Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Former Replacments Drummer Steve Foley, R.I.P.

From Jim Walsh's blog:


Steve Foley passed away over the weekend. The last time I saw him was a few weeks ago at the off-leash dog park by Lake Of The Isles. For an hour we sat in lawn chairs, watched the sun set, and talked about how much we loved watching our dogs run wild. He talked about some personal problems, but he seemed to be on the other side of them. Peaceful. That's how I'll remember him. Last year when I was writing a book on the Replacements, he was very helpful. This is part of what he told me:

I started drumming in bands in 1979. My first band was the Overtones. I played with Things That Fall Down, the Suprees, Wheelo, Routine 11, and Curt [iss A] every Wednesday for ladies night for a decade. I've been in so many bands, I'm probably forgetting some.

I was playing with Pete Lack and Jimmy Thompson in Wheelo at the time. I was with my brother Kevin and another guy, Paul Miller, on a Saturday morning, and we went to the Uptown [Bar] for brunch like every other swingin' dick in town: you'd go up there for a big old breakfast. But it was too packed, so we went over to the CC Club.

And we're sitting there, it was pretty empty, and Paul and Tommy walked in. They sat in a booth behind us, and my brother Kevin is like, "God, Steven, your ears are burnin'. They're talking about you. They keep looking over here."

So I got up and went to the bathroom, and I said, "Hey, guys. Love the new CD." And Paul's like, "Really? Wanna join the band?" I'm like, "What do you mean?" And he's like, "Well, Tommy's got his black book out and he's running back and forth to the phone, trying to find a drummer." I think he was calling Clem Burke and all these other guys. So I was like, "Fuck, yeah. Are you kidding?"

Paul said, "No. We've got a CD obviously that's just come out, and we're going on tour. We're gonna have to audition you."

So we finished the meal, got in my car, and I had just bought a copy of All Shook Down, and I just had it cranked before I went into the CC, so when they got into the car and turned on the ignition, I think it was "Bent Right Out Of Shape" just blasted out of the stereo. Perfect. It was pretty good. They both looked at each other and went, "You're already in."


Compared to all these other bands who've made it… I mean, these bands are a joke compared to the Replacements. I'm just glad to have been part of it. Some days I walk down the street and go, "God, I was in that fuckin' band?" Unbelievable. It is. It will always be a treasure in my mind.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Westerberg's "49:00" and "5:05"

It wasn’t that long ago that the album was the ultimate statement of an artist. Throughout the course of 35 – 40 minutes, we shared a journey with the band and songwriters that told us exactly what was going on in their life during that period of their life.
With vinyl, and even cassette and 8-tracks, you were forced to endure the ebb and flow of the artist’s statement. Sure, you could lift the needle and go to the next song, or fast-forward or rewind to a desired track, but it was much easier (and enjoyable) to go with the flow.
Due to being immersed in an entire album, it wasn’t just the hits that became fan favorites. There was never a chance a song like “Jungleland”, “Unsatisfied”, or “Moonlight Mile” would be released as a single, but fans of Bruce Springsteen, the Replacements, and the Stones respectively point to those songs as their greatest achievements.
With the introduction of the CD, and now portable music devices, those times are over. If you decide you don’t like a song on a CD, you just hit a button to go to the next track, while Ipods are almost always set on shuufle (and I’m just as guilty as the next person).
In response, most artists have completely given up on the album as an artform (CD’s are still albums, by the way). Most releases now consist of two or three wannabe hits followed by a dozen or so filler tracks. It’s almost as if we’ve gone back to the pre-Beatles/Dylan era where albums were treated as nothing but tie-in product.
So what happens to the artist who wants the album to continue to be their ultimate statement? Some acts, such as Radiohead, simply refuse to jump on the Itunes bandwagon. Unfortunately, with declining CD sales it’s hard for an act to justify missing out on the growing download market.
Paul Westerberg has come up with a solution. On “June 49”, with little notice, he put up a 49-minute album called “49:00” on Amazon and Tunecore for the price of…you guessed it, 49 cents.
Ok, I’m sure some people are saying “so what?” Isn’t Westerberg just jumping in on the Radiohead/NIN bandwagon of “almost” giving his music away? No, what separates “49:00” from earlier online-only releases is the fact that Westerberg is bringing back the “album as a statement” mentality.
How does Westerberg do this? Well, “49:00” consists of one 49-minute track (actually 43:55 – more on that later) consisting of at least two dozen individual songs. The release starts off relatively straightforward – three catchy midtempo rockers (“Who You Gonna Marry”, “Kentucky ‘Risin’”, and “Something In My Life Is Missing”) that fit in perfectly with the stronger material of “Mono” and “Folker”. On first listen, the thought process was that it would be simple enough to just cut this release down into the individual tracks.
Starting with the next track, the country-ish “Visitor’s Day”, this plan breaks down (not that it has stopped people, though). Shortly before the three-minute mark, another track (“Thoroughbred”) is brought in for a few seconds before yet another song (“Devil Raised a Good Boy”) airs as an almost complete track.
At this point, it gets even more bizarre. Songs fragments come and go, with few of them lasting more than thirty seconds, and many of them seeming to have the potential to rank with his best material ever (the raucous “What Do You Want?” being a prime example). At one point, while he’s baring his heart and soul about the death of his father a few years ago (“Goodnight Sweet Prince”), another song cuts in on the left channel and run simultaneously for a minute or so. It’s almost like Westerberg has created a melodic “Revolution 9”.
More fragments and full songs take up the next fifteen minutes or so, including a rawer version of the previously-released “Outta My System”, and the poppy “C’mon, Be My Darling”. Finally, after a wild run of short segments, Paul gives us a medley of covers of the Beatles, Kinks, Stones, Steppenwolf, Alice Cooper, Hank Williams, Elton John, and an almost complete version of the Partridge Family’s “I Think I Love You”. Surprisingly, it works.
Finally, we get to the conclusion – a punkish tune called “Oh Yeah” featuring Paul’s pre-teen son Johnny. Wow, what a trip, and quite possibly Westerberg’s greatest artistic achievement ever.
Yes, there are plenty of individual triumphs interspersed throughout the track, but releasing it as a whole piece of work is a great move. The whole is much more powerful than any particular moment, even if finding the time to play 44 straight minutes of music can be demanding.
Unfortunately, the album is no longer on the market. After topping the Amazon charts for two weeks, it was mysteriously pulled without explanation. Apparently, the cover medley led to threats of litigation, even if none of the tunes (with the exception of the Partridge Family song) lasted more than a couple of seconds.
This is why I love Westerberg, though. Rather than just roll over, he responded with another new track a few days after “49:00” was pulled. “5:05” (get it?) is spiritually aligned with the Pistols “EMI” and the Clash’s “Complete Control”, but instead of record companies it is the lawyers who receives his wrath. The track begins with sped-up German and British voices talking about Hitler. After a slowed-down voice implores the listener to “break forth in joyous song”, Westerberg begins his rant about people “that want a lawsuit”. Concluding with a few “f-you’s”, we get a clue just as to who is behind the lawsuit when the track concludes with Paul singing “Oh, darling” (the line, not the song). Yes, it appears that it’s the Beatles who are not happy with the use of “Hello, Goodbye” on “49:00”.
While it’s disconcerting that it is no longer available, the album (and “5:05”) indicates that Westerberg is again ready to return to the public eye. Even more encouraging is that he’s obviously in fighting shape, both musically and emotionally. Manager Darren Hill claims that he has dozens of songs ready to be released, but has yet to make a decision as to what he wants to do with them. Let’s hope we see more “albums” in the near future, whether they’re online-only releases or traditional CD’s.

Hudson's Back To School Driving Tips

One of the standby stories we see when school starts involves driver’s safety, and this week was no exception. Once again, we learned that school zones have 15 mph speed limits, and that pedestrians have the right of way on cross walks. Oh yeah, and seat belts are good, and we should be on the lookout for bicycles. Thanks, local news shows, I really needed those reminders.
I guess it’s only fitting, though, that I also have my version of driving safety tips. It’s safe to say, however, that mine will not be like what you see on TV.
I am constantly amazed by the stupidity I see on our local streets. There’s rarely a day that I don’t see some serious messed-up antics. Here’s a few that I’ve seen in the past few days:
1. Driving east on 11th street a few days ago, traffic suddenly came to a standstill just past the Main Street corner next to the Pavilion. I couldn’t figure out what was going on, and just assumed that somebody was making a delivery to Minerva’s down the street. If only that was the case. Instead, some moron in a giant truck was driving the wrong way in the center lane!
Even worse, he was talking on his cell phone as he was making his way down the street. Since he was right at the corner when I caught up with him, I assumed that he would do the right thing and just turn onto Main to correct himself. No, not this moron. I watched in my rear-view mirror as he continued to drive the wrong way the final two blocks to Minnesota Avenue. What was he thinking?
2. Yesterday afternoon, I was in the turn lane on 2nd Avenue by the statue of David waiting for the light so I could turn onto 10th Street. Suddenly, this minivan pulls up to the left of me, completely in the way of ongoing traffic. I tried to be the nice guy and nicely alert him of his error (really, I did!), but he didn’t acknowledge his mistake. Lucky for him, those waiting to cross the street waited for this clown to turn left.
3. Later yesterday, while coming home from New Release Tuesday at Ernie’s and Best Buy, I started to come off the Cliff Avenue exit from I-229. Suddenly, I had to slam on the brakes as a handful of cars were forced to suddenly stop. A car had suddenly stopped halfway up the exit, and he just sat there talking on his phone as we all tentatively made our way around him. Once again, this idiot was on his phone.
Yeah, he may have had an excuse such as car problems. If that was the case, though, this exit is an incline, and there’s no reason he couldn’t have coasted to the side. He’s lucky somebody didn’t slam into him going over 50 or so.
Those are just a few of the idiotic maneuvers I’ve recently seen, and doesn’t touch on the half-wits who think they can suddenly make a left hand turn from the center lane, or almost cause accidents by waving people through on the busiest multi-lane streets in the state. Or those that don’t understand the concept of yield signs. Hell, some don’t even get what a stop sign means.
The majority of all incidents such as these come down to simple courtesy. You don’t own the road, and we all have the same desire to get somewhere just as you do. At the very least, learn how to multi-task before babbling on your phone while driving. I’ve got a few years left on my Jeep. I’d rather not have to replace it because of your awful driving.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Radiohead, 8/3/08


As rock ‘n’ roll continues to move away from an artistic outlet, the structure of a typical concert has likewise turned into a predictable cliché. The band comes out a half hour late and launches right into one of their biggest hits. After a couple more hits, it is bathroom time for a good percentage of the audience as a handful of songs from the act’s current album are foisted on an audience that just wants the radio songs.
Halfway through the show, we get the acoustic, sing-along mini-set, before the band goes back to the hits that concludes with whatever can be considered their “anthem”. The encores are more of the same, with the exception of a “surprise” cover or two. You know the moment the show is concluding when the lights come on during the band’s biggest hit.
Few of these conventions are present during a Radiohead performance. They play what they want when they feel it fits into the set, and their latest album is always the focus of the show. This was certainly true on August 3, as the second leg of the In Rainbows tour hit Indianapolis (well, actually Noblesville, IN).
Instead of the standard three or four songs from their most recent album, Radiohead performed the entire In Rainbows album (along with “Banger and Mash”, from the bonus disc that accompanied the box set version of the album). That’s a full 40% of the setlist, and outside of Kid A’s five tracks, no other album had more than three songs aired (and zero songs from their debut, Pablo Honey) .
For most bands, relying so heavily on new material could be a disaster. Not all bands are Radiohead, though. Arguably the most inventive band of our generation, Radiohead proved they are at the top of their game, and In Rainbows stands proudly with any of their earlier classic releases. None of the ten songs that comprise that release made the audience feel like they were missing out on better choices.
In fact, the band had their 18,000 fans from the opening notes of “15 Steps”, and kept their grip on them until they walked off the stage after “Street Spirit (Fade Out)”. Everything flowed perfectly as they worked their way through electronic, acoustic, and more traditional rocker motifs…sometimes all in the same song.
Most surprising about the show, however, was the individual personalities of the band members. Since day one, all we’ve read is how they’re a bunch of sullen, insecure, withdrawn Brits with no sense of humor.
This couldn’t be further from the truth – each member has a distinct persona that was on display throughout the entire 135-minute show. Guitarist Jonny Greenwood is the electronics geek, just as likely to be fiddling with a synthesizer or theremin as he was with a guitar. Second guitarist Ed O’Brien may be the coolest guy in the world; suave and debonair enough that he could be the next James Bond.
Bassist Collin Greenwood plays the traditional role – an always smiling musician that is clearly happy to be traveling the world playing music. Meanwhile, drummer Phil Selway has obviously taken his cues from Stones drummer Charlie Watts – always steady but relatively anonymous. Together, this rhythm section is the unsung heroes of the band, maintaining a little bit of melodic and rhythmic structure as the two guitarists journey to the extremes to create new sounds.

Lead singer Thom Yorke, though, is clearly the driving intellectual force of the band. Yet he also displayed a sense of humor that surprised many. Early on, he cracked a joke about the corporate setting of the show – “if you’re looking for Kid Rock, you’re in the wrong place”. Later, during the quiet piano and guitar opening of “You And Whose Army”, a wildly intense use of a close-up of Yorke’s face on the video screens was interrupted by an eerie smile and a shot of his quintessentially British teeth.
The highlights of the show are too many to recount – the already-mentioned “You And Whose Army”, “All I Need”, and “Faust Arp” were memorable moments of the quieter segments of the show, while “Weird Fishes/Arpeggi”, “Just”, and “Bangers and Mash” ably represented the band’s rock edge. As for the more experimental tracks, “Ideoteque”, “Climbing Up the Walls”, and “Morning Bell” were frantic stabs at electronica that had everybody jumping around (almost) as much as Yorke.

Ok, who am I kidding? Almost every song could be described as a highlight, including “There There”, “Nude”, “How to Disappear Completely”, “Karma Police” (obviously a crowd favorite), and “The National Anthem”. I’ve seen a lot of shows over the years, but I can’t think of too many that rank above what I witnessed with my friends Jason, Andrea, and Gaz on a warm Indiana evening.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Oh, KDLT!

As most of you know, a week ago Sunday I was in Indianapolis witnessing a fantastic Radiohead concert. When I got back home the next day, though, I had a ton of phone and email messages regarding an incident that occurred on local TV.
From what I’ve been told, there was a little snafu on KDLT that evening. Golf had run long (as usual), so their early evening news program was cut short. When it finally commenced, it was supposedly clear that the staff was not ready. The entire opening was messed up, and various tapes were seen being rewound or fast-forwarded, or something to that effect.
Finally, the camera went on the anchor, who clearly was not only not ready to start the show, but didn’t have any clue the camera (or her microphone) was on. She was shown fiddling with her microphone; some told me she was even in the process of winding her microphone cord through her shirt. When she was finally alerted that she was on the air, she muttered something that nobody I’ve talked to could even understand.
Well, she supposedly said “shit”, which is obviously not a word that was meant to be heard on the air. Yet, even without making a joke about KDLT’s ratings, nobody would have even known about the incident if KDLT hadn’t turned it into an issue.
Dozens more people became informed of the incident when the ten o’clock news broadcast began. The anchor in question, Melissa Stee, opened the telecast by reading a prepared statement where she apologized and announced that she had been suspended for two weeks. Pierre master-blogger Pat Powers noted that the “apology looked like something you’d see compelled from a hostage at gunpoint”.
Ok, fine. Stee made a mistake and was being punished. It’s still silly in my eyes, but I guess that’s for Stee and her employers to discuss.
But the story wasn’t finished. The following day, Stee was unceremoniously fired. Come on. This is live television, and mistakes happen, particularly when there was clearly some behind-the-scenes chaos.
This is especially disheartening when you take a look at the circumstances behind Stee’s employment. She was not an anchor at the station. She was a rookie reporter, whom I’ve been told was considered a rising star. As Powers adds in his report, “I’ve met Melissa, and found her to be intelligent and engaging, unlike some of the dolts they’ve run through their in-and-out reporter mill”
This was also her first or second night at the anchor desk, and the only reason she was at that position was due to the typical mid-summer weekend under-staffing that goes on not only in the television business but every industry. All they had to do was tell her that she was no longer welcome behind the desk, and let her do the job she was hired to do. Instead, they put a nasty little blotch on her employment record. Having seen the quality of the majority of their reporters, though, it’s the station that will clearly be hurt the most.
Bring back Melissa Stee! KELO, are you listening? You’ve got a few dead weights you could cut loose.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Radiohead In Indianapolis






What a fantastic show! I'll have a full review tomorrow, but in the meantime here's some pics I took.