Saturday, January 31, 2004

From the secret files...

For fans of Max Cannon, who once attended a party at my house (as did David Cross) and whose style never fails to please:
Make your own Red Meat!
Print 'em out, pass 'em around, laugh your ass off!
I've produced some certifiable winners in the past. It's hours and hours of fun.

In praise of monkey suits

Could we please, at some point in time, stop worshipping the Beatles?
I mean, wow, they came to America 40 years ago. Let's all put down what we're doing and commemorate this.
Here's one vote for a substantially more important occurrence 40 years ago this month, The Times They Are A-Changin'.
Go ahead and take your screaming Sullivan fans, I'll stick with "One Too Many Mornings."
It's substance vs. style.
Now, the Beatles did evolve into an exceptional band once they started thinking, but smiling monkey-suited pretty boys just don't deserve such praise.
If you're gonna insist on hyping the Beatles, stick to the period in which they could grow facial hair (and did they ever! Much better than Bob.)
And just three months after 'Times,' Dylan released Another Side. Let's hear it for one of the most underrated songs in his entire catalogue: Chimes of Freedom:
"Tolling for the rebel, tolling for the rake
Tolling for the luckless, the abandoned an' forsaked
Tolling for the outcast, burnin' constantly at stake"
To contrast, Lennon/McCartney (or, is it right in egocentric retrospect McCartney/Lennon) hadn't quite reached their peak as wordsmiths:
"I’ll buy you a diamond ring my friend,
If it makes you feel alright,
I’ll buy you anything my friend,
If it makes you feel alright,"
Cute. Catchy. Promising. But certainly not groundbreaking.


Where the hell is this guy?

Halloween in March

It comes March 23: Bob Dylan - Live 1964: Concert at Philharmonic Hall -- The Bootleg Series Volume 6. Columbia records is set to release the all-acoustic, October 31, 1964, Halloween-night concert by Bob Dylan at Philharmonic Hall in New York City.
For fellow fans:
Disc 1
1. The Times They Are A-Changin'
2. Spanish Harlem Incident
3. Talkin' John Birch Paranoid Blues
4. To Ramona
5. Who Killed Davey Moore?
6. Gates of Eden
7. If You Gotta Go, Go Now (Or Else You Got To Stay All Night)
8. It's Alright Ma, (I'm Only Bleeding)
9. I Don't Believe You (She Acts Like We Never Have Met)
10. Mr. Tambourine Man
11. A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall

Disc 2
1. Talkin' World War III Blues
2. Don't Think Twice, It's All Right
3. The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll
4. Mama, You Been On My Mind
5. Silver Dagger
6. With God On Our Side
7. It Ain't Me, Babe
8. All I Really Want to Do

Friday, January 23, 2004

From the files

And now, a sestina, dug from the ancient vaults.

Mimic Escape Over Radio, Through Pictures

Returning through
The late night hours on the radio,
Thinking about the failed escape
With my mind fixed on an ancient picture,
The brown-tinged mimic
Of a life I thought was over.

Here, looking over
The dash, through
The spotted windshield as the highway distances mimic
Water, no radio
Can contend with my mind's absurd picture,
Looking again for an escape.

I think it's time we shall escape.
The nowhere blues aren't even half over
And my eyes rest on the picture
Taken before she'd been through
Too many broken dreams. And on the radio
Play songs for the lonely - heroes we'd like to mimic.

I learned once to mimic
Others' successes. But that was no escape
From long hours staring blank at the radio
Dial, trying for mindlessness over
The soft static. And through
Failures, I see new details in my own picture.

I want to take a picture
Of life, somehow mimic
The grand and the terrible, see through
Faces - smiles and frowns - all trying to escape
That force which drives them. But over and over
Again, time calls, like a forgotten song on the radio.

I want to turn that radio
Loud, and find a picture
That looks like me, but over
The years it faded. I want to mimic
Those desperately seeking an escape
And triumph through

Humor, triumph through my songs played on the radio.
There's no escape - life is written in pictures
That mimic the truth of times long since over.


Planning to go check out the midnight showing of The Goonies at the Catalina. It's been too many years since I've seen what was one of my favorite movies growing up.
There are some random rumors of a Goonies 2 - not sure whether to believe this. I can't imagine the purpose behind concocting some other random adventure 20 years later. Weird stuff.
The Goonies ranks with Stand By Me, Princess Bride, Hoosiers and Back to the Future as my favorites from the mid 80s. I'd be nice if they all get a spin in the midnight slot sometime so I could check out the big-screen experience.

Saturday, January 17, 2004


A roadside bombing Saturday killed three U.S. soldiers about 12 miles north of Baghdad. Now, 500 American lives have been lost in an ill-advised, arrogant campaign. 500.
What's more, three more deaths won't change a damn thing. Read, if you'd like, the apalling machine-like attitude with which the DOD treats the continuing deaths. Sure, each soldier is entitled to full military burial honors, but THEY DIDN'T NEED TO DIE.
Nothing in the course of this war needed to happen. Outright lies, sly insinuations and heavy-handed manipulation of the facts led the United States into this mess. "Mission Accomplished," "Shock and Awe," and "Major Combat" are all a load of bull. It was the campaign of "Bring 'Em On" and "We Got Him," played out with child-like detachment by a child-like president who sees fit to treat the American people as children.


There's no reason that riled me up moreso than 497 or any other figure, other than the 99 cent/odomoter theory. People take notice of big, fat round numbers. Take notice, please. Please turn the reins of this country over to somebody else - somebody remotely qualified - in November. By then it'll be 1,000, or 999.

Thursday, January 15, 2004


Wonderful news: the new Roger Clyne and the Peacemakers album is released Saturday, almost exactly two years after the band came out with Sonoran Hope and Madness, a stunning record. The buzz, locally at least, is very good.
I've always been a big fan of Roger Clyne, a great lyricist and bandleader. The band really thrives on stage and I'm excited for another album mostly to learn a bunch of new songs in anticipation for a live show.
Clyne is known to bust out three and a half hour shows, running through most of his catalogue, including the always-popular Refreshments material. And the covers "American Girl," "Pancho and Lefty," "Rosalita," "Kodochrome," "Train in Vain," "Dukes of Hazzard" are spot on.
On Sonoran Hope and Madness Clyne really started expanding his lyrics, digging more into the dirt and dust of the Southwest and its people. He doesn't hide behind anything but a beer bottle. He's at the same time mystical and cynical: "Give me hope! Ah, sweet madness! Struggle, volcanoes and iron and sadness!" Using "Sonoran" in the title echoes both the wide, sweeping landscapes of Southern Arizona and the dusty magic of the Mexican state. "Ashes of San Miguel" is a heartfelt tale of friendship and nostalgia, "I got the ashes of my best friend in a cremation jar on the shotgun seat of the car." The album's peaks are in the density Clyne achieves writing about his greatest heartaches - the desert, dying beneath the ugly greed of progress ("machines will not make sweeter dreams"), and the loss of friends and the oft-adventurous, oft-liesurely days of youthful exploration ("one last tour through our happy, happy hunting grounds").
Enough words on the old album, I'm itchin' to hear the new one...

Tuesday, January 13, 2004


A paltry 19 percent? Unbelievable. But this wasn't domination, it was a once-in-a-lifetime fluke. It says here that the road victories will continue with this series Feb. 7 in Palo Alto, this time on national TV.

Friday, January 09, 2004

Hoops heaven

Taking the New Year’s shift gives me Saturday off – perfect because I can now watch the Arizona-Stanford game in a proper setting. I plan to join the General (and perhaps the Simpsons) for some pitchers and top-notch basketball.
I can’t for the life of me figure out why there’s minimal national buzz about this game. A match between No. 3 and No. 4? The West Coast’s two premiere programs, a series that is as tight and exciting as any in the country over the last several years and there’s hardly any attention.
It’s on the Web as ESPN’s marquee matchup, but it’s still referred to as just a Pac 10 game. Both these teams will be ranked No. 1 at some time in the year and beat the top one-two punch of any conference in the nation.
Stanford is undefeated and has knocked off a No. 1 team in Kansas. Meanwhile, Arizona’s only loss was by 1 point on the road to the then-No. 1 Florida. Josh Childress, touted in the preseason as Stanford’s top player – although I wouldn’t be too sure of that anymore with Lottich’s 34 points – has just returned to the lineup. But Arizona’s newest – 6 foot 10 Serb Ivan Radenovich – is amazingly multi-faceted and a dream fit for the team.
Look for Olson to outshine Montgomery and the Wildcats to outplay Stanford everywhere it counts – on the break, on the boards, defensive quickness and from behind the arc. And here’s a promise that Andre and Hassan will each – again – deliver stunning highlight reel slams. It wouldn’t be an Arizona game without it.

Tuesday, January 06, 2004

Is downloading the culprit?

The New York Times has an interesting piece on the effects of music file sharing on songwriters who do not perform their music (Songwriters Say Piracy Eats Into Their Pay).
While the basic premise that lower album sales are causing these songwriters financial harms makes perfect sense, the article so oversimplifies the issue it sounds like a well-written RIAA press release.
I doubt anybody would argue that songwriters may have the most to lose of any segment of the music business simply because their pay is almost exclusively limited to royalties. They don’t get concert revenue and don’t sell merchandise like artists, they’re not on salary like the A&R creeps and don’t have stake in multimillion dollar companies like the executives (on whom I’d place the greatest blame for dropping sales.) But while the premise is right on, and an angle rarely mentioned in the press, the scope of the article doesn’t take into account anything but downloading.
The article immediately introduces the “piracy” argument, which unfortunately has become commonplace although it ignores fair use.
"I am hurting," says a 75-year-old composer who made $250,000 in royalties in 2002. His publisher said he drew only about half that in 2003.
Interesting sob story, but Charles Strouse’s big ’02 was due in large part to the enormous success of Jay-Z’s “Hard Knock Life,” which sampled his work from "Annie.” Can’t we presume, perhaps, that the rap album and song containing his sample simply didn’t sell as well another year later? Blaming the “pirates” for the obviously short lifespan of a hit album is a little suspect, especially for a composer who has admittedly “gotten fat off this business.”
I’m skeptical of the reporting in this story because it really does nothing more than extend the RIAA’s hard line argument without exploring anything else and further degrades the concept of popular music into nothing more than another cash-cow for large multinational corporations.
Barton Herbison, executive director of a Nashville-based industry group, says there are half as many songwriters in the country music haven as there were a decade ago. You could easily draw a parallel between that time period and the boom of marginalized, commercialized gloss pouring out of Nashville. Never has country music sold so well or been so popular as when it was at its dumbest and most generic. Pushing big-ticket acts to superstardom with slick production and marketing blitz absolutely tore the heart out of the genre, just as it did with rock ‘n’ roll.
What the executive director says next takes the cake, though:
Illegal downloading "doesn't just affect Garth Brooks. It affects songwriters, it affects every studio in Nashville that's closing, it affects the working musicians. What it ultimately affects is the choice of music the public gets. When I have No. 1 songwriters working other jobs, we're not getting more music."
This is a retread of the RIAA’s bread and butter argument and it’s patently false. Truly passionate musicians and songwriters create their art not for money but because that’s simply what they do. Making a living at it is a bonus, ask any guitar god toiling for free beer and 20 people on a Monday night.
Maybe we can hope Herbison is right about one thing: When the dollars dry up for the songwriters and artists peddling the crap that dominates the airwaves, they’ll go away and leave room for those with actual passion and talent.
The article goes on to quote a rep for the National Music Publishers' Association theorizing that illegal downloading has cost them more than $300 million since 1999. That’s quite a figure, but I’d like to hear just how much favorable speculation went into the calculation.
Still, that’s not the point and what the music industry refuses to consider is the fact that they’re own policies in the 1990s contributes, at least in part, to the drop in album sales.
While there are plenty of places to stick blame in the music industry, (Clear Channel, Ticketmaster, Wal-Mart, etc.) I’m just talking about the recording industry. Five major companies own nearly everything and have increasingly turned their focus to just the immediately successful act. Nurturing artists, or even having the slightest bit of faith in them, is a lost practice. If a debut album can’t go platinum in a month, the company doesn’t throw them jack shit in terms of marketing. So the quality releases from the big 5 are getting less each year, with most of the worthy albums coming from established acts who can’t be toyed with. And, for some reason, those cds cost $18.99? Give me a break.
Music lovers will continue to buy good music. Teeny-boppers will continue to buy over-produced crap from the manipulated, image-oriented acts. But don’t expect music lovers to cross over. When a quality, critically acclaimed act does break through and achieve commercial success as MTV/VH1/radio darlings, they’re often shunned by their fan base (see Dave Matthews Band, Coldplay) because music lovers are so disgusted by the big 5.
I don’t buy the line that downloading is ruining the recording industry. It may hurt the bottom line of corporate profits, but that should not be the only focus of a record company. If downloading (illegal or not) succeeds in breaking the big-business structure, then all the better.

Saturday, January 03, 2004

Outstanding music journalism

My highest recommendations go to Always for the sake of the song, New Miserable Providence and Warren Zevon's Resurrection, three brilliant, touching pieces.

And now a sonnet

To Live Forever

I'd like to speak with Immortality
To ask about the rates. This little time
I have today seems just enough to die.
The need to fall asleep should be a crime
And sickness punished for not being nice.
A legend lives forever and a myth
Will never die. Why can't I just live twice?
You say I'll pay with an unending lisp?
Sir Immortality, you'll give yourself
For such a silly thing? O, I can see
Each sunset, dusk and dawn in perfect health!
I say the world must bow from now to me.
But I remember braces. O the hell!
To lisp forever? Sir, you've lost your sell.

Friday, January 02, 2004

Simply the Best

I’ve spent a recent string of comfortable, yet maddening, slow days at work reading various leftist blogs and scrounging out year in review stuff. After sifting through dozens of Top 10 (or 20, 50, 100) Best Albums lists, I decided to cobble together one of my own. I reckon I’m adequately qualified to produce one in a venue the scale of Catfish Vegas presents… I'll freely admit to a bit of a Zonie slant and the fact that having seen a band put on a great show garners some bonus points. I’ll spare everybody, however, the clever critical blurbs that adorn most lists. I’m sick of reading pretentious rock/indie critics outdo one another for blurb supremacy. Besides, if you’re familiar with the album the description is unnecessary and if you’re not, have fun seeking them out.

And now, at your service, the Official Catfish Vegas presents… Top 20 Albums of 2003

1. Calexico – Feast of Wire
2. Pernice Brothers – Yours, Mine & Ours
3. Format – Interventions and Lullabies
4. Jayhawks – Rainy Day Music
5. Shins – Chutes Too Narrow
6. Weakerthans – Reconstruction Site
7. Postal Service – Give up
8. Warren Zevon – The Wind
9. New Pornographers – Electric Version
10. Okkervil River – Down the River of Golden Dreams
11. White Stripes – Elephant
12. Steely Dan – Everything Must Go
13. Outkast – Speakerboxx/Love Below
14. Crooked Fingers – Red Devil Dawn
15. Clem Snide – Soft Spot
16. A Mighty Wind – Soundtrack
17. Beulah – Yoko
18. Longwave – The Strangest Things
19. Jet – Get Born
20. Kings of Leon – Youth & Young Manhood

Not being rich or a professional music critic, it’s hard to get to some albums in good time even when there’s tremendous reason to do so. Honorable mentions go to the following albums that I either haven’t heard or haven’t heard enough of. I have plenty reason to believe they’re list worthy, either from personal knowledge of previous albums reading lots of praise from reliable sources.
Honorable Mentions, in no particular order:

Fountains of Wayne – Welcome Interstate Managers; Ludacris – Chicken and Beer; Neil Young –Greendale;
Strokes – Room on Fire; Death Cab for Cutie – Transatlanticism; Rapture – Echoes; Decembertists – Her Majesty the Decemberists; Ted Leo/Pharmacists – Hearts of Oak; Iron & Wine – Sea & the Rhythm; Lucinda Williams – World Without Tears; Joe Strummer – Streetcore; Yo La Tengo – Summer Sun; Drive By Truckers – Declaration Day; Rancid – Indestructible; Ryan Adams – Rock ‘n’ Roll/Love is Hell

(With research assistance from In Music We Trust, Rolling Stone, Spin, Pitchforkmedia, the Onion, The New York Times,, BBC online, Zia Records and assorted blogs, and daily and weekly newspapers.)

Ladies and Gentlemen, introducing Catfish Vegas presents...

If only I'd thought of this years ago... Now instead of sending e-mail rants to those who may not particularly care (especially Kip), I can post my musings for consumption by enthusiastic readers. Or one would hope.