The First Place I Lived: Sensory Impressions as Memory

My memories of the first place I lived are fuzzy. I remember orange carpeting and brown walls in the trailer my parents rented the first three years of my life before we moved into the house on 6th Avenue that they still live in thirty years later. I remember a car my mom drove a few years later when she first got her license a little better. It was a tan sedan, a nondescript Ford or Mercury model with leather seats that smelled vaguely of cigarette smoke and oil, making my young mind think of the piles of dog poop soured by age that sat in the back yard of my parent's home until we got around to cleaning them up.

I cannot remember if most of these experiences were truly real. I know that car was because I was around seven years old when my mother finally learned to drive. She had a series of cars that came from my grandfather's Ford dealership. Later she got her own, but my grandpa drove cars from his garage my entire life; they too smelled of cigarette smoke and old oil. My…

Track This: The Dwight Twilley Band's "Sincerely"

This is the second part of a summer series of Track This entries that will focus on lesser-known power pop songs.

Oklahoma's The Dwight Twilley Band's debut album Sincerely is an undersung power pop classic that borrows  heavily from the Beatles early 70s modus operandi with sweet melodies and understated guitar. The deceptively simple title track follows that pattern as Twilley harmonizes over lead guitar that would not feel out of place on The White Album, although there is a slight southern feeling in its bittersweet revelations, but it never kicks into full gear. He sings "sincerely, I got what you need" as the guitar meanders in and out. The lyrics are metaphysical and lovelorn with Twilley's voice wavering about the death of love and how a "starcold soldier feels." The simple song repeats a basic pattern of understated instrumentation that leads to a call and response between Twilley's vocals and the meandering guitar. Nothing is resolved bef…

Track This: Ultimate Fake Book's "Real Drums"

This is the first part of a summer series of Track This entries that will focus on lesser-known power pop songs.

I first discovered Ultimate Fakebook in the cheap bin at one of my favorite record stores, Radio Kaos, and I am not exactly sure why I picked it up. Looking at the album cover for their major label debut, the repackaged This Will Be Laughing Week, now, I do not see how it attracted me. I'm assuming that I had heard the name in reference to shows they played with The Get Up Kids or other Kansas area emo bands that I was heavily into at the time.

However, when I played the CD, I realized that Ultimate Fakebook was not an emo band but a power pop band that loved hooks. When I played them for friends, I always compared them favorably to Weezer's early albums. Recently, I listened to an interview with them on the 90s music podcast, Dig Me Out, and they explained that now they tell people they sounded like Weezer. Apparently, at the time they were more interested in jus…

Summer Time Memories

As spring turns to summer, I often feel old as I remember all of the summers I have spent lazily reading comics and fiction or watching television when I know that I should be writing. Of course, I also spend time outside, usually bicycling, walking, or swimming. These days, however, I generally feel too warm as the humidity and temperature creep up to a shocking eighty degrees.

There were many summers where I spent time fishing or running down the sidewalks of my old neighborhood, tripping over the roots of tired trees that lined the walk. One year a friend and I shamefully rode our bikes into sapling poplar trees, leaving black, oozing marks on their trunks. Last time I checked there was only one of those trees left, still battle scarred and defiant. The tree is thirty feet tall now, but its trunk is gnarled and shrunken from our youthful transgressions. Another time I rode my bicycle into a nearby water-filled ditch to avoid bees that were chasing me. They still stung me, and it j…

Memories of Winters Past

The snow is piling up outside even though it is April, and I am sitting in my office procrastinating. I think of winters past, that time of year when it gets so very dark out and the creepy, childhood monsters seem to be waiting at your door. I would get off the school bus and run through the short space between the street and my house like I was afraid. The lights were bright in the house and there was spaghetti on the stove. The family would sit down to eat and discuss the events of the day. I played batman video games and listened to oldies radio. Perhaps, I drank some hot chocolate. Now I work and think about that hot chocolate. Tonight when I go home, I hope it won't seem that dark, but I bet the hot chocolate will be just as good.

Ryan Adams and the Cardinals: Cardinology -- A Review I Wrote When the Record Came Out and Never Published

Cardinology takes a little time to appreciate. At first listen, it seems all too familiar, yet unsatisfying. Not dissimilar from Easy Tiger, the songs are pure pop songs yet they are more complex than those found on Easy Tiger incorporating more of Adam's love for the Grateful Dead with more dead-influenced guitar work. The power of Easy Tiger lay in its familiarity coupled with Adam's seemingly newfound direction and lauded consistency, yet after ten or so songs each song began to blend together leaving the listener appreciating the album, but remembering little of it. A few songs stood out, particularly the personal call-to-arms song, “Halloweenhead,” but overall the surprise element, the where will he go next element so integral to Adams varied songwriting, was missing. Cardinology may not be as consistent an album (there are a few misses, particularly the arena rock U2-aping song, “Magick”), but it does an amazing job showcasing Adam's songwriting, and more important i…

Record Collecting Miscellanies: Shuffling Through The Wax in Search of Obscurities and Forgotten Favorites

I recently hooked a portable record player up in my office, so I could listen to more music while I work. Before I was relegated to listening to MP3s and podcasts, but now I can listen to most of my music collection, allowing me the opportunity to listen to scores of records that somehow got lost in the shuffle.Thus, I've been rediscovering many records that I barely remember listening to. Many of my LPs have been purchased either in bulk or at the thrift store over the years, so there are a lot of older records that I have not spent an appreciable amount of time exploring. Needless to say, it has been an excellent experience, and I have been able to run the gamut on genres, listening to every weird little record and major seller in my collection, even finding those albums that should reward repeat listens, but have barely made a blip in my daily soundtrack.

Of course, genres such as traditional folk, punk, classic rock, metal, rockabilly must live on my shelves in an interesting…