My 10 Favorite New Records Of 2011

Had I been more organized, I would have had this post ready to go on New Year’s Eve or Day, but as it is, I was busy and just didn’t have the time or wherewithal to get it together. I have been doing my research over the past few weeks and have come up with not one, not two, but three music-related best of lists for 2011. Like last year, I will list my favorite new music of 2011 as well as the older records I discovered in the year, but I’m also adding a new section about bands that I really go into this year. I’ll get into more detail when I get to that post, but there will be some albums on that list that could or would have been on this list, so technically, I had more than 10 favorites this year. As always, this list is in no particular order, so here we go. Continue reading My 10 Favorite New Records Of 2011

Music Musings: How I Got Into Music

Recently, my love of music has been rekindled. I’ve always had an affinity for the medium and have never really left it behind, but for the last year or so, I’ve been decidedly less focused on listening to music in favor of watching movies while I work or listening to podcasts. With my recent work changes, I’ve also changed how I work, which now involves playing the old iPod instead of zoning out with a movie I don’t really care about. I’m still gonna watch some TV and movies during the day, but I’m also going to utilize my time to catch up on the tons of CDs I picked up this summer at flea markets and also revisit some old faves. I’ve also been playing my guitar and bass a lot more often which has been a great stress reliever and a lot of fun. With that in mind, I figured it might be interesting to talk about how I got into listening to music.

I don’t remember much about music before around the 6th grade. I know my mom tended towards the classic, oldies radio stations when we’d drive around and my dad was more into classic rock, so I had a pretty broad base growing up, but it took me a while to go after music on my own aside from asking for MC Hammer tapes for my birthday. I don’t remember exactly when I got my first CD-playing boombox, but I think it was around 1992 because the first three CDs I got to go along with it were Kriss Kross’ Totally Krossed Out, the Aladdin soundtrack and a Disney disc called For Our Children with covers of children’s songs by artists like Little Richard, Bob Dylan and a slew of others. Pretty eclectic. Oddly enough, I don’t have any of those three discs in my collection anymore, having sold Kriss Kross in a garage sale and passed the two Disney discs along to my folks, though I might have to get them back for my kid to listen to. I would have been 9 around that time.

My second discman, Christmas 1998. Age 15, be nice.

My¬† musical evolution has a few distinct memories from those early days, but mostly a lot of fog. I’ve mentioned going to see KISS with my dad in 1997 and I have very distinct memories of sitting in the back of Mrs. White’s classroom in 7th grade during free time with my friend Jimmy listening to CDs on our Discmen and doodling. I did a lot of doodling back in the day and had great fun coming up with various lists of my favorite bands. During the last few summers of my grade school years, I remember watching MTV even though I wasn’t supposed to and probably did so when I was alone after school as well. I remember having a hard time mapping out the history of rock and roll in my brain because there was just so much going on (and I knew almost nothing about punk or funk, so it would only get bigger and more unwieldy as I got older). Wait, so the Beatles broke up BEFORE John Lennon was killed? How is it possible that Eric Clapton was in SO MANY bands?! Getting a subscription to Guitar World in high school really helped. That mag was like a history book for rock and roll.

The extent of my punk rock knowledge in 1999. So weird...

Jimmy was a pretty big influence on my listening habits. I got into bands like Red Hot Chili Peppers and Alice In Chains thanks to him. We also both dug 70s music because both our dads were into that kinda stuff. I would raid my dad’s CD collection and listen to Led Zeppelin, The Beatles and the like. At some point I also got my own turntable and borrowed a bunch of my dad’s vinyl which had a lot of 50s/60s pop records and introduced me one of my favorite bands of all time: The Ventures. Eventually, I’d start hitting up the used CD stores like CD Warehouse to add to my collection. For Christmas one year, my parents bought me a CD player that could hold 51 CDs, like a juke box. You would slide the CD booklets into a book so you’d know which ones were where and could even hit the random button and just let them run wild. Eventually, the CD selector arm stopped working and iPods came into play, but that stereo served me well all the way through college.

First with the help of the boom box and later the stereo, I also started listening to some Toledo and Detroit rock stations. I was pretty anti-rap, pop and country at that point for whatever reason (close mindedness, lack of experience, whatever you want to call it), so it was mostly 104.7 which was classic rock, 106.5 Buzz FM (alternative and classic) and Detroit’s 89X which introduced me to a lot of 90s bands and also played more than just the regular singles. I discovered this in the last few years after giving the missus’ Our Lady Peace records a listen and realizing I knew more songs than I should have.

By the time I got to high school I had seen KISS and Aerosmith with my dad, I’d soon win tickets to see Black Sabbath from one of the aforementioned radio stations and would add a bunch of music enthusiasts to my group of friends who would bolster my fandom and exploration even further. Going to concerts was a fairly regular occurrence with us (I miss those days a lot) and we had a ton of fun. We’d also talk about music more than was probably healthy, but what else are you supposed to talk about at an all guy Catholic high school?My freshman year (1998 or so) a group of us attended our school’s Battle of the Bands and were so inspired that we decided to form a band. Since one friend had a guitar and one a drum set, it came down to me to learn bass. So I did. I rented a black Fender Squier and an amp for a little while, took lessons from a guy named Ed who thought my dad’s first name was mine and eventually bought my own bass at a store’s semi-annual going out of business sale. Eventually, I’d switch teachers and get a really good one named Jason who I would go to for the rest of my high school career. It took awhile and a lot of effort, but we finally put a band together Sophomore that had the friend who was going to play guitar on drums, a different singer, a new friend on guitar and the one who was going to play drums too busy to participate because he was doing musicals. We practiced a lot, went through two lead singers (the musical dude eventually became the singer) and played a few parties, but nothing too fancy. It was a ton of fun. Senior year, we got our shit together, played Battle of the Bands and won. One of these days, I’ll figure out how to convert the VHS tape into YouTube clips to really embarrass everyone.

Bennet band practice.

Between playing music and learning more about it, I had a great time in high school as far as music was concerned. My buddy Chad, who would become the guitar player in the band (it was called The Pen Is Mightier, first, then Bennet after the singer change in case you were wondering) helped me get even further into classic rock, by really introducing me to Pink Floyd and some other bands. The summer after my sophomore year of high school, I started working at Barry’s Bagel Place and would continue to on and off until I moved out to New York to work at Wizard. That was a whole other world of music to get exposed to thanks to all kinds of new people of all different ages with different tastes. That’s where I discovered the Buzzcocks! The bakers got to choose the music played in the back and they had a big effect on what I was listening to as did this dude Matt who I worked up front with. He was a big fan of classic rock. But, the biggest influence on my at that time was working down the strip mall from my beloved Boogie Records, an independent record store that sold new and used CDs, records, DVDs, patches, the whole shebang. I can’t tell you how many laps I did around those racks before the place closed down when I was in college, but I wound up buying all kinds of CDs from them. It wasn’t until well after Kurt Cobain died that I really got into Nirvana. I had picked Nevermind a while before, but at some point I got really into them and went back and bought all their CDs at Boogie and even got a rad interview disc called The Bark Not The Bite that I should give another listen to. My tastes tended towards rock, classic and alternative including the growing pop punk of the day, but not much into metal or the nu-metal that was popping up all around me. While some of my friends got into Korn, I never could. I guess I wasn’t angry enough. Plus. those dudes always seemed like posers to me anyway.

Not my actual hair style in college, the ladies had fun with me then I played pourly, but looked cool.

In college, I had much less money to spend on music, but I did expand my horizons, slowly getting into blues, hip hop, country and jazz thanks to a class I took my senior year. I started with old school hip hop, outlaw country and general blues but I was liking it all. I also dropped my outstanding dislike of pop music, deciding it’s more fun to have fun with crappy pop music than it is to outright hate everything. Sure, there’s bad–really bad–pop music out there, but what’s the point of letting it upset you? Shitty music has always been around, it takes effort to work past that to get to the good stuff. While in college, the whole digital thing started happening, but I was mostly oblivious to it, preferring my CDs and, yes, my mini disc player. It wasn’t until right before I moved to NY and got my Mac that I discovered the joys of ripping all your music to a computer and a year or say later when the glorious iPod entered my life (it’s almost full now, which is kind of sad). Sometime around the end of high school, I decided I wanted a guitar and got a Squier Telecaster start-up pack, which I took with me, along with a bass, to college. I only ever played two gigs/shows/recitals in college but I liked having my gear around to play with. Still do.

Now I find myself with more CDs than I care to count, a small collection of records and an iPod nearly full of music with more to put on. I don’t really spend a lot of money on new music, but usually try new things out that I pick up at flea markets and garage sales. I’m generally cheap, so the idea of being able to get a disc for a few bucks is very appealing and allows me to try a lot of new things (for what it’s worth, I’m against pirating music). I’ve found a TON of 90s hip hop CDs at garage sales. The thing that still blows me away about music is how broad of a topic it can be. I used to think I knew a lot about a lot, but that was mostly all popular music. I know dudes who can talk for hours about bands I’ve never heard of.

So, what’s the point of this post aside from rambling scattershot about my history with music? Well, first off, it’s a way of me telling you that I’m going to be writing more about music on the blog. Music Mondays will now be Music Musings because I’m not sure if posts will always go up on Mondays. I’m also planning on actually doing record reviews on a more regular basis and documenting my exploration of new-to-me music genres like 80s music (to a 90s alternakid, the 80s were one big joke, but there’s obviously a lot of good stuff in there). For a brief period of time I got paid to do this kind of stuff, which was a life long dream. I’m hoping that my newfound enthusiasm for music will combine with this crazy blogging addiction I seem to have and make for some interesting posts. If not, well, I’ll probably just quit doing them and post more music videos or something.

Thrashin’ (1986) Is Awesome

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Thrashin‘s basically a genetically designed movie to be liked by yours truly considering I love Airborne, Lords of Dogtown, Dogtown and Z-Boys, the Red Hot Chili Peppers and ridiculous 80s movies. This skating flick stars Josh Brolin as a young, skating dude who meets a girl who is the sister of the rival skating gang called The Daggers. As you might expect, this causes quite a bit of tension between Brolin’s gang (filled with dudes who are named Radley and look a lot like Jason Segel) and the Daggers. My favorite ridiculous moments from the movie include the crazy skating party which includes dudes dancing on their boards and also the Red Hot Chili Peppers (one of my favorite bands of all time) and a joust between Brolin and the main bad guy where they’re skating a half pipe of sorts and trying to hit each other with, what looks like, pillows on the end of chains, kind of like a mace.

The skating is super fun and quite different than you might expect if you watch the X-Games nowadays. Speaking of which, Tony Hawk’s in this flick, though I wasn’t able to easily grab a screencap of him, so is Christian Hosoi who was the subject of the Rising Son doc I watched and really dug who I also didn’t get a cap of. Also, check out the brown haired girl in the fifth pic, that’s Sherilyn Fenn of Twin Peaks fame playing Velvet, the Daggers’ resident Betty.

I had a great time watching this movie because it’s a nice relic from its time. Plus, I’m a sucker for anything with skateboards, rollerskates, roller blades or BMX bikes (I kind of want to watch Airborne and Rad again after this, or possibly BMX Bandits). If you’re a fan of anything I mentioned in the past few paragraphs, do yourself a favor and check the movie out. It’s currently available to watch on Instant Netflix!

Book Review: Whores An Oral History of Perry Farrell and Jane’s Addiction

I had this great plan to read through all the classic literature I have sitting around in my to-read pile. I got through Gulliver’s Travels, lost The House of Seven Gables and next up was Great Expectations. Since I didn’t really want to jump into that I went and read Sonic Boom because I figured it was non-fiction and didn’t count. I still didn’t feel like reading Great Expectations, so I’m pretty much giving that up for now (though the pile will remain sitting next to my bed in chronological order) and decided to read ores An Oral History of Perry Farrell and Jane’s Addiction by Brendan Mullen.

I’m not a huge Jane’s Addiction fan. The only real reason I picked this book up is because I absolutely loved Live From New York An Uncensored History Of Saturday Night Live by Tom Shales and James Andrew Miller, which was the first oral history book I’ve ever read, I like books about music and it was $0.98, as you can see in the above scan. An oral history is a biography of someone or something that basically pieces together interviews with tons of people to tell a larger story. Sean did one for Maxim about the history of Marvel that will hopefully also become a book at some point. You can read that here.

So, I read Whores in a week or two, I tend to burn through these kinds of books because they’re fast reads and usually very engrossing. And yeah, Whores was engrossing, but it also had its problems. One of the universal problems for oral histories that I’ve seen is piecing these interviews together into a coherent story. So much of telling a story depends on knowing the facts or steps and relaying them in a specific order, but when you’re talking to so many people over so many years, I can see how details get lost in the shuffle, maybe you even remember certain elements of the story while you’re going back through transcripts, but you can’t get anyone else on the phone to talk about it again. There’s a lot going on. The SNL book did a rad job of this, as does Sean in what I’ve read of his longer drafts (seriously, this thing will make an unbelievable book). And, for the most part, Mullen does a pretty good job, but there’s one huge hole that’s inexcusable in my book (heh, pun unintended). You see, Perry Farrell had this girlfriend named Casey Niccoli who was pretty integral to Jane’s Addiction for years. There’s a brief mention that they break up eventually and all that, but no one in the book actually talks about it and the next thing you know, Perry’s married to someone else. Part of the problem is that the intro tells us that the Jane’s dudes didn’t do interviews with him. BUT, it does seem like Casey did. It’d be like doing a book on The Beatles and talking about Lennon’s first wife and all of a sudden he’s with Yoko and there’s no mention of the break up. It’s weird and annoying, especially when there’s all these details about Farrell’s weird DJ persona called DJ Peretz, who Mullen credits quotes from Farrell and Peretz on the SAME PAGE!

All in all, it’s definitely worth checking out, especially if you can get it for $1. There were other problems I had, like why does he randomly italicize whole quotes? I dunno. But, it really made me want to grab every Jane’s Addition and Porno For Pyros that I don’t already have, which is really the point of this kind of a book. I was also fascinated by the accounts of their early days in the early and mid 80s in LA. It sounds like some crazy times. Plus, my first Red Hot Chili Peppers album was One Hot Minute, so reading about Dave Navarro’s involvement in that record (along with tons of quotes from Flea) was a lot of fun.

One other quick comment about the book, something that you should keep in mind is that it was published in 2005, so it doesn’t have anything about Carmen Electra and Navarro’s break up or the reunion of all four original Jane’s Addiction members a few years back. I’m not sure if there’s an updated version, that would be rad. As it is, the book kind of peters out at the end, kind of like Sonic Book did. There was all this detail in the beginning and then, by the end you’re getting these really quick quotes from various people, though the Carmen and Dave stuff is really interesting at the end. That’s life though, right? There’s never a real ending unless everyone’s dead.