Friday, March 31, 2006

song of the day: "instant karma!"

not an unusual choice, I know (unless you figure there's thirty million songs out there that could conceivably be "song of the day"), but let me tell you how I get there:

I'm reading Steve Matteo's book Let It Be from Continuum's 33 1/3 series. which means that I've been listening to Let It Be for a while since each of these books (a slight generalization of the series) contains numerous triggers, whether through song analysis or a recap of a recording sessions, that pretty much steer you to that particular album, especially if you're reading on the subway (most of my reading time) and already have the earbuds in. so "Two of Us" would've been Wednesday's "song of the day" if I'd taken the time to so designate, etc. but this morning on the ride in I read of the many (many many) other songs played (rehearsed, run through) during the never-quite-official Let It Be sessions, one of which was Lennon's "Instant Karma!" which pretty much led to Phil Spector's participation in the whole thing.

then there's the opening: "Instant Karma's gonna get you." now I'm a fairly superstitious guy, a believer in karma, fate, biorhythms and the like. and it's been a fairly trying week both physically and financially (damn near everyone wants money - grown-up stuff like taxes and dentist bills and another iPod on its last legs (maybe that one's not so grown-up)), but I'm not paranoid enough to really believe that I've somehow brought it on myself. instead I'll lean towards a friend's observation (true or not) that Mercury's in retrograde until Monday or sumpin' and we're all pretty much under this bigass cloud until then.

which makes this weekend's goal just getting through, maintaining, avoiding the pitfalls, the potholes, both literal and figurative.
and that's not too much to ask for, is it?
somebody knock some Norwegian wood.

last book read: Conversations with Tom Petty by Paul Zollo

Sunday, March 26, 2006

death and taxes

perhaps it's just premature old age, the body falling apart at damn near periodic intervals, but it does seem a lot of folks are dying. of course, recent marathon viewing sessions of Six Feet Under (primarily Seasons One and Four - Seasons Two and Three are already in the books) do nothing to dissuade the feeling. but Buck Owens, who passed away yesterday at the age of 76, is the latest and greatest to exit (a damn shame that so many only know him from Hee Haw).

then there's the figurative deaths of the University of Texas, Boston College (which combined to lay the permanent smackdown of my chances of winning the NCAA tourney office pool - but damn, LSU looks good, don't they?).

and then yesterday was dominated by the preparation of my income tax tally. and even with Turbo Tax it hurt. don't ask.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

an unfortunate bout of creative limbo is making the rounds

and I must confess that it’s likely that I’m more than a carrier. not so much that the reverse Midas has invaded my writing. more like molasses is flowing through my brain and clogging my prose. and my body’s in worse shape than that (could this be the end of Zombie Shakespeare?)

last night, following a scrumptious dinner at Prem-on Thai (West Houston Street, NYC; a very strong effort on the sirloin with yellow curry and the spicy lobster salad entrĂ©e was damn near transcendent), we headed down to the Knitting Factory where Camera Obscura made their first New York appearance in two years. since they have no new album to promote, I assume the gig was but a stopover on the way back to Glasgow from their obligatory SXSW performance. the show (with opening act Maria Taylor) was sold out, but thanks to the fine and considerate folks at Merge Records, I was in attendance. I had every intention of taking photomagraphs, but discovered at dinner that the camera’s batteries are in worse shape than I am (and later discovered that Leonard Street may be the only square block in Manhattan south of 96th Street without a visible Duane Reade).

not that it would’ve mattered, I don’t think. the room was packed (for those of you unaware, the Knitting Factory in New York is a near maze of different bars, showrooms – though Camera was afforded the main - and their ticket takers play more work hour Internet Spades, Chess and Checkers that any club staff in town) and we were lucky to gain a sight line from what, temporarily, was the back (doors opened to the front bar behind us following Maria Taylor’s set, which did allow much greater ease of ingress and egress, but remained open during Camera’s set, effectively muting any stage banter in between songs).
worse yet, two separate groups – a trio of young women so authentic in their Valley Girl speech (“like, I’m so sure”) that they defied believability and a pair of former frat boys (the most troubled of the two definitively declared David Bazan as his favorite artist, opined that Green Day’s lead singer spells his first name like a girl, and loudly, and continually, yearned for a move to Seattle as New York City is “too much of a city” for him) – obviously possessed an ingrained belief that the back of a performance space is where conversations, even if they take place on a cell phone, should be held.

after several minutes of phone chatter had passed (with no end in sight), a rather boozed man leaned over to the Valley Girl telecommunicatively planning her weekend to insist that she SHUT THE FUCK UP!
I considered buying him a beer for his effort, but he appeared to enjoy the confrontation a little more than he should have.

in front, the sound was not what it should’ve been and Camera (led by the delightful Tracyanne Campbell (she's on the left on the album cover)) played a heavy, heavy portion of new material – I recognized but three songs from their excellent last album, Underachievers Please Try Harder. personally I’d hoped for maybe “Suspended from Class” to start the set and a little better balance of old and new (Tracyanne’s a much talented lyricist but it was rather hard to catch what you’re supposed to under the strained circumstances). throw in an uneventful, yet lengthy subway ride home (try crossing the threshold of your domicile at 1:30 a.m. on a school night) and it was a rather disappointing evening.

of course, I did stay up to replay the South Park season premiere. and while the whole “Chef as pedophile” theme was so over the top that it rocketed past entertaining, Stan’s speech at Chef’s funeral did a fine job of wrapping a nice, tight bow on a rather ugly package.

tonight I dream of major couch time and an LSU victory over the Dookies.

Sunday, March 19, 2006


the NCAA tournament got a lot less interesting, personally, around 4:45 EST today when UNC took it on the chin from George Mason (yes, I was one of those bitching about them getting into the tournament over Hofstra, and it's still difficult for me to utter a complete sentence about the Patriots without working in the phrase "punched in the groin") and Bucknell was minutes away from their exit courtesy of Memphis. of course, Alabama made a valiant effort against UCLA last night (the same cannot be said about my outmatched alma mater's loss to Florida on Thursday) but now all are gone, all are gone.

inexplicably one of my ESPN brackets is currently in the 99th percentile of picks, somewhere around 14,500 in the national rankings.

but it's definitely been four days of little more than basketball and Six Feet Under DVDs (courtesy of the New York Public Library) and catching up on transcribing interviews (with Stefanie Bohm of Ms. John Soda, Patterson Hood of Drive-by Truckers and Paul de Jong of The Books) for future deadlines.

Will Blythe's book, To Hate Like This Is To Be Happy Forever: A Thoroughly Obsessive, Intermittently Uplifting, and Occasionally Unbiased Account of the Duke-North Carolina Basketball Rivalry, is still hot, still on the New York Times' Best Seller List, and Friday he gave an interview on NPR. still well-deserved.

last book read: Elisabeth Vincentelli's Abba Gold.

Thursday, March 2, 2006

the mysteries of publishing

will not soon be solved. and far be it from me to question the business practices of a former Time Man of the Year (Jeff Bezos), but for whatever reason The Shortstop is now available at Amazon for the low, low (in fact, lowest ever) price of $9.72 (with The Catcher at $9.74 and The Starting Pitcher still above $10). I doubt you can get a better deal anywheres.

and if you add my buddy Will Blythe's new fantabulous tome, To Hate Like This Is To Be Happy Forever: A Thoroughly Obsessive, Intermittently Uplifting, and Occasionally Unbiased Account of the Duke-North Carolina Basketball Rivalry, that'll get you just over the $25 free shipping threshold.

Will, by the way, has a free excerpt up on if'n you like the free Internet reading thang

this has been a public service announcement.

Wednesday, March 1, 2006

all shook up

there’s really just no way to play catch up, and a half-assed attempt would leave numerous gaps – some important, some not – but since half-assed attempts are an area of excellence for me: some time ago I interviewed Carl Palmer (formerly of Emerson, Lake and Palmer, as well as Asia) for the drummer book (where hopefully slow and steady wins the race). also John McEntire of Tortoise. other interviews for other projects over the past two weeks include Hayden Menzies of The Grey, Ani Cordero of Cordero, Kurt Marschke of the Deadstring Brothers, Bill Janovitz, musician and author of the 33 1/3 book on Exile on Main St., and my buddy Will Blythe, author of the tremendously fabulous and deservedly well-reviewed To Hate Like This Is To Be Happy Forever: A Thoroughly Obsessive, Intermittently Uplifting, and Occasionally Unbiased Account of the Duke-North Carolina Basketball Rivalry which came out just yesterday and is holding steady in Amazon’s Top 100 sellers (of course, yesterday was Mardi Gras (shout out to my favorite people in Mobile, Alabama: Michael Smith and Karen Carr), and I celebrated with a live phone interview, pushing The Shortstop, with WIBX, (“The Mohawk Valley’s Big Talker”) followed by a late dinner with spouse and mother-in-law and sister-in-law at Bluewater Grill (with the exception of the company and pleasantly attentive servers the experience was muchly disappointing) in Union Square).

the discussion with Will was a long one, over two hours recorded, and took mucho, mucho time to transcribe (I’m still editing), but an excerpt, as well as an excerpt from the book, will appear a week from today (March 8) in Independent Weekly down in Will’s home state. my short piece on Cordero runs in today’s Philadelphia Weekly (I also scribbled a shorty on Test Icicles at the last minute and then the sons of bitches broke up the day after my deadline so it didn’t run), and tomorrow’s East Bay Express will run a piece I wrote on former Dream Syndicate frontman Steve Wynn whose new album with the Miracle 3, . . . Tick . . .Tick . . . Tick, is some good, good stuff. KGB Bar tonight to hear Mark Jacobson and Richard Ben Cramer (with hopefully food following), dinner out tomorrow night (got to remember to make a reservation), then having to miss Belle & Sebastian Friday night to catch a flight to Birmingham to attend a memorial service Saturday morning. then, of course, Saturday night is Duke-Carolina II.

so even though the calendar is full, for the first time in a long while I have no deadlines except my own on the music writing front. which means I can listen to any damn thing I want to. so do I go back through the stacks in search of those discs I wanted to listen to the moment they came in but couldn’t find the time for? no, I do not. not last night at least (which happens when you don’t get home from frickin’ dinner until almost midnight). nope, not me. nope, nope, nope. instead I grabbed the closest CD handy – in this case the expanded edition re-issue of Cheap Trick’s All Shook Up that arrived in yesterday’s post (I wrote that in an English accent, by the way).

now I’m one of those for whom a Cheap Trick Greatest Hits collection would more than suffice. I appreciate their melodic sense, and one song at a time the overt, pre-Oasis attempt to rip off The Beatles ain’t so bothersome. I mean, after all, this is pop music, right? But All Shook Up is even worse than most Cheap Trick albums that I don’t have an interest in. The songs just aren’t very good and the tries at thievery are both more ostentatious and less tasteful (even considering production from George Martin and a near note for note cover of “Day Tripper,” the band sounds more like mid-career Wings than Fab Four (while managing to plunder some early 80s Rod Stewart and other bands in the process)).

here’s hoping we get home early enough tonight to cherry pick tomorrow’s morning commute music.