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Lyrics quiz, #1

We’ll see if this becomes a regular feature.

Name the songs:

  1. She lives in the place in the side of our lives where nothing is ever put straight
  2. We are the goon squad and we’re coming to town, beep beep
  3. You’re honorable, more honorable than me
  4. I ditched my lecture to watch the girls play soccer
  5. How can this power be bought and sold?
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Live-blogging season finales

If you plan to watch tonight’s episodes of My Name is Earl or The Office through some means other than their actual broadcasts (DVR, Tivo, iTunes, maybe even the old antiquated “VCR”), please don’t read this yet.

To ensure that the Earl and Office material is low enough on the page that you won’t see it, I’ll babble on about something else first. Maybe the fact that I’m NOT live-blogging Will & Grace or ER.

I have seen a few good episodes of Will & Grace — love the leaky falsie episode — but I have a few problems with it. First, the characters wear thin after a while, especially compared with a solid character-development show like Friends. Second, it’s obvious from what little I’ve seen and the ads I’ve seen that they’ve fallen into the Mad About You trap of taking themselves too damn seriously down the stretch. (M*A*S*H actually worked in a few goofy ones even as Alan Alda was turning most episodes into high drama.) Third, it never really was “groundbreaking.” Billy Crystal played a gay guy on Soap eons ago.

Anyway … on we go …

My Name is Earl

I’m not quite sure about the premise here, though the pot-lollipop-eating, horny mom is funny. Earl discovered that the guy from whom he stole $10 would’ve bought his winning lotto ticket, so he had to give him the money. Seems a little extreme.

But I trust these guys to come up with neat twists. Let’s see.

LOVE Joy’s parenting. “Crying in the middle of the night for more Mountain Dew.”

To sum up the second segment: Earl decided to do a simple one on his list — “ruined Joy’s chances of getting into art school.” But she wasn’t interested in redrawing the turtle for her application, so she asked for help with her new profession. Folks, never let an ex practice piercing on your body. We got the week’s token appearance from the criminally underused Catalina, and Randy bought a lottery ticket that was a cruel twist of fate rather than a karmic reward. Hey, it couldn’t be that easy, could it?

Wow, kicked out his crummy motel, out of gas, eating whatever leftovers Crabman can find … Earl has become the Job of karma. At least Too Tall Maggie was cute.

Great lines abounding here: “If he’s dead, and you give the money to his stoned, horny mom, I’m gonna kill you,” says Randy after their bus hits Paul. Yeah, that’s a fun plot twist.

OK, I like the twist here that Paul had actually run off with Earl’s lotto ticket after he was hit by a car way back in the first episode (and the credits each week). But how is Earl supposed to know where the ticket went between Paul’s first accident and its return to Earl’s hands?

Paul, incidentally, is played by Max Perlich, who’ll look familiar to Homicide fans.

And Randy gets a great theological comment about believing in something, then not believing something, then believing it — sort of. And Catalina rattles off an angry speech in Spanish that Mrs. MMM thinks is something along the lines of “This was the first season of Earl. See you next fall.” That’s neat. Of course, I also have to confess to a Nadine Velazquez crush.

OK, that was good. Glad this show has been relatively successful.

The Office

I’m a little worried here. I’m just hoping they don’t do some cliffhanger on the Jim-and-Pam non-relationship. Just have them kiss already.

It’s easy to miss the jokes if you’re not paying attention, and I needed prodding to catch Michael’s bragging about his charity work — he’s a great philanderer.

I wish I had telekinesis. Or at least Jenna Fischer and John Krasinski’s abilities to act using only facial expressions. (Krasinski, for those who have not seen the show, is freaking brilliant.)

“The Eva Peron to my Cesar Chavez.” Geez, I love this show.

This week’s writer: Steve Carell.

There’s no way to sum up what’s going on, so I’ll probably just quote good lines.

Oh, and has anyone not figured out that they’re going to kill off Gallant on ER? They’ve only been advertising it for three weeks.

Classic bits back-to-back here: The warehouse foreman talking about the alleged hip-hop speak he taught Michael, and Dwight trying to duplicate Jim’s telekinetic feats. And then Kevin’s in a band that plays Police covers?

“Sometimes I don’t put Michael through until he’s said something. I see it as a practice run. He usually does better the second time.”

So Michael has accidentally invited both Jan and his realtor (played by Carell’s real-life wife, former Saturday Night Live and Daily Show cast member Nancy Walls) to casino night. “Two queens on casino night. I guess I’ll drop a deuce on everybody.”

I love this show. I’ll love it more if they don’t do a cliffhanger.

Wing-maaaaaaan!

“It’s the weirdest thing — every time I cough, he folds!”

Good surprise here. There’s palpable jealousy between Jan and the realtor. Not expected. Perhaps not realistic — moment of weakness at T.G.I.Friday’s aside, there’s no way Jan would go for Michael, but intriguing.

“A flush! I have all the clovers!”

Whoa. He came right out and said it. Please no cliffhanger …

I’m hoping she finds out Roy hired Kevin’s band without consulting her, then runs after Jim.

DAMN it. Cliffhanger. Not the vicarious thrill of their equivalents kissing in the British version.

Great gags throughout, but this is disappointing.

It’s tough to prolong romantic tension in a show, and we knew the Jim-Pam dynamic had to change at some point. But this is still frustrating.

I’m going to stay optimistic about next season’s opener, though.

Aargh … long time to wait.

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Drummer answers, part 3

25. Alan White — Yes. He’s been in the band more than 30 years now. It was probably smart of Yes not to look for a Bruford clone — as if any existed. White plays in a completely different style, and it worked pretty well.

26. John Bonham — Led Zeppelin. The ultimate power drummer.

27. Mitch Mitchell — The Jimi Hendrix Experience. Had enough complexity to play with the most innovative guitarist … ever.

28. Keith Moon — The Who. Technically, a little shaky. But in a good way.

29. Simon Phillips — session vet. He plays jazz, he played with Judas Priest.

30. Tre’ Cool — Green Day. Great fills on Basket Case and good feel for the new direction on American Idiot, though some may argue that the best post-punk drummer is Blink-182’s Travis Barker.

31. Taylor Hawkins — Foo Fighters, Alanis Morissette. Good enough chops to fill Dave Grohl’s seat, and he looks good enough in a dress to be in Foo Fighters videos.

32. Anton Fig — Letterman’s band, lots of sessions. Another guy whose sessions run the gamut from jazz to metal, and considering the diverse acts he plays with on Letterman’s show, that’s a good thing. I recall him playing a trash can lid when Suzanne Vega visited.

33. Omar Hakim — Weather Report, David Bowie, Sting, countless sessions. Solid groove guy from the fusion ranks. (I know, that sentence means absolutely nothing. But I’m running out of things to say.)

34. Jon “Bermuda” Schwartz — “Weird Al” Yankovic. Like Anton Fig, he has to mimic an endless variety of styles. Unlike Fig, one of those styles is polka. And yet he’s still sane. Worthy entrant here.

One guy I should add to make it 35 — Jeremy Taggart of Our Lady Peace. Looks like I did in high school (big glasses, unkempt hair) and supposedly has a jazz background, and yet he’s a solid drummer for a hard-rock band with some pop tendencies. He’s at his best on the band’s best song, Naveed, which left me breathless on countless trips to and from grad school in the late 90s.

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Drummer answers, part 2

13. Stewart Copeland — The Police. He’s had a fun post-Police career, collaborating with everyone from jazz bassist Stanley Clarke, Primus’ Les Claypool and Phish’s Trey Anastasio (the latter two in the same band, Oysterhead) to the Doors. We’re very lucky that he was the drummer who fused reggae and punk. Other drummers would’ve made a hash of it. (Hmmm … bad word choice? I’ll leave it — it illustrates my point.) I would’ve loved to hear him with the Doors — he has the dramatic tendencies of John Densmore with far more technical prowess.

14. Frank Beard — ZZ Top. I’ve said it before: You could put me in front of a drum kit for a thousand years, and I’d never nail the fill from LaGrange. Playing drums in a blues-based band is generally one of the easiest jobs in the world as long as you have a certain feel, but Beard took it to a new level.

15. Martin Chambers — The Pretenders (1978-1985, 1993-present). Kept the beat as Chrissie Hynde unleashed some odd time signatures on their debut album (check out Tattooed Love Boys), provided a classic drum intro for their best song (Middle of the Road) and returned after an eight-year hiatus to revive the band’s sagging sound (Night in My Veins).

16. Bill Berry — R.E.M. , Hindu Love Gods. The man indirectly responsible for me getting my first car (he sold one to a high school friend of mine, and I got that guy’s car) was one of those guys whose devotion to his band and security in his own skills made him accept a lesser role than he could have had. On the early albums, his drums are buried in the mix. Berry also wrote a couple of the group’s songs, including the overrated Everybody Hurts and the underrated Perfect Circle. And he has to be one of the most down-to-earth guys in the business, considering he walked away from it all in 1997 to work on his farm.

(Hindu Love Gods? Basically, it’s R.E.M. minus Michael Stipe plus Warren Zevon, though other singers occasionally filled in at Athens-area gigs. That group recorded a fun bunch of covers, including a great take on Prince’s Raspberry Beret. And they played on most of Zevon’s Sentimental Hygiene, giving Zevon fans a welcome break from the tired old California session vets who usually bogged down his albums.)

17. Philip “Fish” Fisher — Fishbone. You won’t find many bands with an odder history than Fishbone, so it will come as no surprise that “Fish” is no longer in the band that bears his name, sort of. His brother, Norwood, is still in the band despite being sued in an ill-fated attempt to deprogram former guitarist Kendall Jones after he left to join an alleged cult. (I wasn’t kidding about the band’s history.) Norwood and “Fish” were a fearsome rhythm section on an album that WILL be part of the “classic rock canon”: The Reality of My Surroundings.

18. Boris Williams — The Cure. Maybe a strange choice, I know, especially for a band that changes personnel about as often as Spinal Tap. But he had a good 10-year run and played on all their best albums.

19. Fran Christina — The Fabulous Thunderbirds, Roomful of Blues. Again, not a genre known
for good drumming, and again, not a band noted for stability. (Jimmie Vaughan isn’t even in the band anymore, for Pete’s sake.) But Tuff Enuff and their cover of Wrap it Up — the only reasons anyone outside of Texas knows this band — wouldn’t have had quite as much kick if Christina hadn’t had a gift for sneaky fills.

20. Jeep MacNichol — The Samples. OK, this one’s a little obscure, but he’s a good one. You could call him the Stewart Copeland of jam bands. He has a distinct reggae influence, and he has inventive cymbal flourishes. On As Tears Fall, a tribute to a departed parent, MacNichol’s lively drums strengthen the notion of enduring hope. We saw The Samples long after his departure, and drummer Sam Young did a great job of mimicking MacNichol’s style, but Jeep was the original. It’s just a shame Samples leader Sean Kelly long had an approach to the record business that bordered on self-destructive.

21. Gina Schock — The Go-Gos. That ankle-burning bass drum on We Got the Beat, those tom rhythms on Get Up and Go … yeah, you’ve gotta love Gina.

22. Phil Collins — Genesis. If only he’d stayed behind the drums …

23. David Narcizo — Throwing Muses and related side projects. OK, so you haven’t heard of Throwing Muses, the band featuring Kristin Hersh and stepsister Tanya Donelly, who went onto be part of the original Breeders lineup and the singer-songwriter-guitarist of Belly. His early work was full of tom-heavy rhythms reminiscent of Adam and the Ants or Bow Wow Wow, but he branched out into some snare-driven fills that would be the envy of any jazz drummer. (Best example: Bright Yellow Gun — notice the subtle accents that he works into such a quick fill. Then try to do it yourself. Not easy.)

24. Larry Mullen Jr. — U2. Yeah, that one’s easy. Like Bill Berry in R.E.M., he could take one for the team when needed, or he could step up and drive a song. If you’re going to play with a guitarist as unique as The Edge, you need to have some tricks up your sleeve.

Part 3 coming up …

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The trouble with XM

I’ll get back to the channel-by-channel review soon. But in the meantime, I’m still stuck on a problem I noticed a while back — with so many niche channels to program, they dredge up an awful lot of crap.

I wrote before about the lame extended EBN-OZN dance mix they were fond of playing. In one hour, I’ve heard two that were worse. David Bowie’s agonizing remix of Let’s Dance was one I’d heard before. Then came a version of Fleetwood Mac’s Sara that simply refused to end. For a while, it just repeated. Then … oy … a bunch of “oh whoaaaa”s behind Stevie Nicks repeating doggerel like “Never chaaaaaange.”

All I can say is that I hope they simply looped Christine McVie’s piano lick along with the John McVie-Mick Fleetwood rhythm track. There weren’t enough drugs in California at that time to keep everyone awake through that mess.

And I like that song. The original, that is.

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Drummer answers, part 1

To keep this from being an essay, I’ll split the answers in three parts, including the drummers medic8r tossed in. (For those who don’t know, I’ve known medic8r since I was about 12 years old.)

1. Neil Peart — Rush. Some think he overplays, some think his playing is cold and unemotional, but they’re missing the point. Rush is all about pushing the envelope of a power trio, and no one’s better suited for that role than Peart. It’s also fun to watch his massive drum kit evolve — chimes behind him in the ’70s, a whole electric kit behind him in the ’80s, then a couple of electronics mixed with a sprawling set of toms and cymbals for every occasion. You won’t hear more impressive drumming unless you have to the patience to wade through jazz albums to catch a Dave Weckl outburst.

2. Bill Bruford — Yes, King Crimson, brief stint in Genesis, long jazz career. Most rock drummers who claim to have a jazz background are lying. But Bruford is legit, and his jazz skills are put to great use on Heart of the Sunrise, one of the most distinctive drum performances you’ll ever hear. Yeah, so King Crimson was generally a silly Robert Fripp ego trip — they still put together a couple of decent efforts.

3. Dave Grohl — Nirvana, Foo Fighters (at times), various other guest spots (most notably Queens of the Stone Age and Tom Petty). Not spending as much time behind the drums as he used to, but still the guy who would get the first call if you were putting together a post-punk band.

4. Terry Bozzio — Missing Persons, guest spots. Yeah, he did the Zappa thing, but he and fellow Zappa alum (and future Duran Duran guitarist) Warren Cuccurullo got together with Bozzio’s then-wife, Dale, and formed a band that crammed its considerable musical skill into tight pop songs. Just check out the cymbal fills Bozzio works into Mental Hopscotch.

5. Clem Burke — Blondie and lots of guest work (the Romantics, Eurythmics). Geez, wasn’t this guy bored silly when he toured with the Romantics? With Blondie, he was a master of genre-shifting. (And not, as I almost typed, “genre-shitting.”) He played a virtual drum solo throughout Dreaming, gave Heart of Glass a distinctive disco-punk beat and effortlessly kept the beat for songs as diverse as Call Me, Rapture and The Tide is High.

6. Mark Brzezicki — Big Country; guest work includes Pete Townshend. Just before Big Country was formed, Brzezicki and Tony Butler were the rhythm section for some great Townshend songs such as Let My Love Open The Door (Butler also provides the low end of the vocals). They moved into Big Country and formed a thunderous backdrop for a great band.

7. Brian Rosenworcel — Guster. For the first few Guster albums, he had the “Look Ma, no sticks!” approach, using congas and bongos as the basis of an unconventional drum kit. It sounded great, and he was a lot of fun to watch live, even as you wondered if he’d eventually break a hand on a cymbal. He has reluctantly added a traditional kit to his instrumentation.

8. Chad Gracey — Live. Yes, he looked like a dork in the I Alone video, as Beavis and Butthead so graciously pointed out. But he’s actually pretty good.

9. Rob Hirst — Midnight Oil. Check out the opening of Feeding Frenzy to hear how well Hirst fanned the righteous anger that gave this band its power.

10. Jerry Marotta — just assume he’s played with everybody. I saw him live a couple of times with Indigo Girls. He also played a good bit with Peter Gabriel and Hall & Oates. He even popped up in King Crimson briefly.

11. Matt Chamberlain — here’s the Wikipedia list: Morrissey, Tori Amos, Pearl Jam, Fiona Apple, Christina Aguilera, Critters Buggin’, Weapon of Choice, Stone Gossard, Edie Brickell and the New Bohemians, Tim and Neil Finn, David Bowie, Elton John, Peter Gabriel, The Wallflowers, Natalie Merchant, Kenny Rogers, Bill Frisell, the Saturday Night Live Band, Robbie Williams, Kanye West, Garbage, Anika Moa, Shakira, John Mayer, Brad Mehldau, Liz Phair, Chris Isaak, Dave Navarro, Sam Phillips and William Shatner. He keeps returning Tori’s calls, and that’s a good thing — he’s capable of handling music that’s emotionally and musically complex. Now if only he could get Tori to tone down some of the vocal effects a bit. I mean, seriously — does EVERY song have to sound like “Aiiiieeeeiieeeiieeeaiiieeee”? The ones that don’t are really, really good.

12. Jimmy Chamberlin — Smashing Pumpkins, Zwan. Word was that Billy Corgan overdubbed most of the guitar and bass work on a lot of the Pumpkins’ early (read: good) stuff, so a lot of great music was just Corgan and Chamberlin. He supposedly has a jazz background as well, but he opts for straightforward rock most of the time. Check the maelstrom he whips up in Geek USA. He was out of the band for a couple of years after keyboardist Jonathan Melvoin OD’d while doing heroin with Chamberlin on tour, but he has straightened out by all indications and gave another solid performance on the only (sadly) Zwan album. Supposedly, he’ll be in a reunited Smashing Pumpkins, but with Corgan, who knows?