Saturday, April 18, 2009

Crappin' On Songs of the 80's

Hey (Dan here). Sometimes I walk into some public establishment and they've got some pop songs from the 80's playing overhead, and it gets a reaction out of me one way or the other. Let's see if you agree or it's just me. Here's two songs from the 80's that both hit #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 back in the day:

First of all, "Human" by the Human League. I would like to nominate this song as possibly the #1 worst song of all time. Everything about it aggravates me, disagress with my system, and begs to be destroyed somehow. I think I was in a store last week forced to listen to it, and it's been bothering me ever since. The tempo is way too slow. The sound is way too soft, frail, and lacking passion. The mix has all the music practically inaudible, so all you can hear are the damned voices. The singing sucks. Blech. But worst of all is the message of the song -- A guy meekly begging forgiveness for cheating on a chick:

I'm only human
Of flesh and blood I'm made
Born to make mistakes
I am just a man

You know what? I say screw that crap. The narrator never even comes out and directly says "I did it with someone else", it's all this re-directed referential crap. I recommend the following. (a) If you did something wrong, come out and say it directly, don't equivocate like a freaking loser. (b) Take responsibility for your decisions, don't act like being "just a man" is some unrelated mental disease controlling your actions. (c) Likewise take responsibility for what you like, and if you find pleasure in multiple partners, come out and say that, and don't act like it's some frickin' accident when it happens. That's bullshit.

To my esteemed colleagues in the Human League, I offer a countering theory of humanity, by quoting the author Neal Stephenson (from Cryptonomicon): "Like every other creature on the face of the earth, Godfrey was, by birthright, a stupendous badass, albeit in the somewhat technical sense that he could trace his ancestry back up a long line of slightly less highly evolved stupendous badasses to that first self-replicating gizmo — which, given the number and variety of its descendants, might justifiably be described as the most stupendous badass of all time. Everyone and everything that wasn't a stupendous badass was dead. "

Secondly, let me rant a bit on "Bette Davis Eyes" by Kim Carnes. This one isn't totally evil, even if it's not the kind of music I would search out. I was in a resaurant with my girlfriend a little while back, and realized that this one does get stuck in my head whenever it's played (it's also been covered by a whole lot of artists of different stripes), but at the same time there's something about it that aggravates me. I think I finally found what it is. Let's say that the song is generally well-written, but then there's one part of the lyrics that go like this:

And she'll tease you
She'll unease you
All the better just to please you
She's precocious and she knows just what it takes to make a pro blush

Ummm... "What it takes to make a pro blush?" Ewww, that's, like, completely cringe-worthy (once I became aware of the lyrics in that section). Every time I hear that song and that section comes by, I honestly flinch a little bit. Someone was locked into a rhyme for "precocious" and "knows just", and, frankly, didn't spend enough time thinking about their options at the end there.

Personally, I would recommend changing that line to "What it takes to look ferocious", which is the best thing I could come up with in a bit a half hour after listening to that song last time. This is one of these things where I wish I had a time-fax to send back to Weiss and DeShannon (the writers) when they were writing it 35 years ago, so I don't have to listen to the glitch in that song for the rest of my life.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Cleveland Show Recap, New Shows, Compilation CD

Hey Collin here.

CLEVELAND SHOW RECAP: So after our visit to the Rock n' Roll Hall of Fame the afternoon of Friday, April 10, we went to The Symposium for our show. This was our second time playing Cleveland and my good friend Justin was nice enough to show up early and stay the whole night. Big thanks to him for coming out. The Symposium is a great place to play. The sound techician Lauren was just fantastic to us and the sound was really solid on stage and in the house. The night started off with 2 songs from Nightmare Mode, followed by one song done solo by Tom (of Nightmare Mode and Thashantos). Then Thrashantos (who, like Nightmare Mode, are from about 30 minutes outside of Cleveland) took the stage and played some of the most awesome speed metal I have ever witnessed. After that, the Detroit punk band D.A. took over, and played a blazing, fearsome set. This ended up being the heaviest bill ever put together by someone other than us, I think, and we could not have been more pleased.

We finished out the night with a 9-song set that was really fun to play. The crowd was a fun group of people to play for, we're grateful to everyone who came out. The set list for those interested:

1. Make the Escape
2. Toxic Tornado
3. Sarbanes-Oxley
4. Better Lives
5. Into Debt
6. Alien Homeland
7. Binge
8. Transparent
9. Motherfucker

Thanks so much to all the other bands we played with, Trish from America's Sweetheart/The Natch! and JT at Jib Machine Records for helping get us on the bill, Michele at PhantasyConcertClub for putting the show together, and Lauren and the entire staff at The Symposium for being such great hosts.

After packing up and hanging out with Justin (who is an amazing actor and appearing in a play at the Cleveland Playhouse as I write - check him out!), we rolled over to our local IHOP for a now-somewhat-traditional post-show snack/meal/debrief/cool-down kinda thing. Then it was back to the EconoLodge for some much-needed sleep.

The trip back to New York on Saturday was almost as wonderful as the trip out - brilliant sunshine and smooth travelling the whole way. Except for two of the most awful 18-wheeler wrecks we had ever seen! One trailer upside-down and crushed in the grassy median, another whose cab looked like it had just exploded spontaneously into pieces. Looked like the drivers were both all right. I turned Dan onto Metric by playing their CD "Live It Out" for him, and we both listened to the full record of fellow punk rockers The Brooklyn What for the first time (I picked up their CD "The Brooklyn What for Borough President" when I caught them by chance at Goodbye Blue Monday a while back). We both totally LOVED the record.

NEW SHOWS: So the out-of-NYC bookings have been rolling in lately to our utter delight. Check us out if you're near one of these:
+Saturday May 2 at 119 Gallery in Lowell MA

+Thursday June 25 at The Vaudeville Mews in Des Moines IA

+Friday June 26 at The Way Out Club in St Louis MO

Also, one line-up change of note, the Friday May 1 show at Slainte in Portland ME will now be with The Natch! (replacing America's Sweetheart on the bill) and The andWutz.

Brooklyn Punk Rock Compilation CD: We're excited to tell people that we have been selected to be a part of the new compilation CD produced by Brooklyn Punk Rock. You can buy a copy on eBay for $12 HERE. It features our new song "Scary Mary" which will be on our upcoming new record, plus lots of other great Brooklyn punk bands like the aforementioned Brooklyn What, Money/Paper/Hearts, and The Filthy Animals. If you're unable to attend our show in Athens, Ohio on May 9, there will be a kickass show that day in Brooklyn with most of the bands featured on the CD (we are a bit bummed that we have to miss, but are psyched for our show in Athens!). I'll pass on details on that as they come in.

The (Aforementioned) New Record: The recording and mixing is DONE. Done, done, done! 11 songs, ready to go. We now have some mastering work remaining to be done, then it's on to the artwork, packaging, etc. So at the moment it still looks good for a release in September as we were planning. Dan and I are both really pleased with how it's come out, we hope you will all enjoy listening to it and much as we enjoyed ourselves recording it. And remember we will have sneak-peaks ahead of the official release date for tried-and-true VB fans, so stay tuned.

WHEW! All right, I think that's it for now. I'm off to see my friend Larry in The Damn Lovelys who are playing tonight at Hill Country Barbeque in Manhattan. Should be some good fun. Keep rockin', we'll see you in your ears.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

At the Hall of Fame

So here we are in Cleveland for a show tonight. To kill the afternoon we go to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. I (Dan here) have mixed feelings about it, but I'm glad we went. There's some cheesy parts to it, but overall it rises above the threshold of “somebody at least gave a shit”. The architecture is stunning, I really love the building – big glass pyramid, tall, very postmodern overlapping levels inside, balconies that don't connect to anything, big atrium you could drop down 6 stories in. This by the side of Lake Erie, near the football stadium, WWII submarine museum, and a skate park next door. A lot of families inside, somewhat cooler/hipper moms & dads in their 40's, with kids all in their tweens or teens, clearly getting more cultural education than I was at that age. A bit touristy, but not completely exploitational, either.

You know, it was like 10 years ago when I saw a Superchunk show in Boston – and this particular night, Mac comes onstage all fired up because the band just saw Bruce Springsteen at the Boston Garden (Fleet Center, whatever). Probably the best Superchunk show I ever saw, they were really completely inspired that night.

So currently the special exhibit at the Hall of Fame is devoted to Bruce Springsteen (upper 3 floors devoted to him). Guitars, posters, clothes, albums, listening stations, videos, magazine articles, the desk where he writes, etc. One of the freaky things is there's this thick scrapbook under glass, opened to a page reviewing a show from 1973 (in Crawdaddy Magazine). And this show happens to be in New York, at the club Kenny's Castaways. (We played our first-ever performance as Victor Bravo out at Kenny's Castaways a couple years ago now). And part of me is thinking, “oh, well I'm sure Springsteen had a hundred people packed in there”, but the article goes on to describe a crowd of only about 30 people, with maybe 12 knowing who Bruce is. Which is a jarringly accurate description of some of our early shows there.

So here we are now coming from a Bruce Springsteen exhibit, playing a show later that night. Am I as jazzed up as Superchunk was that one night? Well, not so much, I kind of have tangled-up feelings about it. Honestly, Springsteen's zenith was just a little bit before my time. And in some ways the whole celebrity-flash of the Hall of of Fame is pushing some of my bad buttons along with my good ones. I saw a video of Joe Strummer saying re: the Clash, “Man, when you have the right people making up a band, that is a miracle, do not screw with that under any means. We learned that lesson bitterly (shakes head)”, and I could applaud and hoot for that. But I can also see the handwritten lyrics to “Because the Night” by Springsteen and Patti Smith (one of my major, early eye-opening artists) and have a lot of my confusion and jealousy and frustration rear up, too. If this is what they got huge for, if someone could sing “Because the night belongs to lovers”, well, I'm up all night all the damn time and that's the polar opposite of my experience. It feels like there's a whole lot I need to do and say, and it's the opposite of what gets said by a lot of music, and it confuses and perplexes me. So I've personally got a lot of work to do – that's what I seem to be taking away from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, there's a whole lot in there, and yet there's a whole lot to be said that's been left out so far, too. So I'd better get off my ass and get in this club tonight, stretch out, and lay down as ferocious set of beats as I can, and I'd better get up tomorrow and get back to work and writing, too.

Funny thing, this Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. It's both nourishing and challenging and somewhat difficult to process right now. We'll see how that works out tonight.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Road to Ohio

Dan here. Collin & I are on tour from New York to Cleveland to headline a show there Friday night at a hard-rock/metal club. The trip is mostly a big 370-mile drive across the length of Pennsylvania. That can be tough, but today seemed to slide by really easily. Beautiful weather, sunny and warm, with just a few puffy clouds in a bright blue sky. (Meanwhile, we're getting Twitters that it's snowing in Boston). Also, no tolls in PA, we like that.

You may not know this, but Collin & I can both talk for a pretty long time if we need to. So between the two of us swapping stories the 7.5-hour drive seemed to fly by in a snap. Now we're in Ohio as it gets near dusk; hope the place we're staying at isn't too sketchy. Tomorrow we're considering going to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Bad idea? Dunno, but it's something to spend the day on.

I'm being told that Collin considers himself to be an "astonishingly talented front man" if I ever need to describe him here. Yeah, I'll keep that in mind.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

New Shows and Radio Appearance

We have four new shows confirmed:

Friday April 10 at The Symposium in Cleveland (Lakewood) Ohio

Friday May 1 at Slainte in Portland Maine - This show is with NYC's America's Sweetheart and Boston's The AndWutz

Saturday May 9 at 19-South in Athens Ohio - This show is with Ohio's The Revulvas

Tuesday June 23 at PA's Lounge in Boston (Somerville) MA - This show is with In Endeavors

We will also be appearing on the RewBee*s World internet radio show at 4:15pm sharp on Wednesday, April 29. Thanks in advance to RewBee*s World for having us on. Go to a bit ahead to make sure you know how it works, then tune in on April 29 to listen in. They'll be interviewing us, and we'll be playing a song live in the studio, and one or two more from our records. Should be fun.
Keep on rockin', we'll see you in your ears.