Thursday, December 29, 2011

Obscure Song Obsession: Big Star - "Stroke It Noel"

"Kramer could hear Leary and Haynes screaming at each other inside, and when he finally worked up the courage to open the door, he found the two of them smashing guitars, bottle and chairs in what Kramer calls “the most potent example of bad behavior I have ever seen. To this day, more than fifteen years later, I have no more vivid memory of the effect a life in music can have on a human being.” 

Moments later a man entered the dressing room and asked if he could borrow a guitar. “BORROW A GUITAR??!!! WELL, WHO THE FUCK ARE YOU???!!! Haynes screamed, eyes flashing in delirious anticipation of forthcoming violence. But the man was totally unfazed. “I’m Alex Chilton,” the man answered calmly. Haynes was flabbergasted. After a long pause, he methodically opened the remaining guitar cases one by one and gestured at them as if to say, “Take anything you want.” --
excerpt from Butthole Surfers chapter of Michael Azarrad's Our Band Could Be Your Life,  (via soupsoup)

The story of Big Star reads tragic: band pedigreed for success gets jobbed by shoddy promotion from label. debut sales flop. tension causes rift, band member leaves. sophomore album is hyped. 2nd album flops. another member leaves. frontman and drummer record crushingly bleak 3rd album. label says no thanks. bank breaks up. 3rd album released 4 years later, weeks later guitarist dies.

However sad their story may be, the music they left behind is a celebration of rock and roll innovation. When they wanted to rock, the Memphis-based group filtered Beatles melodies through a unique rootsy set of chops that ended up setting the template for power pop. At their most downtrodden, they just let frontman Alex Chilton do his thing and knock you breathless.

"Stroke It Noel" appears at the heart of their third album Third/Sister Lovers (Chilton and drummer Jody Stephens were dating a pair of sisters at the time), sequenced after pair of tracks that constitute seven minutes of the most haunting music Chilton ever wrote. One of the songs is called "Holocaust" and the other is a dark opiate haze of sparse acoustic strumming, belligerent percussion, and strings. The opening notes of "Stroke It Noel" are played backwards, as if rippling the album into a fleeting dream sequence free from misery.

The song immediately bounces into charm. The stuttery swing of each verse build to a towering orchestral chorus, with Chilton cathartically asking, "Do you wanna dance?" before cueing the Noel Gilbert, a violinist of the Memphis Symphony Orchestra who sat in on the Sister Lovers sessions. He spends the second verse drunk, wondering whether a bombing attack is coming. The strings rise again and he continues his search through the clouds for a dancing partner. "Stroke It Noel" may or may not be a drug song, but regardless it's a brief moment of euphoria on broodingly dark album and celebrates the simple joy that music can bring.

Also see: Big Star - Thirteen; Big Star - The Ballad of El Goodo

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

What I've Learned Over Winter Break

Ranking "Eggnog +1":
1. White chocolate licquer
2. Peppermint schnapps
3. Amaretto
4. Rum
5. Kahlua
6. Whiskey
7. Vodka

I'm assuming tequila is just terrible and I'd never force gin to mingle with dairy. Updates to come if ma buys another carton of eggnog to support her son's shitholery.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

The Worst of 2011

[ (surprisingly not a porn site)]

I love creating best-of lists. No one reads them of course, but I get a lot of satisfaction out of talking to myself in my head in a pretentious, scholarly tone about how this year's new Sister Hazel LP was such an important record. But best-of lists are overdone and not nearly as fun as talking shit. Here's are some of the worst things I've experienced over the past year.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Watch It: Submarine

I'm a sucker for coming-of-age comedies. Rushmore, Igby Goes Down, and Lymelife are a few of my favorites. Submarine, the 2011 debut feature from British director Richard Ayoade, just jumped into that class upon watching it today. The film revolves around 15-year old Oliver Tate who falls for a girl (such a bold coming-of-age story device!) and simultaneously attempts to save his parents' marriage. It's got a great script and great performances from Oliver (played by Craig Roberts) and his parents (Noah Taylor and Sally Hawkins) drive the thing. Paddy Considine is also great as the Tate's douchy neighbor who attempts to re-capture the love of his old flame, Mrs. Tate.

One critique of these types of films is that the protagonists, generally mopey self-perceived intellectuals, can come off as annoyingly pretentious (esp. Igby Goes Down). While Oliver fits this profile, Submarine's tone and dry sense of humor keep it from getting in-your-face. It does the whole bittersweet teenage love thing pretty well too. Just watch the stupid movie.

Here's a great scene where Oliver's mother questions him after he gets beaten up to defend his lady's honor:

Sunday, December 11, 2011

A Really Good Drummer: Greg Saunier


Deerhoof is a pretty fucking weird band, but they're undeniably talented and Greg Saunier is out of his mind. He says he intentionally keeps his kit stripped down to force himself to be more creative. Sometimes, as in the "Milk Man" video below, all he has is a bass, snare, and makeshift ride/crash remote hi-hat.

His style makes Deerhoof worth seeing live regardless of how much you care about their music. Sits really low, plays frenzied and looks like he's all over the place. Doesn't bother himself with time-keeping duties (not Deerhoof's style anyways). Takes really big swings at the thing. And as someone on YouTube points out, he looks a lot like Jim Carrey. 

Here are some good videos of him:

And this is just a good Deerhoof song (and funny video):

The Coat Dilemma

(image courtesy of someone's Tumblr page)

New England Winters rank somewhere between Dysentery and The General Disposition of Vince Sheahy in the Records of Unpleasantries. Most rationalize living here because they get to experience all four seasons, they have people they love around, and they get to participate in winter activities such as skiing and chain-drinking Irish coffee. Being a red-blooded American who prides himself on having exceptional circulation, the cold of winter doesn't bother me as much as the single-worst facet of urban winter living: dealing with coats at bars.

In general, I will wait until the weather gets below the freezing point of water before even considering wearing a coat out. The long-sleeved attire transition that takes place after Labor Day swiftly changes into a more flannel-and-sweater heavy line-up come late November. Now that the icy bite of December has arrived, every weekend night brings upon a terrible plight to middle-class white kids all around.

In a world of perfect information, the decision to wear a coat often boils down to knowing whether a bar has a coat check or not. Despite coat checks being a Goldmanian alternative revenue stream, I have no problem dishing over a few bucks as a temporary insurance policy for my coat. Holding a coat in one hand as you wash away your week's pay with the contents of the glass in your other hand is the physical embodiment of peasantry.

In early December and late March when I go to bars without coat checks, I'll get White Person Wild and go to bars without a jacket if the conditions allow it. These nights usually end with a few stiff closing rounds and an early exit to guarantee a cab. I hate that Boston is a city where "guarantee a cab" is even a concept.

I've kicked around the idea with friends of a Zip Car-like coat rental business. Pay a couple bucks, pick up a coat from a bin at a bar, wear it home, and drop it off next time you go out. I'll accept calls from any angels or VCs. Our main core competency resides in our homeless shelter supply chain, although a SWOT analysis showed that we had trouble dealing with vomit stains reeking of fortified wine and an excess of child-size Charlotte Hornets Starter jacket. 

This is What a Hipster Envisions the Nano-Second Before Orgasming

[image from Amazon]

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

This is a Plastic Jar of Peanuts at My Desk

Thank you to the good people at Planters for their groundbreaking scientific research.