Sunday, 25 September 2011

Thoughts on the REM Split

The whole REM breakup thing troubles me a bit.  I did enjoy REM’s music over the years.  I was never a fanatical fan, but I own a few of their CDs and understand their significance and why many people adore them.   That is not what troubles me however.  This band has been together for 31 years.  For the most part they have had the same line up at its core, continued to be successful and make good music.  So why put it out there that you are split?  It just doesn’t make sense.  Why not just say you are currently not active and there are no current plans to tour or record?    If you come back again great, if not, then fine.  Heck, even use the word retirement.  But using the words like “broke up” and “split” after a 31 year legacy just doesn’t seem right to me. 
Maybe I am just agonizing over semantics and word choice.  Maybe there is the inevitable reunion tour in 5 years.  In any event, congrats to REM on 31 years and good luck on whatever is next, even a reunion tour. 

Friday, 23 September 2011

Rock Rock Til You Drop

Musical Memories, A True Story Featuring Def Leppard

How life has changed.  Once upon a time there is little I would have done short of selling my soul to see a rock concert.  I recall my first opportunity to see my beloved Def Leppard.  All of 20 years old at the time I had just spend virtually all of my teenage years growing up to the sounds of Pyromania, Hysteria as well as their earlier two efforts High n’ Dry and On Through the Night. 

When I heard this concert was rolling into town excitement and stress overwhelmed me at once.  The concert was to take place in August and I had a bit of a drive from my hometown to get to the city where the concert was to be held.  In the spring and fall I lived in the city while attending university but during the summer months I returned home, found a job and tried to save a few pennies to assist in furthering my education. 

This particular summer I was doing quite well.  My boss had taken quite a liking to me and I logged many hours and as a result was banking more than I was used to.  My boss was as good man with a good sense of humour but he appreciated young men with a strong work ethic.  The type who were up early and worked late and not concerned with foolishness such as attending rock concerts.  I suppose at the time he viewed me as one of them.  I did appreciate the hours and the money, but now I knew to attend this concert, this monumental life event, I had to request time off.  I didn’t think he would appreciate it, he had counted on me so much through that summer and there were others who could have used the time, but he chose me again and again.  What was I to do?

I reasoned it out over and over again in my own mind and really there was no choice.  I could not miss this concert.  The concert was to take place in mid August and I would have worked for about two more weeks after that before returning to college.  I decided that if necessary I would simply quit my summer job and sacrifice my last two weeks pay in order to guarantee my time off to see Def Leppard.  It was a sad but true decision I had come to.  I really could have used that last two weeks pay.  But then again…Def Leppard.  I would have let a man down who had come to respect me and helped me out so much.  But then again…Def Leppard.  And worst of all, my parents helped me out as much as they could financially and this extra money would also take some of the burden off of them.  But then again…….it was Def Leppard!!

With the decision made late one Saturday evening I was at the local bar when who should stroll in but my boss.  I had spent many a Saturday evening there that summer, but never seen him there once.  Little did I know that the rock gods were intervening that night.  He was apparently attending the bachelor party of a friend and he was also more obviously feeling the effects of many consumed beverages.  When he saw me his drunken face lit up.  He began to buy me many beers and tell me how awesome I was.  There was a lot of work that needed to be done that summer and not everyone could be counted on and apparently I had answered the call.  Little did he know I was about to leave him high n’dry (lame Def Leppard pun). 

In the drunken conversation he made reference if there anything I needed just let him know.  Well…..thanks to a bit of “liquid courage” I went on to explain that I knew it would be an inconvenience but I could use a day or two off.  He wanted to know what was up….attending a wedding?….family reunion?  Well I was smart enough not to lie and explained to him that there was this band I always liked and it would be neat to see them in concert.  And yes, I can actually remember using the word “neat”.  With a pat on the back and as a reward for all my hard work I had his blessing. 

I probably didn’t handle the days leading up to the concert very well because I never spoke of this promise until the day before my time off and neither did he.  I was getting ready to check out for the day and wouldn’t you know it he says he needs me earlier the next morning and we would probably punch a late one.  “Good chance to get a bit more overtime pay” was the exclamation point on his sentence.  Well I had no choice but to lay my trump card.  “Don’t you remember?  You gave me a couple days off.”  He looked confused, hesitated, then said that he did.  But I really don’t think he had any recollection.

Off I went and enjoyed the concert to the fullest.  It seemed like a bit of a pilgrimage. Seeing my heroes up close and personal playing all the songs that were the soundtrack my teenage years was a bit of a religious experience.    I was back to work two days later and the relationship with my boss was not damaged in the least.  In fact, he called looking for me the following summer. 

I got to see them perform again 16 years later when I flew half way across the country to check them out.  The second experience was just as enjoyable as the first and again was a sort of pilgrimage like experience.  I didn’t however, risk or jeopardize my now well established teaching career to get there, nor could I. 

But there was a day that I would have dropped everything that was important to me just to rock out for a couple of hours.  That’s the power of music!  That’s the power of rock and roll!!  And although I could never sell out my family or colleagues for it anymore, it is still the reason why I remain an avid fan (bit of a nut actually).  It is still why I get excited about putting on a pair of headphones and getting lost in a new album or cranking up the stereo so loud in the car that I can hear nothing else but the music. 

I still attend the occasional rock concert, if it doesn’t conflict with work or my kids’ hockey practices or music lessons. But perhaps because I am a grounded career and family man, the escape is even more important to me now than when I was in my youth.  I need still rock and roll like I hope it needs me.

See you next Def Leppard would say...Rock Rock Til You Drop!

Thursday, 15 September 2011

Theory of a Deadman's The Truth Is (Review)

The last few records I have reviewed on this blog have been all old school.  It was time to check out something that was released this year so I turned to Theory of a Deadman’s latest effort, The Truth Is.
This is their forth release and the first one I have purchased.  Up to now I have been tempted to check out their music, I have heard some of their songs on the radio.  Some I have liked and others I was not too keen on.  I was in the mood for some no nonsense rock and roll and something new so it was time to try this band out. 
Well, if it’s quantity you like you certainly get your money’s worth here with 19 tracks if you get the album only bonus tracks.  If not you are getting 12 songs in total.  And in my opinion the quality is great too with the album fully entertaining me from start to finish.  The music itself is certainly straight up rock and roll and its fun!  I have used fun to describe recent albums like Night Ranger’s latest and Def Leppard’s Mirrorball.  But it is a different kind of fun, it’s a little heavier for the most part but still melodic.  Lyrically it is definitely the most fun record I have heard in a while.  Songs like Lowlife, The Bitch Came Back, Gentlemen and The Truth Is (I lied About Everything) are filled with humorous themes, clever lyrics and catchy guitar riffs.  The parental advisory label is well earned here with some of the themes and plenty of F bombs dropped throughout, all in good humour.
There are also songs like Can’t Get You Out of my Head, a solid power ballad.  In addition to this tune there are also tracks like Easy to Love You and Love is Hell to fit into the power ballad category.  Although I am not sure if with lyrics such as “Love is hell, love is shit ....” would make the song qualify as a ballad.  You also get additional acoustic versions of Can’t Get You Out of my Head and Easy to Love You included in the bonus tracks. 
In addition to the songs I have mentioned all the rest in between work for me too.  Songs like Hurricane, When We Were Men and Drag Me to Hell take a break from the humour and offer more serious themes and lyrics with great the power chords and riffs continuing.
So the end result here is I am glad I purchased Theory of a Deadman.  I may even try out some of their previous work.  I have read mixed reviews on The Truth Is, but I like it and I can’t really compare it to their earlier albums.  I have been having fun with this one for a while now and the truth is...this is good rock and roll.  Ha, lame ending....see ya next time!
Grade A
Favourite Tracks:  Lowlife, The Truth Is (I lied About Everything), Hurricane   

Friday, 9 September 2011

This is Gonna Hurt Book Review

I recently tweeted that I feel like I spent the summer with Nikki Sixx.  It started back in June when I picked up a copy of Sixx AM’s latest CD This is Gonna Hurt.  I loved it and it has been a bit of a fixture in my car and ipod ever since.  I then got to see Motley Crue play live, read Sixx’s first book The Heroin Diaries and I’ve completed the latest, titled the same as the Sixx AM album, This is Gonna Hurt.

This book is a very different offering from the first book by Sixx and very different from any other book I have read by a rock star.  First of all in addition to Sixx’s words this is also a collection of photography.  Sixx is an avid photographer and throughout the book there are many pictures captured through his “distorted lens”, as he describes it.  The pictures are usually of something or someone that the majority of people would care not to display in the dining room or above the couch in your living room.  But that is just Sixx’s point.  He sees beauty in things we normally don’t and challenges us all to do the same. 

Reading this book will take you to several different places.  It opens with a chapter on Sixx’s love of photography.  He tells us how he came to discover the hobby and shares stories of some of his more interesting and stranger photo shoots.  Throughout the rest of the book you will read some about his childhood and family life and how it affected him.  The most compelling I found to be thoughts on his now passed on sister who was never a part of his life.  He also gets a little into his three fellow bandmates, Vince Neil, Tommy Lee and Mick Mars.  He doesn’t leave Sixx AM out either and talks about the formation of that band and the creative processes that has ensued.  And he puts his own emotions on the pages when talking about finding love again and the heartbreak that followed after the relationship ended.

Apart from all of the above Sixx also shares his own views and philosophies on life.  It’s nothing too Earth shattering but I will admit at times he can be compelling and thought provoking.  And such is that when it comes to philosophizing life I think; it doesn’t have to be too deep to make sense.  Everything Sixx says on such matters makes total sense and it doesn’t hurt to ponder these things at any given moment in your life.  Wait a minute….this is suppose to hurt according to Sixx.  Well, you know what I mean.

The book ends in similar fashion as the Heroin Diaries by Sixx offers some of his own diary entries from a 2009 tour with Motley Crue.  Very interesting to compare the diary here with the diary he wrote in 1987 as provided to us in the Heroin Diaries.  The later is full of references to excessive drug use, alcohol consumption and endless sex and the more recent reflects on life, work and seeking out strange places and people to photograph. 

All in all it was another interesting read from an interesting man.  I think Sixx tweeted earlier this summer that there will a third book in the works as well, but I’m not sure what this one will be about.  I am impressed enough by the first two to be interested enough to give whatever he writes a chance next time too. 

Have a great weekend everyone!!

Friday, 2 September 2011

School House Rock, Part Three

Happy Labour Day weekend everyone!!  It’s really the end of summer now.  Back to school for me next week.  Today I have just two songs featured in the final instalment of my School House Rock selections.  Enjoy the weekend everyone!! 

Another Brick in the Wall, by Pink Floyd

This is another no brainer to be included on a school rock song list.  What can I really say about this Pink Floyd classic.  The song tells of an education system that simply treats us all the same, haves us all regurgitate the same information and does not account for any uniqueness.  We are all just bricks in the wall, serving a greater "good".  Fortunately the education system I currently work in has come a long way and we recognize and celebrate the individual strengths and unique attributes of each student.   As a system we may have a ways to go but we are getting there.  Ok, now I am starting to sound preachy.  I’ll end this one by simply saying I love the walking hammers in this video, for some reason they scared the crap out of me as a kid!

Grade 9, by Barnaked Ladies

Canada’s Barenaked Ladies gives us this boppy little number about the awkwardness of adolescence.  Like many of their songs it contains good humour but at the same time I bet there is many a person out there who can relate to the experiences in this tune, me being one of them.   One of the lines in the songs says “I guess I shouldn’t tell them that I like Duran Duran”.  Yes, I was and forever will be a rocker.  At the same time I secretly loved it when my favourite music video programs would play Duran Duran and Michael Jackson .   But I dare not admit that in the halls of the school with my acid wash jean jacket laced with sewed on patches of Def Leppard, Ratt, Van Halen and Quiet Riot.  The Barenaked Ladies continue to record and perform, but Steven Paige, one of the band’s lead vocalists has left leaving the quintet a foursome.