Trust the Gene Genie

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

El fin

For the past three days I've had that song, "Breakfast At Tiffany's" stuck in my head and I don't know why. I don't own the song, I don't even like it -- well, frankly, I hate it. And yet, there it is. Replaying over and over. I've listened to a lot of music over the last three days in the hope of forcing it out with something else and yet, when I'm sitting, staring into the ether and my mind begins to wander, I suddenly realize, I'm singing "Breakfast at Tiffany's" in my head. I'm getting close to where I'd be willing to put a bullet in my brain to stop it.

But instead, I'm going to try this: the final installment of Perfect Pop Songs Vol. 2. With the expanded readership, I'm expanding the winners. The first four people to post in the comments section gets a CD of all 14 songs featured in the Vol. 2 roundup, plus a bonus song thrown on for good measure. Here is the lineup as it now stands here currently. If you wanted a refresher, here's the final lineup from Vol. 1.

So with that, let's get to business:

The Pushstars' "Waiting, Watching, Wishing" -- One of my all-time favorites from the band, "Waiting" is a little darker, a little edgier than the Pushstars' usual fair and it's all the better for it. The understated anger that surges through song keeps it moving along a great clip so that it never it gets old. The chorus is instantly singable and, like most other Pushstars songs, the melody and arrangements are accessable without being predictible and overwrought. The band is famously from Boston so it's interesting to hear a song from them that trades in suburban angst, but it definitely works. Ultimately it's a song about getting out there and living your life. "On and on and on we go/We got no radio/We're singing songs we know/For miles and miles of open road/Get up, get up, let's go."

Spoon's "The Way We Get By" -- This is possibly Spoon's catchiest song. It's incredible. Like a lot of Spoon songs it tends to be a little bit social commentary, a little bit party romp. "We get high in back seats of cars/We break into mobile homes/We go to sleep to shake it off/Never wake up on our own/And that's the way we get by" juxstiposed with "We found a new kinda dance in a magazine/Try it out it's like nothing you've ever seen/You sweet talk like a cop and you know it/You bought a new bag a pot/So let's make a new start/And that's the way to my heart." And like most Spoon songs, musically, it comes at you from a direction you really don't expect, and you're surprised that it works so well. The lead guitar in the song has been replaced by piano but the bass and drums keep it coursing right along, pumping into your ears til you find yourself involuntarily tapping your feet and nodding your head. It's the perfect pop song if ever there was one.

So there it is. I'll post the whole list of 14 songs later today or tommorrow. You know, when I'm not feeling lazy. The die-hards may notice there's no U2 on this volume, which was more or less intentional. The bonus song, while not a U2 song, should please those fans nonetheless. I won't say anymore. I don't want to spoil the fun. So, what are you waiting for. I've only got four copies, so get commenting.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Livin' lodge

It's been almost 13 years since I was last in Seattle. Which is weird, 'cause that means I'm old. Anyway, Becky and I took the girls up to the moss-covered city last week to see some long-lost family. It was a good time.

My sister Janelle and her hubby Nathaniel -- or Natty Bumpo as he's known to James Fennimore Cooper -- invited us up to spend some time with them in the shadows of Mount Ranier. They take their four kids each winter to a little cabin at Camp Zarahemla near White Pass so they can have a few days of snow intead of rain during the cold months. Anyway, this year, they got more cabin than they knew what to do with. So they invited along any and all family members who wanted to join in. Obviously, we took them up on the offer.

Becky's brother Spencer and his significant other Heather also live in the Seattle area, so going up was like hitting two birds with one stone. We stayed a day and half with Spence and Heather -- they took us out to dinner at the Revolution Cafe, next door to the Experience Music Project, pretty cool -- and then we headed over to Janelle and Nathaniel's. All in all, not a bad way to spend a week.

The lodge at Camp Zarahemla was HUGE. It comfortable sleeps like 40 people. There were 12 of us, not counting the two babies. My sister Diana and her husband Spencer came up from Salt Lake. Anyway, we sledded, read, built and stoked raging fires in this massive wood-burning stove. Janelle and Diana did most of the cooking in the lodge's industrial-sized kitchen and I didn't shower the whole time I was there. It was pretty great.

Coming home, however, was another story. Oregon, in case you didn't know, is retarded. We lived there for two years, so we had a good idea of this already. But, of course, driving home this was reaffirmed. The mountain pass over which the Oregon/California border lies, Siskiyou Summit, got a couple inches of snow that day. So in classic Oregon fashion, the State Police went into emergency mode and required chains on all vehicles driving over the summit. That meant we got stopped on I-5 just south of Ashland in backed up traffic for two solid hours. We were litterally parked. Maybe six miles from the pass. There was no snow on the road, nor was it snowing. We ended up having to stay the night in Ashland. Which by itself isn't a bad thing. But we were ready to be home, we didn't want to add another day to our trip.

Now, let me give you some context. Siskiyou Summit is one single mountain pass and the only mountain pass on Oregon's sttretch of I-5. It snows there every year. So, one would think, Oregon. You have one 10-mile stretch of interstate to keep clear each winter. You know it's going to snow there every year, so it shouldn't be too hard to prepare. And you don't have to worry about keeping other places on I-5 clear of snow, because no other place on the western side of the state gets snow.

And yet, every year, when the snow comes, Oregon Department of Transportation turns its head, eyes wide in disbelief and screams, "It's snowing! Sweet merciful crap, it's snowing! On Siskiyou Summit! I don't believe it. OhManOhManOhManOhMan! What do we do!? What the hell do we do!?" To which the Oregon State Police responds, "Snow!!?? Oh crap. Ummmmmm. I hear there are chains you can put on your car to give you traction in the snow. Tell everyone to do that. There's already an inch of snow on the ground!!!"

Let me just put this out there. I'm not boasting, I'm sharing. I've driven through some pretty bad snow storms across Colorado, Wyoming, Utah and Idaho. Just a few years ago Becky and I drove through a blizzard in Idaho where the snow was blowing so hard it was coming at us horizontially and you literally could see only a couple feet in front of the car. One October when I was driving through Wymoing, I-80 at Rock Springs got so bad they actually closed a gate and shut down the freeway. But this is Wyoming where you get three feet of snow in an hour and the wind then blows it into 10-foot drifts. By all means, close the interstate.

In fact, in all the years I've been driving in the Mountain West, I've never once had to use chains. I've never once been required to have chains. These states, with their hundreds of miles of freeway and seemingly numberless mountain passes manage to keep their raods, for the most part, open and clear, every winter. Oregon, with it's one pass on I-5, which sees snow regularly enough that you can plan on seeing some each winter, can't. To road-weary travelers, ready to be home, this is just obnoxious and frustrating.

So to Oregon I say, "I don't want to talk to you no more, you empty headed animal food trough wiper. I fart in your general direction. Your mother was a hamster and your father smelt of elderberries. Now go away or I shall taunt you a second time."

Or, if you'd like to see the Transformers acting out that particular scene from "Holy Grail," then just click below (you won't be sorry):

Thursday, February 15, 2007

I sincerely miss those heavy metal bands

For those of you keeping score at home, Wilco has a new studio album, "Sky Blue Sky" coming out May 15. Just today, the band released the track listing:

1. Either Way
2. You Are My Face
3. Impossible Germany
4. Sky Blue Sky
5. Side with the Seeds
6. Shake it Off
7. Please Be Patient With Me
8. Hate it Here
9. Leave Me (Like You Found Me)
10. Walken
11. What Light
12. On and On and On

Am I excited? Does the Pope wear a funny hat? "Being There" is still my favorite album with "Yankee Hotel Foxtrot" running a very, very close second. Their last studio album, "A Ghost Is Born," while still very good, didn't move me like the other two. So if were ranking, I'd put it on par with "Summerteeth."

Anyway. I'm really curious to hear where they go with the new one. Part of what makes the band so good is they don't repeat themselves while still injecting the music with a thorough Wilco-ness. Does that make any sense at all? I wish there were a way to post mp3s on Blogger 'cause I'd leave you all with a parting shot from the band. Oh well. This will have to suffice:

"She fell in love with a drummer/She fell in love with another/She fell in love."

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Nothing says "I love you" like the heart-shaped pizza

It's Valentine's Day, I guess. Anyway, Roundtable Pizza, the inexplicably popular local pizza chain here (seriously, Red Baron makes a better pizza) is advertising heart-shaped pizzas available today. So let me say, if you're buying your special lady a heart-shaped pizza for Valentine's, then, well, let me say first, congratulations on having a special lady friend. You've clearly beaten the odds. But secondly, if you do get her a heart-shaped pizza, and you think that's OK, you may want to sit back and evaluate things.

In other news, having a family is surprisingly entertaining. Fun story this, Elsa spit-up in Becky's mouth a few nights ago. As you can imagine, it was pretty funny. She's a spit-uppy baby. Does it a lot. And Becky, ever the doting mother, spends a lot of her time showering the baby with kisses. Well, Sunday night I think it was, Becky was giving Elsa little kisses on her cheeks and chin when Elsa erupted a resonably-sized glob of half-digested breast milk. Right onto to Becky's mouth. I don't know how much actually got past her lips and into her mouth proper, but it was enough to shock and surprise her. And make me laugh.

In fact, it might be time for an update on little Elsa. You may recall her rocky start back in September when she was delivered six weeks early by emergency c-section. It was pretty intense. Well, last week she rolled over for the first time from her stomach to her back and can almost roll from her back to her stomach. In other words, she's hitting those delevopmental milestones and growing up like a healthy little baby. We're amazed. And constantly grateful she's doing so well. When you consider how touch-and-go it was that day at the hospital, it's just miraculous. Anyway, we'll some photos up later.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Radio ga-ga

I've got some good stories about the girls I need to post. But first I need to get this off my chest.

I've long had a problem with commercial radio. If I were a rich man, I'd follow in Thom G's footsteps and get on the satellite radio band wagon. Which I'm sure will happen eventually.

Anyway, this little quote, from an AP story on the Dixie Chicks' big win at the Grammys on Sunday serves as a case in point. (You'll remember, the band, in trouble for criticizing Bush while on tour in Europe in 2003, was shut out of the Country Music Awards earlier this year):

The Dixie Chicks peaked at No. 36 on the Billboard country charts with "Not Ready to Make Nice." That ought to disqualify them from winning best country album, said Jacobs, the Alabama radio station owner.

"How do you win country music album of the year, when country music radio is not playing you?" he said.

I love it. It's like he's arguing radio play weighs more than quality if your handing out awards with names with the suffix "of the Year".

See, country radio is a microcosm of the all the ills afflicting mainstream commercial radio. Country radio, as everyone knows, plays nothing but crap all the time. Redding has like 15 country stations on the FM dial. The ones that aren't are evangelical Christian stations. I've never lived in a place like this before.

Anyway, there's great country and there's crap country. For some reason it's crap country that gets the air time. For example, Johnny Cash? Not on the radio. Rascal Flats -- basically a glorified high school cover band? On the radio all the time. The mavericks and innovators of the genre are completely shut out. Artists like Alison Krauss, Willie Nelson, Lucinda Williams, Old Crow Medicine Show and on and on. Instead, you've got Toby Keith with his brand of country music -- which has appropriately been dubbed "Amerigasmic" -- choking out the radio.

I don't know why it bothers me so badly, but it does. I don't understand why so many people chose terrible music over the good. I don't want to sound snobbish, but stop and think about it for a minute. When was the last time you heard a good song on commercial radio? Maybe you have in the last little while. Maybe I have, too.

But even if it's a station dedicated to a genre you like, playing bands and songs you like, they'll only play the same three songs by the same 10 artists over and over and over and over. You know, "Whole Lotta Love" instead of "Traveling Riverside Blues," "I Wanna Hold Your Hand" instead of "I'm Only Sleeping" or "With or Without You" instead of "Do You Feel Loved." You get the idea. Add to that that you'll never hear an independent band and probably drown in a deluge of one-hit-wonders. It's all wrong and bass-ackwards.

I've never been a big fan of the Dixie Chicks, but I like to see people stand up to the establishment. That's always worth applauding. And when it happens, you got to point it out:

But it is not clear that the support [at the Grammys] was uniform. Mr. Ayeroff, who founded the voter-registration group Rock the Vote, said a man sitting behind him in the Grammy audience snickered each time the Dixie Chicks received another trophy. “Finally,” Mr. Ayeroff said, “I got so disgusted, I turned around and said: ‘Dude, you’re in California now. Even our Republicans are Democrats.’ ”

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

One more

I know, two posts in a day. What's the world coming to? It's coming to this, actually. The casino queen shot of Becky below may leave you with the wrong -- or at least -- imprecise impression of the glory that is Becky. So let me offer this so that you get a bit of a better idea of the whole package.

And here's some classic Letterman for good measure:

Monday, February 05, 2007


I'm addicted to caffeine. It's not super bad, but it's pretty bad. Part of the problem -- and really if you can't blame someone else for your problems, then you're just not American -- is that the local Coke bottler has had this two-1-liters-for-two-dollars deal going on for like the past six months. If I go to the qwicky mart jonesing for a pop and I see a deal like that, I can't pass it up. It's such a deal. I mean a 20 oz. bottle for a buck and a half or a 1 liter bottle for a buck? It's child's play, really.

So anyway, the problem is when I drink caffeine, I drink a lot of it. A liter in one sitting to be exact. If I'm good, that's usually two, maybe three days of the week. Then on weekends I usually end up with a Coke either from Wal-mart or from the fountain if Becky and I go out to eat. So, five of the seven days of the week, I'm drinking Coke.

Which is why I had a raging headache yesterday. I haven't had caffeine since Friday and my head is letting me know. I always get a headache when I've gone too long with out the C. Which is usually when I decide to get off the sauce. Which usually will last about week -- maybe two if I'm being good. And then I'm back at the qwicky mart and I see the deal. And then I break down and buy my Cokes and then the whole viscious cycle starts again.

In fact I've got two big bottles of Coke in the front seat of my car right now. They've been there since Thursday I think. I know if I go and drink one of them my headache will disappear. But I can't do it. The cycle would start again. Because I'm addicted. Addicted like the little man who can't get enough Skittles.

We'll see, we'll see. At least I hold my caffeine. This is Becky when she's had too much.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Lovin' logic

Let's not break the momentum. I've blogged all week long and dang it we got to keep it going.

It's a been a while, so let's do another addition of the Report's Perfect Pop Song series. You remember how it works. And you can catch up here, here and here. In this edition, we revist some of the artists that popped up on Volume 1, for which I kind of apologize. But the fact of the matter is, some bands just produce great pop songs.

The Samples' "Feel Us Shaking" -- This one goes all the way back to their first album released in 1989. In fact, it's the first track from the disc and it's still easily one of the band's best songs. "Shaking" just shimmers with summer sunlight as Sean Kelley sings about the beach, unrequited love and marine life. Yes, marine life. But part of what makes the song so great, of course, is that they make it work. The melody is wonderful -- simple and almost evocative of something long-gone -- an emotion the Samples excel at communicating. All the while the song manages to remain upbeat and near-optimistic. "I'd like to stay but I couldn't stay with you/I have to go I have a lot I want to do."

To quote H.L. on the band, "For me (the) Samples is pure adolescent nostalgia. I can't listen without wondering what happened to empty Saturday mornings where i could simply lie on my bed, listen to tunes, and day dream. They always conjure up a time when new romance, new success, or new adventure was just over the horizon, just out of view but sure to come."

Mana's "No Ha Parado de Llover" -- Mana is one of Mexico's biggest rock bands and sometimes it gets a bad rap for it. They're not as inventive as Cafe Tacuba or as creative as Los Caifanes. They're pretty mainstream but that's part of what makes their stuff work, or at least translate well for folks north of the border. "Llover" is just a great all-around rock-pop song. The guitar hook is killer and the chorus, even though its in Spanish, is easy to sing along to. "Sigue lloviendo/Me sigue lloviendo al corazon/Dime que diablos voy a hacer." Oh, it's a break-up song for sure and has lines that could only work in Spanish, 'cause when you translate them to English they sound pretty silly. An example? "I'm like sand without its sea." "When will my eyes stop raining?" The chorus is better. "It keeps raining, it keeps raingin in my heart. Tell me, what the hell am I gonna do."

Guster's "Satellite" -- Guster's a great band that channels the Samples a little bit in the whole whimsy/nostalgia vein. They're great at communicating a lot of emotion in simple, easy to dig songs, of which "Satellite" is the perfect example. It's a little love song that compares the singer's object of desire to a satellite: "Maybe you will always be/Just a little out of reach." It's a great tune.

And as long as I'm quoting readers, high school mate and fellow Skutchie Ryan Jensen describes Guster thusly: "They are one of those bands that have both male and female appeal. They appeal to the women because of their sensibilities and looks and they have an appeal to men because they perform the type of music that we would probably try to write should we ever enter the business."

Popular Posts