"Last night I had a bad set at the Improv. They added an E to their sign."
I can only remember three celebrity deaths that truly bothered me. When Kurt Vonnegut died my college buddies and I decided to forego classes in favor of a day of drinking, each pint dedicated to the late, great writer. This year, it was George Carlin's death. I contemplated making a U-Turn from my commute to work and heading home to watch old hbo specials but decided instead to commemorate Carlin's life on YouTube from my desk. Needless to say, not much work was accomplished that day. On April Fool's Day, 2005 I remember learning of Mitch Hedberg's and immediately being angered at such a horrible joke. Soon after it occured to me that faking a death was not really Mitch's style and it was later confirmed, a drug overdose had killed one of our nation's most unique comedians. He had just started becoming nationally recognized for his style and funny insights on life. You can imagine my surprise, then, when on September 9th, 2008 a new Mitch Hedberg album was released called Do You Believe in Gosh, full of new, never heard before material. So naturally I picked up the cd, and I thought I'd write a review here on AP.net.I must warn, however, that this review is biased. Reviewing a comedy album can be accomplished, to be sure. Funnier jokes warrant a good review, etc. But what about when an artist drops a post mortem album like Tupac? Clearly any album at all is 100% better than the alternative. I give this a 10 out of 10, and since this is a rare posthumous comedy album you will just have to humor me.
Ostensibly, the album is classic Mitch. The distinct anxious delivery, the one liners, the non sequiturs? All there. The difference, however, that veteran Hedberg fans will notice is that the jokes on this album seem unpolished. That's not to say that Mitch's jokes were ever truly "polished," in the traditional sense, but in the days of Mitch All Together and Strategic Grill Locations (read:the alive days) you got the sense that he had a joke and he was going to stick to it, funny or not. He always included his own anxious, self-aware critiique of his jokes anyway, which became part of his style. On Gosh, many of the jokes feel like the embodiment of "trial and error." Some, in fact, lose track of their point half way through at which point Mitch scraps the thought, makes a comment about the attempted joke in the way only he could, and then moves on to the next punchline. It's probably just me, but by the end of the album I felt I could only count on one hand the number of tracks which had me laughing all the way through. The others needed work. However, it's this unfinished feeling that makes the album as a whole very endearing.
This album was recorded during a set Mitch did at the LA Improv, and it's quite clear it was a recording that was never meant to be the next album. For the most part comedy albums are planned and produced in such a way that the comedian knows which jokes are going to make it onto the album. And unless its especially funny, banter between the artist and crowd isn't going to make the final product. Gosh doesn't seem to do any of that. The result for the listener is that we get to hear Mitch Hedberg in his natural habitat, so to speak, which is especially nice for those of us who never had the opportunity to see him live. Although his almost cripling social anxiety, self medication, and the resulting stage presence thereof came to define his act, you are tempted by this album to picture someone new. "Mitch 2.0" if you will, who was finally starting to embrace his success and could face the crowd without hair in his face and dark sunglasses, a Mitch who had begun to overcome the anxieties. He interacts with the crowd on several occasions throughout the album and even quips about audiences yelling out the punchlines to his jokes. This image, the one that prevails until the end of the album in my opinion may not be the truth of what was happening, but it certainly sounds that way, even if the jokes are unpolished. And it's this image that makes me appreciate this posthumous album, even if the jokes are less funny than previous albums because it has one thing, a sort of ironic purity, that could never have existed in other Mitch albums. RIP, buddy.
I've been listening to Gatsby's American Dream's self titled album a lot lately, and I gotta say...This thing is the best criticism of the music industry today. Every song has really biting lyrics that tear the suits a new asshole. The album as a whole pales in comparison to Volcano, but it's still worth listening to when you're angry.
The band has always had music industry criticiscm as one of their primary motif's, but this album brought it a bit harder...and then the band subsequently walked off into the sunset. I really hope they come back, even though it's going to be tough to continue making records with literary (and Pee Wee) references and songs about hating record execs.
"So just don't listen" will be the obvious response.
I've probably been to absolutepunk.net every day for over a year. It helps me to pass the time as a member of the post-graduation "real world" I decided to join. I say this because it helps to imply that I really have no knowledge of what the site looked like prior to July 07 or which bands were hyped up more than others back then since I never visited. I always wonder whether or not "absolutepunk" was ever absolutely about punk and changed with the times to encompass the ever-growing definition of what is considered punk anymore. Is there a bias on this website that is trending towards emo? Are some labels in the pocket of AP? I have no idea. I'd like to think not, but I can't say I'd really care either way, but I still wonder from time to time. There's definitely more emo and indie on here than what purists would call punk.
The problem to me is that I feel like a certain brand of music gets favorable treatment. It's probable that this is just the way the market is headed anymore. It makes sense that AP would market what is popular, which makes my beef more like "why is this shit popular." I can't say I know exactly how to describe the music I'm talking about. It's very Fall Out Boy-ish I suppose. Bands like The Academy Is, All Time Low, Forever the Sickest Kids, Valencia, Paramore, etc. I hate that I'm saying this, but in my opinion a lot of these groups sound the same. I hate saying that because I've been told the same thing about my beloved collection of music. I've been on the other side of what I'm saying, so I know this could potentially upset a lot of people, especially since I haven't listened to some of these bands outside of their singles. But it really doesn't feel like these premier emo type bands have much to say. Lyrics I can relate to are the most important part of the music to me, and a lot of these songs sound a bit, shall we say, shallow. Maybe I'm just too old to get it. I definitely feel it at shows though. I saw a lot of parents at the Saves the Day/Say Anything show.
Need some proof? Just go through the last few weeks of Ap.net posts and check out anything about this viral CFOB campaign and how many comments it gets. Apparently the price we all pay for something free like a Decaydance mixtape is having to hear "snippets" and Clinton Sparks voice over every song. (AND when did this scene/hip-hop crossover take place and what makes people love it so much?) I'm not kidding myself, there's really not a whole lot of music on this thing in the way of full songs, and the songs I can actually hear behind Sparks are mostly that new cookie cutter emo garbage where the singer is 10 times louder than the music and every song is about a girl. Oh, except the token rap songs, of course (Holla atcha boi, Tyga, fo realz.) I also love Pete's little conversation with Clinton where he explains how he can't leak a full song just yet, as if it's so hot the kids wouldn't able to handle it. It's that stupid fucking hip-hop attitude that is completely watering down the scene. I'd like to thank everyone who has bought into the image and let the lyrics and music take the back seat in this scene. I used to give a fuck what Pete had to say, but now I'm sure he realizes he can say/do whatever and a million idiots will just fall in line and buy into the bullshit.
So yea, I listened to that mix, so maybe I'm part of the problem. I've just been real depressed recently that I can't find any new music on this website that I can relate to. But it's out there and I'll keep looking.
On that note, download the newest/first/last Lagrecia cd. It saved my faith in the scene, if only temporarily.
This post has nothing to do with the music of AVA (which is mostly pretty good), but rather their existence as a band outside of the music.
I can't listen to an interview with Tom Delonge these days. There's something different about his demeanor that I'm not sure I'm ready to accept as normalcy. For one thing, he's happy way too often, and it's not the "we just made a great album" happy, but more along the lines of crazy "everything is beautiful" happy. It's the kind of happy Marshall Applewhite was back before the Heaven's Gate cult were wearing NIkes, so irrational and overwhelming. And I'm sure part of it is just the laid back "rad" California attitude, but I am seriously creeped out listening to him emote about the artistry he wants so badly to be known for. While I am certainly all for Tom using his Blink 182 fame to indirectly acquire a fan base for his newest venture, AVA, I begin to take offense with some of the things that he has said. He recently made a comment on his video blog which indicated that Tom is "totally all for" free music downloads of his newest album. Okay, fine. I'm not so naive that I'll say something like "well, why didn't you put it out for free?" I understand how a record label works, and I respect Tom essentially being okay with kids downloading his musical products (even though downloading is commonplace enough these days that Tom's comment isn't as much of a fuck you to the label as he would have you believe.) Instead, I take offense to Tom pawning off his band's website for money. Sure, download our music for free, but pay $7 to check out our artwork and movies, the products we are not known for. To me this shows great hubris, which to me takes away from the music and ultimately exposes Tom and his band as fraudulent businessmen, rather than the groundbreaking band they once told everyone they were. And that's another thing. Tom's idea of "groundbreaking" and "new" just includes some extra irrelevant tracks of noise and guitars with a delay effect. So ironically, groundbreaking to Tom just meant making his band sound like U2. One thing remains true of Tom, however: he can write a pop song and a hook-filled punk song with a chorus people want to hear. And it's when AVA holds true to these strengths of their leader that the band is actually worth a listen. But I want nothing to do with AVA artwork other than the music.
With all of the new music coming out in recent weeks it may have been easy to overlook Saves the Day's newest LP, Under the Boards. And although I consider myself a huge fan of Chris Conley and Co., I won't go all fanboy hyping up the record and making my blog a virtual advertisement. The record is definitely worth a listen, however, given its mix of both attributes of the band's first few incarnations as well as a healthy dose of the somber, slower material Chris has been writing recently. This mix is definitely worth noting because of the polarity I've seen in recent years in regards to Saves the Day. On one hand there are those who want to hear that loud, sloppy music with bleeding heart lyrics while a whole new generation relates to the new sound. Luckily, I think Chris comes through on this record like never before, combining a lot of the elements that have made his music relatable while understandably moving on from the days of songs like Dave Feels Right, although sometimes I too wish we could have stayed in that era forever.
But aside from the albums (that's not what matters anymore, right?) I have to give Chris and David a lot of credit as people. Say what you want about "The Chris Conley Show," this band has always at its core been Chris on vocals, Dave on guitar and a backing band, nothing more--nothing less, and never has the band seemed stronger or more cohesive than now. Some people see that revolving door as an indictment of Chris himself, as it certainly makes him seem like an evil emo dictator, but the current incarnation has seemingly been the plan all along. With both Duriyah and Manny members of another well-known band nearby, STD now has the freedom to make band decisions without really ever worrying about hurting anyone. Let's face it, if the band were suddenly cease operations Manny and Duriyah wouldn't exactly have to sweat it. This allows Dave and Chris at the core the extra freedom they've needed since the band began. It's a win/win, and who benefits the most? I'd say the fans. Throughout the ups and downs, the rise and fall of this band the one thing that never really dissapointed were the shows and never has that been more true than now. Not only do they perform well but I appreciate the way they still perform in the smaller venues like the North Star here in Philly where they put on an acoustic set. For my money it doesn't get much better than that kind of intimacy. In short, I don't really think any of the success they've ever had has gone to their head. To me, their still the same dudes, albeit a little older, that we've known since Can't Slow Down, and in this age where everyone claims "sellout" I can't help but smile that the same band that got me amped up in high school are still relatively the same guys making the same music today and, more importantly, staying true to that music by writing what they love.
I consider my musical tastes broad. In addition to punk [read:emo,hardcore,ska,etc.]I also listen to classic rock and I understand the importance of such happenings as the british invasion, punk, and the grunge movement. I enjoy and appreciate the complexities and importance of everything from Pink Floyd to ELO, Devo to The Smiths,Pixies and the Stiff Little Fingers. My personal collection of vinyl records would indicate that I am a 55 year old man rather than the 23 I will be turning in January. But given all of that and the time I've spent cultivating my knowledge and collection of music, I still say that "Responsibility" by MxPx is the one song--ironically--responsible for the way I listen to music today. Sure there was pop-punk before I knew MxPx. Back then a guy like me couldn't walk ten feet without hear Blink 182's "Dammit," and of course Green Day was my favorite band even before I knew what they were talking about in "Longview." But the point of my MxPx discovery was that there existed outside of mtv a whole different world of great music just waiting to be discovered, and this music was faster, louder, and way more meaningful to me than what I could see on mtv (completely fucking useless) or dig up from my father's old cassette collection. And the best part? I had never heard ANY of it. And it's not even as though MxPx was the greatest band in the world (I always refer to them as my sentimental favorite) or that "Responsibilty" was very creative, in fact it was probably quite the opposite. But it was just poppy enough to open my ears and just different enough to make me wonder what else could possibly be out there. So with the help of that beautiful invention the internet here I am, and here I will be at absolutepunk.net hopefully writing, loud and often about the music that brings us all together.