Tag Archives: Music

Something Siberian this way Steamrolls

It probably makes me a pompous ass, but I don’t care: I still chuckle every time I see an annual announcement like this one.

TSO fan?

One thing you learn from semi-anonymous blogging for your friends and family and random silent stalkers: Choose the wrong topic, and it will bring out the crusaders for said topic. I guess I always expected that, but what I learned is that you have no idea what that topic will be.

Three years ago, I wrote an innocent (though admittedly pompous) post marking my surprise that the Steamroller of Mannheim and the Orchestra of the Trans Siberians were actually two different brands acts. Boy, did that bring out the comments from TSO defenders in bushels.

Why seek out dark online corners to set straight those who don’t like your already popular favorite music? I don’t know. I can only think of the above xkcd classic, “Duty Calls.”

Meanwhile, this is Trans-Siberian Orchestra’s “Christmas Canon Rock”:

And here is der Mannheim Steamroller, doing “Carol of the Bells” (a title TSO also does):

Heavens, how could I ever confuse them? (Side note: My confusion is only intensified by the “related videos” on YouTube, which are a constant mix of the two.)

Seriously, while they are certainly “different,” it is hardly unfathomable that I once thought them the same. To explain, I’ll just repost a late edit to that original post, after the shitstorm of passionate and hilarious comments had died down:

[post-post-post edit 9/21] I had dinner with three women from my 30-straddling generation last night, and I asked them what they knew of Steamroller and TSO. One said, “Oh, I didn’t realize they were different.”

The second said, “AWK, my mother listens to Steamroller, it’s awful, and aren’t the Trans-Siberians just a knock-off?” and the third said, “I went to a [TSO] concert once. It was okay. I think they play the same set each year.”

Which may reflect misinterpretations, perhaps, but definitely reflects my original point that they may have a branding issue for those who try not to pay attention to either. (But, as we all agree below, they sell out just fine without trying to convert the rest of us, so they shouldn’t worry.)

Sometimes ignorance is sweet, sweet cheesy-guitar-solo-free bliss.

I wait in joyful hope to learn that the Trans Siberians will likewise be headed my way this coming holiday season.

Man’s Search for Music, Armed with XM

Now accepting all suggestions for new (or old) music…

With a new vehicle (pronounced “vee-hickle” around these here parts) came a free 3-month teaser of XM Radio. In the absence of new Killing Joke or Radiohead material, a teaser of XM meant I make one last, futile attempt at exposing myself to “what’s new?” music before my tastes — like the closet of every man (according to the Seinfeld riff) — permanently freeze to reflect the best years of my life*.

*not sure if those were defined by when a man was most young and hip, when his body had no quarrel with daily aches and pains, or simply when casual sex was most attainable for the least amount of effort.

There Are Problems with This Approach

First, make no mistake: The XM experience is quite fun. There are “decades” stations like “’70s on [channel] 7,” ’80s on 8, etc. Those are a memory trip. But for those, the decade in question is literally the only criteria. So you can have The Cure bookended by Pat Benatar and Michael Jackson. Or Stone Temple Pilots sandwiched between TLC (“Don’t Go Chasing Waterfalls”) and Erasure. I don’t care what your tastes are, that combination is like a twisted psychological experiment.

What at first is a novelty quickly becomes a jolting, fucked up memory trip. It’s a reminder of what was on back then, but it’s also a reminder of what I hated back then. I need a very quick trigger finger lest Creed invade my head.

What’s worse — but interesting in a Musicophilia kind of way? With this experiment going on, I don’t need to hear a song at all to have it stuck in my head. I’ll hear part of one song I didn’t like then (or now), and then half an hour later I’ll be on the hockey bench realizing that some other song from that era is now rattling around in my head. It’s haunting. How do our synapses do that?

Sad to Confirm, New Music Modern Rock Often Sucks

But the decades stations are just land mines of last resort. There are a couple of stations that are pretty decade-specific, but much more up my alley. “Lithium” focuses more on my kind of ’90s, while “First Wave” hits my kind of ’80s, which are happily Michael Jackson-, Bon Jovi- and Pat Benatar-free.

Then there is a “modern alternative” station that I counted on to be my introduction to What I’ve Been Missing. Now, Mrs. Fall of Because calls me a “music snob” — but I’m hardly informed enough to claim such a title. What I do have is pretty specific tastes across multiple genres, so if something doesn’t strike me in multiple areas of melody or bass or tempo and certainly lyrically, my patience wanes. I’m not a snob, it’s all subjective at its root; I just want music to smack me in the head and the gut, and knock my knees out — or else I’ll turn back to old standbys that do.

So there’s a lot of Mute Math or Sun-something-Pickup or Muse or Killers or Kings of What-Not … more names than I can remember. They’re trying to incorporate multiple eras and influence — while recognizing the synthesizer is not to be feared — all intentions I applaud. The songs grab me a little bit at first, then kind of plateau. I’m not feeling it. Now I’m hearing the same songs cycled through the rotation again, and I’m recognizing them, and they’re still not grabbing me, and I’m feeling a bit hopeless. Even the singles that grab me, I can tell from other material it won’t be an album’s worth (and by god, I’m still going to clamor for the full album that grabs me).

I need to (nervously) check out the Headlights’ latest album, because some how their “Kill Them With Kindness” album resonated with me. Based on the lone single I’ve heard, though I fear disappointment there, too.

The Tipping Point

But you know what really killed it for me? Some outfit called Airborn Toxic Event has a song “Sometime around Midnight” that sounds to my ears like a close (and worse) rip-off of LCD Soundsystem’s “All My Friends.” Structure, pace (slowed down for dramatic effect), lyrical rhythm: The first time I heard it, I thought somebody was just making up new words and instruments to the same song, a song I rather dig. Maybe a tribute? No, not so.

They’re not at all the same, yet they’re the same. Also hindering my appreciation: The lyrics of the former are whining about a girl, treading the wrong side of that line (for my money) between sincerely sentimental and just melodramatic. Yuck.

Finally, a song that I’ve heard multiple weeks in a row from whatever radio feed is used at our Saturday morning hockey: Some bastard decided to cover Pearl Jam’s “Black” — a pretty classic song, Pearl Jam-wise — by doing nothing but slowing it down even further and even dragging out the lyrics to truly oversaturate the drama. The original “Black” was already quite slow and already tread that line between moving slow song and over-the-top. So this cover is like some tool in his dorm room saying, “No, that song means so much to me, I need to slow it down, drag it out and make it mean more.”

So yeah, I guess I’m a snob, I’m being overly negative, and I need some serious help in the ol’ music catalog department. But this cover makes me vomit. And makes me want to dig back through some Butthole Surfers to exorcise the damage it inflicted. At least they knew how to do a cover (of “Hurdy Gurdy Man“) to hilarious effect.

Just two dudes in a Camaro

We've no business driving this thing, really.

BH and I can meet at any time, in any place and hit it off like two old friends that we are.

Except it’s not like old friends who only rehash old stories and old events — no, there was some connection made way back, some shared alignment or orientation with which we hurtle through the universe at complementary speeds.

If I had to trace it to a single moment (and I’m sure he, if he even agreed with my premise, would trace it to a different one), it would be the time in high school — very early in our friendship — when I spent an hour on the phone with him trying to get him to be a double-date to a Homecoming dance for me.

He wouldn’t budge. He could see the whole setup was a carwreck* coming from a mile away. But during the tangential wanderings of that conversation, I realized I’d encountered a human I didn’t ever want to let go.

*Some cute girl I knew only through a mutual older friend said she wanted to go to our dance; the catch was I had to get a date for her friend, too. (The reality, hilariously, was that the mutual friend — 10 years older than us — fancied the job of playing matchmaker; meanwhile, the cute girl only wanted to get into our school’s dance for reasons I, upon realizing this, didn’t care to investigate further, but involved other people at our school. The full story involves a lost jacket AND a speeding ticket for the poor sap I did get to go with me. I should probably write that tale down sometime.) Continue reading Just two dudes in a Camaro

No longer hip – but hey, I know that one song!

The joke I re-used (er, ich wiederverwerten) through my post-graduate 20s (now expired) was that we were no longer “young and hip.” College’s singular state of being was gone. Growth, maturity, and financial semi-independence were all wonderful developments, but one couldn’t help the realization that they came at the price of losing our “young and hip”-ness.

(Of course the other joke, which family and friends use on me — a joke far closer to the truth — is that I was born a 52-year-old-man. So really, “young and hip” was never even in the picture for me.)

Now comes the realization that the 2000s, “the Aughts,” are almost over. (Shit!) Which means lists. Which means the first-ever musical retrospectives of an entire decade in which I was no longer young and hip.

But there is hope! (Well, not “hope,” but a gradual rather than sudden crash into irrelevance … which is nice.) On Pitchfork’s Top 20 songs of the 2000s, I actually know some of them! I even like the ones I’d heard of. And one I’d never heard before, I really like.

So we have: Continue reading No longer hip – but hey, I know that one song!