Do You Ever Think About It?

I came late to the Built To Spill party. I am not sure at all on how I missed it when they released those albums in the ’90s because it sounds pretty much exactly like the kind of music I loved during that time. Thankfully I have a good friend who set me straight (thanks, Lieb!) and made me see the light.

I’m bad at describing bands in words. Believe me, I’ve tried it before. I even wrote for some music magazines for a while to get some extra cash back when my full time job at Rounder paid me $5.25 an hour. There are some highlights which I have stowed away as keepsakes, but by-and-large it’s a kid writing mid-level stuff about bands that have come-and-gone so fast it makes my head spin. My problem, and it affected my writing and arguably affected my record label, was that I’m just too much of a music FAN to let writing or business get in the way.

So, as succintly as possible, I can tell you that Built To Spill – in my own eyes – are some kind of cross between the rock side of Neil Young and the catchy side of Pavement. Lyrically, Doug Martsch isn’t one of those guys who writes songs that are more like the former and less clever and biting than the latter/Malkmus.

There are certain songs, though, that Martsch has written that just work for no reason. For example, one of my favorite Built To Spill tracks manages to name check Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, Kansas, Jimi Hendrix, The Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, Bob Seger, John Mellancamp, Jim Morrison – all in a song under five minutes. It might just be my favorite Built to Spill song and provides a pretty good definition of the band without me having to type all this crap trying to describe it. Fuck it. Just listen by clicking the play button below.

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You were wrong when you said
Everything’s gonna be alright
You were wrong when you said
Everything’s gonna be alright

You were right when you said
All that glitters isn’t gold
You were right when you said
All we are is dust in the wind
You were right when you said
We are all just bricks in the wall
And when you said manic depression’s a frustrating mess

You were wrong when you said
Everything’s gonna be alright
You were wrong when you said
Everything’s gonna be alright

You were right when you said
You can’t always get what you want
You were right when you said
It’s a hard rain’s gonna fall
You were right when you said
We’re still running against the wind
And life goes on long after the thrill of living is gone
You were right when you said
This is the end

Do you ever think about it?
Do you ever think about it?
Do you ever think about it?
Do you ever think about it?

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I(Don’t Know)-Phone

I’ve decided that the safest thing to race out and buy “the day it comes out” is any book by Jeffrey Eugenides or any Sloan, Built to Spill or Band Of Horses album. That’s pretty much it. Five years ago I probably would have raced out and gotten myself in line for an IPhone on the day it was released. Now I’m not so much into “having it on the first day.” Don’t get me wrong – I’m a gadget freak, just ask my poor wife. The minute she gets herself accomodated into a remote control, there will be a new one. The week she’s comfortable with Apple TV, I’ll hack Boxee into it. So by no means am I turning into a luddite. I’m just a little more mild, given a) the economy and b) priorities.

So I’ve been struggling on this IPhone/Blackberry Storm thing, building up to last Friday, which was the day I was eligible for a new phone. My decision? I very well may wait it out. I’m now month-to-month on my Verizon contract and that’s pretty comfortable, knowing I’m not locked into anything, especially given the state of the nation. Blackberry’s Storm is more like a light rain, it seems. My experience with it so far has been underwhelming and buggy. Hey Verizon store, the display phones are supposed to work seamlessly! The IPhone looks so sweet, but I’m not sure it’s sweet enough to switch to AT&T and lock myself into something until 2011. Someday the carriers will get it and free their customers from the shackles. If you want a great write-up on all this, just click here for some professional writing courtesy Om Malik – he’s basically saying what I’m trying to say, only more clearly.

So my decision right now: no decision. I reserve the right to change my mind anytime.

However, the idea of completely getting rid of cable TV came one step closer to reality this weekend when I discovered this site. Live sports via torrents! Not sure this will feed the appetite, but it could be a start. It’s also an indication that I need to do more web-digging.

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The Left Misses The Right

I woke up this morning in a hotel room in San Francisco. A brief work trip, one in which I won’t be able to do much except eat, sleep, work and have meetings. Work trips are different now – of course the tasks at hand must be focused on and work is at the forefront. I find myself working as hard as ever. I’m not sure if it’s because of the economy or just the thrill of the chase. Probably both. I know I’m as nervous as anyone with all the layoffs  going on and whatnot. Anyone who tells you any different is probably lying.

On the flip side, I want nothing more than to be home and be with my kids and wife, particularly on this day, a historic day. It’s days like today when you want to experience historic events with the people you love and not be marooned in a city 3,100 miles from home. But I do enjoy coming here and I enjoy seeing my co-workers out west. And I can’t say I don’t enjoy the weather – when I woke up this morning, it was to clear skies and sun, temps about 65 degrees. I mean, really. It’s January?

So I woke up and opened my hotel room windows and down below me was a place called the Moscone Center (I think it’s some kind of conference center) and in front of the center there’s a small “town green” style patch of grass – where people were already gathering to watch the inauguration. How cool. Something tells me that that hadn’t happened before for an inaugration ceremony. I ended up at work by about 8:15am pacific time, in time to catch the oaths and speeches in our CEO’s office. The positive energy today in geenral was pretty pronounced. The happiness around the office was divine. It was just a good day.

And I miss my wife and kids.

By the way, the jury is in – it’s going to be an IPhone. I was still wavering until I went into the Verizon Wireless store after work today and tried to fiddle with TWO Blackberry Storms, neither of which would work properly. Sad that I’m going to have to say goodbye to Verizon, but it looks like that’s the way it’s going to come down.

Addendum: I just flipped on the TV (11:09pm eastern) and Mary J. Blige was introduced at some concert on TV, she came out and yelled “no more segregation!” Now, I like to think I’m pretty aware of what goes on in this country, but I’m not aware of any segregation. Of course, the scar of racism will probably never go away, unfortunately, but segregation? Did I miss something there?

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Ya Got Me?

Apparently the inauguration has already happened and Gary McIntyre, I don’t know whether or not I should commend you for having a sweet job or criticize you for having WAY WAY too much time on your hands. Just watch the video. Trust me.

So I bought a dishwasher at Lowe’s a couple of weeks ago. As I’m giving the guy all my information, he stops and says “is your father Dino?” I tell him yeah. Turns out my grandfather cooked for his sister’s wedding and he also used to date a cousin of mine or something. We talk for a few minutes and I’m a little freaked out that a person I’ve never met knows so much about me. He asks me things like “are your parents still over on South Meadow Road?” I tell him no, and I know he’s being friendly and all, but still…..freaky! I ask him if he had actually ever been to my parents house before and he said he hadn’t. But he remembers where they live from like 20 years ago? Huh? I’ll write it off to a good memory!

Anyway, this morning the plumber doing the installation calls me and is trying to arrange install & delivery of said dishwasher. I’m telling her when I’ll be here and when I won’t and at the end of every sentence she says in her  special Massachusetts accent “ya got me?” Now, that’s just annoying. She said it like five times……

My Neil Young concert review from December seemed to generate quite a few comments, both on the blog and via email. I’ve been meaning to give attention to a comment left by a friend of mine named Frank Padellaro. Frank is a great guy and an astoundingly good singer who fronts a band called King Radio (one of their albums were released on my record label). His comment is so detailed and impressive, that I want you to read it if you haven’t already. I pretty much agree with everything Frank says.

My wife and I walked out on a Neil Young show in the Centrum some time around 1990. Sonic Youth and Social D opened up, both of whom were quite good. Neil came out on decided we all needed to see how loud and alternative he could be. He came off like a confused old fart playing bad rock (much like the Todd Rundrgren performance I just saw on Letterman). It was awful. I had seen him play before that at Jones Beach, just after Freedom came out, and it was unbelievable. Before that, I went to see his blues band croak out “This Note’s for You” which I would have walked out on, if I had been driving my own car. In the end, he played a great 5 song acoustic set that made it worth staying. So, with all the ups and downs, if you enjoyed the show, you should consider yourself playing with house money from this point forward.

The bigger picture is the inherent letdown of finally seeing one of your favorite artists live. The whole concept centers on the fact that this artist has been around the block a few times, so you’re pretty much ensuring that you’ll be seeing a show by someone way past their prime, in bad voice, with poor energy, without the spark and fire they probably had in spades when they built their well deserved reputation.

I’ve been to too many of these shows to count, and they nearly always leave me feeling the same way. I spend the first five minutes thinking, “Holy Crap! That’s famous recording artist Joe Shlobotnik! He’s actually here in front of me.” That is combined with the silly realization, “I’ve seen this guy in movies, videos and TV. He looks just like himself.” Then I’m good for 20 minutes of convincing myself he’s not some washed up has been. You get a couple flashes of genius and pretend that it is a good time. Finally, the boredom sets in. Look around the room. Check out some old guy with a pony tail wearing a 150 dollar made in China tour jacket. His wife is drinking a plastic yard of frozen margarita that cost $28. The boredom might be abated if the artist dips into some obscure catalog piece and it just happens to be MY FAVORITE SONG. Then, more boredom. There is a really depressing realization when the artist has left the stage and hasn’t played one of their most famous songs. Then the lame encore that surprises no one. As I make my way through the inevitable traffic snarl at the Odorono Deoderant Enormo Arena I think, “Well, I’ve got that out of the way. Joe Shlobotnik can die now.”

Consider the following list:

Rolling Stones
The Who
Paul McCartney
Randy Newman
Todd Rundgren
Cheap Trick
The Allman Brothers
Neil Young
The Cure
Depeche Mode
The Police
The Zombies
The Kinks
Lovin’ Spoonful
Tom Waits
Elvis Costello
The Pogues
Squeeze
Jethro Tull
ELO
Crosby Stills and Nash
The Pixies
Joe Strummer

That’s just off the top of my head. Nearly all of these shows were, by any standards other than nostalgia, simply terrible, and followed the formula above. The Rolling Stones and the Who were both professional but totally boring. Shane McGowan was the most embarassing performance I’ve ever seen, and some of the shows, like watching John Sebastian trying to croak out a song past his shattered vocal cords, were simply too sadly painful to endure. Cheap Trick, for some reason, sound exactly now like they did at Budokan. How in hell do they do that?!? That was awesome, but not transcendent. Randy Newman was not in the best voice, but was so damn funny everyone had a really great time, including me. Plus he played MY FAVORITE SONG. The 90 minutes just melted away. The only one who seemed to give off the spark you get from a great new band in their utter prime (like the first time I saw Sloan) was Tom Waits. He finished the show, and I told my friend Mike how much I liked it, but I thought only playing an hour, with no opening act was kind of a rip off. Mike looked at his watch and told me he played for nearly three hours. Incredible.

So, the motto is, go see new music in small venues, so that you can tell someone someday, “I saw the Police play at the Channel in ‘78, and they were the greatest thing I’ve ever seen.” That memory alone will tip the scale over a hundred mediocre arena reunion shows.

Sorry for hijacking your blog.

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Random

  • I’m hearing news via hardcore journalism website PerezHilton.com that the Arrested Development movie is a GO! That’s probably the best news I’ve heard all month. This particular link speculates on whether or not Michael Cera (he plays George Michael Bluth) is going to sign up or not. It would be a bummer if he didn’t, but that cast has enough hitters in the lineup to still win a lot of baseball games. Count me in as totally psyched!
  • You don’t need me to get overly verbose here about Steve Jobs. There’s plenty of that elsewhere. But I will say this – taking a six month leave of absence because of your health is a big deal. This is no minor ailment. That said, when the stock dips today (it was down 8% in aftermarket last night), BUY it! I am shocked that people would sell Apple stock because of Jobs leaving. This is different than the first time Jobs left. BUY!
  • I vowed to never buy music on ITunes until they lifted copy protection off the music. Rejoice! They’ve basically done it. I went back this week and added a few back catalog songs by CSN and it felt good. The ease of buying music on ITunes is a pleasure……and something I’m frightened of!
  • I’m not sure why I found this story so funny, but I did.
    • I don’t know why I dig this new Neil Young video so much, but I do. I love the line about MP3’s sounding like shit. The song is called “Fork In The Road.” No big budget here.

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