Beautiful, chaotic noise

There’s something about CHRONICLES OF MARNIA, the new record from Marnie Stern that just makes me smile.

I love noise pop. LOVE it! I love guitars. Big guitars, loud guitars, out of tune guitars.  Guitars with broken strings.  Guitars with fret buzz.  Every guitar is beautiful.  Every guitar has a soul  (If I hear a synthesizer starting up a song, I take it off.) I LOVE balls to the wall rock in the spirit of The Replacements or the Archers of Loaf. I find beauty in the choas, peace in the noise. I love bad singers, people who screech and wail, and tear their hearts out through their sleeves, and always manage a few off-pitch notes during every song. There’s no passion in perfection.  There’s nothing more boring than perfection.  People who can play and sing every note perfectly, repeating such perfection perfectly each time, are robots.  Soulless.  Gutless.  Artless.  It’s powered milk for the masses.  Pure shit for hip people.  (Guitars can’t hurt people, only people can hurt guitars.)

I love artists who aren’t afraid to take a chance and try something new.

Artists who turn genres on their ear.

Artists who realize failure is the only road to success.

I love Marnie Stern.

And I love this record.

Another Vampire Weekend rant, thank you very much

A song from the upcoming Vampire Weekend album was released today. And because I do not believe anyone has a right to criticize anything they’ve not experienced, I listened to it. All the way through. Really, I did.

I thought maybe that things might have changed in the time since their last effort. That since now even bands like the Strokes,who had at least a nanogram or two of rock respect with their debut album anyway, and have now gone synth, and lost what little respect they deserved, that perhaps VW would take it in another direction.  That the surgically-remove balls of the individual members might have started to regenerate.

But no. It is the same lame-ass wimpy shit for which they are well known.

In fact with “Step” they might have out-wimped both Fun(period) and Foster the People, which is impressive when you think about it, as they are the reigning kings of lame.  It probably goes without saying that I hate Ezra Koenig’s voice.  It belongs on American Idol, to be cut in an early round.  The production is so polished that Dusty Springfield might be a little embarrassed by it.  And lyrically it’s a name dropping mess.  There’s nothing profound, unless you’re deeply rooted in hipster-ism, then, sure, yes, this has meaning.  It’s a throw away easy listening song that would probably be tolerable on an elevator, or in the supermarket when you’re shopping for candied yams.  But to elevate it, or the band, to ecstatic heights is just nonsense.

And look, before one or two of you come to VW’s defense, this is my issue. This is not rock. This is not alternative. And yet somehow here are people who consider it one, the other, or both.  There are publications who kiss their ass as if they were the new Pope.  (Really to compare any part of any song by VW to Jandek might be the single dumbest comment I’ve ever read in a review in my 54 years.)

If these bands could somehow be put in the same category as music by Barnie the Purple Dinosaur, then I wouldn’t have an issue. Because that is where their music belongs. It’s gutless tripe made to fit nicely as background music for the next iPod or Honda Civic (or certainly this tune at least was written to be included in any number of tv shows, True Blood, to name one). Pre-processed, it’s the head-cheese of sandwich meat.  It doesn’t rock. It’s doesn’t roll. It lays there on your welcome mat like dog shit you’ve just wiped off the bottom of your shoe.

Can’t wait for the rest of the album.

David Bowie’s “The Next Day”

OK…so I wake up this morning and wondered if I were dreaming. Would I need to chew my own arm off and escape silently because of a horrible mistake I had made in a rush of teenaged lust?  It was too goo to be real.  I was a teenager again.  Six feet tall, 120 pounds, with hair half-way down my back.  I could drink and fuck all night.

I was afraid to be awake.

So, I get in the car, half-asleep, hair in Albert Einstein mode, and head into town for my morning cup of Willoughbys. I bypass the news, and turn it on.  I turn it up.  And I get goose bumps.  I actually get turned on. It wasn’t a dream. David Bowie HAD released a brilliant new album, and it sounded even better today.


The opening and title track “The Next Day” made me want to cry, I don’t think the stereo in my wife’s GTI could go any louder.  The dirty horns on made me feel as if I were in the front row of Radio City Music Hall once again and Bowie was about to launch into “Young Americans” or “Fame.”  “Valentine’s Day” sounds like the great missing track from the Ziggy Stardust sessions, the reel of 2-inch tape stolen from the vault and never reported missing. “Dancing Out In Space” must have been recorded in 1969, right? What the fuck?

Thank you, Mr. Bowie, for making me feel young again.  And for showing the hipsters and would-be rockers of the day what it means to rock and roll.  What it means to write a song.  What it means to be a God.

I just need to keep repeating it wasn’t a dream.

I just need to keep it repeating.


Remembering Casey

Seven years ago tonight, it was about 3 am, give or take, a few hours from now, we were awoken by frantic barking from our dog Kilgore Trout, who rarely if ever barked. I went downstairs to see what was wrong, and found our puppy Phoebe cowering under the kitchen table, and when I turned the corner I understood why.  Our oldest dog, our first, Casey, was lying dead in the living room. A little over twelve years of age she had just up and died in the middle of the night. Lying by the entrance to the dining room, in one of her favorite spots.

I do often think back to that day to see if there were any clues.  If I had missed anything.  I remember playing ball with her just the day before.  She ran and retrieved like the puppy she still was at heart.  Yet that morning of her death she was walking slowly.  But not slowly enough to cause concern, she was after all twelve.  That day I do remember giving her a treat, which she didn’t gobble right down.  In fact it took her a while to eat it.  And this was a dog who never turned down food.  I remember standing, suddenly worried.  Not eating was a bad sign, right?  But watching me, Casey suddenly gobbled the treat right down, and I was immediately relieved.  Had she sensed my panic?

That night, instead of jumping on the sofa to watch TV as she did on most nights, she sat on the floor by Kris’ feet.  She felt a little older than usual to us that night.   I remember even Kris saying that night, as she stroked Casey’s head, “I’m not ready for you to go.”

Casey really was out smartest child.  If she in fact had been human, and at times we certainly felt as if she was, she’d have been the one to graduate from Yale with more degrees than one could understand.  She knew when something was wrong, and she acted upon it immediately.  If you were sad, she was there right by your side, as if she knew what you were thinking.  She was protective.  I always believed if anyone came near us in a threatening manner she’d have died trying to protect us.  She even protected Kilgore once against another aggressive dog, taking that pooch, turning it on its back, and holding it there.  She ruled the roost when it came to the three dogs. She was without question the boss.  But still very much that little black snow-covered puppy whose photo I’ve published so many times (see banner above), even at twelve.  (How I adore that scowl in her face, even at eight weeks she knew it was silly to be outside in the snow for a silly photograph.)


I was thinking the other day about how none of my shoes are scuffed like when we had Casey.  I would often sit on the sofa to write on my laptop, and just drive her nuts by stepping on a tennis ball the whole while.  She could spend an hour doing anything and everything to get that ball from under my foot, usually at the cost of my shoes.  But the amusement it gave both of us was more than worth it.

Or her excitement at even the whisper of the word “squirrel.”  And I would often more than whisper it.  “Oh, my God, there’s a squirrel in the yard.”  She would go bonkers, jumping up onto the bay windowsill to get a better look, running to the door to the back yard, and back again.  She actually never caught one of those evil squirrels, but not for want of trying.

She wanted to be with you all the time.  And though she understood we slept upstairs, once we were awake, there was no excuse.  And she knew immediately.  It became a joke between Kris and myself.  If we were awake, we had to be completely silent.  No walking to the bathroom.  No turning on the radio.  No talking even.  Because as soon as Casey heard a peep, she’d want in on the action.

Perhaps like all of us, she didn’t want to be alone.

The night she died, I knelt by her side, and closed her eyes, suddenly feeling completely helpless.  Sobbing, I ran back upstairs to tell Kris that Casey was dead.  I felt like some very important part of me died with her.  And perhaps for a while it did.  Kris came downstairs, we wrapped her in a red blanket, one which she loved to chew, carried her out to the car, and took her to the emergency animal hospital.  Kris drove, because on that night I couldn’t.  Our vet explained that a tumor that we knew nothing about had burst and she bled out.  And there was nothing we could have done.

The next day we couldn’t function.  I so remember getting a vegetarian sandwich from Edge of the Woods in New Haven.  A sandwich we both loved and would usually split.  And sitting there sobbing as we tried to eat, we stared out that bay window, wondering who would protect us from the squirrels now.  We never did order one of those sandwiches again.

When Kilgore passed two and a half years later, I looked back on that night and realized Casey died that way to save us the pain of seeing her slowly fail, as we just had with Kilgore.  She was that sort of dog.  Protecting us even from the pain of watching her die.

Casey was our first dog.  She made us both better people.  More understanding, more patient, more loving.

I miss you, girl…


new Waxahatchee album

The new Waxahatchee album CERULEAN SALT is out today, which makes this a glorious day. It rocks a lot harder than AMERICAN WEEKEND, but still Katie Crutchfield wears her beautifully wounded heart on her flowered sleeve. Only this time the guitars tears through your soul as well.  As I’ve said before, she is our most talented young songwriter.  And she’s one of the two or three best female vocalists making records today.  Get on the boat now…there probably won’t be a better album released this year.