Columns, Music

Me and Rivers and Everything You Know

I had a dream about Weezer. It was a strange dream, probably the fourth of fifth of the night. I’m in the process of recovering from illness so these dreams come in an array of medicated madness streaming through my unconsciousness like a good Chris Nolan flick. Like all dreams, I don’t remember how it started or I how I got there, but I do remember being there. I was in a park that looked like every other park, wide and green and filled with the indistinct noises of chatter and moving people. I had just downloaded (illegally of course) the new Weezer album, Hurley, which in my dream had a new dark blue sheen to its artwork. In reality, I think if an image of Hurley had imposed itself into my brain during sleep, this is where my dream would have ended- instantly and abruptly.

In a parallel to reality, my subconscious seemingly spared me the relief of having to actually listen to the album in full. Instead, fast-forwarding to the moment where I had finally hit “stop” and was left with nothing but the feeling of disgust and disappointment. Next thing I know I’m in this park, and I come across Rivers Cuomo sitting on a bench. Still geekily bespectacled, he was now looking unshaven and slightly bedraggled- as if the diminished talent had finally taken it’s toll (like that Keanu meme). He soon told me, as I fumbled with the voice-recorder application on my iPhone (the app finally has a use!), that he was tired of being a rock star.

Some of the details here get a little hazy but I ask him why, among other things, he can’t write more music like he did for that first Blue Album. I tell him it’s still one of the greatest albums ever written (okay, so a slight exaggeration by my dream self- I apparently have no critical control of him) and it seems to bring a light to his face, a brief and recollective smile. Almost as if, he too remembers that one time long ago, he was a great songwriter. One that penned uniquely intelligent but accessible pop songs that were neither patronizing or self-absorbed, but that moment was fleeting, a flicker long gone. “My Name is Jonas”, “Undone- The Sweater Song”, “Say It Ain’t So”, all since replaced by an endless array of tripe like “Pork and Beans”, “The Girl Got Hot” and “Beverly Hills”. It has been one big joke at all of our expenses that only Rivers and the label were in on. How many more terrible videos can we be subjected to? How does the album cover just get worse and worse? No answer.

I ask him if there is any difference to being on Epitaph than it was to being on Geffen before he lets out a prompt, but ample sigh, “no” he says.

This is where the dream ends. As quickly as I had begun asking him all these questions, a pack of older, slightly overweight gypsy-looking women appear at our table with what I can only decipher as either a television or a karaoke machine and scare Rivers away.

So as I awake from this rather hazy slumber, I hastily jot down this bizarrely memorable dream. What was my subconscious telling me? Was it that the side effects of this medicine need to be studied further, or that Weezer have become so appalling that even a drug fueled dream can tell you so. I didn’t even need to listen to the new album to know this is true. And I’m sure that when I do, I will come to the same conclusion.

I am not surprised to hear rumblings are abound that a possible Blue Album/Pinkerton-only tour could happen. Imagine a Weezer performance where you wouldn’t have to listen to anything they wrote after 1996. Glorious. Think of it as ‘Good Time Weezer’ or ‘How Weezer Should Have Ended’.

In case you doubted my subconscious, Weezer have released the first single from their upcoming Epitaph debut streaming below. Safe to say gypsies singing karaoke are much preferred.

“Memories”
http://player.soundcloud.com/player.swf?url=http%3A%2F%2Fsoundcloud.com%2Fepitaph-records%2Fweezer-memories&secret_url=false
Hurley is out September 14th via Epitaph.

For the sake of reference, here is a small reminder of Rivers’ one time genius:

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Columns

You sir, are a lying, backstabbing motherf*cker

Unlike it’s North American counterpart, the Australian music industry is a remarkably small place. Similarly, the press side of the business is often claustrophobic in nature; limited numbers of major newspapers along with an unfathomably small amount of magazine/specialist press. One common factor throughout the country is its reliance on free street press zines- a viciously cutthroat, but painfully amateurish production that finds itself somewhere in between the old school paper zines and glossy monthlies.

One of Australia’s most noted street press companies has in the past year or so taken lead in the industry, purchasing smaller magazines around the country and homogenizing, centralizing, and syndicating a lot of the content. The issue here is not so much the monopoly, but rather the issue that this particular Street Press company is run mostly by drug-huffing, pill popping dance music aficionados Continue reading

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Columns

You sir, are a douchebag.

Distilling the sometimes wondrous cavalcade of footnotes that most people become in the industry has proven far more difficult than I thought. The endless parade of asskissers, charlatans, and poseurs provide plenty of material, but I’ll start with this one suit I met at last year’s ARIA Awards (the Australian Grammy awards, which in itself, is a whole other ball of wax).

For the most part, my ARIA experience was a fairly amazing one- I for one would have never expected myself to attend such events anytime soon and I was extremely grateful for the opportunity to hobnob with celebrities, fake a red carpet appearance, and generally pretend for a day to be self-important. Anyway, back to the douchebag, I was pre-drinking before the official ceremony began with a few of our artists and a manager who for whatever reason, knows a lot of people in “the biz.” Through him I was introduced to this giant monkey in a suit, someone that absolutely reeked of complete utter toolishness. His $5000 suit looked like a $5 suit and his obnoxious attitude absolutely stunk every time he opened his mouth… you know, just incase everyone he talked to forgot every few seconds that he was a big shot at [MAJOR LABEL]. Other than the giant planet-sized egos waiting to be ushered in to the ceremony, I couldn’t possibly think of anyone I would want to hang out least than this guy. Seriously man, maybe you should get “I’m the shit at [MAJOR LABEL]” tattooed on your shiny bald head…

…and really, it was the way he said it too. That really got to me. If you’re wondering why the major label game sucks so much and why the mainstream music industry is such a giant turd, it’s because of this guy.

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Columns, Music

The Ballad of Racer Ten

Like jotting words and phrases down on some diner napkin we hope to turn into some lyrical opus; some things just take a little time. It often isn’t clear until we step back and try to see the complete picture. We can be left with an image of the entire puzzle but lack the pieces, while other times we’re left with a lot of pieces that just don’t fit. I’m a big purveyor of this sort of ideology; that sometimes life can take a little time to work itself out. The issue of “fate” is a dicey topic – some believe that we follow a predetermined course in which you merely ‘go through the motions’, while others feel that if fate truly exists, all we have to do is lie in bed and wait for life to come to us.

I’m not talking about the big picture at the moment; I’m not looking at the complete puzzle. I’m merely taking a peak into one of the many pieces that make that picture, a small fragment of an existence that is far from complete. While some say that nostalgia is overrated, I tend to savor those moments – the “melodies and memories”.

1997
Hong Kong isn’t a bad place at all. Like Singapore, it is predominantly a consumer driven economy – if you’ve got the money to spend, they’ll have things you’ll want to buy. My budget was extremely limited, leaving me with the choice of nice warm meals or as many CDs I could possibly procure in one overseas trip. Needless to say, I wound up with a personal record of 25 CDs in about a week worth of trips to Tower and HMV. Hong Kong isn’t exactly a Mecca for independent music so I couldn’t get punk rock records from mom and pop stores. Unless I wanted the latest Canto-pop single, I’d have to pay the ridiculous prices that such worldwide chains charge – besides, I was getting used to all those cold chicken dumplings anyway.

Amidst all the foolish, reflex purchases (anyone want a copy of Home Grown’s Act Your Age?), I found a real gem. I’m not a big fan of compilations but the one compilation that remains a favorite of mine is One Foot Records’ Check This Out! Vol. 1. Among the raw punk, rock goodness (great bands like Pep Rally, Funbox, Lick 57’s, and The Tie That Binds) was an exceptional track titled “Breathe”. Like the first time you see your favorite artist take the stage, the feeling and excitement was unparalleled. At the time, it was unexplainable, I did not know why the song was so great or why Racer Ten had quickly become an artist I was dying to find out more about. So like any eager beaver I set out and went through every available resource (in Asia) I could go through to find their debut full length. And like most previous ventures in the Asian continent, my quest was most humbly brought to an end without satisfactory results.

Early 1999
We knew it wasn’t a good idea, but I guess when you’re “ooh”-ing and “aah”-ing every Bubba Ray Dudley chair shot, laughing at the guy who got hit in the head by the flying can of coke and yelling profanities at the idiot who was dumb enough to wear a New York Jets jersey to a rowdy bingo hall in some run down part of Philadelphia, you forget the little things. So there we were; Andreas (the Norwegian kid who disappeared after graduation), Dave and I, standing at a bus stop at 2am in the morning hoping that the bus we see across the street is the final bus out of the city. There are very few things more frightening to a couple of suburban kids than the thought of being stranded in the “bad part of town” at ungodly hours.

A few thoughts ran through my mind:
1 – Why didn’t we plan a ride home from the ECW Arena?
2 – Do they run flattering photographs of you on the side of milk cartons?
3 – Thank God I found a copy of Racer Ten’s Melodies and Memories. (Current copy count: 1)

So at least if by some unfortunate cosmic reason the bus across the street was not the right bus, I’d had the chance to fully listen to that Racer Ten CD. I’d be able to remember how when stumbling across the large amount of CDs on display at some record store in South Street, my eyes came across the CD I had been longing to own. A joyous occasion, marked by Andreas giving me that “I don’t care, I own a Turbonegro release AND I’m on the soccer team” look after I showed him what I had found. Still, even if my occasion was as insignificant to him as another girl getting all giddy around him, it was a big deal to me.

Senior year of high school can be a lot to take for some people. The pressures of graduating, scoring on prom night and the ill effects of ‘senioritis’ can be tough on someone who is at the point where you replace ‘high school’ in all your sentences with ‘college’. Like most people I know, a certain album, song or artist will act as their soundtrack to life during a certain period. Testing times call for particular songs to help one through with clearer heads. Sometimes all the things we want to say or feel are exemplified to perfection in a song or record. For me, that record was Racer Ten’s first LP.

In effect, they wrote all the songs I wanted to write.

They provided some meaning, some understanding to why some things were the way they were. Why maybe all I really need to do in life is put my best foot forward and that it isn’t always about being first in line (and why a certain Lori G. would rather date some chunky, overweight kid than me).

Strangely enough, a few weeks after I found the CD at a record store I received an intriguing package in the mail. It was in fact, the same Racer Ten CD. How about that? I just remembered that awhile back I had slipped money into an envelope and sent it off to Alberta, Canada. Due to my lack of patience and confidence in the postal system, I didn’t think twice about picking up a copy in a record store knowing one was on the way already. (Current copy count: 2)

At the time it was honestly quite strange – a life I had only seen behind television screens became a reality for me. American high school was in fact, what is seen on TV shows and teen movies. There were bullies, cliques, extremely good looking girls, lazy students, pep rallies, awful football teams and Friday night parties with no alcohol. And that last one really bothered me, the transition from living in a country where there is (in reality) no real enforced drinking age to one where you can buy a gun and drive a car before getting drunk was something new. I was an impressionable, naïve, open eyed, optimistic teen who endured the days and wrote them down at night.

Summer 1999
The summer before college, a time for reflection, a time where young men prep themselves for the most important educational phase of their lives … yeah, right. The only thing on the mind of a heterosexual, semi educationally inclined B+ student going to college is girls, girls and whatever girls are left. Buoyed by lascivious tales and Penthouse forums, plans for an all out assault on hapless freshmen girls were in the works. A buddy of mine had the inside scoop; his older brother had been entrenched in the front lines for several years now and shared with us intelligence and info on the enemy. We were set; he was going to take his chances out East in Rochester while I decided to try my hand in California.

Somewhere in between discussing college girl etiquette and realizing that my buddy already had a girlfriend, I saw that I had two copies of Racer Ten’s Melodies and Memories. Like a Good Samaritan, I felt like sharing this treasure and decided to pass along a copy to my Rochester bound friend. A move I would live to regret?

Fall 1999
Ah … college. The time and place where throngs of young adults engorge in a weekly diet of beer and pizza, late night partying and occasional book browsing. Somehow, my roommate ended up being a Norwegian guy, a cool fellow, 6’7 volleyball player who on most occasions went to class everyday forgetting his books. Aside from discovering that 95% of what my buddy’s brother taught us didn’t work, the first year really bent preconceptions and preconceived notions about institutional education. For me, it really was about learning that life does not come to you; in fact, it almost tries to pass you by. You really, really have to go for it.

Unfortunately for my Racer Ten CD, my roommate could no longer tolerate the all night partying and general loudness our hallway was known for. Understandable considering that he had to get up at the crack of dawn for volleyball practice. So with him moving out, I had a lot more space to myself (the room was much, much cleaner too). The day he moved out I spent most of it in class and when I returned, I noticed that there was a gathering of dust in the shape of the stereo where it once stood. I didn’t think it would be a problem, I’d just have to buy a new stereo – until I saw the jewel case to Melodies and Memories lying on the table, open and empty.

I wasn’t in high school anymore; I had grown up a little and moved on. And for some strange, inexplicable reason I said to myself, “It must be in the stereo he took, I’ll get it later”.

That moment ranked up there with other notable terrible ideas like New Kids on the Block releasing a gangsta rap/hip hop album and Glitter. Nevertheless, later become months and when I went over to his apartment to finally retrieve it, he had no idea he had it and no idea where it went. As I staggered through his pile of ear piercing, head ache inducing Euro-pop CDs, I slowly came to the depressing notion that it was lost forever.

Spring 2001
You learn a few important lessons when you join a fraternity. Among the things you learn are that alcohol is not always your friend and in the case of you waking up next to someone, well, undesirable, the best course of action is to run. In all seriousness, when you go to a relatively small college your fraternity house becomes a focal point of social events. People are always around and there is either someone acting like a dumbass or someone who is about to. Privacy and serenity becomes a priceless commodity and it is not out of the ordinary to see people up and leave just to get away for awhile. While some were able to go home for the weekend, escape to their significant other’s abode or just disappear into the countryside, I was several oceans away from home.

I sought refuge in music. In the music I went to see, the music I bought to hear and the music I inspired to write. While I came across a host of new musical inspiration from an expanding genre interest, there was still one sentimental longing to find that one release, that one soundtrack of days gone by. By then, Racer Ten had called it quits and gone their separate ways. They released another, almost as formidable full length titled The World of Tomorrow and left an indelible mark on a certain, one time naïve, open eyed kid. To my surprise, their website was still online – replete with merchandise and purchasing info. A few weeks before my return home, I slipped a nice bill into an express package to Canada. I hoped that it would reach me before I left but like Corey Haim’s Dad professing his son was Oscar worthy – it just wasn’t going to happen.

So as I jetted across the globe towards third world destitution, my prized Racer Ten package was taking its leisurely trek to Northern California. To make matters worst, the person who sent the package decided that since I sent him , he’d give me two copies of each release. (Current copy count: Melodies and Memories – 4, The World of Tomorrow – 2) You reach a certain breaking point after this much disappointment.

2002
In retrospect, two years has made a significant difference in my life. I still think that I’m optimistic and open eyed, but I don’t think I’m as naïve as I used to be; but I’m not the only who’s changed. The world in its entirety has and personally, if I were put back into that very first class during senior year in high school with what I know now – I’d have done everything differently.

Lucas once said, “I do not regret the things I have done, but those I did not do.”

Looking back there are many instances at which I wish I had done something else. So in reality, that quote is right – I did do something, so I don’t regret not doing anything, it’s just in some cases I did the wrong thing.

The thing is, I did get myself another copy of Racer Ten’s Melodies and Memories – I actually got in touch with Sean of Racer Ten fame and through his kindness, he sent me a copy of each. Funny how these things work out – who knows, maybe I’ll get all the pieces I need to finish this puzzle someday and things just might work out in the end.

Final copy count: Melodies and Memories – 5, The World of Tomorrow – 3.

AUDIO STREAM:
Racer Ten – Breathe (from the album Melodies and Memories)
http://mediaplayer.yahoo.com/js

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