Thursday, May 31, 2007

Happy Birthday "Bonzo"

Last year, around this time I posted about John Bonham's birthday. I was out driving around (probably going to or from work) and I was listening to Alice Cooper's radio show, having a good time--when he played "Moby Dick" by Led Zeppelin to celebrate Bonham's birthday. If you've never heard this song (you're lame) it's this really kick ass instrumental...basically metal's version of "Wipeout" (if you don't know "Wipeout" you are sad...sad...sad). On the track, Bonham beats the shit out of his drums...FOR A REALLY LONG TIME!!! According to Wikipedia, Bonham once played his signature tune for 30 MINUTES in concert!!! Sometimes this caused his hands to bleed!!! If that's not Rock, I don't know what is. Incidentally, the song is on the album LED ZEPPELIN II (but I'm sure you already new that).

Anyway, I don't have many rituals/traditions...but I've decided that as long as I have a blog, every May 31 will be "John Bonham Day." So, that said: Happy Birthday John! For more information, turn on a classic rock station once and a while!!! Or Wiki him, you can read all about his sad death there. Or you can check out last year's post:

Rock on!

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

4:00am Thinking and a Guitar Hero Brag

Pros of my new job:

1. Easy (all I do is walk around)
2. Exercise (8 hours of walking and climbing stairs)
3. Money ($10.50 an hour, $15.75 overtime)
4. I don't have to deal with anyone

Cons of my new job:

1. Blisters on my feet (full of blood)
2. I spoke 3 times last night...
3. Creepy, giant buildings
4. I spend most of the night making sure no one breaks into my car

The best part is also the worst part--I don't have to deal with anyone. Not a soul. I spend 8 hours with me, myself, and I. This is good because, I don't have anyone breathing down my neck/watching me. This is bad, because like I told Leah tonight, "At 4:00am...when you're all alone, all you can do is think..." And let me tell you, at 4:00am you really don't think of anything good. At least, I don't.

So, rather than agonize over my career choices/options...and my impending graduation/marriage...I'm taking a pocket radio. Back in 2003-2004 when I worked the graveyard shift I found solace in talk radio. I guess the voices are there's someone there with me. There's a show on 710AM called "Coast to Coast AM" that's really good at sucking away time. It's a UFO/conspiracy/end-of-the-world show. Crackpots call in/come one and talk about Big Foot and how he masterminded 9/11. Good times.

Next time you find yourself awake at 3:00am, think of me.

I should be reading/writing...but I'm so damn tired, I don't feel like doing anything. Anything, that is, but play some Guitar Hero. It's great for that 1/2 hour I have between my 9:30pm shower and my 10:00pm commute downtown. As I've stated previously, my save file became corrupt, so I've been replaying the game. Today I finished the "Medium" difficulty (I tired finishing the game on "Hard" but it got impossible 24 songs in). I played "Free Bird" and damn near broke my wrist at an attempt at 100% (didn't make it, Leah called and Bo-bo (my cat) distracted me). Still, anyone who's played it will tell you--"Free Bird" is tough, and I'm proud of this score:

Damn near hit 300,000 time!!!

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

First Night at work & My Nasty Obsession with Pop Music

So I'm up...finally. My new, vampire-like work habits really bite (pun intended). I was so sleepy when I got home this morning, I could barely drive. But I made it, and tonight should be better now that I'm SORTA ready for staying up. Yesterday I wasn't ready, not at all. I tried to take a nap a few hours before leaving for work...but when you're not used to napping at 7:00 at night...well, I just laid there in my bed. I eventually got up and called Leah.

Last night was boring. Since nothing really changed at my old post, I knew more than the guy training me (he's been there all of 60 days). He wasn't an idiot (read: he was only 1/2 a moron), he turned out to be a fellow college student (UMKC)...but he and I were not on the same page...Let's just say, this fellow and I got along great because I know how to keep my mouth shut (yes Leah, I do know how to do that).

Apparently I require 16 hours of "training," but I've been told that I may be going solo tonight (please God, let that be the case) because of my 2 years previous experience at this post. The OVERTIME BEGINS!!! I've already signed up for an extra 24 hours for next week. I MUST HAVE MORE!!! MORE!! MORE I SAY!!!

Can you tell I need money?

In other news, I deleted my iTUNES/MP3's yesterday. I have my C-drive partitioned...and the side with all my tunes was so full I couldn't defrag it. The reason I had so much music on my 'puter is that I was living far from my CD's...BUT now that I'm home (and we are reunited) I opted to clean house. So now my laptop is insanely empty. Go figure. I've never counted, but I imagine I have a few hundred CD's...where am I going to stick this in our new apartment I have no idea...

Monday, May 28, 2007

New Star Wars!

Here's a link to see a teaser for the new all CGI TV series:


The end of a weekend...the start of a week...

Well I'm back home in KC! I had a good time with Leah in St. Louis (as always). We ran into some trouble at her parents house (icky sewage coming up the drain pipe). It was gross, so we ended up staying a night in a hotel! It was cool.

I got home, had some dinner...had my mom hem up my uniform (the pants were so long they covered my shoes completely), then I messed around with my computer (fixing some issues I've been having for a while big deal). Now I'm exhausted!!! I'm going to bed--I have to be up at 9:00pm to make it downtown by 10:45pm tonight! Yes folks, it's my first night of work (happy happy, joy joy!).

Anyway, here are some pics from this weekend--I have some movies to post...but that takes FOREVER and I'm too tired. Maybe tomorrow?

The view from our room:

Us in the hotel elevator:

We went to the Delmar Loop for was good (as usual):

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Kings of Leon

Just got back from the Kings of Leon show! It was great, me and Leah had a really good time. There were three bands: The Features, Snowden, and then The Kings of Leon. The Features were a lot like Kings of Leon--garage rock with a dash of southern rock thrown in. Leah liked them a lot (more than Kings of Leon, if you ask me). Then Snowden came on, they were...meh. Nothing to write home about. I didn't really care much for them, to be honest. They were kinda boring. Typical Snowden song: boring intro, boring/monotonous droning lyrics, then after about four minutes all four of them would go ape shit and make a TON of racket at the end (thus getting the crowd all riled up so they'd clap at the end of their "song"). In short, they were crappy.

Then at a little after 10:00 Kings of Leon came on. They opened with a song I wasn't familiar with (new record, which I'm going to have to get tomorrow). It was pretty good, in fact, all the new songs sounded really good. I was surprised because I'd heard mixed things about the new record (screw the critics). Anyway, they played pretty much all the songs I wanted to hear: "Soft" (which is about not being able to "get it up," this song has one of my all time favorite lines: "I'm passed in your garden/I'm in but can't get off/soft") also played was "California Waiting," "Trani," "Kick the Bucket," "Molly's Chamber," "Spiral Staircase," and "Milk." Most of the set list was culled from the band's second album AH SHAKE HEARTBREAK, which made me happy becuase that's my favorite from the band's catalogue.

The staging was well done, they had a pretty light display...woo...colors...and they had these pictures of light bulbs (from the new records art work). They were kinda strange, but made for a nice effect with the multicolored lights. Once again, I have to say that I love The Pageant. I've yet to go and see a concert there and have a bad experience. They always have the sound just right.

So, despite a crappy second band (try again Snowden), tonight's show was awesome. Can't wait to pick up the band's new record--and I can't wait to see them again.

For those of you that are interested, here's a taste of what you missed:

Friday, May 25, 2007

Friday Video Blog

Guitar Hero 3

I am so excited! Activision just announced a partial track list for the new Guitar Hero game. Take a gander:

* Paint It Black (by The Rolling Stones)
* Cherub Rock (by The Smashing Pumpkins)
* Sabotage (by The Beastie Boys)
* The Metal (by Tenacious D)
* My Name is Jonas (by Weezer)
* Knights of Cydonia (by Muse)
* Rock And Roll All Nite (as made famous by KISS)
* School's Out (as made famous by Alice Cooper)
* Slow Ride (as made famous by Fog Hat)
* Cult of Personality (by Living Colour)
* Barracuda (as made famous by Heart)

"School's Out" and "Rock and Roll All Nite" are no-brainers (why weren't they in the FIRST game?!?). What really surprises me, though, is inclusion of THE GREATEST ROCK BAND EVER: Tenacious D!!! Holy Shit!!! Rock on Jack, rock on...Also, Activision announced that the guitar controller will be WIRELESS this time straight out of the box. Nice.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

The Moz Man Cometh

In case you haven't noticed, I've been in a funk since school ended. I'm not calling it a depression, per say...

It's the lack of activity (which should be over tomorrow thank God! after my re-orientation). I'm sure tonight's Morrissey show at the Uptown will cheer me up. After all, no one is more depressed than Moz. He's made millions singing about teenage anxiety and as pop musics #1 outcast. It's been since March since I've been to a show, so I'm excited...but I wish I wasn't going alone. There's two reasons that I must: 1. Leah HATES Morrissey (her loss) and 2. I have no friends (or, the ones I do have either don't go to concerts or have no money/live far away). So I'm flying solo tonight, which I've done before (twice before actually--The Bravery and Franz Ferdinand).

I've been staying up really, really late lately (went to bed the last three nights at 4:00AM) I'm a little worried about waking up tomorrow and getting downtown by 9:00AM. Anyway, after tonight I'm going to be a much busier person...and that should make me feel better. Hopefully I'll be able to put a video blog Friday.


"Everyday is Like Sunday":

Just got back from the show, it was great! I had a little trouble getting to the Uptown (stupid construction) but made it in time. The dudes back catalogue of songs is so huge...he couldn't possibly play ALL the songs I wanted to hear--but I was surprised at how many I was like "Oh wow, he's playing that...I forgot all about that song/I'm glad he's doing that one." Some older Smiths stuff and a bunch of the latest record ('natch). His backing band was fantastic, too...he had a trumpet player! Awesome.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Disgusting Fantasy

I'm upset with myself right now. Today I went out to Longview lake and took a walk with my sister Amber. While we were out there, we got to talking...and my disgusting fantasy dominated the conversation. For some reason, for the past two days--I've had this idea about winning the lottery. Not a lot, which is weird because you think I'd dream "big" here...but all that keeps popping in my head is $20,000.

Basically: I get the $20 grand, say "fuck you" to my job (if they ever let me actually WORK), pack a bag and go live on a beach somewhere (you know where) until this whole "summer thing" blows over.

How sick is that?

What's worse, though, is that I KNOW this can't happen. SO instead I figured out a way to STILL live my fantasy: I could just work my ass off for a year...then quit and be a beach bum. I could see myself doing that, just working every few years then vanishing. Of course, I know that I can't do that (thank you Leah (just kidding)). But it's still makes me sick that I could even think about doing such a thing. What about school? What about writing? The fact that I could (happily) shrug off everything in my life (other than Leah and maybe Rusty) and live such a meaningless life bothers me.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Jason Misses Leah--Makes Outlandish Snack to Quench Sorrow

Wasting Time with "Funny Books" turns out I'm not going to work until AFTER this Thursday!!! Apparently my company wants me to go through orientation AGAIN!!! Something about policy changes (last time I went through it was 2003). Even though I didn't have to do this last summer...whatever. I'm sad that I won't be making money this week, but it's cool because I get to attend the Morrissey show on Wednesday night after all.

Also, I'm happy because I have a little project I really wanted to start working on. This past weekend I was in St. Louis visiting Leah (as you know) and we ended up going to the Delmar Loop (really cool strip of Delmar road...lots of nice little shops/places to eat). Well we went to Star Clipper, which is this cool comic book shop (where I picked up the latest issue of Hellboy). Afterwords me and Leah got to talking, and I told her about how a few summers ago I worked on this comic book.

It was great (or so I remember) but I threw it out's a comic book AND I can't draw all that well. Plus, I didn't figure anyone would ever want to see it. Yeah, I was stupid. Anyway, it featured these two characters George and Timmy. George is basically me, loser/nerdy guy that always wears Hawaiian print. Timmy was a dinosaur (that may or may not exist). Well, when I told her about it, she got a little excited and said "that's what I want for my birthday! Make me a comic book."

So, that's what I'm doing. I got up and took a walk and by the time my 30 minutes around the block were over--I had the plot. My book is going to be called "George and Timmy RETURN!" Rather than pick up where I left off, I'm going to pretend that the two were off fighting the dreaded "Mutant Martian MoleMen." The new book will pick up with them getting back to Earth (much like Aqua Teen Hunger Force, my "George and Timmy" characters always boasted about doing great things...but all I ever showed them doing were really mundane, everyday type activities). The whole thing is also a (sorta) spoof of the latest Superman movie (get it?).

Thinking that I would encounter "roadblocks" Leah told me that whenever I got stuck, I was supposed to include something she would like. Well...I'm a writer, so I had no trouble coming up with something. HOWEVER, since it is Leah's present, I made my plot revolve around a zebra (she loves zebras). My zebra turns into a monster when it consumes too much french bread pizza.


It's like that.

Here are some early drawing I did today (after BLANK-Guard fucked me over and made we wait almost another week to work...grr...grrr...):

Yes friends, that's a "psychobra" (a psycho zebra).

UPDATE: Just finished coloring the cover, Leah. To be honest though, I feel a bit like Napoleon Dynamite...drawing "Ligers" and such...

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Big, Metal, Weird...

Just got back from St. Louis, I'm really glad that I got a chance to go and see Leah one last time. We had a pretty good time, yesterday we had dinner with her father...and went to this really cool statue park (Laumeier Park over by Highway "Farty-Four"). I usually don't go for "modern art," but this place was really cool:

That metal egg was really, really HOT!!


This was supposed to be some kind of metal tree...

This one is a life-size mock up of a sugar molecule

This kitty was a bench!

I think this statue of Leah is the most realistic thing we saw...

If you're ever in the area, you should go and check it out.

Also, thanks Becky for letting me bum a ride with you!! It was great being home again (even if it was just for the weekend).

Friday, May 18, 2007

Friday Video Blog--Goodbye Bellerive

I wanted to post this last week...but I was busy and I forgot. SO, here it is: the very last time I was ever in my dorm. I'll miss living there and (some) of the people. Overall it was a good experiance...was it worth the $24,000???

I don't know about that...

UPDATE: I just posted an excerpt from my (slightly) un-finished short story "The Gossamer Trunk." Go check it out at my other blog:

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Favourite Worst Nightmare

The British are coming! The British are coming!

I feel like we might be experiencing a second British Invasion. The last three albums I’ve purchased have been by new British artists. What’s the source of all this new found Brit-love? I have no idea, but I love it. Last year The Arctic Monkeys charmed critics the world over with their colorful, working class rock. The band is back with their second album, FAVOURITE WORST NIGHTMARE.

Now, when the word about his band hit my ears—I got excited. I remember seeing a story about them on CNN the day before they released their first album here in America. The bad is BIG in the UK, and they were expected to dominate the radio over here. Well, it didn’t happen. The United States is more self-involved than ever…no one cares what anyone thinks outside the lower 49 (ask our President if he cares what anyone NOT American thinks). The band’s lack of success stateside can’t all be blamed on Red State isolationism, however. When WHATEVER PEOPLE SAY I AM, THAT’S WHAT I’M NOT came out, I bought it (or Leah bought it) and gave it a listen. Just like the album’s title, the track names were long, and frankly—highly pretentious.

Look, I’m all for complex song titles, but is it really necessary to have a song on your FIRST album entitled: “You Probably Couldn’t See for the Lights But You Were Staring Straight At Me.” Yeah, that pretty much sums it up right there. There were a few really good tracks on the record (including the outstanding single, “I Bet You Look Good on the Dance Floor”). But overall, I wasn’t really that impressed.

Then last month FAVOURITE WORST NIGHTMARE came out, and I heard the first single “Brainstorm” on iTUNES…and I wasn’t impressed yet again. But, since Leah was a big fan of their first one, she decided to buy it. So, there I was in my car driving her to softball, when Leah popped the CD into my car’s player—and as if by magic I was enthralled by The Arctic Monkeys.

The album opens with “Brainstorm,” which as I mentioned before…isn’t all that great. It sounds exactly like the first record. The band does this thing with their drums that I hate. It’s hard to explain, but it’s like there are the drums…and then there’s the rest of the song—and the two aren’t always in sync (or fit together). Give “Brainstorm” a listen and you’ll hear what I mean. The band did that all over the first record. After the first track, however, I didn’t notice them doing this (maybe someone finally told them that’s it annoying).

“Teddy Picker” is the second track, but for me is where it really should have started. One thing that’s easy to overlook about this band is how articulate/intricate the lyrics are. This is definitely what I like to call a “headphone” album. If you really want to grasp all the little lyrical nooks and crannies you need to dust off the ear buds and give the album a listen. “D for Dangerous” and “Balaclava” are fast paced, frantic, and some of the best poetry I’ve heard in a long time. Problem is…most listeners will probably let it all blur past them. That’s a shame.

Then there are the other singles…iTUNES was offering “Brainstorm” up as the first single prior to FAVOURITE WORST NIGHTMARE came out, but the song that everyone is talking about is “Fluorescent Adolescent.” This in my humble opinion is a better single that “I Bet You Look Good on the Dance Floor.” This song, more than any other reminds me of another band The Arctic Monkeys are often compared to—The Libertines (R.I.P.). “Fluorescent Adolescent,” like many of the other songs speeds by at a breakneck speed…and before you know it, the song is over (the track clocks in fewer than three minutes).

And that’s my biggest problem with the record as a whole…it’s far too short. In an age when many artists are putting out double albums (with four to five minute tracks) The Arctic Monkeys are too succinct. The band needs to flesh their songs out, perhaps with more musical breakdowns/solos. I understand that the band is going for a simple/back-to-basics sound…but even at $10, I feel cheated by the running time of this record. It’s good, but far too brief. Then again, it’s always better to leave ‘em wanting more…which FAVOURITE WORST NIGHTMARE most certainly does.

It’s rare for a band to release a follow-up album that’s such a vast improvement over their first. The fact that they put this out less than a year after their first record came out tells me that this band is going to be one to watch.

I’ve prattled on enough, but there is one last thing I need to talk about. The last track, “505” is a fucking masterpiece. I can’t say enough good things about it. Though it’s not a “single” by any stretch (it’s one of the longest songs on the whole record), I think it’s the best track the band has ever put out. It’s a little slower than the majority of the record, which has me wondering at this band’s untapped potential for slower numbers.

The song has some really great lines like: “Not shy of a spark/A knife twists at the thought that I should fall short of the mark/Frightened by the bite/though it’s no harsher than the bark/Middle of adventure/such a perfect place to start.” Another one of my favorite’s: “But I crumble/completely when you cry/It seems like once again you've had to greet me with goodbye/I’m always just about to go and spoil a surprise/Take my hands off of your eyes too soon” For some reason this song sticks with me in ways I cannot explain (see my post on “The Boys of Summer). I’ve listened to this track at least 15 time, and I can't get enough of it's brilliant melancholy.

FAVOURITE WORST NIGHTMARE surprised me with its depth and intricate lyrics.


Summer Job

Yesterday was a low point for me. I was depressed about a bunch of stuff--most of it was related to money (or my lack of it). My old employer was giving me the run-around, I got my first "You-owe-us-money/We're-reporting-you-to-the-credit-people" letters, I was bored out of my mind.

Today I got up, took a shower and went downtown. I camped outside the HR guy's office FOR 40 MINUTES...and long story short, I got my job back (like they wouldn't take me back). He fed me some line about having tried to call me back (liar). It took him 2 seconds to start the "bringing me back to life" process. Today I peed in a cup (at the most dubious looking building I have ever been to...I've done this three times now...and every time I'm amazed at how scummy this building looks). Tomorrow I'm getting my Police Commissioner's license renewed (yay). I have no idea where they will send me (I've been to nearly EVERY post in the Downtown accounts)...but I'm sure I will love* it.

*by "love" I mean "hate" (but it's only two months).

In other news, I'm going back to St. Louis this weekend with Leah's friend Becky! I'm going to get to visit Leah one last time before I put my nose to the proverbial grindstone.

So, in general, I'm a much happier person today! There was one (slightly major) bad thing that happened to me today. My Guitar Hero II save files became corrupt and I had to delete them (not your Leah, calm down...just mine). So my uber awesome Career Score is gone!! I started over and am about 1/2 through the game (starting on HARD this time). It bums me out because last night I bought the last guitar! Anyway, the job/money thing makes up for my loss (just barely).

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Jason's Life Update

So I'm home. And that's where I've been since Sunday. I haven't really gone anywhere or done anything. I took a walk today! That's about it.

I've been trying to get a hold of the Human Resources person at my old job...and have had no luck. I talked to the main secretary and she said he's "in and out of meetings all day." So I left him a message on Monday morning. Then I left one again today. I guess I need to just go down there and sit outside his office until he shows up. Grrr...I've been wanting to avoid this because:

1. It's a long drive to downtown (from the suburbs) and I'd hate to waste my time


2. Other than a "Yes, we'll take you back...go get your license renewed" all I need from him is a piece of paper. If he's not there--I'll have wasted a trip for nothing.

So I've been trying to reach him by phone...but Thursday I'm going down there (damn it!). SO, in the meantime I've been taking it easy. I've been listening to a lot of new music (as you can see by all the reviews I've posted). I still need to review the new Arctic Monkeys album...and the new Star Spangles record. Oh, and don't forget the new Jason Falkner. I'll try to space them out a little better.

I'm not sure, but I THINK, I HOPE, that I'm going out to St. Louis this weekend with Leah's friend Becky. She called me up tonight and offered to let me hitch a ride out with her. I'd be a good way to see Leah one last time...hee-hee...

I need to do some writing! I need to do some leisure reading (like I said I would). Maybe tomorrow? I'm sure Mr. Amazing down in H.R. won't be getting back to me anytime soon.


I got my grades today. Last semester was a really good semester for me. Despite Guitar Hero's best efforts, I managed to get 2 A's and 2 B's. Here's how it all came out--

Modern American Fiction~ "A-"
Contemporary Mathematics~ "B+"
Spanish III~"B-"

That last one shocked me. I know little to ZERO Spanish. I even wrote that on the teacher's evaluation. I said something to the effect of "This class was such a waste of my time, I totally phone it in, and you were stupid enough to give me a passing grade. Ha! Ha! I don't even KNOW what subjunctive is!" or something to the effect.

Anyway, I did pretty good I think (much better than last semester). That really cheered me up today.

Strange Hours

As buzz bands go, no one beats England’s The Horrors when it comes to making a first impression. Looking like they just stepped off the set of a Tim Burton movie, the band’s neo-gothic fashion sense seems to be half the reason they’ve become famous. I hate that. Then again, like The Buggles said, all those years ago, “Video killed the radio star…” Everything is about the “bigger package” these days in music. Without playing one note, just by the way they dress (or don’t dress) bands like The Horrors will have an automatic fan base. All those poor, downtrodden youths, with Mommy’s credit card…ready to head over to the local Hot Topic...


I’m turning into a bitter, jaded rock critic…*shudder* I remember reading nearly the same comments when a little band from New York called The Strokes came onto the scene. People lamented that the band was famous for being loud and dressing pretty. The same thing is happening to The Horrors, whose first album finally arrived on American shores today. I didn’t buy it (despite the fact that it’s dirt cheap at Best Buy ($7.00)...I was a good boy Leah), but if you visit the band’s Myspace page, you can listen to a stream of the entire album.

I decided to give into the hype a few days ago and give the damn thing a listen. For one reason, and one reason alone: I am head-over-heels in love with garage rock. Nothing beats simple, hard charging rock, played by angry young men who don’t give a fuck. Once you get past their black nail polish veneer, what you have is a slightly above average rock band.

STRANGE HOURS opens with the track “Jack the Ripper,” a slow burner about that infamous British killer. The band wastes no time setting the dark tone. Everything you’d expect from a song called “Jack the Ripper” is here: snarling lead vocals, fast then slow then fast again guitars, screaming backing vocals, etc. The song works. But for the most part, I think this song is the “most British” of the album, which is a bit of a disappointment because I prefer my British bands to wear their nationality on their sleeves. These boys don’t even have an accent, which is a real pity.

The rest of the album is pretty good, too. My favorite track is “Horrors Theme” which, along with “Draw Japan” sound like demented circus rides gone berserk—these boys like their organ. And for me, that’s what separates the band from a lot of other garage rock bands. Guitar, bass, drums...organ? “Draw Japan” also has some (strange to say) surf rock qualities about it. This blend of styles and organ coupled with the dark/gloomy subject matter works nicely.

I really liked the gentle, broken record-sound on “Gil Sleeping” it's fantastic. I wished the band did more unconventional “soundscapes” like this. Something about that song—it reminded me of a really cheesy black and white Science-Fiction film from the 1950s. I think that if the whole rock thing doesn’t work out, these boys could make some money doing the soundtracks for direct-to-video horror movies.

I will go on record as saying that “Sheena is a Parasite” is the worst single I’ve ever heard in my life. Sure, the song isn’t terrible by any means…but lead single? The thing that best sums up what your album (and band) are about? I have to disagree with this choice. For me the closest thing to a single is the gothic-surf “Thunderclaps.” But I’m no A&R man…I’m just an unemployed college student, so what do I know?

Anyway, if you like fashion-minded bands like PATD (Panic! At the Disco) and The Strokes, or if you like angry/dark garage rock then you’ll probably dig STRANGE HOURS. If you can’t get past the whole Edward Gorey/Edward Scissor-hands thing…I understand, this band is very much an acquired taste. Overall, though I think once you get past all the make-up and black jeans…The Horrors bring something that is lacking to pop music right now.

Jason gives STRANGE HOURS a "B"

Go check out their Myspace page:, and give a listen to "Gil Sleeping" or "Horrors Theme."

Turn the Lights Out

A few weeks back I made myself a CD for my car. I wanted a real ass-kicker for the long car ride I knew was coming up. During the creation of that disc, I re-discovered The Ponys. See, I bought their first album LACED WITH ROMANCE back when it came out in 2004. I found out about the band through Little Steven’s Underground Garage (THE best show on terrestrial radio). Their infectious single “Trouble, Trouble” was great garage rock in its purest form. Having enjoyed LACED WITH ROMANCE (except for the annoying track “Chemical Imbalance”) I decided to check out their next album CELEBRATION CASTLE in 2005.

This record unfortunately didn't register with me for some reason at the time I bought it. I think that sometimes, you’re just not ready for stuff. I wasn’t ready for CELEBRATION CASTLE. At the time I was listening to a lot of WILDHEARTS (really heavy, metal/pop) so The Ponys with their guy/girl garage sound just didn’t click with me. For whatever reason, the band slipped through the cracks in my iTUNES and vanished from my mind.

But while I was trying to figure out what to put on my “Awesome Rokk” compilation, I happened back upon CELEBRATION CASTLE. Wow. The record is great, but there is once track that will blow your mind. It comes in about halfway through, and boy is it a dozy…imagine blistering, I mean BLISTERING…wailing, blood coming out your ears, guitar on this track. The kind of stuff that makes you sit up and take notice…the song is called “Shadow Box.” Go, find it now. It’s brilliant, awe-inspiring rock. I will never get my fill of that song.

Anyway, so I rediscovered The Ponys just in time! They have a new record out: TURN THE LIGHTS OUT. As I’ve mentioned, The Ponys are a garage rock band. They’re heavily influenced by bands as diverse as The Clash, The Talking Heads, and XTC. There are two vocalists a guy (Jered Gummere) and a girl (Melissa Elias).

Now, before you go “Aww…how cute” stop right there. The Ponys are not your typical “he sings/she sings” kind of band. They’re darker and more interesting than that. For the most part Gummere does most of the singing, and that’s good—he’s the most consistent. Elias has a tendency to be rather, annoying (sorry). The worst song the band has ever put out (the before mentioned “Chemical Imbalance”) features her whinny warble. Conversely, however, my favorite track “Shadow Box” is also sung by her. So go figure. For the most part, Gummere’s vocals fall into two categories: a mellow growl or a manic wail (the difference is go great, I used to think there were three vocalists for this band). Often times these two very different styles are used within the context of once song.

When I think of this band, for some reason I think of Halloween. A time when people transform themselves into scarier versions of themselves...check out that album cover. Nothing sums up this record better than that picture. They’re dark, but in a mysterious sort of way…but they’re not really “gloomy” per say. I’d liken them to a cloudy day (rather than a moonless midnight). This is a band that writes songs with titles like "We Shot the World" and "Let's Kill Ourselves" but sings them with a wink. A knowning wink, they don't take themselves seriously.

TURN THE LIGHTS OUT was surprisingly difficult to find (I ended up getting it at Vintage Vinyl after striking out at 3 other stores) but I think it was well worth the effort. This band just keeps getting better.

Making my way home to KC, I sat and listened to all three records back-to-back. On each record I can hear a dramatic improvement in every aspect of this band. From the lyrics to the music…hell, even the album art is better.

The album opens with “Double Vision,” the lead single. It’s fantastic, I loved the tambourine opening. I get worried whenever a band puts its best song first, but my fears here were unfounded. TURN THE LIGHTS out is consistently well crafted. And, well...awesome.

My only source of disappointment came from the high benchmark set by “Shadow Box.” I really wanted another barn-burner that was going to roast my ear drums. While TURN THE LIGHTS OUT doesn’t have a track that I’d call an equal to “Shadow Box,” I think the guitar licks overall are better this time around.

“Small Talk” has a panoramic/U2 “Bullet the Blue Sky” feel to it. The tracks “Shine” and “Poser Psychotic” are two admirable attempts to top the work done on CELEBRATION CASTLE, and even though they don’t fully succeed—the act of trying to top themselves has elevated the whole album. This band went into the studio with the intention of moving light years beyond their last record. Did they succeed? No, of course not—but by having such lofty goals The Ponys have grown creatively in ways that should have taken them a couple more records. Most bands are content with just matching their previous achievements.

Example: The overly long, distorting jam-outs from the first record? Toned down, and put to good (and more focused) use on the final track “Pickpocket Song.” The lyrics are just as obtuse as ever, however there are a few moments that seem quite personal. My favorite falls on the albums title track “Turn the Lights Out.” A brave, “With a Little Help From My Friends”-inspired tune seems to use its sing-a-long structure to conceal just how personal it is. Gone too are the whiny Elisa tracks, all her songs work for me on TURN THE LIGHTS OUT. She doesn’t use the Valley-girl-on-crack vocal styling. Believe me, that’s great news.

So in general I’m pleased with this album. While I’m still ga-ga for a song on their last record, I think TURN THE LIGHTS OUT is better overall as a whole. I really wish this band would get some recognition in the larger world. In a perfect world they’d be bigger. TURN THE LIGHTS OUT will be in heavy rotation in my car CD player this summer.

Jason gives TURN THE LIGHTS OUT an “A”

Hang in there...

Please send positive thoughts/prayers...whatever, to my friend (and the best editor I've ever had) David (Davu). Don't give up my friend.
Get better soon!

UPDATE: Regardless of what he says, still send him some positive energy (and if you have some to spare, send me some too).

Monday, May 14, 2007

Gas Panic!

In case you haven't heard, tomorrow is "National Gas Protest Day" or whatever. I've been hearing about this for a while now. This sort of grassroots thing thrives on the Internet. Basically what they are saying is, tomorrow don't pump any gas to protest the price of gasoline. Many people are claiming that when this was done in 1998 it lowered gas prices by 30 cents!

Amazing!!! We should all do it!!!

Except that it's all a crock of shit.

For one thing, let's say that EVERYONE in the country didn't buy gas tomorrow. Okay, so what? The day AFTER (May 16) people will flock to the the big oil companies won't get their money on the 15, so what? The only way to actually hurt these mega companies is to actually use LESS gas. Not put off buying it for a day or so.

This whole thing is stupid. If you don't believe me, check it out at

Back to Black

This is an album review, but before I get to the music I need to talk about the lady. See, some musicians personal lives are bigger than their music. This happens, especially in today's media climate where, it's not who you are...but what you are filmed doing, that makes you famous.

Amy Winehouse. British song-bird, has been popping on and off my radar for the past few months now. For those of you who don't know, she's what I like to call "the full package." A real triple threat: she's a fantastic soul singer, she writes/co-writes her songs, and on top of all that--she's a knock out. This of course, makes her the perfect celebrity...right? Not quite.

There's one ingredient missing.

Someone say "Substance Abuse"?

*Poof* You are now famous Ms. Winehouse (yeah...great name for someone with a drinking problem, right? So ironic).

So the press loves her because she likes an occasional drink (and cancels sold out shows because she's too busy drinking, or when she vomits onstage during the first number). But beyond the hype (she was nominated for a 2004 Mercury Prize--which is given to the best album recorded by a British or Irish citizen) is Amy Winehouse any good?

I took a listen to her latest album BACK TO BLACK (her second release). Honestly, I bought it for Leah. See, Leah has a thing for classic soul music/girl groups from the 1960s. Many a long car trip-related boredom has been killed by The Supremes (thank you Diana Ross). She really likes Joss Stone, who (on paper) seems to be just like Winehouse. So I used my last $15 bucks of Borders gift card money and bought it for her. We put it on a few times this past weekend, and I got to's really damn good. Despite all the hype, the fucking static/background noise surrounding this album--it's really good.

As a singer, I'd say Winehouse is from the "old school" of big, classy British singers. She sounds a lot like Shirley Bassey (who, while not a Brit like Winehouse, is Welsh and that's close enough). I also think the comparison I made to Joss Stone are valid, however I'd like to add Macy Gray to the list of people she sounds like. Not big, flamboyant Macy Gray...but the more subdued Gray who I'm sure is lurking somewhere deep within her (i.e. the Macy Gray that will probably never exist except in my own strange imagination). The Joss Stone associations are only on the surface: both are British, both sound really old (and black) but are really hot white chicks. That's about it. Oh, sure both sing about 'being strong' and 'not needing a man' but whereas I tend to doubt Stone...Winehouse is totally believable. She's the real deal.

What about the songs? This girl writes about her life. Deal with it. She bitches about her exes: boyfriends and managers. The lead single here in the US "You Know I'm No Good" has the same "classic" sound that's all over this record. She sings about modern stuff, but in a old school way. Example: she rhymes about Roger Moore (ah! a connection to Bassey?) and disses on her old boyfriend. Nice.

She's honest too. "You Know That I'm No Good" is basically her personal manifesto. This is one bad bitch. I'm scared of her, she's a real, honest to God tiger of a woman. BACK TO BLACK's second single "Rehab" is a rant about how she doesn't want to go to rehab (a suggestion of her former management company). It's tough to listen to someone sing about not wanting help, when it's so obvious they have a drinking problem. I feel really bad for her and her family...but at the same time, it makes the song that much more badass. She's a drunk, but she's still in control enough to say "Fuck you, I'm having fun...I'm not going to rehab."

It's funny. The things we think are funny celebrities do, that make us sad/hurt when our loved ones do them. That by itself is a topic worthy of further discussion, I'll save it for a later posting.

My favorite song on the record is "Me & Mr. Jones" which has my all time favorite line "Nobody stands in between me and my man/It's me and Mr. Jones/What kind of fuckery is this?" The song goes on to use the word "fuckery" numerous times. It's hilarious because the song has such a classic soul sound, that you could put this on at an old folks home...and I bet 99.99% of the people there would just nod their heads and accept it as being from their era. And yet it has this modern vernacular that can (almost) hide beneath the surface (the first time I heard the song I was like "Did she just say what I think she just said?"). The raw language in such a strange setting is jarring in a way. Like seeing an old detective movie from the 1940's, where all the sudden the PI jumps onto the Internet to look for clues. It's a strange merger of something that is timeless with something that is very timely. I know how weird that sounds, but it works.

The tearful "Back to Black" and "Tears Dry on Their Own" are two 'girl-power' survival songs that sound a bit"I Will Survive" but less disco. It's a good thing, people.

Hell, ask yourself--do you like singers? A real powerful voice--not the Christina Agurhilarious WAY over the top vocal styling...but real actual singing? If you do, this is an album you should listen to.

Do you like classic girl groups, but yearn for something contemporary? Then this is the album for you.

Many of my males friends won't "get" this album, but if you're a real man...and can listen to female singers, then you should check out Amy Winehouse. She's about as close to a man as you can get (and have a woman). Think about it: Aggressive stage behavior (check), love for booze and smokes (check), Cocky attitude (check). All that's missing is the penis.

Seriously though, BACK TO BLACK is an excellent album. Unlike the Gallagher brothers (of Oasis fame), Winehouse has the talent to back up the swagger AND the massive press coverage. Despite what you might think (or hear/read) about her, you have to admit she's done a very brave thing with this record. She crafted a flawless piece of soul/r&b music that exists outside of what is currently popular among the Top 40 crowd. And instead of shying away from who and what she is, Winehouse stays true to herself and sings (rather candidly) about her own life. Do yourself a favor and check this bird out.

Jason gives BACK TO BLACK an "A-"

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Still Alive...

Well I've been home for two days now. Not much to say. Leah's leaving tomorrow night, after dinner. I won't see her for about a month and a half.

Got a haircut yesterday--lost about 10 pounds in hair. Monday I'm going downtown to get my job back (fuck). I'm not really looking forward to that. I'm not really looking forward to anything right now.

I was talking to Leah about it, and I really hate how I loath summer. This is going to be the second summer in a row that has sucked. I don't mind working...but I turn into an overtime monster. Last summer I averaged 85-90 hours. Insane.

Anyway, if you take a gander back at last year, you'll notice that over the summer my blog kinda ground to a halt. I don't know what it is, but when I'm at my parents house...I just seem to stay off the Internet. I'll try to update my blog when I can remember, but I won't be posting everyday (or more) like I have been.

I know I missed the Friday video blog, but I was really tired from moving.

Hope everyone is doing better than I am...

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Good Bye, Bellerive

Well it's that day--the one I never expected...and the one I didn't want to come. Moving day, the last one. Growing up, all the way into my Junior College years, I never thought I'd live on campus. I always said things like, "Why would you want to live at school?" or "I hate being at school for class...why would I want to live there?" or something stupid. The truth is, I moved out because I wanted to be on my own AND still further my education. I picked St. Louis because it was a CITY, one that I liked and had been to.

Now I call it home. I'm coming back in the fall, this time to stay. Me and Leah are going to get a place together (well, not just us...Rusty is coming too). As one chapter ends, another begins...

I was talking to my mom on the phone tonight, about my first night here in the dorms. It was crazy. I was certain I'd made a horrible mistake. But as time went by, it grew on me. Pretty soon, it was my home away from home.

I'm not sure how long this building has been a dorm, here at UMSL. I know the school has been around since the 1960' I'm guessing that it's been at least a few decades. Now I'm the last UMSL student to live in this room. They're converting this dorm building into something else (renting it out for conferences...because adults will pay more than kids).

I can hear them right now, the other kids...they're ripping this place apart. I asked one of them why: "If we can't live here, no one will." I didn't join in, but I understand the sentiment (see my Monday post on "Boys of Summer").

This crazy ride is over, my college days are numbered. What am I going to do? Where am I going to go next?

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Lush Green/Feeding Frenzy

As part of my "goodbye" to St. Louis, me and Leah got up early and went to the Missouri Botanical Gardens. It was a beautiful day! Perfect for walking around, lookin' at plants. After slathering Leah in suntan lotion (that girl burns so easily) we started off into the park.

If you've never been, you really owe it to yourself to go and check it out. I'm not the world's biggest "plant guy" and I can (frankly) "take it or leave it" when it comes to nature (too many bugs). But Leah is very outdoors-y and as am I now. That said, the Missouri Botanical Gardens is cool enough that even if she didn't want to go--I would. It's that impressive. There is a lot of walking (the place is huge) but if you pace yourself, and it's not too hot (and you bring water), it makes for a great day.

The first place we went was the giant geodesic dome conservatory (called the "Climatron"). It was actually cooler inside than outside today, which is funny because it's basically a "hot house." I love the look of the building:

Inside there are several waterfalls and some really pretty, exotic plants and trees.

My favorite plant inside the greenhouse is this strange tree called the Jaboticaba. It's a tree from Southern Brazil. What makes it so interesting is it's fruit, which look like fat grapes. Interestingly, however, the fruit appears stuck against the bark of the tree. Almost like they were glued there (it looks really bizarre):

After that, we trekked through the park to the Asian gardens. The main reason we went was to feed the giant Koi. These Koi are huge, fat monsters. They have feed you can buy in the park, but me and Leah had two bags of fish food I bought last summer at Lake Jacomo. Before we got to the Koi pond, though, we saw the hedge maze (which I think is really cool):

I was able to take those two pictures above from the top of this lighthouse-looking tower. It offered a really good vantage point over the maze. A really evil person could spend hours laughing at people who were lost in the maze:

There were a lot of people there today looking at the Irises, which I guess are in bloom right now. They seemed a little brown to me, but were still beautiful:

Then we hit the Asian garden (and the Koi pond):

As you can see, these fish are giant creatures. I really wouldn't want to fall in there when they get their "feed on":

After using up a whole bag of food, we decided it was about time to go. We headed back to the car. Overall we spent about 2 hours there...and we didn't see half of everything out there. But it was hot, and I had to get back to the dorms (I have a final tonight at 7:45) so I can finish packing up.

On the way out, we passed these statues that look like real sheep. I freaked out because these people had their kids sitting on them. Once we got closer, and I saw they were just concrete...I had Leah take my picture on the one of them. The kid's reaction cracks me up, he couldn't believe a grown man was going to sit down next to him on the sheep. Hey kid, I'm lame enough to do anything for a funny picture:

Clearly a good time was had by all. Like I said, if you've never been...GO! It's fantastic.

For Leah--