Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Hump Day Chat: Jeff Lynne - Legendary Producer or Wanna-be Legend?

G.E. Smith: Jeff Lynne - yay or nay?
Michael Anthony: In what respect? Like his production, kinda hate his music.   

G.E. Smith: Yeah screw him as an artist solo or with ELO (besides "Living Thing," dig that one), we both agree he eats nut. This is about his production. Obviously there's the Petty albums. They're good but would have been better without him.

Michael Anthony:
But sound better than the Dick Lubin stuff don't you think?

G.E. Smith: Rubin had to produce crud ("You Don't Know How It Feels," maybe the best off "Wildflowers," blatantly rips off Wilco's "Too Far Apart"). If Rubin had the "Full Moon Fever" stuff to produce it woulda been SCHWEET.

Michael Anthony: I love the Lynne stuff on "Full Moon Fever," it's just a limp album. And then "Learning to Fly" is amazing sounding, no?

G.E. Smith: No, I hate that tune. Especially since the Foo Fighters repurposed it.

Michael Anthony: Goo Fighters repurposed it twice ("Learn to Fly" and "Wheels"). What about how he ruined The Move. 

G.E. Smith: What'd he do? Dress them in Commie outfits and derail their entire career like Malcolm McLaren did to the New York Dolls? 

Michael Anthony: Move was rad psych pop, two-minute short 'n' weird singles, then Lynne started contributing and it got limp like ELO. Basically it turned into ELO, which isn't that bad but The Move was tight.

G.E. Smith: I think fever has some solid tunes ("Free Ballin" being way overrated) but the lite approach wasn't the way to go I don't think. "Great Wide Open Legs" is a mess no matter who produced it. Personally I think Lynne made it worse.

Michael Anthony: Eddie bated when he finished high school.

When you're rippin' light Petty, it's all downhill.

One of these things is not like the other ...
G.E. Smith: He went to Hollywood, slurped up some goo. What if "Fever" had a more raw approach like Rubin did with the Cash stuff, not exactly the weak stab he made on the shitty Petty album. "Runnin' Down a Dream" is fine but the rest have that Pringle-ish acoustic sound that is on EVERY SINGLE JEFF LYNNE TUNE EVER.

Michael Anthony: Can't see it. Rubin on "Full Moon." Haha.

G.E. Smith:
Just some more robust and/or direct approach, that's all I was thinking. But,
  OK, you have Lynne down as a win here. What about in Traveling Wilburys? I think his production is the right call there but his inclusion is a major violation.

Michael Anthony:
Even as an 8 year old I was like who's that guy pretending to be cool with all those legends. Sad thing is he was actually the studliest one.

G.E. Smith: It's like putting Jimmy Carter or Bush I on Mount Rushmore. Maybe that was the argument. He was like the Cliff Lee of the staff while the others were burnouts like Roy Halladay or R.A. Dickey. 

Michael Anthony: You don't like the plinky acoustic layers man? GBV ripped that on "Girls of Darryl Strawberry."

G.E. Smith: Yea I love it on "Strawberries." I love it on "Handle My Balls with Care" too. I just don't love it on EVERYTHING.

Michael Anthony:
You think all those dudes kind of ragged on him during it all. Like at least during the video shoot.
Like all standing around, then Orbison starts singing, "one of these things just doesn't belong here" from "Sesame Street." 

G.E. Smith: Or the other dudes circle jerking on his stupid ass fro. There's a doc where they have footage of all of them together it's pretty Bad A. There's no circle jerk.

Michael Anthony: I bet they never laughed at any of his jokes. 

G.E. Smith: Maybe they were trying to elevate him to their level. I bet Petty was the ring
Drag Clapton into this? Why not?
leader on getting him aboard.

Michael Anthony: You think he's racist on top of it all? Like Sting and Costello?  

G.E. Smith: Absolutely. Anyone with glasses like that is clearly a racist. 

Michael Anthony: Haha fuc. He's racist against not looking like a piece of shit. Clapton too.

G.E. Smith:
ou think Clapton ever tried to cover up his racism with his tunes?

Michael Anthony: Yeah, when he circled back around and went full racist with that mid-'90s faux blues album

G.E. Smith: Yea that's what I was thinking. He was actually being racist while trying to make up for being racist.  

Michael Anthony: Check that "Motherless Child" video, Clapton goes all out. 

G.E. Smith: What about Lynne and the Beatles shit. Like does he deserve to even in the
Lynne AND Petty were among those destroyed by Prince at the '04 Rock Hall.
same building as even one Beatle? Lynne co-produced Harrison's "Cloud Nine." 

Michael Anthony: He's considered among the five or so best producers of all time - do you think it's because of who he worked with or because of merit.

G.E. Smith: Well you know what I think. I think even his good work would still be great without him touching it. It's like a pointless layer of gloss that he puts on in many cases. 

Michael Anthony: Haha. "Cloud Nine" was the forerunner to "Full Moon." Kind of puts it into some perspective now. I still love "Learning To Fly," but yeah he sniffs.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Of Monsters and Men would like to invite you to the Polk party, the party with the Polk

Apparently, HBO was auctioning off its wardrobe for "Carnivàle."

I’ve tried to not be a hater. Having kids who love pop radio will do that – you find yourself digging stuff like BOB and Taylor Swift and Neon Trees when you probably would have pooped all over it as a snobbish college newspaper music reviewer.
But sometimes the old venom, that evil juice that once made me rage over Dave Matthews, starts to boil up again. Like when Mumford & Sons played “Saturday Night Live” last year. It’s not horrid, but it’s sneaky and subversive. Yes, these heart-throb Brits play instruments that you don’t typically find on a Billboard hit. But the writing is still typical Billboard fare, albeit weaker than some of the best stuff. Don’t try and sell me bluegrass or even New Grass when it’s really just Katy Perry dressed in old-timey clothes and played with banjos and fiddles instead of heavy synths and guitars.

This old-timey thing is definitely a trend. The next big shit to come out of nowhere was The Lumineers (not the Luminaries), a band of weird looking folk dressed, yet again, like it was the 1840s. Only this time the underlying pop element was replaced with some faux indie-emo thing, complete with yelps designed to sound like a railroad song or “O Brother Where Art Thou?”, only it ends up sounding like a small dog with rabies.

Fact: President James Polk died of diarrhea.
The website Funny Or Die was all over this just last month in a pretty funny "Which Is The Better Band" feature.

Which leads us to Of Monsters and Men which, besides having an insanely bad and pretentious name, represent the worst of the bunch because they unabashedly rip off both in terms of look, feel and sound, complete with the very same clothes from when Polk was president and the very same yelping deployed by the Lumineers.

Please, some one tell me the difference between THIS and THIS.

Again, it’s not that any of the three suck on ice. They all play well, sing well and form a tight unit in a live setting. It’s the obvious factory-like ways of the music industry that’s so annoying. Did the suits encourage Of Monsters and Men to go shopping at a retro mid-1800s store? Where would you even find such a store? What about the hey-ho yelping? There’s no way that’s a coincidence.

Of Monsters and Men will be at Philadelphia’s Festival Pier at Penn’s Landing on June 8. But it might end up being Lumineers or Mumford & Sons. Who will even know the difference?

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Paging Delaware venues - it's the 1990s calling; they want theirheadliners back

Boys to douche, BTD, OMG ... the Hanson family.
A friend at work is obsessed with Hanson. That's right, the "MMMBop" kids from the early 1990s, not to be confused with fellow '90s act Nelson, because that would mean they had two sick songs instead of one Ear Worm, or the "MMM MMM MMM MMM" guys, the Crash Test Dummies, also from the early 1990s (This really happened didn't it. Holy shit).

As in, she is big into the stuff they put out after their debut smash containing the one-hit wonder. As in, she still goes to see them in concert. As in, she says that they don't sell these days because they are "ahead of their time," and she says this completely straight-faced, leaving me feeling like Ron Burgundy after he finds out that Veronica Corningstone wasn't joking about wanting to be an anchor.

Anyway, at 6 p.m. May 11, Hanson will be headlining the music portion of this year's Flower Market in Wilmington. And, yeah, while it's cool they got a nationally known act, it's a nationally known act that hasn't been relevant for two decades, unless you count the three times that small voices in the music press tried to sell us the bullshit that they made some decent music as grown-ups. Yeah, right.

What's really telling is that this Hanson-obsessed co-worker is NOT EVEN GOING TO SEE THE HANSON FLOWER MARKET SHOW. Which means they are beyond irrelevant. What the hell, Flower Market?

I can't decide whether the FM's choice of headliner is better or worse than an upcoming show that Dover Downs has just started promoting in earnest: Keith Sweat on Sept. 20. Really? Keith Sweat? We're going to start seeing his mug on a giant billboard just south of Wilmington, finally replacing the Boz Scaggs one that stayed up there three weeks after his recent show?

I was so blown away at hearing about this upcoming gig that I rushed to group text-message the three people who would find this most amusing:


Col. Wilma Deering:

Oh snap! Let's go!

Dr. Elias Huer:

You say no! I say yes! Girl I bet I can make you sweat.

Princess Ardala:

Is he related to Nicky Sweats?

Dr. Elias Huer:

Keith "Butt" Sweat.


Keith Buttsweat in Barnes & Noble.

Princess Ardala:

I thought he was dead?


One of the Kriss Kross kids just died. The Grim Reaper makes you ... jump jump.

Col. Wilma Deering:

I just saw these. You guys are nerds.

Dr. Elias Hunter:

Wiggedy wiggedy wiggedy wack.

Col. Wilma Deering:

Important question: Is he being buried backwards?

Only a Keith Sweat concert at Dover Downs could elicit such gibberish. So, thank you, Dover Downs, and, thank you, Flower Market. You have made my weekend, and that is very sad.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

As unstoppable as Gallagher's watermelon hammer, Tressels smash their way into The Note

From left: Brendan Floyd, Andrew Fullerton, Brian Sarkisian, Mickey Turner, and former drummer Tom Giachero.
The Tressels, the pride of Drexel Hill, Pa., are the kind of dudes who are barely impressed that you have Greg "The Hammer" Valentine's number in your cell phone. "Of course you do. Who doesn't?" was something to the effect of what percussionist Mickey Turner actually said in response to this actual revelation made outside of Mojo 13 in Holly Oak sometime in 2007. 

These 30-somethings, some of whom are married and settled down, still break stuff and get slammed and rock every ounce of sweat out of their bodies when they play live gigs. 

Singer/guitarist Andrew "Butch" Fullerton and lead ax man Brian "Dirtman" Sarkisian have been playing together for some 15 years, the last eight of which have been as Tressels along with co-founder Turner. This core is all that remains of the "classic lineup," but they're soldiering on for what some might say is the prime of their recording output - the ongoing "American Trilogy" that is now on part two, "American Midnight."

Earlier this week, in advance of their show with Nine Days and 20 Minute Tango at 9 p.m. Saturday May 4 at The Note, 142 E. Market St., West Chester, Pa., Fullerton took some time to answer an onslaught of questions from First State Rock, including some that have actual substance and a point to them.

First State Rock: On “American Trilogy” you guys really seem to be going for it, between the production, the photo shoot, etc. Is there a renewed sense of urgency here? Are you taking The Big Shot?

Andrew Fullerton: We've been around long enough now that we've had the opportunity to work with some really good people, and we felt going into this that the songs and the story we were trying to tell really deserved some extra attention. During "Midnight," our engineer Dan gave us a "you're putting too much pressure on yourself" talk, but I think the end result was worth it. I'm not even sure "the big shot" really exists, but if it does, then yes, this is the record where we put it all out on the table.

FSR: You guys aren’t in Rolling Stones territory age-wise just yet but you’re no spring pups either. Have you noticed any differences with the day after the show? Anything else?

Fullerton: Our show has always been pretty physical, and we've learned over the years how to better prepare for that, but I think the hardest part a lot of the time is going back to your day job the next day, especially after a great show. 

FSR: Other than the core of you, Big Dirty and Mickey Reds, you guys have had some turnover recently. How has that affected the band, both positively and negatively?

Fullerton: We used to let it affect us negatively, because even now it seems that people jump ship right when we are gaining momentum, but I think we've learned to embrace it and realize that we will never ever have a steady lineup. It's also fun to branch out and play with new people, it helps you re-learn your songs and rejuvenate stuff that may not have worked before. However, someone quitting your band always stings, more so at this level because there's hardly any money, it feels like the only reason we are doing this most of the time is because we love it and enjoy each other's company. When someone quits it feels kinda like they just don't want to be your friend anymore, or they don't like your songs. There's an element of self-sabotage in every musician, and it comes out at the worst times.

Roth or Hagar? ... Um, is that Extreme guy still an option?
FSR: One thing that plays in your favor is that the singer is still in the house. Is it even possible to continue without the original lead singer?

Fullerton: I don't think so, except for AC/DC.

FSR: Related: Van Hagar or Van Halen?

Fullerton: I used to be staunchly Van Halen, then they did that "Tattoo" song, and DLR rocks the headset mic now. I've warmed up to Van Hagar over the years.

FSR: Tell me about that core. You guys have always used alter-egos, and that always makes me think about you guys as characters, like wrestlers. If you all were classic WWF-ers, who would you be?

The Brain and the Brawler.
Fullerton: I think Big Dirty would be like Shawn Michaels, you know, the "women want him, men want to be him" type. Mickey would definitely be the crowd pleaser like Stone Cold. I always thought of myself more as The Brooklyn Brawler, or Barry Horowitz, the perennial jobber who gets his ass kicked but keeps on working.

FSR: You guys are known for your epic live shows, some of which have taken place at The Note, where you’ll play Saturday. Where does the Note rank on your list of favorite venues.

Fullerton: The Note is a great venue, and we're looking forward to playing there again. They're definitely one of the best places we've ever played, and West Chester has always been great to us, even back in the Rex's days. I remember though, when we got the opportunity to play The Khyber for the first time that felt like we had made it. That was always a great place to play, Mickey got wrecked and went stage diving. I hear they're going to start doing music again upstairs, which is amazing.

Old-school: The Tressels at Mojo 13. Them were the days.
FSR: And since this is a Delaware-based blog, tell me about the Good Ol’ Days at Mojo 13. How does Mojo Main compare?

Fullerton: We've had some rowdy nights at Mojo 13 too. Near fistfights in the parking lot, I smashed my guitar, we left Santa behind. It's been part of the new Tressel initiation to play Mojo 13. We've never played Mojo Main, I think the first time will be in July with Graham Repulski. We will initiate our new drummer Matt Orlando there!

FSR: What do you think about all the new band vehicles online, the Bandcamps, the Reverbnations, etc. I feel like they’re all cool in their own way, with new bells and whistles, but it seemed to me like MySpace did a better job of bringing bands together, and now that feels lost. Can you speak to that?

Fullerton: Those sites are great for, what's that yuppie buzz word, oh yeah "building your brand," and they are a total necessity, but I think the best way to network is the good old show swap. That's how we met our pal Alex Vans, we've played a bunch of shows with him now, he did his record at the studio where we did "Sunset" and "Midnight," and his guy mixed and mastered our record. Even with a really huge, sparkly, online presence, you still have to go out and do the work. 

FSR: The Tressels’ meat and potatoes has always been those sick long-play jammers, like “Brothel Blues,” “Prison Wine,” “Denim Jacket”…but every once in a while you’ll throw out some power pop tune, like the oldie “Motorcycle” or the more recent “Nothin’ But Your Love.” Where do those come from?

Andrew Fullerton: That's me, I'm a power pop guy at heart. 

What’s up with “Stolen Kiss.” Granted, it’s a Big Dirty track, but even outside of that it’s just kind of out of left field compared to typical Tressels fare. What’s the story?

Fullerton: My brother works for Sherwin-Williams and had given Big Dirty some swatches to check out colors for his apartment. I guess him and Mick got drunk one night and saw one of the colors was called "Stolen Kiss," so they immediately had a title, and I know that "me and my bank account" line had been kickin' around for awhile. They left it on my voicemail that night. I wish I still had it, that would be great on the rarities compilation.

FSR: You guys have been known to throw out some covers. What are some of your favorite songs to cover and why?

Fullerton: We've been doing "Young Lust" by Pink Floyd lately. It's a little weird for me because I don't play guitar on it and I'm not sure what to do with my hands, but it's great because I can just watch the rest of the boys jam out and be proud of how sick my band is now.

Doobies: Butch says yay.
FSR: On a related note: Doobie Brothers: Yay or nay?

Fullerton: Yay.

FSR: What’s some side things, other than beer and smokes, that the Tressels are into. You guys dig scrapple? Are you all RBI Baseball dudes or more into Techmo Bowl?

Fullerton: Scrapple yes. I think our bass player Fuzz is most active in his non-Tressel related activities. He plays in the Loyola University Alumni Jazz band too. Our new drummer Matt plays in a bunch of different bands. None of us have really had any hobbies other than drinking and playing rock music. Mickey makes some amazing art work.

FSR: Were any real animals harmed during the making of “Wolves”?

Fullerton: Ha, no that's just stock footage. 

FSR: In all seriousness, in that video, Reds says he wants the band to go on and on, with young Tressels inheriting the band. That’s wishful thinking, but how long do you really think ya’ll will keep on doing this?

Fullerton: There have been at least three times during our eight-year history that we've seriously thought about packing it in. It always comes down to "Do we still like playing music?" and the answer so far as always been "Yes." And for me as a songwriter, I always ask, "Do I have anything else to say?" And the answer has so far been "Yes." Now, it sometimes is a test of wills, when everything else in our lives goes wrong we always turn to The Tressels. It's important to us, and we've outlasted venues, rival bands, marriages, and friendships. Come to think of it, it's actually kind of unstoppable. When we get too old or one of us dies, we'll just sell the name to someone else, like Gallagher. Yes, The Tressels are unstoppable. Just like Gallagher.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Hump Day Chat: Fleetwood Mac's "Mirage" is the "Teen Wolf" of '80s Rock Albums

Today's chat with Michael Anthony of Cleveland Does Not Rock centers on Fleetwood Mac's massively underrated 1982 album, "Mirage" ... among other things. Unfortunately, the closest The Mac gets to us this year, sans Christie McVie, is the Times Union Center in Albany, N.Y. on June 19 and the Nikon at Jones Beach Theatre in Wantagh, N.Y., on June 22.

G.E. Smith: What about Fleetwood Mac's "Mirage." You got me into that and I really dig it, but after letting it soak in I have some other thoughts too. 

Michael Anthony: I like the lack of bloat, the lack of pretense, the economy of the writing. Although I really f*ckin wish "Holiday Road" was on there. Feel like it was the right move for them, and not typical of a big name release of that era. Side A is amazing. "Book of Love" feels so simple and immediate but if you dig deeper there's a lot there.

G.E. Smith: I'm amazed by the lack of good McVie tunes on there. I think she's their best writer, and even though she did the slammer "Hold Me" with Buck those other tracks are shit. You think she was lost in Mick's beard around this time? Does that explain "Mirage"?

Michael Anthony: Oh weird I usually kind of hate her tunes, and "Hold Me" alone - which I love - makes this her best effort in my book.

G.E. Smith: "Love in Store" is decent I guess but she sounds like Nicolas Cage in "Vampire's Kiss" in the other ones. What strikes me about the album is the fact that it doesn't really sound dated.

Michael Anthony: Yea not that any of their stuff does, but you'd assume that this would. Especially surprising is that its kind of been forgotten as a key Fleetwood Mac album. You'd think a rawer rock sound with big power pop singles would have generated it more love over time. I don't think "Don't Stop" is dated, just bad. "Go Your Own Way" sounds a little bit like an early '80s feminine product commercial, so I guess in that respect it's more cutting edge than dated. Since it came out, when... '76? Four years ahead of the feminine product commercial jingle curve.

Hey Tweedy: "Mirage" is a great to play, not to rip off.
G.E. Smith: I hear some pretty distinct things that influenced current artists on there, especially, oddly enough, "Empire State." Doug Gillard  copies the outro solo almost note for note on the relatively obscure Guided By Voices track "Of Mites and Men." I feel like shitty recent Wilco apes a lot on that too, especially the bass line.

Michael Anthony: Yeah man I'd put it right up there with Duran Duran's "Rio," Misfits' "Walk Among Us" and The Descendents' "Milo Goes To College" as far as 1982 albums that influenced me. But is it bad that indie rockers turn to soft rock influences? I mean, yes, this is good songwriting and all that, but you gotta think that drawing from elite soft rock will ultimately result in even more watered down stuff, right?

G.E. Smith: I do, and it did. You into that cornball Nicks tune "Straight Back"? Sounds like it was designed to go over the credits of some '80s flick. Like a bad sports movie. Now THAT sounds dated.

Michael Anthony: Can't argue with that. What flick though? "Teen Wolf"? "Wildcats"? 

G.E. Smith: Probably more "Wildcats" ... that had a more serious angle to it, relatively speaking. I mean the main character didn't morph into a wolf at will. By the way what do you think Teen Wolf's rod looked like? Do you think it got bigger when he morphed?

Wolf: Better on court or in sack?
Michael Anthony: Nah smaller actually but really hairy, which added girth / texture.

G.E. Smith: The ladies always seemed pleased.

Michael Anthony: Yeah chicks were big into bestiality in the '80s.

G.E. Smith: Either that or body hair. Explains Tom Jones, Paul Stanley etc.

Michael Anthony: Hey speaking of hairy pricks, back to Fleetwood Mac ... 

G.E. Smith: I imagine Buckingham shaved his chest hair into a likeness of himself, but, yeah, fly this thing home. 

Michael Anthony: Overrated or underrated?

G.E. Smith: I dunno. Underrated because they're overrated? But then there are some hipsters who pretend to like Mac, which makes them overrated because they were overrated and then underrated.

Buck's appearance on "SNL" showed he was kinda cool.
Michael Anthony: You think Buckingham is happy with his place in rock? He seems like he might be an egomaniac but the fact that he never took Fleetwood Mack to elite Dino rock levels shows some restraint.

G.E. Smith: He is definitely very pleased with himself and that stupid ass guitar he plays. But yeah, he's aight, and he doesn't try and pimp new material. He knows no one wants to hear some crock of shit.

Michael Anthony: I feel like it was a conscious decision on their part not to be turds about their legacy. Which makes them underrated, even though they're a little overrated.

G.E. Smith: They're overrated as an important band, but underrated as songwriters and musicians 
just like Teen Wolf was underrated for his sexing ability but overrated as a basketball player. 

Nothing should surprise when Michael Anthony's in the house.
Michael Anthony: Yeah how did he not score 200 points? 

G.E. Smith: Not really a great all around player. Plus look at his competition, a bunch of honkies.

Michael Anthony: Lot of goal tending.

G.E. Smith: Mac is basically the Teen Wolf of rock bands. Airy and fun without much substance on the surface but boasting some nice thick meat under the fur.