CD-a-Day: Good Music For Bad News Edition

Chevelle: Wonder What's Next

I've been running into a lot of old friends within the last two weeks, people I haven't seen for years or so. Twice in Albertson's, once in Target, and certainly on Facebook. I sense that, with the great changes in my life regarding baby Yusef and other things that are coming to a head, God is sending me these people for a reason. I'm not sure what that reason is yet, but I'm afraid I have an idea, and it has everything to do with getting me to see the value these people have in my life, as well as the value I have in theirs, and to think about upping the ante in both regards, especially as my intentions and reputation are put to the test.

This has what to do with Chevelle? Well, it has to do with putting this disk in and cranking it up and rocking out in my car on the way to and from work, thinking about my relationships with friends and former friends, those I care about and those who have chosen not to care about me.

There is some culling that has happened in my life, and not by my choice...people that have chosen, specifically, to have nothing more to do with me. Also, those that I have neglected because of time or other interests. To both, I am sorry for broken relationship. Sorry, as in sorrowful. I realize that things are changing, and change is good, though sometimes painful. So, if nothing else, the title of this disk is certainly appropriate here, and now.

CD-a-Day: Metal Apologetics Edition

Chevelle: Point #1

So, guilty: I like Chevelle. I have since this album came out while I was in Revelation. Power (emphasis on power) trios are always welcome, and these kids do well with the rocking and the rolling.

This disk is, actually, their weakest. I have a hard time listening to it now, if not for Steve Albini's production which makes the drums sound about as big and full and gun-shotty as you can get. But it's almost too raw. Their later stuff, which I got last year through work, is tighter, catchier and more mature...but maybe that's the charm of Point #1. It's three kids hammering out what they can with what they've got, and nailing it.

So, you hipsters may wonder what kind of taste I can have when I gave a resounding "meh" to The Chieftains yesterday while praising Chevelle today, who some might say are just steps away from Creed, and not just alphabetically. What can I say...I'm in a mood for metal. And why not? It's summer, kids. Rock on. Go get your favorite band-named-after-a-car and turn it way up. I will, this week anyway.

And yeah, Creed is on the list...

CD-a-Day: Tradi' Edition

The Chieftains: The Long Black Veil

When Shandree and I went to Ireland, all we wanted to do was find a pub where there were some good old locals playing some rich traditional music with bodhran and tin whistle and lots 'o' lilt. What we found were drunks singing Jimmy Buffet covers, and a great band called Leya, whom I'm sad to say broke up a year later after their CD came out, which I'm sadder to say I don't own.

So these guys, the Chieftains. Pretty traditional, for sure. And here, they get the talents of Sting, Mick Jagger and the Rolling Stones, Sinead O'Connor, et al. to share the recording booth with them. And it's all just fine. Just...fine.

The track that gives the disc it's title is about a man singing from beyond the grave about the woman who mourns him, a woman who happens to be the wife of his best friend. Seems he was sleeping with her when a man was murdered by a killer that looks like the singer, and rather than provide his alibi and shame his friend's wife, he lets them hang him. Awww...isn't that romantic?

This stuff would've been better live. I'm still a little bitter. And hoppy.

CD-a-Day: Overproduced Meh Edition

Tracy Chapman: Tracy Chapman

I just realized, as I was writing this out, that my two best friends in High School were named Tracy Flowers (Yes, a man, and a manly man at that) and Jason Chapman. That fact does not engender me to this CD, sadly.

All children of the 80's and early 90's know Chapman's "Fast Car", the longest of the songs here and the most droning. I think what really got folks hot'n'bothered about Ms. Chapman was the fact that here was a black woman singing folk songs ala Simon and Garfunkel or Joan Baez. You can read my review on Joan to know how predisposed I am, therefore, to Tracy. And I'd say she's way more Garfunkel then Simon. She might be (so I read) great live, but this disk was obviously made with studio musicians who had no connection to the songs. Everything is perfectly played, perfectly timed, and perfectly boring. One standout, where Tracy sings a Capella, still does nothing for me. She does something for someone, though, with her multiple Grammys. You go, girl. (and keep on going...)

The only other song I have any connection to is "Baby Can I Hold You", which my first "band" the Fisher Folk did at an acoustic cover night at an extinct coffee shoppe in El Cajon. I think I sang on it, and I was terrible. Which works out, 'cuz the song isn't so great.


Centro-Matic: Love You Just the Same

This CD is proof that sound can heal. If you don't own this, and have any love of Indie Rock 'n' Roll, stop reading and go purchase. I'll wait. Here's a picture to help you out:

Liste to those drums! Do you know, the drums on the cover are what the guy used in the recording...they're plastic. Yes! And they sound amazing, right? He had that kit when I saw them at the Casbah many moons ago...must've been almost seven years now. That opening song! Oh, it's such a solid tune...almost a closer, but man! What a hook. And then, the whole of the record swings and sways and crashes and soothes. Perfect. Will Johnson's sublime lyrics and soft-yet-aggressive voice are a revelation. Indeed, I'll say it again...the best band you've never heard.

What else? I stole this CD from Adam. I guess he could get it back, if he asks really nicely. Now, watch this video (the song isn't on the album, but it's good!) and then find Centro-Matic.


CD-a-Day: $1.99 Amoeba Clearance Edition

Centro-Matic: Distance and Clime

Centro-Matic is the best band you've never heard of. As the title says, I found this CD in a bargain bin, and to tell the truth, I got one up on Amoeba Records in the deal. These Texans, with their rich soil-flavored rock, owned me from the minute I saw them play live at the Casbah, touring their better (and tomorrow's review) album; However this disc is still gold. Dirty, heavy gold turned from the earth with heart-beat drums and heavy distortion. I urge you to listen to Centro-Matic, and in particular on this CD "The Given Geography" and "Fountains of Fire".

My friend, Steve, who I haven't spoken with in years, loved these guys. I imagine he still does. When I hear them, I think of him fondly, and imagine him driving through the desert in his jeep, the top down, the sun setting, air warm in his lungs and dry, the kind of air that makes water taste better and better, and you realize that you were missing out on water, even though you have access to it all the time back home...

CD-a-Day: Lebanese Edition

Cedar: Tree

I've had this CD in the car for the last three months, since I let CD-a-Day rot on the vine. I was lazy. I only listened to it three or four times, twice the other day when I intended to resuscitate this column at the beginning of the month. You know, start on the 1st and all that. The disc sits in front of me now, ready to put back on the shelf after I write this.

That's not to say the CD is bad. Not by any means. It's just a little too long ad a little rough. Christian kids from town, they put this out in 1999. Who knows if they're still playing together? All I know is I was listening to it the other day, and a minivan with window sticker of a little Calvin praying had "Cedar" taped to the other side of the rear window. I almost stopped them to see if it was in appreciation for the band. I didn't, but I know where they live now...

This is jangly indie-emo rock. Some of it is very solid. Some of it needs refinement in the areas of tempo and dynamics. All of it is blatantly praise and/or commentary on Christian ethics. I was blessed to hear it, but the juvenile repetition and choice of lyrical delivery might not warrant multiple immersions in it's waters. Also, four of eleven tracks have the word "song" in the title. That's just lazy.

I won't be rid of this CD. I like it, and I like having it. But there isn't much to recommend to anyone not of faith. And that, too, is lazy.

A Good Run

This video is from March of this year. I played fairly steadily with Marie Haddad (with Jason Hee on bass) for almost 5 years, starting in 2005. We recorded an album I'm very proud of called "A Beautiful Road" at Sven-Erik Seaholm's Kitsch & Sync Studio. The whole process was great, and I'm thankful for it.

Last month, in light of my impending fatherhood and stretched interests, I tendered my resignation from Marie's band. She was, characteristically to those who know her, gracious and thankful for the years, and I was sad and proud at the same time. Marie is a wonderful woman, a wonderful talent, and I was blessed to be able to help her in my small way. This tune, "Collision", is one of my favorites, and we never put it on an album. I'm glad the whole song and performance was captured.

Cheers, Marie. Your kindness and talent are a joy, and Shandree, Yusef and I are glad to name you as a friend.
toy brain

Playing with Toys

At the height of nerdiness, I am. I guess I'm just getting ready for the arrival of my boy. At any rate, go to my new Flickr page and see what I did in the yard this afternoon.

I gotta tell you, it was pretty fun. Now for a beer and some more reading up on the birth process. Happy Saturday, kids!

To the Stars

Carl Macek, Robotech's crafter, passes away at 58.

I'm kinda surprised at how sad this news makes me. I still have the Robotech Art 1 book Carl signed for me at Comic Castle years ago. Of course, he spelled my name wrong. Of course, I didn't care. The man was a pleasure, and chatted with me and everyone there, complimenting fan-art guys brought in and building enthusiasm for what might come next.

A few years later, I saw him again, introducing the premiere of Akira at the SD Comic Con. Another milestone for anime in America, to be sure, and one I thouroughly enjoyed seeing in English, truth be told.

Sure, a lot of American Otaku will disparage Carl, saying he "ruined" three shows by combining them to form Robotech. I respectfully disagree. While I really enjoy anime when it's translated directly, I also still enjoy Robotech. Carl worked with what he could...if the television stations wouldn't allow syndication of three separate shows, why, he'd give them one long epic. And epic it was. I'm a bit saddened that nothing on TV has yet to purposefully achieve the cross-generational scope that Robotech did by necessity.

Carl Macek was integral to informing my current pop-culture sensibilities. His work has stood the test of time, and for that, I thank him. May his family and friends remember him fondly. I know I will.