Driftless Euphonious Fancy
In which I’ll be randomly touching upon some of the music that’s been heard wafting through the hot summer air recently Chez Flippy Floppy:
Lily Allen: Alright, Still (Regal Zonophone UK, 2006)
She’s a young and witty Brit chick, who despite her young age seems to have had a series of truly rotten relationships with boys. And she’s taken the opportunity of her debut album to exact her revenge publicly on all of them. There’s something addictive about Ms. Allen’s summery brand of slightly reggae-flavored pop and her acid-tongued wit. She drops the f-bomb within the first few seconds of the first track “Smile” (already a #1 hit in the UK), but does so in such a pleasant manner, you want to swoon and sing along. There’s an edge here similar to the music of The Streets that keeps it fresh and sets it apart from the rest of the drab pop scene. Alright, Still is really a rare case of all thrill and no fill, from "Smile" to the last track "Alfie" a loveable ode to her weed-smoking little brother. The songs are pure mean fun and catchier than mad cow disease. Let’s hope Ms. Allen never finds a guy to treat her right, so we can continue to be delighted by her cleverly original dis-o-rama. Rating 9/10.
R.E.M.: Life’s Rich Pageant (IRS, 1986)
If I had to pick one R.E.M. album, this would be it. At one point I was pretty into Georgia’s finest, but have given up lately due to a series of albums that seemed to serve no purpose except for to put me to sleep. I hadn’t really listened to Life’s Rich Pageant in quite a few years, but happened upon a used copy at a thrift store the other day. Wow! I forgot how much it really rocks. This is the band at their creative peak, musically and lyrically with one highlight after another: “Begin the Begin”, “These Days”, “Fall On Me”. Michael Stipe was still hot back then, all pouty lips and big curly mane. In a way, it was the end of an era of American indie rock – the band went for the big guns with Warner Brothers after this – and things just haven’t felt the same since.
The Mountain Goats: Get Lonely (4AD, 2006)
I’ve been a fan of indie label 4AD since back in the glory days of effluvia and dark miasma. For a long time, I would automatically purchase anything the label released, even without listening to a note, because anything 4AD was guaranteed to hit my pleasure center in one way or another. When the Mountain Goats released their first album, Tallahassee, for the label a few years back, I was a little on the disappointed side, unable to hear any of the familiar gauzy, artsy elements I had come to expect. Here was a man plaintively crooning atop not much more than an acoustic guitar. It sounded suspiciously dry, like it was recorded direct-to-boombox. I just didn’t quite get it. I wasn’t expecting much when the next Mountain Goats album, We Shall All Be Healed hit the shelves, but decided to give it an open-minded listen. The sound was quite a bit more welcoming and lush, fleshed out with a full band and even strings. Finally, I began to hear the charm and wit in John Danielle’s sometimes horrifically autobiographical lyrics. Much to my surprise, it became one of my favorite albums of the year. The next release, The Sunset Tree, was similar in feel and just as engaging. This year’s offering, Get Lonely, strips the sound back a bit and feels gorgeous and delicate, whereas Tallahassee sounded a bit raw and harsh. It’s another fine Mountain Goats album, full of Darnielle’s many sharp observations about life and one-liners that make you unsure if you want to laugh or cry. It’s impossible not to relate your own life to his vivid word paintings. Perhaps, the only drawback to Get Lonely is the feeling of saminess that creeps on after about half the album, partially due to the return to simpler acoustic pastures. Rating: 7/10
Justin Timberlake: “Sexy Back” - single (Jive, 2006)
A little shocking first time through, like “oh, no, Justin goes electroclash!” Then it starts to seem really cheesy, like some kind of retro nineties rave thing. Mr. Timberlake has never sounded so white, but then again he says he’s channeling David Bowie and David Byrne here, two other white guys known for their occasional forays into funk. “Sexy Back” seems like a Timbaland rush job, a quickie beat and that farty, repetitive synth hook. I was intrigued at first listen, but the more I hear it, the less groundbreaking it seems and the more nerve shattering it becomes. Fact: it sounds much better when Mik-n-Mac’s DJ Jason switches up the BPM on it just enough to take it from plodding to scorcho. Rating 6.5/10
Christina Aguilera - Ain't No Other Man - single (RCA, 2006)
I always thought this chica rose to the surface of the foam in the big pop music cappucino - she can really sing. On this, the first single from her new double CD, Miss Thing belts it out harder than she even did on "Lady Marmalade", and that's saying something. Her vocal acrobatics come from the gut and are entertaining and genuine, never irritating like the multi-ocatave hysterics of Mariah Carey, for example. The beat is fast and the horns are bright and punchy, evoking a jazz nightclub from the forties filled with well-dressed pimps and hos. Xtina really has her own style - unlike so many other pop tarts these days, she doesn't have to rely on her big name producer (although DJ Premier does a bang-up job here) to create a hit for her. Her voice stands well enough on its own and even if she sang "99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall" to a Casio beat, it would still sound earth-shatteringly hot. Rating 8/10
John Waters' "Mondo Trasho" - Final Scene
Tribute to a Lost Friend: Byron Card
In the wee hours of Tuesday morning, July 18, our dear friend Byron Card took his own life in a park in Spokane
. The circumstances that led to this act are still fuzzy, and everyone that knew him is in a state of sadness and shock.
Byron was truly one of the most delicate, gentle people I have ever had the pleasure of knowing. One of his worst fears was offending someone, and he would go out of his way to preface even the vaguest of off-color commentary with apologies. He was a quite shy at times, always proper, always poised, sensitive and kind-of easily embarrassed but able to laugh it off. He was refreshingly free of games and bullshit. He was a small-town boy deep inside and no matter how debauched things got, he could never shed his charming layer of innocence and naivety. He would often find amazement in things that most people would deem as mundane and overlook. He was one of the only people I’ve known who made it into his 30’s without ever sitting behind the wheel of a car – I guess he just never felt the need to get a driver’s license. Other people’s needs seemed to always take priority above his own, and he was glad to oblige. Byron was the quiet mousey type at the party who would suddenly become the center of attention, instigating everyone to follow his example and do something a little naughty. His skills as a hairstylist were legendary in CDA. It was something he really enjoyed doing, and it showed in his work. From men’s buzz cuts to women’s glamorous up-dos to lesbian mullets, he worked them all with panache and his customers were always happy. So many nights, someone would sashay into the bar proudly showing off their fabulous new Byron ‘do. Recently he had taken his career to the next level with a gig at a chi-chi salon in downtown Spokane, and by all reports he loved his new position. In the last couple of days, I’ve heard several friends say they’ll never cut their hair again now that he’s gone to that big fabulous salon in Heaven.
Byron was never purposely flamboyant, but was cursed with effeminacy. He was out and proud as possible, but ultimately wanted to just blend in and be regular guy. He didn’t dress outrageously, usually preferring a pair of snug Levis and a t-shirt and those legendary, ever-present penny loafers. (God, the shoes! The shoes we loved to hate, god bless 'em! They ought to be bronzed – we can’t let them end up at Goodwill or something terrible like that.) Unfortunately, his gentle and effeminate nature was apparently a threat to the masculinity of many insecure North Idahoan assholes. I’ll never understand why Byron always seemed to get the rough end of this particular stick more than the rest of us. He was often harassed and taunted, even mugged on the street once simply because of the way he walked or spoke. There was the time he rudely called "faggot" and was pushed violently off the stage at the club while dancing and minding his own business. His reaction was to not react but to simply vacate, never coming back with a well-deserved “fuck off”, never throwing a punch or scratching out eyeballs. He was above all that, choosing to remain poised and ignore them. Sadly, you could tell that it did sometimes bother him in a core way, eventually choosing to avoid a lot of public appearances entirely as to not end up in a potential situation. In the last few years, Byron had seemed to have resigned himself to be a homebody, leaving the scene to suffer from his absence.
Again, right now all we have to go by is speculation as to why he chose to end his life in such a tragic manner. What we can be sure of is that delicate Byron was suffering from extreme heartbreak. Heartbreak is the bleakest of afflictions and it often seems there is no way out from under its dark spell. Indeed, there are two ways: one is simply the passage of time and the other is the unfortunate way Byron chose. I have felt heartbreak in many different forms but it’s hard for me to fathom a broken heart so bad that it would lead to the decision to end it all. His was such a huge heartbreak that it's as if it shattered when he died, creating dozens of new heartbreaks in the hearts of those who loved and cared about him.
Normally, I’m not remotely religious, and maybe I’ve read too many metaphysical books, but I’d like to believe in the idea of fate and that perhaps we are all pre-destined to die in a manner that we choose before we’re even born. Some of us are here only long enough to serve our purpose, or learn our lesson, or serve as a lesson to others, or whatever it may be, then we’re gone, “crossed over” as they say and then perhaps we return to live out an entirely different scenario, and the cycle repeats. It’s too early to tell what the ultimate reason or purpose was for Byron’s relatively short stay here in this lifetime, but I know in my bones that at the very least his positive light will forever shine in the memories of those who knew him.
I hope it's not in poor taste to end this tribute with a Blondie quote, but I know Byron would appreciate it: “Die young, stay pretty." In other words an early death brings eternal youth, and we will continue on aging through the years, suffering the ravages of time and tide, while dear Byron will forever remain in our minds pert, gorgeous, and fabulous as ever.
PS You can read Brian Hardison's thoughts and memories of Byron here.
If you knew Byron and would like to pay your respects and share memories, a memorial is being held at Mik-n-Mac's on Sunday, July 20 at 2PM.
Restaurant Review: Joey's Smokin' BBQ
Joey's Smokin' BBQ
2350 Old Mill Loop
Coeur d'Alene, ID
I probably would’ve never noticed this little joint if my Dad hadn’t given me a coupon good for $5 off, which was given to him by one of his golfing buddies. We drove down into Riverstone and found the place next to Starbucks in the same strip as the movie theater. For some reason, I always get a cheap thrill visiting Riverstone businesses, like I’m taking a mini vacation to some new town I’ve never been to. It was lunchtime and the place was hopping with nurses in their ugly floral scrubs and shiny-haired realtors with their clients. All the tables outside were full, but it was too hot for outside dining anyway, so we grabbed the last little table inside. It’s really a tiny place, but it seemed to fit a lot of people comfortably. There’s even a little bar area with the sports channel on the TV, and a selection of local beers on tap.
Apparently, this is the second in what looks to become a chain of Joey's restaurants. A Google search revealed that the original Joey’s is located in Carlsbad, California and swiftly created a buzz with their “award winning” recipes. Their menu offers standard BBQ fare, including large portions of ribs and beef brisket, along with pulled pork sandwiches, all served with sides of fresh coleslaw. Being on a limited budget, we opted for the classic cheeseburger and fries. $6.99 seems like kind-of a lot of money for a burger, but it ended up being worth every cent. Joey’s unique BBQ sauce made ketchup unnecessary on this huge homestyle burger smothered in real sharp cheddar and served on a soft Kaiser-style bun with all the fixins: fresh lettuce, tomato, onion and a dill pickle spear. The fries were hot and crispy and cooked with the skin-on, the way I like‘em.
Service was fast and friendly despite the fact it was lunch rush and they seemed to be working on a bare-bones staff – one cashier/server and one cook. I’ll definitely return soon to try some of the heartier fare.
Ambience: 8 / Food:9 / Service:9
Photo Montage: "Fork Of July"
Photos by Patrick July 4, 2006
Romeo Void is a band I was aware of ("Never Say Never"), but never really thought twice about. At some point I picked up a cassette compilation titled Warm, In Your Coat
at a thrift shop, but I never got around to listening to it until recently, when it became a random grab on my way out the door one day. Yes, old-fashioned cassette tapes still get played in my Toyota. Anyway, I was delightfully surprised to learn that I love Romeo Void. They are a bit darker than I had remembered, almost a bit goth. In fact, this track, thier very first single - "White Sweater"(1981) - reminds me a bit of an old Siouxsie and the Banshees gem or something. Deborah Iyall's stream-of-conciousness lyrics and semi-detached vocals glow nicely atop a mess of chugging dry new wave guitar. An enjoyable post-punk stomper complete with Psych Furs sax. Nice one - another lost classic.
Flexible Records July 2006 - The Murders / Ungleich
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