Outfit-Performance

Outfit_Performance_-_Vinyl_-_CoverI think most folks know a little something about Liverpool, England.  Well, unless you were born after 1990 or you’ve been living under a rock for the last 50 years. Either way, here’s a little history lesson for the uninformed. Liverpool has given us more bands than just The Beatles. Gerry and the Pacemakers, Echo and the Bunnymen, A Flock of Seagulls, OMD and Frankie Goes To Hollywood called Liverpool home. There have been many others, but you can do a google search for those. Another band that can be added to this list is Outfit. They seem to be pulling from that 80s stretch of bands. Club and pub music, mixed with some of that Kid A electronic pixie dust that gives us glitchy electronic dance music that can also sit quite nicely under the “alternative” section at your favorite local record store. Performance is a debut to be reckoned with. It’s an album for your ears to savor.

If you’re familiar with Django Django(not to be confused with Django Django Unchained or Django Django Reinhardt) and their blippy little debut from 2012, then you know the territory Outfit are setting camp up in. But unlike Django Django, Outfit seem to take things a little more seriously. Performance is a more melancholy, introspective affair. There’s no Devo-posturing. There’s more trip-hop influence here. “Nothing Big” sounds like something that could’ve sat nicely on Amok, had Amok been produced by Brian Eno in 1980. There’s that care put into those little aural nuggets that were present on albums like Remain In Light and My Life in the Bush of Ghosts. There’s a slight maudlin feel as the click-clack beat pushes you to move a little. “I Want What’s Best” has a four on the floor electro beat and sounds like it could’ve been a “Master and Servant” b-side. There’s a definite Django Django feel to this song in the vocal harmonies. Listen, you’ll hear it. “Performance” has a Depeche Mode sound, until about 30 seconds in then this great thing happens where the song gives us this longing that we don’t expect to hear. This song sounds like a band that’s been writing for years, with more than a few disappointments and tragedies under their belts. “Spraypaint”, if you heard it late one night driving home from a few too many drinks, you’d swear it was some long lost 80s band.  You’d promise yourself drunkenly to locate this long lost gem on the internet for further reminiscing. The production is second to none on this album. Filled with crisp, gothic-tinged electro psychedelic pop. Psychedelic not in the sense of “Far out, man”, but more like “How more far out can I feel at this point?”  There’s a difference, believe me.

I will occasionally get in a rut with music. I won’t hear anything that tickles my fancy and think there’s nothing new worth spending my time and money on. Then, out of the blue comes an amazing debut from a band not satisfied with making the same record everyone else is making. Outfit have made a great debut record with Performance. Filled with the kind of good stuff fans of Atoms For Peace, Brian Eno, Talking Heads, and early 80s alternative lap up like a kitty to a warm bowl of milk, it’s the kind of debut that makes you excited about the future of music.

8.8 out of 10

Pizza Night

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Wednesday nights are pizza night around these parts. Casa De Hubner has enjoyed Wednesday night pizza night for years. It’s a great way to celebrate the halfway point of the week.

Now I’ve done all kinds of pizza on pizza night. Roasted Italian sausage and peppers, to barbecue chicken pizza, to taco pizza, to cheeseburger pizza. One of my favorites is veggie pizza with roasted veggies and a Parmesan herb sauce. Tonight’s pizza is Italian sausage, zucchini, green peppers, and sweet onion. If you’ve never had zucchini on a pizza, you’re missing out. It’s a great meat substitute on veggie pizza, especially tossed with some olive oil, fresh garlic, and oregano. But I digress.

I gotta go. There’s some pizza calling my name.

To Here Knows When

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I’ve been listening to the My Bloody Valentine remasters a lot lately. So much so that I’m actually starting to tell the difference between disc one(remastered from the original tape) and disc two(mastered from the original 1/2 inch analogue tapes) of ‘Loveless’. I’m preferring disc two. It seems to be more prominent in the mid-range, which allows the drums and vocals to come out of the mix better. You can actually hear the percussion in “To Here Knows When” throughout, where as in the original you don’t really hear it till about midway through. And “When You Sleep” seems to sound like more of a straight up pop song. That is, a hallucinogenic pop song.

Anyways, it’s taken me a year since I bought these to really delve into the differences in the new masters. The price tag for the set put me in a state of temporary shock that didn’t allow me to truly appreciate the good stuff that was on these discs. The sting has long left, so now I get to truly enjoy Kevin Shields’ mad genius.

The B-sides and EP collection is a wondrous thing as well, and worth the price of admission itself.

Okay, back to it.

No Age-An Object

What is it that No Age is so angry about? I keep listening to An Object and I’m wondering who rained on their parade? I mean,No-Age-An-Object they’ve always had this angst-y vibe about them.  Everything In Between seemed to be the point where they found the perfect balance of angst and rebellion mixed with a pop appeal, all the while never losing any artistic face. It seemed as if their next album would be a shining achievement. Instead, we get An Object.  It’s an album that at times hints at what could’ve been something monumental, but instead it seems to be a line drawn in the sand. If you cross, you enter at your own risk. If you don’t, well then you just don’t understand, man!

“No Ground” opens the album interestingly enough with a delayed guitar, then a driving bass line. That wall of guitar follows with drums hidden in the background behind muddied sonics. Dean Spunt yells about something. He’s angry at “you”.  Who “you” is is anybody’s guess. It’s a noisy opener that seems to stay in one mode: disenchanted. “I Won’t Be Your Generator” is a nice surprise. It hints at the greatness of Everything In Between and shows Spunt and Randall less aggravated and more inspired. “C’mon Stimmung” is the sort of dream punk anthem No Age are known best for. Much like “Fever Dreaming” before it, but somehow wore out sounding. As if these two are exhausted trying to figure out how to write a song unconventionally. There’s a back and forth on this album. A back and forth from ear catching to stunted and grating. It’s sonically in a grey area. No bright spots or dark corners. Just sort of muted. There are some really great songs, like “An Impression”, which sounds oddly enough like a lo fi Merriweather Post Pavillion b-side. The aforementioned “I Won’t Be Your Generator”, and “Running From A-Go-Go” both are truly great tunes. The latter half of An Object seems to be where No Age decided to loosen up a bit and allow the songs to breathe and grow naturally, as opposed to keeping with some rigid artistic manifesto.

No Age wants to spit in the face of convention on An Object, and that’s all well and fine. But when you start alienating the ears that have followed you and supported you for so long, well you end up playing to an empty room. Sure there are folks that will adore this record’s droning noise and artistic vision. The fellas even went so  far as to make the packaging for the record and ship the “objects” themselves, bringing them that much closer to the fans that bought the album. I think that’s admirable, I really do. But I’d rather the artist concentrate more on the balance between the art’s validity and intent, and less on printing UPS labels. I want to be challenged as a listener and lover of art. I don’t want easy entertainment. I want it to grow on me, and there are some songs on this record that I’m sure will grow on me as time goes by. But when you make an album so hard to break into and get to know, there’s lots of folks that will just drop it and move on. An Object is an admirable try at an artistic statement. Too bad that statement is so hard to understand at times.

6.1 out of 10

Getting Close

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Well I’ve been hard at work sonically caressing these tracks that Mr. Page and I have been working so hard in since May, and I have to say I haven’t been this excited about music creation in a long time. I finished mastering the eight songs we’ve completed tonight. I’m currently playing them back on my home stereo upstairs and I’m f******g floored! This album is gonna blow your minds! Lots of low end, lots of sonic experimentation, lots of grooves, and lots epic spaced-out soul searching.

More news and one more sneak peek coming later this week.

October is gonna get freaky, people.

Ode To A Dog

nanookIt was the same every time I’d show up at their house.  I’d walk into the side kitchen door, beer in hand, and I’d be greeted by him.  He’d be about 7 feet away from me standing next to his kennel and food bowl.  I’d give him a smile and set the beer on the washing machine located next to the kitchen door.  “Hey Nanook!  Hey Buddy!  How are you?”  He’d tentatively eye me before stepping back a foot or two, lift his head to the ceiling and give me his howl of approval.  I always wondered if the steps back he took were a cautionary action, or his way of saying “Well come on inside.  Take a load off.”  I’ll always think the latter.  After taking off my shoes I’d walk in and kneel down to give Nanook a head scratch, and he’d come in and lick my face.  A sign of friendship?  Checking to see if I had anything in my beard?  Probably both.  Either way Nanook, the affable, gentle giant Siberian Husky that was the true king of the castle had given me his seal of approval.

The beers were cracked open.  The games had begun.

It had been this way at this same home since very early 2002 when a Siberian Husky puppy that would be named Nanook was brought home to 736 W. Market Street.  This was where a couple would raise him not like a pet, but like a family member.  Now if you’ve never seen a Siberian Husky up close, then any sort of description can’t do them justice.  Big, and I mean like 70lbs big, with beautiful deep eyes and a white and grey coat of hair.  They don’t bark as much as they groan and howl.  It’s a language all their own.

Now when I’d come to this two-story home where Nanook ruled the roost, I’d always have my spot on the couch where I’d drink my beer and watch whatever movie was playing on the television.  Unfortunately for Nanook and I, this was his spot as well.  He’d let it slide for awhile, but pretty soon he’d come walking out from the kitchen and mozy on up and look at me with those deep, shiny eyes of his.  He’d stand there for a moment before giving me the one-two howl as if to say “Get the hell up!  You’re in my spot!”  Indeed I was.  He’d relent and lay down on the floor, giving me the cold shoulder.  But like anyone that has ever had the honor of having a dog of their own in the house, he forgave me no questions asked.

A week ago this past past Saturday was the last time I ever saw this furry king.  He’d gotten sick a month prior and wasn’t getting any better.  I walked in like I always did, beer in hand through the kitchen door, and there stood my pal Nanook.  But in those deep, expressive eyes I could see a pooch that was tired.  A pooch that was weak and hurting.  Yet, he still gave me the howl, the two steps back, the “Come on in.”  It was a rough night for Nanook and the humans that loved him and nurtured him not like a pet but like a family member.  On Saturday afternoon I got the phone call that Nanook went to sleep for good.  He was sick beyond mending.  He was tired.  He was ready.

The next time I visit 736 W. Market street I’m afraid it just won’t be the same.  No howl, no two steps back, and no “Come on in.”  The first round will be for you, Nanook.  Hell, the second and third will be, too.

Father & Son

chris dad and honzTomorrow we celebrate my dad’s 67th birthday.  He’s still going to the same building he’s gone to since July of 1964, getting paid to do the same job he went through a journeymen apprenticeship to do.  He complains about it, sure.  But regardless of how lousy the folks are that he reports to, or the folks he works with, he still goes in and does the job.  Even at retirement age he still works weekends, off-shifts, through holidays and family get-togethers.  He does it not because he’s what you call a “company man”.  No, he does it out of a sense of responsibility. That was his role.  To make money in order to support a wife and two sons.  Did he play this role at times too well?  So as to maybe not help out enough with housework, grocery shopping, bill paying, and all those little things like consoling a sick kid or maybe step in when the other kid may be doing things he shouldn’t do?  Maybe, but I can’t hold those things against him.  He was and is a loving dad, and would do anything for his family.  Those are the attributes that really matter.

I can’t compare the kind of dad my dad was with me to what sort of dad I am to my own kids.  It just can’t be done, as its different times.dad christmas 85 Roles have decidedly changed in that unique bond of marriage.  Things aren’t so black and white anymore.  It used to be the dad would work, come home, have a drink, smoke in his chair while reading the paper, eat dinner, then go to bed; while the mom cooked the dinner, helped the kids with homework, cleaned up dinner, etc….those were the parental roles.  Now, if you have two people that are married and love and respect each other they share those roles.  For most families, having one spouse stay at home and take care of the kids these days just isn’t financially feasible.  Fortunately for us(my wife and I), we were able to do that.  We both had great jobs when my wife had gotten pregnant.  After going through a miscarriage the year before we were extremely cautious this time around.  She left the supervisory job she was working in for a job in the office where she could sit and not be on her feet all day;  where as I left my auditing position in the same company, where I traveled -often to the west coast- every couple of weeks.  I took a job as a receiving clerk so I could be home during the pregnancy in case something happened to my wife or the baby.  Our daughter was born and when it was time for my wife to return to work she just couldn’t do it.  So we sold some stocks and paid off our cars and got rid of our debt and started a new life raising a beautiful baby girl.  We chose raising our baby ourselves over being financially comfortable.  That was the kind of home we wanted our child raised in.  In a lot of ways, it was the influence my parents had on me that made me want to be that kind of parent.  I’d never judge any couple that would choose the financial route over the nurturing route.  It’s a hell of a lot easier when you have a nice chunk of change in the bank. But that was secondary to knowing our baby was safe at home with one of us.  After having two more kids my wife went back to semi-employment;  though she worked afternoons to evenings so I could be home from work in time so the kids would always have a parent at home.

It’s still this way to this day.

gpa bill on halloween '85My dad was in a generation between the Cleavers and the Mr. Moms.  Sure, he worked and came home and read the paper while my mom took care of the home we lived in.  She made sure there was a hot meal every night, clean clothes in the dresser, and a hug before bed.  But dad had a hug for us, too.  He also helped with homework.  He taught me the value of taking care of the things that bring you happiness. For him(besides his family, I’m sure) it was his cars.  For me it was my toys.  He showed me how to properly wash a car, how to change the oil, and how to throw a football.  He taught me to stand up for myself.  Think my own thoughts and not let anyone think for me.  He taught me how to grill and enjoy a beer.  He also gave me the love of music, keeping my childhood filled with ample vinyl.  So, did my dad do laundry and clean the house?  Not really.  But he taught me to respect and care for those around me, which helped steer me to where I am now.

I might’ve gotten off point.  I guess what I’m saying is that I may do more with the kids and housework and grocery shopping and nurturing than my dad may have done, but he still played a huge part in the dad I am.  I too work for and with lousy folks, yet I still report to work everyday.  Not because I’m a dedicated “company man”, but because I’m a dedicated family man.  I owe it to my wife and kids to go to work and make a living.  My dad taught me that.

Now I gotta go.  There’s laundry to do.