Retro Thursdays: 1991: School of Fish

A view of downtown Bucyrus, Ohio on South Sand...
Image via Wikipedia

I am going to attempt every Thursday to recall music from my past that had a profound effect on me.  Today I have chosen the year: 1991, my senior year of high school in my hometown of Bucyrus, Ohio.  Where you live and what music you listen to have a very strong connection on your life.  I think to myself sometimes, ‘why was I so into this song? into this album? at that period of time? How was it speaking to me?’  As I do these retro music blogs, I am trying to find those answers.

I begin with a band that I wish would have had a more prolific career but alas, there is only one album of theirs that still to this day takes me back to 1991 like no other.  They are School of Fish and their self-titled debut album.  I have learned they had a total of 2 albums, the second one in 1993 didn’t do nearly as well as their first and of course, they broke up soon after.

The album School of Fish is alternative music at its best! Every song is a gem and it covers angst and frustration quite well.  As I stated before, I was a senior in my small Ohio hometown and I couldn’t wait to get the fuck out of dodge at the time.  Every day I was counting the days down cause I was going to be the next big actor.  I was going to move to NYC or Hollywood and make it big.  (Ah the dreams of an 18 year old and how no one can tell you anything cause you are 18 and know everything..)

There is a line in  the song “Speechles” : “And in my one room apartment/High above this town” I would picture myself living in NYC, far away from my boring little Ohio town.  The album itself is mostly depressing in lyrics but somehow it wasn’t depressing to me.  It made me want to go out and explore the bigger cities.  I also didn’t drink or do drugs in high school so this album kind of glorified drugs and alcohol..once again, in a depressing manner but it didn’t stop me from daydreaming about all that!

The main hit off the album was “Strange Days” (also known as “3 Strange Days”) and it’s just a great song basically about being fucked up for 3 days.  But there is one line in the song that gave me inspiration: “I’ve got to make it through/No matter what it takes/Oh I’ve got to make it through/These strange days” I knew there were new experiences ahead that I would learn from and grow.

But the song I listened to over and over in times of teenage frustration was the last song on the album, “Euphoria”.  The song just takes me back to that 18 year old boy laying on his bed staring at the ceiling, worrying, wondering, what is the meaning to all this?  I wish someone could have reached out and said, ‘it’s going to be alright.  Being gay is ok.  You have great times ahead of you.  Stop worrying what people think.”  So this song was a way for me to have those thoughts privately and keep going, get to graduation and your life is yours.

If you do not know this band at all, I highly recommend to take a listen to it and see what you get out of it.  And if you were alive in 1991, what were you doing? Where were you and can you feel the connection from music to time?  And if you weren’t born yet, you now have a great album that your friends probably don’t know about and you can be the cool kid with the old music that is still cool today..at least I think it still holds up to the test of time.

As for an analytical standpoint of this album, you can feel the precursor to grunge and all the bands that would copy this sound down the road.  All the songs flow very well together almost telling a story but not in a direct manner.

Below I have posted 2 videos; the main hit “3 Strange Days” and “Euphoria”.  Lastly, I dedicate this post to one of my good friends in high school days, Molly.  She loved this album and it never fails to make me think of her when I hear these songs.

 


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Kick Ass Podcasts That Will Make You Shake Your Moneymaker!

Promoting my friend and wonderful, amazing DJ and Producer, Matt Consola! He has a podcast called Adapter and it’s  amazing!! Check it out!

http://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/swishcraft-magically-gay-dance/id266416444?i=90224588

Another amazing and talented DJ friend of mine, Richard aka DiscoPup.  Has a truly awesome podcast below:

http://www.triple7media.com/DiscoPup_presents_Danceteria/Podcast/Podcast.html

Photo credit of Matt Consola: Eric Nielson http://www.ericnielsonphoto.com

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New Tuesday Album Review: Cake – Showroom of Compassion

Album Review

Cake – Showroom of Compassion

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cake_(band)


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Doing song by song on this one:
1. Federal Funding: Gritty guitar beginning, slow tempo. With the opening line “You receive the federal funding/ you can add another wing” ..this is going to be a bumpy, sarcastic, but oh so true, bitter Cake!This is pretty dark stuff for a Cake song.  Very minimal in lyrics. Like the addition of the horns.
2. Long Time: Unexpected lyrics such as “It’s been a long time/since you wore your pillbox hat”. So-so song.  Once again, the energy in this song is on the low side. Horns make appearance.
3. Got To Move: Immediately thought of the song “Groovy Kind Of Love” (one of the more successful versions are by The Mindbenders in 1965 and Phil Collins in 1988, I prefer the Mindbenders version personally.  Sorry Phil, suck it!) Still at the point of this album, energy is low and not as playful as Cake has been in the past.
4. What’s Now Is Now: Speaking of groovy, the guitar beginning in this one is kind of groovy. (Sigh) where is the catchy Cake I know and love? Oh where oh where are you….??? This song has a better energy than the first 3 songs…but still not quite where I like my Cake to be…

5. Mustache Man (Wasted): Finally, a Cake song that I might like!  Guitar grooving’, horns are fun, picked up pace lyrically.  Favorite lyric: “He’s a king dust demon with an icepick smile/ his music fills your feathers as you feel his passions fly”

6. Teenage Pregnancy: Piano begins the song then heavy drum and guitar into odd sounding keyboard sound.  Beck-like.  No singing, music only song.  Like the title.  One can only guess what possessed them to call the song “Teenage Pregnancy”.

7. Sick of You: This was the first single off the album.  You can easily understand why this was the lead single cause it is undeniably Cake. Catchy and sarcastic. Harmonies strong.  Also has the signature talk/sing section.

8. Easy To Crash: Odd keyboard sounds again.  Energy comes back down again. Yawn…

9. Bound Away: Acoustic song; country feel to this one. Traveling along kind of song.  Not a horrible song but with the energy of the album, will you make it to this song? Will you make it through without pressing “forward” or the arrow symbol or however you skip songs on whatever device you may be playing this on?

10. The Winter: AH, nothing like sleigh bells in the background of a non-xmas song…Oh wait..they do mention xmas in this song…so I guess it fits to have the sleigh bells…This is just downright depressing….sigh, oh cake, oh cake..where have you gone…? Is this because they turned 40???? I’m 38 and it can’t be this depressing to turn 40..????? Is it???

11. Italian Guy: I like this tune. Maybe because it’s Beatles-esque in nature.  But too late ….doesn’t make the album any better.

Overall, this record is lethargic.  It lacks the fun and grit of previous Cake ventures.  If I were driving to this album, I would fall asleep and wreck.  If this is how they plan on doing future albums, I suggest breaking up.  Will always have many memories of past Cake songs and the fun they invoked, but this album leaves me bored and tired.

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Single Review: “Hold It Against Me” – Britney Spears

Crystalized
Image by shandopics via Flickr

If you are of above a certain age, you may remember a tune called “If I Said You Had A Beautiful Body Would You Hold Against Me”  by the Bellamy Brothers (yes, the title was that long).  I believe that is where the writers of this song came up with the idea of Britney’s new single “Hold It Against Me”.
Production credits for this song are Max Martin and Dr. Luke, who recently teamed up with Ke$ha and Katy Perry.  In my research on Max Martin, he was born in 1971 so this would make sense that HE remembers the Bellamy Brothers song.  He has done a string of earlier Britney music including “…Baby One More Time” and “Oops…I Did It Again”.  He is also credited with recent hits by P!nk (“Raise Your Glass”) and Katy Perry (“California Gurls”).

Dr. Luke, born in 1973, worked with Britney on “Circus” as well as Kelly Clarkson’s “Since You’ve Been Gone” and the unfortunate Miley Cyrus hit “Party in the U.S.A.”

As for Britney’s “Hold It Against Me”, the line that makes me think of the Bellamy Brothers’ song is “If I said I want your body/ would you hold it against me”.  Pretty similar huh?  But at least the songs do not sound the same given that the Bellamy Brothers are a 70’s country duo.  Brit’s version is the usual club pumping, typical sounding Brit we have come to love and expect.  This song is catchy and will bring her back into a positive spotlight.  I am looking forward to the dance remixes as I always am when it comes to today’s “divas”.
Can Britney sing? Yes but in a constrained, sing from her throat kind of way.  But I never expect Britney to be hitting Mariah notes.  She has found her niche which is an ex-smoker club singer with heavy production.  I LIKE the song but don’t LOVE the song.  This song is very heavy on the club effects, lots of echoing and harmonies.  It has a euro-trance feel to me at times so I’m sure there will be a million remixes working out all these themes.

I have listened to this song multiple times for the “can I hack this more than 5 times” feeling and I can handle it beyond 5 listening sessions.  So gay men and 14 to 17 year olds, get ready cause your Britney is back!


Britney’s album is expected to drop this coming March and I am looking forward to other songs beyond this first song.

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Something To Dance To Over The Weekend

Lady Gaga at the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards.
Image via Wikipedia

Everyone loves the weekend right? And there is nothing like a good dance groove to make your weekend even better! Maybe while you are cleaning house or about to go out on the town.  So on the weekends I will try and find some great new remixes and/or mashups that will get your booty shaking!!

First up, a fun mashup! Like most remixes, if you get to about one minute into it, that’s where the fun begins!
Title: Madonna Vs Lady Gaga Vs Pitbull – You Know I Want Love Celebration – Robin Skouteris Mashup

And for those who know me, I will forever live in the 90’s when it comes to dance music. I guess it’s because that was when my major clubbing days were back in Boston! So I have to post one of the divas of that day which was Deborah Cox‘s “Absolutely Not (Hex Hector)”! I could only find the long version so feel free to fast forward!

Have a great weekend everyone!!!

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Review of the week: The Decemberists: The King Is Dead

The Decemberists
Cover of The Decemberists

Recently I have been reminiscing about R.E.M and their early days.  Well lo and behold, The Decemberists give me a good reason to keep R.E.M. in mind in literal fashion.  “The King Is Dead” is set to be released on January 18th, 2011.

This album is a great, enjoyable record taking you down country roads and open fields.  It was recorded in a barn near Portland, Oregon.  The music is deeply influenced by where it was recorded.  There are many enjoyable harmonies on most of the songs which are provided by the lead singer, Colin Meloy and the wonderfully talented Gillian Welch.  (Do some research on this talented woman, begin at her website: http://gillianwelch.com/ .

Another guest on this record is Peter Buck, the lead guitarist of R.E.M.  His influence is great indeed and adds a wonderful texture to the three songs he contributes to which are: “Don’t Carry It All”, “Calamity Song”, and “Down by the Water”.  Instead of this album “sounding like” its influences, it really is an homage to the roots of country/folk music.  There is the jangle pop sound fans of The Decemberists are used to but there is a new direction they are taking and I hope they keep down this path of country/folk/jangle pop because it is magical to the ears.

Some favorite songs of mine off the album are:

“Don’t Carry It All”: Bright beginning to the record.  The harmonies between Meloy and Welch are just simply wonderful and perfect.  Favorite lyric: “a neighbors blessed burden within reason/ becomes a burden born of all and one”

“Calamity Song”: This has the most recognizable Peter Buck influence on the entire record.  Upon first listen you will hear a direct R.E.M. guitar lick which I believe is from “7 Chinese Brothers”.  This song is another bright, country affair.

“January Hymn”: an ode to the month of January and actually makes winter seem bearable. (I happen to loath winter which is one of the reasons I moved to San Francisco!) This is Meloy on his own. Favorite lyric: “Hail the winter days after dark/ wandering the gray memorial park/ a fleeting beating of hearts”

“Down By The Water”: This is the first single off the record and is full of good old fashioned teen angst.  There is the obvious influence of Bruce Springsteen (especially in the harmonica playing).  This confirms all the feeling and frustrations of a bored teenager.

The last two songs on the album, “This Is Why We Fight” and “Dear Avery” are darker in tone and feel than the rest of the album.  “This is Why..” is about war and its repetitive nature thus the repetitive nature of the lyrics.  At the end of this song, there is a wonderful moment with Gillian Welch singing into one mic and you can hear the rain in the background.  This moment leads directly into the last song, “Dear Avery”.  Is this a song about the passing of Avery or his absence?  The very end of the record is just music that gives the listener hope but with the lingering of a “ghost” of loss.

You can listen to this album in its entirety or song by song on NPR’s website: http://www.npr.org/2011/01/03/132436422/first-listen-the-decemberists-the-king-is-dead#playlist

A definite must have for lovers of good old fashioned country/folk/rock music.

The Decemberists main website: http://www.decemberists.com/

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Music, Photography and Me

For my first blog on We are in Xanadu, I just wanted to give insight into the who, what and why of this blog.

Music and photography are two of my passions and I decided to bring them together to create what I hope to be a successful blog.  I have a photography blog but have basically abandoned it at this point.  I am beginning a career as a photographer currently under the business name “Shandopics”.  To the side of this blog, you will see the Flickr links, etc.

I became bored with the photography blog but also, the thought of being technical, explaining how I take photos, etc really was a boring concept to me.  There are soooo many photography blogs (well ok, there are so many music blogs as well) but I thought by combining my two loves that I would be more invested in keeping the blog up to date.

The main purpose of the blog will center on music reviews, some music news and hopefully introducing people to new music as well as older music that you may have never heard of or forgot about.  The photography is more of a showcasing of my work along with the blog.  That way I will give more exposure to my photography while at the same time commenting on music.

When it comes to music, I pretty much like every genre except for polka, opera and other not so popular genres.  Well, who am I to say that polka isn’t popular, it just isn’t in my world.  If one listens to my Sansa Fuze + (that’s right, I do not own an IPOD currently and am trying not to, I will talk more about that in other posts), I am all over the place musically.  From dance/club music to classic rock, to vocal/pop standards to country.  And when I speak of country on this blog, I will mainly be referring to country music I grew up with that came from the 50’s through the mid 80’s and maybe some 90’s.  Current country is really just plain boring to me and most of country today seems to have lost its roots with the past.  Most country to me sounds like a pop song with a “twang” here and a “twang” there for country flavor.  I like my country with ALOT of twang and for the most part, alot of depression! But more on country and depression in another post.

In each post after this one, I will attempt a review of some kind whether it is of a current song/album or past one.  I will try and list some songs I am currently listening to at that moment and links to where you can find the music.  Of course my concept of what goes into each post could change at any given time but that is the basic idea at this time.

As for the name of the blog, We are in Xanadu, it harks back to the awful but wonderfully awful movie “Xanadu” starring Olivia Newton-John and what unfortunately was Gene Kelly‘s last movie.  The song “Xanadu” holds a very special place in my heart.  It is in my top 3 of all time favorite songs and no matter what, always makes me smile and almost everytime, dance in some form or fashion like I’m on roller skates! “Xanadu” was also one of those roller skating movies of the late 70’s and early 80’s. The soundtrack is amazing with the combination of ELO‘s production and lyrics added with the delivery of Olivia’s vocal talent!

I was 8 years old when this movie came out (August 8, 1980) and I did not see it in the movie theater unfortunately (that would happen upon moving to San Francisco in 2005 and seeing it on the widescreen at the beloved Castro Theater!).  When it began to be played on regular television randomly is when I began to view the movie and growing up, it would be on mostly late at night.  If it was on, I pretty much stopped whatever I was doing and watch with content as the amazing sounds of ELO and Olivia Newton-John come together for a pop/rock roller skating extravaganza! Also music and photography take me to xanadu, they bring me peace, happiness and with photography, I find a very quiet, serene place in my soul as I take photos.

I hope to make people smile, think and follow their passions through this blog as well as introduce you to new music of all kinds from current to the past.  I feel that knowing the history of music and how it connects to today’s artists is very important.  Like anything else, knowing the history of a subject just makes it that much more richer of an experience.

Thank you for taking the time to read this blog and go on this journey I call “Xanadu”..go download the song now, I promise you won’t be disappointed!

 

 

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