Monday, February 25, 2013

Pearl Jam - Ten

It was not “heavy” enough for metal heads. It was not “alternative” enough for the grunge crowd. It was not “mainstream” enough for Billboard (until sales could no longer be ignored). And even today, it’s not Pearl Jammy enough for the hardcore Pearl Jam fans that think the record was an overly-produced stadium rock record, which is how some members of the band feel about it. In the history of alternative music, Pearl Jam's Ten is itself a misfit.


Rick Parashar produced Ten in 1991 and it has sold almost ten million copies, most of which were purchased in an era marked by free file-sharing or single-song platforms such as iTunes. The album is impressive in sheer numbers alone.

But I don’t measure a record’s impact by its sales figures. Few albums transcend music and tie me emotionally to the art the way Ten has. The arrival of the Seattle sound of the early 1990s coincided with the arrival of my adulthood, bringing both the exhilaration and fear of that time. Many records take me back into the past. Blues for the Red Sun by Kyuss is one such recording which I talked about here. The personal impact of Pearl Jam’s Ten is hard to describe because it goes beyond the music. Sure, the vocal stylings of Eddie Vedder have been lampooned and early Pearl Jam spawned a decade of worthless douchebags trying to cash in on it. But before all of that happened, Ten defined a generation. Nirvana gets most of the credit for crystalizing and defining what it means to be part of Generation X, but Pearl Jam did the heavy lifting. Vedder put such emotion into the music that it’s not hard to figure out why Pearl Jam is one of the few bands around that survived that era. His angst and raw delivery was something I could identify with in my early 20s, raging one moment, as in "Why Go", and deeply troubled in another, as in "Jeremy". Being about the same age, I felt like I was friends with Vedder through the music and related to his often cryptic and dark lyrics. Parashar brought an ethereal quality to the recordings which you can hear if you listen closely. The reverb on Dave Krusen’s floor toms is spectacular while Stone Gossard’s combination of Strat and Wah nod to Hendrix in a way that is respectful rather than imitative. Jeff Ament’s bass holds it all together with Mike McCready’s textures floating throughout.

Thousands of words have been written about this band and thousands more about this record. I’m not saying anything you haven’t heard before. I recently listened to Ten from start to finish and I felt transported back to 1992 when I was chasing a girl (still my wife), wrestling with thoughts of doubt and uncertainty about my livelihood (still do), and feeling that paradoxical struggle between childhood and adulthood.

I hope you have your own Pearl Jam Ten, a recording that makes you smile, warms your heart, and tugs at your core, reminding you why music matters.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Who’s Your Founding Father, baby?

Nothing gets me in the mood for President’s Day like watching Abe and George breakin’ off a little Autotune for y’all.



In celebration of Founding Father’s Day, I thought I’d share a few epic misconceptions and misperceptions surrounding our nation’s early history. Special shout out to my homey, Ray Raphael and his fly book, Founding Myths: Stories That Hide Our Patriotic Past.

The legend of Paul Revere’s Ride was invented by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow in 1861 and he got most of the story wrong.
The cruel, cold Winter at Valley Forge in 1777 was milder than normal and contrary to stories about the “brave soldiers sacrificing for their cause”, mutinous uprisings became a real problem for General Washington; the Newburg Conspiracy being one example.

Thomas Jefferson copped the ideas for the Declaration of Independence almost directly from George Mason’s Virginia Declaration of Rights. Most high school English teachers would have nailed that punk for plagiarism.

Patrick Henry’s line, “Give me liberty or give me death!” was written thirty years after his famous speech by William Wirt who was not present when the words we’re supposedly spoken. Wirt could not find anyone that was there when Henry spoke.

I’m not even going to touch the “Christian Nation” myth. We’ll leave that for another day. Now go out there and celebrate our nation’s lies with good deals on cars and mattresses. It’s what Abe would have wanted.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Rocking Chair on the Range

I don't care if it's a parody.
Sometimes I despise my own cynicism. Seriously, why can’t I just enjoy what corporate America rams down my throat instead of picking it apart like an adolescent shithead? Probably because I am an adolescent and now I’m a manic one, talking to myself on my blog.

But my neurosis is not the point here. At least not the main one. The point is how vibrant and fresh things are in the music biz right now. Take, for example, Rock on the Range. The festival held in my state of Ohio (city of C-bus) on May 17th, 18th and 19th is probably the closest we’ll get to those beautiful metal festivals in Europe. Some of the bands on the lineup for Rock on the Range 2013 are The Sword, Lamb of God, In Flames, Clutch, and Ghost B.C. (formerly known as just Ghost before the lawyers got involved).

Some of the other bands on the lineup for Rock on the Range 2013 are Three Days Grace, Papa Roach, Sick Puppies, Bush, and Steel Panther. Really?

Did I mention that weekend tickets are ONLY $149 before Ticketmaster fees and $170.95 after? Looking at the “headliners” (copy/pasted from Lollapalooza 92) I now understand why Eddie Vedder isn’t dragging his boys to the “Range”.

Monday, February 4, 2013

#KickassKleveland - Pat Butler

Pat Butler used to get high on a daily basis before budget cuts pulled him from the helicopter where he called out traffic like highway bingo for WKYC. Now, he does it from behind a big monitor. Pat is also a guitarist and front man for the local rock band, SIGNAL 30. I met him years ago when SIGNAL 30 and Threefold Law began playing the same clubs in Cleveland. In addition to a cadre of massive amp cabinets, Pat travels through Cleveland with a six pack of tacos.

Who would be more likely to win a wrestling match with a bear, Russ Mitchell or Kris Pickel?
Can't answer this one. I really don't know either of them personally. I met Russ briefly when he came to town though. He seems to be a super nice guy.

Do you get paid more if the traffic is worse?
I wish. I barely get paid anything as it is. I should've gone into computers. My uncle John used to always tell me that computers are the future!

How did you get from the mean streets of Parma to WKYC?

I just kind of fell into traffic reporting. We started our own traffic department at the radio station years ago, and I overheard the Program Director mentioning that he hadn't received any decent demo tapes yet.

I was working in the promotions department at the time, and I asked him if the traffic gig would pay more than what I was making. He said yes, so I told him I'd hand him a demo by the end of the day. You can figure out the rest.

When I was growing up I loved staying up late listening to college radio in my bedroom. When I was finishing HS, I applied to John Carroll solely because I wanted to do a radio show at 88.7. I was lucky enough to get my foot in the door at Clear Channel while I was finishing up my Communications degree. I always hoped to host my own show at some point, but Traffic is a decent job. It beats digging holes, in the rain, in 10 degree weather, with a bad back.

What falls from a helicopter faster, a ten pound watermelon or a ten pound water balloon?
I don't know for sure, but I bet a 160 lb. white boy beats both of them.

What's the future of terrestrial radio? TV?
The kids today have no idea. No idea of how good radio used to be. A lot of the personality, creativity, and spontaneity is gone. So, as they grow up, they won't even know what they're missing.

People will always need some kind of local input though, so I can't imagine it going away entirely. Things will just get more and more homogenized. I'm really not much of a TV watcher. Is Gimme a Break still on? That was a sweet show.

What do your amps go to?
Each of them? Or all of them collectively? Have I mentioned that I have really shitty hearing? Reallllly shitty hearing.

Why Cleveland?
I'm too lazy to pack up all my crap. Plus, I love Dollar Dog nights at Tribe games!

Where can folks see you?
You're guaranteed to catch me on the toilet at 2PM daily. Like clockwork.
Or on Ch. 3 in the early morning. Or on a stage with SIGNAL 30. Or eating tacos on Tuesday nights.

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