30

2007 will bring the 30th anniversary of my first rock concert (Kiss, December 2, 1977 – Metropolitan Sports Center). In honor of that momentous event I have decided to use this blog to review my 30 best loved albums. They will not be in any order or progression but I will try to review them musically and why they mean so much to me. I’ll also note if they made the Definitive 200 List.

Before I start with my last five albums, I wanted to list the next 30 albums that didn't make the list. If I went to 60 albums this is what they would be.

Beatles – Revolver
Billy Bragg – Talking to the Taxman About Poetry
Blondie – Eat to the Beat
David Bowie – Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars
The Buzzcocks – Singles Going Steady
The Byrds – Sweatheart of the Rodeo
Johnny Cash – Live at San Quentin
Cheap Trick - Live at Budokon I and II
The Cult – Electric
The Decemberists – Her Majesty The Decemberists
Bob Dylan – Another Side of Bob Dylan
The Feelies – The Good Earth
Husker Du – Zen Arcade
Hypstrz – Hypstryzation
Jesus and Mary Chain – Darklands
Mekons - Rock and Roll
Ministry – Psalm 69
Pavement – Hard Rain Hard Rain
Pixies – Doolittle
Elvis Presley – Sun Sessions
Replacements – Sorry Ma Forgot to Take Out the Trash
Sex Pistols – Never Mind the Bollacks
Son Volt - Traces
Soul Asylum – Hang Time
Soundgarden – Badmotorfinger
U2 – Unforgettable Fire
Tom Waits – Orphans
The White Stripes – Elephant
Wilco – Yankee Foxtrot Hotel
X – Los Angeles

Next week, the start of the last 5 albums!!

September 21, 2007

Friday Random Top 10

Here it is! Every Friday I will turn the I-Pod to shuffle and see what it spits out. This week's list:

1. Hoodoo Voodoo - Billy Bragg and Wilco
2. Postcard Blues - Cowboy Junkies
3. Go Ahead - Wire
4. House in Motion (live) - Talking Heads
5. My Oklahoma Home - Bruce Springsteen
6. And a Bang on the Ear - Waterboys
7. Turn on your Love Light - High Spirits
8. Daughter - Pearl Jam
9. Dimension - Wolfmother
10. You Make Me Feel like a Natural Woman - Aretha Franklin

What's your top 10?

September 20, 2007

Senseless Murder

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Last week Mark Loesch had the audacity to get on his bike at 10:30 at night and ride it to a friend’s house in South Minneapolis. Mark never made it as some apparent punk smashed his head in instead. Just for riding his bike at night.

Mark lived about two blocks from me and although I didn’t know him, my kids played with his kids occasionally and I’m pretty sure I’ve seen his oldest son in my basement playing Madden on the Playstation. From all the stories I heard Mark seemed like a pretty good guy and I’m saddened that we never got to know each other better.

Sometimes we are able to create something good out of senseless, tragic crimes and last night in Southwest Minneapolis, something good did come out of Mark’s murder. To honor Mark, over 500 of his friends, family, and neighbors came out to walk or bike the route that Mark took on his last night. We gathered at King Field park, signed a banner, and then took to the street. It was amazing to see a steady stream of people stretching over 5 blocks long and then to entirely fill one City block candles in hand in honor of this man. The mood was solemn, not sad, and people from 4 to 84, some with dogs, some on bikes, some with flowers stood shoulder to shoulder and hand in hand.

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In true Minnesota fashion, we were not an angry vengeful mob, but a saddened, confused group of neighbors. Saddened that someone just like us could be cut down so senselessly, saddened that his 4 children will have no father, saddened that the City we love still has so much hate that someone would kill so randomly and confused because we don’t know what we can do to change what happened or what to do next.

It was a fitting tribute, one that that I will always remember but something that I hope I never have to do again.

September 16, 2007

30 Best Loved Albums - Murmur

2007 will bring the 30th anniversary of my first rock concert (Kiss, December 2, 1977 – Metropolitan Sports Center). In honor of that momentous event I have decided to use this blog to review my 30 best loved albums. They will not be in any order or progression but I will try to review them musically and why they mean so much to me. I’ll also note if they made the Definitive 200 List. With that on to #25 of the list...

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25. R.E.M – Murmur (1983)

It’s hard to describe how much a breath of fresh air Murmur was in 1983. Punk was a spent force and spandex clad hair bands were beginning their mighty popular rise, a force that wouldn’t be killed for over 10 years (thanks Nirvana!). As with most 20 year olds college kids at the time, I was discovering all the punk and post-punk I missed living as a teenager in suburban flyover land. However there wasn’t much that was new, that I could call my own. Then came Murmur.

To be honest, I don’t remember exactly where or when I first heard Murmur but I do remember being pretty much an early adapter of the band. It really was something that you never heard before. Finally a band that belonged to you and your friends and not to a bunch of snot nosed punks, self-important baby boomers, or long-haired hippies. Critics talked about “jangly? guitars like the Byrds but I never heard that. It was dreamy, atmospheric with lyrics that were indecipherable and the lyrics you could hear didn’t make any sense. Here is the first verse of Radio Free Europe:

Beside yourself if radio's gonna stay.
Reason: it could polish up the grey.
Put that, put that, put that up your wall
That this isn't country at all

Don’t worry Michael Stipe doesn’t know what it means either.

Any band can do dreamy and atmospheric but what makes someone want to listen over and over again is that the songs have to be good, even if you can’t understand the lyrics, and Murmur is full of good songs. Radio Free Europe was the big hit of course even if Cities 97 has played it to death. Pilgrimage, Talk About the Passion, and Shaking Through have always been favorites. Catapult has a perfect bass guitar and drum opening that’s never been done before or since. Michael Mills was the most accomplished musician at the time the album was recorded and you can tell as the bass work is exquisite. Michael Stipe’s voice really is a 4th instrument and the arcane lyrics add to the moodiness.

A great example of Stipe’s vocal work is in Talk about the Passion. During the end of the second verse there is a violin accompanying Peter Buck’s guitar, it repeats its refrain and then Stipe’s vocal humming comes in right with the violin and you literally cannot tell where the violin ends and the vocals begin. Truly an amazing song. Peter Buck’s guitar on Shaking Through is simple yet adds a complexity to the song as it compliments the vocals and a piano.

I’ve enjoyed this album for nearly 25 years and and I cannot even think of not having it for another 25, it’s simply that good. The songs have many layers and can be uplifting when you need a jolt or quiet when you needs some introspection time. You can focus on a specific musician or have the songs wash over you like a shower. For that reason, Murmur is one of my 30 favorite albums. What do you think of Murmur?

Place on the Definitive 200 List: Not on the List

September 14, 2007

Friday Random Top 10

Here it is! Every Friday I will turn the I-Pod to shuffle and see what it spits out. This week's list:

1. There There – Radiohead
2. The L&N Don’t Stop Here Anymore – Johnny Cash
3. Tommy Can You Hear Me? – The Who
4. Jailhouse Rock – Elvis Presley
5. Driver 8 – R.E.M.
6. West Texas Teardrops – Old 97’s
7. Don’t Know Yet – Husker Du
8. Fight Test – Flaming Lips
9. Soft Ground – Mott the Hoople
10. Georgia Stomp – Andrew & Jim Baxter


What's your top 10?

September 13, 2007

Once - The Movie

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I’m just as mindless a sucker for the big budget summer movie as the next rube. As you can see from reviews here, here, and here. I pretty much took in all the “major? movies this past summer. Most of them are a lot of fun and the ones that aren’t at least provide a way to keep cool during a hot summer night. Unfortunately a lot of these movies are like cotton candy: tasty, but gone quickly and ultimately providing empty calories, something forgotten before you find your car in the parking lot.

Fortunately I also like to keep an eye out for “smaller? movies, as well. Quirky or grown-up movies that are little more challenging can be much more satisfying and stick with you for days if not weeks later. One such movie comes out of Ireland and it’s called Once. It’s a low budget movie (apparently shot for about $200k) about a going-through-the-motions singer/songwriter/vacuum repair man in Dublin who meets a young female Czech immigrant piano player and through their friendship, gets back on his feet and starts living life again.

Its low production values actually adds to the charm as the camera work and sound editing give the movie a more realistic feel. The two main characters are not professional actors but do a wonderful job, these are completely believable characters and part of the reason is that they have lived the lives they are portraying. The plot is simple and the ending is not clichéd nor is it shocking or unbelievable either.

What really sets this movie apart is the music. The music is actually what movie snobs call diagetic which means that the music comes from the world of the movie and not a soundtrack placed over the dialogue from somewhere outside of the movie world (it’s not 100% diagetic as one song is repeated at the end of movie in a montage that shows how the characters move on in their lives). The performance of the songs was done live and typically in one take with only one or two cameras. The songs are absolutely mesmerizing and will haunt you for days afterward. Also since they songs are performed live within the movie the viewer gets to enjoy the song in its entirety and not a snippet or one chorus as is typical in movies.

I don’t want to give a whole lot of the plot away as it is more fun to watch these two characters grow and make their life decisions without preconceived notions. It is a joy to watch and I encourage anyone who is sick of the big blockbuster to check it out either in the theater or when it is released on DVD.

September 11, 2007

Flaming Lips @ The Myth

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What if I told you I went to a concert on Sunday night and the show opened with big yellow balloons filling the floor, yellow confetti falling from the ceiling in amounts that would concern the most blasé Fire Marshall, people dressed as space monsters and in Santa get-ups on the side of the stage, and the lead singer sporting hands the size of big screen TVs hugging other band members, the space monsters, and Santa outfit wearers? You’d probably say “whoa, next time don’t take that 4th hit of acid.? Or you could say, “so how was the Flaming Lips show??

Yes, The Flaming Lips at the Myth Nightclub, former site of a Bed Bath and Beyond, right next to the Ashley Furniture Super Store, a place perfect for a bunch of Oklahoma freaks, the ones who’s grandparents didn’t travel west to California during the dust storms, but remained on the farms to harvest the dust and battle the ‘cats. The band that has defied odds and have been around for over 20 years bombarding their fans with weird music and live shows that just about defy description.

When you go to a Flaming Lips show you know you’re in for a spectacle and Sunday’s show didn’t disappoint. Besides the jaw dropping opening, fans were equipped with lasers to shoot on stage. During one song, the lights went down and everyone pointed their lasers at a white-suited Wayne who was holding a mirror. The scene of 2000 lasers pointed at a mirror and reflected back was absolutely stunning. In addition, balloons the size of hotel laundry bags filled the air and complemented the video screens of squirrels wrestling, space monsters in cheerleader outfits dancing, a mic cam providing extreme close ups of Wayne’s face when he was talking, and enough confetti to welcome home Neil Armstrong.

So you ask ok the show was eye-popping but what about the music? Answer: Awesome. Below is a set list and for the most part was pretty good. I would have liked a few more from Transmissions From the Satellite Heart, which is one of my favorite albums, but what the heck that album is some 15 years old. Highlights for me included The Yeah Yeah Yeah Song, Yoshimi, Pompeii, and Free Radicals.

Ta Da!
Race For The Prize
Tapsmir
Free Radicals
Flight Test
Mountain Side
Vein Of Stars (with lasers!!)
Yoshimi (Low key version)
Riding To Work In The Year 2025
Pompeii
Yeah Yeah Yeah Song
Taps -> Waitin For A Superman
The WAND
Do You Realize??
E1: She Don’t Use Jelly
E2: Moonlight Mile

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Finally there was a strong message that came through all the madness and that was that it’s alright to have fun. It’s ok to let your hair down for a few hours, dance with some space monsters and bounce a bunch of balloons around. I think that’s the key to The Flaming Lips improbable two decades of popularity. They don’t take themselves seriously and you shouldn’t either. What can be better than being happy knowing that you’ve just spent a few hours listening to great music and collecting a pocketful of yellow confetti? It’s that pure joy of having fun that will change the world and even if it doesn’t, at least you can forget about all the world’s problems for a couple of fun-filled hours.

Who else went to the concert?

September 10, 2007

30 Best Loved Albums - More Songs About Buildings and Food

2007 will bring the 30th anniversary of my first rock concert (Kiss, December 2, 1977 – Metropolitan Sports Center). In honor of that momentous event I have decided to use this blog to review my 30 best loved albums. They will not be in any order or progression but I will try to review them musically and why they mean so much to me. I’ll also note if they made the Definitive 200 List. With that on to #24 of the list...

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24. Talking Heads – More Songs About Buildings and Food (1978)

As a follow up to their critically acclaimed but generally overlooked first album, the Talking Heads enlisted Brian Eno of Roxy Music to produce an album that would capture the Heads’ manic stylings and suffuse it with a funky dance beat. The end result was More Songs About Buildings and Food and an album that not only beat the dreaded “Sophomore Slump? but sent the Talking Heads off in a musical direction that would be much deeper explored in their follow-up albums Fear of Music and Remain in Light.

During the early to mid-80’s I listened to this album all the time. It was great headphone music and was great at parties. The album was solid from start to finish, had a hit everyone know with Take Me to the River, and was an album that generally guys and the ladies liked equally. As I started to transfer my music away from albums to CDs however, More Songs kind of got lost in the shuffle and besides hearing Take Me to the River on the radio, I probably didn’t even think about this album for a good 15-18 or years. By that time I was trying to fill my I-Pod with music and remembered how much I liked this album. It immediately became a must have.

I’ve always liked the Talking Heads rhythm section with Chris Frantz on drums and Tina Weymouth on bass guitar and Eno really showcases them in More Songs. This is one funky album and there isn’t a song that doesn’t have interesting drum work, highly compressed snares, or other percussional tricks. Tina anchors each song with a heavy base that typically overshadows the lead guitar. David Byrne’s lyrics are as geeky as ever and it’s this album that really cemented his reputation as a nerdy musical stylist.

Although the entire album is excellent, it’s the 4th track that really gets me. Warning Signs is a trippy song with dense lyrics and some real cool guitar work. The opening is classic as the bass and guitar take turn introducing the song and only after a good 65 seconds do the lyrics come in and they sound as though they are being sucked out of David Byrne’s mouth. The guitar in the song Artist Only has a cool punked up Velvet Underground riff while I always imagined that the next two songs, I’m Not In Love and Stay Hungry, were mainstays at trippy NYC art school parties where the booze, pills, and drugs were just as important to what was playing on the turntable or what you were wearing. Take Me to the River isn’t the strongest song on the album, but the most famous and is an excellent cover of the Al Green Motown standard.

The album ends with the song, Big Country and it has David Byrne in an airplane looking down at the country as he blandly describes the dull life that is going on below. The song is an indictment of consumerism in general and specifically a slam of generic modern day suburban life. The chorus is about as biting as any kiss off ever Bob Dylan sang (I wouldn’t live there if you paid me/I wouldn’t live there no ah sir-ee/I wouldn’t do things the way those people do/I wouldn’t live there if you paid me to). The song ends in baby-talk as David sings out goo goo ga ga ga in unison with Chris Frantz’ staccato drums.

As an album of full of great songs and an album that laid the groundwork for further Talking Heads greatness, More Songs about Buildings and Food deserves a place on my most beloved 30 albums. What do you think of the album or of the Talking Heads?

Place on the Definitive 200 List: Not on the List

September 7, 2007

Friday Random Top 10

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Here it is! Every Friday I will turn the I-Pod to shuffle and see what it spits out. This week's list:

1. The Street Beat - Charlie Parker
2. Fine & Mellow - Billie Holiday
3. When I Write the Book - Rockpile
4. You Can Never Hold Back Spring - Tom Waits
5. Start Me Up - Rolling Stones
6. Poor Poor Pitiful Me - Warren Zevan
7. Devil's Waitin' - Black Rebel Motorcycle Gang
8. There's a Doctor - The Who
9. She's Not You - Elvis Presley
10. Black Diamond - The Replacements

What's your top 10?

On an I-Pod note, Apple came out with their new I-Pod and redesign of their old line. Here's a decent review. The I-Touch looks cool, but $299 for 8GB? Seems a little steep. The new Ipod video with 80GB for $249 that would be awesome, that's a lot of songs. Also I don't like the new design of the Nano. In order to get a bigger screen, the device is wider. The look isn't as graceful as the old Nano's, and let's face it, design is part of Apple's desirability. I'll probably keep my 30gb I-Pod with 6,000 songs and about 5 or 6 gb remaining but the 80gb and 160gb I-Pod Classic with wireless looks like a winner.

September 6, 2007

Minnesota Sports Abyss

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So Twins out of it in disappointing manner, Golden Gophers cough up a lung against Bowling Green, and Vikes look to another boring sub .500 team. Throw in a probably lousy Gophers b-ballers, mid-tier Minnesota Wild squad and a KG-less T-wolves, we truly are in the Sports Abyss right now. Here are some thoughts on the two currently disappointing teams.

Minnesota Twins. What’s so sad is that this team has a nice core and with a couple of real major leaguers at 3rd and DH, they might have been able to make some noise oh well. For the last few weeks of the season this is what I’d like to see:

No Punto or Tyner except as a late inning defensive replacement
Shut down Neshek.
Play Kubel every day and see if he is a productive Left Fielder or not
Play Casilla everyday and see of he is a productive 2nd basemen or not
Go with a 6 man staff (Santana, Boof, Baker, Garza, Silva, Slowey) to see if the young guns have what it takes
As much as it pains me rely heavily on Cali and Depaulo, see if they have what it takes to be a major leaguer.

Off Season:

Sign Hunter to 5 year $13-14M/year contract
Sign Silva to 2 year $3M/year contract
Sign Cuddyer and Morneau to long term deals
Get a real 3rd baseman and DH


Golden Gopher Footballers. Face it, Saturday’s game was a disaster. All of a sudden the kool-aid Brewster was serving us was the sugar-less kind. We know this team is going to be bad – Mason left the cupboard pretty bare. I don’t mind a 3-9 or 4-8 season but only if the team improves as the season goes on. If the defense toughens up, Weber improves and the Gophers lose hard played games, there’s hope for the future, if the Gophers look lost with no noticeable improvement into November, Gopher Nation will be awfully restless with Brewster’s smoke and mirrors.

T-Wolves. I’m actually intrigued. Beside KG, McFail got rid of T-Hud and Mike James, now if Ricky Davis and Jaric can go away, this might be a fun exciting team.

Oh yeah, the Vikings. I'm from Missouri on this team. Show Me and maybe I'll show some interest.

September 4, 2007

30 Best Loved Albums - Transmissions from a Satellite Heart

2007 will bring the 30th anniversary of my first rock concert (Kiss, December 2, 1977 – Metropolitan Sports Center). In honor of that momentous event I have decided to use this blog to review my 30 best loved albums. They will not be in any order or progression but I will try to review them musically and why they mean so much to me. I’ll also note if they made the Definitive 200 List. With that on to #23 of the list...

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23. The Flaming Lips - Transmission from a Satellite Heart (1993)

The Flaming Lips have had such a long and storied recording career it’s hard to pick out an album as a favorite without igniting a huge debate. While many think The Soft Bulletin or Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots are The Lips’ best album, I come down strongly on Transmissions from the Satellite Heart. Other albums may have singular stronger or stranger songs, but as an entire album it’s Satellite Heart that I come back to time and time again. I go back not only for the weirdness but also for the fact that musically the entire album has a lot to love.

The Flaming Lips had been around for about 10 years with a couple of albums when Transmissions came out. They weren’t really that well known outside of their Oklahoma roots except among a small group of hard core fans who had come to love their weirdness. In 1993 however, the song She Don’t Use Jelly came out and was a big hit on “Alternative Rock Radio.? Suddenly the band was exposed to a whole new group of fans. Usually in cases like this a band's output can’t match the level of the “hit song? and fade back to obscurity. Not so with the Flaming Lips which continues to release albums and generating new fans. While not a band with mega-stardom, they are one of those bands that operates just under the pop-culture surface, recording albums that are hard to classify but loved nonetheless.

Transmissions starts with Turn It On, a straight ahead rocker that could have easily been a hit on par with Jelly. The Lips’ weirdness really comes out on the second track, Pilot Can at the Queer of God. Besides the nonsense name, the song contains a real chunky base riff, strange lyrics, and a bunch of studio craziness. In short a typical Flaming Lips song. The rest of the album has a bunch of trippy, fun songs that can be a perfect soundtrack to the end of a wild night or as a prelude to a night of partying. It’s one of those albums that works as a way to get a crowd riled up or to take a crowd down when it’s getting late.

One listens to The Flaming Lips for the weirdness and they don’t let you down on Transmissions. Headphones are a must as guitars play notes you’ve never heard before, studio tricks play with the head, and songs end in one ear as the next song begins in the other. Besides the aforementioned Pilot Can, Moth in the Incubator and Oh my Pregnant Head are sonically two songs that are mind expanding with bone crushing guitar licks erupting in places you least expect. But don’t get me wrong, Transmissions is not some weird album that is unlistenable unless you're under the influence, these songs are pop masterpieces and totally accessible even to the most staid listener.

Because the Flaming Lips were able to combine studio weirdness with pop sensibility, creating a lush environment that never gets old or mundane, Transmissions from the Satellite Heart is one of my 30 Best Loved Albums. What’s your opinion? What’s your favorite Flaming Lips album?

Place on the Definitive 200 List: Not on the List