The Faint – “Fasciinatiion”

Off the top of my head I can’t name any bands from Nebraska. When I try to envision the kind of band I would expect to come from there it’s some kind of hard rock or metal outfit, and not a quasi-new-wave-electro-dance-synth-pop band like The Faint. Sorry. My bad.

Fasciinatiion was a truly random pick-up. I found a new still wrapped copy in with the used records at my local Half Price Books store hidden in the middle of the “F” section along with the obligatory used copies of various albums by Foreigner and Flock of Seagulls. What is this, and how did it get here? Hell if I know, but I had some store credit so I thought I’d check it out.

The dudes in The Faint had been putting out albums for a decade when they released Fasciinatiion in 2008 and it shows – despite the stilted poppy style of their music, it has all the precision you’d expect from a group that is no stranger to the studio and understands their sound. The music is hard to describe – there’s a sort of basic electronic sound that isn’t so much lo-fi as it is low tech. It feels like it could have just as easily been made with the electronic instrumentation and sounds available from big Casio keyboards in the 1980s, with lots of buzzing and voice modulation thrown in. Nowhere does this whole experience come together better than on “Fulcrum and Lever,” a bizarre track that has a lot going on and reminds me more than a bit of Ghostland Observatory (<- I just tried to link to Ghostland figuring I absolutely must have written about one of their albums… and I haven’t, which was surprising to me) with its trippy sounding vocals and rocking electronic beat.

This is an odd record. When I pay attention to it I find myself getting a little annoyed – the breaks are fast and jarring in a way that gives many songs a consistent beat, but not a smooth flow, and the lyrics seem kind of a bit overly pretentiously serious.

How rad is it living in a microscope,
Broadcast in every single living room?
— “Get Seduced”

Predator skills,
Chemical wars,
Plastic islands at sea,
Watch the humans ruin with machines.
— “The Geeks Were Right”

But when my attention wanders just a little bit and I stop really listening to the words my toe starts to tap and my head bobs and I find myself getting into it. It’s available on iTunes for only $7.99, so you can sample some of the songs there and see if this is your thing. I’m not sure if it’s mine, but there’s enough here that I think I’ll be coming back to check it out again at some point.

iPod Roulette #04

I’m hanging out a cabin in northern Minnesota doing some fishing. While I don’t have access to my turntable, I do have my trusty iPod. So let’s put it on shuffle and see what comes up.

1. The Chemical Brothers – “Fuck Up Beats”. This undoubtedly came from Holly’s music collection, not mine, as I’m fairly confident I’ve never bought or downloaded anything by The Chemical Brothers. It’s techno/electronic and short. Not much more to say… it’s fine, but in general not my deal.

2. Hoh – “Ad Astra”. I don’t think my iPod can play five random songs without including at least something from Iceland. This is off the Gesyer compilation I reviewed previously, and I have never seen anything from Hoh anywhere else. It’s pretty much techno/electronic like The Chemical Brothers, so the iPod seems to be thinking I need to find a rave somewhere. Unfortunately I left my “Frankie Say Relax” shirt at home and I don’t have any glow sticks.

3. Mission of Burma – “(This Is Not A) Photograph”. Old school punk rock here, I pulled this off a greatest hits CD I bought a few months ago. It’s pretty straight forward early punk… and most of the lyrics are, perhaps not surprisingly, actually “this is not a photograph”.

4. Ice Cube – “Jackin’ For Beats”. Wow. We’ve gone from techno to punk to hip hop. This certainly qualifies as random. Hip hop in general has been getting a lot more play on my iPod during the work day recently – mostly Public Enemy. I don’t have much experience with Ice Cube, but he’s got great pacing and some smart lyrics. And of course now he’s probably better known as an actor than a rapper, but man his stuff is good.

5. Pelle Miljoona – “Olen Työtön”. Yes! Finnish punk! The Finns know puck rock, and they had some great early bands including Pelle Miljoona (translated – “Clown Millionaire”). I have no idea what these dudes are singing about, but it’s great. The pacing and sound of the language allows pulls me in, whether it’s these guys or Lama or any of the groups that came out of Finland. If you’re into early punk, you owe it to yourself to check these guys out.

I suppose I didn’t get as much variety as I could have, but there were some pretty deep cuts here, songs I haven’t heard in a really long time, if ever, on the iPod. It’s always interesting to see what it will serve up, and it didn’t disappoint today.

iPod Roulette #3

So what’s on my iPod right now… let’s throw on the Marley headphones, hit the shuffle button, and see what comes up.

1. Led Zeppelin – “Immigrant Song”. I come from the land of the ice and snow! Man, I can still remember “discovering” Led Zeppelin for the first time with a cassette copy of Led Zeppelin II. This version of “Immigrant Song” is from How the West was Won, though I prefer the studio version off Led Zeppelin III better. No one rocked out a viking warrior, swords and sorcery, Lord of the Rings tune like Robert Plant – it’s like his voice was created specifically to sing this kind of song. One impressive thing about this version is that there is a great Jimmy Page solo in it as well… and with that rambling, quick John Paul Jones bass line… man, that’s sweet.

2. Rangleklods – “Enklave”. We saw this Danish duo love at Iceland Airwaves 2012 having exactly zero experience with them. They were a late addition to the lineup that night when Django Django, who we wanted to see, had to cancel at the last minute. Rangleklods impressed the hell out of us, especially my friend Tristen who is now all about them. The pair make all their sounds with keyboards and electronics, or at least they did at the live show. It’s great electronic music with a rich, deep sound – there are lots of tones and textures here, and the vocals weave in and out.

3. Mammut – “Dyradottir” Wow, the iPod is channeling Iceland today, this time landing on the Icelandic band Mammut. We’ve seen them live a few times over the years, and I’ve always come away impressed with their vocals which are usually loud rock, but this track is quiet and slow… but not in a bad way. Mammut has a lot of talent, and we’ve seen them getting better and better slots at Airwaves over the years.

4 Patchouli Sewer – “Oil Drum” This comes off a comp of live recordings from The Storeroom, a bar in Seattle that unfortunately is no longer around. I reviewed the album in a separate post a while ago – it’s a lot of fun, and the recording quality is surprisingly good. Patchouli Sewer is an odd punkish band with bizarre lyrics, and someone playing some kind of horn. They sort of ramble all over the place, with vocals that aren’t singing so much as staggering through the songs.

5. Hawkwind – “Motorhead” The song that gave the band it’s name. Lemmy played bass in Hawkwind, and when he was kicked out of the band for drugs he took the name of this song as the monicker of his new band. And he’s still going strong, fueled by Jack Daniels and rock ‘n’ roll. This is more of an old school rock ‘n’ roll song, not as fast as Motorhead fans would likely expect. Hell, it even has a violin on it! It’s a cool track, though, with an interesting tie to one of the great straight forward, in your face rock bands.

The iPod served up a decent selection today. You can never be sure exactly what you’ll get, and I have some odd and random stuff on there, but it picked winners across the board.


iPod Roulette #02

Five random songs from the iPod… and… go!

1. Steve Earle – “To Live is to Fly”. Steve Earle album dedicated to Townes Van Zandt, which is all Van Zandt covers. This is some great acoustic folk music. Earle’s raspy voice gives a lot of emotion to Van Zandt’s songs, and the female vocalist in the background adds just a touch more sadness… Not what you’d call “feel good” music, but deeply emotional.

2. HAM – “Sanity”. Dude. What can I say about the Icelandic band HAM? That they’re the greatest band in the world, ever? That’s what they’d say about themselves, and in fact have in interviews. HAM is to the Icelandic music scene what the Velvet Underground is to every punk and new wave band of the 70s and 80s. All of them. Basically the band that barely sold an album when they were around, but every single one of their fans were inspired to start their own bands. Even if they didn’t know how to play their instruments. We saw them live last year in Reykjavik after their reunion, and the crowd was in-freaking-sane. Crowd surfing, some moshing. After their set the floor of the Reykjavik Art Museum (yes, they played the art museum) looked like a wasteland of spilled beer, crushed solo cups, and future hangovers. This is some heavy, heavy stuff. Unlike their newest album, this is recorded in English. Gothic metal. Oh, and it’s live at the infamous CBGB’s. So chew on that.

3. BB & Blake – “On the Rundown”. The iPod is channeling Iceland tonight! We saw this trio (two men, one woman) at Airwaves in 2009 in a small venue, and they blew us away. Very much a 70s funky sound channeling some 30s swing type style. The female voice is amazing, and she owned the place live. In a word, glamorous. The self titled album is absolutely worth checking out if you can track down a copy. You could absolutely play this if your parents came over for dinner, and they’d like it but wouldn’t realize that it’s actually cool. But you’d know. As an aside that no one cares about except Holly and me (and our friend Norberto), they were followed that night by the intimidatingly industrial Ghostigital, then the Icelandic band hip-hop (who’s records are BANNED in Iceland) XXX Rottweiler Hundar. So discoish, so good!

4. Obby – “Quartz-Head 02”. I have no idea what the f this is, or how it got on my iPod. No joke. I can only suspect my wife had something to do with it. Got a very electronic-dance-house sound, which is fine. OK, I’m 1:55 in and I have no idea what the hell is going on. Can I ride it out when this track is almost six minutes? Will there be a payoff? It’s fine, but I’m bored. Next!

5. The Kills – “Alphabet Pony”. I love The Kills. There. I said it. What are you going to do about it? This song is ridiculous and the lyrics make no sense, but as usual the female vocals and punk stylings catch me right out of the gate. And this sounds way cooler with my ear buds in than it normally does played too low on my docking station at work (when you’re “the boss”, you have to be careful about the music coming out of your docking station… but the benefit is you have an office to put a docking station in… yin and yang). I stumbled across The Kills thanks to typing “Black Rebel Motorcycle Club” into Pandora… they were the first band that Pandora spit back at me to check out. And Pandora was right, so I owe it one for that.

iPod Roulette #01

Today I start a new feature – “iPod Roulette”. I’m going to put the iPod on shuffle, and listen to the first five songs that come up. Sometimes the iPod is wise. Sometime it plays some strange stuff you don’t even know you have. And every now and then it pulls up a steaming pile from somewhere in the depths of albums you’d like to forget you bought.

1. Surfer Blood – “Catholic Pagans”. OK, I have no idea how this got on my iPod. Holly probably loaded it on there at some point, and this may be the first time I’ve ever heard this song or band. They’ve got a bit of a Dick Dale surf rock guitar thing going on that is cool, and the lyrics are kind of funny. These guys are out of Florida, and the album this is on (Astro Coast) came out in 2010. The last 30 seconds of this relatively short song is just guitar feedback, which frankly doesn’t add anything to it. Not a bad start.

2. The Ramones – “Outsider”. Yes! Some old school New York punk! When I was in high school, I always thought of all punk as sounding like hardcore, and I didn’t really start going back to the roots of the genre until recently. The Ramones really sound almost poppy today, not punk – but I wasn’t listening to this when it came out, so I can’t put it into it’s proper context, which is always tricky with music. The “outsider” message of the lyrics certainly fits how punks were viewed/felt at the time.

3. Eminem – “Soldier”. Great song. I’m not a huge Eminem fan, but I find his lyrics, even when brutal or misogynous, to be smart and well put-together. His pacing is amazing, and the music is nearly perfect. I mean, this song does have a lot of the typical thug gangsta rap lyrics about how tough he is and all that, but there’s still depth here. The sheer volume of his words is impressive. “I’m a soldier / These shoulders hold up so much / They won’t budge, I’ll never fall or fold up / Even if my collar bone’s crushed or crumbled / I will never slip or stumble”

4. The Crystal Method – “Keep Hope Alive”. I’m going to make a bold statement. One of those personal preference things that could open up hours of beer soaked discussion and argument. The use of this song in the opening sequence of the movie The Replacement Killers is, simply put, the greatest use of a song in an opening sequence of any movie ever made. Ever. It’s perfect. The location (dance club), the angles used to film Chow Yun-fat, and of course the start of the gun fight just as the song kicks it up a notch. I love the movie – I think it’s the closest thing to a true hybrid of Hollywood and Hong Kong action ever. I also think Mira Sorvino is insanely hot in it. This is a top notch dance track.

5. Big Bad Voodoo Daddy – “The Boogie Bumper” (live). Switching genres again, this time going to swing with Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, a band that gained a lot of notoriety for appearing in the movie Swingers. Holly and I saw them live once at a small venue in Kirkland, Washington, and while the dialogue with the audience seemed overly rehearsed, I have to say the music was first rate. They’ve got some great horns in that band, and are well worth checking out if you are interested in swing (music, not “swinging”, so be careful when mentioning this to your spouse or partner…).

The iPod did a pretty good job here. One song I didn’t know, and no eye-rollers. A nice mix of different styles, plus two songs with tie-ins to a couple of my favorite movies. Good work, iPod!