Mixtape Archive 1

Back in another lifetime when I was living in a house with anywhere from 5-7, dare I say what would now be referred to as Dude Bros, my buddy and I made many mixtapes for the purposes of ‘rocking out.’ Parties. In the car on the way to hockey. Workouts. Whatevs. We hand a bent for what was then deemed ‘classic rock’ partly due to our access to both his Dad’s and his older brother’s CD collections. That combined with our complete Rush catalogue (our fave band, Prog Rock Dude Bro bonding at it’s finest), and some other CDs we were buying at the time was the bulk of what we had to pull from. Things like infinite Apple Music libraries were a pipe dream. I still have huge box of cassettes in the garage. I play them when wrenching. They work good in the cold. There’s many store bough albums or complete duped albums, but some mixes as well. Many are ambiguously labelled or with no label at all. Figured I’ll start sifting through the ‘unknowns’ and see what’s on em. First up, this one labelled simply, ‘MIX’. Track listing:

Side: First Side I Played

  • The Ocean – Led Zeppelin 
  • Dogs of War – Pink Floyd
  • Working Man – Rush
  • Carry on My Wayward Son – Kansas
  • The Punk and the Godfather – The Who
  • Life in the Fast Lane – The Eagles
  • La Villa Strangiato – Rush

Side: Other Side

  • White Room – Cream
  • Sister Disco – The Who
  • Rhythm Method (Live Drum Solo from ‘A Show of Hands’) – Rush
  • Feels So Good – Van Halen
  • Walking Towards Paradise – Robert Plant
  • Locomotive Breath – Jethro Tull
  • Emotion Detector – Rush
  • Run Like Hell [Live, Delicate Sound of Thunder] – Pink Floyd
  • Foxy Lady [Live at Winterland] – Jimi Hendrix Experience
  • Limelight – Rush 

Intensity

So got an email in my inbox the other day announcing some new NIN live shows. Always a surprise to get an email from NIN. I joined the newsletter years ago and they only send out a note when there’s shows or new music. No spam. No 5 posts a week. That’s newslettering done right – but I digress, perhaps a separate post on that.

Although I regrettably can’t attend any of the live shows announced – they’re in Europe, and I’m far too old for these type of shenanigans – it did get me thinking about NIN live shows and a series of fantastic ‘from the stage’ videos shot some years back by band member and long-time art director* Rob Sheridan. These are great clips, and just as advertised, gives you the feel of standing right there on the stage. No gimmicks. No editing, just performance.

And that’s what’s striking. The intensity of the performance. Trent is intense. These cats are intense. Anyone who knows anything about Trent and NIN knows he’s a pretty intense guy. His performances and lyric matter are cathartic.

Then something occurred to me. When was last time I did something that intensely?

Don’t mistake intensity for anger, angst, rage. Intensity can apply to other emotions and situations. I think we most often associate it with violence or extremes of physicality or action, but it can manifest in other ways as well.

in·ten·si·ty
inˈtensədē
noun: intensity; plural noun: intensities
1. the quality of being intense.

in·tense
inˈtens
adjective: intense; comparative adjective: intenser; superlative adjective: intensest
1. of extreme force, degree, or strength.
“the job demands intense concentration”
synonyms: extreme, great, acute, fierce, severe, high;
(of an action) highly concentrated.
“a phase of intense activity”
synonyms: extreme, great, acute, fierce, severe, high;
2. having or showing strong feelings or opinions; extremely earnest or serious.
“an intense young woman, passionate about her art”
synonyms: passionate, impassioned, ardent, fervent, zealous, vehement, fiery, emotional;

I started to think about when most average people (say, non-superstar musicians) could act or behave with Trent’s level of intensity. Is it even called for in daily life? Should we be more intense at times?

Can we think intensely – would that be considered meditation?

Can we parent intensely?

Can we apply a similar kind of intensity to our job? The daily grind?

I was thinking perhaps I exercise intensely. Sometimes though I’m still thinking about other things. Intensity seems to imply singular focus. Sometimes exercise seems passive. I’m riding the trainer or on a bike ride and I’m suffering. That seems more like it’s something being done to me, or I’m struggling through it vs. me directing intensity at something or acting with intensity.

Do we need more intensity in our lives? Does it make sense if you make your living pumping gas that if you tried to be more intense about it, you would be better at your job? Happier?

Or is it something that only applies more where we often see it – to creative activity or performance. Sports. Physical activities. Do we feel like only artists, musicians or athletes can be intense. Is this because primarily we see these activities as emotional, tied to or expressing emotion, or perhaps because they might be extremely difficult.

Can you be an intense garbage man? Would it matter? You career is in some ways your life – should you do it with more intensity?

____
*band member and art director for NIN - I can think of a lot worse gigs one could get.

The Long, Lingering Death of the CD

The Grammy winning packaging for Tool’s album, 10,000 Days, art directed by band member Adam Jones. Photo by Josh Janicek

Best Buy to Pull CDs from Retail Stores

It’s been at least a year, maybe two since I bought a physical CD. As someone who’s library was at one point pushing the 1,000 unit mark, I find that fascinating.

I held on to my CDs for a long time, even after subscribing to Apple Music. I finally unloaded them all to a collector a few months ago for a painstakingly low sum when contrasted against the sentimental value they had for me. But the value was just that, sentimental.

At some point I bought in to the subscription music model. I still believe in supporting the artists in whatever way I can. Regrettably, the current music landscape has shifted so that artists no longer make the most of their money on sales – their money comes from touring and live shows – something I rarely take in anymore. Though I was – and continue to be -at odds with how artists are paid by streaming services, I had at some point to simply give up, and hope that somewhere, somehow, there were people working to make sure that artists were fairly paid for licensing their work to steaming services. History and a gut feeling about the industry tells me that the reality is, they probably aren’t.

I used to spend hours with new CDs. When I got a new CD from a favorite artist, I poured over photos, liner notes and detritus for clues about the artist and the music the album contained. I loved seeing new and innovative ways to package CDs – jewel cases, paper folios, gatefold packaging and the like. I believe there’s even a Grammy handed out for best packaging – what will become of that now?

I wonder if there will ever be a resurgence of CD interest in the same way there has been vinyl, but I doubt it. There simply isn’t the same attraction. I was a ‘middle’ kid – I discovered music in the age of the cassette and subsequently the CD, so vinyl never held the same nostalgic feel for me, but CDs do.

I wonder how my kids and future kids will develop their relationships with music and the artists in a world where physical product has become extinct and the emphasis has become more on ‘quick-hits’ vs. albums and artists are becoming increasingly more ‘flash in the pan’ and a disposable commodity.

When I dumped my CD collection, there were some I refused to get rid of. My Rush catalogue – simply because they’ve been my favorite band consistently over the years. Some CDs by friends or local artists that aren’t available online anywhere. Then there are bands like Tool, who’ve never licensed their albums to be on iTunes/Apple Music for example. I kept all my Tool CDs. With rumors of a new Tool album sometime in the future, one wonders if they will maintain that stance. If they’re committed, one wonders how they would release new material. Digital download direct sales? Will they actually produce physical product? An interesting question as they have consistently been a band who was at the forefront of design, packaging and presentation throughout the years.

Many artists are now releasing ‘pre-order’ packages for albums or digital downloads that still include physical copies of the album – either on CD or Vinyl, along with a download code, in addition to other select, sometimes exclusive, merchandise. Perhaps this will become the norm. One wonders at what point though, the production of physical product will become a financial liability to the point that it isn’t worth the expense and it will disappear all together.

It’s Friday, Mofos: Therefore, JAZZ.

So I’m bombing down the dark backroads of New Brunswick between the Hinterlands of Chipman and Fredericton last night and listening to jazz on CBC Radio2’s Tonic – you know – cause that’s how us New Brunswickers take the sting off an hour back and forth drive for a tough Atom Rec Hockey 8-0 pasting – and a few tracks stood out for me from the obligatory (though always excellent) John Coltrane and Ella Fitzgerald. Luckily the boy was too fully immersed in on the iPad in whatever ‘get your dude through to the next level’ game is hip right now to register a complaint with regards to my listening choice.

ton·ic [ˈtänik]

noun
1. a medicinal substance taken to give a feeling of vigor or well-being.
synonyms: stimulant, restorative, refresher, medicine; More
2. short for tonic water.

adjective
1. giving a feeling of vigor or well-being; invigorating.

First off mellow out with The Bad Plus, doing an unexpectedly cool cover of Tears For Fears’ ‘Everybody Wants to Rule the World’. Yes, you read that right. A tasty cover for sure and Drummer David King’s delicious ride cymbal work merits a listen of this track alone.

Now that you’re chill, rocket to light speed with Dinah Washington grooving through ‘Destination Moon’. When this came on and Dinah kicked in the swagger, I was ready to jump on whatever vessel she wanted and teleport wherever she asked. Houston, I am smitten.

Get up, out, and blast off kids, it’s Friday!

The Return of Green Day?

Ok, so pursuant to a thread last week on my Google+ page about Green Day records, for the past week I’ve been checking out their latest ‘trilogy’ for lack of a better word, Uno! Dos! Tré!.

I remember being nonplussed when they started releasing these. I have to admit that my first reaction was, they’re releasing THREE records? WTF? Ok, they’ve finally jumped the shark.

The records were released to relatively little fanfare, especially after BJA’s on-stage blow up and subsequent rock star cliché ‘admission to a substance abuse program’ both overshadowed the records themselves and also caused the cancellation of the majority of the live shows that were in support their releases.

I remember joking with a buddy that maybe BJA’s tirade was ‘orchestrated’ to get press the day before one of the records (I think the first) dropped. If so, the plan backfired.

All that being what it is, now that I’ve given the records their chance, I think they’re solid. As often with double albums, I often wonder if they shouldn’t have just focused more and whittled it down to two records, but then, well, the novelty would be lost, I guess, since they’re three of ’em right? (Well actually there’s four now, these sessions were the first to include touring guitarist Jason White – the now ‘official’ 4th member of Green Day, so where’s his record?).

I don’t think that this material is as monumental as say American Idiot or 21st Century Breakdown, but then again, I don’t think it’s supposed to be. I think that’s maybe part of my hang up. After the grandiose expanse of the last two records, I’m actually having trouble adjusting back to two minute, 3 chord bashers. I think my inner prog – punk rock love child needed more.

Now that I’ve let the set grow on me though, I’m digging it. There’s a few tunes that I could do without and a few that are drop dead awesome – as would be expected in an artillery of 37 tracks, but I’m getting past my initial instinct to find the characters in the tunes (as I did with the last two records) and just listen to the songs themselves, and I’m finding as a whole, they’re pretty good.

It’s like going from standing against the back wall of the club, nodding your head in pensive reflection of the deeper meaning of it all, and getting back into the pit at the edge of the stage and throwing elbows again.