Wax Stories #10: Simon and Garfunkel – Bookends

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Simon and Garfunkel - Bookends

Looking for America, Asking for Credit Card Numbers

The day I lost my faith in common decency was in front of a post office in Issaquah. I stood there in my bright orange t-shirt, gripping my clipboard and grinning ear to ear while sweat oozed out of my pores. It was nearly 100 degrees out that day. I greeted everyone entering and exiting the mail room with “Hi there, moment to help stop dog fighting?” My coworker, standing at the other side of the door, was faring much better than me. She was a natural at this, I was not. As she told a soccer mom about the statistics of euthanasia in dogs a man approached me. He’d already been talking to my coworker so I wasn’t sure what he wanted to talk to me about.

“I’ve been watching you, and I’ve come to a conclusion,” he said.

“What’s that?” I said with a smile and ‘golly gee’ tone.

“You’re not worth very much,” he replied then walked over to my coworker to shake her hand and thank her for the information.

Oh what a time it was. A time of innocence.

It was a desperate summer. I was committed to staying in Seattle and not going back home when my sophomore year ended. I’d spent the previous summer in Alaska so I was sure I could make it on my own in a town more familiar. My dorm roommate and I decided to split a studio apartment a couple blocks away from campus. I had a job lined up in September with the campus radio station, but in the meantime I’d need cash to pay for our new dwelling – which was only slightly bigger than our dorm and had slanting floors and mold, but that’s another story in itself.

I’d been applying for everything I found on Craigslist but only one job seemed interested in me. I didn’t really know what the term “street canvassing” meant on the ad. To be frank, everything on it seemed like a scam. “Make up to $3,000 a week fighting for animal rights!” “Great for college students!” “Make a difference!” I was just waiting for the part where they were going to ask me to sell knives. I talked to my friend Katie Joy whom I worked with at the campus newspaper after finding out she worked for this same canvassing company. I asked her if it was a scam. Her response was a simple, “no.” I should have asked for more details, but at this point it was really the only criteria that mattered to me.

I interviewed in person and got a job on the spot. Well, at least a trial run. Things were looking up. I was going to get to work in the cultural hub of Capitol Hill in Seattle. I had the potential to make good money. I even got my friends Wes and Alex to jump on board. I had a job.

Kristin and I were still dating at the time and she was going to study abroad in France for most of the summer. Even though I was jealous she’d be spending a summer with Parisians, sipping rosé, I felt like I was going to still have a fairly decent summer making my own in the city. We weren’t going to be able to communicate for the first half of the summer as she’d be without Internet or phone access. It was going to be hard, but we’d survived the previous summer being in different countries without contact. This would be cake compared to that.

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I walked in on my first day and was issued my bright orange t-shirt, a clipboard, and a pitch to memorize. I embellished as necessary.

“Hi there, moment to stop dog fighting? Great! My name’s Dusty Henry and I’m hear representing the ASPCA. Are you familiar with us? Have you seen the show ‘Animal Cops?’ Or have you seen that Sarah McLaughlin commercial with ‘in the arrrrrms of an angel’ in the background? Yeah it makes me choke up every time too. Well, that’s us! Did you know that everyday thousands of dogs are euthanized…”

And on and on it went until eventually I was asking people for their credit card numbers. I’d say all this, standing in the same spot for eight hours a day with a perma-grin on my face. I was trained to combat any excuses they had. They molded me into a machine that was ready to tell someone that a one time contribution wouldn’t help as much as a monthly one. All of this adding to my quota. If I didn’t make my weekly quota, I would be reprimanded. If I had two days where I brought in nothing, I would be fired. The stakes were high.

In truth, I am an animal lover. I am unashamedly a dog person with a fondness toward cats as well. But I wouldn’t say I’m passionate enough to take to the streets for the ASPCA’s cause, even if they’re a great organization (though I was working for a third party that was working for the ASPCA – very big difference). I’m not even an extrovert. Talking to strangers on the street everyday is an introverts nightmare. For a paycheck though, I was ready to become an advocate and sell myself.

My first day on my “trial” I qualified for the job, raking in a few hundred dollars in donations. My new boss made an offhanded joke when we went back to fill out my employee information. I should’ve seen it as a harbinger instead of a clever welcoming.

“My god…Jenny come in here. It’s finally happened. The prophecies were true! He is the chosen one. The 100th person to work on this campaign.”

I felt like a Luke Skywalker, but in reality I was an Anakin waiting to disappoint.

Everything about the job was demoralizing. People walking past you like you don’t exist. People offended you would dare interrupt their day by speaking to them. People with designer bags telling you they don’t have the money to spare. It was enough to make a bitter soul out of a doe-eyed, hopeful college student. I wasn’t even working much in Capitol Hill. We’d convene at the office every morning to find out where in the Seattle area we’d be sent out too. Everyone crossed their fingers to the get highly profitable East Side (Renton, Issaquah, Bellevue) and not the infamous downtown area.

Despite it all, I wanted to make the best of this experience. Most of my cash was going toward rent, food and gas. In truth, I was really just making minimum wage.( The “up to $3,000 a week” thing was only if you were getting commissions, which only happened if you did better than the top percent of the office – something I never accomplished). I realized that if I never spent any of my hard earned cash on something I actually enjoyed I was going to go crazy. On a brilliantly sunny evening, I walked down Broadway Ave to Gruv Records (which has since closed). Searching through the bins I found a copy of Simon and Garfunkel’s Bookends. I’d been playing my copy of Parsley, Sage, Rosemary & Thyme constantly over the past couple of years, often citing it as one of my favorite sounding records. Kristin had also recently gotten me into the 500 Days of Summer soundtrack, which featured the song “Bookends,” so Paul and Art were on my mind. I picked it up used for a couple of bucks and headed back home, only to remember that my stereo receiver was busted. I still couldn’t reap the benefits of my paycheck.

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Even though I couldn’t even listen to the record, the lyrics would haunt me throughout my unwanted endless summer.

“But if your hopes should pass away
Simply pretend that you can build them again”

Easier said than done, Paul. Thanks for the tip though.

“Preserve your memories; They’re all that’s left you”

Cool guys, appreciate that. Maybe I can preserve memories of a time I didn’t hate every person who passed me on the street.

“Somethin’ tells me
It’s all happening at the zoo.”

No! It’s happening in your own neighborhoods. Dog fighting is more prevalent than you’d think, ya darn hippies!

“I’m empty and aching and I don’t know why”

Alright, maybe you two do get it. Damn.

Working on Queen Anne one day, I almost quit. It was halfway through summer and halfway through the day and I wasn’t getting any ‘tribs (a clever term we used in the canvassing game for “contributions”). Kristin surprised me with an international phone call. I didn’t recognize the number so I was thrown off and confused. And as soon I realized it was Kristin a homeless man tried to make conversation with me. I tried to get him to leave without being rude as I was on the call. Kristin understandably took it as me being disinterested and the phone call ended before her friend’s cellphone bill would get too high. I felt utterly defeated.

I went and found my coworker a few blocks away with the intention of offering my resignation. She told me she understood how the job can kill your soul but that I should take a day to think about it. She called into the office and told them I was sick and sent me home (funnily enough, she ended up quitting the next day). I walked back to my empty apartment and laid on my bottom bunk (yes we had a bunk bed). There, honest to God, I sobbed in the dark. This summer had already defeated me.

For whatever reason, I pressed on. My friends were all as miserable as I was, so there was some solace in that. I ended up becoming a manager of sorts for getting enough ‘tribs in one day, so things were looking up for at least a little while. By the end of the summer, I was considered one of the more seasoned employees there – the turnover rate was incredible. Only a few months in and I was leading training sessions. It could only mean it was the near end for me.

Between missing my quotas consistently, watching all of my coworkers bail ship, and getting into yelling arguments with scam artists in wheelchairs (don’t ask); I was losing it. I had a talk with one of my bosses about why I was doing bad. I told him about how when I was training new employees as their manager, I’d give them the best spots to get ‘tribs. He told me this was the opposite of what I should be doing and that my number one priority should be myself. I disagreed with that and continued doing what I was doing (what I like to think Simon and Garfunkel would do too).

I reached my two zero days and even became the first person they decided to give a third chance to. But when I got another zero day I walked in and gave my resignation – trying to leave with dignity.

It’s hard for me to even muster the desire to play this LP even today. When I look at it all I can think of is that bummer of a summer. I remember this record sitting at the front of my record crate with Paul and Art’s eyes looking right at me. They’d stare as I ate my Top Ramen or as I rummaged through the couch trying to find change to buy a Gatorade. It was like they were mocking me, knowing I couldn’t listen to their record if I wanted to.

Paul Simon Eye

Paul Simon’s ever watchful eye. He sees all.

This was all very melodramatic, but was all very real to me. I’m still young and I can still see how my emotions got the best of me. Those aren’t even likely the hardest times I’ll ever face in life. It really was a time of innocence. I was much more naive than I let on. Maybe if I’d bought Bridge Over Troubled Water it would’ve eased my mind. Or maybe Sounds of Silence would’ve made me realize I’d made a huge mistake earlier on. Instead, I walked out bitter and wounded. But I’d bounce back just fine. This record will always be a reminder of that. It’s a reason to stay humble and aware that things could always be worse. I’m much more careful about complaining about my job and circumstances.

I searched for America on the streets of Seattle and didn’t find what I was looking for, or at least what I was hoping for. Perspective is everything.

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Previous Wax Story: The Postal Service – Give Up

Next Week: Jeff Buckley – Grace

Follow me on Twitter: @DustyEffinHenry

Follow me on Instagram: @mrdustyhenry

What are “Wax Stories?”

PreAmp Set Lists: Favorite Sub Pop Albums

Sub Pop Top Albums

Sub Pop was the first label I fell in love with. There have been many suitors since, but I’ve always left room in my heart for this “high school sweetheart.” As Sub Pop celebrates their 25th anniversary Silver Jubilee this weekend, I thought I’d pay tribute counting down some of my favorite Sub Pop albums. I picked these records specifically not just as how much I like them (which is a lot) but how I feel they represent Sub Pop.

Whether these are highly celebrated records or not, they all speak to the story I feel like Sub Pop has been telling for the past 25 years.

Eric's Trip - Love Tara

Sub Pop has branded themselves and their artists as “LOSERS” for sometime now. But of all the releases, Love Tara by Eric’s Trip embodies the loser title most exceptionally. The songs center on break-ups and not feeling sure what to do next. Everything is lo-fi, as if they weren’t able to afford the studio time the cool kids have. Even taking their name from a Sonic Youth song reminds of something a music dork would do (I say from personal experience, being a music nerd and doing the same thing). But still, the tracks are gripping with their fuzzed out solace.

The Thermals - The Body, The Blood, The Machine

Not everything is just moody and self-loathing at Sub Pop – the label has lots of opinions and a lot to say. The Thermals record The Body, The Blood, The Machine is a manifesto tackling both politics and religion. It’s brash with pure punk braggadocio but manages to be insightful and rightfully concerned. It’s as infectious as it is infected.

DumDumGirls

Dum Dum Girls have surprised me over the years. It took me awhile to really get it. It wasn’t until they let down their guard with End of Daze that I really felt I understood the band. They’re a timeless act filtering themselves through indie punk. Same can be true about Sub Pop – it can really be hard to tell what’s going on with their catalog of obscure to approachable acts, but once it clicks it stay with you.

Father John Misty - Fear Fun

While talking about letting your guard down, J. Tillman took it to another level under his Father John Misty monicker on Fear Fun. It’s an album full of self-referential quips and self-deprecating commentaries. Tillman’s lyrics are tripped out and wacky yet beautiful and captivating. Like I said before, Sub Pop is a mixed bag. Though musically this album isn’t off-the-wall, it highlights and peculiar and sassy character that most major labels could only manufacture.

ShinsOhInvertedWorld

The Shins fill the subterranean pop side of Sub Pop. Oh, Inverted World is hook after hook of pop excellence. Though not strikingly commercial, it’s decidedly approachable to a mainstream audience. At the same time, it’s powerful enough to feel like it can change your life (here’s looking at you Braff and Portman). Being on Sub Pop doesn’t mean being exclusive to the indie elite.

SunnyDayRealEstate

Sunny Day Real Estate has become more of a legacy than a band. Their influence has spread out wider than, presumably, their listeners. Diary is emo before it became something else completely. I see Sub Pop in a similar way. People list Sunny Day Real Estate at the top of their laundry list when talking about the lineage of emo just as people talk about Sub Pop when talking about influential figures in the independent music scene. Both hit hard and have left their mark.

ShabazzPalaces

At first, I was surprised it took Sub Pop so long to sign a hip-hop act. Then I heard Shabazz Palaces and it all made sense. Black Up is challenging and progressive listen. The beats are brooding and hypnotic while the lyrics are dark and insular. Sub Pop wasn’t going to sign a rap act just to have one. Shabazz Palaces are bringing an entirely new skill set to the table.

PostalService

One of the things I’ve admired most and also cringed at with Sub Pop is their willingness to be an outlet for an established artist to try something new. Sometimes it doesn’t always work, which can be a let down for the listener. However with Ben Gibbard and Jimmy Tamborello’s project The Postal Service it worked. It’s amazing how beloved Give Up has become since its release 10 years ago, especially as a one off release. Thank goodness they had the opportunity to see this album through.

[I talked more in depth about Give Up recently in a Wax Story]

FleetFoxes

We’re living in a post-Fleet Foxes music scene. I’m convinced of it. Their self-titled album might have been the biggest breakthrough for the folk rock movement. Before Mumford and Sons, before The Lumineers, there was Fleet Foxes. Which all sounds absurd seeing as how this album came out only a few years ago, but it was that powerful. It was another example of Sub Pop coming in ahead of the curve. This album struck me hard when I first heard it. It may not be as ambitious or even as brilliant as their follow up Helplessness Blues, but to me it is definitive Fleet Foxes album…

Nirvana - Bleach

… and this is the definitive Sub Pop album. Yes, it’s the cliche choice, but not without reason. Nirvana’s first release Bleach is a monster. It squeals and yells and burns. But below that its roots are in pop melodies. It has the enrapturing, undeniably important persona of Kurt Cobain. It was ahead of its time. It’s from a band who set a new standard. All of this from greasy looking losers from Aberdeen, Wash. Even though this wasn’t Nirvana’s breakthrough, it feels like the harbinger of what was yet to come.

[You can check out my Wax Story on Bleach as well]

To whet your appetite, here’s a Spotify playlist of some of my favorite Sub Pop tracks:


Follow me on Twitter: @DustyEffinHenry

Follow me on Instagram: @mrdustyhenry

Wax Stories #9: The Postal Service – Give Up

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Postal Service Give Up cover

I can remember distinctly an argument I had with my friend Brandon in junior high concerning the validity of electronic music.

“Techno is totally music dude,” Brandon said.

“Dude. It’s not. Literally. It’s just computer noises,” I said with confidence.

“What? Does every song need a guitar to be music?” he replied, trying to call my bluff.

“No! But it needs instruments. That’s what music is.”

“No way dude. Anything with a beat is music.”

“Is this music, Brandon?” I said as I started tapping a rhythm with my pencil on my desk.

“No.”

“Then neither is techno,” I replied with a smirk. I like to imagine I put on sunglasses and walked away from an explosion after saying that, but in high school I just didn’t have the budget.

There’s a slight chance I might have been wrong about that one. When I first started getting into music, I was a staunch purist. Anything that wasn’t a group of people plugging in amps and playing instruments wasn’t “real music.” I wasn’t the first kid to think it and won’t be the last (you can currently find them commenting on Justin Beiber YouTube videos). This was during a time in my life when I would say things like ” I like all genres except for country and rap.” Not only was it pretentious, it was inhibiting me from listening to a lot of great music.

In my defense though, there was a lot of shitty music coming out around the time. For someone who grew up holding Aerosmith as the pinnacle of musicianship J-Kwon’s “Tipsy” and Darude’s “Sandstorm” weren’t really holding up for me. Techno just sounded fake to me. It felt like it needed Ma-Ti to give it some heart (“gooooo Planet!”). I was virtually immovable on my position. So much so I even pretended to hate Daft Punk whenever Brandon mentioned them, while secretly listening to “One More Time” and “Around the World” at home and in private.

Then Ben Gibbard came around. That doe eyed little sap would change everything for me.

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As a point of reference, I didn’t initially know Gibbard as “the Death Cab for Cutie guy;” I first knew him as “the Postal Service guy.” It was by strange, nerdy chance that I even got introduced to the band. It’s almost too ironic how much of it is tied to a laptop.  Brandon, our friend Austin, and I (collectively known as B.A.D.) were walking around Austin’s neighborhood late into the summer of 2004. Not just walking, war-walking. We carried around Brandon’s massive Dell laptop, with his wireless card plugged in, searching for free unsecured Internet. It was our version of war-driving, having to make due without our licenses. Sure, we could’ve just stayed at Austin’s and had Internet for free, but where’s the adventure in that?

We stopped in front of one Austin’s neighbors houses where Brandon picked up a signal. “Holy cow! We can check our Mypaces…in the middle of the road! What a thrill!” We were pretty excited. Then we noticed the teen girl who lived there spotted us from the window. She made her way to the porch to ask us what we were doing but we booked it back to Austin’s place before she could start the vigorous interrogation. It was a close call, for sure.

When we got back, we went online (effectively defeating the purpose of hunting for Internet). Austin signed on to his MSN Messenger and ended up chatting with the neighbor girl from before (effectively defeating the purpose of running away from her). Somehow I ended up adding her to my own MSN Messenger. As I mentioned in my last Wax Story, most of my summers were spent talking to strangers online.

I think she and I only had a couple conversations, most of which were pretty surface level. But we decided to exchange some music. With my slow Internet, songs usually took half an hour or more to transfer but I always relished the mp3s even more because of it. The first song she sent me, and only one I recall, was “Such Great Heights” by The Postal Service. I looped it in my iTunes player for the rest of the day and listened to it constantly throughout the week. Bleep bloops, synths, and drum loops. One of my initial thoughts was, “I can’t let Brandon know how much I like this.”

Postal Service White Vinyl

About a year later, I found myself at the mall with my grandma. Between war walking and this, you could tell I was a real cool kid. For some reason I thought it was a good idea to take her into Hot Topic with me. I’m sure my sweet, bingo loving Grandma felt very comfortable on her scooter listening to the sounds of Hawthorne Heights and the sights of pink and black mini skirts as I searched through their record bin. That’s where I found a copy of The Postal Services’ “Give Up.”

I immediately recalled a conversation I had with a good friend Amanda Davidson. Something she mentioned before I even had a record player.

“Of all the modern bands, I think that The Postal Service would sound best on vinyl,” she said while talking to someone else.

“Why? What difference is there?” I asked.

“Vinyl sounds waaaay different. It sounds a lot better than everything else.”

“Interesting.”

It all started to come full circle for me. Without even realizing it in that moment that I picked up that record at Hot Topic, I was making a change in how I listened to music. I wasn’t conformed to one format or genre like I was a year before. Maybe I was maturing. Maybe my tastes were changing. Maybe it was all just silly because I watched as my grandma paid the gothed out cashier and bought me the record as a repayment for helping her around the house.

As I watched Gibbard, Jenny Lewis, and Jimmy Tamborello at Sasquatch Festival this past May, all of this came rushing back to me. All of these strange and embarrassing memories. All of the shit I gave Brandon and others for listening to bleep bloop music and here I was watching Tamborello stand behind a set of laptops on stage. All of the cringing I had thinking about buying the album at Hot Topic instead of somewhere else as Ben Gibbard danced in all black with swooping bangs across the stage. All the money and years I’d spent collecting records and branching out in my taste based off of one off-the-cuff comment from Amanda.

If there was any embarrassment along the way, it was worth it just for that moment where I belted out all the words to “Such Great Heights”  in the front row with thousands of others. I guess bleep bloops aren’t so bad after all.

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Previous Wax Story: Pinback – Summer in Abaddon

Next Week: Simon and Garfunkel – Bookends

Follow me on Twitter: @DustyEffinHenry

Follow me on Instagram: @mrdustyhenry

What are “Wax Stories?”

Misinformed Reviews #6: Sigur Ros – Kveezus

Kveezus Kveikur Yeezys

Sigur Ros has always been the most controversial group on the scene since their inception. These Icelandic post-rockers always seem to find themselves making headlines. Much of this is attributed to their admittedly arrogant and brash front man Jonsi (or as he likes to go by sometimes, Joonzy). Jonsi has been accused of everything from overtly sexual lyrics to paparazzi baiting. None of this is helped by the fact that he’s having a child with starlet Kim Deal Ashian. Whether he’s making controversial statements during broadcast relief efforts (“Jón Gnarr doesn’t care about Stekkjastaurs”) or stealing the spotlight from pop stars (“I am going to let you finish but Jakobínarína had one of the best music videos of all time!”), Jonsi has gone back and forth between being hated for his antics but considered a genius for his music.

jonsi and kim and kanye

The happy couple, Jonsi and Kim (aka Kimsi).

Now with the group’s latest effort, that divisive personality has taken over. Kveezus takes things to the next level. The title is either a combination of the Icelandic word for candlewick and Jesus, or even more likely a tribute to The Passion of the Christ lead actor Jim Caviezel. This deity imagery is strong within the album and strong within Jonsi’s attitude. The opening track “On Sighttenstein” kicks off with Jonsi singing in his sweet, dreamy falsetto “Joonzy season approachin, fuck whatever y’all beeennnnnyaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIAAAHHHHHHH hearin’.” It’s a bold statement but not even strongest on the whole album. The band collaborates with French group Daffy Punk to take a harder edge in the instrumentation that was lacking in their past works such as and “Late Ágætision.” Later in the song he rattles off lines like “no sports bra lets keep it fljótum.”

The sure to be most talked about track on the album is “I Am A God-dledigook (Featuring Guð).” Jonsi hushly and tenderly croons over bowed guitars and mallet played drums about how he is a man of Guð and to “hurry up with my damn crossiaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaauuueeeeeeeeeeeIiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiIIIIIiaaant!” Pastry cravings aside, Jonsi is expressing his duality both in the hands of Guð and an equal to Guð.

“New Slavics” may sound familiar to those who keep up with music news, as the group debuted the song by projecting a video of Jonsi’s face crying onto buildings across the world while the track played in the background. It’s intentionally uncomfortable and unwatchable. Over the barrage of looped guitars Jonsi talks about his mother living in a time when television was not broadcast on Tuesdays in Iceland.”

Things get a bit saucy with the provocative “I’m Inni.” Some choice one-liners:

“”damn yo lips very SlEEEAAAAAAOOOOoooft””

“Eating Icelandic Þorramatur all I need is hrútspungar”

“Neck, ears, hands, eating Var”

“Your Takk… let ‘em out, free at last.”

You’re Bound 2 find this album a must have this summer season. If anything, to admire the spectacle.

I’d give this 1 out of 1 deities. There can only be one, and Jonsi and co have established that they are it.

Previous Misinformed Review: The Knifes – Milkshaking the Habitual

Follow me on Twitter: @DustyEffinHenry

Wax Stories #8: Pinback – Summer in Abaddon

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On hot summer nights, all I want to do is stay up  til four in the morning and kill time online. For all my 90s nostalgia, I am definitely a child of the 2000s.

Every summer I was plugged in. It sounds depressing, and maybe sometimes it felt like it, but I mostly remember it fondly. AOL Instant Messenger: logged on. MSN Messenger: signed on. Kazaa: Running. Every night was a beautiful afterglow of Mountain Dew Livewire and iTunes on shuffle. Like going to the lake or barbecuing, it became an unspoken summer tradition.

It’s really hard to explain the appeal. I’d hang out with my friends during the day when I could, but without a fail I’d catch them online at night. Sometimes we wouldn’t talk about anything important. Just bullshitting like normal. Talking about music, talking about girls, talking about whatever. Some nights were “heart-to-hearts with the bros” and others were nothing than “sup? nm, u?” with the conversation ending there. Most of the time it was just complaining that there was nothing else to do.

Looking back, I was very ritualistic about it all. Wake up at noon. Do whatever I had planned for the day (a lot of the time, nothing at all, usually working on my terrible music project’s Myspace page and hanging out with my dogs). Then evening would start with my parents getting home from work. I’d try my best to spend time with them via eating dinner and watching t.v. until 10 o’clock when they’d want to go to bed. I’d make my way to the computer, set the speaker volume to low, and sign in to all my accounts. By then most of the people I’d been wanting to talk to were on. I could generally depend on my friends Nate and Brandon being on consistently and often Austin, with a few other surprise log-ins to mix it up. I’d exchange music with friends a lot – which was a miserable wait my slow Internet connection, but it made the rewards feel much sweeter. That’s when I first heard Pinback. Nate sent me “Non-Photo Blue” and “Fortress.” They made it into my nightly rotation quite often, though I never really paid attention to the lyrical content. I always just assumed they were talking about surfing or something. It felt very Californian.

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When my high school friends would log off, usually around 2 a.m., I still wasn’t alone. Usually some of my friends from the forums were around. And when I say forums, I don’t mean something like Reddit or 4chan where it’s a casual community. I’m talking the real stuff. I was a closet anime fan to my friends in the RL. Many of them didn’t know about it until I ended up dating a girl in college who’d encourage me to embrace it (whom I also ended up marrying, but that’s a different story all together). Near the end of junior high I joined a message board that was also a text-based Yu Yu Hakusho RPG. I spent so much time there that I ended up becoming one of the moderators and also best friends with one of the admins who I knew as Bomenaku.

Even at the time it felt strange to me to consider someone whom I’d only interacted with over message boards and IM chats a best friend, but I got over that quickly. We bonded over chats just like I did with Nate, Brandon, and Austin. What would make him an exception to the rule? The forums became a really important outlet for me. Between all of the battle narrations and status effect tracking, I got to know a lot of people there and realized they were feeling just as weird and unsure about things in life as I was. I couldn’t tell how old any of them were and they never knew my age. But those feelings were ageless, timeless. At one point when the head admin threatened to shut down the whole thing, Bomenaku and I fought back to keep it alive with Bomenaku eventually taking charge.

I’ve never suffered from real depression, but I have been a vessel for angst. And those summers online were a release. I could tell my friends through telephone wire and dial-up tones about how fucked up I felt when that girl didn’t notice me. Or relate (albeit not directly or articulately) how lonely it was sitting at home in a town with nothing to do and no car. Between BRBs and staring at the same away message for hours hoping someone just logs back on, it was a surreal and symbolic experience. Didn’t realize I was just starting to learn about longing as I sat in front of a keyboard.

All this while I sipped Livewire and my dogs slept underneath my desk.

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Spring of my sophomore year of college I was working at the campus radio station when I found Pinback’s “Summer in Abaddon” sitting on one of the CD racks. I hadn’t listened to the band in awhile but it immediately made me think of summer. That muted riff that kicks of “Non-Photo Blue” was almost instantaneously repeating in my head. I took it back to my dorm and played it any sunny day I could. It even made its way into the coveted shower stereo on our floor, where I played it constantly. Listening to it with fresh ears, I was able to see how it resonated with those summers in more ways than I thought.

“She’s posting all the time, but the boards are down, it’s a burned out building.”

“She just ignores the time that the boards came down. It’s a numbed out feeling.”

“Summer is only winter with you. How can you really feel?”

“No one uses the phone anymore.”

It all clicked. This album was about me. Well, not me exactly. People like me. We didn’t have mixtapes or unlocked neighborhood doors, but we had DSL. Everything about this album started resonating more and more with me. This was the perfect summer album I could have ever hoped for. The bouncy grooves, the references, and the heartbreak. Even the title fits perfectly, “Abaddon” meaning something like a place of destruction or hell or something. That’s how I would’ve described Kitsap in a heartbeat at the time if I knew the word meant that. Every time I hear the line “I miss you, not in a Slint way” on the last track “AFK” (how did I not get the computer connection earlier?) I feel taken back (even more so now that I actually know what they’re talking about when they say Slint).

Last summer I decided my record collection wasn’t suitable without this album. I called up Easy Street Records in Queen Anne (R.I.P.) and had them order it for me. I play it during sunny days and warm, sweaty nights. I get those same feelings again. So here I am again. The sun is down and I’m online. It’s how I’m wired now. It may seem lame to think that for the rest of my life I’ll look back on the summers of my youth as being in front of a screen, but I feel like I can find some beauty in it now.

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Previous Wax Story: Nirvana – Bleach

Next Week: The Postal Service – Give Up

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Misinformed Reviews #5: The Knifes – Milkshaking the Habitual

The Knifes - Milkshaking the Habitual

Swedish duo The Knifes are back and more fun than ever! Grab your sunscreen because your gonna wanna be blasting this one while on the beach or cruisin in your Corvette convertible on the way to the mall.

The Knifes members are siblings (see also: The Proclaimers, Nelson, Mackymore & Paul Ryan, etc.). And like most cool European brothers and sisters, they like to party. This album comes off of the critical acclaim of Karin’s 2009 solo record “Sugar Ray.” So there was a lot of expectations with this album. The Knifes ended up creating this incredible concept record: “Milkshaking the Habitual.”

The album title is obviously an obscure reference to Kelis’ underground hit “Milkshake” – whom The Knifes have always cited as an influence. It shows on this album. The title is also a clear indicator of the style they’re going for. The songs are sugary sweet and creamy, just like a milkshake (YUM!). The tracklist is an onslaught of short and simple pop songs. Move over T. Swift, bcuz tha Knifes are here and you’re in TROUBLE.

Songs like “A Tooth for An Eye Candy” are reminiscent of Britney Spears’ “E-mail My Heart.” Hovering above all the cutesy crush canoodling is some higher thinking though. You could say that the album is tribute to decadence and commercialism. Think Kanye West but BIGGER. These swedes LOVE money and they’re not afraid to talk about it. Whether they’re name dropping name brands (like Marc Jacobs’ new “Fracking Fluid” line) or fashionable trends (like gender equality, so fetch) they are up on every that glitz. The Knifes love money and they simply cannot get enough of it. They just want more and more. The Knife portrays themselves as the capitalist dream realized and they are livin’ it up. Don’t worry about other things in life. If you’ve got money it’s alllllll goooood, they’d say.

Karin swoons with her hush baby-doll vocals on “Full of Flower.” She serenades “Sometimes I get problems that are hard to solve *giggle* what’s your story?” over a chip-tune beat. Then her brother Olof comes in at the end with his super strong, powerful masculine vocals “lets talk about you and me.” It’s super cute how it shows a boy pursuing a girl as she waits patiently for him as she should. “Old Dreamz Waitin’ 2 Cum True” is the obvz club banger here, though I think they could’ve added another verse or something. It goes by really fast. Can’t wait to hear “Raging Lung” at high school dances and wedding receptions this year.

In the spirit of the album, I’m going to give it $999,999 out of $1,000,000 (I only left out $1 to keep them motivated to make more – free market baby!!!). All in all, this is The Knifes most accessible work to date. It’s fun, spunky, and just a good time waiting to happen.

xOxO ~*~ThE kNiF3s 4LyFe~*~

Previous Misinformed Review: My Bloody Valentino – m p 3

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Wax Stories #7: Nirvana – Bleach

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Whenever there’s a Nirvana related anniversary, I get oddly nostalgic. It always feels a bit misplaced. I was alive through Nirvana’s ascension but I’m pretty sure I was more interested in Mr. Rogers’ cardigans at the time – not Kurt Cobain’s. Nevertheless, when I released today is what would have been Kurt’s 46th birthday, I immediately went to my record shelf to play some of his work as a tribute.

I started to get into Nirvana when I picked up their greatest hits at a Sam Goody on a whim when I was 14. It’s a super lame way to get into a band (as detailed in a post I did in 2011), but it opened up the door for me at least. The music struck me in a way that nothing else had before. The demolishing crashes of the drums, the gritty sloppiness of the bass, the cutting sound of the guitar, and Kurt’s aching angry voice; it was fuel for my burgeoning teenage angst. I’d later pick up a CD copy of MTV Unplugged In New York to flesh out the image of Kurt as a misunderstood artist. He was not just a musician in my eyes. He was a symbol of identity and struggle that I thought I could relate to.

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In the summer of 2005 I went over to West Seattle for a day where my mom had an office near California Avenue. She pointed me in the direction of the Easy Street Records down the road and I eagerly made my way over there. I had only just recently got my record player a few months before. I made my way upstairs to the vinyl section to partake in one of my first Seattle crate digging experiences. There was no real agenda, nothing in particular I was hoping to find. This was also the first time I’d get a chance to buy a record new instead of used from a junk shop. I was a bit floored when I found the Nirvana section. For some reason I never really thought that they’d have anything available on wax and thought this rare opportunity – I had to pick up one of these. I inspected the track list on the back of each album and weighed out which was going to make the most sense. In Utero and Nevermind both featured tracks that I already had on my greatest hits CD so I dismissed those (dumb, dumb, dumb). I seriously considered picking up the Unplugged album because I thought it would sound so good. I remembered my dad telling me that on acoustic albums you could sometimes hear the fingers moving across the strings on vinyl releases.

I held up Bleach and examined it. The cover was stark and intense. A negative photo of Kurt headbanging with the band behind him in what appears to be a basement. I recognized one of the tracks, “About A Girl,” but everything else was unfamiliar. The fact that it was their first album also intrigued me. Sub Pop. That name sounded vaguely familiar. White vinyl? The case for Bleach got stronger and stronger the more I looked at it.

It must have been a funny sight to watch a gangly kid 15-year-old wearing cargo pants and probably a buttoned up, bright colored short sleeve shirt walking up to the counter clutching Bleach. I imagine the disenchanted cashier wanted to face palm at the sight. Maybe not.

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I had to wait till we got home late that night to listen to it. Funny how most of my early memories of vinyl are listening to them late at night on low volume in my room. Krist’s sludgy bass lead in on “Blew” bellowed out of my crackling speakers. Immediately it wasn’t what I was expecting. I was used to Kurt being dark and lots of heavy guitars, but this felt different. There was a sense of doom looming over their playing. It was unrefined and harsh. It only got more so by the time the needle moved over to the second track, “Floyd the Barber.” The low thumps of guitar synchronized with the drums gave a sense of impending dread. I anxiously awaited for “About A Girl” to come on so I could hear something familiar. When it finally did I rejoiced in the Beatles sensibilities and brighter guitar tones.

I knew I liked the album because it was Nirvana, but looking back I’m not entirely sure how keen I was to the record. I played it repeatedly because that’s what I thought a Cobain disciple should do. I was supposed to like it. I desperately tried to relate to it. “Hah! On ‘School’ he talks about high school and there being ‘no recess.’ I know what that’s like!” Obviously I wasn’t exactly Lester Bangs in my interpretations, but I was trying. I did take to “Love Buzz” almost immediately with its incredible bass groove. I stayed away from the b-sides for the most part, which were marked by a label depicting the circles of hell from Dante’s Inferno. My aversion came down to one primary reason, which in turn applied to the whole album and that I would not admit to myself at the time: Bleach terrified me.

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While Nevermind had just as much self-deprecating and fuming imagery, it also had Butch Vig’s crisp production to act as a filter. It’s like when you ask someone how they’re doing and they unload you all their problems without even easing into it. Bleach was full-on Cobain without anyone interpreting or holding him back. Not that I think Nevermind is in anyway lackluster. If anything it succeeded in making Kurt’s pain accessible to a wider group of people. I didn’t feel prepared to jump into this without Vig holding my hand.

Over the course of the summer, I found myself coming back again and again to the last track on side a – “Negative Creep.” Sometimes I’d drop the needle on just that track over and over again just to hear it. This is when I started to have my revelation. Kurt wasn’t the “loveable martyr” I’d made him out to be who opted to burn out instead of fading away. He was more like the intense guy I tried to avoid making eye contact with at shows, scribbling “fuck you” furiously in his notebook. I wanted desperately to believe that he and I had so much in common, but we really didn’t. Not only was he dealing with different (and albeit, much bigger) issues in his life, he was also just living in a different world. I was going to a private school, had a dopey golden retriever, and said “shoot” instead of “shit.” As much as I thought of myself as a negative creep, I really wasn’t. But that doesn’t mean I’m immune from feeling emotions of angst or despair. We all can feel like negative creeps sometimes, but most of us don’t embody it or suffer through it like Kurt did.

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My image of Kurt was broken down even more as I read Charles R. Cross’ biography on Kurt, “Heavier Than Heaven,” this last summer. The inkling I had that Kurt had it worse was proved to be true. I began sympathize for him instead of empathize with him. Looking back at Bleach in the context of the rest of his life is overwhelming and daunting. It’s not even that there’s an excess of imagery of suicidal imagery like some of his later work. It’s the brashness and dissonance and loudness that grabs me. To me, Bleach is his most tortured sounding work. I can feel more uncomfortable listening to tracks on here than I do listening to tracks like “Rape Me.”

Bleach feels more accessible to me today than it did in 2005. A lot of that I can attest to my change in taste over the years. My heart still pounds when the bass comes in on “Blew” and I’ve taken to screaming along to some of the b-sides (“gimme back me alcohol” on “Scoff” may be one of my favorite Nirvana lines now). It’s hard to think of many other records in my collection that has received this much consistent replay. Despite how much I’ve listened to it, I’ve come to terms that I’m never going to fully understand it or any of the bands other albums. Kurt will always have a shroud of mystery to him. I wish we could have understood him so we could have helped. Now I think the next best thing we can do is celebrate his life by indulging in his music in those those negative creep moments.

Happy birthday, Kurt.

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Previous Wax Story: The Avett Brothers – Emotionalism

Next Week: Japandroids – Celebration Rock

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