Friday, September 30, 2011

Brief respite.

This trip has kept all of us SUPER busy, but at least we've had a few seconds here and there to briefly appreciate something pretty.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

It's a dry heat.

I'm in Tucson for work and palm trees abound. They always remind me of my south Texas childhood. Oddly, the terrain here -- palm trees, mountains, lots and lots of space -- also reminds me of mainland China outside of Hong Kong. Go figure.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Talkin' bout the tunes of today.

I reviewed the new Wilco album today and mostly dig it. I also reviewed the latest disc from The Rapture ahead of their show tomorrow night at Metro. Incidentally this is a show I've been looking forward to because if the band can harness even half of the jubilance they stuffed onto their new album the show should be an out-and-out dance party to remember.

Just remembered the Foo Fighters are backing Roger Waters on Jimmy Fallon tonight too. I wonder what they'll play?

UPDATE: Wow, Foos + Waters played "In The Flesh!" I was honestly expecting "Have A Cigar," but I'll settle for this, no problem! Also, I bet Dave Grohl was happy to do something NOT related to a certain anniversary being celebrated by his old band.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Unexpected pleasures abound!

Photo of The Stepkids by by Jesse Mann and Matthew Bologna

Twice this weekend I was reminded why it's important to get to shows early; it's one of the best ways to discover new music! On Friday I discovered I really liked this group call The Noise FM (think DFA1979 but catchier) and immediately bought both their CDs. They're local so I'll write about them further at a later point.

Last night I went to Lincoln Hall to catch The Horrors (who ended up being kind of hollow and disappointing despite just releasing one of the better albums of this year) and was shocked by how good the opening band The Stepkids was. They were simple guitar / bass / drums and all three shared vocal duties. The music was super classic rock psych with a healthy dose of soul thrown in there. It's kind of hard to describe without it coming off a cliche, an even more so when I tell you the band wore all white and performed with trippy visuals and light show projected over them, but believe me when I say it was vibrant and fresh and new despite sounding like the '60s exploded onto the stage. I wish The Horrors had opened for them because then I would have left the show in a much better mood.

The Stepkids debut album is out tomorrow but you can buy it today. It seems well worth it!

Here are two tunes from the band to whet your appetite. Dig it and tell me what you think!

MP3: The Stepkids "Shadows On Behalf"
MP3: The Stepkids “Legend In My Own Mind”

Friday, September 23, 2011

Group sing-along.

I shared my own thoughts on R.E.M. finally leaving the stage for good the other day. But when I saw this yesterday I realized it summed up just how terrific a band they were in a way words could never do justice.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Breaking Bad gab.

Jesse Pinkman season 2 vs. season 4. What a change! [via Hell Yeah Aaron Paul]
 If you haven't started watching Breaking Bad yet, why not?!* I've been watching it since episode number and GalPal joined in very soon after that. It's one the, if not THE, best show on television right now. Even better than Mad Men, I kid you not (though many are now screaming, "Blasphemy!").


If you are already a fan, the show's leads recently gave two great interviews you should snag ASAP. Aaron Paul** sat down with Fresh Air (with a brief bonus chat with show creator Vince Gilligan at the end) to chat about his personal background and the development of the character of Jesse Pinkman. And Brian Cranston sat down with The Nerdist to talk about his career, his humble approach to acting, Walter White and ... Brain Cranston's Dick Grapes™.

IN OTHER NEWS: The Flaming Lips' six-hour song is out. Give it a listen. That should help most of your workday move along, right?

*The irony here is that I have never watched The Wire, which usually elicits exactly the same response from friends who are fans of that show. I will watch The Wire sometime, I promise!
**Who I've now played kickball with two years in a row and seems to be a really nice fellow.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Things I recently learned...

I was out of town for a really beautiful wedding and between that and my return to the lovely city that is Chicago, I learned some rather interesting facts over the last few days.
  • People, despite Mad Men's popularity, still think a copywriter just sits around writing words. We come up with concepts too, people. Our job is so much more than simply creating copy to fit in a given design space.
  • I still have the capability to act like a petulant 22-year-old.
  • Certain Illinois wineries are basically tasting rooms with a vineyard nowhere nearby.
  • Despite the previous observation, sometimes it's just good to get out of town, even if for just an afternoon.
  • Everyone hates every design change Facebook ever makes ... for three days or so before they just get used to it and stop grousing. SEE ALSO: Apple's method of dealing with criticism.
  • When at a sushi restaurant if you order a roll with only crab and that you're willing to pay extra and they respond with "All crab? That's actually cheaper!" then you're probably about to get something that looks nothing like a roll with nothing but crab, seaweed and rice.
  • I really want every single CD involved in the masive Pink Floyd re-issue campaign, thus proving I am indeed an old man since such physical packages can still get my muth watering as I try to justify spending close to a grand on a coupe CDs. Of course I can't afford it but that doesn't make me want it any less.
  • R.E.M. broke up.
Thus endeth today's lesson.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Keeping up with the Tankboys...

Hi all, if you just can't get enough of me here, don't forget you can keep up with me all over the place!
I'm active in other "social media spaces" as well, but these are probably the most interesting options for 99.9% of you. Where else can I follow you?

Monday, September 19, 2011

Getting back to nature, in the big city.

Today was a day to recharge so I dropped by Garfield Park Conservatory to take in some of its rejuvenating powers (while spending some cash to help rejuvenate the old girl herself).

Friday, September 16, 2011

Thursday, September 15, 2011


A few weeks ago I stopped shaving. No real reason behind it, I guess I was just bored by the hassle of shaving. I was gonna shave before the wedding I'm attending now because I thought GalPal would make me, but now she seems to like it enough she doesn't mind if I keep growing it, just to see where it goes. Me? I'm kind of sick of it but have also grown oddly attached to it.

What do you think? Should it stay or should it go?

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The yin and yang of the suitcase of coupledom.

I always wait until the last minute to pack for a trip. Since I'm a dude this is actually never really a problem since my packing routine consists of countin the number of days I'm gone and ensuring I have one t-shirt and one pair of jeans for each day (with another two or three t-shirts thrown in just to make sure I'm covered). GalPal, on the other hand, has a printed checklist of what she needs on a trip and adjusts it depending on the purpose of her trip. It's incredibly specific.

I'd like to think this difference is yet another of the ways we wonderfully balance each other out. She makes sure i never forget anything and I make sure she doesn't freak out when she feels like she's running out of time to prepare for travel.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Where are you at in life?

Are you happy with what you do? I think I am, and the more I talk to other folks about what they're doing I realize I'm in a rare, and really good, place.

So where stand you on this?

Why torture yourself when you don't have to?

My Twitter feed was clogged by my friends fuming and feeling the need to vent while watching the Republican debate last night. I honestly can't figure out why anyone would actually be watching these things at this point. The actual campaign season is still months away and the craziest of the crazies will presumably have been forced out by then. All liberals or Democrats, or whatever you want to call them, accomplish by fuming over the stances these proto-candidates take during these debates is to amplify their nutty views and give them some weird credence by merely discussing them.

Look, paying attention to your opponents is absolutely necessary, but none of these people are even viable opponents yet. Let 'em take each other out for a while before you start worrying about which one is going to run. THEN we can worry about their crazypants jabber.

I will admit that the most surprising Tweet I saw last night addresses some comments Newt Gingrich made. I didn't even know he was still in the race! So that was kind of amusing.

Monday, September 12, 2011

A.V. Festin'.

We went to the Onion A.V. Club's inaugural A.V.Fest over the weekend and had a really nice time. My recap of the bands we saw is on Chicagoist. I hope this did O.K. enough for them to continue next year since it ended up being a perfect little late summer experience.

 There are a few things about the weekend that were noteworthy that didn't make it into my post. They were, in no particular order:
  • Tim Tuten, owner of The Hideout,  was in town and while he largely eschewed jumping onstage for his now famous band introductions he did jump onstage to say a few words about Archers Of loaf and I realized how much I had missed his presence (he's working in D.C. a lot) and what a vital part he is to Chicago's music scene.
  • Michelle kept looking at me during that Archers set saying, "This is what I imagine the '90s really sounded like when I think about it in my head."
  • I finally had a chance to sample the food from Big Star, a restaurant I refuse to patronize after numerous examples of truly shitty customer service. They were catering the show and the food was free so I decided to see what the fuss was all about and why all my friends love going there. The tacos were O.K. but there was nothing remarkable about them. I can continue my boycott knowing that I'm not really missing anything other than a staff with a consistently lousy attitude. Hey, thanks for the free food though!
  • It was a mighty fine weekend.

Friday, September 09, 2011

Campus livin'.

The number one thing I've learned so far today? College kids are a sleepy lot!

Thursday, September 08, 2011

The only Nirvana remembrance you need ever read.

I'm sick of people cashing in on grunge. Much the same way I'm certain someone five years my senior is sick of people cashing in on new wave. Or someone ten years my senior laments the cashing in on punk. Or someone five years my junior laments on the cashing in of ... what, Nickelback?

And of course that last joke betrays why all these "oh my that was a time that can never be repeated!" pieces I see dotting the media landscape are, in fact, just so much bullshit. We all think our generation occupies a unique moment in time, and in that we are 100% correct. but each generation occupies it's own moment in time. Everything you see as a linchpin or turning point has happened before, its merely YOUR linchpin or turning point.

The truth is you, and your music, and your movies, they are ALL unique delicate snowflakes* but what you need to get in your head is that we've all got our own unique delicate snowflakes to reflect upon.

Grunge and Nirvana and the whole "alt-rock-post-college-radio-pre-Alternative-Nation" thing didn't change the world. Just your life. My life. Or your older brother's life. Or your little sister's life. But it's myopic and unfair to everything that preceded that moment, or succeeded it, to lay any deeper meaning on it than that.

OK, that's a bit harsh, but true. I think, if I was making nice, what I wuld say instead is that each of us has turning points in our lives and for some those points are more a universal experience than an independent action. realize that's what it is though. Celebrate your moment but don't try and ascribe some larger meaning on that instant to spectators. Let them have their own moment.

*Did I ruin my whole point with a fucking Fight Club reference?

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Sweater and boots weather?

I have to remember that I am not always right. Rather, I need to remember that while I know full well I am not always right I might not make that obvious to those around me. And believe me when I say I am well aware I'm flawed and am incredibly capable of making mistakes and being wrong. Sometimes my mistakes hurt people. Sometimes they piss people off. And sometimes they're just annoying. And for the longest time I couldn't figure out why anyone would react any of those ways to anything I did. I'm forthright about my limitations! Or at least I thought I was.

The fact is that after having some sort of public voice -- in various media -- for so long I sometimes forget that people don't actually know me for the most part. And much of my writing is based on my perceptions of things and how they fit into a particular art form and the world at large so it's easy (and aside from interviews I've given or actual conversations you might have had with me or the rare piece of writing that addresses this directly) to think that I believe I am always right. I'm not. I do believe deeply that in some things, primarily music, I am right far more often than I'm wrong but I'm also not so completely clueless as to think that's going to convince this fan or that their favorite act is no longer their favorite. Nor should it.

Here's where it gets tricky. I write about many things in a way that could be described as "sure of itself." And that is because in that moment I am sure of myself. But I'm always open to reasonable argument. In person you will find me the kind of person who spends as much time listening to your point as he does arguing his own. I admit even then sometimes that might not be obvious since I tend to process things rather quickly. And sometimes I completely skip the step of validating another person's argument since I already agree with it and then can't figure out why they think I didn't pay attention to them or am still disagreeing with them. But it's not unheard of to actually hear me admit another person's viewpoint is an excellent one that I had perhaps not fully considered. This is easier online, for when I encounter folks that would like to argue reasonably I will take the time to correspond with those that actually want to talk about why they disagree with me and not simply hurl names this way and that. This correspondence makes it necessary to plainly state when I accept a certain point or validate a stance that differs from my own.

So does this mean that I will stop writing in a way that is "sure of itself?" Hell no. In my critical writing I'm not going to fall prey to watering down where I stand about something just because I want to save someone's feelings.* What it DOES mean is that in my day-to-day life I want to make sure -- and this extends through every relationship I have both personally and professionally -- that people know I am listening to them and that just because I seem certain about something doesn't mean I won't listen to, and readily incorporate their thoughts and ideas and feelings.

The funny thing is that none of this changes who I am. It's more getting people to realize I am not who they think I am. And that is as much my responsibility, if not more so, than anyone else's.

*One of my music writers recently got a rather hostile email from one of their idols that was triggered by something they wrote and it caused them great distress. My response was, "Welcome to writing about music. It happens. You can't have a critical viewpoint and never piss anyone off. At least not if you're going to write well about music."

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Kids did the electric boogaloo.

I went to part of North Coast Music Festival this weekend and it was the first time in since I can't remember I was just at a fest to chill and take it in instead of running around to cover it. It was kind of like this. But it was mostly just kids in a really good mood wanting to dance and wave poles in the air with weird stuffed animals attached to them. Only once or twice did I want to smack some idiot near me for acting a fool, so given the size of the fest I'd say that stat is rather surprising!

Also, if you have a chance to ever see Soul Rebels Brass Band, DO IT.


Monday, September 05, 2011

What you you done with Pickle the Kitten?!

I don't know who this little gal is, all nestled up in my arm, but she sure looks like Pickle the Kitten. But Pickle the Kitten would never be caught dead cuddling!

Would she?

Friday, September 02, 2011

Four albums.

Jellyfish, always the height of fashion
Were you to scroll though any given music player of mine -- be it tankPHONE, tankPOD, computer, record player or what have you -- I'm sure you would see plenty of what you would expect. You might see a lot you don't recognize immediately, but there would be plenty of what you expect. However, there are four albums I have on me at all times that might surprise people. They are:
  • Jellyfish - Bellybutton
  • Jesus Jones - Liquidizer
  • Ned's Atomic Dustbin - Godfodder
  • World Party - Goodbye Jumbo
Why those four? I honestly don't know. While in my head they've all stood the test of time I'm not so delusional as to think they are not from a specific time. But the funny thing is that in the times they each spring from they were what I would categorize as mainstream underground. They were all on major labels but none of them rally belonged there so they were largely shunned by the record buying public and written off as pretty uncool by the indie kids. If anythin I view this quartet as perhaps the beginning of my honestly critical phase. They mark the moment I started saying "I don't care what you like or what is cool, there is something of value here and I am certain of that and I am certain that what I'm hearing hits me deeply." None of the four albums are high art but each it perfect for what it's trying to accomplish.

What four albums do you always have on you?

Thursday, September 01, 2011

Select Stats Do Not A Story Make

Here's the problem with the above GIF, and many infographics out there. They give you stats, and numbers and informational tidbits but they rarely paint the full picture. For instance, the GIF above tracks overall music sales in the U.S. but at point does it clue you into that while the pieces of the pie are changing the way they are, the actual pie they're drawing from (actual revenue from music) is shrinking too.

Nowadays we can make all kinds of pretty images or shocking posters or kee-razy "WTF?!" designs informed by "helpful statistics" but we seem to be growing ever more incapable of actually mining this stuff to see what's going on beyond surface reactions.

We're better than this.