On hiatus again


Rock Band Seeks to Move Mountains (Heard)

Garage rock band? Country rock? If they ever were, they're not anymore. The Heartless Bastards, led by guitarist/singer Erika Wennerstrom, recently underwent a huge lineup change and relocated from Ohio to Texas. The result is a heavy record.

Did I say it was heavy yet?

The Mountain has a couple bright moments, mostly due to Wennerstrom's voice and her big chunks of guitar. The little touches, like slide guitar on the title track and fiddle on Had to Go, help. But mostly the album sludges along. All in all, it's not a very consistent album. But if you love Led Zeppelin or the big stoner rock of Black Mountain, you'll like this Mountain, too.


Vinyl Records!

Saturday is Independent Record Store Day, and I'm psyched. To get you in the mood, here's Todd Snider singing Vinyl Records.

Happy Birthday!


From the Forest to the Sea (Heard)

It's great to see the Ohio band Southeast Engine getting some critical attention. I stumbled upon (and blogged about) their 2007 album Wheel Within a Wheel last year. Their latest From the Forest to the Sea is a logical successor. Like Wheel, it runs through all styles of rock-- country, garage and Southern -- with lyrics full of Biblical references. From the Forest is a concept album about a man who said he "wouldn't do no evil, but evil is exactly what he's done."

Popmatters has called it the first "truly outstanding record of 2009."

Good stuff, particularly for those who like Okkervil River. Give a listen to Black Gold from Forest and Quit While You're Ahead from Wheel over on the Currently Spinning playlist.


We'll Miss You Harry

It wasn't until I heard about Harry Kalas' passing this afternoon that I fully realized how much he was a part of my life. I didn't know him personally and I certainly wasn't part of a fan club. If anything, I think I took Harry the K and his silky baritone for granted.

When I lived in Philadelphia, he was always there. One of my fondest memories with my dad is when we used to listen to Phillies' games at night in the kitchen. As a kid, I'd memorized all the batting stances of the Fightins' lineup, but, in my head, I'd hear their introductions in Kalas' voice. ("And now up, Michael Jack Schmidt). As a teenager, I'd drive around the streets of Northeast Philly in my yellow Mustang with the window down and the baseball game on the radio.

Harry was the soundtrack to summer.

Well Miss You Harry

Giving up on The Women (Read)

I'm a huge fan of TC Boyle. Two of his books -- The Inner Circle and Tortilla Curtain -- are among my five favorites. And I've liked just about everything he's written. Until his latest, The Women. I don't think it's a bad book. Boyle's writing is solid, as usual and it certainly has some of Boyle's screwball moments. The Women is a fictional re-telling of Frank Lloyd Wright's love life through the eyes of the four women he loved, lost, left, etc. The book's narrator is a fictional Japanese architect student who serves as Wright's apprentice for several years, and the book is littered with footnotes, giving it a "historical feel." Wright, in real life, was certainly a character, one worthy of the Boyle treatment. But I found little compelling about the female characters and eventually the put the book down halfway through.

That all said, TC Boyle is a wonderful talent. Barbara Kingsolver once wrote that what "Boyle does, and does well, is lay on the line our national cult of hypocrisy." My nonexpert opinion is that he's one of the most gifted writers of the last few decades. So if you heed my blog post and avoid The Women, please take the time to pick up one of his numerous other books -- all of which I highly recommend.


Science in the Time of Cholera (Read)

A couple weeks ago, my favorite radio show This American Life had as its theme -- The Wrong Side of History.

And that's where Edwin Chadwick finds himself in Steven Johnson's The Ghost Map, a fascinating nonfiction account of London's 1854 cholera outbreak. Chadwick was a miasmist. He believed that cholera and other diseases were transmitted through the air. The public health official saw the cesspools, street refuse and waste in Londoner's basements as a health hazard. So he developed -- and delivered on -- an impressive plan to take all that, quite literally, shit and deposit it in the Thames.

Johnson writes:

"Chadwick was building an elaborate scheme that would deliver the cholera bacteria directly to the mouths of Londoners ... By the end of the outbreak, nearly 15,000 Londoners would be dead. The first defining act of a modern centralized public-health authority was to poison an entire urban population."


Johnson goes on to compare "Chadwick's folly" to the decision during the 1665-66 plague to mass exterminate all the dogs and cats who some felt were spreading the disease. But the real source of the problem was rats. And they "grew exponentially after the sudden, state-sponsored demise of their only predators."

It's those kinds of details that make Johnson's books so enjoyable. He tackles scientific history and presents it as an engaging , original way. He's kind of a combination of Erik Larson (Devil in White City) and Mary Roach (Bonk).

The hero of The Ghost Map is John Snow, known for his groundbreaking work in anesthesia. Like Joseph Priestly, the hero of Johnson's new book The Invention of Air, Snow is an amateur scientist (at least when it comes to diseases like cholera), but through determination and intelligence, he figures out the source of the problem.

You can read more about this book at its Web site. And see my review of The Invention of Air.


Listen to this Wilco Offshoot -- Pronto! (Heard)

Listening to a Wilco side projectsusually requires a bit of patience. Whether its Nels Cline shredding, or Glenn Kotche going off on the skins, or even the progressive rock of Loose Fur, the players are expanding their field and experimenting. And it's good music. I love both Loose Fur albums. But it takes some patience.

So what a treat to hear the fresh blast of 70s pop-rock on Pronto's debut All Is Golden. Pronto includes Wilco keyboardist Mikael Jorgensen and his former Lizard Music bandmate Eric Paparazzi.

Between the lead-off track Listen Lover and the closer I Think So there is little filler. This is one consistent, and accessible album, from the tender folk of Had & Have to the fuzzed-out Monster.

Pronto is at its best channeling The Band in I Don't Know Where All My Good Friends Have Gone and What Do You Know About You? When I'm on the Rocks sounds suspiciously like I Must Be High from Wilco's first album (a song penned long before Jorgensen joined the band).

You can hear the title track and I Don't Know Where All My Good Friends Have Gone on the right-hand side in Currently Playing.


Man Without an Ending (Read)

Late last week, I finished reading the Hugo Award-winning Man in the High Castle. It was my introduction to sci-fi legend Philip Dick, and I was immediately pulled into his terrifying alternative history. Following FDR's assassination, the U.S. was weakened and eventually lost World War II. Now the West Coast is Japanese territory and the East Coast belongs to the Germans. Dick makes this scenario feel realistic. It's quite chilling and draws you into the book. But, unfortunately, once the premise is set, the book goes nowhere and the ending is very unsatisfying.


Flaming Lips Cover Madonna (Seen)

Distractions' favorites Flaming Lips join Stardeath and Dwarfs for a spacy yet rocking version of Madonna's Borderline. Click here.


Rod MacDonald Returns (Heard)

Kudos to Rod MacDonald for another folk classic -- the 16-song set After the War, a stirring collection of both new and old material. The disc, which was produced by JP Bowersock, guitarist for Ryan Adams & the Cardinals, runs the folk gamut.

It includes the classic White Buffalo. But the highlight is actually Stop the War (also originally on White Buffalo), which sounds as relevant now as when Rod originally wrote it in 1982. Rod does a tender remake of the 1962 George Pitney hit Half Heaven, Half Heartache. George Gehring, who wrote the song, plays piano on the track. (Listen to Stop the War in Currently Spinning on the right-hand side of the page).

No, it's not the kind of move that's going to send Rod straight up the pop charts. But this is no oldies disc. Like all Rod's work, it's feels fresh and able to stand the test of time. And hey, Ballerina initially sounds like something out of the Hold Steady catalog before settling into something you could picture Bruce Springsteen or Ryan Adams singing.


LP Cover Lover -- Number Two (Seen)

I've already praised the cultural benefits -- and overall fun -- of the LP Cover Lover Web site. Well, you better sit down for this one. Men, you can stand. But don't miss yesterday's cover of The Bathrooms Are Coming, a 1969 classic "created, performed and released as a 'souvenir' to employees and customers by the American Standard bathroom fixtures company."

Go to Cover Lover and give this baby five stars. Then, head on over to WFMU's Beware of the Blog to hear the album in its beautiful entirety.

Just make sure to shut and lock the door behind you.

Nothing Comical About This Masterpiece (Heard)

Sunday morning.

Overcast skies

Sleeping in, then reading the Sunday paper in bed.

I've found Robert Wyatt's 2007 release Comicopera to be the perfect soundtrack for this type of morning. Wyatt's sad, sad voice and his mix of jazz, chamber-pop and avant garde are geared to those slow moments, where you can take time to let the music and words wash over you.

Comicopera is a 16-song set, broken up into three parts. If you're downloading, and short on dough, focus on the first part, starting off with the goosebump-inducing Stay Tuned.


Somebody Call a Priestly! (Read)

I picked up Steven Johnson's latest book not because of science, or even history, the author's areas of expertise.

It was religion.

The Invention of Air is Johnson's biography of Joseph Priestly, the founder and first minister of the First Unitarian Church of Philadelphia. (It's aptly named, as the church is the first in the country to call itself "Unitarian.") The 14th minister of the First Unitarian was Rev. Ken Collier, who married me and my wife.

However, science plays a huge role in Johnson's book, which highlights Priestly's amazing string of success -- a productive eight-year period that included his discovery of oxygen and creation of soda water. It's probably just my lack of scientific curiosity, but I struggled through the middle of Invention. It seemed weighed down in science and unnecessary conjecture, as Johnson tries to find a connection between Priestly's amazing run of success and others, such as Joe Dimaggion's 56-game hitting streak.

Luckily, Priestly had a pretty amazing life outside of the home lab, too. He was an educator, writer, philosopher, politician, dissenting clergyman. It was his political and religious activity that led an angry mob to burn down his house and church, causing Priestly and his family to leave England for America.

Johnson gives Priestly a human quality, whether it's doing tricks for kids or conducting experiments at the local brewery.

Priestly was a close friend of Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson. He was part of a group -- the Lunar Society -- that included not just one, but both of Charles Darwin's grandfathers.
Invention of Air is not really not just about Priestly. It's about an era, when men sat around coffeehouses discussing problems and searching for solutions; where science, philosophy, politics and religion mixed openly. Information was shared freely, which is why Joseph Schweppes ended up making millions off of Priestly's soda water.

Priestly makes for a fascinating topic and a book worth reading, even if it does veer just a little off course at times.


Who Shot Darth Vadar?

This is Star Wars reimagined with the Dallas opening. If you're into Star Wars, check out The Official Star Wars Blog.


Jazz Band Makes Rock Covers Sound Cool (Heard)

What first turned me on to The Bad Plus, was the jazz trio's covers of rock songs. Blondie. Tears for Fears. Queen.Rush. Now, the Midwest-based band has added singer Wendy Lewis to the group. And on their latest For All I Care, the covers get even more interesting -- Nirvana's Lithium, Wilco's Radio Cure and Heart's Barracuda.

If you can get over the feeling that these covers are just a gimmick, you can hear that these guys have some serious chops.

For you Philly people out there, check out Bad Plus Friday or Saturday night (March 27, 28) at Chris Jazz Cafe on Sansom.


I'm Just Wild About Harry, Revised (Read)

I highly recommended the well-written and funny Harry, Revised, the debut novel by Mark Sarvas. Harry Rent is a doctor with a Bel Air mansion and a convertible. But he's really a loser. When his wife dies, he seeks to reinvent himself and land a young, sexy waitress at the local greasy spoon. Although, I had a serious dislike of Rent at first, he, and the book, grew on me ...

Harry, Revised was selected for the The Morning News' Tournament of Books. Click here to see how Sarvas' book did against another Distractions favorite -- City of Refuge. And see my post about the Tournament of Books from last year right here.

And check out Sarvas' highly regarded lit blog The Elegant Variation.


Don't Drink the Vitamin Water Kool-Aid

Anybody else notice that Gatorade has been replaced on the sidelines at the NCAA Tournament by Vitamin Water? How did that happen and when? I was always skeptical of the Vitamin Water brand, now even more so since it has flexed its Coca-Cola muscles. If you're a Vitamin Water fan and you think it's a smart drink, look at the label. It ain't water. And it ain't juice. And it's loaded with tons of sugar.

Want to try something different, yet somewhat healthier? I've gotten hooked on Whole Foods' 365 brand of "nutrient enhanced water," specifically the go-go Mangosteen flavor. Yes, as you can see from the picture above, it has horrible packaging. And they're not easy to find at my Whole Foods.

But the nutrient enhanced water has a much a better taste than Vitamin Water. And it's a cleaner drink. You'd be surprised at all the junk in Vitamin Water.

Picking on the Slumdog Millionaire

The wife and I finally saw Slumdog Millionaire the other night. It was more violent than I thought, but definitely an uplifting film -- and one of the most unique and captivating films I've seen over the last few years. Danny Boyle is a great story-teller. But like other quirky movies (Juno, Little Miss Sunshine) that surprisingly hit it big, Slumdog has run into some critical backlash. This type of thing has always bugged me, so it was great to see Nicky Hornby's recent post on this. See it here.


Distractions is currently on hiatus.


Listening to Deja Vu All Over Again (Heard)

Someone Else's Deja Vu. Son, Ambulance.
Buy on Insound.
Buy on eMusic.

Joe Knapp, the force behind Son, Ambulance, is often overshadowed by fellow Saddle Creek bands Bright Eyes and Cursive.

Despite the horrible cover, Son, Ambulance's latest CD is an ambitious and satisfying full-length that should win over fans of those labelmates. Knapp kicks off with the tropicala-lite Girl from Ipanema, er, New York City before diving into the most impressive song -- Lizard of Lizeth. Over 6:18, Knapp runs the map from Paul Simon-like soft rock to a very Pink Floydish conclusion.

The rest of Deja Vu careens from soft folk to uniquely-arranged ballads. It's a project that rewards repeated listens.

But you have to admit. That is one awful album cover.


What Are We Waiting For?

(Tuesday Treasure is a weekly song that is unheralded, long-lost, or buried somewhere deep on an album, yet deserves another listen.)

The term supergroup has lost some of its lustre in recent years. It was once only used for bands with iconic rock god status -- such as Eric Clapton. No longer. The word gets tossed around like adoption papers in the Jolie household.

But the Yayhoos are a "supergroup" of sorts that deserves your attention -- if you haven't heard of them already. You won't recognize the names of the actual artists, but let me roll of the bands they've been associated with -- Georgia Satellites, Joan Jett, Steve Earle, Bottle Rockets, Billy Joe Shaver.

Their first CD Fear Not the Obvious kicked off with this raucous song. It's one of the great album lead-off tracks. Enjoy this song, but think of buying the album. It closes with a killer cover of Abba's Dancing Queen.

Tuesday Treasure 2/10


A Treasure Trove of Garage Rock Bands (Seen)

Garage Hangover Web site

Oh, The Scholars, where are you? You released the wonderful single I Need Your Lovin when I was less than a year old. You put the single out on the Ruby Ray label, which based out of Cornwell Heights/Bensalem, an area just north of my boyhood home in Northeast Philadelphia.

It's a great piece of long-forgotten garage rock.

And it's not the only one. Punk rock lays claim to the "DIY" ethos. But it was really those garage rock bands in the '60s who took matters into their own hands -- learning a few chords here and there. Luck was often the main factor in a song becoming a local hit and one disappearing.

Some of those that disappeared can be found on Garage Hangover, a well-curated Web site by Chas Kit (aka Chris Bishop), a lifelong garage rock fan. It's a great site already, but has the potential to be even better. Bishop is looking for sponsors or grants. If you know of any, give him the lede.

The Web site breaks down garage rock acts by state. Bishop burns the original 45s into MP3s that can be heard as you read about the band's background.

That's how I found The Scholars -- a group made up, like some of my fellow Philly kids, of guys who went to Temple (me) and Drexel (those smarter than me). Bishop has the 45, but little info on the band, except for the name Bernie Winski. Most of the guys were from Port Richmond. Do you know these guys? If so, let me and Bishop know.

You can hear I Need Your Lovin and two other songs on Garage Hangover. Here's how Bishop describes I Need Your Loving ...

Opening with a pounding snare, I Need Your Lovin is intense garage. The sound is dense, with background vocals by the Perenials and heavy swirling organ. A sax solo is followed by some great surf-type runs on the guitar. A remastering from the original tape, if it exists, might really bring out all the elements.


Weekly Wikipedia Link -- Stephen Zetterberg

In one of the crafty types of moves that would help earn him the nickname "Tricky Dick" a few years later, Richard M. Nixon pulled a fast one on the California voters, and a Democratic activist named Stephen Zetterberg.

Nixon, a Republican, entered himself in the California Democratic primary to compete against Zetterberg. This process of "cross-filing" was allowed by California law back then. Nixon did all he could to confuse Democratic voters, sending out campaign mailed addressed to "Fellow Democrats."

Zetterberg offered to debate, but Nixon refused. When Nixon won the primary, he then had what he wanted -- a general election in which he had no opponent.

Zetterberg went on to have a long, fulfilling life, until he passed away this past week. Read more about Zetterberg in our Weekly Wikipedia link. And for a little "What if Nixon played the election fair," browse this discussion one one of Google's What If groups.


From Metal to Melancholy (Heard)

Bring Me your Love. City and Colour.
Buy on Amazon.
Buy on eMusic.

You'd never know it from listening to this gorgeous, mostly acoustic solo effort that Dallas Good, the man behind City and Colour, is the lead singer of the well-known Canadian hardcore metal band Alexisonfire.

But you'll get no metal here. City and Colour (Dallas Green, get it?) is more Iron and Wine than Agnostic Front. Green's heartachingly introspective lyrics are set to beautiful melodies rendered mostly acoustic guitar, with the occasional lap steel thrown in. The sweet music often belies the pain in the songs. Give a listen to the tunes over on the Currently Spinning Playlist and you'll see what I mean.


Oxford American's Music Issue (Read and Heard)

Oxford American Southern Issue #10.
Order, contribute and read sample articles at Oxford American.com

It's taken me a while since first opening up this magazine to actually writing about it. The reason why? Each year, I slowly take my time to devour this issue -- reading the great articles and discovering all the great music. I don't like to just fly through it.

This year, Oxford American celebrates 10 years with a double CD. The concept of "southern music" is broad. It's wide enough to include the Roches last year, and to include Neko Case this year. But that's what great about this issue and the music include. It defies simple categorization. Blues. R&B. Soul. Country. Rock. Both new and old

There were two particular articles that stood out for me. The highlight was Kevin Brockmeier's moving piece on Elton and Betty White, one of Arkansas' most unique couples, let alone musicians. (That's Katie Callen's photo of Betty and Elton on the right). Not only did they record hours of their short raunchy sex-filled, yet still quite innocent, music, they ran for governor against a guy named Bill Clinton. Betty was 30-plus years Elton's senior. How they came to find each other, and their devoted love, is an interesting and heartbreaking tale.

Despite his over-the-top infatuation, Jack Pendarvis's article on the aforementioned Case provides some interesting insight into this indie/alt-country diva. She can identify flowers, notices little things like spider webs, and reads Russian. Oh, and she's a bookstore nerd. As if being one of indie-rock's hotties with a powerhouse voice wasn't enough. Wow, now I'm infatuated.

Few music articles end up with the writer and several musicians touring the home of William Faulkner -- unless of course, it's Oxford American.

So find yourself a copy on the newstand if you can, or order it online. By then it may be a back issue. But the writing and music inside is timeless. In the meantime, listen to the three songs I've included over on the Currently Spinning Playlist.


A Rat's Tale -- The Literary Kind (Read)

Firmin: Adventures of a Metropolitan Lowlife. Sam Savage.
Buy it on Amazon.

Buy it from Coffee House Press.
Contribute to Coffee House Press.

I was utterly surprised by how quickly I was taken in by this small book. Savage's tale of a rat who learns how to read, falls in love with late-night nudie movies, and seeks to communicate with humans is a touching story. Funny. Sad. Thoughtful.

And don't be confused by the title. Savage's debut novel is not kiddie fare.

Firmin is the runt of the litter, born in the basement of a Boston book store. Pushed aside by his bigger brothers and sisters and forgotten by his boozy mother, he turns to eating books to survive. At some point, he goes beyond eating the paper and glue and learns to read. His family moves on, but Firmin remains behind to live out his life traveling back and forth between Pembroke Books and the Rialto movie theatre, where he gets to see his "Loveys."

The 67-year-old Savage is a former professor of philosophy at Yale, and it's clear that he's using Firmin to get us to think about our own human foibles. It's also his love letter to literature. Firmin is a book that defies categorization. But I recommend it highly to anyone who loves reading.

Here's an interesting article on Savage from the UK, where his book has developed quite a following.


My Old Friend the Blues

(Tuesday Treasure is a weekly song that is unheralded, long-lost, or buried somewhere deep on an album, yet deserves another listen.)

Well, another Super Bowl has come and gone without an Eagles' parade down Broad Street. For the last few weeks, I've been nursing my annual January/February dismay, disappointment and depression. And no song captures depression as well as Steve Earle's My Old Friend the Blues.

Tuesday Treasure 2/3


A Guilty Pleasure (Heard)

Get Guilty. A.C. Newman
Buy on Amazon.
Buy on eMusic.

There are few guarantees in life. One of them is that any record with A.C. Newman on it is going to be filled with great guitar-heavy pop hooks and memorable, if not well understood, lyrics.

On his last two albums, however, the New Pornographers' Challengers and his newly released solo album Get Guilty, Newman has toned down the frenetic pace.

The result with Get Guilty is that its songs take on a more dramatic, sweeping feel and slowly ingratiate themselves into your brain. A perfect example -- the album lead-off There May Be Ten or Twelve -- with its flowing stripped down sound and obtuse words. The songs aren't as much of a sugar rush, but they're still memorable. Check out the three songs on the Currently Spinning playlist on the right and you'll see what I mean.

This being a solo effort, there's no Neko Case. But that's OK -- Newman gets great background vocals from Nicole Atkins and Kori Gardner

Yes, I still prefer the hundred-miles-a-minute Newman that made Slow Wonder such a classic. But, there is not a more consistently pleasing indie/power pop songwriter out there. Get Guilty is the first great album of 2009.


Weekly Wikipedia Link -- Politician Jimmy Walker

Rod Blagojevich. Ted Stevens. William "Dollar Bill" Jefferson.

We've seen our share of corrupt politicians over the last year. But this is nothing new. Where ever there is a seat on a committee, there's the opportunity to line your pockets.

One of the most unique was former New York City Mayor Jimmy Walker. During his term in the '30s, Walker's administration had a habit of sending innocent people to jail. It eventually caught up to him and he was forced out of office by FDR. Soon after, he took off for Europe to escape prosecution

Walker was the subject of Bob Hope movie and a Broadway production.

This week's Wikipedia link -- Jimmy Walker.


Nothing Broken in This Crime Novel (Read)

The Broken Shore. Peter Temple.
Buy on Amazon.
Buy at Powell's Books.

Temple is well-revered as a crime novelist in Australia, picking up numerous awards for his eight novels. His latest, released last year in the US, will appeal not only to those who love the genre, but to all those who just plain love to read.

Written in simple, yet captivating prose, Temple draws you into the life of Joe Cashin, a middle-aged policeman, living with his two dogs in a dilapidated house in a remote section of Australia. He's still recovering from serious injuries that happened during a botched stake-out. Like most book detectives, Joe has his demons -- a son he's never seen, a mysterious family death, and numerous others.

His quiet life is upended when a local philanthropist is found dead. It's widely assumed by those in town that the Boongs (a degoratory name for Aboriginals
) killed the millionaire in a robbery attempt.

Cashin, who grew up with the Aboriginals, keeps digging until he gets the answer.

The publishers include a glossary of Australian slang words in the back to help the American readers.

Read an excerpt here.


I Don't Get It -- Monster Truck Deaths

It's hard to believe anything more ridiculous happening in the past week than Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich taking his bad haircut onto The View and later comparing himself to Ghandi and Martin Luther King. However, there was one other news item this past week that just had me scratching my head.

Last week, George Eisenhart went onto a Wisconsin television station to tout the safety of Monster Truck events. His appearance was meant to calm fears, as a few days earlier a six-year-old boy was killed by flying debris at a show in Tacoma, Wash.

Eisenhart told the reporter, according to CNN: "This is our 16th year. I wish I had a big piece of wood to knock on right now, but we have not had an incident besides a gal slipping in the aisleway at another location."

It's a shame he didn't have that piece of wood. Because a couple of days later, he was crushed to death by a monster truck during an event in Madison, Wisc. And the driver was a good friend.

Now, I don't want to in any way poke fun at these two very sad deaths. It's a horrible tragedy. And I feel horrible for those families. But, come on. The organizers need to be held accountable. What are the odds? That's like a kid getting fatally injured by a foul ball at a baseball game, then Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig accidentally getting hit by the bat of former Mendoza line-hanging Phillie Steve Jeltz taking BP. Or like the replacement for the New York Giants' leg-shooting Plaxico Burress hurting himself in a gun-related accident. (Oh wait, that actually did happen).

Seriously, how do you let this happen? I understand that the people running the Monster Truck Racing Association are probably not Rhodes scholars. Heck, they probably have a hard time keeping up with the plot line of Ernest Goes to Camp. Wait up, is FEMA's Michael Brown running the show over there?

By the way, don't visit the MTRA's Web site. As of Tuesday, Google had a warning that declared "This site may harm your computer." Giving the way the MTRA has handled things the last couple of weeks, I wouldn't want to get near their Web site, let alone a show. But if you do, I'm sure you'll be fine.

Knock on wood.


Hey, Hey We're the Monks (Heard)

Say goodbye to the Weekly playlist. Starting this week, I'll blog on a more regular basis, focusing on whatever book (read), music (heard), movie/TV (seen), etc. that I've finished, rather than wait until the end of the week for a full list. I hope that makes this an easier blog for you to follow. And I don't mean the collective "you." I mean you -- the one person out there reading this blog.

Monk Time. The Monks
Buy on Amazon
Buy on eMusic

A group of GIs stationed in Germany form a band after they're discharged. They shave the tops of their heads and play in monk outfits. This music is raucous, playful and, well, a little weird. And it has some of the raw power that you've heard from the Stooges and MC5. They disappear from the scene after a few years, hardly a footnote in music history. They later gained a cult following that led to a reunion in the late 90s.

According to Pitchfork, Light in the Attic Records, the company behind recent Rodriguez and Betty Davis re-issues, will re-release some of the Monks' early work sometime in April.

Check out Higgle-dy, Piggle-dy and Drunken Maria on the Currently Spinning music playlist on the right hand side of the page.


The Slummer the Slum

(Tuesday Treasure is a weekly song that is unheralded, long-lost, or buried somewhere deep on an album, yet deserves another listen.)

Have y'all recovered from last week's dip into Eugene Chadbourne's catalog? This week's song is not anywhere near as bizarre. It comes from 1958. Upon hearing it, though, you might expect it to be a mid-60s garage rock classic. Listen to guitarist Lowman "Pete" Pauling, who was an influence of both Steve Cropper and Eric Clapton. Rock critic Dave Marsh, who lists this song as one of the 1001 greatest singles of all time, claims it's the first use of intentional guitar feedback.

The 5 Royals wrote several songs that later became hits for others, such as "Dedicated to the One I Love."
This song is also featured on the latest Oxford American Music Issue CD. I'll be writing more on that magazine/CD later this week.

Enjoy this treasure.

Tuesday Treasure 1/27


Don't Burn the Flag, Let's Burn the Bush

(Tuesday Treasure is a weekly song that is unheralded, long-lost, or buried somewhere deep on an album, yet deserves another listen.)

Yes, today is an historic day. A great day in our nation's history. It's a day that calls out for a song about hope. A song about optimism. A song worth remembering.

But I just couldn't help sharing this song -- one more final dig at the Bush presidency. Actually, it's a dig at the first Bush presidency. And, actually, it doesn't really make sense. And, actually, you may think that it's really not a treasure. And after hearing it, you may wish to never hear it again. But it will stick with you. You'll hum the chorus later in the day. And you'll find yourself searching for new rhymes for the word kale. And remember this: Some people think that Eugene Chadbourne is a musical genius.

Tuesday Treasure 1/20


Playlist: Philly Bands Hit Bullseye

This past week, I've really been digging a pair of EPs from a couple young Philly bands. Give 'em a listen on the Music Playlist below. But let's start with a book I highly recommend ...

The Dart League King. Keith Lee Morris

Thursday night is dart night in Garnet Lake, Idaho. It's Russell Harmon's night. We know that from the start. And over the next over the next 200 of so pages the night unfolds from Harmon's perspective, but also the perspective of four others -- college graduate Tristen Mackey, single mother Kelly Ashton, drug dealer Vince Thompson, and Harmon's biggest dart competitor Brice Habersham, who also happens to be a DEA agent. The book is filled with drugs, death and desire to leave this small town. Morris' novel is all action -- no lulls.

The Ride Across Laken Constance EP. Evening Magazine
I hope Evening Magazine takes off big-time. And when they do, every bit of press they get is going to compare them to Arcade Fire. It only takes a few moments into the EP opener "Apple Eye" to see why. Others will see in the Philly group another "collective" -- Broken Social Scene. Or the plaintive orchestration of Sufjan Stevens. Those comparisons are fair. But Evening Magazine is so much more. Dive into the five songs on this EP and you'll find good songwriting and great instrumentation that bounces from introspective to grand. They seem to know just when to add the handclaps or the lap steel. Evening Magazine is a band that should get some buzz in indie circles.

New Age Boredom EP. Adam and Dave's Bloodline
This fellow Philly rock band is quite different, but just as impressive. They bounce from the off-kilter power pop of "Runt" (yes, they're Rundgren fans, but it's not about Todd), and the folk-rockabilly of "Missing Person" to"The Simple Life," which sounds like it was peeled right off of an I Love the 80s collection. I'm really looking forward to their full-length, due sometime this year.

The Ghost in Love. Jonathan Carroll
Ben Gould was supposed to die that day he slipped on the ice and hit his head. But he didn't. And suddenly the whole world was off balance. Even the Angel of Death gets stabbed by a bum. Enter Carroll's strange world of ghosts, earless animals called verz, talking dogs. Carroll's novel is both silly and profound.

Note: Carroll's mother was an actress and his father a screenwriter, whose credits include The Hustler.

Thin Mint Girl Scout Cookies.
They're back. Yum.

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