By Dennis Wyman on May 15, 2013 7:46 AM | Permalink |
A few weeks ago, the internet was abuzz with a viral marketing campaign staged by Warp Records to announce the long-awaited newest album by electronic music duo Boards of Canada. Their first full-length album since 2005, entitled Tomorrow's Harvest, is due June 10th. And while their fans are going nuts, one thing the stunt has brought attention to is the mystique that surrounds the group.
Started in the mid-80's by brothers Michael Sandison and Marcus Eoin, Boards of Canada has built a reputation for being secretive - usually releasing albums with very little advertising and few interviews given to the press. This coupled with a painfully slow release schedule (seven years have passed since the release of their last EP, Trans-Canada Highway) has created an incredible demand for any material or news from the group, which when released is immediately jumped on by the Twoism fan forum and catalogued by the bocpages wiki. Safe to say, Boards of Canada fans are a seriously devoted bunch, but it leads a lot of people outside these circles of fans to wonder, "Why?"
Your basic law of supply and demand snowballs to an almost exponential level with these guys. It's a well known open secret that the group has roughly half a dozen unreleased albums that nobody can seem to get a copy of. These are things that fans dwell on during seven years of silence, and why they start placing bounties on them being found. This is what drives fans to start concocting theories on entities related to the band like the "Hexagon Sun" collective, which depending on who you ask, is either the duo's recording studio or some kind of mysterious Scottish cult.
Of course, the intrigue wouldn't be there at all if it wasn't for the music the duo produces. Boards of Canada is known for their relatively unique production style amongst electronic music artists, foregoing synthetic sounds in favor of old-fashioned analog equipment. Taking in lots of field recordings, samples of 70's media, documentaries, and numbers stations, and running them all through heavy distortion and electronic manipulation, their sound is usually described as "warm" or "nostalgic." So while we wait for the release of Tomorrow's Harvest, I figure now is as good a time as any to run through some of the biggest landmarks of their discography.
Continue reading For the Uninitiated: A Primer into the Mystique of Boards of Canada.
By Dennis Wyman on May 2, 2013 10:13 PM | Permalink |
I wrote this last winter for submission to several local area blogs and papers in Southcentral Alaska. Nobody wanted to take it, and it kinda settled to the depths of my hard drive. Looking back on it, my thoughts on this subject still haven't changed, and the topic of content monopolization is still relevant, even if it's old news for ADN specifically. So, here you go:
On December 4th, visitors to the Anchorage Daily News' website were given a rude awakening: Beginning on the 18th, readers would be expected to pay for subscription access to read online content, with ADN publisher Pat Doyle stating "We can no longer expect only advertisers and print subscribers to shoulder the complete burden of supporting news-gathering and distribution ... Having all our readers share that cost is an essential and important step toward preserving the foundations of a free and independent press for future generations of Alaskans."
Curiously enough, Doyle makes no mention to Alaskans that online paywalls are part of a nationwide initiative by McClatchy, their parent company, to introduce these paywalls to all their newspapers. Not only is failing to disclose this exceedingly misleading, but Doyle's claims are virtually meritless. McClatchy posted roughly $54.4 million in net income and a sheer $1.3 billion in revenue for 2011. Of that revenue, $956.3 million was attributed to advertising and $262.3 million to circulation. However, in a press release on their third quarter earnings, McClatchy president Pat Talamantes declared the paywalls "could add more than $20 million" in new revenue for 2013. $20 million compared to the $262.3 million they make in circulation screams either unenthusiasm or bad idea or both. It also trivializes the supposed necessity of the paywalls, considering the number of readers they're likely to upset with them, if not lose entirely.
Doyle tries to appeal to the audience with straw man arguments, saying "Our industry and our customers are realizing that the news and information we produce has real value, regardless of how our readers choose to access it." Clearly, the content they post has "value," otherwise they wouldn't be pulling so much revenue on advertising. McClatchy is already getting something for the value, so maybe this is really about something else.
When the Internet got popular, it did a wonderful thing: It made information free. No longer did newspapers and television stations hold a monopoly on the news. The Internet has not only made it easier for journalists to get news out faster, but gave it to readers for free, as they found new revenue streams through advertising that entirely negated the need to charge for content. Companies like Gawker and HuffPo who took advantage of this new environment have been thriving ever since, but McClatchy failed to adapt, applying the old-media model of attempting to hold information at a premium, bleeding out a further few drops of precious "value." The only problem is, as we enter 2013, this really pisses off consumers.
McClatchy is well aware of this with their unenthusiastic financial expectations, and charging more isn't going to improve the shoddy state of affairs at the Anchorage Daily News. What Doyle calls "the fairest, most accurate and most professional news report possible" will continue to be recycled AP wires and unedited press releases, and the fact McClatchy is going to be charging for it is an insult to journalism as a whole. Much like the little boy that throws a temper-tantrum when he can't stay up until 4 a.m. on a school night playing video games, online paywalls are a screaming and childish last-ditch attempt to keep the Old Ways relevant in the 21st century. But as Hunter S. Thompson put it in The Rum Diary, "The race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, but to those who see it coming and jump aside."
Continue reading Why the New ADN Paywalls Aren't About "Preserving the Foundations of a Free and Independent Press".
By Dennis Wyman on January 3, 2013 7:42 PM | Permalink |
For those who remember, 2011 was a big year for me. Rock music has been going through a crazy revival ever since the demise of post-grunge and nu-metal, and that year is one of the strongest in recent memory for albums. From Jane's Addiction to Mastodon to Mike Doughty, Robbers on High Street, Opeth, Rich Robinson, Tycho, multiple albums from Hank Williams III, and countless other gems, 2011 was fantastic. So what are the odds the trend of AAA+ releases would continue a second year in a row? As it turns out, pretty good. I'm not going to do a definitive "Top 10" list, nor am I going to attempt to catalogue every great album I found, but there are a handful I'd like to shine a spotlight on.
2012 started out with some fine releases. Alternative country rockers Lucero
put a sheen of polish
on their blended style of punk, country and Memphis soul, culminating in Women and Work
. Screaming Trees
frontman Mark Lanegan
put out his first new solo album since 2004, Blues Funeral
, a welcome addition to his extensive discography that now sees him experimenting with electronica
. And speaking of electronica, Lance Herbstrong
(which includes Porno For Pyros
alumnus Peter DiStefano
) dropped their second album of dance-infused remixes
, entitled Meth Breakfast
, which completely manages to capture the spirit of their energetic and trippy live shows.
Then there was the story of indie-rockers Lovedrug
, who pulled off a successful Kickstarter campaign to fund their latest release, Wild Blood
. And as I stated in a review earlier this year
, "this Kings of Leon
-esque album of pop-rock sensibilities seems barely able to contain the youthful energy of the band. However, it's this controlled environment that balances energy with maturity that makes Wild Blood
one of the strongest albums of 2012 so far."
In the hip-hop department, Aesop Rock wins the spotlight
with his latest album Skelethon
. Meanwhile, frequent Astronautalis
collaborator and Doomtree
released his latest solo album, We Don't Even Live Here
. Both of these albums make a fine rebuttal to anybody that still insists hip-hop is shallow and/or dead.
Am I done yet? Of course not. Billy Corgan
and his Smashing Pumpkins
released a solid album titled Oceania
as part of their Teargarden by Kaleidyscope
series, with the opening tracks, "Quasar
" and "Panopticon
" being possibly the strongest album opener of the year. Meanwhile, ska-punk mainstays Slightly Stoopid
may very well be at the top of their careers
with 2012's Top of the World
. And Tame Impala
put out their sophomore album Lonerism
, overflowing with a healthy amount 60's Beatles-esque psychedelia
There was even a solid showing of heavier music. I'm not a huge metal fan, but I did enjoy The Sword's Apocryphon
, a stoner metal masterpiece that fans of bands like Wo Fat
would enjoy. Baroness moved further away from their sludge metal roots
with Yellow & Green
, but with gorgeous tracks like "Eula
," I'm not really complaining. Earth
finally released part two of Angels of Darkness, Demons of Light
, and Deftones scored a hit
with Koi No Yokan
. As for Opeth
frontman Mikael Akerfeldt
and Porcupine Tree
frontman Steven Wilson
, they finally released their long-awaited progressive rock collaboration Storm Corrosion
. Brent Hinds
of Mastodon even took some time away from his band
to toss together Only Time Can Tell
with his freaky West End Motel
reunion also produced their first new album since 1996, King Animal
, and is one of my favorites this year
. Another top choice? Chris Robinson
of The Black Crowes
has been touring heavily with his new solo project, the Chris Robinson Brotherhood
, and they released not one, but TWO albums this year: Big Moon Ritual
and The Magic Door
. Taking the freak hippie vibe of the Crowes
in new unrestrained directions
, these two albums are some of the best stuff of the year. Part of this feeling is sentimental: I spent much of 2012 travelling, and Big Moon Ritual
(and anything associated with The Black Crowes
, for that matter) really nails the whole "take it easy, just living life on the road
"-vibe. Even if you don't identify with it, it's chill stuff regardless. Go on, let your inner hippie freak flag fly.
My ultimate choice for "Album of the Year," however, has to go to the Jack White
solo album, Blunderbuss
. I reviewed it earlier this year
when it came out, and all these months later it has done nothing but grow on me even more. It's honest, it's pure, it's soulful, and it's mix of influences ranging from bluegrass and country to blues and garage rock make it an exceedingly fresh album. Anything Jack White
touches tends to turn to gold, but Blunderbuss
almost epitomizes his already impressive career, so here's looking forward to what he does in 2013.
2013 is already looking promising. New albums from Dropkick Murphys, Deltron 3030, and the former members of Kyuss are all on the near horizon, and I'm sure plenty others are on the way. Rock is dead? Hardly.
Continue reading The Captain's Top Albums of 2012.
By Dennis Wyman on December 12, 2012 5:22 AM | Permalink |
If there's one band that I credit the most with shaping my musical tastes as they stand today, it's Soundgarden
. Pioneers of the Seattle grunge scene, they ironically entered my life years after the popularity of grunge had waned. I was in middle school, going through an embarrassingly shameful nu-metal phase, when I first stumbled upon their 1994 magnum opus, Superunknown
. That album was all I needed to start using the internet to track down other artists of the scene I had either forgotten about or missed entirely, leading me to research and make notes of any band I came across and turn into the bitter music critic that I am today. So yeah, I hold a bit of a soft spot in my heart for Cornell and the gang. Unfortunately they broke up long before I really had the chance to get into them, but times have changed, it's now 2012, and Soundgarden
is not only back together and touring again, but they just dropped a whole album of new material for the first time in sixteen years. I bring you, King Animal
Reunion albums are a fickle category. The Eagles
got back together and were promptly forgotten about. Jane's Addiction
bombed through their first reunion album only to get it right with their second one
. Chris Cornell has been avoiding the idea of a Soundgarden
reunion for years not wanting to tarnish the legacy, and I can agree with his artistic integrity. Regardless, fans have been demanding this one for awhile, and while maybe I'm a bit biased after sixteen years of nothing, I can safely say that King Animal
throws aside any fears of this being a cash-in: This is as strong an album as the band has ever done in the past.
While Cornell's voice has aged considerably, he seems to have a solid grasp on working around the new limits that came with age. He's not hitting the high-pitched wails he pulled off in 1989 anymore, but he is markedly on-tune throughout, and dare I say he sounds sharper than he did in Audioslave. Kim Thayil is still one of the best guitarists in alternative rock, managing to fuse spectacular melodies with offbeat and ever-changing time signatures anchored by Matt Cameron and Ben Shepherd. This is a band that has always been greater than the sum of its extremely talented parts, and it's good to hear them playing together again.
It opens up with "Been Away Too Long," an admittedly cheesy comeback anthem that still ridiculously fun and harkens back to the bands punk roots. However, it's not long before the guitars downtune and the band settles into a heavier groove with "Non-State Actor
," which sounds like it could have easily been a cut from the Superunknown
"Blood On The Valley Floor" drops the tempo down to the levels of stoner rock, another genre they had heavy influence on in the day. "By Crooked Steps
" displays a mighty balance of showing both teeth and
" is once again going to bring up the heavy Zeppelin
comparisons the band is famous for getting, and album closer "Rowing
" slowly builds up over a old-time-prison-chain-gang sounding chorus before exploding into crunchy guitars and fading back out as slow as it came. There's variety all over this album.
However, the standout track is the psychedelic number, "A Thousand Days Before
." A mix of heavy bass and trippy guitar lines, it's the added oomph of a horn section and a sitar-like instrument that really put it up there with earlier stuff in their catalog like "Searching With My Good Eye Closed." It's not only the best track on the album, but also one of the best of their career.
My only complaint is this sounds a little too much like Soundgarden. For a band that evolved considerably between releases in their heyday, parts of King Animal sometimes feel more like a distillation of ground they've already tread on. And maybe that's a good thing, given some of the "experimental" choices Cornell made with his solo career (like that atrocious Timbaland collaboration). Still, while I adore having Superunknown: Part Two in my music collection, I can't help but feel they could have done a little bit more, because those are the kinds of insane higher standards you hold bands like Soundgarden up to. But don't get me wrong, it's still a solid album in it's own right and deserves to be checked out.
Continue reading Album Review: "King Animal" by Soundgarden.
By Dennis Wyman on October 31, 2012 8:38 PM | Permalink |
2012 is the year that keeps on giving with some fantastic new albums. Here's some new stuff I've been spinning recently.
West End Motel - Only Time Can Tell
The side-project of Mastodon guitarist Brent Hinds, West End Motel blends together an array of retro influences. From the tropical island soul of lead single "Burn It Down," to the Skynryd-influenced southern rock epic that is "Bite," Hinds and his band of misfits echo similarities to Nick Cave, Tom Jones and 50's rockabilly, which when blended through a thick filter of psychedelic acid pop, feels more than fitting for release just in time for Dia de los Muertos. Definitely worth a look.
Tame Impala - Lonerism
The sophomore studio album by Australian psychedelic rockers Tame Impala departs more into the world of electronics and pop arrangements. The extremely dense layering of synths make their debut album Innerspeaker feel like pure ambiance by comparison. But despite everything that's going on, it still feels just as dreamy and psychedelic as anything they've ever done. The fact that Kevin Parker still sounds like Lennon-incarnate is just a bonus.
Slightly Stoopid - Top Of The World
The Californian reggae-rockers Slightly Stoopid are still going strong in 2012, and their latest album Top Of The World is one of their best yet. While being latecomers to the scene that birthed Sublime, they're anything but imitators, weaving together saxophone and multiple lines of technically impressive guitar tracks. Pulling in bits and pieces of ska, reggae, jam, blues and hip-hop, the end result is the ultimate feel-good affair to keep the vibes of summer going right into the colder months. Chill enough to relax to, but complex enough to get lost in.
Continue reading This Week In Playlists - New Releases Edition: West End Motel, Tame Impala, Slightly Stoopid.
By Dennis Wyman on October 10, 2012 2:49 AM | Permalink |
It's tax time. For the past few years, I've had a cardboard
box filled with receipts and invoices and bank statements. It has had a place
in my truck ever since I started the road trip, and I just finally got around
to sorting out its contents, as it's time to file my taxes before my extension
ends later this month.
It was accomplished, but it wasn't easy. Three years of
receipts was three years of vivid memories, and for a sentimental sap such as
myself, it was a pretty intense process. Half of the receipts weren't even
actual business writeoffs - I just threw into the box whatever receipts I found
floating around in my room or truck, figuring I'd sort them out later. Well,
later was today. It's weird pulling little scraps of paper out of a box, and
recalling the story attached to each one of them almost instantly.
There was a receipt from a Panera Bread in Atlanta, Georgia,
dated October 29, 2011. That was the morning after the fantastic Rich Robinson
concert I saw out there, when the starter motor in the truck died, and I
temporarily gave up trying to get it working and slept in the truck overnight
in the parking lot the truck died in. I woke up in the morning, freezing, and
went inside with my laptop for a hot breakfast, complaining online to a couple
friends of mine about my predicament. Later that afternoon I managed to get
another customer to give me a hand in getting the truck started, which we
succeeded in, and I drove all the way back to my grandparent's house in Augusta
without turning the truck off, lest risking the starter failing on me again.
Autozone, Torrington, Connecticut, June 25, 2012. This was for a pair of replacement
headlight bulbs for the F-250, after I had gotten drunk the night before and
attempted to drive back to my dad's house at roughly three in the morning,
succeeding in running down a string of mailboxes on the way. Sometimes little accidents like this happen.
A Circle K gas station in Orlando, Florida, October 4, 2011.
An Arizona iced tea and an "Extra Strength" 5 Hour Energy. Two of my roommates
and I were working on a job in Orlando that week, putting up a giant tent on
the fairgrounds for some Pentecostal tent revival that was happening that
weekend. This one was dated at 11:31pm, which means it was the day I decided to smoke a little bit as soon as work ended,
then swung across town to get dinner at Chili's with my friend Katie, before
going back to her place and spending several hours talking to her roommate
while sobering up. I specifically remember being tired, grabbing the energy
shot and tea, and spending the entire drive back home with the windows of the
truck down, blaring Everclear as loud as I could and being absolutely filled
with joy about life and the neverending Florida summer as the warm night air
flowed into the cab.
Speaking of Katie, there was another receipt from another
Circle K, this one in Wildwood, Florida on October 15, 2011. That was the night her and I (and my roommate Micah) drove up to Ocala to see our friend Saul, who was briefly in
America to record an album with his band The Rose Line. The exhaust had blown
out on Micah's car, and we stopped at this little gas station so I could crawl under
and see what was wrong. After deducing that the car was safe to drive the rest
of the way home, I had run inside with Katie to grab an energy drink and some
snacks before making the trek back home.
One final one, for Home Depot in New Hartford, Connecticut,
on November 16, 2010, for a bunch of lumber, bolts, braces and a couple
locksets. That was when I decided to build a camper on the truck and take off
on an adventure, and the next week was spent at my friend's house doing just
that before I finally left New England for good. Ironically this receipt outlived the actual camper, as the camper was dismantled and disposed of once the truck reached Alaska last month.
Now all this nostalgia has been appropriately itemized,
turning years of experience into numbers for a tax deadline. Something doesn't feel right here.
Continue reading Itemizing Nostalgia: Random Tales and Something About Taxes.
By Dennis Wyman on September 19, 2012 7:52 AM | Permalink |
I've avoided Tumblr for the longest time, but lately I've found myself in need of a second little blog-type thing that I can post more nonsensical things to, as I try to keep my more "professional" stuff here.
And, per usual, all the other major places I'm at are at the bottom of the sidebar. :)
Continue reading So We're Doing a Tumblr Now.
By Dennis Wyman on September 16, 2012 5:58 AM | Permalink |
I've said it before, and I'll continue repeating it as
necessary: Two years of bouncing around from city to city, with nothing more
than a laptop and a beat-up pickup truck and no actual "home" other than the
interstate highway system, was one of the best decisions I ever made in my life.
I have no regrets about it. I learned more about the world, and myself, in
those two years than I did in my 22 years of existence prior to that. That
aside, I still feel I fell short of a lot of things I initially wanted to do. I
wanted to get a book done, but I'm still carrying around a rough draft that is
only a quarter of the way there. I wanted to energize people across the country
to start questioning their own lives like I did, and help them realize they
could go on crazy adventures of their own. I wanted to establish a caravan of
ragged cars and find other roving vagabonds to join me and tag along for the
trip. Things didn't quite pan out that way as I got sucked into a personal
existential crisis, battling my own demons as I tried to make sense of this
surreal world I had stepped into. However, I did find somebody that not only went
on his own trip, but was picking up the slack in the "getting others motivated"
department. This guy is probably the most fitting subject for the first entry
of what I'm dubbing "The Rad Americans Series," so lets talk about him.
I first stumbled across Steve Roggenbuck early last year,
through a series of mutual friends in our Twitter circles. We never spoke, but
I followed him regardless for whatever reason at the time. It didn't make sense
to me at first; it just looked like some random poet and writer prone to lots
of grammatical mistakes, and really popular in the "alt lit" circles that
overlaid both of our separate online social scenes. I didn't get it at all, but
I kept an eye on him regardless. Checked out some of the ebooks he was distributing
too. Books like "Download Helvetica For Free," which was just a bunch of his chat
logs set to the Helvetica font at enormous sizes. Odd concept and interesting
idea, I thought. I still didn't see what the big deal was, but I kept tabs on his progress anyways.
Eventually came the day he announced something that really
caught my attention: He was dropping everything to traverse the country. Sound
familiar? It certainly did for me: An aspiring writer that wanted to get out
and really experience the world, not caring about "jobs" or "school" or
anything else the adults arbitrarily decreed as "responsible." Couchsurfing
across the country and arranging meets with the characters he had met online.
It was exactly where I had been, only he went in a slightly different
direction. Whereas my journey had taken a more personal route, Steve
was getting others motivated. I didn't realize what I had jumped into, and it
took me two years to get my head on straight. Steve hit the ground running. He's
hit up more cities now than I have, and is getting people out creating art and
really showing them that there's more to this world than working, sleeping,
and dying. Suddenly, Steve's character was making sense, and in a way I could
We've got similar ideas deep down, I feel, even if we
diverge quite radically in the execution. Me: A proudly self-admitted
alcoholic and drug abuser, a bitter cynic, and is prone to stringing together long
paragraphs of obtuse word salad that abuse almost every rule in the English language. Him: A straight-edge kid, decidedly more upbeat, well versed in irony, and has absolutely atrocious grammar. He publishes his "art" and "poetry" in the form of tweets, blog posts and image macros. But you know something? The primary objective of language is not to glorify the
language itself, but to communicate. And I find it absolutely fascinating that
what it takes me a thousand words to say, he can say in just a single status update on Facebook. And how it's delivered matters not either, because as long as the recipient receives the message, he's succeeded in communication. He's conveying exactly what he wants to convey, established "rules" of
writing be damned. After all, language is technically an invented construct
The "do unto others" mantra rings loud and clear through it
all. I've been advocating that mantra for years, even though I've admittedly been far from
living up to it, and been even further from articulating it properly. But Mr.
Roggenbuck has managed to not only articulate it in a way people can understand,
but to encourage others to also run with it. And those that hear it, those of
this lost generation who have been inspired to get out and live, are also now helping others
in the ultimate goal of just simply being happy.
Laws of grammar be damned. The arbitrary "responsibilities"
laid out by the generations past be damned. Bullshit "educations" and "real
jobs" and everything else the adults told us we had to do, all be damned.
What's the use of any of it if it doesn't lead to us being
happy? What do you get in return for doing what you're told to be, instead of
what you want to be?
I left home two years ago and found myself mired in a
bizarre world of Americana and amateur journalism. No regrets about it, I had a
great time, learned a lot, and it provided the inspiration I needed to start
writing a book that one of these days I'll hopefully finish. But Steve left
home and managed to help many of our peers in getting to see this world, and
this life, in the same way we did. And that, is something I find far more
You can read more about Steve Roggenbuck at his website, LiveMyLief.com.
Continue reading The Rad Americans Series: Steve Roggenbuck.
By Dennis Wyman on September 11, 2012 8:13 PM | Permalink |
Who remembers Everclear
? I know somebody remembers Everclear
. Back in the 90's, the alt-rock outfit had a string of radio hits, most notably "Santa Monica" and "I Will Buy You A New Life." They had a string of fantastic albums that, while by no means any sort of technical achievement, were still loaded with ridiculously catchy pop-rock songs that had many youth at the time hooked. What happened to these guys?
Around the turn of the century, the band embarked on a really ambitious double-album series, Songs From An American Movie, Volumes 1 and 2. Sales for Volume 1 were strong at first, but the band and label decided to release both volumes as separate albums within four months of each other, each with separate singles, confusing most buyers and effectively stalling out sales. From a critical standpoint, Volume 2 also felt more like a collection of leftovers rather than it's own album. Frankly, I think tracks like "All Fucked Up" and "Overwhelming" should've been moved to the Volume 1 release, with "Song From an American Movie, Part 2" bookending it as the final track, dropping the Volume 1 part altogether and releasing Songs From An American Movie as a single album. Maybe salvage some of the remaining Volume 2 tracks as b-sides for the singles. Would've been much more successful, commercially speaking, and a more coherent release, conceptually speaking. But, hindsight is always 20/20 in these matters. The band broke up after their 2003 album, Slow Motion Daydream, and since then, lead singer Art Alexakis put together a new lineup and has been trying to rekindle the magic. In recent years they've released something like three greatest hits albums, all containing mediocre re-recordings of the band's 90's hits, in a feeble attempt to cash in some more on "I Will Buy You A New Life."
The embarrassment doesn't end there, either. This past summer saw release of their latest studio effort, Invisible Stars
. The phrase "a totally generic and uninspired pop-rock album, completely devoid of all feeling and emotion" is something I really hate to say about the band that wrote the fantastic "Why I Don't Believe In God
" so many years ago, but it really applies with Everclear's Invisible Stars
. Every track sounds exactly the same, with the same structures, same chords, and same tired guitar and synth effects. The track "Jackie Robinson
" is about the only exception with a somewhat catchy pop beat, albeit only briefly until the same synth we heard on every track before kicks in once again. And I think I heard several of these tracks on Slow Motion Daydream
, too. It's almost like they were intentionally trying to create something literally as unremarkable and average as possible. I mean, even the album cover has a goddamned Instagram filter on it. Sigh.
It actually goes as far to be an even bigger let-down than The Offspring's
effort this summer, Days Go By
. I looked at the lead single from the album earlier this summer
- quite positively, in fact. What a shame it was to see the rest of the album to fall so short. There's a really polished re-recording of Ignition's
" that I absolutely adore, and "Dividing By Zero" also harkens back to their more aggressive 90's punk roots. But the rest? Yuck. The worst offender on the album is "Cruising California (Bumpin' In My Trunk)," a ridiculously cliche atrocity that reminds me about Americana
, an album I absolutely hated and still hate to this day. Even the video
goes above and beyond the call of duty in terms of being annoying and insufferable. I've had some people suggest to me that "Cruising California" is simply there as a "joke" or the band intentionally trying to be ironic, and even then I still hate it. We have enough meta-irony in the music industry right now with people like Lil' B
- we don't need more of it, and I'll be happy when that trend finally goes away.
Continue reading Where Are They Now? A Depressing Look at the Downward Spiral of Everclear and The Offspring.
By Dennis Wyman on September 8, 2012 8:35 PM | Permalink |
I'm walking around in the sweltering Texas heat, slightly intoxicated, and my mouth is on fire. I just chained up some heavy consumption of dozens of different ghost pepper and habanero-based hot sauces, and at this point repeated doses of alcohol and tortilla chips are failing to disperse the burn. I'm pouring sweat and feeling a hell of a burn in my mouth that's extending down into my chest, but I'm still not sated. I need to find something even hotter.
Or perhaps I should back up a bit.
So, during my last weekend in Texas, I managed to hit up The Austin Chronicle's 22nd Annual Hot Sauce Festival. Every August, the Chronicle throws on one of the largest gatherings in the world that is dedicated to making your food really hot. Timing it in the middle of the summer is no coincidence, either; their website openly touts "If you wanna beat the heat... then you gotta eat the heat." And on top of being an excuse for locals to get drunk and dissolve their insides with unhealthy amounts of capsaicin, it's also a major fundraising event for the Capital Area Food Bank of Texas: The event is "free" admission to anyone who brings a donation of canned foods (or cash) for the Food Bank.
The main draw to the Festival was the competition, in which restaurants, commercial bottlers and local individuals all submitted their creations for judging and critique. A pavilion hosted the main competition, where attendees were given plates of tortilla chips and set loose to judge the hot sauces for themselves. If that wasn't enough, many commercial bottlers had also set up booths outside, where you could try their entire product lines and purchase what you liked. If you *still* had a craving, a handful of local restaurants had also set up little tent kitchens. The food was mostly taco stands and other standard Mexican fare, but hey, this IS a festival dedicated to the flavor of spicy, after all. Throw in some decent live music, alcohol, and roughly 15 thousand people, and you have a pretty solid party.
This was no ordinary gathering of fans of spicy food, either - This was an event for the true connoisseur. One attendee by the name of Jacob summed up the attitude of the crowd:
"Most people fail to realize how truly complex hot sauce can be. Much of what is on the market these days, at least on a large-scale, is just simply "hot." People only know about generic brands like Tabasco or Frank's, but a lot of independent operations and home bottlers are finding new ways to balance hot with taste. It's not just a matter of being hot anymore. Hot can simultaneously also be sweet or spicy or tangy or sour."
And he was pretty spot on, as just about everyone there had a unique product that begged to be tasted over and over and over again. The only unwelcome guest was an oversized booth run by Texan grocery giant H-E-B, who had no business being there with their inferior mass-produced imitation. Sub-par grocery store salsas taste even worse than usual when put up against real bottlers, and H-E-B's offering was no exception.
My personal favorite came from Hobo Jim's
, who had their whole lineup of hot sauces up for tasting. The king of their booth, however, was their "Yellow Jacket" sauce, a tangy mustard based hot sauce blended with ghost peppers and habaneros and a variety of other spices. It was selling out pretty fast, but I managed to snag myself a bottle before their stock totally dried up.
also deserves a special mention. After hitting a string of brutally hot sauces and salsas, I needed something even stronger to send out the festival with a fitting bang, and their Ghost Pepper Salsa fit that bill perfectly. They also had delicious marinated garlic cloves in a ghost pepper variety, but the salsa was the king of this booth. On top of being incredibly hot, it had a subtle sweet undertone to it that made it impossible to not go overboard with it. My final memory of the festival was stumbling out the gate away from SilverLeaf's booth, racing towards the truck so I could crack another cold beer out of the cooler. Relaxing with said beer in the grass of the neighboring park, it was now time to take in the variety of flavors I had experienced, and also to ponder the imminent doom of my lower digestive tract.
Continue reading Dispatches From Americana: The 22nd Annual Austin Chronicle Hot Sauce Festival.