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July 30, 2007

July 30 is a good day

Happy birthday to three of my personal favorites:  Arnold Schwarzenegger, 60 (!); Laurence "Larry" Fishburne, 46; and Tom "My bum is on the Swedish" Green, 36.

Today also marks the anniversary of the Treaty of Box Elder (1863), Jimmy Hoffa's disappearance (1975 -- though I guess this wasn't so good), the signing of the Sarbanes Oxley Act (2002), and Sarsfest (2003).

For your edification:

All-time classic Arnold

&

Pavement's Stephen Malkmus performing "Box Elder"

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July 26, 2007

"Paris Hilton & Captain Beefheart" single news

The Knights of Infinite Resignation were pleased to find out that their "Paris Hilton & Captain Beefheart" single was the subject of an entry today on the blog at The Captain Beefheart Radar Station.  Ever since the days of the Electric Eels, Captain Beefheart has always been a favorite of Ohio's rock expeditionaries, and so it should almost go without saying that the Knights were totally psyched that they warranted mention on beefheart.com.

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July 24, 2007

Happy PH&CB Day

Well, today is the day.  The Knights of Infinite Resignation's "Paris Hilton & Captain Beefheart" single is released upon the world at large.  The CD version (which contains a cover of Pere Ubu's "Ice Cream Truck" -- gotta love the Cloudland action) can most easily be obtained through the NBR Online Store.  Prefer digital downloads?  We've got you covered.  Here's a sampling:

  • iTunes U.S. (also available worldwide on iTunes . . . I'm too lazy to put up links to all the iTunes sites, so just do a search for "Knights of Infinite Resignation" . . . they're there)
  • eMusic (the Next Best Records debut on eMusic!)
  • Napster (which says, "If you like this artist, you may also like . . . Joe Strummer" !!!)
  • Sony Connect

That should be a good sampling.  There's some other ones too, so if you use another service just rust an artist search.

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July 23, 2007

The Knights of Infinite Resignation's Paris Hilton & Captain Beefheart CD single now available

In honor of the release of the Knights of Infinite Resignation's "Paris Hilton & Captain Beefheart" single, the Next Best Records Store has been updated and completely redesigned.  (That's right, it's now free of the rigid constraints of one big table.)

What does this mean for you?  Well, first the PH&CB single is available for mail-order through the store.  The abbreviated version (i.e., without the Pere Ubu cover that's exclusive to the CD version) should be available online via pretty much all of the digital retailers tomorrow.  We're not 100% sure on that, though, so we're not offering any guarantees.  In any event, we'll let you know when PH&CB is up on the sites.

Also, as an added bonus, we've discounted the Knights t-shirts from $15.00 to $12.50 in celebration of the new single.  So yeah, check out the store (www.nextbestrecords.com/store.html).

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July 18, 2007

Top 10 Moments of the Pitchfork Festival

I figured I should write something about this year's Pitchfork Festival, since I went all three days.  I also figured it wouldn't be a good idea to babble on and on about everything, so here's a list of ten things I liked about it (there were a number of things I didn't like, but it's better to stay positive, right?).  There's no particular order here (well, maybe chronological).

  1. The Gza performing the Liquid Swords album.  I've only seen a handful of hip-hop acts live, but the Gza really brought it for his set Friday night.  He did a good job of recreating the entire album with minimal on-stage personnel.  He was the only Wu Tang member present, and so the set was obviously lacking the rest of the group's contributions to the original record, but Gza and Co. came through (especially Cappadonna, who was stellar throughout).
  2. Sonic Youth performing the Daydream Nation album.  This was freakin' unbelievable.  Daydream Nation, from "Teenage Riot" to "Eliminator, Jr."  It's amazing to hear something you've listened to for forever perfrormed live.  There's always seemed to be so much going on during each song on the record that I guess I never considered the fact that, at it's core, it's just four musicians making all that noise.  Particular highlights included "Teenage Riot," "Eric's Trip," "Candle," and "The Wonder," but really the whole thing blew my mind.
  3. Sonic Youth's encore.  So they go through the entire Daydream Nation album, and then they follow up with an equally brilliant encore.  Three songs (I believe) off the new record: "Incinerate," "Reena," and "Jams Run Free."  Hearing Thurston and Lee's guitars interweaving and seeing Kim still kickin' it, you couldn't help but feel like it was vintage Sonic up there.  Hearing those three tunes right after the main set made me sorta appreciate how good the new stuff is -- I guess I (like many) am guilty of putting the Evol-Sister-Daydream Nation triumverate up on the top of the mountain (in my case, along with Washing Machine) to the detriment of the newer stuff.  Anyway, I also appreciated seeing Ibold up there again -- you can never get enough Ibold bass action.  I don't care what the people say, Sonic Youth's still got it.  And they're still cooler than all of us.
  4. $1 bottles of Water+.  First, you were able to get bottles of water for only a buck, which of course came in handy amidst the hot Chicago sunbeams.  To top it off, it was Water+, fortified with electrolytes and vapor distilled.  The guy at the water stand didn't seem to appreciate when I asked him, "How much better than water is Water+?"  I, however, did appreciate the greatness of Water+ (which, by the way, I decided is 2.5 better than regular water).
  5. Beach House's set.  I wasn't familiar with a good number of the bands Saturday, so for most of the day my buddy Hoot and I decided which stage to go to completely based on how cool the band's name seemed.  We weren't really digging what we heard until we finally scored a good hit with Beach House, who we decided lived up to their name.  The mix at the stage B wasn't that great, but the dreamy-quality of Beach Party's snyth-driven rock (with spacy-guitar accents) was oddly fitting during this particularly hot portion of the afternoon.  We abandoned Grizzly Bear's set to hear Beach House -- it was a good decision.
  6. People bringing their kids.  There was a bit of a lull late Saturday afternoon, so it was a good opportunity to relax in the shade.  Luckily, people brought their kids, and so the already decent quality of peoplewatching was brought to another level.  There's few things more entertaining than watching kids who can barely walk bouncing around a field while a band like Battles is playing.
  7. Cat Power's set.  I think this set a new record for gap in between seeing a band/performer two different times.  The first time I saw Cat Power it was Chan solo opening for Guided By Voices in June 1996.  Saturday was the second time I saw her play, so that makes an 11 year gap.  Back in '96, she was a relative unknown who I found particularly impressive for her one-of-a-kind covers of Thurston Moore's "Psychic Hearts" and GBV's "Bright Paper Werewolves" (and also for the fact that she's . . . um . . . pretty).  Now, she's a big-shot who wins British awards whose songs appear on jewelry store commercials.  The Dirty Delta Blues Band worked well, and Chan sounded great (even though she apologized profusely for almost everything during the entire set).  Once again, the covers proved to be the highlights for me ("Naked If I Want To," "Tracks Of My Tears," "Satisfaction"), though the whole set was consistently great, really soulful tunes that were alternately laid back and energetic.
  8. Brightblack Morning Light's set.  This normally isn't my thing, but I found myself digging the group's set.  Unfortunately, they were hampered with sound problems (they were forced to start about a half-hour late, and then you couldn't hear the vocals at all until midway through their second song, and even then only barely).  I thought they came through despite the sound, though, and laid down some nice grooves.
  9. The Sea and Cake's set.  They were a nice surprise for me.  I'd never heard any of their stuff before the festival, and I thought they were great.  Good pop-rock stuff.  I worked my way close to the stage in anticipation of the Mighty Malkmus, and for whatever reason actually caught a good mix right in front of the speakers on stage right.  This is one band that I've definitely got to check out further.
  10. Stephen Malkmus's set.  This was freakin' amazing -- really, the second best set (with Sonic Youth taking top honors).  I mean, he started out with "Heaven Is A Truck" and -- to my complete shock -- followed that up with the Silver Jews's "Blue Arrangements."  The bulk of the set was just Malkmus accompanied with his acoustic guitar (and distortion pedal).  He kept throwing hit after hit out there.  "Spit on a Stranger."  "Extradition."  "Loud Cloud Crowd."  Some people didn't dig the loose quality of the set (and it was loose, like when SM stopped in the middle of "Heaven" to fiddle with his amp).  I was psyched just to see him up on stage, and it was fantastic to hear these songs I've listened to for so long in a totally different setting.  He played three or so new songs, which sounded good . . . a logical step from the last album.  I particularly dug the one that had the "Stephen, I will" refrain.  To top things off, none other than Bob Nastanovich took the stage to drum for two songs -- "Trigger Cut" and "In The Mouth Of A Desert."  I was close enough to the stage to hear Nastanovich apologizing between songs for his playing during "Trigger Cut," saying that he never drummed on it before and that he was always just shaking the tambourine and doing backup vocals.  He was still great though.  After "Desert," the crowd called for more Nastanovich to no avail, with Malkmus quipping, "Those were the only two songs we didn't practice."  The set was closed all too quickly with "We Dance."

That's the list.  Like I said, Sonic and Malkmus were the big highlights for me.  All in all, getting to see three members of Pavement play was worth the price of admission, not to mention all the other bands I got to catch.

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"I am, I exist" is necessarily true whenever . . .

I was browsing around the all-knowing (not to mention very informative) All Music Guide today when I noticed that they've got a listing for Lee Wadlinger's Twentieth Century Apprenticeship EP.  In case you haven't gotten your copy yet, it's still available on CD at the NBR Store and via digital download through iTunes, Napster, Sony Connect, and eventually eMusic.
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July 08, 2007

Knights News (non-"Paris Hilton & Captain Beefheart" single)

I posted a news update on the Knights of Infinite Resignation MySpace site tonight.  I also posted a rough mix of a new Knights song, "Her Bangs," which will be on the Knights' debut album, White Rose Exile Rock.  That's right, I said album.  More information is found in the news update post.

Also, in case you forgot, the "Paris Hilton & Captain Beefheart" single comes out July 24.

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July 06, 2007

The "Paris Hilton & Captain Beefheart" page is up

I've got a page up detailing the new Knights of Infinite Resignation single, "Paris Hilton & Captain Beefheart," which is due out July 24.  Check it here.  The record sounds good -- I'm sure you'll dig it.
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July 05, 2007

"So I write music for soundtracks now . . . "

Professor Lee (whose YouTube blog is linked somewhere to the right) used a portion of my "Song For Paige" as background music at the end of his video, "The Real History of YouTube in 3 Minutes."  If you're interested in the history of YouTube, this is the quickest and most entertaining source of info.

If you're too lazy to follow the link above, I'll post it here as well:

 

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July 04, 2007

66 is a lot of dogs

Congratulations to Joey Chestnut who earlier today pulled off an epic victory in the Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Competition.  I honestly thought Kobayashi was my generation's Babe Ruth -- someone who defined the sport and would own it for as long as he chose to compete.  When Chestnut went jaw to jaw with Kobayashi last year, there was hope that the U.S. would reclaim the mustard belt.  Chestnut fulfilled that promise today.

First that annoying law professor finally got beat on Jeopardy last night, and now Chestnut wins the hot dog eating competition.  It's been a good two days.

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July 03, 2007

July's Record That More People Should Listen To

Today I got a new stylus for my record player.  I figure that's reason enough for me to reinstate the long-abandoned "record of the month series" that actually only appeared once.  I've changed the title of the series from the unintentionally (and regretfully) elitist "NBR's Greatest Records You've Probably Never Heard" to the more populist (and gramatically incorrect) "NBR's Records That More People Should Listen To."  I promise to update this once a month, since really this blog should be used as a force of good, and there's no higher good than letting people know about underappreciated records.  So, without further ado . . . .

This month's Record That More People Should Listen To is Peter Laughner's "Cinderella Backstreet" 7" single.

Peter Laughner Cinderella Backstreet

The Laughner story has already been told a few times by people who know more and write better than me.  If you're interested, first check out John Petkovic's piece on Laughner.  From there, I heartily implore you to read and reread Charlotte Pressler's classic essay, "Those Were Different Times," which at great length details the origins of the 70's Cleveland scene (which spawned the Electric Eels, Mirrors, and Rocket From The Tombs, and from there everything else) and Laughner's integral role in it.  Finally, Handsome Productions' site has another comprehensive overview of Laughner's recording career written by Derek DePrator.  While you're at it, be sure to check out the MySpace page for Laughner, on which some songs are streamed.

For those who want the short story, here's my go: Peter Laughner played guitar and sang for Rocket From The Tombs and Pere Ubu's early lineups.  Really, though, he's probably most famous for Guns and Roses covering his song, "Ain't It Fun" (previously made popular through the Dead Boys' version) and Wilco quoting a line from his "Amphetamine" ("Take the guitar player for a ride . . . ") in one of their songs (although Guns and Wilco fans still probably wouldn't know who Laughner was).  He also played in a number of other bands based in Cleveland.  He was instrumental in bringing other bands to the "forefront" in Cleveland, whether they be Clevelanders themselves or New York outfits like Television (Laughner personally arranged for Television to perform their first shows outside of New York City in Cleveland).  His work with the Rockets and Ubu (not to mention his influence on the Dead Boys) solidified him in the pantheon of underground rock visionaries, but his "solo" work (both truly solo and with the numerous bands he fronted) is also great.

The problem is that it's hard to find Laughner's solo stuff.  When he died in 1977 (at the too-young age of 24), his only recorded output consisted of his appearances on a couple of Pere Ubu singles.  The first Laughner record released was a self-titled seven-song 12" record released in 1982 on Koolie Records (based outta Chagrin Falls (!), Ohio).  It's a great record, but, unfortunately, long out of print (as I type there's a copy on eBay that's at $17.28 with 3 and a half days to go).  Also out of print is the greater Take The Guitar Player For A Ride double-LP released in 1994 by Tim Kerr Records.  In fact, Amazon.com has used copies of the Tim Kerr CD (which has three less tracks than the LP version, most notably the brilliant solo acoustic cover of Dylan's "Visions of Johanna") for $70!  Supposedly there's also an out of print 7" featuring Brian Eno's "Baby's On Fire" (which is also on Take The Guitar Player For A Ride) and the Velvet Underground's "What Goes On," but I haven't ever come across it.

So what Laughner records are in print?  Handsome Productions currently has 10 discs of Laughner material available, but if you're one of the uninitiated, you can't go wrong starting out with the "Cinderella Backstreet" single, which thankfully Forced Exposure has kept in print.

Even though it's only got two songs, the "Cinderella Backstreet" single serves as a decent overview of the rest of Laughner's voluminous recorded output.  Some have documented how Laughner went through distinct phases: folk (in the mold of Woody Guthrie and Dylan), underground rock (in the mold of the Velvet Underground), experimental rock (in the mold of Captain Beefheart), glam (in the mold of Bowie/Eno), punk (in . . . um . . . his own mold), etc.  There's a good bit of truth in this idea, and the A-side title-track to the single is one of Laughner's "folk" recordings.

Accompanied only by a 12-string acoustic guitar, "Cinderella Backstreet" takes a long look at one of Laughner's favorite subjects: ordinary people.  The song takes a few cues from Dylan -- I read some review somewhere derisively calling Laughner's "Sylvia Plath" a knockoff of "Desolation Row" (which it most definitely isn't, though that's another story for another day), but "Backstreet" is the song that bears a faint resemblance to Dylan's tune.  Laughner's song is wholly his own, however.  The "alley" that the narrator walks down during the refrain of "Cinderella Backstreet" is an infinitely more real alley than Dylan's Row, and Laughner's song is populated by friends with real names -- Scotty and Ricky -- while Dylan sings about Ezra Pound the Hunchback of Notre Dame.  Sure, Peter's guy is walking around with Cinderella Backstreet, but this Cinderella is a Cleveland girl, not the fairytale maiden Dylan sings about.

And maybe this was what Laughner was really good at.  He took certain recognizable forms, digested them, and produced something that was uniquely his.  And isn't that what a folk singer -- no, better yet, an American singer -- does?  "Cinderella Backstreet" is an epic acoustic folk song in the mold of Dylan -- but it's Laughner's epic acoustic folk song.  When Laughner sings that opening line, " . . . I am a backstreet boy . . . ", you get something distinctly Laughner -- that forlorn, but not resigned, sense of standing on the periphery while knowing there are still movements to be made -- that transcends form (and any baggage the words "backstreet boy" may carry for those of us living in the new millenium).  It's a good song, and my words really can't do it justice.  You gotta listen to it yourself.

While Laughner dug Dylan, perhaps his ultimate "hero" was the Velvets-era Lou Reed.  So, it's fitting that the B-side of the single is the Velvet Underground's "White Light/White Heat," performed by one of Laughner's bands, Cinderella Backstreet (that's right . . . just like the song -- by the way, I'm not sure if this is the same recording that's featured on the Handsome Productions Cinderella Backstreet cd, though I imagine it is).  Recorded live during a show in August, 1973, this 6+ minute take of the Velvets classic showcases a bit of the experimental noise-rock elements that would inform both Rocket From The Tombs and Pere Ubu.  In fact, Cinderella Backstreet features Scott Krauss, who later would go on to drum with Ubu.

Is this version of "White Light/White Heat" as good as the Velvets' version?  Of course not.  But, as Laughner himself says in introducting the song, "This is the same song, only it's a little bit different."  The "meat" of the song is pretty true to the original.  It's at the ends where we get a bit of that Laughner magic.  It starts off with a slow groove that allows the tension to build up.  It doesn't have the initial rush of the Velvets' version (which starts with the singing), but the effect here is interesting nonetheless.  At the end we get an extended improvisation, heavy on the keys, but not at the expense of the guitars, that gives us a bit more substance than the original.  Again, this version isn't on par with the classic original, but it does work as a glimpse into how the Velvets were interpreted a mere five years after the fact.

Like I said, the two songs on the single will give you a good but brief overview of Laughner's work.  If you can't get your hands on any of the other recordings just yet, it'll take care of ya.  There have been hints here and there (e.g., Wikipedia) that a new Laughner compilation will be distributed on a more "mass" scale than Handsome Productions is capable of, but that remains to be seen.  After all, for 20 years after Laughner's death, all the world officially heard of his solo work was six album sides and two singles.  Hopefully his work will soon see release on the various digital retail sites as well.  Until then, get the single from Forced Exposure.

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July 02, 2007

Disarm the setlist

Apparently the recent Heedfest GBV-oriented gathering in Dayton was pretty exciting.  Where else are you going to get Pollard, Farley, MacPherson, and Slusarekno playing "A Salty Salute"?  You can't go wrong with that.  (By the way, is this an unprecedented GBV lineup?  That would make this, what, lineup number 684?)

 

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