Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Thrashy Punk, Spastic Funk Freakouts

A really great write-up from Mr. Testa over on the Jersey Beat editor's desk for Ben Franklin's first record:
On their debut self-released full-length, Brooklyn's Ben Franklin mash together some unlikely influences – thrashy punk, spastic funk freakouts, poppy ba-ba-ba choruses – and somehow make it all work. The frantic, technical guitar parts and elastic lead vocals come courtesy of Billy Gray (ex-Meltdowns,) while the bouncy basslines and backup vox belong to Eddie Garza (ex-One & Only Typicals, Imperialists,) with ubiquitous Asbury Park sessionperson Sarah Tomek keeping up with the guys on the frenetic drum parts. Songs like “Tell Me How You Really Feel” and “Drink To Forget” segue from booty-shaking funk workouts to head-bopping Beatlesque bridges, while “Montclair” tones things down a notch for romantic reminiscence. Imagine Cheap Trick jamming with the Minutemen and you might get an idea of Ben Franklin’s potent pop/funk fusion. Turn it up, and get ready to dance.

TMC on the JBP

"I find politics emotionally provocative.... A heart-breaking subject."

The most recent Jersey Beat Podcast features Jim Testa interviewing Mr. Tris McCall, prolific writer and composer extraordinaire (at least, according to me), on topics ranging from Garden State love songs to Paul Simon to national healthcare.

"Nobody wants to hear me on the soapbox," says Tris, but he couldn't be more wrong. Readers of his yearly Pop Music Abstract and Stompbox just eat it up, and I can't wait to hear Let the Night Fall, his forthcoming album.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Frozen Gentlemen - eponymous

I ordered the Frozen Geez's new self-recorded and self-released CD from their website and it arrived while I was in istanbul. So I'm finally spinning it now, and from the launch of the opening track, "Once Had a Problem," I'm dancing in my seat, smacking the table, rocking in my chair, banging my head in rhythm, demanding that my coworkers listen to it over the wireless share, and generally being ostentatious and annoying because I can't help it.

DISCO ROCK FUNK AWESOME. Tight beats, heart-stopping pauses, mad funk style, karate-chopping guitar licks, and bonkers lead and harmony vocals. I'm not sure how else to describe their music. Listening to this debut record is like being at one of their shows, but you can make out every last glorious lyric, some of which are just inevitably lost in a live show. And I can't thrash about quite so much in here.

Holy crap, the fidelity of this record is good! The only thing I find lacking is that I think it could use a little more of the Booty Bass. Go get a copy right now. I don't think you can download it. I think you need to shell out some cash, you wanksta.

Order it from them over here right now.

Euro-trip Jetlag

Is awesome. Sorta. I'm out like a light at 10pm and wide awake at 6am, which means, unlike normally, I actually sleep a full night. Then I get to go to the gym and I finally made that 7am yoga class I'm always missing. Great way to start the day, hoping I can keep it up.

The other side of the jetlag coin is that around 5pm EDT (midnight the next day in Istanbul), I get reeeeeally sluggish, so doing anything useful with myself after work (e.g. writing music, practicing my instrument, etc) is a really tall order. Makes you want to just watch TV and go to bed by 6pm. Which would not be awesome.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Oh, God

Sitting down for the first time in weeks to review the detritus I call, "songs in progress." It's looking more like a scrap heat than buried treasure. I guess some things will probably never make it out of the Loose Ideas file. And others, well, it sucks I didn't record that neat hook and set of accompanying parts I'd labored over. All gone now, unless some miracle of memory jogging brings 'em back.

The Location Thing

While I'm picking on people:

I recently picked up some local Brooklyn ad-rag that has the occasional article about local bands. I forget which rag, but what caught my eye was an article about The Jaguar Club, a band I actually auditioned for as a guitar player at some point last year. I should say up front that they're real nice dudes, and they probably thought I was a wanker. Can't say I'd blame them.

In any event, the lede for the article was a quote to the tune of, "we don't want to be known as a Brooklyn band."

That sort of thing makes me want to smack somebody; they are a Brooklyn band. And what does it actually matter, one way or the other?

I understand that people don't want to be lumped together with other people, artists in particular. But if this is what you're going to talk about when asked to talk about your art and your surroundings, you're asking for it.

"Our band is from Brooklyn because that's where we live. Possibly, we even like it here."

Is that so hard?

Everything Goes Blarf

I'm at the sixth track of Vivian Girls' new 13 song album Everything Goes Wrong, and I'm not sure I'll be making it all the way to the end of the album. Track six, "Survival," is so far the best of the lot. Then again, I've never liked Hüsker Dü, so it's probably no surprise I like this about as much as that. Get off my lawn!

Update: yep, not for me. The record does get creative in parts, and there are some interesting turns of pop through out the squall of noise and fast punk beat and dream-y girl-y vocals. But I find it pretty boring, over all, and I don't get the appeal.

Yes, I am returned from Türkiye.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The List of Dumb Things

Paul Graham:

The list of n things is in that respect the cheeseburger of essay forms. If you're eating at a restaurant you suspect is bad, your best bet is to order the cheeseburger.

Wtf? As opposed to, I dunno, leaving? Not going there in the first place? Thinking...

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

"I'm talking basement show mosh-pit danger style rage"

Zac wrote a really colorful and awesome review of Optimist. Am quite flattered.

I can't tell if it's just laying the ground rules for a one night stand or something a bit more broad, but it's genius, because the whole thing comes crashing down in the second chorus, when the roles are reversed. It's damn near Shakespearian.

I'd say that's a bit generous. But still, it's interesting to see what people get out of something.

Friday, September 11, 2009


One of the more creative band mailing list posts I've seen, pretty damn funny, especially if you know the characters involved. They have a pretty excellent music scene brewing in Montclair.

Garden of Binary Love

Hiroshi Kumagai's new show that opened at 58 Gallery last night, called "Garden of Binary Love", is awesome, in the fullest sense of the word. I'm very glad I went. The works will be up until Sept 27th.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

I See What You're Saying

Something Occurs, Perhaps a Little Late

In my previous project, my band mates and I spent a considerable amount of effort (an expense, in the end, of time, stress, and money) trying to get our music reviewed, to get some decent press to help us reach more people, and to play better shows. We thought we needed to do PR, we thought that that's what hard-working bands do to get somewhere.

Now, before I go any further, I want to say that my goal with music has never been to Make It, Man, the point for me is to have the music reach people who might appreciate it, and to have really great performances with, hopefully, a good crowd! That's what makes me extremely happy, what "completes" a piece for me as an artist. And it always seemed to me, and my mates, that if you really wanted to get good gigs etc., you needed to get reviewed.

Back when I had a subscription to Razorcake, I'd comb through all the reviews and I'd see bands I knew and enjoyed like The Measure SA (or whomever) being reviewed numerous times in one issue. I'd see my friends' bands getting some press here and there and getting a boost. I allowed this to reinforce my views, when really these characters were getting ahead because people who knew and liked them were taking the time to spread the word.

Anyway, we'd compile lists of publications, blogs, review sites, etc. And we'd send them our record with a nice letter about us, a one sheet, all that. Almost never did we hear back from anyone. We'd scour the Internets for blogs that we thought weren't "too cool" to review us, we looked far and wide for anybody who might actually look at what you sent them. When I think now of the deluge of garbage these folks must get, I'm astounded that I thought this was a good plan.

You can behold the fruits of that labor for yourself. Not very fruitful. Only three of those reviews were by people with whom we were unacquainted, and of them only two were really published. Razorcake, according to an email inquiry, didn't have room in their print edition for Alvarado's good review and it ended up in their site archive to rot like so many other unused bits, waiting for a hard drive to die.

All the good press we did get, all the good shows we got, everything that didn't suck that happened to us was on account of people who'd seen or heard us, possibly knew us, and already knew they liked us.

That's it. That's the whole story. There's nothing else to do but make your art and show it to the people who care. No one else does, and we shouldn't waste our time bothering them. It's no different from that guy standing outside the subway platform handing out CD-Rs to people who are never going to give the thing a listen. In fact, it's probably dumber.

Despite this, every now and then I get to thinking, out of the old habit, that I ought to sit down and start mailing out the new record. But then I look at these things, that took me some two days to screen print, and I think to myself, "what am I talking about?"

Screen Printing the Record

So I've resolved not to mail the Ben Franklin record to anybody who doesn't actually want it. I'm not emailing or writing publications I don't know, I'm not begging people I don't know for reviews. If the music is good enough, it will get around because we play out and people like us when they see us.

PR always has been and always will be complete bullshit, and it's just not even our place to engage in it as artists. I'm never doing it again. It was extremely stupid of me to engage in the activity in the first place.

Monday, September 07, 2009



... "change" didn't mean I could take a vacation from holding politicians accountable?

When was there ever a time, ever, when we could feel so safe and secure in our political leadership that we'd have the ... the lack of clarity to continue holding them accountable?

You never get to take such a vacation. Ever. That's why we have the system that we have, or rather, that's now being trashed and dismantled. Because it enabled accountability.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

New record is out today

Yep, today's the today! My band Ben Franklin releases our new (and first) record Optimist.

It's available for free download, you can throw up a couple of bucks for fancy-pants lossless files, or you can come to the CD release show tonight at Pianos and grab a copy for free. Silk-screened artwork and all that. Took a while. I still have to powerwash the screeens.

Tomorrow, tomorrow.

Okay, back to the day's work. See you soon!