Beer and Pavement

Indonesian Pirates, Hand-Cranked CD Players, and Magical Beer Chillers

Posted in Beer, Challenge, Intersections by SM on September 9, 2011

Somehow, Carrie the Destroyer was cropped out of her cast picture.

 

After my lame attempt at filling digital space on Wednesday, I figured that I would go with the suggestion that provided the best chance to write the most epic[1] Building International Coalitions Through Beer and Pavement post ever. Then, I read the suggestions and decided to go with Carrie’s second suggestion anyway:

 You are on a cruise ship that gets ambushed by Indonesian pirates. You gave them a watch so they will let you live, but they are going to deposit you on an island with a machete, a hand cranked cd-player and a magic eternally chilly beer cooler that automatically refills when you run out–the only catch is that this magical beer chiller can only replenish the supply of 3 beers. They tell you that you may take only three albums with you. There is a good chance you might be stuck on this island for the rest of eternity. What 3 beers and what 3 albums would you choose to be on the hot, possibly enchanted, uninhabited island with?

I will get to most of the other suggestions eventually, but this is where I’ll begin. That said, expect another top-5 on Monday. Now, on with the exercise…

There are several factors to consider when choosing may three albums. First of all, I’m changing the rules so that it’s not a hand-cranked CD player and is instead a hand-cranked phonograph player. Just because I’m stuck alone on a deserted island doesn’t mean I won’t want to hear the warm crackle of some vinyl. That said, these three records better be so good that I won’t mind hand-cranking for my tunes, severely limiting my dance time.

Another factor to consider is the versatility of the music. My three favorite records might not be good for all occasions. What if I invite over a few head hunters for dinner and want some nice mood music? What if the party gets wild and I need music that we can thrash and dance to while cutting off the heads of our meal? What if we all enter a cannibal-induced  coma requiring us to relax a bit? What if I get lucky[2]? I need a soundtrack that meets many needs.

All that is true, but it has to be music with which I’ll never grow tired. We’re talking potentially an eternity. I have to be prepared. So, I picked mainly music from my favorite time period and favorite non-genre: 90’s indie rock.

  1. Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain by Pavement – I go back and forth whether this is my favorite Pavement album. It does fit the criteria I’ve laid out in that I love this record, it has a song for every situation, and I will never grow tired of it.
  2. Exile in Guyville by Liz Phair – I, like most men my age, love the idea of Liz Phair on Guyville. We like that she’s adventurous and just looking for a sensitive guy[3] and we think we can save her. Luckily, the reality of Liz Phair isn’t so appealing. Still, this is a great record that is fixed into my eternal top five or ten albums.
  3. Perfect from Now On by Built to Spill – I will need mood music that will also feed my anger and blood lust[4]. This record can do both and is really good.

Again, this might not be my top-3 albums of all-time[5], but they fit the criteria best. I’m also not trying to over-think this or – as I like to say – out-think the room. The goal was to pick three albums to take with me on a deserted island. Done. Easy. The beer portion of this post won’t be as easy.

The limitations are an unlimited supply of three different beers[6]. I figure one of those beers could be a beer one could drink all day long, a “sessionable” beer, if you will. There should also be a beer that will get me schnockered with just a few sips. I will need more bang for my buck. And when drinking the same thing all day or getting wasted is not my thing, I will need something I will really enjoy drinking.

Then, there’s the issue of style. I tend to prefer American craft styles over all others. So, that eliminates the imports. It’s a tough sacrifice, but I think that I’ll manage. Styles I like are Saisons, imperial stouts, sours, and IPA/DIPA’s. There are other styles I like, but these are the ones I generally reach for. The challenge will be to find three beers that fulfill my four (or five preferred styles).

I think I know what to do…

  1. Surly Furious – This IPA fulfills many needs. For one, it’s a hefty IPA that makes the DIPA unnecessary. Bitterness and citrus comes in a can, a very useful container on an island.
  2. Bell’s Expedition Stout – This is a case of me filling a need with a favorite. It’s boozy and sweet and ages well if need be. There was a temptation not to include an imperial stout since deserted islands tend to be tropical[7], but I decided to make sure that this flavor profile was covered.
  3. New Glarus Belgian Red – I was so going to go with a Saison or some extreme Russian River sour, but I thought about what this sort of beer can do. I decided that I needed a beer that fulfilled the sour/tart flavor profile while possibly providing an alternative that doesn’t taste so much like beer. Plus, this is a relatively hard-to-get beer[8]. Why not insure that I have an endless supply of a rare beer only sold in Wisconsin?
So, there it is, my altered desert island list of beers and records. What did I miss? What would you have put in place of my selections? Am I not taking head hunters serious enough? As usual, leave comments below.

Notes:
1Can I now tell you how much I despise the over/misuse of the word “epic?” I fucking loath the way this word is used in everyday conversation and especially online. Now, I no longer can use the term “epic” to describe a Built to Spill jam or a magnificently huge DIPA. The word has lost all meaning thanks to the improper overuse of the word. Thanks.
2Is it me or did this post just get kinda creepy?
3To fuck. I just went creepy again.
4For wild boar. Nothing creepy. A man has to eat. This all brings new meaning to “I would hurt a fly.”
5However, I suspect all three are in my top-10, if not top-5.
6Can limitations be unlimited?
7Particularly those frequented by Indonesian pirates and their kidnapped victims.
8Although, one is sitting in my cellar at this very moment. It’s a good thing I know people who head to Wisconsin on a fairly regular basis.

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Stephen Malkmus & the Jicks – Mirror Traffic

Posted in Pavement, Records by SM on August 24, 2011

Stephen Malkmus will never live up to what he did in the nineties. Of course, he shouldn’t have to. He said enough with the Pavement output that he has nothing left to prove, for me anyway. What’s most amazing about that material is that Pavement was actually not that great of a band. Sure the whole was greater than the sum of the parts and they had a certain chemistry, but the band was not technically that talented. Well, aside from Malk’s songwriting. Eventually, his overall musicianship surpassed those of his band mates, the band was unceremoniously dumped, and the Jicks were born.

The Jicks have been for the most part hired guns. Granted, they’re hired to help write and record and really be a part of the band, but they’re often still involved with their own projects. Also, in contrast to the ambiguity that was Pavement’s structure in the early days, there is no doubt from the beginning whose band this is. Still, SM finally has a group of musicians that can match his vision. Long gone are the days of Malk taking over the drum kit to show Westy how his part should be played. The parts of the Jicks make a pretty formidable band of professional musicians who can make whatever is going on in Stephen Malkmus’ brain a reality.

What also has changed is the necessity for Malk to fill holes all on his own. With Pavement (and to some extent early on in the Jicks era), SM would deliver his lyrics with a jazz musician’s impulsive stroke. He would bend and contort his words to fill space and make an otherwise forgettable sequence memorable. One has to assume that he also dumbed down  song structures to better match the band’s capabilities. This second point is hard to detect, but after watching Malk’s songcraft development over the last few Jicks albums, it’s hard to make an argument that Pavement was a better band of musicians.

Never had I fully realized how much further ahead Malkmus was from his band mates in Pavement until I saw them reunite last summer. During guitar solos, bridges, and moments of improvisation, Malk was lazily tearing away at his guitar, almost playing around. His playing was effortless and extremely tight. The gap between Stephen Mallmus and Pavement had grown over the decade. I always thought the gap was there, but it was way more apparent last summer.

I don’t mean to pick on Pavement. They are still my favorite band who produced my favorite records and some of the more memorable moments I’ve seen on a live stage. They hold a special place in my heart and will never be replaced. Of course, I sometimes wonder how much of that was Stephen Malkmus and how much was the entire band. I suspect a little bit of both. I also think it worked really well for a decade and went as far as it was meant to go before it ended.

In the meantime, Stephen Malkmus continued to grow past Pavement. His self-titled debut was just the next record. However, he was now writing for people who would be able to play what he wrote. The record is loaded with hits, but it never truly received the attention it deserved commercially. The break from Pavement continued as Malk became more comfortable with his somewhat regular/irregular lineup and produced Pig Lib, an album that nearly sounded identical to an SM & the Jicks live show rather than a studio album consisting of mostly Stephen Malkmus and the jicks (lower-case j).

Face the Truth sounded like the next Pavement album, building off Terror Twilight‘s ominous laziness. However, as suggested above, the band was much more capable in carrying out Malk’s song ideas and the album quickly takes you beyond Pavement. Then, Face the Truth explores Malk’s bluesier side as his guitar heroism grew by leaps and bounds. It’s as if the time he spent playing with capable musicians finally allowed him to just play and explore. With Pavement, he often started the songs and the rest of the band received their cues from him. The Jicks are self-sufficient and don’t need the same amount of direction. This has allowed Malk to just play and even sing it straight.

Stephen Malkmus & the Jicks finally felt like a realized entity once Real Emotional Trash hit the market. Pseudo-blues and jazz jams from their live show combined with Malk’s lyrical wit made this a highlight in 2008. Songs meandered. Shit got weird, but it felt like this new band was fully realized and ready for something more.*

All of this comes together in the form of the excellently produced, written, and executed  Mirror Traffic.

Loopy “Tigers” opens with a sing-along rock edge that hints at the seventies-esque production that continues. The second track, “No One (Is As I Are Be)”, is your lazy Sunday, AM radio piece of gold soundz that even brings the French horn and piano to the party.

“Senator” is your customary third track that doubles as the album’s single. For my money, this is the most complete, best Stephen Malkmus & the Jicks song ever. Malk’s bizarre lyrical content, topical-ish subject matter, and cool delivery is matched by a rather rocking track that hits epic proportions without trying too hard. If it were not for all that blow job business, this would be the late summer’s college dorm , radio hit.

“Brain Gallop” takes things back down a notch with an easy, breezy tone that brings forward more of that subtle seventies production value. In case you hadn’t heard, Beck Hansen produced this album. Channeling the ghosts of John Lennon and Harry Nilsson and whatever rock/pop rockers he’s been listening to, Beck subtly adds nuance that was missing from previous Jicks records. He doesn’t do much. There’s reverb here. Echoes there. More organ over there. It’s a masterful work, really. It’s as if he was there but wasn’t really there.

Side 2 kicks off with “Jumblegloss” which recalls some spacier, janglier moments in the Pavement discography, but just intro’s the second half of the first disc. This cut-off works well to set the table for “Asking Price”, a Pavement-esqe mid-tempo, quiet track that tempts chaos without every really losing structure. Again, the careful playing of the Jicks backs SM’s signature lyrical delivery without him having to fill the holes with bends and turns.

“Stick Figures In Love” is a fun song a la SM’s debut. Plenty of seventies’ jangle and guitar heroism carries the track. It moves and causes toe-tapping one can’t help. Malk’s voice is almost too quiet, but you can make it out, suggesting a near-perfect mix and setting up the moment Malk hollers and echoes the song’s climax. The writing is almost Shins-like, something I’d rarely suspect from a Malkmus-penned song. Additionally, I love the groove coming through Joanna Bolme’s bass. It moves me.

“Spazz” reminds me a ton of earlier Pavement songs that fused punk, jazz, jangle, and the weird. Its herky-jerky movement is only accentuated by Beck’s expert dial-work and the Jicks’ collective musicianship. “Long Hard Book” is the (almost) country track a la “Heaven Is a Truck” or “Father to a Sister of Thought.” “Share The Red” closes the first disc with a steady ballad, Malk-style and lovely and comes to some parental truths and the rare moment of perceived emotion.

“Tune Grief” is the glam rocker to kick off what is a jam-packed side 3. (There is no side 4, just a bizarre etching. I suspect Malk’s kids were messing around with his records.) Malkmus makes a case for himself to play the lead in the sequel to the Velvet Goldmine that should never happen.

“Forever 28” is this record’s “Jenny and the Ess-Dog” without all the Volvos, toe rings, and discarded guitars.  The following track “All Over Gently” moves and grooves as only seventies pseudo-blues rock often tried to do while maintaining something more upbeat and relatively poppy. I could totally imagine Malk doing this song on an early episode of The Muppet Show with Gonzo doing something indescribable to his harem of chickens backstage.

“Fall Away” is as soft and pretty a Stephen Malkmus song you’ll find. Even so, it contains a bit of urgency wanting to break out that never quite arrives. “Gorgeous Georgie” closes things out Mirror Traffic with a shaky bit of finality and even a touch of the storytelling that’s become ever-present in Malk songs, post-Pavement. The song does what a good closer should do and just makes the listener want to hear more. So, you remove the record and return side 1 to the turntable.

As I’ve mentioned before, Beck’s fingerprints are all over this record, but you’ll need Vince Masuka to find them. The mixing is expertly done. The production takes nothing from Stephen Malkmus’ aesthetic. If anything, it supplements it well, even pushing it to some modest heights.

As for the Jicks, they are as professional as tight a band as you’ll find. Other than Malk and the already mentioned Bolme, keyboardist Mike Clark and drummer Janet Weiss (now moved on to Wild Flag, FTW!) round up what is a great, great band. Clark took subtlety classes from Beck and augments what would have been excellent songs anyway. Janet Weiss proves once again that she’s one of the best drummers alive. The woman just knows how to treat her skins.

There have been times I’ve been down on Stephen Malkmus & the Jicks. I just wanted them to be another Pavement, but they are obviously not. And after revisiting Malk’s entire discography and spending a lot of time with Mirror Traffic over the last week, I am really getting to like what Malk’s done since 2k started. Now, he’s equaled the number of Pavement records he recorded and doesn’t show signs of stopping. What also won’t stop is his growth and I can’t wait to see how big he grows.

*Somehow, I forgot to write up Real Emotional Trash. I’m not sure how as the title track runs through my head all the time. Still, hat tip to Justin for pointing out my transgression.

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Creature Comforts

Posted in Intersections by SM on August 10, 2011

Creature comforts are the things we turn to in order to help us feel at home or at ease. When we’re not into the game of chance that comes with experimentation, we turn to these experiences to help us feel grounded, whole, or just like ourselves.

Two recent conversations reminded me of this importance.

The first happened at a local punk show last week. I was sitting with a guy and all we could talk about was music from the nineties, especially music from southwestern Ohio where we both originated. Earlier that same day, I had listened to The Afghan Whigs’ Gentleman and Liz Phair’s Exile in Guyville, two all-time favorites I often turn to when nothing new suits my mood.

This music qualifies as a creature comfort. Time and time again, we turn to “comfort music” to satisfy that need to feel at home. If I’m feeling ill at ease, I’ll put on Pavement, Yo La Tengo, or Swearing at Motorists (among others). This music relaxes me or settles anxieties within. Inventions like iPods has made this easier, but I’ve always carried around at least a few old standbys just in case. Sometimes we call this being “stuck in a rut,” but I prefer to look at it as turning to old standbys for inspiration instead wasting large amounts of energy searching for the next big thing.

Like music, beer offers us comforts we shouldn’t forget. It’s Just Booze Dancing… did a review on Stone IPA and called it a “comfort beer.” A comfort beer is that beer you turn to when no other option seems tempting. You go with a comfort beer because you know it will be good.

My list of comfort beers is long. There’s Bell’s Two-Hearted Ale, Boulevard Tank 7, Boulevard Single-Wide, Schlafly APA, Arrogant Bastard, or that same Stone IPA IJBD… also cited. It can depend on the context as well. I’ll go for a Two-Hearted anywhere, but I know Tank 7 is always available at one bar and Single-Wide at a burger joint I frequent. APA is everywhere. Punk and rock clubs are now featuring lots of Stone. I suppose they like the gargoyle imagery, but I’m thankful either way.

Whatever the context or beer, comfort beers are nice to find, because you know what you’re getting and with what they’ll pair best. You don’t have to worry about a beer not meeting expectations or being something you didn’t want. The comfort beer is good every time.

While these creature comforts are good for relieving our anxieties and making us feel at home, they can be limiting. If I listen to nothing but Pavement, I might miss out on something new. Ditto if I drink nothing but Two-Hearted Ale. This is where the “rut” phrase comes in. You don’t want to be stuck in a rut and never venture out beyond your comfort zone. That’s when we miss out on life.

So, the creature comforts must be used wisely. I haven’t heard a new record in weeks that I really love, but the reissue of Archers of Loaf’s Icky Mettle just arrived in the mail and I’m pretty stoked to listen to that great record again. I just had an Oberon with my dinner, another comfort beer of mine. There’s time for this, but when something new comes along, I’m ready.

Top Five Beers and Records to Always Have on Hand

Posted in Beer, Intersections, Records by SM on January 24, 2011

The Hopry is starting a new series where they list top-5 beers that fill a particular need. The first post in the series focused on the top-5 beers you should always keep in the fridge. You can see their list and eyeball mine below. After that, I’m also including a list of top-records to always have around.

Keep in mind that these might not be the five best beers/records. The idea is to have every need covered with just the five selections. While I recognize my fives don’t have everything for everyone, it’s still my house. This is what I have to offer.

So, check it…

5 Beers for the Fridge

Boulevard Tank 7 Farmhouse Ale – Saisons are a versatile alternative to the over-hopped/hyped IPA’s and dirty, dirty stouts. They are light with a touch of tartness and spice, perfect for pairing with fish and/or poultry. This is easily one of my favorite saisons. Now that it’s available in 12 oz. bottles[1], it’s easy to keep some on hand for any occasion. I considered sticking The Bruery’s Saison Rue in this slot, but The Bruery is not available in Missouri and they only come in 750 mL bombers.

Ska Modus Hoperandi – One has to have a hopbomb around, right[2]? Modus is quickly replacing spots in fridges around Middle Missouri that were once held down by Bell’s Two-Hearted Ale[3]. The fact that this beer comes in a can makes it perfect for this list. Cans tend to keep IPA’s better than bottles and they’re easily stored. I eventually want a beer fridge and have fantasized filling the “can dispensers” in those things usually reserved for PBR and Coke Zero with some Modus.

Bell’s Expedition Stout – This is maybe my favorite beer. Bigger, blackerer, and full of molasses[4], Expedition is a go-to imperial stout that should be in every fridge and beer closet. Besides sipping on the good stuff, I periodically make ice cream out of this Texas (via Michigan) tea. The best part is that the ice cream recipe leaves me a half bottle to finish as I churn the creamy concoction.

Cantillon Kriek – I considered New Belgium’s La Folie for the token sour stand-by, but that only comes in bombers. Cantillon is the fine wine of the beer world and they sell their beers in smaller bottles for a somewhat affordable treat[5]. This beer fills the sour need as well as showing your guests that fruit does belong in beer from time to time.

Dogfish Head[6] India Brown Ale – This is the only beer not readily available in Missouri, but I try to have it around as much as possible. Besides being a really great beer, IBA is the perfect beer to pair with almost any food, especially those of the greasy, meaty variety. I essentially proclaimed that the most perfect pairing ever was a Booches burger and a DfH IBA and I still stand by that assertion[7]. The combination of hops cutting through grease and sweet malty goodness balancing the richness of the meat is too good not to experience at least once.

As you can see, my beer list is pretty diverse. The records didn’t turn out that way, but my taste in music is much, much narrower than my taste in beers. Just look at the blog’s title[8]. I identify a band but refer to beer in general. That can tell you a lot about this blog. Now, on to the records…

5 Records for the Turntable

Neutral Milk Hotel In the Aeroplane of the Sea – This is an absolute classic that will hold down a spot on my overall top-5 every time. No other record is as good a discussion starter as Aeroplane. Aesthetically, it has some folky acoustic guitar, trumpet flourishes, love for our lord and savior Jesus Christ… Really, everyone should own this album[9].

A Tribe Called Quest The Low End Theory – You need dance music? Wanna kick it old school? Your only black friend is over for dinner[10]? Drop the needle on this hip-hop classic and let the groove take over. Not only does your cred go up a notch for actually owning  hip-hop record, but you own one of the most revered and highly decorated albums of all time.

Pavement Quarantine the Past – Put this one on for your kids and explain that this is what the nineties sounded like. Normally, I’d put a specific Pavement album (or possibly their entire catalog) on this list, but Quarantine the Past is a near-perfect compilation that spans the group’s run quite nicely. Now, you can expose your friends to Pavement without making them sit through every 7″ and reissue extra[11].

Slint Spiderland – At this point, my musical biases have gone over the top. Nearly all the nineties essentials are now covered with Spiderland joining the party. However, this album is diverse enough to handle both a dark mood and the end-of-the-evening comedown. That and like Aeroplane, this record offers plenty about which to talk. “Did you know that Will Oldham took the picture on the cover?” “Did you know that PJ Harvey answered the band’s call for a female singer in the liner notes?” “Did you know that there’s a children’s book created for the final track?” This record is a discussion-starter for sure.

Animal Collective Merriweather Post Pavilion – Want to lighten the mood while simultaneously raising the discourse in the room? Put on Merriweather Post Pavilion, one of the most cerebral dance records of the last decadea[12]. Plus, you can stare at the “moving” record sleeve all night long.

What are your five to always have on hand? Are my musical tastes too narrow? Leave a comment or three.

Notes:
1Interestingly, for those who are not familiar, Tank 7 is part of the Smokestack Series, celebrating Boulevard’s famous smokestacks bearing their name. The original series came exclusively in tall, like smokestack-tall 750 mL bottles. So, the move to 12oz. bottles was awkward, but Boulevard pulled it off beautifully as they chose a taller, sleeker 12 oz. bottle.
2This is rhetorical. Of course one must always have a hopbomb in the fridge/cellar. I have been known to go buy an IPA or DIPA even though I have a cellar full of perfectly good beers simply for the purpose of insuring that I have at least one hoppy beer around. And those are the beers I consume the quickest, so it makes sense to always have some around. Don’t question the logic. Go out and buy an IPA right now.
3Two-Hearted is still a perfectly acceptable option here, but Modus is newish around these parts and it comes in cans.
4I like bourbon, oak/vanilla, and chocolate in my imperial stouts, but molasses brings it. This preference is possibly due to my dad’s practice of pouring brown sugar all over his Cheerios. Yes. You read that correctly. The best part was when you came to the end and had nothing left but creamy brown sugar.
5The 750 mL bombers run in the $30 range. So, ten bucks for 12 oz. of really, really good beer is sometimes justified.
6Dogfish Head has been taking it on the chin as of late. It’s most likely a backlash from the Brew Masters debacle/nondebacle. Let’s get this straight. Dogfish Head makes some of the best, if not most interesting beers in craft beer. Additionally, founder Sam Calagione has maybe done more for the growth in craft beer aside from anyone named Michael Jackson or Jim Koch.
7Seriously, I challenge you to find another better pairing. Do it. Until you’ve had this pairing, you won’t ever understand the food and beer pairing. This is the standard. See if you can exceed it.
8It does seem to me that I judge music based on degrees of Pavement. I’m OK with that.
9In fact, I know several people who own it but don’t appreciate it. I suggest for those who don’t get it (and this may very well go for any so-called classic record) that they should read the book in the 33 1/3 series to get the context. If you can’t appreciate Aeroplane after that, there’s nothing I can do for you.
10Oh, I know my demographic: middle-class white folk who can’t seem to rid themselves of white guilt. It’s okay. Embrace your racism. I’ve made peace with mine.
11Doing so would be a perfectly acceptable practice as well.
12I don’t like dance music. So, I’m sure you could name a better dance record. Still, this album would have to be in your top-10 of the last decade.

File Under: Miscellany

Posted in Beer, Life by SM on January 21, 2011

Several things have crossed my network of RSS, Facebook, and Twitter feeds that could be worthy subjects on this blog. I’m using this post to sort through them and hopefully stumble upon one that can be developed[1]. I’ll at least have a complete blog post when it’s all said and done.

Archers of Loaf Reunite
As I once proposed, it’s time for Archers of Loaf to get back together. Well, they did, but there’s no indication it will happen again[2]. Still, one has to suspect that a tour is in their future. However, how many dates will they play and how far will the tour stretch? Some bands do a weekend in a major city. Others do the full-on Pixies/Pavement model. I’m hoping for the latter as Middle Missouri gets so few great bands as it is. That and I suspect Loaf will do smaller venues like they did way back when. I’m certainly not hopeful for a reunion record, though. There’s a reason that bands like Pixies and Pavement didn’t do much if any recording after reuniting[3]. With band members taking up various projects, these bands stood no chance at picking up where they left off or even resembling their former selves. I’d be happy with a tour that stops through Missouri. That’s all.

Still, if you click through to the videos of the show last weekend, you’ll see why Archers of Loaf were considered among the best live performers in the indie circuit. They were so good that I think they’ve ruined live shows for me forever. So, let’s hope they make it this way at some point in the coming year.

Hopslammed Cont’d
The Beer Holiday I described on Wednesday has come and gone. By early afternoon, Sycamore’s keg was blown and nearly every store carrying the beer was sold out. There are rumors that more is coming to town, but it won’t be much[4]. It was like a Depression-era bank run a la It’s a Wonderful Life.

That said, an offshoot of the Coalition emerged. My beer club pooled their resources and insured that none was without Hopslam on this great day. Facebook group threads kept folks abreast of developments. And when a few unlucky beer enthusiasts were without the sweet nectar of the gods, a few generous members either offered some of their own stash or provided hints as to the whereabouts of additional cases of the good stuff. For these efforts, this Coalition salutes you!

Here are some pics from the day. Those blatantly lifted from Facebook are so noted. Now, enjoy the beer porn…

Lifted from FB and taken at Sycamore by Father of the Month.

”]

Father of the Month again.

Mine. (Notice the retro rotisserie.)

And while you’re thirsty from all those pics, check out this review from It’s a Fucking Beer[5].

No Rock Show
Even though my Freshly Pressed post claimed that attending more local rock shows is the way to get back into music, I skipped out on a show Wednesday night. Why? Well, it snowed like a foot here, I had a glass full of Hopslam, and there was a basketball game on TV[6]. So, no rock show for me. Besides, I’m not 100% sure I wanted to see a poor man’s Animal Collective or whoever was playing[7]. It’s probably for the best. I’ll hit the upcoming show on a Friday for my token local show this year.

January Catch-Up
At the end of every year, I find a ton of records that I somehow missed over the year. I’ll slowly begin to order said records just to see hear what I’ve been missing. A few arrived in December, but I honestly haven’t given them enough of a listen to tell you what I think[8]. There are two more coming soon. So, I’ll have old records to tell you about in the coming week. Stay tuned.

Beard Update

The Ace of (Indie Rock) Cakes
The Pavement reunion was etched in digitally-televised stone forever and it wasn’t MTV, rather Food Network did the honors. That’s right. MTV doesn’t do music anymore. Nope, Food Network’s Ace of Cakes featured Pavement receiving one of those ridiculous cakes only possible on basic cable. With Brew Masters on extended hiatus[9], Ace of Cakes had to fill a void Thursday night.

While it was nice to see my heros on TV, I had my issues with the episode. First, the Pavement cake split time with a cake for Who Wants to Be a Millionaire. Who cares? Second, the person in-charge of decorating the cake, Elena Fox, was supposedly a big Pavement fan. Of course, there was no way to confirm this fandom as Fox didn’t share any knowledge about the band and used this past year’s greatest hits comp as inspiration for the cake. The kicker was when Fox blushed that she never thought she’d get to see the band until now. Really? How is she such a huge fan that she’s never seen them before? Yes, it’s a bit ageist, but painting her as a huge fan was a stretch[10].

That said, the tiny bit the band was actually on the show was sorta cool. We got to see the band with their spouses and kids. Mark Ibold wore a t-shirt that proclaimed “Good Evening We Are The Fall[11].” The cake itself was well-executed as it depicted a horse as featured on the artwork from Quarantine the Past and various other images from the record. I heard several snippets from “Cut Your Hair,” but that was all the Pavement Ace of Cakes could fit into the eleven or so minutes dedicated to the Pavement cake. Still, it was nice to see the band get a little love from basic cable that wasn’t nearly as awkward as their visit to The Colbert Report.

Beer Marketing Rant
A beer blogger went on a rant about gimmicky beers. While I recognize that this is not a huge surprise nor a new development, the rant itself is perplexing. The Mad Fermentationist rants about brewers using odd ingredients or over-the-top amounts in beers as marketing devices rather than sound brewing choices. In other words, he complains that the marketing around such “gimmicks” overshadows whether or not the beers are any good.

I find this odd as this blog mostly features homebrewing topics. The one thing nearly every homebrewer does is experiment with one-off brews that feature strange ingredients or hyperbolic amounts and varieties. And what is TMF doing but judging brewers and their beers by the marketing and not the actual quality of the beers?

Whatever, it’s a fucking beer. It’s good or it’s not. It might be good because it uses an ungodly amount of hops. It might suck because the combination of malt just didn’t work. Whatever. Judge the beer by how it tastes, smells, and looks, not what marketing tells you. That’s all.

Hellbender
Nanobreweries are growing all over the country and there’s one right here in Columbia. Hellbender is the brainchild of fellow beer geeks Jarrett and Josh who brew constantly and have a ton of great beers in their repertoire. Hellbender is certainly a welcomed member of the Coalition, a relationship that could blossom in coming months. The boys are primed for big things as their entrance in The Bruery’s Batch 300 contest is a sure finalist. “Rosemary, Baby” is the kind of beer The Bruery makes. It’s delicate, subtle, and an ideal pairing for poultry or fish with hints of rosemary (What else?) and low ABV. The nano is planning a party next month in preparation for the stretch run toward finalizing some paperwork that could make them a legit brewery. Cheers, boys! The Coalition supports your endeavor!

Monday’s post should be more of a normal post. In the meantime, stay warm, put a record on, and drink all your Hopslam before those hops fade into the ether.

Notes:
1This is mostly because I don’t want to write an entire post about any of these things.
2Of course, we all know it means that they will play more shows. Once the rumor or even reality of an indie rock reunion begins, it will happen. It might be at an ATP or a full-fledged tour, but it will happen.
3A Pixies album would be awful and a Pavement album would be a simplified version of SM’s solo work. Neither would do these bands any favors. It’s better to leave their legacies alone and play the hits for all the kids who missed them the first time around.
4And now I hear we won’t even get any minikegs. I was hoping to score one for a birthday bash next month. Hopefully my Ohio hookup can…well…hook me up.
5I apologize for the misogyny. The kid’s just trying to drive home the point that the beer is really good. Let’s just say that he’s excited.
6My Buckeyes are now 19-0 and #1 in the country. Their schedule gets really treacherous over the next 2-3 weeks. So, we’ll see what they’re made of. It’s a team loaded with a solid group of seniors and a talented group of freshmen. Ohio State could have a football-sized dynasty in the making.
7Admittedly, that was a bit harsh. The bands playing all sound like Animal Collective is a major influence. There’s nothing wrong with that. I’m just trying to justify not going. I’m the lame one. They rocked out in a snowstorm.
82010 records purchased: Double Dagger, Screaming Females, and Born Ruffians.
9Apparently, it’s coming back, but Discovery is trying to kill it. Why else would they continually change the nights it’s on and wait months between episodes without a programming note. #fail
10I’m not denying this woman a right to like or even love Pavement. In fact, I support her love of the band. My problem is that the show worked really hard to paint her as a huge fan and she wasn’t. Why not point out that Fox is in a band herself and knows something about indie rock? I’m probably just jealous, but I thought that connection to the band was forced. That’s all.
11Pavement has long been compared to The Fall. Some have even suggested that the band ripped off The Fall’s aesthetic. Whatever. The Fall wasn’t on Ace of Cakes, were they?

Talking to Girls About Pavement

Posted in Intersections, Live, Pavement by SM on January 7, 2011

I’m currently reading Talking to Girls About Duran Duran by Rob Sheffield[1]. The premise is basically that the author has a million and one stories about trying to explain his love for music to various girls and women. He’s confused about how to talk to girls and music is all he can talk about. It’s a relaxing read before I go to bed every night. I like reading about others’ obsession with rock music. It makes me feel as though this coalition is bigger than I once thought.

The book got me thinking about my relationships with girls and women and the music over which I obsess. I haven’t normally had to explain a lot to the women in my life, but there have been times when I felt it was necessary. There is my sister who used to stay home from school and secretly dub all of my CD’s while I was at school or practice. Now, she influences my tastes as much as anyone. There are the infinite female friends who show me up indie-geek-style on a regular basis. Still, I’ve generally dated or pined over women who don’t share my obsession, at least not to the extent I do[2].

How does one talk to girls[3] about Pavement?

I mean, in the beginning, they were barely a band. Hell, throughout their history, Pavement was barely a real band. Only through years of familiarity and SM’s drive did they begin to resemble a seasoned and cohesive unit. Who needs rehearsal, right? Overdubs? What’s that?

How do you make sense of that? How do you get your girlfriend excited over a band that probably will tune their guitars for most of the set? How do you explain that you actually like Stephen Malkmus’ voice? Why does every song have an inside joke?

Eventually, I quit explaining. Maybe I’d make a mix tape or take a girl to a show, but I lost the need to explain myself. Simply presenting the band as is became sufficient. You can like them or not. I don’t care. I do.

Still, there’s this compulsive need to talk to girls and women about the things we love, particularly bands[4]. I don’t know what it is, but I do it. I’ll tell my partner about this new band or record. If she doesn’t care for the music, she’ll change the subject. If she likes the music, she’ll humor me. Even then, I can only talk for so long before she grows bored.

And it’s not just my wife. At some point, Pavement or some review I wrote on this or past blogs comes up in conversations with other women[5]. The conversation turns south either at the moment I hit over-saturation or I inadvertently insult someone’s favorite band. Still, I go on. I can’t stop.

Now, there’s a new girl in my life. She’s only two, but she’s incredibly responsive to music. Lucia[6] goes through phases with songs. Right now – and for quite a while now – she’s obsessed over Sufjan Stevens’ “Chicago” and she’ll periodically pick up on new instruments or sounds she didn’t notice before. Lu’s incredibly attuned to music.

Just the other night, she asked me to sing. She hasn’t wanted me to sing to her in bed for a while. So, I pulled out a song I’ve sung to her since she was a newborn: “Cut Your Hair.” She listened. Then, Lucia asked me to sing it again. I sang that Pavement song three or four times before I told her she had to sleep, but she was into it. My kid was into Pavement.

I’ll talk to Lucia about Pavement and other bands, but she doesn’t care. She knows that one Yo Gabba Gabba song gets her to move. She knows that she loves the chorus to Deerhoof’s “Milkman.” And she knows that she loves the “Ooh Ooh Song” daddy sings to her at night. It’s not important why. It just feels right. It makes her happy.

So, I start to wonder if I really do have to talk to girls about Pavement. Of course, like any kind of art, we should discuss it, but do we have to tear it apart and dissect every note and lyric? Probably not. Does it have a good beat that makes you want to dance? Can you sing with it? I think girls and women can get Pavement as much as I do. I don’t have to figure Pavement out for them[7].

It all makes me think of this Eef Barzelay[8] song, “Girls Don’t Care.” It can come off as condescending or slightly sexist, superficial and stereotypical at best. However, that’s not the point[9]. Listen.

Maybe so much talking isn’t necessary. Maybe we can just enjoy music or beer or whatever. Sure, part of the enjoyment is some nice conversation, but obsessing begins to dilute that enjoyment. The conversation and what consumes us should be the people with which we’re sharing the experience. The girl or woman (or whomever) you’re talking to is what’s important.

This explains a lot about my history with women. Now I know why so many girls lost interest in me when I talked about The Graduate[10] or  played another Guided By Voices seven inch. That stuff is fine, but they were interested in me and possibly wanted me to be more interested in them. I guess I figured this out[11]. Hopefully, I’ll keep it in mind as my daughter grows up.

I haven’t finished Talking to Girls About Duran Duran [12],but I suspect Rob Sheffield comes to a similar conclusion.

Notes:
1This is significant for a couple of reasons. First, I honestly don’t read many books. I read plenty, but I have never had much patience for books. However, anything about indie rock, I tend to devour it. That and Sheffield’s last book about mixed tapes was really good.
2This isn’t completely fair as they’ve all had pretty specific tastes in music. Some good, some not so good. Currently, my partner likes stuff like Sea & Cake, Broken Social Scene, Arcade Fire, Rachels, Beirut, etc. So, that works.
3It should be understood by now that this doesn’t have to be about girls or women. It could easily apply to boys and men or anything in between. I’m just using girls/women because that’s how I related to Sheffield’s book. We’re boringly awkward straight dudes who could never talk to girls. That’s all.
4Although, I think this topic easily could apply to craft beer or homebrewing. When someone writes Talking to Girls About Beer, I’ll rewrite this post. Until then, I’m writing about bands.
5And by “other women” I don’t mean “other women I am fooling around with” just to be clear. It’s just conversation.
6Pronounced “Loo-sha,” not “Loo-see-ya.” I really wish the nurse at the doctor’s office would read this so that I wouldn’t have to correct her every time.
7I do realize the obviousness of this observation. Still, if it were so obvious, why do we boys feel the need to explain why this album’s great or that movie is brilliant. Don’t we prefer companions who figure this shit out for themselves? My point is that it must not be that obvious. It’s easier to make this assertion than it is to simply quit telling girls how to like music.
8An artist I obviously love as this is the second post in this blog’s history that purposely features his work. Interesting that I don’t have that many of his albums. Maybe that needs to be rectified.
9I’ll get to what it has to do with this post, but the song is more about idiot boys obsessing over things, aesthetics, and media. For me anyway, it’s not about simplifying things for girls. It’s about, well, I’ll get to it. Keep on reading.
10My favorite movie ever, but I’ll save that for a later post.
11Still, even after five years of marriage, I slip back into that mode of talking at my partner about this band or that beer. I’ll learn my lesson for real someday.
12I love how this sentence makes it seem as though I still talk about Duran Duran. Because I don’t. Really.

Happy Xmas

Posted in Life, Manifesto by SM on December 24, 2010

Why is it orange? There's an app for that.

Happy Christmas, y’all. It’s nearly been a year on this “new” blog and it’s been fun. Many of my faithful readers from misery past have stayed with me as I attempt to build coalitions through beer and Pavement. And along the way, I’ve gained several new converts[1]. Overall, it’s been a good year.

There are no big announcements this year. I’ll attempt to post once a week as usual[2]. The posts will continue to be long and meandering with many self-gratifying footnotes[3], but I do that you for you, my faithful readers.

So, sit back with some “Gold Soundz” and yet another beer. This coalition is only getting started. We have a world to change, people.

Cheers!

Notes:
1I apologize if I did not link to your blog. I sort of got lost in coming up with links and forgot who’s been linked and who hasn’t. The oversight is just that and not a slight in the least. Of course, if you commented more and linked back to my blog more, I might not have made such an error.
2I fully recognize that I go weeks without posting, but I do have somewhere around 60 posts. That’s more than the 52 required to be a weekly thing.
3Did you really think I’d dump the footnotes?

Tagged with: , , ,

Making Lists

Posted in Records by SM on November 30, 2010

When a blogger is struggling for material[1], his best friend is the list. Just come up with a list of best/worst of or whatever, and you’re bound to produce a coherent message and definitive opinion surely to strike up a conversation[2]. When they’re good, the comments fill, Facebook notes are written in response, and traffic numbers spike. Even when the list is dumb or lame, there is sure to be no less than five comments[3].

The list is my slump-buster[4] as it were. I haven’t posted in over two weeks for various reasons. Someone contacted me and asked me to post a top-ten records of the year. So, I’m working on that. When we’re all done, a bunch of us will post it on Tumblr or something. In the meantime, I have a list to create.

Making a fine, thought-provoking list requires several things. First, there’s the preliminary list off the top of your head. If you can just think up items to include on a list without any reference, said items probably deserve at least some consideration. Of course, something will be left off and it behooves the list-maker to search out some forgotten gems before submitting the final draft.

As mentioned above, I’m sorting out my list of top ten albums of the year[5]. In the past, I’ve asked others to make my lists or have written lists for the number of days in December and beyond. Sticking to ten requires commitment and no fudging. I will pick ten, no more or no less. It will be ten definitive albums for 2010. Of course, one will have to take this list into context. I am a working stiff in his mid-thirties with a two-year-old[6]. So, my scope is a bit limited despite my credit card debt and hours logged at P4k this year. That said, here’s the preliminary list with which I’m working, eventually to chisel down to ten. Let me know where I’m going wrong and what’s missing[7].

The Walkmen’s Lisbon was not an obvious choice on first listen, but it has grown on me. No other band sounds like mid-August quite like the Walkmen do on their last two albums. Hazy evenings. Crickets. Drinks on the deck. I am a bit biased when it comes to this band[8], but they are incapable of making a bad record.

Deerhunter’s Halcyon Digest has honestly not received the attention it probably deserves, so this one is still under review. However, knowing Bradford Cox’s typical output, I will find something that will sneak Halcyon Digest into the top-ten.

Pavement didn’t release a proper album of new tracks this year. What they did do is answer my prayers with a reunion tour and released maybe the single greatest best-of album I’ve ever heard[9]. Besides, how could I leave my favorite band off the list, especially with them in the name of this blog?

Arcade Fire’s Suburbs is the safe call, but is it too safe? This album is solid from front to back and possibly the group’s most complete effort thus far. Sure, it doesn’t have the hits like on Funeral or the complimentary pieces of Neon Bible, but it is something neither of those albums could be. Sometimes, the most obvious pick for a top-10 list is the best one.

Let’s Wrestle snuck into my consciousness through a compilation created by my sister for my daughter[10]. That and their name comes from a Joan of Arc line I can’t believe I haven’t tattooed on my arm yet[11] makes them all the more enticing. In the Court of the Wrestling Let’s is maybe my surprise hit of the year as I had discarded any pop-punk from my collection long ago. It’s juvenile and poppy, but I love it. It’s easily my sing-along album of the year.

The Tallest Man on Earth just sounds like Dylan if he were still around[12]. The Wild Hunt is something fresh, something new in a very familiar package of rhyme, grainy vocals, and acoustic gee-tar. That’s hard to do and should be appreciated whenever we hear it.

Liars’ Sisterworld is dark and brooding and somehow punk. I can only listen to this record once in a while, because it angers me so. It’s good to reserve a place at the table for such a record.

Broken Social Scene disappointed some with Forgiveness Rock Record. For me, the band has taken on a new persona after seeing them a couple of times in the past couple of years. Before that, they were always a studio band for me. Then, once I put a face to the group, I began to hear them more sonically. This is the record that brings the live show to fruition. It’s their Wilco album[13].

Real Estate’s self-titled debut sat on my shelf for a bit, but then I heard the band live and gave them another chance. It’s a nice gem among the P4k’d crap. I don’t know that it will make the final 10, but it deserves a mention. Update – I just realized Real Estate was released last year. So, I only have to eliminate nine records.

Wolf Parade’s Expo 86 is another one of those albums that disappoints, but I’m not entirely sure why. It’s more complete, coherent than previous releases and therefore is often seen as boring or conventional. I don’t know how long it will stand the test of time, but it’s here, on this list for a good reason.

Best Coast gets ripped daily on Hipster Runoff. So, I was ready to write them off before even listening to a single track. Then, I caught them live. This is a nice record that fits well between my stacks of mid-nineties indie rock[14].

Beach House lost me with their first two records and I didn’t want to bother with this one, but that was my problem. Again, seeing the band live helped me get them and for that I’m thankful. There’s not a bad track on this record. That’s just not done anymore.

Here We Go Magic was suggested to me and I listened. I listened a lot, but then I became busy with other records. So, before this one makes the list or doesn’t, I will have to listen to it again[15].

Los Campesinos!’s Romance Is Boring is pretty fun and probably deserves a spot next to Let’s Wrestle. It’s good that the Brits[16] are listening to our indie rock and doing all they can to replicate it. This has worked out well for them (the British) in the past (see The Beatles, Rolling Stones).

The Soft Pack used to be Muslims before converting[17]. The result was a pretty angry record with intense focus and drive. The anger is felt and the focus and drive carry the record from start to finish. I don’t know that it will make the final ten, but it’s good enough to be considered.

The National’s High Violet is either the year’s best record or the best Coldplay record. I can’t decide.

Quasi is the Rodney Dangerfield of indie bands, make that indie super bands. American Gong will make no one’s best of list and that’s a shame. For that reason, it may have to make mine.

Sufjan Stevens’ The Age of Adz is all I listen to at the moment. For that reason, it deserves consideration. Also for that reason, I need to step away to see if I’ll feel that way forever.

Spoon’s Transference is not the greatest Spoon record ever. Of course, 99% of the bands out there would love to make an album this good. I will have to think long and hard about this one[18]. I may leave it off, because, well, I have to leave something out.

Corin Tucker Band is a bit of a surprise in several ways. First, I never thought Tucker would do a solo project outside of parenting and whatever she currently does for a living[19]. Second, this record is so not a Sleater-Kinney-light record. Third, Corin Tucker can write a good song. I don’t know why all this surprised me. I think I just saw Tucker as a piece in Sleater-Kinney, something that was greater than its parts. I need to listen some more, but this album is streaking down the stretch.

A conversation on Facebook has me considering The Badus Band, Disappears, Weekend, Scarecrow Frequency, Jim O’Rourke, Born Ruffians, Tame Impala, Screaming Females, and Double Dagger. However, I doubt I will have time nor money to listen to all of those releases before my final list “goes to press”. So, in the meantime, comment on what you see here. Am I missing something? Am I way off on something? What should my final ten look like?

As always, comments are welcome and the footnotes explain so much more about my thinking.

Notes:
1Which for me is a lot. I haven’t finished a post here in over two weeks. And often when I do publish a post, it’s unfinished.
2However, I recognize how superficial a list can be. I hate that Rolling Stone just does lists now, lists that they often re-remember by conveniently forgetting that they panned Smells Like Teen Spirit or whatever. The list lacks depth, but it opens the door for more interesting discussion. Hell, I’m writing a list that will lead to another list.
3Even if a third of the comments are mine and another third happen on Facebook or Twitter. I suspect three of you (or hopefully more) will comment here; I’ll respond twice; and one or two of my FB friends who hate to comment on this blog will comment there.
4Typically, the term “slump-buster” is reserved for that one-night stand that ends a long slump without getting any action. Since I blog and am happily married, this is my slump-buster. I wonder how many hits I’ll get for using the term “slump-buster”?
5There will be a beer angle as well, just not a separate best of 2010 beer list. It feels forced to do both. Besides, I have a great idea for working in some great beers to this list.
6Oddly, she used to sleep a lot more and I had more time for blogging. Now, night time is a full-on major undertaking and I’m too exhausted to write.
7However, as will be explained later in this post (above the footnotes), I don’t have time nor money to listen to all of your suggestions. So, it may be best to just comment on what’s here and not much that isn’t.
8To some, this will sound blasphemous, but The Walkmen are my new Pavement. I haven’t worked out exactly why, but they do for me what Pavement once did and I suspect they will have the same staying power when I’m old and gray. This is surely a post to come.
9I’ve noticed that seeing a band live and in support of a current release often elevates said release in my estimation of its greatness. Half of these records would never be on my radar without seeing the bands live. Something can be said for that. I guess I just did.
10Who has impeccable taste for a two-year-old.
11First, I said “yet”. Second, that would have been cool/sexy when I was a skinny college kid with an indie addiction. Now, it’s probably just creepy.
12Such a lazy comparison, but every time I put this record on, someone inevitably makes the Dylan comparison. It’s more in the aesthetic than in the message, but it’s apt.
13Which means that everything they release from here on out will suck in that sort of benign al.country way and invite douche-bags in hats and granolas to dance drunkenly in endless circles in whichever arena they choose to play next.
14This has been an interesting time to listen to all these “new” bands that just sound like the bands I saw in clubs 15 or so years ago. It’s been nice to hear a familiar aesthetic in new music.
15And after working on all these stupid footnotes, I have had a chance to listen again. It really is a good, varied record. Considering it for the list as I type this.
16I think they’re actually Welsh, so “Brits” is not meant as an insult if it is an insult.
17It was just a name change.
18Someone described it as “Pop songs stripped to the core and made weird.” This simple phrase paints Transference in a new light for me. There is much about which to think.
19Because there is no way she’s living off Sleater-Kinney royalties, unless they made a shit-ton of money opening for Pearl Jam a few years back.

The One Where He Blogs About College Football

Posted in Jock Straps by SM on October 27, 2010

Every building same height
Every street a straight line
Team colour’s yellow and blue
Cheerleaders single file
Perfect smiles unaffected
And you won’t forget
Our colour’s blue
No you won’t forget it

Twenty miles westwards
Home of the Redbirds
Team colour’s crimson blue
Open up your purses
For the boys to reimburse us
With a goal line stand on 4th and 2

And so goes Pavement’s “Lions (Linden)” off of the EP Watery, Domestic.

One thing I always appreciated about Pavement was their open fandom for the sports ball. They played basketball and table tennis backstage at Lollapalooza. Bob’s been betting on horses forever. Even now, Malk, a long-time fantasy sports junkie, came out in a Jamaal Charles[1] for the band’s Kansas City gig. All this made me feel OK about my own love for organized team sports growing up alongside my love of indie rock and anything alt.

One of those sports is football, particularly college football. Growing up in Ohio, you learned to love The Ohio State University Buckeyes. Their storied history of championships, legendary coaches, and great players were practically taught in the schools. I remember watching games at home or attending a few in person at the mammoth Ohio Stadium. While Ohio and its culture is in my blood, Ohio State football is a part of that experience and therefor will always be a part of who I am.

The trouble with liking a sport like college football, is that many of one’s more artistic, intellectual, leftist friends don’t get it. In fact, they look down upon it. My lifelong fandom is relegated to guilty pleasure status as these friends and acquaintances look down upon such a brutish sport that only represents the worst in American culture.

The way in which these friends criticize my favorite sport is quite insulting, really, but I recognize that everyone’s entitled to his/her opinion. They don’t have to like college football. That’s fine. However, the sport (like most sports) has cultural and societal value. Plus, college football has no worse an effect on culture and society than other, supposedly more prestigious entertainment options.

Take this past weekend for instance. The University of Missouri celebrated its annual homecoming weekend here, including a high-stakes, nationally significant college football game. The hype was insane for most of the week as ESPN’s College Gameday (as well as other ESPN programming) was scheduled to take place on Missouri’s campus. All this led up to a marquee match-up of two undefeated teams: the hometown Tigers versus the #1 Oklahoma Sooners. Missouri won and all hell broke loose.

Several things happened or were discussed over the weekend that perturbed me.

First, with the activity around campus reaching a fever pitch, academics in my circle[2] began complaining about all the hoopla. For this, I can’t blame them. Their workplace was being transformed into a TV set, students were skipping class with excitement, and the bane of any academic’s existence (the football team) was at the root of it all. Admittedly, I avoided campus as well as I did not want to be held up by the growing crowds of gold and black clad students and alumnae.

That said, the best thing some of these professors could do would have been to simply ignore the proceedings or even acknowledge them without judgement (which many did in all fairness). Instead, the contempt was often expressed in classes toward students, most likely alienating them for the remainder of the semester. How do you bash their school pride like that? There have to be worse things than students being excited about the school in which they attend. Teachers and professors don’t have to cancel class, but they could at least support their students a bit.

And don’t pretend that the football team has no value to the university. The University of Missouri, like countless other universities with major college football programs, benefitted greatly from their 2007 team in the form of increased enrollment. The excitement created by that team has carried over the past several years and the campus holds more students than ever before. More students means the need for all those professors who need justification for their employment (aside from their research, of course).

The second thing that bothered me was the general response by local progressives to the football game and the surrounding excitement. It was the talk of the town the next morning at one of our favorite breakfast spots. Sarcastic questions of “Did you go to the game?” followed by eye-rolling. I posted pictures of the ESPN Gameday broadcast, featuring a record crowd for the program and a herculean effort of sign creation. The response was that it was somehow “creepy”. Let’s take a look at one of those creepy images…

For comparison, look at this image from a Flaming Lips concert…

Or this one of Justin Bieber fans…

OR this one of Burning Man…

Or this one of protesters…

What makes the first image creepy and the rest perfectly acceptable? A friend responded with the following[3]:

  • Uncritical conformity to group norms.
  • De-Individuation of the Self
  • Blind obedience to authority
  • Dehumanization of the opposing team
  • Allegiance based on arbitrary factors
  • Inculcating the idea that zero-sum games are the only ones worth playing

Let’s break that down a bit…

Calling the crowd uncritical is a bit of an assumption. We don’t know what discussions were going on. I followed much of the event on Twitter and while a significant amount of discussion focused on how great the festivities were, there were also some critical and witty exchanges. Regardless, it’s difficult to assume the entire crowd of 18,000 fans was uncritical. If anything, football fans can be a highly critical lot and ESPN College Gameday is one of the more critical college athletic shows, in regards to football anyway. So, calling them uncritical is a stretch.

As far as the conformity of group norms, I’m not sure that’s so creepy either. In all of the images above, people are conforming to norms. In fact, like all the examples above, there are also moments of participants demonstrating some sort of individuality. In fact, the goal of the College Gameday crowds is often to create the most unique signs. How is that conforming?

The “de-individuation of the self” is laughable as all or most of the participants are doing whatever they can to stand out in the crowd. For someone who knows the inside jokes (i.e. the program’s intended audience), many of the signs displayed Saturday were quite clever. So, there is still room for individuality of self in such an event.

Besides, who’s to say that being a part of a group of like-minded folk is “creepy”? What happens at a rock concert or political protest? A bunch of people with similar thinking all gathering to feel a sense of community with like-minded peers. How is that creepy? How is that any different than getting together with my beer club or attending a Flaming Lips concert in full furry regalia?

The blind obedience to authority really has me perplexed. First of all, who is the authority? Gary Pinkel, coach of the Missouri Tigers? Kirk Herbstreit, co-host of College Gameday? No one required those kids to skip sleep in order to camp out for a good spot in the university’s quad in order to get on the TV show. In fact, I bet the powers-that-be would have preferred the students sleep in their beds, only waking to sneak in a little extra studying, but that’s not the authority we’re talking about here, I guess.

And, again, who’s to say that this so-called authority isn’t worth following? We blindly follow politicians, musicians, craft brewers, etc. because we believe in what they stand for. Sure, I love a good Noam Chomsky quote as much as the next guy, but I don’t think it creepy when said quote is posted on Facebook and forty other people click “Like”.

I would argue that “dehumanization of the opposing team” isn’t the only thing that is occurring in some of the signs berating Missouri’s opponent, Oklahoma. In fact, a lot of what is going on is an attempt to humanize these athletes who are often seen as invincible beasts, not able to be bested on the field of play. It’s part of the football culture to talk a little good-natured trash. Do some fans take it too far? Sure, but don’t some fans dehumanize the opening act by booing them off stage? Protestors dehumanize politicians despite the fact that they often have families and lives outside of politics that prove them not to be the monsters protesters (or Facebook posters) make them out to be.

“Allegiance based on arbitrary factors.” Really? Define arbitrary. Could it be similar to the fact that I like hoppy beers? I dislike the Grateful Dead, but love Yo La Tengo. British beer just taste…I don’t know…British. I don’t like olives. Are none of these opinions valid? Besides, the fans in the photo at the top are fans because they go to school or have gone to Missouri or have family and friends participating in the big game. I don’t think that’s arbitrary. I think that’s belonging to something, supporting your team.

Finally, there is another assumption that every football fan believes that zero-sum games are the only ones worth playing. In general, that’s a huge leap, but I can explain how even football is not zero-sum. One of the best traditions of football at any level is the wish that neither team sustains injury. A clean, injury-free game is a good game, no matter who your team is.

The city of Columbia greatly benefitted from the Oklahoma fans who made the trip to Columbia, and the good folk of Norman will hope for the same next season. That’s not zero-sum.

Football contains many games within the game. How do these players match up? Who won that quarter? Who has the edge in passing yards? What’s the national ranking? What’s the status of the conference? Did our team improve from last year?

As you can see, the only thing creepy or wrong with college football is misconception. Is college football perfect? No. Are there things I wish were different, better? Yes. But to look down upon a huge number of people who wear their school colors and cheer for their team every Saturday in the fall is hypocritical and elitist[4]. For once, consider the passion of college football fans as if it were the passion you hold for something dear to you. Consider that fandom is part of the human condition. It contributes to our individualism. It’s part of what makes many of us who we are. Then, you might understand the feelings of euphoria that caused half of Columbia to rush the field upon the Tigers victory last night.

Please, comment. I understand if you don’t like college football or you’ve had a bad experience with it. However, you must recognize that people have a right to celebrate their passions as much as you do.

Notes:
Not many notes for this post. It took me long enough to post this. If a good point is made or some explanation is needed, I’ll add them as necessary.
1Charles is a fantasy beast, like most top-notch NFL running backs.
2While this does include my partner, she is at least tolerant of football fandom. She doesn’t get it, but she accepts its place and therefore allows me this indulgence.
3I’m using a friend’s words here mostly because I had trouble articulating why this image would be creepy. He provided rather clear and articulate reasoning, me thinks. So clear, that I felt it necessary in using his words to refute his argument. It should make for good discussion at the bar.
4And not the good kind of elitist, like “We want the smart guy to be president.” Or “That dude is an elite guitar player.” I’m talking about the “I am better than you” kind of elitism here.

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Never Forget Pavement for the Last Time

Posted in Live by SM on September 14, 2010

Image blatantly stolen from a friend on Facebook.

After my two-year-old’s birthday party and a rather stressful Buckeye game[1], I launched my Prius[2] toward Kansas City for what would undoubtedly be my last Pavement show ever. Two hours lay ahead of me with the first last Pavement show playing on my iPod[3] and nothing but time to contemplate my time with my favorite band. I mean, it was 9-11, a day we’d never forget. Or something.

All my punk and indie cred were out the window Saturday. There was the aforementioned birthday party and football game which held me up from making a day out of the jaunt to KC. I could have hit a bar or a nasty taco joint beforehand. Hell, what I should have done was visit every BBQ shack in KC until I found the one where the band was hanging[4], but I didn’t. Instead, I watched that damn football game until the bitter end before making said trip down I-70. Two hours driving to the Uptown Theater, a 90-minute set, and two hours back. That seemed about right.

Anyway, I did use the driving for some proper reflection. It was just over 15 years ago that I first saw Pavement. I was slow to liking them and didn’t see the band until the Wowee Zowee[5]. I saw them twice that summer, once at the Agora Ballroom (not to be confused with the much larger theater) in Cleveland and at Lollapalooza in Columbus[6]. That first gig was maybe the most rocking of all the times I saw the band. Spiral Stairs/Scott Kannberg came out with a homemade Pavement t-shirt a fan had given him earlier that evening. And despite the shirtless mooks upfront moshing, the show was so much raucous fun. I distinctly remember that the set moved along seamlessly when at just the right moment, someone behind me suggested they play “Serpentine Pad” and they did. I felt I had found my band, my community. Even a lackluster Lolla set couldn’t deter me. I was a Pavement fan from then on.

I wouldn’t see Pavement again for almost two years. They didn’t come through Ohio very often in those days, at least not Columbus. Around the time my personal life was going through a great upheaval[7], they rolled into town to play the Newport Music Hall in Columbus. The set was quintessential Pavement as there were many false-starts and even a moment when Malk took over on drums for Westy in order to demonstrate how the song should be played. It was a ramshackle set, but very entertaining.

Six or so months later, I saw Pavement again. This time I saw them at Cleveland’s Odeon. It was maybe their most together and complete set of those early shows. The band played the hits and had their shit together.

The next time I would see my favorite band was also the last…for eleven years. Rumors were swirling over the band’s inevitable demise. Terror Twilight just felt like a last hurrah in its tone and message. In fact, I distinctly remember thinking that it was the lead-up to Malkmus’ first solo effort once that record was released. We somehow knew that this would be it. The show was at Cincinnati’s Bogart’s, the last in their US tour before heading off to the UK. Pavement played a pretty great set, including “Conduit for Sale” for the first time in my presence.

Years would go by and I bounced from band to band, always returning to my favorite. I even started a blog dedicated to their songs, although it is grossly ignored at the moment. Every time a seminal band from the nineties reunited, I’d wonder when Pavement’s turn would come.

Finally, the New York shows were announced last year and many more dates followed. I jumped at the chance to see them at Pitchfork despite disliking large crowds like I do. Shortly after that, the Kansas City show was announced. I didn’t actually decide until the morning the tickets went on sale to buy them, but I knew all along that I’d go anyway.

So, September 11th came. I made it to the Upland Theater, a nice older venue, in the middle of the openers’ set. It didn’t sound like I was missing anything, so I made a pit stop before finding a spot half-way back. For Pitchfork, I was really close, but for this gig I wanted to stand back and watch.

The band walked onto the stage in typical Pavement fashion. They waved. Malk wore a football jersey for his favorite football player[8]. The band looks remarkably similar to the way they looked eleven years ago. Sure, Spiral Stairs and Ibold look a little heavier, but they all look good for the most part. They certainly have not lost their aesthetic that caused them to be unfairly known as slackers[9].

From the start, this was a much better set than Pitchfork. For one, Pavement have been touring for most of the year and that old magic has come back. Also, the band was much looser, almost whimsical throughout. This feeling may have been helped by an obviously tipsy Malkmus[10]. At P4k, he tended to be aloof, almost business-like. His playing may have been better, more inventive in July, but he was incredibly engaging Saturday night. At one point, SM strolled over and played alongside Kannberg, something I don’t think I’ve ever seen before. Back in the day, Malk just stood stage right, only to move when something wasn’t right. He seemed to enjoy himself for once. Even Ibold moved over to SM’s station, exhibiting a fondness for the (un)official leader of the band.

Steve West was somewhat subdued as compared to the mid-summer festival performance, but his percussion-mate was having a hell of a time. Both Saturday’s and July’s performances showed Bob Nastanovich at his best. There hasn’t been a hype man since Flavor Flav that’s been more fun to watch than Nasty this summer. Maybe he knows this is his last hurrah or whatever. All I know is that he has not disappointed on this reunion tour. Of course, I could have used a little more Moog on his part, but you can’t get everything.

The set was huge, a whopping 29 songs. Normally, I grow bored with sets that long, but this one was worth it. The band played eight more songs than P4k and fit in an encore complete with a cover at the end. Strangely, neither show included “Summer Babe”, but I can live with that.

It was a good send-off for my favorite band. As long as they don’t reunite again in two years a la Pixies or play into their 70’s a la the Stones/Who/Led Zeppelin, I’ll be good with them ending things later this fall. They’ll go out on top, more like Jordan than Favre[11].

September 11th has a lot of meaning to me. I remember that day in 2001 when I entered the teachers’ lounge at my school to discover the world had been turned upside-down. Luckily, the day has now been fixed for me. My daughter was born two years ago on the day, forever wiping the slate clean. This September 11th was great since my kid now has a personality and an intellect in which we can relate on some level[12]. The day was certainly topped off with the Pavement show, making it an easy date to never forget.

Notes (Yes, they’re back. Get used to it.):

1OK, so I’ve outed myself. I am a die-hard Ohio State Buckeyes football fan. I had to hang around to see them put away the Miami Hurricanes and maintain their #2 ranking in the polls. I’m OK with this since Pavement are avid sport fans.
2So, I’ve outed myself again. Yes, I own a Prius, but that’s mostly because we got a good deal and I drive a lot for my job. And despite my hyperbole, it does not launch. It mostly scoots away silently.
3I don’t remember where I found it, but one can download a free and somewhat legal recording of that last Pavement gig at the Brixton Academy in London on November 20, 1999. Included is SM’s “handcuff” statement.
4As any self-respecting Pavement fan knows, the band was cookoo for the Cocoa Puffs (AKA BBQ) while recording Wowee Zowee in Memphis.
5To be clear, I listened the shit out of that dubbed copy of Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain before that. It’s just that at the time, I was discovering a lot of music. It was hard to focus on one band. Something about that album and tour helped me see the light.
6Pavement followed a pregnant Sinead O’Connor that day. It turned out to be her last performance on the tour.
7That was a great spring for shows, if I remember correctly. There was the last Brainiac show in Columbus, John Spencer Blues Explosion, Yo La Tengo, Guided By Voices (twice, consecutive nights), The Afghan Whigs, Archers of Loaf, and Pavement to name a few.
8The jersey was a Jamaal Charles #25. Charles is a running back for the Kansas City Chiefs who had an incredible second-half of the season last year. Malk is a notorious fantasy basketball participant, but something tells me he dabbles in the fantasy football as well. Being the Charles is a big-paly back, SM surely has him on his team.
9I will never understand how a band could be called “slackers” when they release five records, countless singles, plus tour almost non-stop for nine or ten years straight. There’s something about nineties bands in their un-tucked shirts, ironic t-shirts, and jeans that make them slackers.
10I once saw Malk trashed for a Jicks show where he proceeded to count the pretty girls in the audience.
11Both came out of retirement, but only Jordan left on top…unless you count that stint with the Wizards or that time he played baseball. OK. Nevermind. No sports analogy works here. I want them to retire on top before they record an album we’ll all regret.
12Well, we can relate as much as an adult and two-year-old can relate. I won’t pretend we’re talking philosophy or politics, but we understand each other. That and she loves “Cut Your Hair”, a song Pavement played both times I saw them. Now even that song has new meaning for me.

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