Saturday, August 17, 2013

The other kind of nostalgia

hey Saturday.

Woke up in something of a state. The kind that can only be remedied by sitting at the counter of a diner and drinking lots of coffee.

Why I've been drawn to this place recently is beyond me. Ended up here earlier in the week for lunch. But this was prime-time Saturday morning-after action, if it was already past noon.

It was just me (surprise) so I just grabbed an empty seat at the counter between an older man who kept laughing at nothing (?) and a couple in their 20s not saying much of anything to each other.

I recognized most of the people working, and the guy at the counter at least pretended to recognize me. He probably did, since this place was once on a short-list of weekend breakfast spots frequented over a span of years, and relationships (it always comes back to that, I know. I'm hoping it's just a phase).

The sobering flashbacks started on the ride over, when I heard a song from a band that maybe 10 years ago I championed with a vengeance. Today, hearing this song as I was cruising down Pico to eat scrambled eggs and wonder where it all went pear-shaped, just felt embarrassing.

That kind of embarrassment one might feel looking at an old photograph of a bad haircut or dubious fashion decisions washed over me as the song played on, taking me right back to that exceedingly earnest, hopeful and completely fucking clueless person I wince to remember. 

I tell myself that the only way I was able to get from there to here (like that was any trip to the Bahamas wtf) was to be broken down to the shivering wreck that somehow survived the past few years relatively intact and still without a criminal record. The world rests easy for another day,

Dramatic much? Just another indulgence I've been letting myself have lately, much like this diner breakfast that's staring me in the face right now. I mean, why not? OK, there are myriad reasons why not. None of it seems to make much of a difference today.

Yeah, I hope this is almost over, too.

All of this nostalgia for the not so distant past is more than a little disconcerting. If I recall correctly, all I wanted then is exactly what I have now. And here we are, longing for everything I left behind.


Oh yes, I'm very fun at parties.



Thursday, August 15, 2013

What if I just just started doing this again?



It has been like three years since I've posted anything on this here blog.

A lot has happened in those three years, that's for sure.

What's striking me the most about what was posted on this site back when it was active was the palpable PASSION that seems to run through so much of it. I mean, I really cared about shit. It totally MATTERED, you know?

And that's what I miss. It's like someone or something sneaked up on me in the middle of the night and siphoned as much passion out of me as they could, like a thief sucking gasoline from cars back in the day (does anyone still do that anymore?).

I look at my Tweeter and Faceplant pages and wonder, 'wtf is that guy, just kind of skirting around the edges, not really engaging with life like he's supposed to?'

And of course it's me.

Am I sad about it? I guess so. I mean, the only bonus to lacking passion is that you never really get too bummed out, since you're expectations are pretty low (read: nonexistent).

I mean, take the name of this blog. It was named after Massive Attack's third studio album, with the whole "Read" part added on so it was like, 'hey, you've listened to the album 'Mezzanine,' now you can read the blog 'Mezzanine'!

It's like I was only 17 years old or something three years ago, which was hardly the case.

But enough harping on the past. This is the here and now, today, THIS. And even if it feels kind of hollow and fleeting and vaguely hopeless, I continue to press these keys like something miraculous is suddenly going to happen because of it. Because maybe it will. Just maybe.

So, now what? Great question, and I'm glad you asked.

Not that I have an answer. I mean, wtf happened anyway? How did you go from being this total fanboy nerd-powered aspiring wannabe DJ making crummy mixtapes and actually linking to them and everything like they didn't suck even though nothing ever came of them.

I'd drag my half-dead old computer down to the Standard Hotel in L.A. and spin all sorts of music in the lobby to like 5 people for 6 hours straight and love every minute of it? I get paid a nominal fee, but my favorite part of the night was always when a random waiter or cook from the hotel restaurant would come out and be like, 'dude, you always play the best music thanks for being awesome.'

But like everything, it all went pear-shaped at some point. I got stiffed out of a night's pay, and then had a gross confrontation with the parking lot guy when he charged my top dollar to park while I was working. Somewhere in there, I kind of lost my desire to do it anymore. The point had long evaporated, and I was just going through the motions because I didn't know what else to do with myself.

Now I feel this weird tinge of embarrassment when I walk by my turntables and the thousands of records that dominate what would be a dining room for most normal people. Like, what was I thinking? Why didn't I just learn Ableton and start making ridiculous rave tracks with big "drops" and become a big-time sensation like Skrillex or somebody? I know: dreaming is free. Thanks, Blondie.

Which brings us here. Mindlessly banging away at these keys, wondering where it all went wrong. Wishing I hadn't fucked things up so majorly with (REDACTED), but knowing full well there's nothing I could have done to save the day. I was too far gone, I'd already lost so much that I simply didn't know what to do with myself, let alone be a decent and dependable guy that a woman could feel secure in being around. Now I just watch from afar, feeling even more foolish than I did then. Story of my life (thanks, Jay McInerney).

But! And thank God for buts. Buts are the saving grace of so many lost souls, who chose to do something instead of nothing, who stood up instead of lying down, who lived instead of dying.

my but tells me that as long as I'm still drawing breath, hope is far from lost. Every day it seems like I'm reading about another person younger than me leaving this mortal coil, another person who will never get to lament turning another year older, who will never fear those big, scary numbers looming in the not-so-distant future.

I remember how incredibly lucky and blessed and fortunate it is that I'm even still here, having existential meltdowns and wondering where it all went wrong instead of seeing the truth - omg, I'm still here,and how the eff did so many things go so incredibly RIGHT?

so...yeah.

That's where we're at in 2013.  Just a few steps down the line from where we where three years ago, perched precariously at the end of that infamous rope the Electrifyin' Mojo always told us about, having tied that life-saving knot at the end of it so many moons ago.

Just out here swinging, baby.

(the photo at the top of this post is from KROQ's party house at Coachella this year. Long story)

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

CD REVIEW: Kid Cudi, "Man on the Moon II: The Legend of Mr. Rager"

(G.O.O.D./Dream On/Universal Records) Kid Cudi is one of hip-hop’s most curious cases. Snapped up by Kanye West soon after releasing his first mixtape, Cudi’s debut album MAN ON THE MOON: THE END OF THE DAY sounded like an inspired spin-off of West’s own paradigm-pushing 808S & HEARTBREAK. All maudlin melodies, moody atmosphere and Cudi’s introspective lyrics made for a murky brew that played like Pink Floyd for indie hip-hop stoners. But it was Cudi’s real-life antics that thrust him into pop consciousness at large; from getting thrown off of Lady Gaga’s tour for punching a fan to his arrest in Manhattan over drug and disturbances charges, his bad behavior has become constant tabloid fodder. Cudi addresses all of that and more on his dense, confessional sequel MAN ON THE MOON II: THE LEGEND OF MR. RAGER. Completely opening the floodgates of his sound, this album is even more self-indulgent than his debut — but it’s also a much better record for it. Spreading 17 tracks over four “acts,” the album veers from an obvious Weezer homage (“Erase Me,” featuring Kanye West) to inspired collaborations like the aptly titled “MANIAC” featuring the distinctive guitar playing of alt-rock hero St. Vincent and a guest rap from underground rapper Cage. It’s a dark and nuanced collection that solidifies Cudi’s position as rap’s new reigning tortured soul and reluctant emo king.

(originally published on Shockhound.com)

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

CD REVIEW: N*E*R*D, "NOTHING"

(Star Trak/Interscope) The line on NOTHING is that Pharrell Williams and N.E.R.D scrapped a finished album and simply started over. In any case, the stark militaristic cover and blatant political overtones of the album make it clear that there’s a message to be found in the music. The juxtaposition of simple party jams like “Party People” (featuring a verse from rapper T.I.) next to “The Man,” a cynical observation on how to opiate the masses, speaks volumes, as do the spacey acid-blues rants (“It’s in the Air,” “Help Me”) and bouncy, Ben Folds-styled piano-pop meditations on success (“Victory”). The dreamily melodic but too brief “Inside the Clouds” is a “hidden” track on the end of “I’ve Seen the Light” (there is full-length version worth tracking down). Somehow, the collaboration with electronic pioneers Daft Punk (the plodding “Hypnotize You”) ends up sounding like a missed opportunity. But it’s album highlight “Life As a Fish” that brings it all together into a blissfully sublime moment that invokes classic ‘60s pop acts like the Association and Classics IV. NOTHING is ample proof that N.E.R.D are fully capable of delivering music with the same quirky inventiveness that made their 2001 debut IN SEARCH OF such an instant classic.

(Originally published on Shockhound.com)

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Die Antwoord, "$O$"

Is it real? Or is it a very elaborate hipster joke? Those are the questions that lingered around South African outfit Die Antwoord when they first crashed the scene. From their manic mélange of old-school rave rhythms to the colloquialism-filled rhymes of rappers Ninja and Yo-Landi Vi$$er, their sound and aesthetic is insistently unusual. Still, the band’s culture collision runs surprisingly deep. Alluding to such obscure sounds as hip-house beats, South African “zef” culture and the ruthless machismo of gangster rap, Die Antwoord is so anti-cool it veers perilously close to parody. Blending lyrics English with lyrics sung in the Afrikaans language, songs like “Evil Boy” could fill most underground dance floors, even though it’s about forced male circumcision on pubescent boys in certain South African tribes. This major label version of $O$ is an update on a free album the band distributed digitally in 2009. New songs like “In Your Face” find the band’s production style maturing without losing their signature lawless energy. While only time will tell if their appeal can transcend their current of-the-moment buzz, it’s safe to say that Die Antwoord is definitely no joke.

(Originally published on Shockhound.com)

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

No Age, "Everything in Between"

In 2010, the term “punk rock” has evolved into myriad meanings, each one depending on who’s doing the defining. For LA noise-punk duo No Age, it represents a fiercely independent DIY ethos that permeates everything they do. On their third full-length (and second for indie giant Sub Pop), the duo continue to steadily expand their sonic palette while creating more of their emo-tinged slabs of deceptively melodic mayhem. From the sunny Beach Boys aesthetics of “Life Prowler” to the college-radio-at-4am whirr of “Glitter,” it would be easy to say this is the band’s most accessible release to date. But it would also be true: Glossier production values don’t detract from the songs’ sneering defiance, which is never too far from the music’s surface. No Age even flirt with getting downright pretty on tunes like the dreamy, My Bloody Valentine homage “Positive Amputation” and “Chem Trails,” which is reminiscent of classic Sonic Youth. Evolving without losing sight of their roots in now-famous all-ages LA club the Smell, No Age are rightful heroes for a new generation of emerging indie rockers eager to really go their own way.

(Originally published on shockhound.com)

Soundgarden, "Telephantasm"

Soundgarden was always among the more intriguing outfits of the early ‘90s rock generation. Their dichotomy of being cool, brainy guys that could rock you as hard as any mob of meatheads put them in an exclusive class. Frontman Chris Cornell was blessed with a testosterone-charged yowl comparable to Robert Plant, and just as pretty. Kim Thayill’s textured guitar playing leaned toward the sublime and substantive over flash. But it Soundgarden's ability to craft tight, explosive songs that made them famous. This comprehensive retrospective concentrates on the big hits like “Black Hole Sun,” but mixes in a few fan favorites to keep it interesting — like “Hunted Down,” a caustic down-tuned roar from their early Sub Pop era, which already hints at their expansive potential. The draw here for fans both old and new is “Black Rain,” a monstrous, previously unreleased song from their fertile BADMOTORFINGER era. But track for track, TELEPHANTASM is a fitting testament to the legacy of these rock legends.

(Originally published on Shockhound.com)

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Philip Selway, "Familial"

It’s easy for the casual Radiohead listener to get lost in the cult of Thom Yorke. Of course, a band so potent is going to consist of more than just one musical prodigy, and Radiohead is no exception — but a solo record from the drummer of any band is still going elicit more than its fair share of groans and rolling eyes. All of which makes Phil Selway’s achingly graceful solo debut that much more surprising. Granted, opening tracks “By Some Miracle” and “Beyond Reason” both boast a subtle swing and ghostly vocals that will feel familiar to fans of Selway’s day job. But it’s not long before the production flourishes and implied beats give way to good old-fashioned singer-songwriter lamentations, highlighted by Selway's elegant singing style. Tastefully understated contributions from Lisa Germano and members of Selway’s most recent tour-mates Wilco blend right into the melancholy, occasionally heartbreaking collection. Songs like “Falling” even invoke images of classic Simon & Garfunkel. It’s somehow fitting that it turns out to be the drummer who provides the softer side of Radiohead. — Scott T. Sterling