Saturday, February 23, 2008

The Village Voice reviews The Drive-by Truckers Brighter Than Creations Dark

The Village Voice Online posted a review of the latest release from the Drive-by Truckers. While their version is more detailed mine was more timely.

The reviewer is Rob Harvilla. I have to admit that I am conflicted by the song Bob as well but I usually do not enjoy the songs of Mike Cooley as much as the ones by Patterson Hood. Jason Isbell was always a strong contributor too bad he has left the band.

Since I had to drive back from Richmond, VA on Friday afternoon because my flight was cancelled I decided to listen to the complete Drive-by Truckers catalog. I made it all the way from A Blessing and a Curse to the third song (72) on Southern Rock Opera (my iPod plays releases in alpha order). While each release has more than one great song I still favor SRO.

I have pasted the text of the review below. Click here for the Village Voice.

The Drive-By Truckers' Worst Song, Played on the Ugliest Guitar

The best song on the Drive-By Truckers' new 19-track monolith, Brighter Than Creation's Dark, will remind you why you like them; the album's worst song, which is in fact the worst song they've ever done by a substantial margin, will teach you to love them again. It's a shocking, harrowing vision of how disastrous this band could've been, how delicate a touch their rousing but resoundingly bitter Southern-rock cocktail of Flannery O'Connor character sketches and Van Zant anthemia requires. It's called "Bob." It will give you nightmares. Let us approach "Bob" slowly and cautiously.

So start with the best. That would be "The Opening Act," Brighter's iteration of that reliable moment on a DBT album when Patterson Hood—the raspier, more cynical, more prolific of the Alabama crew's two primary songwriters—deploys his biting but still sweetly sentimental version of a power ballad, a Bic-flicker that burns you badly but still lights your way. Longtime fans can lovingly trace their scars: the bare-knuckled lullaby "Heathens" off 2003's Decoration Day, or (personal favorite) the gorgeously catastrophic "Tornadoes" off 2004's The Dirty South, the climactic harmony as he wails "I swear/It sounded like a train" like glimpsing the face of God and recoiling in terror at the destruction one breath could unleash. Patterson's quietest at his most devastating, and vice versa; "The Opening Act" is a small symphony of touring-van desperation, wherein a fat man is bucked off a mechanical bull (requiring paramedic assistance) as a has-been rock band plays a passionate set to a thinning, apathetic crowd and Patterson soaks it all in with sympathetic resignation: "It ain't my show . . . I'm just the opening act." He staggers back into the van, points it toward the next town, dreams of someone thousands of miles away he can't touch, and flips around the radio. Another life you're glad you're not living but equally glad he saw fit to describe.

The Truckers excel at making paralyzing grief palatable, and hopeless losers hopelessly beautiful. They rose to power in 2001 with the double-disc Southern Rock Opera, a brazenly ambitious attempt to both mythologize and emulate Lynyrd Skynyrd that succeeded wildly on both counts. Four CDs later, they're still painstakingly articulating what they then described as "the duality of the Southern thing," granting depth and humanity to a grotesque parade of incest perpetrators, backwoods fuckups, and shell-shocked Vietnam vets, and daring elitist city slickers to sneer. Creation's Dark is tantalizingly easy to typecast via the song titles alone: "Daddy Needs a Drink," "You and Your Crystal Meth," "The Man I Shot." Except dollars to doughnuts that last one's set in Iraq, a grimy, brutal rocker with the familiar nausea of an Afghan Whigs dirge that describes a calamity much worse than a hangover or a bungled love affair, instead bemoaning a scared-shitless soldier's act of self-defense and subsequent death sentence of sleepless nights. Never dismiss these characters—no matter how wayward, no matter how flawed—as simple, helpless country folk.

Which brings us to "Bob."

"Bob" is the handiwork of Mike Cooley, the Truckers' other songwriting mainstay. (Creation's Dark also features the first batch of perfectly OK but unremarkable tunes from bassist Shonna Tucker, former paramour of tremendously remarkable songwriter Jason Isbell, who brought her into the band in the first place but recently bailed for a solo career—a nice Fleetwood Mac switcheroo all the more appropriate given that Shonna sounds like Stevie Nicks if Stevie fled Laurel Canyon for LSU.) A dear friend of mine swears Cooley will one day be hailed as a Great American Songwriter, and I'll buy that: His slow ones are sublime-ly forlorn in a George Jones vein, while his fast ones boast a magnificent Jaggerian swagger, here flaunted on the rollicking "3 Dimes Down." (Bonus points for using the evocative phrase "chicken-wing puke.") Throughout the record, Cooley toys with corny Southern stereotypes, whether he's refurbishing Matthew McConaughey's famous Dazed and Confused proverb about high-school girls, or inventing his own bewildering bits of cracker-barrel wisdom: "Skeletons ain't got no place to stick their money/Nobody makes britches that size." But great googly moogly, does "Bob" ever drive straight into a ditch, Faulkner devolving instantaneously into Larry the Cable Guy. It's a loping, finger-picked shuffle with all the nuance of a Coors Lite commercial.

He likes to drink a beer or two every now and again He always had more dogs than he ever had friends Bob ain't light in the loafers He might kneel, but he never bends over

Now. My Cooley-worshipping friend swears that the "loafers/bend over" thing is the crux here, that the song's point is to paint Bob as a normal, likable dude who just might be, well, you know. Fair enough. But it still feels tremendously slight, indulging in the jarring parade of cheesy clich├ęs that the Truckers have nimbly sidestepped for years: Bob loves his momma, Bob prefers fishing to church, Bob's a little unnerved by the 6 o'clock news, Bob drinks more beer. If you forced a pompous Wall Street hedge-funder who'd never been south of the Jersey Shore to write a condescending song about butt-simple red-state folk, you'd get "Bob," and then you'd punch that guy in the face. It's such a glaring, honking sour note from a dependably great songwriter in a dependably great band that I have to imagine it's deliberate, it's a put-on—a winking caricature that satirizes the prejudices of anyone who'd pick up this CD, fixate on the song title "You and Your Crystal Meth," and dismiss the whole shebang as Hee Haw for unwashed butt-rockers. Stereotype this.

Thus, I have come to view "Bob" as a gift. A cautionary tale that had to be told. Creation's Dark came out last month, and though past DBT discs have left me enthralled, I initially ignored this one. Took it for granted, disregarded it as more of the same. Dependably great, sure, but there were bigger, more exotic fish to fry. The Truckers had made it look so easy for so long, but "Bob" forcefully proves that it's not, and it's never been. It keeps you honest, and it scares you straight

Saturday, February 16, 2008

The Langster gets a tune up and I get a Cold Weather Ride in

I dropped the my Specialized Langster off at Bike Haven in Fairhaven, New Jersey last Saturday. The weather was miserable and I knew I need to have my bike tuned up. The chain was sagging and I did not have any more room on the drop out to tighten it up. I have also noticed an annoying creak in the bottom bracket. I had been putting the work off because I did not want to miss a single riding opportunity. Of course Sunday morning turned out to be a good riding day (the tempurature dropped quickly later in the day as a storm moved into the area).

Garrett is the wrench turner at Bike Haven and he has done some work on my bike before. I stopped into the shop over the summer and I had him install a new computer. He also did a small tune up with the bike was on the rack. This time I want the whole thing. My goal was to fix some of the issues that I have been having. I knew that I need a new chain and I was thinking that I might have to replace the bottom bracket. The lights in the repair shop showed that the rear tire was well worn. Garrett suggested buying a new Continental Grand Prix 4000 for the front and moving the much new Contintental Grand Prix 4000S from the front to the back. As much as I would like to have matching tires on my bike I could not see spending an extra $60 and replacing a perfectly good tire. I will get it next time.

Since I have been traveling during the week I knew that I would would not be able to pick the bike up until the weekend. I just made it into Bike Haven before they closed a 6 PM on Friday. I was impressed with the look of the bike. It actually looked better then new. The new chain and cog shined (I am still using the freewheel side) . The rear hub now rests at the front of the dropout. I could not wait until I could get my next ride in. The weather report for Saturday said that it was not going to be much warmer than freezing but I was hopeful that it would at least be sunny.

I woke up at 7:30 am this morning (Saturday) with the sun shining. I could tell it was cold (around 20 F). I bought some wool socks and a pair of thermal tights at Performance Bicycle in Richmond, Virginia last week. I have not yet got a set of booties but I was hoping that these two items would be an improvement over the lighter tights and cotton SIDI socks I have been using.

I was not able to get out on the road until arount 1 PM since I spent the morning running errands. While it was cold I felt pretty good and I took off on my usual route. As I was heading through Colts Neck I was thinking I might head out through Little Silver and Rumson. I was thinking that I might come back via Navesink River Road but my right toes started freeze up and I could not them to warm up. When I got to Laird Road I made the left hand turn that made it a 28 mile ride rather than the right hand turn that would have been much longer.

While I saw a group of riders on Holland Road while I was running errands I did not see any other riders while I was out on my ride. There are a couple of group rides scheduled for 8 AM on Sunday morning. Since it is supposed to be nasty in the afternoon I am going to get up early and get another ride in. I have Monday off so I am hoping I can get 3 days of riding in. Otherwise I will be heading to the gym. Three days of riding in February would be a nice treat. I am willing to settle for two.

WHTG - GROCK Radio Morning Show Changes Yet Again

After less than a year on the air the Morning Show on G-ROCK has changed again. Since I have been traveling I have only been listening to the show on Monday mornings while driving to the airport. A couple of weeks ago Kramer was complaining that the management was upset with him for not talking about the Giants' Super Bowl win. Matt Murray will be taking over the show for now. Matt was the temporary replacement when Brian and Jen left the air.

I found out this morning when I heard Matt and Erin do a promo for their show. I am still not sure about Erin but Matt is an extreme sports fan from Vernon, NJ so I have to like to that.

Here is a release that I found.

Press Makes NJ Radio Changes - 2/14 - From Radio And Records: A couple of notable changes at Press Communications alternative WHTG/WBBO (G Rock 106.3/106.5), AC WBHX/ WWZY, country WKMK (K98.5), and oldies WHTG-AM (1410)/Monmouth-Ocean this week, as GM Wes Matejka exits. No replacement has been named. Matejka joined the company in February 2007 from the director of sales position at Entercom/Memphis. In addition, G Rock morning host Kramer also exits. Night personality/MD Matt Murray slides into mornings, joined by "Morning G" co-host Erin Vogt. Nights are being filled by part-timers

Judging by the traffic that my original post got it was probably a mistake to get rid of Brian & Jen.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Wonderful Tonight: George Harrison, Eric Clapton and Me by Patti Boyd (Another Review)

I finished the Pattie Boyd book to complete the 70s guitarist trilogy. I read Clapton by Eric Clapton, Ronnie by Ronnie Wood and now Wonderful Tonight: George Harrison, Eric Clapton and Me by Pattie Boyd. All three of these books tell the same story from a different prospective. In most cases the overlaps confirm each story.

After reading the the Clapton and Wood books I was sure that I would want to read the Pattie Boyd book. I was a little skeptical at first. In fact I put the book back at least once before I finally purchased it. I have to say that was rewarded for my faith since I found Wonderful Tonight to be the best read out of all of the books.

Ms. Boyd's childhood plays a big part in the adult that she became and the first couple of chapters deal with life in both England and Africa. Even though I wanted to read about George Harrison, Eric Clapton and all of the other musicians that Ms. Boyd befriended the story of her childhood is interesting and worth the read. Obviously it was important to address the home life that caused Ms. Boyd to want to be on her own as soon as possible which contributed to meeting George Harrison at an early age.

While the story is a little slow at first it really starts to steamroll once Pattie Boyd meets the Beatles on the set of A Hard Day's Night. Life with George Harrison is just a prelude to the turbulent Eric Clapton years. This is the story of Layla and is the one that most music fans are probably familiar with.
I was not sure what to expect from this book but I was pleasantly surprised. It is well written and organized. I really enjoyed it and may even read it a second time.