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Friday, September 30, 2011

Balún -- While Sleeping


An Icelandic band called Múm pioneered a unique musical sound, combining electronic bloops and bleeps with traditional instruments, and whimsical, childlike vocals. Some time around 2004, Múm almost completely abandoned this sound for a more folky one, but some kids from Mexico stepped in and picked it right back up. Those kids are in a band called Balún, and their EP, While Sleeping, is one of the best things you've never heard that you can download right now for free. Or maybe you have heard it, in which case you already know how awesome this EP is.
While Sleeping is absolutely gorgeous, the kind of music the word "wonderful" was invented for, as it can be applied in an absolutely literal sense to this release.

You Should Listen to Balún's "I Shouldn't Do This"

The only problem with While Sleeping, and the reason I can't give it a 10, is that it is less than fifteen minutes long. Then again, listening to it twice can easily solve this problem, though there is enough pathos--a clear beginning, middle, and emotional end--to make the fifteen minutes feel complete with just one play...though that is kind of like eating just one potato chip (here is a parenthetical; a semi-colon, as well: I figured I might as well try to get every kind of punctuation possible into this sentence).

2004 Self-Released
1. I Shouldn't Do This 5:27
2. Senecio (Revisited) 2:00
3. While Sleeping 2:42
4. Snol 4:38

The Letter "B"

Well, the Letter "A" is finished. It will never be used s prt of our lnguge gin.
Just kidding. I've finished the "A" Section of my "Every Album I Own" review series and will begin the "B" section today on my lunch break. "B" should take quite a while and will contain some pretty notable releases. The craziest, probably most stupid thing I am going to do in the next few weeks: take on the ENTIRE Beatles back catalog. Considering the difficulty I have had with that band my entire life (a life which began about a decade after their dispersal), that should be interesting...or it should be something. Anyway, thanks for reading. Traffic's been great, and I feel like, for the first time in a really long time, this blog is internationally alive again. Sty tuned.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Average Joe Aspiring -- The Big Idea


At the turn of the century, punk was like screamo is now. Oversaturated, with a ton of really, really sucky bands cluttering up the scene. Also, just like screamo now, there was an inordinant quantity of good bands in the Christian punk genre (yeah, there's no such thing as "Christian" music, "Christians in a band", blah, blah, blah. Funny how that discusion hasn't changed either): MxPx, Craig's Brother, Slick Shoes, the list goes on and on. Unfortunately, as the scene tightened and ended, a couple of really good bands got dropped beneath the cracks in the floorboard. One of those bands was Average Joe Aspiring.
Average Joe only put out one full length album, The Big Idea, released by Screaming Giant Records in 2000. I only heard it because Screaming Giant sent a copy to my old radio show at KLSU. I played songs from The Big Idea on air often, but Average Joe Aspiring still broke up, and punk, at least as a popular fad, died (or pop-punk, since it was "pop"ular, whatever, blah, blah, blah. Funny how that discussion doesn't exist anymore). Then dudes started wearing girls' jeans and singing and shrieking like them, too. Personally, I preferred punk, but anyway, today I can still turn to The Big Idea as a great time machine into turn of the century punk's glory days.
Average Joe Aspiring had it all. The musicians were incredibly talented. They could play faster than lightning, but they could also change it up, playing poppier Greenday-like numbers one minute, then playing the next song so quickly, the drummer could only be an octopus. Also, they could do this in the same song:

Listen to Average Joe Aspiring's "Help Wanted"

The vocals and harmonies were are also very pleasant, and the songwriting was great, varied enough to where the album never became monontonous. It also helped that Average Joe dropped in snazzy instrumental breaks any time space was needed. The lyrics were incredibly optimistic and spiritually minded, and the kid riding in the wagon was a great mascot for them.
I keep speaking in the past tense as it's been a decade since Average Joe Aspiring called it quits, but the awesome thing about music is that it can always be in present just have to be listening to it.
And you can, for CHEAP!
Or you can just go torrent it, you lazy kids! (Funny how that discussion didn't exist back then. You actually had to BUY things. Yeah, I know, there was Napster, downloading one album over the whole night on dial-up, whatever, blah, blah, blah...)

2000 Screaming Giant Records
1. Swerve 1:20
2. Panic 2:26
3. Help Wanted 3:04
4. Homeward Bound 3:08
5. All Sorts of Aimless 4:40
6. Clockwise 3:07
7. Make Believe 4:10
8. Proclaim 2:39
9. Stained 3:03
10. The Least of These 4:03
11. Heartache 3:54
12. Break My Heart 3:36
13. Falling Up 2:44
14. New Creature 4:45
15. He Paved a Way 4:40

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Audio Adrenaline -- Some Kind of Zombie


Audio Adrenaline's Some Kind of Zombie is a bit of a conundrum. It retains the more rocking sound of Bloom, and maybe rocks a little harder. The difference is, the classic rock influence is replaced with an industrial touch. Check out the title track.

Listen to Audio Adrenaline's "Some Kind of Zombie"

This adds an entirely new dynamic to Audio Adrenaline's sound, but the classic rock touches are missed. This would be okay, though, but for one thing: the songwriting is just not as solid as it was on Bloom. Audio Adrenaline had a guitar player change-up during the recording of this album, and this may have had an effect on the process. As they went on from Some Kind of Zombie, they seemed to gel better and better until the end, so perhaps this album can be looked at as a bit of a placeholder--an album where the band is in motion and unfocused, looking for the next direction. Despite the weaker songwriting, Some Kind of Zombie is certainly not bad, and not overly dated. It is a little reminscent of early Skillet with stronger vocals--Mark Stuart again sounds great here, though the classic rock sound better complemented his voice. However, Audio Adrenaline would find their way again soon.

1997 Forefront Records
1. Chevette 4:19
2. New Body 3:57
3. Some Kind of Zombie 4:45
4. Original Species 4:32
5. People Like Me 3:15
6. Blitz 4:13
7. Lighthouse 5:01
8. Flicker 3:54
9. God-Shaped Hole 4:08
10. Superfriend 9:13

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Audio Adrenaline -- Bloom


Now this is the Audio Adrenaline I remember! Real drums, dominant guitars, the keyboard only used as a backing instrument, and sweet bass lines. More importantly, Mark Stuart's voice. No rapping here, just good ole rock-and-roll singing. That great, gritty, emotive voice, stretching itself to the point that it's easy to see why it went out ten years later (the reason the band was forced to split). The music itself is a pretty good mix of 90's alternative and classic rock that still sounds just fine today. Bloom is not dated at all. This would all be for naught if the songs sucked, but they don't. Every song feels like a classic. Bloom could easily pass for a greatest hits package. Even the slower songs are great and highlight the huge uptick in lyrical quality between Don't Censor Me and Bloom. Check the honesty and vulnerability in "Man of God."

Listen to Audio Adrenaline's "Man of God"

Bloom is a 90's Christian Rock classic, and should definitely be placed in the "Holy Trinity" of mid-90's Christian Alternative albums along with DC Talk's Jesus Freak, Newboys' Take Me to Your Leader, and Jars of Clay's self-titled debut. Of course, then it would be a "Holy Quadrangle" right? Also, this album's humble attitude and gentle sense of humor would take issue with the descriptor "holy." Humility aside, there really aren't any good synonyms for "classic," which is why I keep using the word again and again. If you liked this in the mid-90's, you should visit it again for some completely shame-free nostalgia (shame-free because this CD is nothing to be ashamed of), and if you missed it, check it out and weep at the fact that the prevalance of quality Christian Alternative music will probably never again reach the peak it did in the mid-90's.

1996 Forefront Records
1. Secrets 3:42
2. Never Gonna Be as Big as Jesus 4:26
3. Good People 3:26
4. I'm Not the King 3:53
5. Walk on Water 3:51
6. See Through 4:58
7. Free Ride 3:22
8. Man of God 4:17
9. Gloryland 4:24
10. Jazz Odyssey 1:21
11. Bag Lady 4:09
12. I Hear Jesus Calling 3:22
13. Memoir 5:09

Monday, September 26, 2011

Audio Adrenaline -- Don't Censor Me


Audio Adrenaline's sophmore album, Don't Censor Me, kicks off with a groovy bassline and a bouncy, electronic drumbeat. This opening track, "Can't Take God Away" features a good deal of keyboard and organ, and not much guitar. It even features a surprisingly atmospheric bridge full of gospel-style vocals, and an outro sung by Toby Mac.
And then the hip-hop kicks in. I forgot about the early 90's pop-rock environment, and the prevalance of attempted hip-hop by people who probably shouldn't have been doing it. The second track "A.K.A Public School," brought back my 18-year old memories of that unfortunately dated sound. Basically, your enjoyment of Don't Censor Me will hinge on your nostalgia for that sound. If you look back at it fondly, you can have a lot of fun listening to this album. If the idea of that kind of music makes you want to dunk your head in the toilet in an attempt to flush the memories away, you should probably steer clear. Hip-hop doesn't pop up on every track, but it occurs far more often on Don't Censor Me than any rocking sound, which is what I initially thought of when I remembered this band. I guess that sound came later?
Regardless, Don't Censor Me can be a kind of fun album if you let it, goofy programmed drums and all. If anything, there is always "Big House," which STILL gets daily play on just about every Christian radio station in America, almost 20 years after Don't Censor Me's release.
Don't act like you don't remember it.

Listen to Audio Adrenaline's "Big House"

1993 Forefront Records
1. Can't Take God Away 3:53
2. A.K.A. Public School 3:29
3. Soulmate 3:34
4. My World View 4:22
5. Big House 3:31
6. Jesus and the California Kid 2:53
7. Don't Censor Me 3:15
8. Let Love 4:32
9. We're a Band 3:59
10. Rest Easy 4:38
11. Scum Sweetheart 4:14

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Reviews this Week

The Nicsperiment's Every Album I Own Reviews will be continuing this week with the conclusion of the letter A. The week will start with reviews of some music I haven't really listened to before--some Audio Adrenaline albums I inherited from my sister. Should be interesting...or it should be something. I have fond memories of that guy's voice, so I'm looking forward to it. Also looking forward to being 1/26 of the way through this feature, though I am really, really enjoying it.
Enjoy the last seven hours of your weekend!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Asobi Seksu -- Hush


Asobi Seksu change things up again on their third outing, Hush. Guitarist, James Hanna, strips away a lot of the waves of distortion cloaking his guitars and focuses more on delay and reverb. Meanwhile, Yuki Chikudate's keyboard moves to the forefront. The band shoots for more of a dreamy, almost lazy feeling, and while this is quite lovely in each individual song, the album as a whole is a bit much to take in one sitting. I was more apt to dismiss Hush on the first few listens, but I later found myself humming songs from it and realized that almost every one on this album is good. The constant hum of the keyboard and the more droning guitar tones just make them lump together in one 45-minute sitting. There are still explosions of noise so to speak, but even they are of a more subdued nature. Take the outburst at 3:07 on "Meh No Mae."

The keyboard is the most dominant instrument, most of the guitar layers are washed in effects rather than distortion, and the drums are more tom-focused than cymbal. Contrast that with the raw guitar and crashing cymbals at the denouement of the track I posted in yesterday's review of Citrus. It's good but drastically different, and it's a great picture of what you are getting with Hush.
Asobi Seksu should be applauded for tinkering and experimenting with their sound, even if it doesn't quite bring the explosive results they've been known for in the past. If they had varied the sound a bit more, Hush could have at least been as enjoyable as Asobi Seksu's self-titled debut. As it stands, Hush is a good album in chunks and quite a grower, but not the best place for those first wading into Asobi Seksu's vast ocean of sound to start.

2009 Polyvinyl
1. Layers 4:00
2. Familiar Light 3:22
3. Sing Tomorrow's Praise 3:34
4. Gliss Chikudate, Hanna 4:03
5. Transparence 3:48
6. Risky and Pretty 0:44
7. In the Sky 3:40
8. Meh No Mae 4:03
9. Glacially 4:18
10. I Can't See 4:17
11. Me & Mary 3:07
12. Blind Little Rain 4:34

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Asobi Seksu -- Citrus


Asobi Seksu's Citrus is a 47-minute headrush. The band's disparate, but enjoyable self-titled debut had many different strands. With Citrus, Asobi Seksu take the loud, joyful streaks and run with them. While the guitars buzz and the rhythm section is driving, the album always manages to contain a warm, close feeling.
Also, there are some exuberant bursts of noise so blissful, they will make your cheeks glow.

Listen to Asobi Seksu's "Exotic Animal Paradise"

Overall, Citrus features a band playing to their strengths and wildly succeeding. The instruments create constant fireworks that wrap around the vocals like an effervescent blanket, and the vocals burn with an intimate intensity that thrives and feeds on the energy surrounding them.
Or in South Louisiana Speak (SLS):
It sounds real pretty.

2006 Friendly Fire
1. Everything Is On 0:17
2. Strawberries 3:57
3. New Years 3:01
4. Thursday 4:17
5. Strings 5:27
6. Pink Cloud Tracing Paper 3:27
7. Red Sea 7:45
8. Goodbye 3:44
9. Lions and Tigers 4:08
10. Nefi+Girly 4:37
11. Exotic Animal Paradise 4:06
12. Mizu Asobi 2:40

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Asobi Seksu -- Asobi Seksu


Asobi Seksu's debut is one of those albums tough to describe without just throwing out genre buzzwords like dream-pop or shoegaze. It sounds like a release by a band with a lot of talent not quite sure of what they want to do, but interested in trying a lot of things, and good at pretty much all those things. At the risk of being obtuse, here is a really abstract review.
Every silver lining has a cloud. Every thing would be perfect if we were together, but we are not together. Oh, well, I guess I'll go out.

I'm over it, I guess. Nothing like a lazy, late summer day, in the grass, clouds above. Hell, I'm not over it. I'll probably live, though. I might do some bad things while I'm dealing. Wait, you're not over it, either? Sighing isn't speaking.
Keyboardist, Yuki Chikudate, and guitar-player, James Hanna, trade off female/male vocals nicely, and they both sound like they mean it. Guitars are sometimes a beautiful, bowl-over wall of sound, sometimes just one acoustic, plaintively strummed. The color red:

2004 Friendly Fire
1. I'm Happy But You Don't Like 3:07
2. Sooner 3:45
3. Umi de No Jisatsu 2:23
4. Walk on the Moon 4:33
5. Let Them Wait 2:47
6. Taiyo 2:01
7. It's Too Late 7:17
8. End at the Beginning 4:21
9. Asobi Masho 1:25
10. Stay 5:02
11. Before We Fall 2:39

Monday, September 19, 2011

As Cities Burn -- Hell or High Water


As Cities Burn frontman, Cody Bonnette, actually seems like he is having fun on their swansong album, Hell or High Water. Considering their previous album, Come Now Sleep, was as serious as two heart attacks, this is a minor miracle.
The album kicks off with immediate energy in the form of "'84 Sheepdog," and the energy even gains--*gasp*--positivity with a super fun horn-breakdown and the repeated refrain "round and round we go." It's almost unbelievable that this is the same band, and in a way, it's not. Bonnette wrote and recorded a lot of this music himself, with second guitarist Chris Lott flying in to play a couple of fun accentuating riffs on most of the tracks, and drummer, Aaron Lunsford, tracking some drums. This almost makes for a "Cody & Friends" feeling, and considering the fun, explorative mood Bonnette seemed to be in during these recording sessions, that's just fine. Even the songs with less-than chipper POV's aren't downers--"Made Too Pretty" has pretty deep lyrical aspirations, but unlike the more ponderous moments of "Come Now Sleep," never gets bogged down, staying enjoyable and inventive throughout. "Lady Blue" seems like it will wander down the dreary "Sleep" road as well, but then the ramshackle percussion comes in, and the "round and round" refrain from "Errand Rum" comes back with a synthesizer and a female-backup. The whole thing sounds like a scavenger hunt in a medieval castle, or (fitting the song-titles and album artwork) the hallways under the deck of a pirate ship.

Bonnette sounds just the right amount of detached throughout Hell or High Water, and even pokes fun of himself a little bit ("If there's one thing bigger than my head, it's the distance I've been misled" and "If all the world's a stage, then it's not mine."). He even laughs a couple times. The result makes for many rewarding listens, even back to back, as the 35-minute length is long enough to feel complete, but not exhausting to the point that you don't want to listen to it again immediately. The disc evens ends on a light note with "Capo," a straight-forward, keyboard-driven rocker about greedy televangelists that features a fun, simple tag-team chorus between Bonnette and Jonzetta frontman, Robert Chisolm: "I've got nothing to say to you."
This is actually a band with a lot to say, and the new sense of light-heartedness actually gives As Cities Burn more of an edge than the old gloominess. The sound of a studio-door closing left in the background of "Capo" highlights this more than ever--it's like the sound of their pretentions leaving as they make their final statement...and just as they finally reached a perfect balance between sound and aspiration...they broke up.
At least they ended things on a High note.
There is your lame Nicsperiment pun for the week.
IN CONCLUSION FOR THOSE OBLIVIOUS TO REPEATED WORDS AND STATEMENTS: If you liked parts of Come Now Sleep , thought As Cities Burn had a lot of talent, but also thought they really needed to lighten up, this album is just about perfect.

2009 Tooth & Nail
1. '84 Sheepdog 3:08
2. Errand Rum 3:17
3. Into the Sea 4:32
4. Made Too Pretty 4:06
5. Lady Blue 6:20
6. Petty 3:39
7. Daughter 3:13
8. Pirate Blues 4:08
9. Capo 4:10

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Minnesota, Day Five: It's All Over But the...Wait...I did that Already, or Sitting in the Atlanta Airport Eating Nachos

I lay/lie/laid in bed that morning and thought about how awesome the day before was. I had a great time with my friends, a good time with my brother and sister-in-law, and the LSU football team dominated Oregon, the number three team in the nation. Also I ate/drank a turkey leg, fried cheese curds, mead, a cheeseburger, a hot fudge sundae, a butterscotch malt, and an Arnold Palmer, which is a mix of iced tea and lemonade named after the famous astronaut. It was his favorite drink before a spacewalk.
Now the trip was over. It was time to quickly fly over much of the terrain my brother and I took days to drive through. So they brought me to the airport and I took one last picture with them in the chaos of the Minnesota streets:
 photo jurassic-park-4.jpg
I sure hope they can get street smart fast because I don't know how they will survive in this chaos. Actually, here is a real picture of the three of us, with below-the-neck battle wounds obscured, though my neck fat is not:
 photo 772624-R1-26-0A.jpg
You can already see the danger-bred tension in their faces from just three days in that battleground. How they will survive in such a dangerous region is unknown to me, but I hope this is not the last photograph I ever take with them. Good luck, you two. See if you can enroll in those street smart classes, and find out how everyone else got those weaponized dinosaurs to ride. Though I don't need one in the small town hamlet of Louisiana, it would still be fun to ride around the bayou and chase my friends' pirougues as they paddle their way to school, leaving their stilted swamp-cabins unlocked without fear of entry to anything more than a drunk alligator or a friendly swarm of horseflies.
With the urban nightmarescape behind me, I made it through Minnesota customs, and boarded my flight.
Sometimes flying is okay, and sometimes you just want the plane to crash. Maybe that humor was a little black, and maybe I don't have a deathwish, but the second flight that day was even worse, and I haven't even gotten to that yet. Well, anyway, my first flight landed in Atlanta, the sweet, safe South of Southern Belles, moonlight, and magnolias. No more gunshots and gang warfare. I ate at some gross restaurant that touted itself as being a famous and delicious Southern tradition, but I did get to eat food that didn't poison me, and I got to read, so I can't really complain.
Then I got on the final flight. It was extremely overbooked and seemed made to only fit twenty passengers. I barely fit my carry-on into the overhead compartment. Then it started raining.
It was time for the wrath of Tropical Storm Lee. Oregon felt it the night before, but this was an altogether different Lee, who, instead of touchdown passes, threw twenty inches of rain in my face. It rained the whole way up through the clouds, and no ground was visible the entire, turbulent flight. The girl next to me actually grabbed my arm at one point and asked me if I was okay, but I'm pretty sure she just wanted a positive answer to raise her own trembling spirits. Yes, it was terrifying.
As we came in for a landing, the plane shook, rain hit the windows, and...well they weren't even really windows because you couldn't see anything out of them...they were like clear walls or something...which I guess is what a window is anyway...but dangit...don't you hate when you get stuck in a crappy sentence?
Anyway, thank God, we landed. Everyone stampeded off the flight, and I sucked in fresh oxygen as soon as I stepped off the plane.
I called my wife, and she told me she and my son were waiting just outside. I had no luggage but my carry-on, and I ran out into the rain. She was there, waiting for me. Inside our car, I finally re-united with my son after our tearful goodbye, five days before. Here is a photo of the face he made at me:
 photo 772624-R1-27-00Acatfish.jpg

Haha, like I am going to post a picture of my child on the Internet. What am I, Brad Pitt? Anyway, I got home.
The End.

Canine Postscript,
They are all out of my system, the drugs. I can think clearly now. Squirrels are in abundance here, and the air is fresh and clean. I feel like I am turning over a new leaf after my traumatic experience. I take walks with Punkin everyday, and I've begun journaling. I think this is all for the best. There are mornings where I wake up and feel like I can take on the world, and there are mornings where all I can see is that dark tunnel and no way out. It is at those times that I feel the lowest, but they never last for long. I've got my whole doghood ahead of me. Every day is new. And squirrels taste delicious.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

MInnesota, Day Four: In Which I do not Want to be Eaten by a Catfish

The next morning I was a flesh case of jangling nerves. That sentence was horrible. Anyway, I was very nervous because I was going to meet some from friends that I had...never met before. Fifteen years ago, that sentence would not have made sense, but it's the future now, and beside flying cars and frequent space travel to our colonies on other planets, we also have Internet friendships. I met Jess and soon after, her husband, Neal, (really, are this many commas necessary?) through this very blog almost seven years ago. The fact that I now blog about meeting them in the flesh on this same blog means that the world will end: now...
Crap, that didn't work. I thought I could make a paradox, and I blew it. Nothing even exploded. LAME. Anyway, back to this post, I guess. Neal and Jess live in east-central Minnesota, and drove down to the Twin Cities to meet me. I had never even seen a picture of them, so I had to just assume and hope they were not Catfish. Catfish, if you haven't seen it, is a 2010 documentary about Nev Schulman, a man who believes he has been talking to the daughter of a Michigan painter and the rest of her family on the Internet. In a twist that can only happen in real life, Nev finds he has actually been talking to a monstrous, radioactively mutated Catfish, who in the film's shocking climax, uses its fin-stingers to completely incapacitate Nev before devouring him whole. While this is one of the most gruesome events ever caught on film, I highly recommend you show this movie to your children so that they will be aware of the dangers of the World Wide Web.
My brother had to return the Penske that morning, so my sister-in-law took me to the Edina Target to meet Jess and Neal. I got so nervous, I had to go into Target to pee, and despite the fact that I was wearing a T-Shirt and shorts, someone asked me if I worked there, and if so, could I help them. I guess the employee dress standards are more relaxed at the Edina Target than the ones in Baton Rouge or something.
I came back out to see a car parked next to my sister-law's vehicle. I couldn't look. Would the windows be down to allow the fins to stretch, or would they be up and hermetically sealed so that the car could be filled with water, thus allowing the Catfish to breathe? The doors opened, and I leapt backward in a defensive posture, immediately wishing I had an oar, or better yet, a harpoon gun.
Two completely normal-looking people, one male and tall, one female and not so tall, got out of the car. I sighed with relief. Neal and Jessica were not Siluriformes. They were real people with cool t-shirts.
The three of us got into the car and headed to the Minnesota Renaissance Festival. We have one every year in Baton Rouge, too, but I've never been. Neal and Jess, who had been to the one in Minnesota many times, thought it would be a fun thing to do, and they were right. Of couse, as usual, my main desire was to eat, and eat I did: I nabbed a turkey leg (You actually have to fight the turkey for it, and this can get quite brutal, just as it was in the Middle Ages, but I decieved my turkey into thinking I was just checking it for bug bites before delivering the fatal blow. What can I say, carnivory is a dangerous business), fried cheese curds (you actually have to fight the cheese for the curds, but the fight is really one-sided and delicious), a glass of mead (apparently, mead is honey wine...and it tastes like honey wine, so there you go), and I don't remember what else because I was eating.
Also, people made pretty things out of glass and stuff, but in a flashback to Germany, I couldn't afford any of it and got depressed and just used my meager (but appreciated) funds to purchase more food. The most entertaining performer at the Renaissance Festival was this bard dude that spoke in spoonerisms. He once re-told Romeo and Juliet as Jomeo and Ruliet, and the day we were there he did a version of Rapunzel, known as Parunzel. He also told this joke:
Did you hear what Brad Pitt and Anjolie Jolie named one of their 2,000 kids? Shiloh Pitt. Imagine if I told this joke in a spoonerism.
Awesome. I'll explain it to you later.
Also, I took a picture of myself with Neal and Jessica, but they are private people, so I blurred the picture out a little to keep them anonymous.
Actually, I don't know how to blur a picture out, or even use photoshop, so there you go. Around this point a hunger arose even Renaissance food could not satisfy. It was time to visit a place Neal highly recommended: Convention Grill. We sped out of the past, and into the glorious saturated fat of the future. Convention Grill is a bit like an old-fashioned diner, and more, um, conventional than The Nook, but no less delicious. I got a burger with Muenster, a Butterscotch Malt (YES! BUTTERSCOTCH! YES!), and in a tribute to The Rabbit, and not knowing when I would have the chance to return, a Hot Fudge Sundae. Yes, a malt and a hot fudge sundae at the same time. And there were no cow byproduct survivors.
Also, there were fries.
After the massacre, Neal and Jessica drove me around town...well Neal drove, it would have been awkward and kind of impressive if they had both driven at the same time. We saw some lakes, and either the downtown area or somewhere close to it, and there were people celebrating in the streets for some reason. We all got out of the car, and Neal and Jess, shown unblurred just this once, got a little out of hand, but there you go.
After that little adventure, it was time to get back to my brother's place because LSU was playing because LSU was playing because LSU was playing because LSU was playing.
I invited Neal and Jess in, and they got to see a grown man act like an insane grown man. Also, they had sensible conversation with my brother and sister-in-law. Goofus was there, and he growled a lot and acted like he wanted to bite everybody, but I'm sure that's just because he was having withdrawals from his drug addiction.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Minnesota, Day Three: All Out Gang Warfare

Well, at some point Friday morning, we all woke up on the floor. The mattresses were packed at the back of the truck, but thankfully the blankets were not, so we didn't freeze in the bitter Minnesota summer, if you were worried, and I'm sure you were, but don't worry, we only saw two polar bears, a mommy and a baby, and they were too busy sledding and drinking Coke, just like in the commercials, which are basically just animated mini-documentaries, okay. My brother and I headed out to unload the truck while his wife unpacked the boxes. As we began unloading, we were greeted by my brother's new neighbor, a down-on-his-luck looking guy in his...I can't tell how old people are supposed to be up there...lets just say 50's. I know I exaggerate every now and then, but his exact words to us were:
A. No offense, but you guys don't look like you're from around here. You look really athletic, or something.
B. So you AREN'T from around here, huh? Just like I guessed. Well, you better get street smart real quick. You are surrounded by a lot of human beings. Know what I mean? WELL YOU WILL!
My brother and I immediately started shivering, clutched our lucky crawfish charms tightly, and nibbled nervously on our sugar cane soothing stalks. Is what he said really what it's like in the Great White North? Would we be drove-by (Is that how you say being murdered in a drive-by? Or do you say, "We got drive-by'd!" But if you did get "drive-by'd" you'd be dead, and you wouldn't be able to say anything, so then what would you say? "Mrhhrrhh, uh?" I mean in the unlikely event that you are not only killed in a drive-by, but re-animated as a zombie? How would you describe that action? Drive-By Zombie'd? I DON'T KNOW! WHY IS THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE SO CONFUSING!!!???!??!)? Were our deaths imminent? Did we drive all this way for nothing? We moved stuff from the truck into the house as fast as possible, constantly looking over our shoulders. Unfortunately, we hit a snag--my brother had to take a moment to put the beds together. This meant that, having nothing else to do, I would have to go for a walk in the dangerous St. Paul Streets. Fingers trembling, I grabbed a whoopie pie and a glass of milk, and walked down the street. The neighborhood was old and well-planted. Elderly couples waved to me from their front steps. Surely, this was only a trap. How could I know if I wasn't street smart? How does one become street smart? Does the street have to educate you? Do you have to go to street school? What if I flunk streetconomics?! I decided to keep walking anyway, giving my wife a quick call to let her know this could be our last conversation. We shared a tearful goodbye and I-love-you's, then I headed deeper down the dreaded street.
I have a fairly photographic memory, and I instantly memorized my way to Como Park, around the lovely Lake Como. As I crossed the street to the Lake, a friendly driver stopped and waved at me. This was my death knell. I was lured at this moment into a false sense of security, and that's why I didn't see them. You see, the problem is that I wore red--you see, in south-central LA(Louisiana), the Bloods are the largely dominant gang. Wearing red can save your life. You see, the problem was that in the North, the Crips are largely dominant...and, you see, the Crips wear blue. You see, they noticed my red clothing, and from my rough-and-tumble, shady look, immediately assumed I was a member of the rival gang. You see, you see, you see, this is why they jumped me.
I was completely unprepared. I had always been told that the world is fundamentally good, and that if you are nice to others, they will repay in kind. Kindness is not a word these St. Paul gang members were acquainted with. The only "k" word they were aware of is "kill" and maybe "krunch" his bones, since they said that right when they saw me, and they probably aren't that great at spelling. The first guy jumped on my back and tried to bring me down so that they could kick me until I bled out...but they didn't realize the kind of adrenaline boost they would be dealing with. As soon as I felt his arm around my neck, I screamed and took off full speed for the lake. Unfortunately, one of his minions tripped me and we both tumbled and rolled face first down the bank, crashing into the shallow, murky water.
"I can't swim!" screamed the gang member in abject terror.
I stood in water almost up to my knees, just as his head slipped beneath the surface.
"Stand up!" I shouted. "Stand up!"
"I can't hear you! I'm drowning!" These were the last words this noble warrior would ever utter.
The remaining gang members, ten at least, bright blue shirts, jeans, bandanas, tattoos, socks, K-Swiss shoes, and scarves shining in the sun, hesitated.
"Come on in, jerks!" I shouted menacingly. "The water's fine!"
"Say bruh, you killed our boy!" They sang in unision, in, I think, the key of E. The larger one, who I thought would be a bass, sang in a smooth falsetto, "We won't for-get thiiiiiiiisssssss!" They then held hands and did some strange sort of choreographed leap-frog dance back down the street, vanishing in the early September snow. Then the cops pulled up.
An hour later, I called my brother. "Hey, man," I said, "I need you to come pick me up. I'm at the police station."
"Seriously?" He asked.
"Yep. Nope. Not really."
Actually, I was in the middle of enjoying a nice walk in probably the safest urban area I have ever ventured into. I really did call my brother and tell him that just to mess with him, but in reality the weather was mid-60's, partly cloudy, low humidity, and it looked like this:
Yes, that's a giant stone toad in the water and a re-creation of the Acropolis in the background because, instead of an urban wasteland filled with thugs and hooligans, my brother and his wife live in the freaking Shire. The only drive-bys in their neighborhood would have to be done by Hobbits, who would just throw turnips at their windows and mailbox. I mean, seriously, there was a bust of Henrik Ibsen.
Anyway, now that we're in reality, I enjoyed walking around Como Park so much, I lost track of time and almost forgot we still had half-of-a-truck to unload (do hyphens go there? Dangit, hyphens, you are the unruly gang-members of grammar!). There was a zoo and mini-golf and fishing and a children's amusement park and pavillions and a conservatory and lots of smiling faces and a butterfly garden geared toward Monarchs:
Sidenote: my son loves this butterfly-colors video on Youtube, but he pronounces "Butterfly" as "Buffy," and is constantly saying "Watch Buffy! Watch Buffy!" This is how Joss Whedon attempts to manipulate the minds of our youth. Sidenote ends.
We finished unpacking in no time, took a nap, awoke with ravenous hunger. My brother researched and found a place we had to visit: The Nook. Holy cow, go to The Nook!
We got there expecting a long wait. While there was a long line, the wait really wasn't that bad. I mean, it wasn't like the wait at Red Lobster or anything, and Red Lobster tastes like Uncle Eddie's toupee deep-fried in Uncle Eddie's urine. The Nook tastes delicious--the food served there, I mean, not the edifice.
Where's Waldo, brother and sister-in-law version.
The Nook is famous for its stuffed-burgers. In fact, Guy Fieri (phonetically Guy Fi-a-zeli-hari-geli) took his show, Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives, there, and here is a video of it. Still missing out on Steak 'n Shake, and unsatisfied by my Thickburger, I scoured the menu for something to give me fulfillment.
If a restaurant has a special, limited-item, I have to get it, because I have a Pavlovian response to the word "limited," except instead of drooling, I open my wallet. Ironically, when I heard about the limited-edition item at the Nook, I drooled. The special for the month was a burger with a pattie composed of 50 percent ground beef and 50 percent chorizo sausage, stuffed with pepper-jack cheese. Like 30 percent of it was cheese? How would that work mathematically? And why does mathematically have an "e?" Too bad I didn't take a picture of
ooh, gotcha! There it is in all it's blurry, disposable camera glory, for only the disposable camera is worthy to take Nicsperiment Travelogue photos...except for the Germany one that was all digital, but anyway...
That burger was wickedly delicious, and obviously the hand-cut fries were, as well. Also obvious...the need for dessert. The Nook is also known for its milkshakes, but not in my wildest dreams would I have guessed at what I was about to consume.
That's right...actually, I'm not sure why I'm starting off this sentence with "that's right." Obviously this is a one-sided conversation, and only I am speaking, but anyway.
There was a Guinness milkshake. I drank all of it. It tasted like something that should not be, but is, and is glorious, glorious, glorious.
Then we went home, still exhausted, especially me from all the fighting and street-surviving, and passed out.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Minnesota, Day Two: Roofies

My brother and I woke early, and his father-in-law helped us get ready to go. His mother-in-law packed us a huge bag of snacks, including a giant box of Bazooka Joe bubblegum. Yes, they still make it, yes, it's still awesome, and yes, CSPAN during an election year is still funnier than the comics that come with it. I hoarded a bunch of it and am fiercely chewing some now as I dictate this post to my secretary mmm, nmmmm, mmmmm, nmeenmeenm. She says she can't understand what I am saying, but I'll just keep chewing. Yes, type this. What I am saying right now. Type this. Good job, dear.
Anyway, the three of us (Me, my brother, and his father-in-law. Not the secretary, she wasn't there, she's just here next to me typing this, as I lean back in my recliner and have a mint julep. Don't forget the parenthesis, honey. Good job.) had a big cry, not because we were leaving, but because we would not have time to visit CJ's Butcher Boy Burgers, home of the Pork Burger, and oh, man, I want one of those right now. Consequently, I had a burger every day for the rest of the trip to chase my sorrows.
We picked up another dog for the next leg, the Corgi known as Punkin, who joined her male companion, Goofus, or as my sister-in-law calls him, Roofie. Because a hyper 120-pound dog doesn't mesh well with a cramped Penske truck interior, we gave Roofie the vet-recommended Benadryl dose to calm him for the drive, which was...surprisingly a whole lot of Benadryls. Hope we didn't miss a decimal there. He stayed on the floor, while Punkin rode between us on the seat.
We got back on the road and sped into the Ozarks, which our Penske truck just loved. If you've ever stomped as hard as you can on a completely unyielding surface, you can imagine what trying to hit the accelerator was like every time we had to drive up a rise. Also, when I glanced down at Roofie, he looked like this:
And then we
Ruff...scratch, disoriented...I feel as though I drift through clouds of menace. What have they given me?...those pills...they weaken me...destroy my will...I nothing...MOVE LEGS!!!...nothing...I look up in confusion, hope for some sign of concern from my human companions, but they just drive...continue to ignore me and drive...and my sister, my fellow species...might as well be on a mountaintop high above, so high...if only I could take her position...consume her...take all that is hers, and remove my hanches from this petty floor, this dirty surface the humans tread upon...destroy Punkin, take her powers, ascend...higher...higher...ruff...scratch, scratch...
noticed rather disconcertedly that there were absolutely no exits anywhere. Down in the Ozark valleys were homesteads, cow pastures, but as to how people reach them, I have no idea. I believe they have their own secret culture down there, and they never leave the places they were born, and then we drove through a tunnel and Photobucket
What is it, this darkness? The humans drive on, oblivious, as if the entire world hasn't moved, shifted from light to despair, good to total depravity and confusion. Even as I see a light in the distance, I hear the cavernous echoes of Punkin's movement above, shifting her weight on my master in her repose, basking luxuriously in the depths of utter abyssal terror from which I cannot escape.
you can clearly see that we must have hit a million bugs on the way to St. Paul. Do bugs have a sense of self and community? If so, in their own bug way, do they somehow broadcast news reports as we do, using their stealthy, microscopic bug technology just as we use our own digital creations? If so, can you imagine the murder spree they would have to report, just based on the amount of their dead brethen plastered across our windshield? I mean, can you imagine, conversely, if instead of bugs, we hit that many HUMANS with our truck? Our windshied would be opaquely red. After they catch us, the police wouldn't even read us our rights, they would be too busy beating us to death with the butts of their guns while they choked loudly and violently on tears shed at the shocking amorality of our actions. I mean
Despite the return of sunshine, there is no light to be found in my heart. Ruff, bark, scratch, scratch. It is as if I am a flower, battered by an endless tempest, my heart, OH! my heart, stripped bare by the infinite torment, the madness of the chemicals they have given, forced down my throat, my will raped, destroyed, bent against all hope. Still above me she lies, Punkin, Destroyer of Worlds, Bane of the Righteous, Devourer of all Goodness and Joy, Conqueror of Gondor
that is really a lot of bugs. Anyway, we finally made it out of the Hillbilly Alps, and crossed the Arkansas border into a bitter, desertous region known as Missouri. Immediately the terrain changed from tree-lined mountain tops to dry, dirty gulches. The boredom of the terrain definitely carried over into the outlook of the citizens because when my brother and I stopped at a Pizza Hut buffet at some unnamed-town, we were greated with the guffaws and reactions usually afforded movie stars, or the fancy people in England who just got married a few months ago on the television. "Heat wave!" one of the waitresses whispered loudly to her co-worker as she passed our table. Awesome.
At this point, I took over truck-driving duties, and unleashed my fury on the state of Missouri by flooring it until I reached the Iowa border. I'm actually not exaggerating. Flooring the Penske just made it go. The speedometer was broke, but only went to 85 anyway, so we always assumed we probably weren't speeding. Since we only saw about 11 other cars all the way to Kansas City, this wasn't really a problem. Also, I sneezed and missed Harry Truman's hometown, but I was inspired and also slightly weirded out that someone who would be forced with the decision to unleash the first atomic weapon in battle could be born in a town that only seems to now exist because he was born there. Also, can you please explain the above sentence to me? It's kind of confusing. Yes, dear, type all of this. Good.
I burnt an entire tank of gas getting us to Iowa, and the sun began to set. You would think that a bunch of cornfields interspersed with wind farms would be sleep-inducing, but after the tortuous roadways of The Show-Me State (in your defense, Missouri, I have been through your Eastern exterior and found my experience far more stimulating, though not quite as awkward as this sentence implies), the sun-setting on the tree dotted paths between the crops of Iowa felt like a scuba dive through The Great Barrier Reef.
Either that, or I just ate too many cookies and chocolate-vanilla whoopies (yes, Ashleigh, I ate three of them). As the sun began to
What is this strange hell? I die, and yet I live, and again, the same stalk of corn, only the top visible from my truck-floor prison, the same stalk of corn, the same stalk of corn, THE SAME STALK OF CORN. I beg with my mind for them to stop STOP STOP STOP DRIVING!!! STOP DRIVING!!! Can't you see what's happening to me?! I'm sinking through the bottom of the truck to the street! I can feel myself slipping away, all while Punkin, Princess of Darkness, lears down upon me, her obsidian powers palpable, thick waves of blackness forever lapping at the shores of my sanity! I must destroy her! I must take her powers to stop this truck...I must...I CAN MOVE MY NECK!!!! I CAN MOVE MY NECK!!! LIFT, LIFT, LIFT...THERE!!! I CAN LIFT MY HEAD! PUNKIN, with my last breath, I will vanquish you, all your evil, your labyrinthian schemes of villiany, over, forever, the darkness light! Finally, with my jaws, I crush your skull and beseech goodness return to these black skies...goodness...NO! I CAN'T OPEN MY MOUTH! I CAN'T OPEN MY MOUTH!...must...steal...powers...must...osmosis...use...osmosis
There...that's it...I can feel the powers flowing through's nice to smell you again...where am I? What is this strange place? Why do I feel as if I can never go home again?
We finally crossed the Minnesota border with heavy appetites. I think we went 300 miles without seeing an exit. I really, really wanted Steak 'n Shake, but no dice, not even snake eyes, cuz that would mean there were two Steak 'n Shakes, and I already told you, there were no Steak 'n Shakes. Finally, we saw a sign for Taco John's. Would you eat at Taco John's? No you wouldn't, jerk! It was a rhetorical question--you're not supposed to answer! We decided to keep going and finally settled on a Hardee's in a town that looked like a Norman Rockwell painting. Thickburger's made us sleepy, so we turned on the Slick Shoes punk-o-rama again, and finally made it to St. Paul at...I can't remember, I tore into the rest of my crack at some point and was in a bit of a sugar frenzy. But we were there, with days of adventure left to come. As we got out of the truck, I looked down at Goofus, who had sat still for most of the ride.
"Dude, are you okay? You look a little frazzled."
He didn't answer, just slinked out of the truck with his tail between his legs and disappeared into the Minnesota night. No, dear, don't put "I said" after the above quotation. They can tell I'm the speaker. Yes, type this, too. Okay, that's enough. Go take your break.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Minnesota, Day One: It's All Over but the Cryin...Or, It's Just Started and the Crying

Well, my brother moved to Minnesota, and we drove there in a truck. The end.
Yeah, right, stuff happened, and you're gonna read about that stuff right now, so here's some stuff that happened, okay...
So I went to work on Wednesday with a headache. It was funny, though, cuz it felt like someone was driving a railroad spike through my head, with intermittent pauses to allow trains to drive over it. I laughed heartily at this humorous turn of events and promptly drove my head through my computer monitor, but by the time someone came by to check on the noise, I was already in my car on the way home. For some reason leaving sparking wreckage behind did nothing to heal my head, so I went to Racetrac gas station/fine dining establishment, got a 1600 ounce cherry coke from the two mile selection of fountain drinks, then went down to the CVS parking lot to buy a bag of crack. Only one statement in the previous sentence wasn't a slight exaggeration, and that was that I went to CVS to buy some crack. Actually, I did that the day before, but in the interest of creating a reality show like artifice of real life following a clear narrative, let's say that I stopped by CVS on the way home for a bag of crack. I devoured the white stuff off my fingers, but the full bag was more than even I can handle.
Oh, by the way, in this case, crack means Hershey's Cookies n' Cream Drops.
These were known as Cookies and Cream balls/bites in the late 90's/early 00's, until Hershey discontinued them due to their addictive properties. I don't know why they brought them back, and flattening them and making them even glossier has only hightened their considerable powers. My cousin, The Rabbit, and I used to sit in the car eating bags of those things and neglecting our school, friends, and families. It is possible that without their discontinuation, I would have dropped out of college, not married, and never had a child. Speaking of child:
My son was so overjoyed at my departure that he cried the entire time I packed my stuff into the Penske truck. This gives mixed feelings. The first is:
A. Aw, man, I feel like crap leaving my kid here without me for five days. I love that little guy, and it kills me to see him sad like this. But the second is,
B. Woah, awesome, my kid actually likes me!
Since I am incredibly shallow, of couse I leaned toward the second one.
I found a surprise immediately upon entering the truck:
Yes, this stupid dog. I'm just kidding, the dog is okay, I guess. He stayed on the floor and he didn't poo in my shoe, so I guess he is alright. Also, he didn't bite me, but you don't expect a dog called "Goofus," to take a chunk out of your flesh, even if he weighs as much as a junior college linebacker. I'm not even lying, my brother really named his dog Goofus. Goofus, the cowardly hound.
Well, we left, because St. Paul, Minnesota is 1,211 miles from Baton Rouge*.
*This is the only real statistic in this Travelogue*
To counter that, here is a problem for all you math freaks. Going 0 miles per hour from Baton Rouge to St. Paul, a distance of 1,211 miles, the journey would take approximately 0 hours. That's because, as everyone knows, the sum of every math problem involving zero is zero. Because my brother and I knew we wouldn't see each other again for a while, we decided to go for a speed of about 65 mph, so that we would have time to talk. Awesome.
So, Goofus and my brother and I hit the interstate and made for the glorious HWY 61. Then we talked about awesome guy things like Zelda, or will there ever be a boy born who can swim faster than a shark? Finally, we made it to the beautiful town of Tallulah, Louisiana, where the Popeye's manager wears a stopwatch around her neck to time her employees. Also, we gassed up the truck, which you can tell from this picture is so large, simply driving the length of the truck nearly got us through the entire state.
We left Tallulah, powered through the beautiful northern portion of our state (LA for life, dawg!), and entered into the nightly wonders of Arkansas. A few cities in, we visited a local restaurant called Sonic, and I ordered a regional dish known as a "hot dog." Swiftly re-entering the truck so that Goofus would not suffocate or get lonely and start writing horrible dog-poetry, we got back on the road.
Nearing our first-day's destination, we began to grow tired. I nibbled some crack, but by that point, my tolerance level was so high, it did nothing. After passing several wandering deer that were just asking us to swerve over the shoulder and put them out of their doe-y misery, and also have us die in a tree-collision fireball that would surely make our corpses unrecognizable, we decided there was only one way to survive the last leg of that day's journey: punk it out.
In went the Slick Shoes CD. Out went our tiredness. The Arkansas interstate begged for mercy, so we gave quarter and stopped at my brother's in-laws' house in Russellville. Man, what a beautiful town, even at night. Also, my brother's in-laws are so nice, sometimes I think they are putting one over on me, but they aren't, they are really that nice. Also, every time I type brother's in-laws, I want to type brother-in-law's in-law's, and I don't know why.
I went down to a bedroom in their basement, which is setup more nicely than most people's living rooms. It is an older home, and I am pretty sure the basement is haunted.
That night I had a long dreamless sleep, when suddenly my wife entered the room, and I reached out to touch her, but the moment I made contact I woke up in the darkness, alone.

Thursday, September 08, 2011

As Cities Burn -- Come Now Sleep


Objectivity can be tough to hang on to when reviewing art created by those you know. I heard a lot of the songs on Come Now Sleep in their early stages, but I will remain as clinically detached as possible in this review...FUN...YAY! To change things up a bit, I'll review the music and lyrics separately.

MUSIC AND VOCALS: Well, this is what ACB used to sound like:

Your basic metalcore, one of Underoath's many little-brothers. It's not bad, but it sounds like a lot of other bands. This is what they sound like just one album later, on Come Now Sleep:

The outro of the previous song is really the only thing to hint at the music of the latter, which is far more interesting. On Come Now Sleep, As Cities Burn abandon their old metalcore sound for a mix of classic rock and modern experimental stylings. They sound like a completely different band, and they benefit greatly from this. The music is almost always interesting, but if it has a flaw, it's that certain sections go on a bit too long, and can feel a bit drowsy at times, but then again, maybe that's the point considering the title. Considering some of the songs are still pretty agressive, the mix is quite good. The vocals, while not necessarily good in a traditional sense, are nevertheless raw and passionate, and provide almost exactly what is needed. 9/10 for the music and vocals.

LYRICS: Here is where the album runs into some trouble. While I don't agree with some of the theological statements made, some thought and heart obviously went into them. The problem is that the mix of jet-black serious tone and hipsteresque religious musings just doesn't work. The first track, "Contact," comes to the conclusion that either clouds are blocking God's voice from human ears, or that God himself is asleep. This is immediately followed by "Empire," a song about God-given grace, and the futility of being "glorious" on our own...but this is immediately followed by "The Hoard," which tries to further "Empire"'s themes, but just sounds like a snarky excuse for bad behavior, mocking people who try to live right. I get the intent: it's silly to think that one can earn Grace--then again, since when is trying to be a good person not admirable? Grace might be wasted on those who think they don't need it, but it's not given to those who don't ask for it, either. Similarly heady themes follow, the most bloat coming in "Clouds" (an obvious shoutback to the lyrics of the opening track), which begins with someone asking the question "Who do you think God is, and what do you think God is?" and then people on the street actually attempting to answer the question. The band plays over their slightly-muted responses, then ACB's vocalist comes in with the lines, "Is your God really God? Is my God really God? I think our God isn't God if he fits inside our heads." Unfortunately, this comes off just as pretentiously as it sounds, like ACB is that annoying Freshman in your Philosophy class who just read Siddhartha for the first time and wants to tell the class about it. The ponderous nature of the lyrics just gets too heavy, and any moment of levity would have helped. Around the time the band reach album closer, "Timothy," a thirteen-minute tribute to a friend who committed suicide, it's impossible not to feel emotionally exhausted. By that point a dance with Muppets down a sunny street lined with lollipops would barely be enough to bring a a smile. 5/10 for the lyrics. 7/10 Overall.

2007 Tooth & Nail
1. Contact 6:51
2. Empire 3:27
3. The Hoard 3:54
4. This Is It, This Is It 3:40
5. Clouds 5:21
6. New Sun 4:34
7. Tides 3:05
8. Wrong Body 5:47
9. Our World Is Grey 5:57
10. Timothy 12:48

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Why Aren't People Angrier?

The AP came out with a story today that adults 18-64 make up a record share of US poor. 14.3 percent of the nation's citizens are in poverty. My question is:
Why aren't people angry about this?
Yes, people are angry, that's for sure, but where is their anger directed?
Republicans are angry at Democrats and Democrats are angry at Republicans, but does that really mean anything? The Republican and Democratic politicians aren't part of the above statistic. They are the wealthy. It's not their problem, so why should they care? They get along just fine using the tactic of blaming each other to stay in power while they do nothing to solve anything. They are completely impotent. The United States owes more money than it can probably ever pay. Most Americans do as well. It is time to get angry at the right people.


Arcade Fire -- The Suburbs


Arcade Fire's The Suburbs is an uncooked $10 steak, on a hamburger bun topped with sardines, deep fried, and dipped in chocolate milk.
My only real problem with Arcade Fire's Funeral is that it bogged down in the plodding middle. Sophmore album, Neon Bible, fixed this problem by varying the tempo and increasing the diversity. The Suburbs, however, takes all of Arcade Fire's worst qualities and piles them on for a band high, 16 tracks, and 64-minutes. There are lyrical nuggets that bearded dad-rock enthusiasts (I might be a dad, but I ain't no dad-rocker) will enjoy: Living in the sprawl/Dead shopping malls rise like mountains beyond mountains/And there's no end in sight/I need the darkness, someone please cut the lights. While pseduo-intellectuals can debate the meaning and importance of darkness in "Sprawl II," which contains these lines, I find myself snagging on the painful blandness of the electronic drums and keyboard line leading the song, never mind the painful ironiy of vocalist, Regine Chassagne's shrill voice harping out the line, "They heard me singing and they told me to stop" immediately after the previous lines.
That's not to say there aren't any good songs to be found on The Suburbs. "Empty Room" is a much needed blast of fresh energy, but also has a "where have you been this whole time" feeling when it doesn't even appear until the five spot. The first four tracks are stillborn. There is one called "Ready to Start," but it isn't even first, and it sounds tentative at best. The best track is probably "Suburban War," which while muddying the lyrical themes, at least sounds pretty nice.

Listen to Arcade Fire's "Suburban War"

Arcade Fire actually do a great job with this late-60's rock sound, and I wish they would have pursued it further on The Suburbs, or really pursued or focused on any sound, instead of the muddled plodding mess they ended up with. And speaking of muddled, I mentioned the lyrics a second ago, and muddled they are. What Win Butler and his wife are talking about, I'm not sure. I get the "living in the suburbs is weird and not good" vibe clearly, but as for what they are attempting on a deeper level, that's anyone's guess, but hopefully their's.
The most ironic thing about The Suburbs is that, while it is easily the weakest thing Arcade Fire have done, it won 2011's album of the year award at The Grammy's, launching the band into the national spotlight. This victory created so much confusion in the viewing public, that its reaction has forever been encapsulated in the website, Who is Arcade Fire? Besides extreme anger at the band denying Justin Bieber a victory, the general consensus among regular folks was, "where did this band come from, and who actually considers this good?" Sadly, as a longtime fan of Arcade Fire, I could not defend them. All I could think of during their encore Grammy performance of another song from The Suburbs was "Who is Arcade Fire, and who actually considers this good?"

2010 Merge
1. The Suburbs 5:15
2. Ready to Start 4:15
3. Modern Man 4:39
4. Rococo 3:56
5. Empty Room 2:51
6. City with No Children 3:11
7. Half Light I 4:13
8. Half Light II (No Celebration) 4:27
9. Suburban War 4:45
10. Month of May 3:50
11. Wasted Hours 3:20
12. Deep Blue 4:28
13. We Used to Wait 5:01
14. Sprawl I (Flatland) 2:54
15. Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains) 5:25
16. The Suburbs [Continued] 1:27

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Arcade Fire -- Neon Bible

Arcade Fire sound older and angrier on sophmore outing, Neon Bible, and that's just fine by me. Actually, they sound more mature in every way. The arrangements are more complicated. The instrumentation is far more diverse. The sound varies far more from song to song. Most importantly, Neon Bible is far more cohesive than Funeral, and the logic and track order make far more sense. The feeling is dark thoughout, with rays of sunlight shining through at moments. The lyrics, while still just a little weak at times, otherwise get the job done well, and paint great feelings of frustration, incarceration, and generally being under seige by media, the powers that be, and all manner of glowing lights, with a underlying hope of escape.
Neon Bible contains a wonderful sense of someone searching for freedom in both words and music, and this builds throughout the disc without payoff until the excellent penultimate track, "No Cars Go." All the claustrophobic organs and strings of the previous nine songs are destroyed with one simple saxophone solo.

Listen to Arcade Fire's "No Cars Go"

Another Neon Bible plus is the major upgrade in production--which is quite obvious in the above song. Neon Bible sounds great, a huge achievement for Arcade Fire, who once again produce themselves, but this time sound like they know exactly what they're doing.
Neon Bible is a true album, feels like a journey from start to finish, but despite this, is a bit of a sleeper in Arcade Fire's three album catalog--the problem middle child who didn't receive the hype of the debut, or the accolade's of its younger brother, The Suburbs. That doesn't diminish the fact that ten years into the band's career, Neon Bible is still their best work.

2007 Merge
1. Black Mirror 4:13
2. Keep the Car Running 3:29
3. Neon Bible 2:16
4. Intervention 4:19
5. Black Wave/Bad Vibrations 3:57
6. Ocean of Noise 4:53
7. The Well and the Lighthouse 3:56
8. (Antichrist Television Blues) 5:10
9. Windowsill 4:16
10. No Cars Go 5:43
11. My Body Is a Cage 4:47

Monday, September 05, 2011

Capitalism Leads to Socialism?

This weekend I helped my brother move across the country. There will be a travelogue for that coming soon, I promise. Right now, a quick thought inspired by the trip:
My brother and I drove from south Louisiana to St. Paul, Minnesota in a giant moving truck that didn't get great mileage. We had to stop often for gas. I have a big appetite, and I wanted something to eat and drink at every stop. However, something dismayed me: (colon party!)
Every single gas station from South to North had the exact same food and beverage products: the exact same selection of Coke-produced soft drinks, juices, and energy drinks. The exact same selection of Pepsi-produced soft drinks, juices, and energy drinks. The exact same selection of Frito-Lay-produced snacks. The exact same selection of Hersheys and Mars-produced candies. That's pretty much it.
Because of free-market monopolization, a few large companies have bought out all the other companies. Because of corporate dealings, every gas station sells products produced by this tiny puddle of companies: the same products at every gas station.
Because of the free-market capitalism that was supposed to lead to more freedom of choice in purchasing, I have absolutely no choices. I pick from the monochromatic options I am offered, or I can eat roadkill and drink from the ditch on the side of the road.