It’s getting close to that time of the year where I make my way back to LA, where I surgically bolt my sunglasses to my head and breathe in the smoggy sunshine like I’m huffing paint fumes. Even if there’s no other reason to look forward to it, it’s one of the few times a year since I moved out to Chicago that I get to plant myself behind the wheel of some kind of car and drive aimlessly — sometimes for 50-mile stretches across fields of waving yellow grass, sometimes in 10-foot sprints wedged between other disgruntled motorists. Either way, it’s worth it. Continue reading
Everyone has that one part of their back that they either can’t scratch themselves without contorting their limbs in some horribly disfiguring way. In a way, that’s the kind of itch mirrored by a craving for analog synth — chunky, buzzing and tangible. As much as I enjoy a nice a fuzz-laden, idiosyncratic guitar riff, using one to scratch that visceral itch is like using a trout as a backscratcher. Continue reading
Do kids still bitch and moan when the weather’s bad and they’re stuck inside? Valid question, right? You can arguably do more inside than outside these days, even if it’s not necessarily the best for your overall well-being. Growing up as an only child with a bowl cut and an overbite, rainy days were something of a crucible for me. Not too long ago, I had nothing to do so I made a jellyfish out of paper plates, acrylic paint, string and spare buttons. Same goes for Girlfriend Mel — except her project was a giant taco piñata. Being bored tends to do that to you, I guess — you eventually figure out how to make something with what you’ve got, or it rots you to the core. As they say: “Only boring people get bored.” Continue reading
Sometimes I feel like writing about music is an endless string of comparing one band with another, and maybe, every now and then, throw in a few adjectives, separated by a vast field of commas. This is a dangerous game, a slippery slope, and any number of other scary epithets you might have heard from your D.A.R.E. representative growing up, because all it takes is one too many hyperbolic exclamations before you’ve convinced yourself you’ve stumbled on The Next Big Thing.
> Checking levels …
> Floor toms — Copious.
> Mid-range bass — Plentiful.
> Fuzz — Crispy.
> Harmonies — Sunshiny.
> Processing …
> Diagnosis: Oh shit, boogie down.
Tack it onto the era of nostalgia we live in, but every day of weather in Chicago has a works like a historical set piece doesn’t it? Those early mornings when the wind is spitting snow crystals into your face like a jilted lover — that’s late-80s Seattle grunge. Days when the rain slides down your ankles and snakes into your boot — that’s late-period UK shoegaze. 3am on a clear-skied, freezing cold night — Joy Division. Continue reading
Between the rush and rumble, and the 3am burritos of indeterminate origin, I miss two things: year-round temperate California nights and restlessly driving through them. I don’t own a car in Chicago, but I would hazard a guess that it’s not really the same thing. The locked grid of traffic lights and months of pucker-inducing black ice tend to provide enough evidence to me. I know I could always just drive out a few miles to the corn fields, but looking around and seeing a vast field of darkness doesn’t appeal to me like the dull glow of a deserted Santa Monica Blvd, or even the blinding flames at the Carson refinery.
My dad was a tech guy, always curious about the digital coming-of-age in the late-90s and early-00s. The man made sure my 7th grade research project culminated in a Geocities webpage on Taoism with spinning yin yang gifs and huge Papyrus headlines. When I was 16, I inherited Delores, a 1989 Honda Accord with a sun-faded maroon paint job and conspicuous lack of airbags. But the real gift was the stereo system he included — not the speakers, which had literally seen the falling of the Berlin Wall, but the tape deck, which could play mp3s stored on CD-Rs. Continue reading
I’m not usually one to make broad, generalizing statements, but it seems these days that the fuzzy garage sound that used to be a uniquely San Francisco sound is shifting south to claim LA as a breeding ground. Thee Oh Sees (briefly) quit and wrote a break-up letter with SF, and Ty Segall set up shop in the plastic mecca, and now acts like LA-based Wand are shooting MS Paint lasers across a sun-streamed beach.
Welcome back to FoodJams, where I listen to stuff and Mel bakes things.
But first a couple of quick questions. Are things weird enough where you guys are? Do you ever wish new age beatniks were actually worth paying attention to? Did you ever sell used office furniture down on San Fernando Road and hate your wife’s Chihuahua named Carlos who has some kind of skin disease and is totally blind?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, then you’re ready for this installment of FoodJams, which features Tom Waits and 1983’s excellent Swordfishtrombones. Continue reading