Category Archives: Punk Rock Saved My Life

So many times, in so many ways.


I’ve never been one for lyricless music.  The words to a song are more important to me than the actual music.  Often the first thing I connect with when looking for new music is a phrase or word that seems to say something I like.  And I realize I’m not unique in this respect, I just put it out there as background so I can talk about The Octopus Project.

It’s no secret that I’m a huge eMusic fan; the fifteenth of every month is just a great day because that’s when I get to dig through eMusic and see what new albums and bands I can find.  Several months ago, on a friends recommendation, I downloaded The Octopus Project’s “One Ten Hundred Thousand Million” and it kinda sat in the background of my iPod for a few months.  In the meantime, my main job got downsized out from under me, I scrambled and ended up with a new job that gave me some free time and actively encouraged me to study.

What I find is that when I’m studying, I can’t have lyrics.  They just distract me.  And, no offense to any fans out there, but classical and most jazz puts me to sleep.  So I went back to dance music.  I dug up some old Groove Armada and club mixes I had laying around and they worked for a while.  But I wanted something new, something I hadn’t already heard a thousand times.  Which brings us back to TOP and their music.  I started somewhat slowly, adding the track “The Adjuster” to my study mix and letting it soak into my brain stem and it just hasn’t left yet.

Last month, when my eMusic account was refreshed, I picked up “Hello, Avalanche.”  If possible, I like it more than I do the previous album.  The track “Truck” especially is just infectious in its joyousness and I have been known to loop it so that it plays several times in a row.  I’ve set 2006’s “The House of Apples and Eyeballs” for this month’s downloads.  But that’s next month.

In the meantime, here’s the video for “Truck.”  Enjoy.

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Flash Post 6

Here are two links to recent finds of mine on, which I would recommend to the right people, who would be, in turn, in the right frame of mind:

This Is Metal’s Most Covered Moments of the 80s – Particular favorite tracks are  “Fallen Angel” performed by Bret Michaels (of Poison), Kevin Dubrow (of Quiet Riot), Tracii Guns (of L.A. Guns), and Gilby Clarke (formerly of Guns N’ Roses), and “Crazy Train” performed by Dee Snider (of Twisted Sister) and Don Dokken (of Dokken).

The Rocky Horror Punk Rock Show – Standout tracks include “Sweet Transvestite” by Apocalypse Hoboken and “Super Heroes” by Ruth’s Hat.

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Woke up to a cold, grey, rain falling onto my morning. Needed something to beat back the gloom.  Searched through the tunes.  Found what I needed, feel free to sing along:

“Just a small town girl, living in a lonely world!  Took the midnight train going anywhere…”

This amused me so much I put together an 80s playlist for the pod:

  • Journey – Don’t Stop Believin’
  • Adam Ant – Desperate But Not Serious
  • Men At Work – Overkill
  • ‘Til Tuesday – Hush
  • Dexy’s Midnight Runner – Come on Eileen
  • Dire Straits – Sultans of Swing
  • Duran Duran – Wild Boys
  • Pat Benetar – Shadows of the Night

A short list, I know, and not that unusual, but it was what I needed to get the day going.

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Mood Music

When I was younger I made the argument that music could not change someone’s mood. Now that I am older and realize that once again, I was wrong. This morning, I was in a fine mood. I had a bit of a lie-in as I did not have to work until this afternoon. After a while, I strapped on the headphones and headed out to the park for a bit of a walk-around.

In sequence, Urge Overkill’s “The Break”, Social Distortion’s “Story of My Life”, and Jim Carroll’s “People Who Died” came on. By the time the three songs were finished, and they are great songs, each and every one, I was walking three times faster than usual; was thinking about missed opportunities, chances, and friends that are gone, and I just wanted to rage on someone.

I got myself the hell out of the park and back home and put on Barenaked Ladies until I was calmed down.

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Music, eMusic

A couple of weeks ago, a couple of friends told me about a new(ish) music download service they were using called eMusic. I took their advice and signed up for the trial version and then immediately upgraded to a full account, which gives me 90 tracks per month for $20 per month. (Do the math, it is a good deal.)

But I’m not writing to pimp the service today, rather I am writing because one aspect of the service gave me access to a new treasure. EMusic sponsors concerts, which they record and then make available to customers. One such is a Denver concert by Mike Doughty.

In case you don’t recognize the name, Doughty is the former lead singer of Soul Coughing. SC made their name in the mid to late nineties with songs like “Circles” and “Janine”. They split up in ’98 or ’99 and Doughty began putting out solo records. His solo records are good but they lack some of the brilliance of the Soul Coughing records.

In this live performance, Doughty performs with just an acoustic guitar to accompany himself and he does an amazing job of interacting with the crowd. The concert is lively and engaging with the requisite sing-a-longs and audience banter. Doughty performs a good mix of new songs and old favorites from his Soul Coughing days. All in all, a great buy.

And I’m finding that this sets the pattern for eMusic. Through them, I have also gotten into another former front man, this time Frank Black, formerly Black Francis of the Pixies and his recordings “Honeycomb” and “Fast Man / Raiderman”, both of which show what a great songwriter he can be on his own. There are a lot of neo-country songs on the records and some fantastic imagery in his lyrics.

Another find: I have gotten back into Concrete Blonde. Back in the day, they were one of my favorite bands, but they broke up in the late nineties and the various members fell off my musical radar. In the past few years, the Blonde have gotten back together and put out a few new records, with some great songs.

I could go on and on, but, suffice to say, my ears have not been this happy in a while.

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Dance You Mad Crazy Fools

Madonna’s “Hung Up” came over the speakers as I was doing a bit of housekeeping this morning.

Now, while I am not a great fan of Madonna’s, I will be the first to admit that the woman can put a dance track together like almost no one else, and this is a great example.  So, there I am, all six foot, 260 pounds of me, up to my elbows in dishwater, dancing in front of my sink.

Go ahead and laugh.  I’ll wait.

So, when I caught a glimpse of my reflection in the window, my first reaction was one of supreme embarrassment and then, (uh oh, here it comes) I started thinking “why do people get so embarrassed to be seen dancing?”

Like a lot of high school kids, I was too shy to dance and covered it up with sarcasm and, admittedly poor, attempts at humor.  Occasionally, down in the clubs in Mexico, where the dance floor was so crowded no one could really see me, and, let us be honest, I was loosened up by the free flowing availability of Corona and Dos Equis, and I was able to get my dance on.

This gradual loss of un-willingness to be on the dance floor kept up through college and university and into the years beyond but the embarrassment remained; I always felt acutelyself-concious out there, exposed, for everyone to see.

Then, several years ago, in San Diego, things converged* in my mind and I stopped caring.  By the time I got to Japan I was more than willing to get out on the floor at any given opportunity and that has only increased with age and, ahem, maturity.  These days I do not feel embarrassed by my own dancing, I more feel sympathy for those who are still embarrassed by theirs.

This was all further confirmed in my mind by a story that was related to me last night at a party.  One person I know was at a loss for how to continue the conversation during a small dinner party he was hosting in his apartment, so he stood up from his chair, walked into the next room and began dancing.  On his own, by himself, just a way of passing the time and enjoying the evening.  We laughed at the story,** but at the same time, my thought was truly “Hell yeah”.  I admire that kind of balls-out expressiveness*** and I think it should be encouraged more by our collective society.

So, go on, dance.

*1.  Really good dancers don not look down on bad dancers.  Most of
them are more than willing to help out with a few pointers and
generally have a “the more the merrier” attitude.  2.  Dancing is fun
and enthusiasm counts for a hell of a lot on the dance floor.  3.  I
was so incredibly angry at myself for letting embarrassment and
self-conciousness keep me from a good thing and I promised myself that
that was never going to happen again.

**We expanded on the idea by speculating what reactions would be if, as teachers, we were to enter the classroom dancing and to actually use dances in our lessons.  For example, there were several popular dances a few years back based on everyday activities – mowing the lawn, the grocery cart, the sprinkler, so why not a few dance moves based on teaching – turn the page, work together, listen/repeat.  Anyway, we thought it was funny.

***One of my favorite memories from working at NOVA was in between classes one day, one teacher was listening to a Daft Punk CD and, during his favorite song, while standing up to gather his materials for the next class, began dancing.  Another teacher, just walking in from lunch paused just inside the door, saw him dancing, heard the music and just joined him without ever saying a word or expressing any surprise.  She just took it in and started dancing with him.  It was perfect.

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My Current Favorite Sad Song

Rufus Wainwright does an excellent cover of Leonard Cohen’s “Chelsea Hotel No. 2” on the soundtrack to the biography / performance film “Leonard Cohen: I’m Your Man”.

This particular song is one of Cohen’s more poetic sets of lyrics set to sparse accompaniment, as per Cohen’s usual style. The song is a love poem that tells of a memory of an encounter and goes on to close with:

I don’t mean to suggest that I loved you the best,

I can’t keep track of each fallen robin.

I remember you well in the Chelsea Hotel,

that’s all, I don’t even think of you that often.

In this particular performance, Wainwright sings the above verse with a bit of a question, almost as it he is trying to convince himself that the lie is true.

While I am a fan of Leonard Cohen, this was never one of my favorites until I heard Wainwright’s version, which hit me like the proverbial hammer right between the ears and refuses to leave. There is just something about the bitter nostalgia inherent in his performance that reminds me, and all of us, I guess, of times that we hold close to our hearts with a bittersweet poignace that would be lost on any outside observer.

It is this quality, this willingness to be co-opted by the listeners own experience; the way the song acts as a reminder while being constrained by a specific, even explicit set of lyrics that somehow lets the listener replace the songs images with their own, is the heart of this song.

Which makes it, of course, a great song.

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