Thursday, June 16, 2016

The next rock and roll classic

I'm both a realist and a pessimist, so I know that my local rock band will never scale the heights of superstardom, fame, wealth, a trendy drug-induced decline, and a lucrative reunion tour, and that's mostly OK with me. My only regret is that we'll never get to participate in the time-honored tradition of recording a mid-career mid-tempo ballad about the loneliness, weariness, and plain ol' tryin' times of life on the road. But as the Butthole Surfers taught me, it's better to regret something you did than something you didn't do. I wrote some lyrics about life on those lonely highways, and this future classic will just sit here, waiting for some road-weary, deep-pocketed troubadour to add some sweet-assed heart-tugging accompaniment. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you "Tourin'":

TOURIN'
The wheels on the bus go round and round
Another fresh mile in another strange town
I'm tourin'

My ex-wife's callin' on my cellular phone
But I ignore the call and grab a Toblerone
I'm hurtin'

The Toblerone didn't cut it so I grab some fruit snacks
But the box is empty and I just can't relax
I'm hungry
(SPOKEN ASIDE) But not that hungry

CHORUS
Oh, life on the road ain't all the fans dream it to be
And the me they worship ain't quite the real me
The tour bus is fancy but the drive is still long
And I'm sick and tired of playing my own hit song
Oh Lord, why did you put this burden on me?

Well, I hit backstage and I check the rider
Those bastards in Duluth forgot my cranapple cider
I'm fumin'

Woke up from a nap when I heard my own snoring
The band's soundchecking and it's so damn boring
I'm restless

I read People magazine during the opening band
Looks like we'll get another season of that show Homeland
I'm intrigued
(SPOKEN ASIDE) But not that intrigued

(REPEAT CHORUS)

(GUITAR SOLO THAT ROCKS PRETTY HARD BUT NOT TOO HARD)

Finally took the stage, the crowd couldn't get enough
But I'm still waiting for someone to call my bluff
I'm weary

Backstage and the groupies are getting saucy
I met a couple dudes from Insane Clown Posse
I'm reckless

Hungover and tired, I head to the next town
To do it all again, hope I can find the sound
That's a reference
(SPOKEN ASIDE) To Kiss power ballad "Beth"

(REPEAT CHORUS 37 TIMES)
(FADEOUT)









Monday, January 11, 2016

Bowie's in space

Two questions. If David Bowie can die, what hope is there for the rest of us? And how can I find words to pay tribute to a guy who made at least 13 records and at least 200 songs that mean the world to me?
I'm thinking about the bands and solo artists who put out one great record after another in the 1970s that also mean a great deal to me (Bowie put out great stuff before and after the '70s, but the '70s were his most creatively explosive period) -- Neil Young, Stevie Wonder, Brian Eno, Joni Mitchell, CAN, Marvin Gaye, Roxy Music, Curtis Mayfield, Patti Smith, Alice Cooper, Blue Oyster Cult, Kraftwerk, Neu, Fela Kuti, Chic, Van Morrison, Faust, T. Rex, Big Star, Black Sabbath, Harry Nilsson, just to name a few (and I haven't even mentioned the great bands who only put out a few records or who were just getting started or who ran out of gas in the middle of the decade or who dominated the '60s and put out a few great records in the '70s or the people I'll be hitting myself for forgetting) -- and I'm astounded that I can hear and see all these people in Bowie's songs and sounds and looks as they bounce around, refract, distort, and filter through the carnival rides, lenses, funhouse mirrors, and processors in Bowie's one-of-a-kind head until they come out sounding like Bowie and only Bowie. He had all the contradictory elements you need to be a great artist: theatricality and sincerity, privacy and exhibitionism, originality and theft, human frailty and alien otherness, etc. I could keep going on about this but I'm starting to sound like a blabbering idiot. ("Starting to?" some of you are saying.)
I am so glad I got to see Bowie live on his last tour, especially considering that tour ended earlier than planned due to cancellations caused by Bowie's heart surgery, some nerve problems in his shoulder, and an accident that killed a member of the lighting crew. The tickets were a little out of our price range, but my wife and I said, "It's David Bowie!" and bought them anyway. Wikipedia tells me that show was April 27, 2004. Bowie was not a nostalgic artist, but the set list was primarily a greatest hits-style encapsulation of a career, with a band that consisted of a mix of Bowie veterans like Mike Garson and Earl Slick and younger session musicians like Gail Ann Dorsey and Sterling Campbell. Bowie was so good, and I'm not just saying that with the rose-tinted glasses of 12-year-old memories. He was one of the best singers and performers I've been lucky enough to see, and the show had the odd effect of humanizing him instead of turning him into even more of the alien superhero rock god I had mythologized. I was shocked and delighted at how many goofy, corny jokes Bowie told during the stage banter portion of the show, and how he would crack himself up with these silly jokes while his band rolled their eyes and grinned. I can't tell you how much I enjoyed seeing the joy he took in goofy puns and vaudeville-style old-fashioned jokes in between scorching everyone's faces off with some of the best rock songs ever written. I also loved seeing the pleasure and joy he took in watching his band perform, especially when bassist Gail Ann Dorsey took the Freddie Mercury parts on "Under Pressure." This guy loved musicians.
Just picking two of my favorite Bowie songs, "Station to Station" and "Teenage Wildlife." Holy fuck. There are undiscovered countries in those songs. You can go back to those songs over and over again and never exhaust them.
Even Bowie's death is inspiring. Here's a guy who finds out he's dying of cancer, so he makes an album with a group of younger jazz musicians he's never recorded with before, and he keeps his illness a secret even though the shit-rats at TMZ have at least three trash-parasites stationed in every famous person's underwear drawer. I'm glad I got to share 38 years on the often-disappointing planet of Earth with David Bowie, and I'm going to keep playing his wonderful, beautiful, scary, fantastic records until I'm a lifeless tube of meat.

Sunday, January 03, 2016

2015: The Ride: The Drink: The Flavorless Paste aka My Year as a Human, My Favorite Music of the Year, and Some Shameless Self-Promo

Hey blog reader(s),
2015 is over, so I thought I'd take the opportunity on what Neil DeGrasse Tyson would consider an arbitrary date to overshare about me, present a list of my favorite records and live shows of the past year, and pimp my rock band.
I had a weird year that was better for me mentally than almost any year since I was nine years old (excepting 1997 and late 1999/early 2000, the two other post-fourth grade years where I wasn't hit with at least one bout of depression) but also touched by tragedy. My group of friends lost a wonderful person to cancer in May, a person who should have lived to be a hilarious old woman, and we all miss her and will continue to miss her for the rest of our go-cart ride around this globally-warmed fucked-up orb where Donald Trump still walks among us. I also lost a cousin to cancer that same month, but my father never told me so I just found out two weeks ago (not from him). In case you were wondering if my family was still a jacked-up mess, the Magic 8-Ball says it is decidedly so. In happier circle of life news, my sister had twins, a boy and girl, in September, and they're as cute as (or even cuter than) tiny people can possibly be, even though I think all humans should cool it on the having babies thing for at least 30 or 40 years because WE'RE DOOMED! WE'RE ALL DOOMED!!!!!!!! but I am excited to see them in person on a trip planned for the spring, and I'm psyched to have a niece and nephew at one fell swoop (maybe the fell swoop thing is not the best choice of phrase since it originated from birds of prey diving down for the kill).
I was amazed and thankful I spent a whole year without much depression (I had lots of melancholia and genuine sadness, but none of the full-on emptiness and lack of emotion and couch-stuck wasted days and wrung-out towel for a psyche that swallow up a few months of most years), and I attribute a lot of that to a years-in-the-making concerted effort to live in the present. Sounds obvious and platitudinous, but I think I'm mostly there now. I wasted too much time rehashing and being bitter about the past and thinking about getting through the present to get to some imagined better time in the future, and I mostly don't bother with that shit now. Fuck the past, the future doesn't exist, yeah I know these sound like bumper stickers but in practice this attitude really works for me sentence fragment the end. I also decided to devote less psychic real estate to my parents' problems and messes and all the messiness and weirdness of the last 13 years in my family's existence and focus on fixing my own problems and messes. And I decided to skip most parties this year except for a handful of important ones because large social gatherings make me nervous and antsy and self-conscious and weird and I never have much fun and no one's paying me to attend, so I treated myself right and went out when I felt like it and stayed home when I felt like it. My friends are cool. I think they understand. I still like all of them. I also quit Facebook, which is really working out great, even though I still log in on my wife's account, but I've been doing that less and less. I am happier not being on there as much. Also, listening to albums in their entirety away from a computer, reading more books, and watching less TV are all good decisions I made for myself this year. It's working, man. I think the key to life is don't do shit you don't wanna do if you don't have to do it. Do shit you wanna do if you can. Try not to screw anybody up when not doing and doing these things. I don't do new year's resolutions, but the next step on the be-less-messed-up train is an effort to slow down my boozing and get rid of my beer gut that taunts me in the mirror daily and be more healthy even though exercise is boring as fuck and completely stupid compared to things like rock and roll and delicious food.
Enough of this self-help bullshit, let's switch to music.

My favorite records of 2015 in a sort-of arbitrary order based on when I put them on the computer (which doesn't mean I didn't buy them because I did, sucker)
Ricked Wicky - I Sell the Circus
Sleater-Kinney - No Cities to Love
Jessica Pratt - On Your Own Love Again
Bjork - Vulnicura
Death Grips - Jenny Death
Built To Spill - Untethered Moon
Robert Pollard - Faulty Superheroes
Metz - II
Faith No More - Sol Invictus
Thee Oh Sees - Mutilator Defeated At Last
Damaged Bug - Cold Hot Plumbs
Mini Mansions - The Great Pretenders
Mint Mile - In Season & Ripe
Ricked Wicky - King Heavy Metal
Field Music - Music for Drifters
Destroyer - Poison Season
Yo La Tengo - Stuff Like That There
Ricked Wicky - Swimmer to a Liquid Armchair (3 records in a year, all good!) 
Battles - La Di Da Di
Le Butcherettes - A Raw Youth
Kurt Vile - B'lieve I'm Goin Down...
Big Grams - Big Grams EP
Eleanor Friedberger - "False Alphabet City" single
Circus Devils - Stomping Grounds
Protomartyr - The Agent Intellect
Express Rising - Fixed Rope
Le Butcherettes - Shave the Pride/We No Owe 7"
Erykah Badu - But You Caint Use My Phone
Oneida - Positions EP
Starflyer 59 & Mike Adams at His Honest Weight - Like a Baby/Tasteful Nudes split 7"

Records of 2015 I also enjoyed, just not as much as the above 
Zu - Cortar Todo
Trickfinger - Trickfinger
Wilco - Star Wars
Neil Young & Promise of the Real - The Monsanto Years
Rolo Tomassi - Grievances
Mac DeMarco - Another One (yeah, yeah, everyone hates him now, he's the latest indie scarlet letter, but I like the dirtbag low-rent Steely Dan vibe)
 
My favorite reissues, re-releases, compilations, box sets, and soundtracks of 2015 (again, it's heavily dominated by the Numero Group)
David Bowie - Five Years 1969-1973
Scharpling & Wurster - The Best of the Best Show
Universal Togetherness Band - Universal Togetherness Band
Various - Ultra-High Frequencies: The Chicago Party
The Notations - Still Here: 1967-1973
Various - Lows in the Mid Sixties Volume 54: Kosmic City Part 2
Various - Ork Records: Complete Singles
Various - Saved & Sanctified: Songs of the Jade Label
Bedhead - Live 1998
White Eyes - White Eyes
Melvins - The Bulls & The Bees/Electroretard
Arthur Russell - Corn
Universal Togetherness Band - My Sentiment/Missing You 7"
The Scientists - The Scientists
The Scientists - Blood Red River
Royal Jesters - English Oldies
Mark Lanegan - Houston: Publishing Demos 2002 
Various - Small Town Country, Vol. 1
Unwound - Empire
Unwound - Peel Sessions
The Edge of Daybreak - Eyes of Love
Elyse Weinberg - Greasepaint Smile
Various - Ork Records: New York, New York
The Feelies - The Boy with the Perpetual Nervousness/My Little Red Book 7"
Guided By Voices - Suitcase 4: Captain Kangaroo Won the War
Neil Young & The Bluenotes - Bluenote Cafe
Ty Segall - Ty Rex
The Shades - Santa Claus Is Coming to Town/Prancer's Got Some Red Spots 7"
Various - Entertainment soundtrack 
Ennio Morricone/Various - The Hateful Eight soundtrack 


I haven't listened to this all the way through yet because it was a free online-only release and it slipped my mind, but I liked what I heard way back in January
Death Grips - Fashion Week 

Favorite live shows (national)
Destroyer
Thee Oh Sees
Kraftwerk
The Waco Brothers

Favorite live shows (local) (I didn't get out much this year, my apologies to anyone I've forgotten)
Rhett and Dean
Boss Eye
The John-Pauls
Rabbit Fist
Abigail und Hansel
Mitch Fraizer & The Radiation
Jailbait


The band I play drums for, The Early Stages, put out our second 7-inch this year. We got a nice review from Byron Coley in Wire magazine, a pretty good review in Maximum Rocknroll, and some airplay on Jon Solomon's radio show on WPRB in New Jersey, the Expressway to Yr Skull podcast, and a few other podcasts and websites. Otherwise, zilch. I feel good about the music on this single, and I feel pretty good about my band, even though we can't get arrested in this town or most other places. You can buy/stream/hear this thing and our previous 7-inch at http://www.theearlystagesmusic.com/ and https://theearlystages.bandcamp.com/

 
 

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Merry Xmas and Happy New Year from the Gurflakks


Hello family and friends,
Another year of challenges and blessings has come and gone. As we say goodbye to 2015 and how do you do to 2016, I've taken a few moments to reflect on the past year and share those reflections with you, our loved ones. It's hard to condense all the comings and goings and doings of one whole year into one little ol' typed letter, but here are some of the highlights from the last 365 days in the life of Marion, the kids, and the "Big Kahuna" AKA me (LOL).
In February, the whole bunch of us got in the van and went to McDonald's. Todd had three McFlurries. (Can you believe it?)
Cadence skinned her knee in the front yard imitating an episode of the Netflix original series Narcos. I think she learned her lesson about letting the professionals handle the stunts. :)
Randy burned off part of his right eyebrow working the grill at our annual May Day BBQ (some of you were there). He won't get near open flames anymore and sometimes wakes up screaming, but the boy still loves his hot dogs and grilled halibut.
Sheila sees a shadowy figure in her bedroom at night. She calls him The Shifter and says he's not quite human. He's told her terrifying prophecies about the future of humankind.
Gabe got a B+ in Geometry.
Jett got trapped in the wall in early March. He doesn't know how he got in there, and we can't figure out how to get him out. I don't know what he's been eating, but we can still hear him in there, pounding away, yelling. Boys will be boys.
Marion still does her crafts. She has her hands full with the kiddos while I put in my 45 hours a week at the bologna factory, but the weekends are her time to shine. I've enclosed a photo of her latest project, toilet seat covers with the faces of each of our presidents (except Obama).
I can get a 45% discount on one package of our company's processed meat products six times a year.
Sometimes I look in the mirror and my face has turned to glass. My hands. My chest. My whole body. Then, I look again and I'm flesh and blood.
The whole family has been enjoying Homeland, Pawn Stars, and that show with Rob Lowe and the kid from The Wonder Years. No spoilers! We're still catching up on the last few episodes.
Sadly, our family has experienced some loss this year. Our poodle, Mr. Cooper, ate some poisoned kale and passed on to the next world. We believe our neighbors' teenage son was responsible but cannot prove this in a court of law. Fortunately, our Siamese cat, Clams Casino, and our Scottish terrier, Rolando, are still in the peak of health.
As for me, I'm just glad to be living, loving, and gainfully employed in the good ol' U.S. of A. I hope 2015 treated you right.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you and yours!

Sincerely,
Ambrose, Marion, Todd, Cadence, Randy, Sheila, Gabe, Jett, Clams Casino, and Rolando Gurflakk


Tuesday, November 24, 2015

A thing that happened last month

On a weekday evening last month, I went to my neighborhood commercial art film theater (that, to be honest, mostly screens middlebrow visually bland horseshit about famous inspirational people, old folks getting their grooves back, old British folks getting their grooves back in India, feelgood neoliberal message movies for upper-class white people who are really pleased with themselves, movie-star Oscar-grubbing vanity projects, and a couple of genuinely good-to-great independent and foreign movies a month) to see a movie. My wife had a busy night, so I was flying solo and decided to get some candy at the concession stand, which we never, ever do. As I was waiting in the sort-of long line, I noticed a hubbub of some sort near the front with some very flustered-looking young employees exhibiting facial expressions I knew well from my own high school and college years in retail (the "can you believe I have to politely listen to this goddamn unreasonable human being to keep my job and can you believe how many fellow human beings are this goddamn unreasonable" look). The hubbub hadn't yet reached pandemonium status but was approaching a clamor. This is an unusual thing at a theater that mostly attracts rich old people wanting to see whatever chapter of exotic fucking marigold hotel we're at now or fellow thirty- and forty-somethings who like non-superhero movies. The guy at the concession counter was enraged, and his voice kept getting louder.
This theater chain has a policy that if you buy the enormous, expensive, enormous popcorn size and you manage to eat it in all its enormity, you can come back in the lobby for a free enormous refill during the screening. The angry man at the front was under the impression he could come back any time he wanted and get a free refill, including a quick drop-in after work without even purchasing a movie ticket, and his empty popcorn container had clearly seen many miles on this road we call life, considering it was dented in several places and covered in dirt. When he received the reasonable verdict that a refill was not going to happen on this particular date and time, Mr. Popcorn Tub 2015 went berserk. He told the awkward college-aged assistant manager that he was doing a terrible job, he berated every member of the staff in detail, he threatened to call 911 and the police department, he yelled a ton of stuff about "false and misleading advertising," and he closed with this beautiful sentence about enlisting the local TV news watchdogs in his crusade before angrily storming out: "I'm gonna call 7 On Your Side and put this place on blast!" ("Area Man and His Dirt-Covered Container Denied Free Refill in Obama's America, tonight at 10, right before 'The Big Bang Theory'")
The woman in line ahead of me turned to me and rolled her eyes. "Calm down, man," I said. "It's only popcorn." Then I thought about all the misery I've caused in my own life with my own quick, stupid temper. Then I bought some Twizzlers.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Everyone I grew up with is dead

I was very fond of my mom's brothers and their spouses and girlfriends and kids when I was growing up, and I used to have a lot of good childhood memories before social media ruined everything forever. There is a curious disconnect between their friendliness and warmth in person on the rare holidays when we're all in the same place, and the vitriolic, hate-filled spew they seem to spend every waking second of their free time vomiting forth on social media. Anyone who is slightly to the left of Ted Nugent is an idiot, a moron, a hater of freedom, a hater of the United States, weak, a sheep (they love calling people sheep even though they never post an original thought of their own, just memes and chain letters and propaganda videos), a loser, a coward, etc., etc., etc. They find transgender people hilarious. They make fun of Black Lives Matter. They back every police officer who shoots an unarmed black person or uses unnecessary force. They express anger and hostility toward the communities who stood up for themselves and protested this police brutality. (They loved Cliven Bundy, though.) They think everyone on food stamps is either lazy or a scam artist. They post the ugliest anti-Muslim propaganda and anti-Arab and anti-Middle East racist bullshit and think the entire Muslim religion is a terrorist call-to-arms. They thought the blowhard, pandering governors who said they weren't going to take in Syrian refugees (even though each one of these goons knows he has no authority to deny them) were great guys. They post memes with fabricated statistics, distortions, exaggerations, and lies, and when I was still dumb enough to respond with proof, they told me they didn't accept my sources because "all sources are biased." Shortly before I quit Facebook, they called my mother and I "fucking keyboard warriors" who should "move to Iraq if you love it so much" because my mother posted something on her own damn page about the overselling of ISIS by right wing media to stir up hatred, and I defended her when they all ganged up on her like the redneck creeps they unfortunately have become (always were?).
I quit Facebook, which helped considerably, but I still occasionally see their bullshit when I log on to my wife's account to see what she and our friends and my non-asshole relatives (mother, brother, sister) and the band I'm in are posting. It bums me out, man. It really, really bums me out. If they were just moderate conservatives who weren't doling out a near-constant stream of insults, misinformation, racism, and xenophobia, it wouldn't bother me. We don't have to agree. I have friends who are Republicans, libertarians, Communists, and anarchists, all schools of thought I could never subscribe to, but these people don't treat other people like garbage for having a different point of view.
To be fair, I hate liberal memes and preaching to the choir and liberal infighting about who cares more and how you're caring wrong and the way people are pounced on and destroyed for saying something ignorant or prejudiced in public or for not using the currently fashionable buzzword for a marginalized group. I hate all the white liberal self-congratulation and back-patting and bragging about enlightenment. I hate goddamn Facebook memes. I hated myself when I was on Facebook arguing with my relatives. I hate politics in general. Art and fun are my bags. But I hate the right wing social media shit-stirrer hate factory the most.
Whenever I think about the angry, hate-filled, macho, violent garbage my relatives perpetuate on social media, I get really down. Even if almost all of the shit they say about liberals and all the "information" they post is wildly inaccurate and a clear misrepresentation, I take it personally. It grinds me down to think they think so little of me. I hate how they've tarnished so many fond memories. I feel my own anger and hatred increasing in response to theirs, and I don't like that about myself. I don't know how people who had such a great, kind, open-minded mother and grandmother could spend so much time trying to make other people feel shitty. Why are a bunch of American white people with families and decent jobs and hobbies they love so bitter and hate-filled and angry and resentful and paranoid and suspicious of anyone who doesn't look, think, and act exactly like them? It seems to bother my brother and sister less than it bothers me, and I don't know how they so successfully let it go without dwelling on it. But I'm obsessed. Why are they doing this? Were they always like this? Would my grandparents and friends' grandparents act like this if social media had been a part of their daily routine? What happened to my relatives? What the hell happened to them? What happened to everybody?
Is anybody else dealing with this? How do you keep it from ruining your day? Do you just cut them loose from your life? Is Mark Zuckerberg one of history's greatest monsters, or did we do this to ourselves?
TGIF, motherfuckers.

Monday, October 12, 2015

TV Guide movie listings that may exist














[48] MOVIE - Comedy
"The Godfather." (1978) Spiritual guffaws abound in this sequel to "Oh, God" when God (George Burns) finally meets His biological father, an inanimate beam of light voiced by James Coco. John Denver returns, but is outshined by Burt Reynolds as Sen. Ptarmigan. (1 hr. 48 min.)

[58] MOVIE - Action
"Blade Runner." (2003) Wesley Snipes returns as Blade in the concluding installment of the popular vampire trilogy. This time around, Blade walks away from the world of vampires to pursue his dream of competing in a series of charity marathon fun runs, but have the vampires walked away from him? Paul Giamatti was nominated for a Golden Globe for his portrayal of Blade's racing coach, Clutch Merriweather. (2 hr. 21 min.)

[12] MOVIE - Horror-boxing-musical comedy
"The Rocky Horror Picture Show." (1977) In this offbeat crossover sequel to the Oscar-winning dramas "Rocky" and "The Last Picture Show," Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone) agrees to fight glam rock-singing transvestite scientist Dr. Frank-N-Furter (Tim Curry) in an exhibition match in Archer City, Texas, in order to raise money to reopen the Royal Theater. Starring Meat Loaf in dual roles as ex-delivery boy Eddie and eccentric boxing promoter "Texas" Bob Sugarditch. (3 hr. 52 min.)

 [82] MOVIE - Basic mathematical errors
"Fast Five." (2011) Vin Diesel counts to five, but the count is too fast because he leaves out the number three. (4 sec.)