Thursday, May 29, 2008

And the Best Album of 2008 is....

The Hold Steady-"Stay Positive". Period. End of story. There will not be a better CD released this year. I usually do not engage in this sort of musical hyperbole but it's not this often an album blows me away to this degree.

I have to admit that I have been slow to get into The Hold Steady. Critics and fans have been praising them since their debut in 2004 and each of their previous 3 discs have ended up on many end of the year "Best-Of" lists. What got me to pay attention were the consistent comparisons to Bruce Springsteen. Like Bruce, lyricist/lead vocalist Craig Finn has a penchant for story songs about small towns and the characters that inhabit them. I have always thought Finn was an amazing lyricist, but the band always sounded a bit too "bar band" for my taste. They seemed limited in their approach and talent compared to Finn's amazing lyrics. That was in the past....

Something happened to these guys between 2006's excellent "Boys and Girls in America" and this new record. "Stay Positive" is like listening to The Hold Steady in color compared to the black and white sound of their previous discs. Whether it was music lesions, more time investment, or just sheer will, the band has finally stepped up their music to match the words.

And what words they are!! I can now safely say that Craig Finn is the best lyricist working today short of Springsteen, Steve Earle, or Tom Waits. While obviously influenced by Springsteen's work, Finn has as much in common with Beat writers Jack Kerouac and Charles Bukowski. His songwriting is so literate that each track feels like a chapter in a long novel. The writing on the previous albums was always good, but "Stay Positive" takes Finn's characters to new levels. While many of his previous subjects were enjoying life walking around and drinking, fucking in cars, or mellowing out in chillout tents; the people on the ironically title new disc are living with the party hangover. Finn's characters have grown up and now live with addictions, abuse, and the failed hopes and dreams that we all live with. And all the while the music brings hope and a rousing sense of optimism to the situations.

I can go on and on about how great this CD is, but just make sure you buy it on July 14'th. In the meantime you can check out a few songs below (Constructive Summer, Lord I'm Discuraged, and Magazines).

The Hold Steady's "Stay Positive" is proof of the power that words and music can have on the soul. If only there were more discs half as good.

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Tuesday, May 20, 2008

I Officially Suck at Guitar!

At least compared to this 11 year old mystro(Sungha Jung) Prepare to be wowed. If only I'd applied myself more...

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Celluloid Heroes-"The Savages"

Every once in a while a movie comes along that stays with you long after the closing credits roll. For me today that film is the amazing "The Savages". The plot is simple; brother and sister find themselves having to deal with their estranged, elderly father who begins suffering from dementia. Add to it the emotional baggage the siblings constantly carry around and you have an emotional powder keg of a film. Sound fun? It isn't. But what is fun is watching the amazing Laura Linney and Phillip Seymour-Hoffman work together. This film is an acting tour de force, and one is left with no doubt that these two are the finest actors working today.

As bleak as the plot sounds, the movie never feels overwrought thanks to the wry wit and brilliant script by writer/director Tamara Jenkins. Leaving all typical Hollywood cliche behind, this film let's its character's fumble through their darkness without knowing if there is light at the end or where it might come from. The result is a rare beauty of a film that I will never forget. With all the crap Hollywood is throwing at us this season, "The Savages" feels like something resembling a miracle.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Bill O'Reilly Meltdown

I love when pompous assholes are caught being pompous assholes. Here is a case in point from years ago when Bill (Fair and Ballanced) O'Reilly worked for "Inside Edition". I'm sure the crew and staff just loved him there....

Monday, May 12, 2008

Hell has Frozen Over!

There is both great and bad news for Neil Young fans these days. The great news is that his long delayed Archive retrospective will finally see the light of day in September, 2008. This is huge news considering this collection has been talked about for 20 some-odd years now. The bad news is that Neil is releasing this in Blue-ray DVD format ONLY. This is super for the 1% of Neil Young fans that have a Blu-ray player, but it completely alienates the rest of his fan base. With cheep Blu-ray players still hovering the $300.00-400.00 range, I know I'm sure not in a position to run out and get one just because of my love for Neil Young.

In Neil's defence, he has said the reason this Archive project has taken so long is because there was never a suitable format available to achieve what he wanted to do with it. Blu-ray offers much larger storage space so it can hold audio and Video in amazing quality. I know Neil has the best interests of his art and fans at heart, but I fear this will end up having the opposite effect he is hoping for. How many people are going to download the inevitable Bit-Torrent of this stuff just because they don't have a freaking player to play it on even if they did buy it?

Leave it to Neil Young; after all these years he continues to baffle fans and industry folks alike. I know after looking at the trailer for the package, I may just be asking for a Blu-ray player for Hanukkah. Maybe Neil knows what he's doing after all...

Monday, May 5, 2008


Tom Waits sure knows how to give a press conference. Check out today's highlights announcing his upcoming "Glitter and Doom" tour! By the way...if you've never seen him in concert, pay whatever it costs if he's coming close to you. You will not regret it.

It was 18 Years Ago Today......

On May 5-1990, The Grateful Dead played a ragged but right show at Cal State in Calson, California. Folks spotted grooving on the side of the stage that day included Timothy Leary and Terence McKenna.
Perhaps the treats Leary brought the band account for the somewhat ragged show but when the the boys gel, this one just smokes. The setlist alone makes this show a keeper. It taked a few songs before the bands gets together so hang in there. Highlights include a first set "Help>Slip>Franklin's", a great Jerry solo during "Loser", a rocking first set closing "One More Saturday Night", and the entire second set. Enjoy!

Greatful Dead-May 5, 1990
Set 1: Let The Good Times Roll, The Race Is On, Help> Slipknot> Franklin's, Queen Jane, Loser, Me & My Uncle> Mexicali, Loose Lucy, One More Saturday Night
Set 2: Truckin> Crazy Fingers> Playin in the Band> Uncle John's Band> Drumz> I Need a Miracle> Dear Mr. Fantasy> Going Down The Road Feeling Bad>Around & Around E: Touch of Grey

Thursday, May 1, 2008

R.I.P. Dr. Albert Hofmann

Dr. Albert Hofmann passed away yesterday at the ripe old age of 102. Well known for being the founder of lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), his creation helped begin an entire counterculture and open the doors of perception for millions of people. Dr. Hofmann inadvertently caused both the expansion and unfortunate disintegration of many young minds.

My personal experience with his creation aside, I felt compelled to put together a musical tribute for the man and his creation. A creation which he felt would help us all open our minds and become one with nature.