Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Motherfish #6- Featuring the Most Overpaid Athletes in the World!

Album of the Week

Ok everybody, this isn’t the review that I’ve been promising. And that one won’t be up next week (probably) because next Tuesday is New Music Tuesday. But, if I can’t find any better new releases, it’s still fresh enough that I can get away with posting it then. So, in the interest of planning ahead, a different album will be featured this week. And I’m ok with that because I like this album better anyway (not that next week’s is bad). The only caveat with today’s album is that it makes me so uncontrollably mad that my fury could supply a thousand dying stars with life for millennia to come. And now I’ll explain that.

American Football album & EP by American Football

The album and EP are both self-titled, and both very short, so I’ll be reviewing them together. Before I say anything about them, though, let me just tell you all that American Football is a Kinsella project. Those of you who know what that means, go ahead and change pants. For those of you who aren’t familiar, let me drop a few names: the Brothers Kinsella (Mike and Tim) are responsible for the majority, if not entirety, of the early 90’s Midwest emo scene and most of the big name bands from said scene including, but not limited to Cap’n Jazz, Joan of Arc, Owls, American Football, and Owen. This scene is responsible for The Promise Ring whose singer, Davey Von Bohlen, was in Cap’n Jazz, and also for Jimmy Eat World, who daily pray to several deities hoping to somehow become The Promise Ring. What does all of that mean? It means American Football ain’t some chump band. Notice how I used the word “ain’t” in that last sentence? Well, Microsoft Word, in all of its infinite wisdom, informed me that unless I have that apostrophe before the ‘t’, it was spelled wrong. Fuckers, it’s not a real word. Moving on. The realization that one of the Kinsellas is in this band should honestly be enough for you to stop reading, shit out $15, and buy the album and the EP, but for those of you who have more presence of mind than to just buy something because of shameless name dropping, good for you, you’re not a fucking sheep. Here’s some reviewing. If you’re looking for Hawthorne Heights’ great-great-great-grand-daddy, go away, this isn’t the music for you. What you’ll get with American Football is the second wave emo scene following in the wake of Fugazi, though not an actual emo band, they’re often cited as an influence. The indie-emo scene incorporated the emotional themes and lyrics of the emo genre, but toned down the chaotic guitars in favor of softer, more melodic sound. The good news is that since the guitars aren’t being chewed up and shit out by >9,000 distortion, what’s being played actually matters. This ultimately leads to more structured and complex guitar riffs, which is certainly the case in American Football. You’re not going to find John Petrucci-esque complex guitar (thank god), but this here is thinking music. It’s nigh impossible to listen and not think both “fuck, I can play that” and “shit, how the fuck did he come up with that?” at the same time.

My biggest problem is that the Kinsellas have the musical equivalent of diarrhea. Seriously. They shit out waterfalls of bands, and just can’t seem to stay on the toilet long enough to make one stick. American Football has a grand total of 12 songs accredited to their name, and for fuck’s sake I’ve written more than 12 songs. But they’re all shitty. The opening track to the album, Never Meant, is quite possibly one of the best songs to come out of the 90’s and arguable the best from that scene. It’s got a slow vibe, but the guitar is quick and the lead riff is almost uncomfortably long, but it stops just short of being ridiculous and winds up being perfect. The two guitars seamlessly blend together chords that sound like liquid glass and a stream of notes that feels like somebody is gently inserting a Fruit by the Foot covered in warm honey into your ear. It’s that good. Mike Kinsella’s voice is the cherries in this dish of musical ambrosia. He’s a great singer, but not so good that you think he should be grabbing his balls and singing opera. His voice is a little grainy and you can hear him strain to hit some of the higher notes. I like that. It gives him an earthy quality that brings out the lyrics. It sounds like he gives a shit! Isn’t that something. Why does this album bring out the darkest hate in me? Because it’s not enough! You need the EP as well, which continues the sound of the album and basically could be the last 3 tracks on it. I just wish that we could hear more from American Football. People tell me to try other Kinsella bands, which I wholehearted do enjoy. But it’s just not the same. It’s like having great sex with the hottest girl you’ve ever laid your filthy eyes on, only to have her break up with you to go to law school or some other bullshit, and you’re left with her twin. Yeah, she’s hot, and yeah, she’s great in bed. But Owen will never be American Football.

This review was spawned by a conversation with one of my best friends, as well as one of my biggest supporters. The topic of bands with unfortunately short life spans came up, which inspired me to write about American Football. There are few albums that I think are so good everybody will love. This is one of them. Usually, my philosophy is that I’ll share my opinion with you, and you can agree or not. However, ff you don’t like American Football, you’re wrong. I’m going to have to plug iTunes for this one, though, folks. I haven’t been able to find a hard copy of either the album or EP, but both are readily available for purchase online. Go buy. Join me next week when I discuss something (mostly) new! Until then, keep breathing.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Motherfish #5- You CAN Play These Songs with Chords

Album of the Week

I love videogames, and I have for most of my life. And you know, when a title comes out that is the latest iteration of one of the franchises that were columns of stability in my pathetic childhood, I secretly cry on the inside because it means I get to sneak back to what I consider “better” and “simpler” times. Basically, I love a good nostalgic game. Or at least I did. Lately so many sequels and sequels to sequels and prequels to sequels have been coming out that whenever a new bit of news is released I think to myself “great, what fond memory of mine will mainstream gaming rip from my skull and rape and proceed to reduce to a heaping pile of shit while I watch?” But, occasionally, something that truly deserves to be revived once again walks the realm of the living.

Take Off Your Pants and Jacket by Blink 182

The review that I had planned for February 3rd, which was then postponed to last week but was then pushed back to be this week’s review will run next week. This week, in honor of the recent announcement that Blink 182 is once again in the studio and preparing for a tour, I’ve decided to take a look back at one of the albums which was not only defining for an entire era of bands, but made a generation of 12-14 year olds feel much cooler than they deserved to, myself included. Blink 182 isn’t so much a band you listen to as they are the “other woman” in the musical part of your life. You know who I’m talking about. That girl that you first made out with on a playdate set up by your respective mothers and you called her your girlfriend because you awkwardly touched one of her boobs accidentally. Even though she’s not the best looking girl, she’ll always be special. You’ll always remember her and no matter who you’re dating, you’ll always think of that girl when you wank in the shower. That’s Blink 182. No I don’t think about Blink 182 when I’m in the shower. I was going to put that last sentence in parenthesis, but honestly I don’t that would have been explicit enough. Anyway, Blink 182 is one of those bands that have a very important job. They don’t teach you anything of value about music or aid you in transcending to some new plane of understanding, but they open up a whole new world of musical genre for you. And that’s important. I’ll get to the actual album in a second, but I think it’s really important to look at what the album did for me. Before I got TOYPAJ, I was listening to Smash Mouth. Fuck. Then I grew a pair (mostly) and bought Alien Ant Farm, and TOYPAJ. After listening to both albums, I flushed Alien Ant Farm down my toilet, but not before vigorously vomiting on it, and I never looked back. Blink, though, was a whole different story. The album was giving me something to relate to. The songs were easy to follow; about having sex, not having sex, wanting to have sex, and thinking about having sex. Oh yeah, and there’s a song on here about divorce, or something. Or having sex with your ex, or your step mom, I don’t really know. The point is, my tiny preteen mind was infatuated, and it would act as the catalyst for me getting into most of the bands I listen to now. And for that, I’m grateful, but more importantly you all should be grateful because otherwise I’d be frothing at the mouth about Kidz Bop 15 or some other shitfest. Now at this point, everybody has heard of Blink 182, and they’ve been around so long that there’s not much I can do to change your opinion of them. But what I’m setting out to do today is asking you to consider Take Off Your Pants and Jacket in a way that might perhaps be new.

Think back to 2001, when Take Off Your Pants and Jacket just hit the shelves. It was sold in four different variants, each one corresponding to one of the album logos (a plane, a pair of slacks, and a jacket) with the fourth having all three on it. Each one had different bonus tracks. I got the one with all three which, surprisingly enough, had none of the bonus, content. So I’m a bitch, I get that. In terms of Blink’s career, this album is extremely significant because it represents a perfect balance between the hard hitting punk rock shenanigans of Enema of the State with the more mature subject matter of the eponymous 2003 release. Enema of the State is an incredible album as well, but sometimes can feel a little gimmicky and they can come off as trying too hard to be funny. I enjoy when bands do this just as much as I enjoy brushing my teeth with steel wool and vinegar while listening to God Speed you Black Emperor. Blink 182 (the album) has some good songs on it, but honestly it’s got the opposite problem of Enema in that it takes itself way to seriously. I can respect what they’re trying to do, I really can. But eh, I consider that album Blink 182’s weak link. Nestled snuggly in the bosom between these two milky teats is Take Off Your Pants and Jacket (Or, Take Off Your Pants and Jack It, as it was referred to when I was 13 and still to this day, because masturbation jokes will be funny until the day I die). As the title of this entry suggests, you can play these songs with chords, and mostly ONLY chords. The structure is simple, but varied, so it’s accessible but not boring. Whoever was on the production team went above and beyond with mixing and mastering because the levels are just MMMMMM right where they need to be. I can sit in my room and listen to any given song quietly with my headphones in, not wake my roommate up, and still hear all of the different parts (vocals, bass, guitar, drums, whatever) clearly. On the flipside, I can blast the same song from the bitchin speakers in my parents’ basement and it will be just as clear. Only much much louder. The vocals are catchy as ever and musically the album is a spiritual successor to Enema; similar stylistic choices were made in writing TOYPAJ but it still reflects a degree of growth. Lyrically, there’s a nice balance between songs about sex and songs about divorce. The best part is that no matter how many times I listen to this album, I still get excited at the breakdowns or during the choruses, even though I know what’s coming next, and to be able to do that after 8 years really speaks to its longevity. The only complaint I really have is the song Happy Holidays, You Bastard. It’s funny, yeah, I guess. I mean, it’s funny like when you’re in 7th grade and you hang out with that one 8th grade kid who’s figured out how to curse and all his has to do is say “balls” and you all laugh, and then you go to high school and look back and think that he probably wasn’t saying balls so often to get the laugh but rather was exploring an aspect of his sexuality that he didn’t quite understand and then in college he calls you and tells you he’s gay and has been thinking about it since 8th grade, to which you can only reply “Oh…..”

Congrats Blink 182 on getting back together. But, as with relationships, having them back in all of our lives can either be great or be a big cock in a tiny mouth. Obviously, I’m hoping for the former. Join me next week when I finally deliver the promised review of 3 weeks ago. Until then, keep breathing.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Motherfish #4- Good Luck Hank

Motherfish #4- Album of the Week

Cell phones are so terrible. This little son of a bitch sits on my desk and wakes me up when any monkey randomly puts together the string of digits in my phone number. It's 4:06 AM and I'm finally dozing off before my 8 AM class when my phone goes off and I get to spend the next 20 minutes explaining to Hank that I don't know his daughter, nor do I know where she is. Nothing short of a rousing conversation which, luckily, did not wake my roommate up. If you remember last week, I mentioned how I already had a review written, and how I would use it this week. Well SHUT UP OR GTFO because I'm using it next week. Once I stopped listening to Tonight (the Franz Ferdinand album from last week, remember?) this album basically took over my speakers. All of them. Car, basement, computer, everything.


Get Warmer by Bomb the Music Industry!

The above rant is entirely true, and entirely random. Though, in it’s own special way, it’s pertinent. My experience on the phone with Hank captures the unique mood of this week’s album, Get Warmer by Bomb the Music Industry. For those of you who are too stupid to realize (much like I was for 6 weeks or so), BTMI is the side project of Jeff Rosenstock of Arrogant Sons of Bitches. There is a lot of background information on the album to be found on the BTMI website, so I’m going to skip all of that shit. Look it up if you really care, because it’s actually a cool story. Anyway, back to Hank. Jeff’s goal with the album was to take simple things like barbeques or riding bikes and use them to look at much bigger problems with humanity in general. After last night/this morning’s incident, I could only imagine what he would say about a man calling a complete stranger looking for his partying daughter. Bad news, Hank, she’s probably very drunk and knocked up somewhere. If I see her, I’ll tell her you send your best. Lyrically the album does something unique; it talks about being drunk and poor without making Jeff look like a total asshat. You know those bands you see at frat parties and their frontman starts the show off by, poorly, screaming into his mic “This is a song about drinking beer and having sex with bitches” and you think to yourself “oh god, what a tool, what an insufferable tool”? That’s not BTMI. Thankfully. Jeff openly wonders why he even sings about beer in the song Unlimited Breadsticks, Soup, and Salad Days. For all fans of the Olive Garden out there, your time has come. Jeff’s approach to songs about beer is less ‘look at me drink and be cool!’ and more ‘fuck, I’m drunk again and it might fuck up my life, but I’m going to have a great time’. Beer music you can relate to on a much more fulfilling level.

Musically the album is all over the place. Acoustic guitars, electrics with and without distortion, synths, a variety of horns, and piano all call Get Warmer home. All you fans of Arrogant Sons of Bitches and ska in general will most likely get into BTMI if you haven’t already, unless you are into Goldfinger*, in which case Bomb the Music Industry is too good for you. Rosenstock’s ska roots really show on most of the tracks, but that doesn’t mean BTMI is only for fans of ska. BTMI draws from the obvious ska and punk scenes, but Rosenstock has mentioned that Neutral Milk Hotel is just as big of an influence. The band experiments a lot with the classic ska song framework, and songs like I Don’t Love You Anymore (which features a swing/boogie piano) and the title track Get Warmer (sounding like what I imagine a waltz would be if waltzes were cool and not sissy music) really show that off. There’s a lot going on during the course of the album, but that doesn’t take away from its listenability. I’m all for going crazy on albums, but when it becomes a clusterfuck of noise then you need to stop wanking on the soundboard and actually make music. Although Jeff probably does his share of wanking, the album doesn’t suffer from it. All things considered, his spooge is probably why BTMI works so well. This is one of those rare albums that sets a high energy bar right in the beginning and maintains it without becoming abrasive, and couples that with actual substance, both musically and lyrically. Plus, with a name like Bomb the Music Industry, you’ll sound SUPER COOL whenever you drop the name on your friends. Get it? I’m clever.

*Author’s Note: I have no problems with Goldfinger and I wanted to use another ska band for this example, but somebody I know who reads this is a huge fan, and will probably kill me in my sleep. So, just read Goldfinger as the shittiest ska band you know, and you’ll get the point.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Motherfish #3- Dancing and Dead People

New Music Tuesday

Welcome back to Motherfish Music. Since today is the first Tuesday of the month, I will deliver new music as promised. I went through a few different new releases before I picked one that I thought would be a suitable choice for the first New Music Tuesday. As a matter of fact, today’s album was brought to my attention by a friend of mine, and I liked it so much that I decided to save my original review for today for next week and write a whole new review. You better like this shit.


Tonight: Franz Ferdinand by Franz Ferdinand

Now, I’m a long time fan of Franz Ferdinand, but I did not expect this album to sound anything like this. The band’s first and second albums had a groovy streak a mile wide in them, but it was under layers of pop and even punk. Tonight offers much more for the fans of FF’s dance feel. The guitar has been toned down in favor of a more synth and drum/bass sound; the album is very techno-heavy. But in a good way. I will say this, one thing that makes FF’s sound so unique is Alex Kapranos’ vocal style, which hasn’t changed. The melodies and lyrics could be at home on either of the first two releases, although the subject matter is a new frontier for the band. Tonight is actually a concept album. It’s about fucking bitches and then feeling like shit the next day. Basically. It’s about mischief and debauchery and doing manly things out with the guys. And then the next day. You know the feeling, Maybe you hooked up with an uggo, maybe you puked in your buddy’s car, maybe you drunk dialed your dad. Who knows. The point is this: the album is undeniably badass.

The amount of time spent in studio between You Could Have it So Much Better and Tonight shows on the album, their sound has matured, that’s fur shur. But ultimately, despite all of the tweaks to their style, and experiments with different influences, Tonight still remains Franz Ferdinand. It still has the flair and energy fans of the band would expect. But fuck. There’s something else. Besides the drummer’s incorporation of African rhythms, he fucking recorded percussion on a human skeleton. Yeah, that’s right. Son of a bitch recorded percussion with a pelvis and some femurs. I’m not making that shit up. You can hear it on track 3, No You Girls. DAMN! That’s wild. The single Ulysses, though not my favorite song on the album (that honor lies with the 7:56 techno-epic Lucid Dreams), does have a purpose. As the single and album opener, it serves as a stylistic transition from the dance-rock of You Could Have it So Much Better to the dance-human-fucking-pelvis-indie-pop of Tonight. The sounds is actually somewhat similar to Day & Age, the latest release by The Killers, only more varied. I suppose the difference being The Killers (more on them at a later date) have a more radio friendly sound to cater to a wider audience, and Franz Ferdinand, well, doesn’t. Despite the darkness of the themes, Tonight has high energy and a playfulness that you really only get when a band is experimenting with their sound and genuinely having a good time. You’ll have a good time listening to this album. It’s great driving music.


Well readers that concludes our first New Music Tuesday. I picked up this new release, chewed on it, digested it, and shat out a heaping pile of dancenotronic fun. Check this album out. Join me next time when Album of the Week brings you an album about food and how much love and life suck.

Until then, keep breathing.