28 December 2004

cursed bands and their common names

So today I was bouncing between so-called radio.blogs and I stumbled across a catchy track called "Perfect bore" by a band called Extra Extra. Oddly enough, the band doesn't seem to exist outside of a website and this one track that I streamed. As for Allmusic, Django's, Amazon and so forth: nobody's heard of the group. Apparently I have imagined them, or they are just really, really independent. Which is unfortunate, since their music is kinda catchy (though I know it's dangerous to judge based on a single song) and I'd like to find more.

Searching for them reminded me of my quest for more information about the britpop group Space. Talk about a common name. I have two of their albums, Spiders and Tin planet but neither is very recent and I am pretty sure they'd done something lately. As was the case with EE, the usual suspects turned up very little in the way of new music from them. However as I was traipsing around Times Square two weeks ago I bumbled into the massive (well, at least multi-story) Virgin Megastore, in which I discovered Space's Suburban rock 'n' roll in the imports bin. That's odd, I thought, I've never heard of this album, and apparently so had nobody else save for the store. Go figure.

So anybody with any better information about Extra Extra, please feel free to drop me a line. Anybody wanting to listen to them can drop by here and hear it with radio.blog's nifty little flash player, but I can't be sure how long it will stay in the playlist.

3 December 2004

buzzing on the entertainment

I've got something of an entertainment buzz going. Now that Nano's over and my vacation hold at the library is off (despite only writing four or five days last month I never turned my hold off) the good stuff is just rolling in.

I've been cracking up flipping through Interior desecrations by the very funny Jim Lileks. It's possible that I'm just tired but some of that stuff is side-splitting. Check out this book if you have any sense at all of taste or humour.

Last night I watched Suddenly, a thriller from 1955 that is more known for having Frank Sinatra as a villain than for being a pretty good movie that gives far more screen time to Sterling Hayden than it does to ol' blue eyes. This is not to say that Frankie doesn't turn in a good performance. He turns out to be a pretty decent psycho killer out to make a cool half mil to off the president, but pretty much everybody is good. I haven't seen the other film on the DVD, ostensibly with Frank again as a heroin addict or something like that, but Suddenly is well worth watching. Then again, I like to watch Sterling Hayden. If you have no idea who he is, go out now and track down The killing (one of Stanley Kubrick's forgotten early films about which I have written previously). It's a darn good movie and you shouldn't regret watching it. I don't.

I'm also happy to have finally stumbled across the excellent drama The Wire that HBO's been showing for a couple seasons now. Though it treads on the same turf as Homicide: life on the streets it's a different beast altogether. It's dense, clever, well-written, dark, gritty, and even funny at times, and I'm enjoying it immensely. Altogether I've done well to have waited and had all of these hit me at once.

Harshing the buzz considerably though is the continued stupidity of HBO's DVD people who cannot seem to consistently stick a chapter stop at the end of the opening credits. Why is this so difficult? I cannot be the only person in the world who does not want to sit through the entire theme song every fifty minutes when I'm devouring these shows. I am enjoying this show so much but when I watch five episodes in one night that means I need to fast forward four times (I did want to hear it all the way through, once) and tomorrow night I'll likely need to do it eight more times too if I know the way that I watch these things.

Then again I didn't pay for this (thank you Columbus Metropolitan Library) but I was thinking that I would probably be willing to pay an extra dollar or two (not more than two though) when I do buy discs of a show if it had chapter stops after the opening credits. At least until everybody figures out what the producers of M*A*S*H seem to already know. DVD makers, just put a chapter stop after the opening credits, please, damnit. This just gets to me for some reason.

On the upside, though, now I have a challenge. 'Roundabout the end of episode three ("The buys") I heard a familiar tune, albeit in an unfamiliar fashion. The song was one that I first encountered on the highly underrated soundtrack album for Batman forever called "The hunter gets captured by the game" and as far as I had known until today the song was done first by Tracy Thorn backed up by Massive Attack.

How wrong I was. Though that album is no stranger to cover tunes (Lou Reed's "Passenger" done by INXS's Michael Hutchence comes to mind) I'd never considered this song, one of my favorites of all time, to be one. Well, the one in the show sure didn't sound like Massive Attack and I immediately (and correctly) inferred that the version I knew and loved was likely a cover, but this one could well be also.

So I went out on the web, and I'm still not sure what I heard. Unfortunately "The Wire" is too common to help out on a search, and the HBO forums don't have a good enough search either. I'm pretty sure nobody else has asked about the song on there, and I moved my search over to the good old allmusic guide instead. There I discovered that the song was written by none other than Smokey Robinson and it was probably first performed by the Marvelettes. Unfortunately it's also been done by another five or six artists, too. So now the hunt begins.

I enjoy the hunt.

25 November 2004

favorites are for pickers

I'm not generally one to pick favorites. You can look at it as a sign of great integrity or great insecurity, but either way I just can't consistently a shortlist of the entertainment greats (or colors or foods or anything else for that matter). That said, to claim to be "not generally one to pick favorites" often leads to explanations longer than this one and after that, bewildered expressions. To save people the trouble, I often pluck titles out of the air as "favorites" just to grease the wheels of polite conversation and discourse.

Movies-wise I generally champion 1997's science-fiction/anti-fascism epic/spoof/actioner Starship troopers, more for the reactions it gets than for any actual affinity I have for the misunderstood gem.

That said, I do love the film.

I've never settled on a token favorite music group or album, however. Mostly when I'm pressed I just mention the ones I'm borrowing from the library, at long as they're moderately well known. Other times I just think back upon my collection and name names that pop up more than a couple times. In doing either I often omit the discs that I really do enjoy, oftentimes much more than the recent ones or the multiples.

After all, the Crash test dummies have been trying out a lot of new things on their more recent albums, but they're leaving out the stuff that makes it worth hearing.

But I digress. Today when I was walking around I was happy to be listening to Visual Audio Sensory Theater by VAST, which you've discovered if you're lucky and which you like if your tastes run parallel to mine.

Well, Lars Ulrich likes VAST too, but don't hold that against either of us.

I really like this album, and all the more so for having discovered it all on my own. Way back when I worked a pair of jobs for a summer, one of which saw me clocking in at midnight and out just around dawn. My commute, as it were, was about a twenty five minute drive, several miles of which was through Sand Run Park, a two-lane blacktop path through some of the most scenic bits of the Cuyahoga River valley.

At one point the road dipped through a river. I usually slowed down for that bit.

I knew those roads very, very well. By the end (and once I knew the way traffic and the deer worked) I was able to drive through the park with only my parking lights lit, and occasionally did so without incident. Being a foolish teenager I sometimes would do the same whilst steering with my knees, employing equal amounts of leverage and stupidity. But none of this matters. It was when I put aforementioned album into my player today that I recalled the first time I played it, moving stealthily through the park.

The disc, for those who don't know it, starts slowly and quietly with some strings that build up a sweet theme until abruptly switching over to a crunchy electric guitar riff. Then it starts to rock, and with great samples and instrumentation thrown in for the ride it makes for a good album all the way through. It hit me hard the first time I heard it and it sounds no worse these so many years later.

That isn't the part that matter so much either. The greatest part is the fact that it was a complete surprise to me. Back in my hometown there was this little shop called The Record Exchange that had two great bins of discs priced twenty five cents to two fifty, and I looted it often in those days. By now I have probably fifty or sixty such CDs littering my collection, and to be sure many of them are trash.

The occasional one does stand out, and such was the case with VAST's debut disc, which found its way into my hands as a four-for-a-dollar promo disc in a barely-labeled envelope.

Sometime since I've given that one away and replaced it with the genuine issue, and that was the one to which I was listening today. Today when all of this came back to me and I decided to write it down.

So, well, thanks, Record Exchange.

15 November 2004

from the deep depths of my memory

I was sifting through my CDs tonight and a little tidbit about me popped back into my mind. Before I was attempting to write things down I did a lot of things that remain mostly forgotten until a moment like this, where something just pops back into my head.

Anyway, my freshman year in college was a big one for me, at least when you look at my CD collection. That year I'm pretty sure I continued the yearly doubling of my CD collection.

I'm serious. I went from having about fifteen at the end of my freshman year of high school, to about thirty the next year, to just over sixty, to just over 120 at the end of high school. Those last two numbers come to mind readily as that year I somehow won two matching 60 CD towers and filled them quickly. Midway through the freshman college year I bought another one the same height but unfortunately not the same design. After that I gave up on individual slots and picked up some plastic units that held 200 each (50 to a shelf, four shelves) that could be taken apart and rebuilt easily for moving.

In two years I'd outgrown them as well. I've long since stopped the annual doubling, and I haven't done an official count since 2001 (when last it was around 615 or so) but now I don't have them on anything at all but instead they are in three large boxes (and spread around the house also, one here and two there) in my living room (I'm working on shelves for them, really. Just not right now).

Anyway, tonight we watched United states of Leland, and a lot of the music in it sounded pretty familiar. Sticking with it to the end credits, I discovered that one of the tracks was "Undone" by Imperial teen. I'm pretty sure I own one of their albums, but I didn't know if the one I had was the one from which this song was taken, so I tried to find it. I couldn't in my couple minutes of quick scanning, but two hundred CD spines is a lot to look at, upside down no less, and it wasn't that important for me to find the disc. I can always look it up later.

While putting them back, though, I glanced past my small collection of Lightning seeds discs and recalled briefly my detective work on the song "You showed me".

You see, before I was a connoisseur of cover and remake songs I hadn't known about the Turtles' original of the song "You showed me", but I'm getting ahead of myself.

I was listening to internet radio, via some service that has long since folded no doubt, when a couple seconds of a song triggered a memory of another one. The song I heard was "Turtle soup" by DJ Food. Every so often there was this orchestral bit that sounded just like a riff in a song used on the MTV show Daria. In the episode about (ironically named) Alternapalooza, the song "You showed me" was played long enough for me to evidently remember hearing it at least half a year later.

For that matter, I'm pretty amazed to be remembering all of this now, having all but forgotten it until tonight.

Even then I had the internet at my beck and call, and it wasn't long before I tracked down the Lightning seeds track. Moments later I had downloaded it (these were the days before Napster, so I likely found it with oth.net on an FTP site) and within a week or two I'd ordered or bought a used copy of the CD. It was another month or so before I went back online to figure out the meaning of the title of "Turtle soup", and then it was a matter of time before I cashed in on some coupon or other to get The Turtles present the battle of the bands from Music Boulevard or CDNow.

And that's my story. I hope you weren't expecting this to have a point. I just like to reminisce, even if it is over something so trivial as why I own a CD.

And in unrelated news, now I've done it. I beat X-com: UFO defense for something like the fifth time, and now that I've got that particular monkey off my back I can get back to the stuff that matters. Like the novel that I'm, oh, 48,000 words or so behind on writing.