Thursday, June 29, 2006

Authority Zero - Rhythm and Booze CD Review

Authority Zero had a hit on MTV a few years back entitled “One More Minute”, but other than that, they pretty much dropped off of the collective radar of the music world. Sure, they released a record in 2004 (Andiamo), but it went predominantly unnoticed by almost everyone. Oddly, instead of fading out into obscurity, the boys in Authority Zero have decided to come back around with an acoustic live album.

Considering that both live albums and acoustic albums are usually reserved for bands that have a large back catalog or have sold well, it was very surprising to see a combination of the two used to showcase the first recorded material from Authority Zero in more than 2 years. Oddly, though, it works. The band’s music, which was a refreshing blend of Sublime and NOFX back in the day, translates very well to the laid back, acoustic performance caught on tape here.

With most live releases, the biggest complaint from fans is that the recording or mixing comes off badly. Not so here, as the mix seems to be just perfect with the sing-a-long vocals at the top of the mix, but not too high up so that all of the instruments are drowned out. On the other side of things, some fans complain about the overproduction that makes a live show sound like nothing more than a studio recording with some cheering added in. No worries about that here either as this show comes complete with flubbed lyrics, small mistimings, and other small tidbits that make a live performance different than what a band puts out in the studio. This isn’t to say that the band sucks live because they most certainly don’t. It's good to see some of the small imperfections make it into the recording.

This release is undeniably and simultaneously laid back and fun. The acoustic renditions of their reggae flavored songs come off best, as the transition from electric to unplugged wasn’t much of a stretch, but the faster paced punk numbers also made a mostly seamless changeover.

Listening to fan favorites such as “One More Minute”, “Super Bitch”, and “A Passage in Time” in an acoustic setting is actually a hell of a lot of fun. On top of the classics, you have the amazing “Paddy on the Railway” which is a song very similar to the last track on A Passage in Time in that it manages to combine a soulful melodic verse with a fast paced, almost impossibly quick, chorus, much to the crowd's delight.

Seldom are there many good live reggae flavored discs hitting the new releases shelves, especially of the acoustic variety. Heck, this is probably the only disc of its kind, at least to see the light of day within last few years. For that aspect alone it at least warrants a little attention. Thankfully it’s also pretty good.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Who Needs Some Storage?

As I was doing my usual blog read through, I noticed the Sony Media Changer you see on the left referenced by Daily Tool. I figured it was just a normal CD/DVD changer, but after reading up on it, it looks to be the one mega changer to rule them all.

First off, it's not just a player. It's also a DVD recorder. That's right, you could load the thing up with blank DVD's, hook it up to your computer, and tell it to start backing up the hundreds of gigs of porn... err, I mean movies & music into this baby. It'll go through a set of blank discs that are inserted burning onto each sequentially. Sweet.

Besides being able to burn stuff, it'll rip the CD's you put into it onto your computer. This would be a great feature for me since I get about 1-3 CD's a day from bands looking to get coverage on Decoy. I could just toss them all in at the end of the week and tell this thing to rip them to my computer. How sweet would that be?

You can also hook this bad boy up to your stereo and TV to keep all your most listened to CD's and most watched DVD's in it for easy access. I could then switch between the different TV shows I watch on DVD without swapping discs.

This thing is like the most amazing thing I could think of right now. It's just too bad it's $400 and that my computer is on the top floor of my place and my entertainment center is in the basement. Make this thing operate wirelessly on its own and change the capacity to around 400 and you have a machine that would be the centerpiece of my entertainment center, right alongside my Xbox 360.

Browsing Help

When you think about it, our culture is pretty internet based, at least in comparison to a few years ago. We use it for so many things--checking email, getting weather reports, downloading illegal files, getting news, looking up information, and for fun. The internet has become something we browse daily. With that known, I personally wouldn't be able to get by without using Firefox and the slew of extensions that are available for it. My browsing experience has become so much easier and much more streamlined because of the use of Firefox's extensions. And since just about every blogger on this planet has done it at one time or another, here are the extensions I couldn't live without.
  • Session Saver: This extension saves exactly what websites you have open when you close your browser so that next time you open up Firefox it brings up what website(s) you were last viewing. It's very helpful for when I take my laptop back and forth from work to home as my sessions can be maintained even though I have to close Firefox and shut down my computer.
  • Adblock: So much bandwidth and time is wasted by loading ads on webpages, especially the Flash animated ads that have been all the rage. With this extension you can select the ads on a page and never have them displayed again! You can also block ads from an entire domain, which is helpful because then you can just block anything coming from ad specific domains.
  • StumbleUpon: Everyone gets bored, but with the internet you can always find something that's at least semi-entertaining. StumbleUpon lets you "stumble" around the internet based upon interests. You hit the "Stumble" button and a new site comes up. You can rate it or move on to the next site. Keep doing it until you find something interesting. This has helped kill many hours when I didn't have anything else to do.
So what extensions can you not live without? Are there any earth shatteringly awesome extensions that I should start using?

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

SOS - A Guide to Better Living CD Review

There’s a lot to be said for dedication, especially when it comes to your job. No one wants to hire an employee who could really care less about what he or she is actually doing. Why do you think that the people who shoot up corporate ladder are the ones who give themselves over to their jobs (or altogether brown-nose a little too much)? Dedication gets them there.

On the flip side, however, you have those people that get way too dedicated to something that really shouldn’t have their dedication, such as those nerds that spend every free hour of every day painting Warhammer 40,000 figurines or study how their Magic deck stacks up against the new 23rd series expansion spell cards. It’s cool that they paint a figure occasionally or play Magic, but when it becomes something that a person does over and over and over again, becoming their life, all you can do is pity the person. The same can be said for bands that are dedicated, but keep hammering out the same stuff over and over and over again or are stuck creating music that has been done so much better by others and simply not realizing it.

SOS has been a part of the punk and hardcore scene since 1994 and has continued churning out new music and new records in the New York scene over the last decade, but unfortunately there isn’t all that much to note about them besides their persistence. A Guide to Better Living feels like it bubbled out of the early 90’s underground punk scene, a scene that had altogether too much Black Flag and Minor Threat worship going on.

One thing that SOS actually has that keeps this album from being a complete disaster, however, is variety. Throughout the 17 tracks on this album there is a decent variety between heavier, straight ahead hardcore influenced punk jams and the bouncier street punk tunes. That being said, not many of the songs really stand out in the least.

This is stuff you’ve heard 10 times over from the bands in your local punk scene, and it definitely sounds like it was recorded by a local band as well. The production values on here make this effort sound as if it actually was recorded in 1994. I’ve heard demos with much better sound quality, but maybe they’re going for the old school, DIY sound. Regardless, when you sound like a simplistic local artist, that’s the way people are going to think of you and treat you, which means don't expect to branch out beyond your local, cult fanbase.

Congratulations are in order for the members of SOS for carrying on as long as they have, but they simultaneously deserve a strong slap on the wrist for not trying to do anything more than wallow in their mediocrity.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Since My Traffic is Waning

People must really be interested in Mexico or something because while I was down there the amount of visitors here spiked upward, but as soon as I got back home and began cranking out more content than when I was traveling my traffic slowed down. Who knows. What I do know, though, is that I'm going to attempt to boost my traffic back up by posting some pictures from my Mexico travels!

Below you'll see myself along with some of my long distance co-workers eating out at one of the Mexican restaurants that I so luckily managed to eat at.

Here is another shot from dinner. I think I'm waiting for my food to arrive, still full from the huge lunch and breakfast I'd already had. Still, you can't turn down all that wonderful authentic food. It just wouldn't seem right.

Ahh, more worms! I loved them so much I couldn't eat them for only one meal. I had them twice! They were actually not too bad. Seriously.

While we were eating we had live music being played right next to our table. Later on after she was finished playing her harp/piano thingy, we had a singer/pianist duo play for us. It was great.

Here's a picture of the courtyard of the restaurant we were at along with the peacock that was wandering around showing off his feathers.

Ok, so I really don't have any other real good pictures other than the ones from the night we went out to dinner. So sue me. I was there for work, not tourism! Still, hopefully this mention of Mexico combined with some pictures will shoot my traffic back through the roof!

Friday, June 23, 2006

Rah Rah Rochester?

I seriously thought it was a joke when I first heard, but then I read the Strib article about it and was simply dumbfounded. Apparently, in order to change the image of Rochester, they needed a slogan. It was to be a slogan that would give Rochester a fun, light-hearted image instead of the sterile one it currently possesses. Well, my initial response is this.

Duh Duh Dumb

Whoever let "Rah Rah Rochester" be the city's new catchphrase and branding should be hit in the face with a mallet. I can't believe anyone would think this slogan would be a good idea... unless everyone involved was on some type of mind altering drug, but even then it's pretty inexcusable.

What's even more surprising is they've been working on solidifying a theme for... wait for it... 18 months! It took them a year and a half to come up with something so ridiculous that I don't think even person who suggested it actually meant it as a serious suggestion. We are, no doubt, looking at a case of a joke playing itself out way too far.

Thank goodness I got out of that crazy ass, boring town a few months ago. I'm glad to see the town is still filled with dumb, rich people who have nothing better to do in their free time than spend 18 months coming up with a slogan that sounds like something a toddler would utter when trying to read his or her first book.

It Dies Today / Haste the Day / Chiodos / Flee the Seen

Whoever it was at Facedown Records that signed Flee the Seen must have been snorting immense lines of coke because they have to be one of the biggest disappointments on the label’s roster. Their music is as clichéd and scene-defined as almost any other Hot Topic band, which led to a live performance that left a lot to be desired. Their sound, in a nutshell, is pretty much Evanescence with a few male yells and a couple of breakdowns. Sometimes, however, bands that lack in the talent and songwriting departments can make up for their deficiencies in a live setting by being energetic. This wasn’t the case. The half hour that Flee the Seen was on stage was brutal.

The band members basically sat in their respective areas for the entire set with the drummer at his kit, a guitarist on the left, a bassist on the right, and the twitchy girl vocalist in the middle. I say twitchy because she did that annoying thing where she would shake her head back and forth at random times, like she was violently trying to shake her hair out of her eyes. Someone should give her a tip and tell her that it doesn’t make her look badass or hardcore—it makes it look like she’s in a weird type of cognizant seizure.

Thank God Chiodos was up after the audible atrocity that is Flee the Seen. There was actually a very large fan base in attendance to see Chiodos which was a little surprising as I didn’t realize their following was as large as it is, at least in the Midwest. Once on stage they kicked right into “The Words ‘Best Friend’ Become Redefined” which set the place off. Unfortunately this meant that there were a bunch of 14 year old, 120 lb hardcore dancing kids pretending that they were somehow expressing something by flailing their hands and arms around like a group of angry monkeys. It would be a lot more comical to watch them if they weren’t consistently smacking people that weren’t “dancing”, which usually included me. Whatever happened to coming to a show to watch a band instead of coming to pretend that you’re the Karate Kid on speed?

Outside of the stupid antics of the monkey people in the crowd, Chiodos’s set was killer. They seamlessly transitioned between the mellow moments of their set and the straight ahead rock outs. The band also genuinely appeared to be enjoying themselves on stage, which is always a plus and also helps the people who came to watch the band get into the music.

Next on the bill was a band that was interesting to see, mostly for the fact that they were touring with a new lead singer than the one they made all of their records with. The one trait that Haste the Day had always possessed which put them in a different realm than most modern metalcore bands was that their ex-lead singer, Jimmy Ryan, had a demonic growl that was unmatched. In December of 2005, however, he left and was replaced by Stephen Keech. Unfortunately, Keech is no Ryan… not even close.

By all accounts Haste the Day put on a good show, but for fans of their records, Keech just can’t do what Ryan was capable of with his voice. Instead the songs sounded much more tame and less unique with Keech’s very standard metal growl. On top of the mellowing of the growls, on their cover of “Long Way Down” there wasn’t a breath screamed. The back-up screams from the album were instead sung in a very gruff voice by Keech, which robbed the song of the little bit of edge it possessed in its studio form. Thankfully the music during Haste the Day’s set was still crunchingly heavy.

The final and headlining band was It Dies Today. I’ve heard many great things about their live show, but had not yet had the chance to experience it. The best way to describe it would be… light-hearted. Bear with me, as I realize that I’m probably the only person on this earth to describe their live show with those two words. The difference between It Dies Today and the other bands that played is they were out there playing their asses off but, at the same time, just goofing around doing whatever they felt like.

When a band member runs back and forth on the stage playing his guitar while sporting the world’s biggest shit-eating grin and another is jumping into the crowd while he plays his bass… at which point he falls back onto the stage, right on his ass, gets up, falls over again, and subsequently decides to just stay there on the ground while playing, you know the band is enjoying themselves. It’s moments like those that make you actually feel the fun they’re having as opposed to how so many bands try too hard to seem “hard” or serious.

The 45 minutes that It Dies Today played just flew by. Song after song, breakdown after bone-crushing breakdown, these guys didn’t stop and neither did the crowd. Everyone was everywhere running into everyone else. In the chaos I really hope some linebacker sized tough guys knocked the crap out of the wannabe tough kid hardcore dancers in return for the obnoxiousness.

Go see these guys if you can. It’ll give you a great excuse to rail on all those scene kids that you know you’ve been wanting to flat out destroy ever since they started their ridiculous “dancing” trend. Screw scene kids. Enjoy the music, not the image.

Thursday, June 22, 2006


Abortion Clinic

I have no idea where I originally found this, but as I was cleaning out a bunch of old files from my portable hard drive I found this in one of my documents folders labeled "TwinCities.jpg". I didn't know if it was a picture of a house I was looking at or a map or what. When I opened it up I couldn't help but look at it questioningly for about 3 seconds and then laughing uncontrollably despite the undeniable bad taste of this "frequent customer" card. Knowing that it gave me a devilish laugh this morning, I thought I'd share.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Have We Hit Bottom Yet?

gain-lossYou know what? This global economy slowdown really needs to end and turn around. Just when I decided to cash out my investments in one account and move them to another account I've been tracking them a little closer. Since I work in an industry that deals with investing, as well as a more significant interest in investment, I've made the decision to start putting the excess amounts of my paycheck into more diversified investment options. I figure it's better than blowing it on video games, pizza, and beer.

Don't worry, though, I'll still definitely do my fair share of buying stupid crap I really don't need, but being the age I am and knowing that in the next 1-8 years I'm going to, no doubt, be buying a house, getting married, buying another car, having kids, and potentially going back to school I will definitely need to have some money put away to cover those things.

I'm no idiot an I've diversified my investments pretty heavily, but across the board and across the world the economy and investing markets have been on a marked decline. This basically makes diversification a moot point if the overall market is in decline. As history shows, it will return to its upward trend, but it's somewhat disheartening to open up my online investment reports and see graphics like the one posted above (which comes from a portion of my portfolio). Heck, I look at my 401k statements and it's extremely depressing because I have my 401k spread across so many funds which leads to a ton of red numbers preceded by "-" signs.

It'll take time, but given enough time my investments will travel back into the green numbers with "+" signs, which is reassuring. It still doesn't satisfy the instant gratification I want to experience when putting my money away like my parents always told me to!

My Epic - This is Rescue CD Review

Potential is something that a band either has or doesn’t have. There is no way for a band to cultivate potential or to add to their potential levels. It’s there or it’s not. A band has to work with however much potential is at its disposal. Rarely do you find bands, especially in the unsigned realm, that show a realization of their potential, but My Epic have defied the odds and put to tape five emotive and beautiful tracks on their debut EP, This is Rescue.

Similar in nature to Further Seems Forever, My Epic craft mid-tempo hard rock songs with a post-hardcore edge. For an unsigned band putting out an independently released debut, this EP really shines both in the level of maturity that these college aged musicians display, as well as in the polish on the production side of things. Unlike many independent releases, this EP doesn’t sound like it was recorded in a garage, on a crappy old 4-track, or directly into some kid’s laptop.

The musical abilities of the band members do not go unused as the majority of this CD sees exquisitely crafted melodies, strong guitar progressions, and mature song structures. Straying away from the standard emo song templates, each track here showcases a unique approach that is rarely utilized by their peers. The astute uses of build-ups in the latter half of the CD and of mature dual guitar usage throughout makes this effort feel extremely mature.

This is Rescue is a refreshing release that gives the listener a glimpse of a band that knows how to use what God gave them. They’ve realized their potential, I’ve realized their potential, and now the next step will be for My Epic to show a label their potential, which shouldn’t be a problem if this EP is any evidence of what they are capable of.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Roadrunner Offline

roadrunner internetMy frustration level with Time Warner Cable and Roadrunner is quickly reaching unforseen heights. We've had cable and internet through these two companies for the last two months or so, and when I say we've had their services I mean that they've been down almost as much as they've been working.

First it was our cable. When they initially installed the cable and internet, the technician couldn't get the cable card to work in my TV. This meant that they had to come out at a later date to remedy the problem. About a week later they did and the cable card worked for a week or so and then decided that it didn't want to. We then had to wait for another tech to come out who found it was a signal problem so he put a signal booster on our cable, which solved our problem, for about a week.

The cable card then actually did break so we had to have it replaced which meant hanging around the house again while a tech came to visit. There's nothing more annoying than constantly having to be stuck around at home during the few free hours of a day that you have while some dude fiddles with your TV and cables while pretending he knows what he's doing.

Throughout the two months we've also had internet problems. Our internet would just randomly quite. The cable modem would simply drop the signal from Roadrunner and we'd have to reset the modem. This would happen, at times, multiple times an hour. At best we'd go an entire day with it only going down once or twice.

Yesterday was the kicker, however. The modem, which is a Linksys cable modem and wireless access point combination device that I own, wouldn't connect to Roadrunner's service at all. When I first called them they routed me to Linksys' support, which was ridiculous because the modem was working, which the tech confirmed.

After calling in a second time they had me reauthorize my account in the hopes it would fix it. It didn't. When an actual support person that sort of almost knew what was going on came on the phone she had me do the routine "shut everything off and restart it" cycle which, of course, didn't solve anything.

Next she tried to see my modem's connection on her end, which she couldn't. Next I had to, obviously, disconnect and reconnect all the cables. Didn't work. Just to try to get anything working, I disconnected my Linksys modem and plugged in the Roadrunner provided modem. Same deal. No connection.

Trying anything to get some kind of connection, I plugged the modem into another jack in the house. Same problem. Roadrunner's diagnosis? "Your modems must be broken." Really? That's great. Two broken modems--one that was just working and another that was brand new--seems a little hard to swallow so I asked if someone could come out and look at things. Of course someone could. How would Sunday morning work?

Nothing pisses me off more than having to wait six days to get someone to look at our internet and then it's on a Sunday morning. I don't know if I'll be around on Sunday so I asked for the next time. Monday morning? No, I'm at work, just like the majority of the people on this planet! So we finally worked out next Monday night (side note, Roadrunner and Time Warner seem to loathe setting up night visits) as a time when someone could come out.

So in conclusion, I have no internet at home for a week. Fabulous. I'm going to attempt to see what other options we have for internet and cable in our area because this is ridiculous. I thought that Charter back in Rochester was bad, but right now I'd like to have them back, which is really saying something about how bad Roadrunner really is.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Go To This Church

church sign
Now that's a church that would be fun to attend! The picture was actually generated here. You can have a lot of fun putting wickedly inappropriate things on church signs. I know I had a lot run through my mind that I eventually decided to let fall by the wayside. It probably wouldn't do me too much good to offend the religious subset of the few people that stop by every now and then.

Playing around with church signs did get me thinking about church, however, and how little it really appeals to me. Sure, it's nice to get together to offer up praise with the people you know and to later catch up with them after the service (or before if you're one of the people who get there early), but more often than not I find the church--be it Lutheran, Catholic, Baptist, whatever--to be more of a source of frustration than anything.

As the years have moved along and I've actually questioned the tenants of my Christian beliefs, I see that so many feel like they are wrong, misguided, or tools used to judge and segregate. That last point is really one of the main things that keeps me from relating to church and churchgoers. There have been altogether too many sermons and speeches that talk about homosexuality and abortion and divorce and many other topics to use them as a tool to point out how those people are wrong. Sure, some churches, pastors, and priests also tell us that we need to love them, but more often than not it is accompanied by the addendum that those same people need to change.

Is the church doing itself any good by pointing out that they think homosexuality is wrong, based on some loosely interpreted passages in the Bible? On top of that, are they really doing what Jesus would do by calling them out and preaching against them? What happened to accepting people no matter what they've done and how they've lived? We're all sinners, so what makes homosexuality so much greater of a sin that it needs to constantly be pointed out and derided? Last time I checked homosexuality didn't actually hurt anyone. As opposed to stealing, murder, or any other number of sins, homosexuality doesn't do anyone any harm... well, except maybe the ultra-conservative because they have to be around all that "icky gay crap".

Also, what about the division lines drawn between all of the different sects of Christianity? Missouri Synod Lutherans shouldn't give communion to ELCA Lutherans and some Catholic churches aren't very accepting of other Christian sects. I mean, come on, all Christians are worshiping Jesus Christ, honoring God, and praising what he has done. Why do they need to argue over all of the little things? Seriously, is it that big of a deal if one Christian religion allows their preachers to get married and the other doesn't?

This leads me to another source of head scratching. Why can't women hold the same roles as men in the church? I believe the ELCA Lutheran church allows women pastors, but for the vast majority of Christian religions women are relegated to background roles. Would God really support inequality? I somehow have a hard time believing that God thinks men are more important and that women are incompetent. More than likely the historically male dominated nature of the religion has shaped it and the current leadership are opposed to the threat to their stanglehold on the religion's leadership and structure. It's pretty ridiculous if you ask me.

Yet, despite all of these things, there are people by the truckload that blindly subscribe to all of the preceding tenants. That's fine. Everyone can do what they so choose, but I can't openly accept so many of the blatant hypocrisies that are present into today's modern Christian religions. I believe in Jesus. I believe in heaven. I know I'm a sinner. But on top of those things, I know I can't be a part of an organization that openly judges people, supports unequal gender roles, and divides people more than it unifies.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Was Yesterday a Holiday?

It may have just been a series of odd coincidences, but for some reason yesterday felt like a holiday that no one told me about. I started to get this feeling right away in the morning as I hopped in my car and was driving to work.

Usually I take the bus, but on Thursday nights I have Ultimate Frisbee Summer League, so I have to drive to the fields to play after work and it's easier to drive from downtown than to take the bus home and drive from home. I don't often drive unless I have to for two reasons--it's more expensive to drive (parking is $5 at the cheapest place, which is about 9 blocks from where I work) and the rush hour drive in makes me go batshit insane.

In preparation for the snail like pace of my drive up highway 100, which also has construction going on right now to make it even more of a wonderful drive, I popped in the new AFI CD and tuned myself out to the frustrations of moving slower than a glacier. Oddly, when I got onto the on-ramp for 100, where I'd usually sit for about 5 minutes, there was no traffic on it. I blew on past the control lights and merged into the sparse highway traffic.

Now there is usually NEVER sparse traffic on 100 no matter what time of day so to be able to merge right in, continue at my pace of 60 mph, and get all the way up to my exit into Minneapolis in like 5 minutes was undeniably creepy. Not so much in a bad way, but in one of those, "I have entered a parallel universe and should be prepared to be eaten by a gelatinous, flying donkey monster any time now," ways.

So I get in to Minneapolis about 10 minutes quicker than usual, which rocks, and walk to my office building. But before I head off, I noticed that my parking spot was about 4 rows closer to the exit than usual. Weird, but it has happened before. The pedestrian traffic seemed about the same, but it's usually pretty sparse on the streets since everyone takes the skyways. I enjoy the outdoors, however, and only use the skyway when it's raining or over 85 degrees out.

As I got into my office building and headed off for my first wonderful cup of coffee, without which I would not function, I saw a lot of offices closed and cubicles sitting empty. I was actually there a little later than I usually get there so this was rather odd. The entire day none of the empty cubes and offices filled with their occupants.

The drive to my ultimate game was pretty hellish, but that I chalked up to people leaving town a day early for mini-vacations and Father's Day. Anyways, at the restaurant that the frisbee teams go to after the games, there wasn't nearly as many people there either. Did everyone just up and leave the metro area for an entire Thursday? It felt like very much like The Twilight Zone.

So I don't know what it was yesterday and I don't know if today is the same or different since I'm working from home, but yesterday, as it was, was eerie... like Halloween come early.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Speaking of Cats...

Cats usually get a bad rap. They're viewed as lazy, fat, and prissy. In most cases, yeah, they actually are, but in some cases you have tremendously awesome cats like the one I previously posted about that chased a bear up a tree or this kittie who can predict its owner's epileptic seizures. It's too bad that the unfunniness of Garfield and other negative portrayals of cats has given them such a stereotypically bad image.

This bad image is just the thing that the cat culture has been hoping would cultivate and hold in our stupid, dumb, unmotivated American culture. We've been inbreeding in so many negative traits into our species while simultaneously thinking that cats are more and more harmless because of their perceived lazy nature.

The perception that we hold about cats will eventually lead to our downfall. I know it. Give it about 2 years and we'll all end up being exterminated en masse by hoardes of cats sporting swastikas following the lead of one and only Hitler Cat:

Be afraid. Be very afraid. And be nice to cats. Or else.

As I Lay Dying - A Long March CD Review

In recent years, mainly in the Victory Records camp, re-issues of early CDs from bands that sell well have become quite the hot trend, and by hot I totally mean pointless and unnecessary. Usually the re-issues are simply re-pressings of an out of print early release from a band that really should have their current releases put out of print. At times, however, there are some well created and well deserved re-issues. This release, as well as the recent re-recorded EP offering from It Dies Today, are two good examples of how to do a re-issue.

Not only is A Long March a re-packaging of As I Lay Dying’s debut full length Beneath the Encasing of Ashes and subsequently released EP (simply titled The EP), it offers up a newly re-recorded versions of their EP from 2002. Truth be told, only two of the re-recorded versions are “new” since “The Beginning”, “The Pain of Separation”, and “Forever” showed up on Frail Words Collapse in 2003, but it’s the thought that counts, right?

What the inclusion of the re-recorded versions of the songs does is give the listener a way of showcasing how the band has grown up and evolved since the original release of the albums collected here. There is a very stark difference in intensity between the originals and the new versions. The newly re-recorded versions are much cleaner and focused, as opposed to the somewhat underdeveloped and “old” feeling you get from the originals, even though they’re only four years old. At the most basic level, you get the As I Lay Dying musical style circa Shadows are Security covering the songs they wrote in their infancy.

Beneath the Encasing of Ashes, which was recorded after the band was together for a scant two months, actually doesn’t come off as rough as you’d believe it would sound. The songs, albeit somewhat standard metalcore for the day, are very quick, brutal, and punchy. There is definitely more of a groove feel to be found on some of these earlier songs as opposed to the band’s later work, but what can you expect when they recorded the effort in five days after only being together two months? You also will not find any melody within the Beneath the Encasing of Ashes tracks. Instead expect nothing but Zao-esque growls and hearty yells.

As far as re-issues go, this is one of the better discs to see the light of day. The booklet gives a little history on the band, some of their thoughts and feelings on certain songs, lyrics, and some great artwork. All in all if you are an As I Lay Dying fan, or even a metalcore appreciator, this is a quality release to pick up, especially since you can use it to see the evolution of one of today’s more popular (and more talented) metalcore bands.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

The Days Are Just Packed

It's the middle of June already! Where the hell did the first part of the month, and most of May for that matter, go? Summer, especially the beginning of it, always flies by at an unimaginable pace. Winter never seems to fly by. Spring is a little more fast paced, as it fall, but summer always seems to jet by quicker than the rest.

Why does it go by so fast? For Minnesotans and midwesterners in general it seems to move by quickly because it is the only season that we can truly enjoy ourselves in the outdoors. Sure fall and spring are nice times of the year (and fall is actually my favorite season), but everyone comes out and enjoys themselves during the summer months.

I always end up with so much more that I feel I need to do throughout the warm days of the season. With work taking up a good 8-9 hours of the day, I'm left with the early evening to make the most of what time I have free, which is often taken up with the extra "things" you end up doing in the summer, like mowing the lawn, grilling outside instead of microwaving your supper, and simply making yourself just be outside since you know in 6 months you'll be locked inside your house shielded from the intense cold.

At times I feel a little guilty if I'm sitting in front of the TV playing on my 360 or watching a DVD when I could be out for a run, reading on the deck, or chasing rabbits in the back yard. On top of that, in the past I've had softball leagues to take up some of my nights and I now have ultimate frisbee league on Thursdays. And with my ramped up concert coverage for Decoy Music starting here soon as well as still traveling to see Kristin (or her coming to the Twin Cities) on the weekends, there just feels like there's no time left over for anything. There's no time to simply relax. It's rush rush rush to get everything in because, before we know it, our few months of enjoyable weather will have vanished. Sad, I know, but for me, almost instinctual.

Ninjas Rule

How to be a ninja. Now you know. And to think, for so long I imagined that you had to train in some super-secret Japanese school of death dealing against demons, a magical sensei, and hordes of other ninja trainees to become an agent of the stealthy persuasion.

Well, since I'm talking about ninjas, go over and watch Ninjai for a while. It'll keep you very well entertained, guaranteed. I would too right now, but they block the site at work... along with anything else even remotely fun.

It's very, very frustrating that many times when I just need a break or I'm stuck on a pointless conference call or I'm eating my lunch and I want to goof on the internet for a couple of minutes that anything fun is blocked. No YouTube, no Google Video, no gaming websites, no PureVolume, no MySpace, no, no funny sites, no nothing. It's a total pain in the ass, so much so that if I don't find a way around the system I may just become a chronic baby kicker, and we all know the world doesn't need another one of those.

Well, whatever, at least Wikipedia isn't block so I can go read some more about ninjas.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Set Your Tivo

Because this Saturday only, you can watch the Rock Paper Scissors Championship on A&E where contestants will compete for a prize of $50,000. I only wish I was making this stuff up. Apparently there isn't enough reality TV for everyone to watch so A&E decided to scrape the absolute bottom of the barrel and go for a children's game televised onto TV for the uneducated masses to watch.

As if that stupid Deal or No Deal show wasn't ridiculously dumb enough, now you have an entire hour devoted to people playing rock paper scissors. Speaking of Deal or No Deal, how can anyone sit through that tripe? It's like Who Wants to be a Millionaire? except without the contestants having to possess any type of talent or smarts. They just pick a suitcase and then hope that there was good money in it. For an hour you then watch as the greedy idiot is offered more and more money to give up his or her suitcase. And people watch this crap like crazy!

It's no wonder the US is hated the world over, it's because we insult everyone else by putting our utter stupidity on display. No way should we deserve half the things we have available to us in this country if we waste hours upon hours watching junk like Deal or No Deal, Rock Paper Scissors Championship, The Simple Life, or whatever reality TV show is currently popular. Jeez, I hate TV.

If I Could Have Had 3 Months Off

Sometimes I wish I lived and worked over in Europe because it seems like they have so much more time off than those of us living here stateside. I only get 22 days off a year, which I know is a lot more than some people get (it is about a month), but I still want more days off. It would have been really nice to have had about three months off this summer so that I could have attempted a cross country bike trip with my friend Caleb.

In lieu of my actual attendance, as well as the inability for most people with actual jobs to go with, Caleb and the people he is biking with have set up a blog of their adventures. You can check it out over here at Bike Across America 2006. It's been a lot of fun reading about their adventures as they bike their way eastward across the US.

Now maybe when they come through Minnesota I'll bike with them for a bit, but before I could do that I'll need to get myself a bike. I don't have one here in St. Louis Park and my old, junker bike got, well, junked back home because of the terrible shape it was in. So maybe I won't bike with them, but I'll try to say hi at least.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Cat Vs. Bear

Usually when I think about bears vs. cats (which I obviously do often), I don't think of cats coming out on the winning side. Thank goodness there is one totally bad-ass tabby out there that proved all of my misconceptions about the kick-ass-ed-ness of cats completely and totally false.

I don't think either of my fat, lazy cats would be able to stand up to a bear. Well, they probably would, but I'm sure it would be for about 3 seconds before they laid down and subsequently become bear chow.

What's really kind of weird is that I actually had the chance to see how my parents' farm cats could have held up against a bear back when I was in high school. As my brother and I were waiting for the bus one morning a black bear was wandering through the field behind our place and eventually snuck along through our back yard before it made its way to a local town where it was tranqued and taken away to wherever they take bears that they find in southern Minnesota.

We didn't even have any clue that there was a bear in our back yard, probably less than a football field or two away from us, until we saw the news that night. Our neighbor had videotaped the bear as it was hanging out in the field by our barn. I always assumed that it had wandered past our place because it was on its way to some place, but now I wonder if one of our cats didn't chase it the hell off our property. Because, as we now know, bears are scared crapless when confronted by 10 pound, orange, hissing furballs.

Time Crept Up On Me

This past weekend Kristin and I attended the wedding of one of my friends (TV's Adam Aaro!) in Edina. It was a very beautiful wedding with an extremely elegant reception afterwards. I don't even want to imagine what it probably cost them and their families. You only get one chance to get married, though, right? Well, for about half of the population of this country that's true, I guess. Way too many people are taking multiple stabs at it, but that's another day's rant.

Throughout the ceremony and the evening, I thought about how so many of my friends are getting married, are married, or are even having kids. I realize I'm 25 and I realize that when I was in college I figured I'd already be married and all that jazz by now, but as time has passed by since when I imagined I'd be married until now, things have definitely changed in my mind's eye.

As I see my friends getting married I can't help but wonder, "Are they really ready? Are they old enough? It seems like this is too soon." I'm sure Adam and his wife will do fine, as will many of the other couples I see getting hitched, but do I think I'm old enough? Am I ready for that?

Really, I think I am and that I would have no problem being married right now or working towards getting there, but it still doesn't change the fact that with everyone getting married, I'm starting to really feel old! And I don't like it! The years since I finished college have slipped by too quickly and I'm not in the heart of adulthood. Middle age is right around the corner... well, maybe not right around the corner, but close enough, and it is frightening. I can't imagine having a child right now. More power to those who are doing it, but I know I'd have a hard time.

So is this how adulthood manifests itself? It one day rears its head, growls at you, and let's you know that it's here? It could be that I was simply asleep and didn't notice it creeping up on me, or that I chose to ignore the signs when they presented themselves, but I'm aware of it now, and I unfortunately aren't that big of a fan of what it entails.

Friday, June 09, 2006

What Do You Think?

As you've all probably noticed when you've pulled this page up today (or whenever you read this), there's been quite the change here. Yeah, I finally decided I needed to redo my layout. The old layout was pretty old and just looked slapped together, which it was, but I'd been too lazy to really work that hard on anything new.

I decided to stick with the blue color, since I really like blue, but go with a three column approach and a cleaner separation of sections. There's probably some kinks to be worked out of how everything is set up, but I think right now it looks infinitely better than it did before. That, and there's not that stupid-ass collage at the top of the page with dumb pictures of myself.

So let me know what you think.

Japanese Sunday - Taps, Taps, Lights Out CD Review

Over the last couple of months there has been an ever increasing amount of coverage for post-rock, instrumental, and avant garde bands on Decoy Music. Some of you, no doubt, have no clue where to start when diving into the slew of bands in the expansive and all encompassing genre of “post-rock”. Hell, I have no clue where to go half of the time when looking for post-rock offerings that will actually interest me. What makes it really hard for people to get into post-rock is that there are very few gateway bands, bands that are sort of post-rock, sort of another genre. Without a good assortment of gateway bands, it can be daunting to get into a new genre. That’s where Japanese Sunday comes in. They have definite post-rock leanings, but are also very heavily situated in the post-hardcore and shoegazer worlds (and they have vocals to boot!).

This release is one of the few to drop in the last year or so that successfully marries post-rock with another semi-related genre without it sounding forced. The ease with which the members of the band transition from instrumental set pieces to a wall of sound post-hardcore wave is a rarity that makes this CD a true standout.

By far the best example of a successful traversal of genres, at least in recent memory, is the three song combination from the middle of Taps, Taps, Lights Out. “The Genius of Annoyminity” starts out with a introspective indie rock noodling, but over time it builds to a flat out wall of distorted, almost straight up doom metal, noise rock. As the final remnants of the song fade out, “First Shot Fired on a Blue A.M.” comes to life. It is a brief two and a half minutes, but in that time you are given a glimpse into the healthy appreciation the band has for the forefathers of the instrumental genre, which then leads in seamlessly to the shoegazing and thoughtful “Proxy”.

The vast majority of this release is made up of these seamless transitions, such as the aforementioned example. This gear shifting ability is what will allow this band to appeal to a much larger audience that the currently small, yet strong, post-rock circles.

No band is without flaws, however, and Japanese Sunday can’t avoid having a couple of pitfalls. Even with their ability musically combine the likes of Hum, Mogwai, and Dinosaur, Jr. the vocals don’t always come across as well. Albeit there is nothing outright wrong with the vocals, but at times there are some very weak moments. During the middle passage of “Kagaku”, for example, there is a very forced feel to each line sung, which grates on the ears. There are other less gratuitous examples throughout, but none of the others detract too greatly from the overall musical beauty of this release.

Bridging the gap is a hard thing to do. Most attempts never come to fruition and many outright fail. This effort, however, is one of the few that succeeds. If post-rock can find more bands like Japanese Sunday to pull more and more listeners in, the possibility of it changing from an underground scene into a burgeoning, semi-popular genre will definitely be more plausible.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Lazy Asses


That's what I wish I could be doing right now--sleeping. Or at least just sitting at home in bed doing nothing more than reading and watching tv. Cats have it made, don't they? Just about every day when I leave for work, the two cats (Pooh on the left and Stitch on the right) hop up onto my bed and get comfortable. When I get home, they're both usually still there, or if they're not, they're thumping on down the stairs to greet me. I wonder if they leave the bed the entire day.

I'm really amazed at the utter laziness of cats. Other than the few minutes of the day when they're fighting with each other or getting up to go get food or poop, they basically lie on beds, chairs, or my lap doing nothing. As much as I get stressed about having so much to do sometimes, I think I'd rather have a lot to do rather than absolutely nothing. So, in conclusion, I'd make a crappy cat... unless I was like a cheetah or something. They run around a lot. Yeah, I'm make a great cheetah.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Bullets & Octane and The Panic Channel

Shows at smaller venues can either be totally awesome experiences or they can be shallow impersonations of mid-sized venue performances. It really depends upon the crowd and how the band works with the crowd. When The Panic Channel came to the Fine Line in Minneapolis with Bullets and Octane in tow, the two bands were confronted with the small venue dilemma and the two bands handled it in two very different ways.

On first was Bullets and Octane. I could have sworn that when they stepped out on stage I had been transported to the late 80’s metal scene. All four members of B&O came dressed in what could easily have been the wardrobe of late Motley Crue or Guns N Roses. They were totally decked out in their “rock out with your cock out” garb. And you know what? It suited them perfectly.

B&O play a very dirty brand of punk influenced rock and roll. Had they have come into being in the early 90’s, they very well could have revolutionized the scene. As it is with their current existence, they are an anomaly in the overwhelming flood of scene bands littering today’s live venues.

For the 45 minutes that B&O played, they worked the small, reserved crowd in the best way possible—they got involved with them. Instead of yelling at the crowd to mosh or move around or clap their hands, which never works with a small crowd and simply makes the band look like a group of ass clowns, Gene got down off the stage and walked around in the crowd, talking with those that were there, making the performance all the more personal.

When they were playing, they were into it. There’s nothing fake about their performance. It’s full-on, full-strength, full-speed, kick you in the teeth rock. They put on the type of performance that should be gracing sold out clubs and mid-size venues, not spent on a bunch of yuppie middle classers who are at the bar more for drinks than the band.

I knew well before The Panic Channel took the stage that there was no way they could outdo the energetic and rowdy performance of B&O. Now I hadn’t heard anything by The Panic Channel before the show (I was obviously there to see B&O), so I didn’t know what to expect. I figured since three of the guys were formerly in Jane’s Addiction that it would sound something similar to JA's alternative sound, but instead it was a pretty basic hard rock performance.

After the show I checked out the few songs that The Panic Channel had up on their website and I will say this much, they sound a hell of a lot better live than on tape. The songs they have up on MySpace and their website all sound like generic, radio-rock, uninspired muck. Then again, their performance was not all that phenomenal either.

Dave Navarro can still solo quite well, although some of his choices for guitar melodies and passages seem to be underwhelming and forced. Stephen Perkins, as usual, destroys on the drums. It’s too bad that he’s somewhat underutilized. Chris Chaney is also fun as hell to watch playing bass. He adds a lot to many of the songs in a live environment.

Then there’s Steve Isaacs… who looks like he’s totally uncomfortable in his own skin. Perkins, Navarro, and Chaney all have a lot of experience under their belts and it is very apparent that Isaacs is quite new to this whole putting on a performance bit. He sang his vocals fine and played rhythm guitar fine, but he just looked out of place when compared to the other three.

The majority of their performance was pretty average up until the end of the show when they reached both their respective high and low. Before their final song, they broke into an acoustic, sit down session that killed what little energy the crowd already had. The song they played felt basic and blasé. Thankfully, once they finished it off, they ripped into their finale, which was a cover of Led Zepplin’s “Dazed and Confused”. I really feared that they would butcher the hell out of the song, but they did a remarkable job in covering it well.

When this tour hits your town make sure to get to the show early to see Bullets and Octane. They’re worth every penny you’ll pay to get in. Feel free to leave once they are done, however, unless you got time to kill because there’s probably better things you could be doing than watching The Panic Channel.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

The Ducky Boys - The War Back Home CD Review

Somewhere over the last decade the word “punk” has turned from a synonym for rebellion, a scene for do-it-yourself bands, and a sense of being underground into being synonymous with radio-friendly-ness (courtesy of that rat bastard subgenre pop-punk), churning out over produced tripe, and selling millions of records to scene kids. In that transition more kids suddenly knew about Fall Out Boy as opposed to Pennywise. What has happened to rootsy, dirty, tried-and-true punk rock since that disastrous scene shift? It went further underground, and in that underground you’ll see many classic acts still turning out stellar albums to smaller and smaller audiences (which is a crime if you ask me) but at least they haven’t disappeared altogether.

The Ducky Boys have a solid history of creating raspy, fun, and politically directed punk music. Sharing a very similar sound to Social Distortion, this is the type of stuff you won’t hear in modern “punk” circles. No, you have to hang out with the older kids and *gasp* some of us twentysomethings to find the people who still enjoy this type of integrity filled, authentically created music.

Truth be told The War Back Home is not going to revolutionize or revitalize the current stagnating bad haircut, girl pants wearing, pierced, and fakely depressed “punk” scene, but what it will do is give those listeners with actual taste a reason to keep trucking along instead of giving up on modern music altogether.

Everything you need to have a rollicking good time can be found within the 12 breezy tracks on this effort. There is the moderately paced, mid-tempo, straight up rocking first track. Throughout the middle of the disc you’ll hear a Dropkick Murphys inspired Boston punk anthem, plenty of bouncy & raucous tunes, the slowed down, yet edgy ballad, and more authentic, good natured attitude than almost any other band in whatever passes as popular in today's scene.

With all of that said, this release will probably still only be heard and experienced by a small circle of fans, which is a shame. I don’t think it matters how much a critic lauds a disc’s greatness, if it doesn’t get into the hands of new listeners, the system of critical analysis is failing its battle against the sheer force of marketing. Don't let hype win. Go with integrity. Go with The Ducky Boys.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

All Liquored Up

Well, I'm sitting here in the airport waiting to board the tiny jet that's going to get me to Houston. I hate little jets. They're so turbulent and just feel rickety.

While I've been waiting (I breezed through customs) I stocked up on enough rum and tequila to last a lifetime. I mostly picked up some 5-12 year aged rums as they are quite spendy in the US. And for good measure I got a bottle of cheap Jamaican 151 proof rum. Doubt I'll drink much of it, but it's always good to have just in case

Anyways, I'm going to betray my better judgement and get some Starbucks since it's the only coffee shop here. Then it'll be time for my flight. Yay. Another day full of flying...