Five years after the release of Phase 3, the Riverdales have returned with another instant classic, Ivasion USA, having traded the art of creating the song title for the art of creating songs based on titles taken from the archives of MST3K. What fun! Let's take a look one song at a time...
Agent for H.A.R.M.
Great way to star a record. Maximal aural energies complimented by the silken tones of Dan Schafer. He builds the momentum by repeating the "I won't give up!" vocal line until he brings it to a point where he can send his voice into a whole other register.. "I won't give UP!"
Ben follows up track one with some quality lead vocals of his own, with Mr. Schafer providing solid backing..."18 wheels on the ground... you can't stop me cause I'm on a roll."
Heart out of Season
Mellowing down for the third track, the Riverdales turn to their tried and true method of punk rock melodeering, with a ballad for the ages, reminiscent of other Riverdales classics. If you've never heard the song, you can likely imagine Dan singing out "Tonight, tonight, our world sighs...Tonight, tonight, we'll say goodbyes... Tonight, tonight, my heart is out of season" without having heard it. Still it is worth the listen, as this is definitely the strongest of the mellower tracks on the record.
Red Zone Cuba
Back to the bop on track 4, kicking out with what is likely the hardest track so far on the record. Weasel takes the mic again, providing vocals which highlight one of the best parts of this record: the WAY the boys sing. Ben lets out a "Red Zone Cuba GO" throughout the song, but on a couple of occasions he sings GO like a man possessed. Possessed with a spirit of clever iggy-esque theatrics, that is.
The boys maintain the tag team vocal approach here, with Vapid back in the saddle. "What is he saying?" your mom might ask from the driver's seat as she takes you home from soccer tryouts... "He wants to watch you squirm, mom."
Prince of Space
This one maintains the energy, whilst also presenting us with a Riverdales staple: the spoken word lyric welded to the rock behind it! "You think I'm a bum baby? Is that what you think? I'm some kind of bum?" It only gets better from there.
Back to the mellower groove on this track, this song could certainly serve as the "hit single" on this record, were the Riverdales attempting to achieve a certain level of commercial success they generally seem to avoid (Angus aside ;) Also, one of the lengthier tracks on the record, this comes in at just under 3 minutes. Man, is Dan Schafer NOT one of the premiere vocalists of our time?
This song might as well be on every Riverdales release ever. Take away the specific lyrics, and it probably is. This is by no means a bad thing. This song is the Riverdales doing what it is they do best: hard driving, guitar driven, drive shaft punk rock. As has been mentioned, the lyrics and song titles of this record are in each case taken from old Sci-Fi B-movie titles, in order to give the boys a backdrop of inspiration for creating the grooves that make up the album. The lyrics, while referencing the titles, are rarely, though occasionally, about the movies themselves. This was employed due to a general sense of writer's block and a desire to create a certain ambiance around the record as a whole. You can see this idea falling off the cliff of failure in the wrong hands, but the Riverdales are very much the right hands.
"In the castle of Fu Manchu the emperor's in the nude, and I need to break out!" need I say more? This song is good.
Time of the Apes
To me, this song does two things which would seem to be mutually exclusive. First, it seems to be the most likely candidate to potentially inhabit a Screeching Weasel record instead of "Invasion USA." At the same time, it comes off to me as the most Ramones-esque of the group.
Just another great song with fun vocals and top notch vocals. Vapid is just sooo good at pushing the limits of his voice to places that leave the listener simply dumbfounded. "...In my atomic brain!"
This is another prime candidate for a Screeching Weasel record, though it fits in quite nicely here, of course. Anytime Ben takes the mic, it is difficult NOT to sound like a SW song. Still, the bands have always overlapped just so nicely in a punk rock ven diagram of goodness. This record is no exception, nor is this song.
The new Eminem record is pretty good rap record, and at some point I may review it as such. One problem I have with that record is the absurd lengths he goes to present himself as a murderous villain, complete with violent visual imagery of blood and blood lust. This song makes me just a mite uncomfortable for similar reasons. In the end, a song about spending your teenaged years secretly strangling the girls of your town to death just rings of misogynist objectification, for some reason. It maintains a modicum of respectability here, due to the fact that it is clearly based on an old b-movie of the same name, and therefore just invites the subject matter upon itself. Also, it harkens back, thematically and musically, to the excellent song Plan 13 from the Riverdales eponymous debut of 14 years ago. Still, it gives me a bit of the heebie jeebies, rocking out to a song about murdering girls. That being said, this song has the best vocal line of the record, and likely one of the best vocal lines of all time. Schafer sings the line "I am a teenage strangler, lurking in (ah-in) the shadows, yeah." Two things about this: first, every source I found on the internet for these lyrics quotes the line as "looking in the shadows" but to me that makes a lot less sense than "lurking" so I'm gonna go with "lurking." Second, the way that Dan Schafer sings that "ah-in" is so unique and piercing as to make me wanna stop the song mid track and just listen to that 2 second piece of genius over and over again.
This, the last song on the record, is in many ways the most melodic of all. The chord progression is aces, with a solid chorus and really, really great vocals from Ben.
I have read it elsewhere, but I believe it to be true as well: this record showcases Ben and Dan at the absolute height of their vocal prowess. Each song is sort of better than the last, and when they hit on all cylindars, they really, really hit. The clever, aforementioned vocal tricks employed in Teenage Strangler, Red Zone Cuba, and throughout the record are subtle and unique, and highlight the fact that these guys not only know what they are doing, but they have known what they are doing for a long, long time. The songwriting is as strong as ever, and the production is powerful as well. Buy this record. Go to a Riverdales show if they are ever playing within 200 miles of your home, and consider yourself very, very lucky to inhabit a universe in which the Riverdales are a band.
(the bedbugs bite nightly)
By all accounts, the 1950's were a simpler time. "Leave it to Beaver" aptly symbolized the cultural zeitgeist, and there were not yet highly visible long haired hippie rock and rollers out to unweave the tightly threaded conventions of polite society. A woman's place was still generally considered to be in the home, and DDT was still the pesticide of choice.
Despite its carcinogenic, toxic effects on humans and the environment, DDT is a highly effective pesticide, able to kill a wide variety of arthropods on contact. One such insect that fell prey to the powerful force of DDT was the infamous pest the bedbug. Bedbugs had become a significant problem by the 1930's, but in 1939 the pesticidal benefits of DDT were discovered, and it began to be used in agriculture, and in homes for the eradication of mosquitoes, lice, and bedbugs. Over the next 20 years, bedbugs were largely eradicated in the United States.
This status quo remained in place until recently. But over the past decade bedbugs have made their resurgence, and are currently thriving in many areas of the country. There are many reasons the bedbug has been able to gain a foothold in modern America. The popularity of international travel has carried individuals and their bedbugs to every corner of the globe, and areas that were once bedbug free have now been re-inhabited. They are discreet creatures, and their bites are often mistaken for mosquito bites, allowing them to further expand their empire unimpeded. Additionally, today's bedbug is a better breed than that of 50 years ago, having developed resistance to some pesticides.
Modern pest control practices are much more targeted than past practices. In 1950 one might fumigate a room with a DDT pesticide in order to kill bugs and mosquitos. Today's pest control experts utilize targeted chemicals designed specifically for the pest in question. For instance, a pest may be encouraged to carry poisoned food back to the nest to share with the brood, killing all in relatively short order. Such an approach proves highly effective for killing a specific pest, but it allows different insects in the same general area to continue their infestation, uninhibited.
The bedbug resurgence has hit hard in New York City, and a quick look at http://bedbugregistry.com indicates the problem is spread throughout the country. Still, the Northeast corridor is the locus of the problem, and Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Delaware are no exception. Wilmington, Delaware's firestation #2 was recently closed for two days for bedbug extermination.
Hotels, motels, and apartments are the most likely victims of bedbug infestation, although private residences are also susceptible. The primary indication that bedbugs may be present is the development of red bumps and rash-like appearances on the skin, reactions to the bugs' bites. Brown spots on bedding and sheets could be remnants of bedbug fecal matter, and the bugs themselves may be visible in crevices of bedding, on the underside of a mattress, and along baseboards.
If you suspect you or one of your customers is the victim of bedbugs, turn to Action Unlimited Resources for the solution! Our experts can provide you with additional information on discovering the pests, and best practices for eradication. We offer a line of highly effective products designed to eliminate the problem and prevent it from resurfacing. Do your part TODAY to bring us back to the halcyon days of the 1950's!
As we move ever closer to the singularity, time continues to compress and our perception of the passage of time grows ever more acute. As such, time passes, or seems to pass, more quickly.
Hence: WINTER is fast approaching, and will be here in the blink of a statistician's eye. Have you prepared for winter yet? Preparing for snow and ice is paramount to any business' continued success. Businesses which do not prepare properly leave themselves open to maintenance nightmares, frustrated employees, and lawsuits.
Action Unlimited Resources is well equipped to assist you in all of your winter preparation needs. The most important aspect of outdoor winter maintenance is proper use of ice melt and consistent shoveling. Action carries a broad line of salts and ice melts for all applications, and we can help you determine which is best for your situation. Action also carries winter accessories like ice melt spreaders, shovels, window scrapers, and ice picks.
Another important aspect of winter prep is proper matting. Mats do a spectacular job of keeping dirt, detritus, and corrosive salts and chemicals off of your floors! Without mats, the salt and chemicals spread on the sidewalk will end up on your expensive floors, corroding them and forcing you to spend excessive amounts of money in maintenance and restoration. Let mats save the day! Keep them clean and in good shape, and they will work overtime for you, protecting your floors from needless wear and destruction.
Scientists and philosophers will continue argue whether or not time exits. But in either case, time will not stop, and it will not slow down. Act NOW before you wake up in the middle of a blizzard unprepared..
Kudos to you if you made it through my lengthy review of the new Pearl Jam record Backspacer, still available below. Haven't had a chance to read it yet? Why not give it a go elsewhere?
The review, in its awkward, glorious entirety, is available now on the excellent For the Sound website. This is the first in what will hopefully and likely be a long tradition of my posting reviews, interviews, music news, and the like to For the Sound.
Keep your eyes and ears posted.
Do you like baseball??? I KNOW you do... who doesn't?
Well, this love of baseball may come from days or years of intently watching your favorite team, or it may just come from your fond memories of playing the game in your youth.
In fact, I still have a suprising number of friends and acquaintances who remain involved with the game to various degrees of impressiveness. A couple of folks in the minors, a couple involved in intense club leagues, a couple involved in coaching. Well done, guys!
Baseball is awesome. And it will only get better in the coming weeks, provided Mr. Lidge and company can figure a way to duct tape the leaky hose that is their poor attempts at closing. Go Phils!
But this entry is not about the Phils, and it is not, so much, about me. This despite my nagging fantasy of writing a short novella detailing my attempts to get back into shape over the coming months in a desperate misguided attempt at trying out as a pitcher for a minor league team before I turn 30, ahem, I mean, 20, next May.
I really do want to do this, and while there is essentially less than a zero percent chance I would be able to garner interest from said minor league team's coaching staff, there is a good chance that I could get myself back into what I would consider a "respectable" form of throwing around upwards of 70mph with a presentable (and, sadly, QUITE hittable) slider. My curve and changeup ain't nothing to write home about, but if I could manage my control issues, it would certainly be fun to go out and TRY, and get a good piece of writing out of it to boot. Also, of course, would be the added benefit of a strong motivation to get back in some semblance of "shape."
Unfortunately, I fear that in order to do this properly, I would inevitably need to get surgery on my shoulder. When we had the Madison Underground Baseball league a few years back, I pitched the few games I pitched in relative pain, as 9/10 throws were accompanied by a click in my shoulder. The pain, and click, would go away somewhat once I got in a groove, but it was always at least minimally evident. These days, an attempt at a hard, over the shoulder throw of a tennis ball, baseball, or other object is often accompanied by relative extreme, if somewhat short lived pain. I attribute this to making these throw attempts without any semblance of a proper warm up. But still. My dream, of course, is to go into shoulder surgery for a minor repair, only to have them accidentally tighten the tendons and ligaments up there, leaving me with an inexplicable ability to throw a baseball @ 95mph+. Unlikely.
But without a regimen in place yet, and without a catcher willing to spend hours helping me hone my craft, I am lost at sea.
Do other people, those who have played baseball, golf, guitar, or any other hands and arms related activity get the urge throughout the occasional day to swing something?? Sometimes, without warning, I am struck with the strong desire to swing a baseball bat, or pick up a guitar and strum out some big power chords. I recently went to the golf ball driving range to avoid embarrassing myself during an upcoming golf expedition. My success was limited to the fact that I did not end up embarrassing myself completely, and this singular trip to the range was enough to secure this fact, barely.
A few weeks ago, I was struck with the desire to swing something, and the golf ball driving range popped into my head as an appropriate destination. However, the driving range is well out of my way home from work, and in the end, do I really want to go back to doing something at which I am no good, only to be easily frustrated and annoyed in the end.
My thoughts quickly turned away from the skinny silver sticks toward the sticks of a shorter, straighter, thicker nature.... BASEBALL! I would love to go to a batting cage, thought I. But the closest one is Vince's in Newark, even further out of my way than DelCastle driving range. What to do? What to do?
The internet is often helpful for such things! So I took a look to see if there are any batting cages in the Wilmington area. Sure enough, Wilmingtonians, you have a BRAND NEW Batting cage and sporting complex, directly across from the Lowe's & DMV on Rt. 13, just outside of the city! How exciting is this???
So that day, I went to check out Thunderstix. They have four cages each of which offers baseball or softball pitching, from slow pitch action to upwards of 70mph baseball pitches. The system is newly purchased, and definitely the nicest one I've seen. Also, they have three batting/hitting tunnels, which look great.
For me, this new complex is perfect, because it is literally directly on my way home. So I made my initial stop there at 5:08, having left work @ 5. I went in, played three rounds of hitting, and made it home about 15 minutes later than I might normally arrive. Perfect!
When I got there, I was the only customer, which is just how I like it. Robert Banner, owner of Thunder Stix and head coach of A.I. DuPont softball, is a very nice gentleman, who seems dedicated to providing a quality experience from batting cages, lessons, and areas to practice pitching.
I have been back once since, and hell, I may go back today! On my second trip, I jumped my speed up from 60 to 70mph, and I must say, I am hitting now better than I have in my whole life. This can be attributed to: a.) a pitching machine is easier to hit than live pitching for many reasons; and b.) my hitting has always been notoriously horrendous, such that any level of acceptable contact would qualify as "better than ever." Still, I am happy to be able to go in there and make contact and let off some steam. I could never, in a million years, try out for a minor league team for any position that requires hitting without being cruelly laughed off the complex. Should I go through with trying out as a pitcher, I will be politely asked to leave, quickly. But the laughing won't start until after I've left (I hope).
I took an extra round of swings, and then the aforementioned owner was kind enough to give me a free token. I wanted to say "Thanks Rob, but I am already exhausted!" But my pride took over and I accepted the token in gratitude and took my additional swings.
Overall, this is a great place and you should definitely take the time to check it out! Patronize the establishment, and help ensure its success. Wilmington needs a good batting cage, and now we have one! Get to swinging. Play ball!
THUINDER STIX Baseball & Softball Academy
Batting cages & Quality Instruction
4060 N. DuPont Hwy
New Castle, DE
Small Businesses Prepare for Flu Season
"One of the employees said that a lot of people just wash the palm of their hands not thinking that a lot of bacteria can be on the back of your hands and on your fingertips," he said. "That's one of the things we came up with, that we're all going to do that because of the flu and because it's good hygiene in general."
Ioannoni encourages his staff to get flu shots. He is also ordering hand sanitizer and sanitation wipes in bulk from Action Unlimited Resources of New Castle. The cleaning supply company in New Castle has seen a 400 percent uptick in product orders related to the prevention of swine flu.
The orders have "come in two waves, just like the virus," said spokesman Bill Dougherty. "When it first hit, we got a huge run on Purell because no one really knew what was going to happen. Obviously, now with the threat being higher and everyone being made more aware about it, we've seen another increase."Many small businesses are telling employees that coming in when they're sick will do more harm than good. Ioannoni has instructed employees not to return until at least 24 hours after the symptoms have passed.
About a year ago, the members of Pearl Jam sponsored a turtle, Backspacer, in the great turtle race held in (where else?) the pacific northwest. Pacific leatherback turtles face the threat of extinction, and the race is designed to raise awareness for their plight. Backspacer, Esteban, Billy, Grembo Jones, Cali and 6 others made their way south along the Pacific coast, taking part in what was, for them, a epochal tradition, practiced by their ancestors as far back into antiquity as one might venture to wander. Despite having started the race “further back than any of her competitors," on April 27, 2009 Backspacer crossed the finish line first!
On that very day, as Pearl Jam was in Brendan O’Brien’s Atlanta studio putting the finishing touches on their aptly titled new record, bassist Jeff Ament and a couple of crew members were mugged and robbed of more than $7,000 in cash and assets. Ament was left bleeding from the head and I believe he required medical treatment. Goodness gracious!
This record did not come easily. After 17 years and seven records with Sony’s Epic label, and a one-off, one shot self titled record on J Records, Backspacer marks the first time that the band can claim to be truly out on there on their own.
What Pearl Jam have managed to do with this, their ninth studio album, is something quite extraordinary, indeed. Sort of. From a business and logistical standpoint: fascinating. Musically: pretty damn impressive, two listens in...
The first news of the new record, save for rumblings of being “in the studio” from the band’s website, came in the form of a secret concert held in a small Seattle venue, where one Mr. Cameron Crowe was said to be in attendance, directing video recording of the band performing to an intimate crowd, for three purposes. The film would be used to create the video for the first single from the record: The Fixer. Additionally, footage would be used for a forthcoming video release celebrating and documenting 20 years of Pearl Jam. Lastly, it was mentioned, the video would be used to create a commercial for Target, Pearl Jam’s new business partner dujour.
Wait. What? Did you just say that Pearl Jam, railers against all that is greedy and dark in this world and the next, have teamed up with TARGET, exclusively, with this new record??? There must be a mistake! Alas, there is no mistake, and legions of fans, eager for new music from the band, did a double-take and tilted their heads like confused little puppies.
Upon considering the deal that was made, and seeing exactly what it meant for the band and fans alike, I would venture to guess that most die hards accepted the deal as being savvy, wise, necessary, and impressive. Pearl Jam maintains their publishing rights, of course, and their exclusivity with Target only goes as far as the other big chains are concerned. So no, Johnny Guitar, you won’t be able to pick up Backspacer at the local Wal-mart, or Best Buy, or, I bet, even @ Border’s or Barnes & Noble. However, if you want to swing by Bert’s or Rainbow Records next week, the album should be there for your grubby little hands.
So the deal lines up that Target is the exclusive big-box, and the record is available at any and all interested mom and pop, local record stores. PJ is able to sell the record through iTunes and similar places apart from the Target deal, and also they are able to sell hard copies of the album directly through their website. From Target, they receive promo, national big box distro, and an unheard of $5/disc. When on Epic records, the band likely received somewhere between 50 cents and $2 per record, to put this # in context. Staggering.
This new found freedom from record label fiefdom has allowed the band to do other interesting promotional runs. Last week, as the album's release drew near, the band, via Twitter, posted a number of pictures of independent record stores, in which the first person to present themselves there would win a free limited edition Fixer 7" on orange vinyl. Weeks ago, the band released their album artwork via an online contest, in which participants were encouraged to scour the internet for the nine Tom Tomorrow images that make up the cover artwork. Once these nine images were assembled (from sites such as Rolling Stone & Spin, Yahoo, Wired, and elsewhere) one could view the artwork as a whole, as well as download a demo of Speed of Sound, from the new record. This is a good choice of demo, because the solo acoustic demo sounds much different than the studio version done by the full band, and hence, provides an interesting juxtaposition and an insight into the song crafting process.
The next big swing in the pre-release promo buzz came with the release of the first single, The Fixer, and subsequently its aforementioned video. Critics had a field day detailing the song as Pearl Jam’s happiest, most optimistic groove ever, and it is difficult to argue the point. The previous winner in this category, in my mind, would be Riot Act B-side “Down” which is a spectacular number, but is, after all, titled ‘down.’
This raises an interesting issue. For the past ten years, every Pearl Jam release has been met by a gaggle of reviewers eager and anxious to compare their latest offering to their initial one, 1991’s seminal and groundbreaking classic Ten. In most cases, at least with the last three records, reviewers have breathlessly panted their belief that the band has finally returned to form, and has turned over a new leaf in terms of their relationships to music, their fans, and each other.
The occasional casual observer continues the lament that no Pearl Jam record has ever equalled the spectacular magnitude of Ten. I would disagree with both of these assessments. Ten is in no way the best album put forth by the band. And although I don’t know which album I would personally award the honor of being considered ‘best’ I would say that Ten likley does not break the top five. It has some great songs, including the three songs (Alive, Evenflow, Jer'my) which catapulted PJ to the vaunted position they maintain today. But that record is thick and heavy, and remixing the album for the deluxe reissue could only do so much to soften the unseemly, reverbish metal sound brought forth by initial producer Rick Parasher.
Vs. is utterly magnificent, shoving the words ‘sophmore slump’ straight down our negative little gullets from the first chaotic chords of “Go” through the violent wailings of “Drop the Leash!” and finally through the soft dark ruminations of “Indifference.”
Vitalogy is a bit of a hodgepodge, the result of intraband turmoil that left much of the record to be fleshed out by Mr. Vedder on his own. At times, this makes for great music. At other times, it makes for Bugs. Of the first three albums, this has been recognized as Danny's least favorite. Highlights in rock include: Last Exit, Spin the Black Circle, and the Whipping. Highlights in soft balladeering include: Nothingman, Immortality. And the mega-hit highlights: Betterman & Chordoroy. With so many quality grooves, it is hard, in the end, to disparage this record too much. But many, most even, might mark this as the point at which the point of departure for Pearl Jam begins.
The boys followed up a couple of years later with No Code. This is definitely the apex of Pearl Jammian experimentalism, with the first single, Who You Are, sounding as if it was procured directly from the dinnerplate of Nusrat Fateh Ali Kahn. Of course, this is meant as one of those sly, backhanded compliments... but still. The record has fantastic songs like Sometimes (Timmy’s favorite), Hail Hail, In My Tree, Red Moquito, Lukin, and even more!
Yield was next, in 1998, and this marked the time when I officially got “back into” Pearl Jam. I had strayed a bit, as it took until about 2000 or even later before I could truly come to appreciate the utter genius that was No Code. Our paths had diverged, as I delved into punk rock in the mid nineties, just as they took their turn toward experimenting with organic loops and soft convoluted ruminations. With Yield, it all came back together. Brain of J starts off this record in true rock form, and I even got Sandro to admit that it sorta rocked, minus, of course, the guitar solo, which turned him off. The next song on the record is the beautiful ‘faithful.’ It is slow and seems kinda boring at first, but it was this song that really locked me back in with Pearl Jam. I remember listening to the record for the first time, and upon hearing this second song, with its initial verse, extensive chorus breakdown, and second verse, I thought to myself “god damn they better end this song now” and sure enough they DID!
I expected them to kick into another chorus, which would inevitably be boring for a song so long. But they avoided this brilliantly and in that moment, kept me as a fan. Well played, gentlemen.
Next up, a different kind of experimentation, with Binaural. The record was an attempt to use Tchad Blake’s unique recording style and blend it with the Pearl Jam sound. I don’t think the band was particularly thrilled with how things turned out, turning to Mr. Brendan O’Brien for a last minute remix. Still, the songs are top notch, with rocker’s like Evacuation, Grievance, God’s Dice and Insignificance. The slower numbers do the job as well. The highlight of this album for me is its utter prescience. It plays like the first post 9-11 album, released 5-16-2000. I think this record was the first to attach itself to the “Pearl Jam is back!” meme that persists through the newest release. (Although, as I just read on wikipedia, Yield "was proclaimed as a return to the band's early, straightforward rock sound." So it started even earlier...) Still, Binaural highlights an emerging pattern that has been present since the release of Ten. With every Pearl Jam record, there are songs that are fantastic, and then there are a couple that just fall a bit flat. Sleight of Hand is definitely my least favorite song on this record. Its slow and trance-like machinations just don't do it for me, and serve as the poster child for exactly what it is about Pearl Jam that does not thrill me. Still, the lyrics are good, but overall it just doesn't mesh.
I want to call 2002's Riot Act my least favorite record, but when I go back and look at the track list and the # of songs I like, it is easy to make an argument that it should be one of my favorites. Green Disease is one of my favorite Pearl Jam songs of them all, and there are other gems like Thumbing my way, Save You, Love Boat Captain, I am Mine, and Cropduster. Lacklusters include: Help, help; 1/2 full (this song is sort of awesome but just lacks something....can't put my finger on it); You Are, Bushleaguer. This record was recorded almost completely live, which gives the overall sound a sense of loose urgency, which may work against the great songs to produce a weaker product. Perhaps.
“The Avacado” record, Pearl Jam’s self titled release of a few years ago, is a strong performance from a group of guys who wear their collective experiences on their musical sleeves. Or, rather, they are a band that SOUNDS like they’ve been together for 15+ years. I really liked this record when it came out, and I still do. But it does fall victim to the same fault that is the achilles heal of any Pearl Jam record: great, great songs padded with a couple that just don’t live up, at least in my eyes. On every record, there are 2-5 songs that just don’t quite do it for me, completely. I like them fine enough, but if push came to shove, I would leave ‘em, not take ‘em. The greats from this album: Comatose, WWS, Severed Hand, Marker in the Sand, Come back, Unemployable, Parachutes, Big Wave. For an album with 13 songs, this is a big list of good songs. But a couple of the others don’t quite measure up in my eye. Lyrically, these weaker songs are sort of wonderful, but musically and overall they don’t cut my mustard.
So this brings us to September 20, 2009. Initial sense: typical, and brilliant. The record really does shine with the beautiful optimism of a band that no longer feels tethered to the viscous political wranglings of the past eight years, or the formal fiscal responsibilities of a mammoth record label. As with every Pearl Jam record, there are some great songs here. The first single, The Fixer, is as bright, cheery and poppy as critics have suggested, and you’ve likely heard it somewhere already, whether it has been on WMMR or some similar station, the credits of the MLB All Star game, or elsewhere.
The second song on the record “Got some” seems to tie the game of dealing musical rockers to the game of dealing drugs. This is an apt metaphor, highlighted by the laments of the protagonist in the albums opener “Gonna see my friend.” You may remember “Got Some” from Pearl Jam’s June 1 appearance on the opening night of the new Tonight Show. They rocked it there, although the vox seemed a little low and it wasn’t their greatest performance ever. Still, it was good, and the version on the record hits hard and keeps hitting. Gonna See My Friend is another solid rocker, starting the album off right with pounding drums and bouncing guitar, all overlayed by them vocals Murph has come to love so much. ;)
Johnny Guitar rounds out the opening salvo as track 4, and does so with a swing kick groove reminscent of some real swooner punk rock. It's a little slower than a punk number, per se, but has enough energy to keep the kids boppin, generally. "I had my disappointment 'cause for years I had been hoping that when she came she would come for me."
The band stops to just breathe after this, with a very, very aching song called Just Breathe, pulling the heart strings with lamentations on the shortness of life and the suddeness of death, and the gaping hole left in between. Usually for me, it is these slower songs that leave me dissatisfied on a PJ record. There are definitely some of them found here. But Just Breathe is slow and sad and utterly beautiful, and just might be the best song on the record.
In 1996 when I was 16, I got my driver’s license and hit the road! In one of those early days I drove down the road, and put on WYSP 94.1 in the middle of a song I did not know. It was Red Mosquito from the as yet unreleased No Code record. Before any lyrics were sung, I said to myself “this is a new Pearl Jam song!” I could just tell by the sound of the guitars and the overall taste of the music, despite it being a bit different than your typical PJ song.
This same type of thing is true with Just Breathe. As soon as you hear it, you know: this song was written alongside the songs Mr. Vedder wrote for the Into the Wild soundtrack. It just has that sense, that sound. And this is a good thing. It fits right in, and as I said, it is brutally heartwrenching.
I was, of all places, at Target over the weekend last week. I had some purchases to make, and I waltzed on past the music section, where they were selling the Fixer 7” single. Despite having heard the song numerous times over the internet, and despite knowing I would have the entire record to listen to quite soon, I just couldn’t help myself, and bought it for the ole vinyl collection, and for the B-side Supersonic, which I had not yet heard. Brought it home, dropped the crooked arm, and liked what I heard. Much like the Fixer, the Pearl Jam that performs Supersonic is a cheery Pearl Jam indeed. THIS is likely the most optimistic, happy Pearl Jam you’ll ever hear, and it makes for good music. The Fixer is top notch, despite its differentness. Supersonic is tolerable as well, awesome even, but it is just strange to hear PJ going in this direction. I like it, overall, but it is gonna take a little getting used to. They really put the pedal to the perky!
When I first listened to the album's last song, The End, I was struck with its awkwardness, and had a similar reaction to the aforementioned situations with Yield's Faithful. The song end's with Vedder softly squealing a series of rhyming couplets in a way that is pushing the boundaries of cool. That being said, just like in the past, they win you over immediately with one of their best album endings ever, as Vedder sings away: "I'm here... for not much longer" the song ends for the rest of the band @ "I'm here" leaving just the vocals to whisper "for not much longer." No clever outro's, no histrionical flares, just a man breathing out his final lines as the world falls silent around him.
Pearl Jam has, with this ninth album, done something different, and that is commendable. They've simplified their sound, and they've brightened up a little. That being said, in terms of themes, the last few albums have focused heavily around the concept of love, whether it is in Riot Act's Love Boat Captain where we hear that while it has "already been sung, can't be said enough: love is all you need. All you need is love..." or on the Binaural's opener (Breakerfall) "There's a girl on a ledge she's got nowhere to turn cause all the love that she had was just wood that she burned... but only love can break her fall" and lastly, on their self titled offering, Parachutes offers "and war,.... Break the sky and tell me what it's for
I'll travel there on my own... and love, what a different life had I not found this love with you."
With many other examples of this overriding leitmotif available, I stop where I am. But my point is, it is hard to describe a band that is so caught up in love as a "dark" or "brooding" animal. And in that regard, this newest record, along with its most recent counterpart, carry a heaviness with them that comes not from some dark, angry, megalomaniacal place, but rather, comes from an aching and longing over lost friends and death that is palpable. The last record was dedicated to one Mr. Johnny Ramone, amongst others, and his absence in the world is felt heavily on this record as well. The subject of love is still evident through the thread of the lyrics, and a new relationship and children has given Vedder even more reasons to sing about it. But sometimes, when I am alone with my thoughts, I let out an audible sigh as I consider the lost memories stolen by lives cut too, too short. I can hear that same sigh in the buried in the crevices of many of these new songs.
The new album rocks, where it rocks. I can't get enough of "Got some" with its lyrics like "Precipitation: which side are you on? Are you drying up? Are you a big drop? Are you a puddle full of detrimental?" And the Fixer, which I have already heard ad naseum, has not quite gotten old yet, and lyrics like "when something's old I wanna put a bit of shine on it. If something's lost I wanna fight to get it back again!" keep me coming back. Where it is slow and contemplative, it scores big points as well. Just breathe is one of the best slow and contemplative PJ songs ever, and The End is a great song, with a great ending and a great set of lyrics, as well. But the record falls short where so many PJ records before have as well: the mid tempo ballad. Some on this record are already starting to grow on me, such as Speed of Sound. But these songs bleed together, and the album feels like it could use one more "rocker" towards the end of the record, despite the excessively upbeat Supersonic as track #8. I like this record a lot, and the live show will no doubt strengthen this sense when the band visits Philadelphia for 4 nights in October to close out the Spectrum. If I am lucky, I will get to go to one of these shows, and I will no doubt be singing along fervently to the new songs, rockers and mid-tempo ballads alike.
Ten: A- Best tracks: (Porch, Once, Oceans)
Vs.: A+ (Animal, Leash, Small town)
Vitalogy: B+ (Last exit, Spin the black circle, Nothingman)
No Code: A+ (Hail, Hail; Lukin, In my Tree, Present tense)
Yield: A (Given to Fly, Do the Evolution, mini fast car, In Hiding)
Binaural: B+ (Grievance, Insignificance, Soon forget)
Riot Act: B (Cropduster, Green Disease, Save You, I am Mine)
Pearl Jam: A (Comatose, Severed Hand, Parachutes)
Backspacer: B+ (Got some, Just Breathe, The Fixer)
you really are spectacular creatures
with a fascinating society
and i am sorry to have to kill you (en masse).
with flies, mosquitos
it is war
perhaps, under different circumstances
we could be friends, you and i, even.
but your very ordered appearance
indicates a disorder on my part which is unacceptable
and can not stand.
yet just now, one of your brethren made its appearance on my arm known
tickling my skin
and snatching him up between my pinched fingers
i took his life.
he is on the edge of my thumb dead, essentially
and the occasional twitches of his legs have long ceased
giving me hope of a potential recovery
i did not wish to kill you friend.
i have gladly sprayed legions of ants
as they trudged along doorways, sinks, and elsewhere over the years, each fulfilling their integral, menial tasks
in rank sharp enough as to make Patton prowd
the twitching has stopped now (he just twitched again though)
and i feel i ought give my friend a proper funeral
complete with fire and prayer
replete of family, friends aghast and stricken
ashes to dust we must
Dear MoveOn member,
Yesterday, ignoring the calls from leaders within his own party, Rep. Joe Wilson refused to apologize on the House floor for shouting out "you lie!" during President Obama's big health care speech.1
In fact, he recorded a new YouTube video defending his attacks on Obama's health care plan and requesting donations for his re-election campaign!2
This is the kind of disrespectful and dishonest behavior we've come to expect from right-wing mobs and talk radio hosts recently—but it's simply unacceptable for a member of the United States Congress.
Grassroots progressives are teaming up to help Rob Miller take on Joe Wilson, raising over $750,000 in less than two days. They've set a goal of raising of $1 million—can you chip in $20?
While Wilson initially apologized to the White House for his outburst, by yesterday he was already backpedaling. He refused calls from leaders of both parties to apologize on the House floor and claimed that he had been "overwhelmed" with supportive phone calls.3
And the conservative media is defending Wilson. Rush Limbaugh said on his show yesterday that Wison shouldn't have apologized.4 Sean Hannity, who had Wilson as a guest on Fox News, told him, "You're right and the president is wrong," and urged viewers to donate to Wilson's campaign.5
This is mean-spirited right-wing politics at its worst—and we've got to fight back. As President Obama said , "I won't stand by while the special interests use the same old tactics to keep things exactly the way they are. If you misrepresent what's in this plan, we will call you out."
Let's help Rob Miller take on Joe Wilson. Click here to chip in:
Thanks for all you do.
THE GREATER BRANDYWINE VILLAGE HAPPENING
Friday, September 11, 2009
Art Show and open houses from 5:30 - 8:30 | Live bands from 8:30 - 1:30.
HELP US RAISE MONEY TO KEEP THE POSITIVE COMMUNITY EFFORTS OF 1908 N. MARKET ST!
5:30 - 8:30: Open to the public - all ages until 8:30.
8:30 - 1:30: Open to the public - 18+ / 21 (ID a MUST) to drink. Beer will be served, but BYOB is also OK for 21+.
Join us as we celebrate everything happening in Greater Brandywine Village at the Spot!
WHO: DECO Multimedia, DECOmmunity, the Spot, Urban Bike Project
WHEN: Friday, September 11, 2009
5:30 – 8:30 - Deco & The Spot host The Wilmington Art Loop (featuring work from 20+ Deco artists) and Live Graffiti Expo
8:30 – 1:00 – After-party with live local bands
WHERE: the Spot, 1908 North Market Street, Wilmington, DE 19805
WHY: Raise funds to keep Delaware Collective, the Spot, and Urban Bike Project alive!
· The Headies
· Glad Hearts
· Dod da Komma & Kru
· Rant and Riot
· Carl Sagan Group
· 1/4" Crash
WHAT: Meet Deco / Spot / Urban Bike Project – Wilmington Art Loop - Live Music – Live Graffiti Expo- Food & Drinks
Donations accepted at the door, but are not mandatory. Usual donation is $5 - $10.
The Greater Brandywine Village Happening! Held at The Spot, 1908 N. Market St, the Greater Brandywine Village Happening is a stop on the Wilmington Art Loop, to build awareness of the community efforts of The Spot, and the organizations based there. Join us to celebrate and learn about the work of Deco, the Urban Bike Project. The Spot is also an art gallery and musical venue, and will feature a jazz ensemble during the Art Loop. We will also have a live graffiti arts expo, as Wilmington graffiti artists paint a mural dedicated to the community efforts of The Spot, DECO, and UBP.
The organizations of The Spot, the Urban Bike Project and DECO, are always looking for volunteers and artists, and the Happening will include opportunities for interested people to sign up. The Happening is also a chance for the Urban Bike Project and the Delaware Collective to raise funds to continue their non-profit mission: to revitalize the Greater Brandywine Village community.
We hope to see you at the Happening. We hope that you’ll help spread the word, and support the organizations that are doing so much to help the community. Join us for an evening of art, music, community, and entertainment at the Greater Brandywine Village Happening.
This Happening is an opportunity for people in and around Wilmington to recognize and celebrate the grassroots efforts of artists, non-profit groups, and small businesses working together to improve the cultural visibility of Wilmington. The Greater Brandywine Village Revitalization, Inc will also attend with information on their continuing effort to improve the Greater Brandywine Village community.
The Delaware Collective will discuss both sides of their work, DECO Multimedia, a start-up multimedia and design business, and DECOmmunity, their non-profit efforts to bring outstanding communications and marketing to local non-profits and charitable organizations.
Volunteers from The Spot will be available to provide more information on the progress that they have made into turning a once-vacant building into a place for the local community to host art shows, music shows, fundraisers and other community-minded projects.
Representatives of the Urban Bike Project will discuss their work in reclaiming bicycles, educating the community on bicycle repair and maintenance, and bicycle distribution for a healthier, greener Wilmington.
The organizations of The Spot, the Urban Bike Project and the Delaware Collective, are always looking for volunteers and artists, and the Happening will include opportunities for interested people to sign up. The Happening is also a chance for the Delaware Collective and the Urban Bike Project to raise funds to continue their mission - to revitalize the Greater Brandywine Village and community. Through fundraising efforts during the Happening, including a lottery and donations, the organizations hope to raise money to continue and assist the efforts of the organizations.
The Happening officially begins at 5:30 PM. A live graffiti expo will be held outside as local artists build a mural to the community efforts of The Spot, Delaware Collective, Urban Bike Project and the Greater Brandywine Village community. The Wilmington Art Loop (Art on the town) will come through to see creations of over 20 DECO artists, and there will be a live jazz performance followed by a DJ during the Art Loop. Local food will be provided by The Rebel Restaurant and other local restaurants.
At 8:30pm, as the sun goes down and the volume goes up, there will be several local musical acts taking to the stage, including bands, hip hop performances, and DJs. Musicians will perform from approximately 8:30 - 1:30am. Beer will be served, and this portion of the event is also BYOB (21+, Valid IDs required).
We hope to see supporters of Wilmington's artistic, cultural and non-profit community attend, as well as representatives of Wilmington news and media to share this event and the efforts of these organizations with the greater area. We hope you'll join us for an evening that will be a truly unique demonstration of our community’s talent and dedication.
Delaware Collective, or DECO, is a multimedia and design group with a focus on cutting edge technology and creative design.
The folks at DECO also direct the efforts of Decommunity, a non-profit enterprise to bring outstanding multimedia and web site design to non-profit and charitable efforts around the world. DECO works closely with Greater Brandywine Village Restoration, and many other local Wilmington initiatives to preserve Wilmington’s history and expand Wilmington’s culture. We have come up with a win-win method for students, artists and volunteers and local area non-profit organizations in need of design work. By accepting local student-interns that have a focus on art and design, grouping these aspiring artists with Deco's experienced designers, we are able to offer exceptional quality design and media services to non-profit groups for little or no cost at all. Our goal here is to strengthen the local arts and culture community by providing young, local artists with real-life experience, and to strengthen our entire community by providing media for positive initiatives throughout the city.
Born in 2007, The Spot is Wilmington’s place for local music and arts. Our venue is managed and staffed by volunteers dedicated to bringing more live and visual art to downtown Wilmington. Our multipurpose space is home to Gallery 1908, a showcase for local artists and is part of Wilmington's art loop. The Spot also oversees the entire property of 1908 N Market, and assists the Urban Bike Project, the Delaware Collective, and any interested local artists and musicians in their efforts to revitalize Wilmington.
Urban Bike Project
The Urban Bike Project is a small non-profit organization based out of Wilmington, Delaware. We are currently located at 1908 North Market Street, in the basement, accessible around back. We now have, thanks to invaluable help from the community, not only our 501(c)3 status with the IRS and insurance, but also a wonderful shop and a loyal and wonderful number of core volunteers.
UBP's mission is to serve the community's needs by educating and promoting cycling as a safe, practical, cost-efficient mode of transportation. Our facilities provide a means for the public to become more self-sufficient both in bicycle maintenance and transportation. We work to foster a greater sense of awareness in motorists, pedestrians, and the community at large.
Both Deco and Decommunity are actively seeking local artist, writers and digital designers to assist with both paid and non-profit projects. If you are interested in learning more about joining our collective, we will have questionnaires and portfolio reviews at our information table.FOR MORE INFORMATION CALL IAN NADEL - 302.423.4412 | 302.222.1852 | 302.543.7396 firstname.lastname@example.org
1908 N. Market St.
Wilmington, DE 19802