Archive for November, 2012

Yeah, I am definitely more cynical than I used to be.

November 29, 2012

I would have been trumpeting this from the rooftops once upon a time, but not so much anymore.

Why? Well, I eventually came to see the “legalize and tax drugs” thing differently. Recall, if you will, the old saying that “the power to tax is the power to destroy.” Frankly (and I know this is a pipe dream at best), I’d be perfectly okay with weed not even being taxed, as such could open the door to yet more wholesale violations of people’s rights. Taxes were the entire reason the feds got involved at Waco with the Branch Davidians; it was alleged that David Koresh was in possession of a full-auto M16 without the $200 transfer tax stamp, which is what brought him to the attention of the ATF. And I don’t have any doubt the feds would flex similar muscle against those who didn’t have a tax stamp for their weed.

And I have to ask myself if Superintendent Whitesell would support SWAT raids on people who, for example, didn’t have the state tax stamp. Somehow I think I know the answer, and if it’s what I think it is then we’re pretty much right back to square one in relation to civil liberties. After all, what’s the difference between busting down somebody’s door on a suspicion that they have illegal drugs and busting down the door on a suspicion that they didn’t have the tax stamp for it? The lesser government involvement with recreational drugs, the better, as far as that particular aspect of it goes.

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Does he or doesn’t he?

November 27, 2012

Geoff Tate, again:

 There’s a huge amount of pressure to be a nostalgia act… Just play Empire songs. No! I don’t just want to keep playing Empire songs. I want to write new music. I want to keep stretching and growing as a musician and an artist. I’m going to do that no matter how much people tell me I can’t.

Yet he’s perfectly content to go out with his gang of scabs and play Operation: Mindcrime in its entirety next year. So perhaps it would have been more accurate to say that he doesn’t want to be a nostalgia act until it comes time to cash in on something like the anniversary of his former band’s greatest achievement.

At any rate, even if he wanted to be a nostalgia act at this point it’d still be just about impossible, because:

A. he has destroyed his voice and can’t sing those old songs the way they’re meant to be sung anymore to save his life; and

B. he has probably sullied a lot of fans’ memories of the older music due to his dismissal of it as “cartoonish” and “juvenile.”

After all, I don’t know about you, but if I was defending heavy metal back in the day, and I had pointed to the EP and The Warning as examples of heavy metal’s intelligence and depth only to have the guy who sang it later deride it as kid stuff, there’d be no way I could look at him the same way again. Even if he’d never spat on his bandmates or told them to go screw themselves when they offered artistic input.

What’s that, you say? What did Tater say about the EP and The Warning?

Well…read it for yourself:

Geoff Tate: I gave up Dungeons & Dragons when I was thirty (you know what I’m saying?)

Puregrainaudio: What songs in particular?

Geoff: The first two albums. That stuff. I can’t… I understand and appreciate that some people really like it, but I liked it at the time I wrote it. But I’m in my fifties now and I don’t look at it the same way now.

I must admit, I thought that was a pretty shallow way of looking at that music, for all the reasons I mentioned here, and others — namely, that a lot of that fantasy stuff comprised allegories to the struggles that we all face, i.e. slaying the figurative dragon.

Beyond that, though, Tate did say he had “fond memories” of playing Rage for Order in its entirety last year, which I found rather puzzling. After all, the topics of the songs on that album ran the gamut from vampires to artificial intelligence.

Which leads to the question: What makes one fantasy more grown-up than the other? Honestly, I think Tater’s only painting that music the way he does because he can’t sing it worth a damn anymore.

But then, there was that half-assed rendition of “The Whisper”

How do you do it? Easy.

November 26, 2012

From The New Yorker:

We seem to have created an environment in which wonderful music, newly discovered, is difficult to treasure. For treasures, as the fugitive salesman in the flea market was implying, are hard to come by—you have to work to find them. And the function of fugitive salesmen is to slow the endless deluge, drawing our attention to one album at a time, creating demand not for what we need to survive but for what we yearn for. Because how else can you form a relationship with a record when you’re cursed with the knowledge that, just an easy click away, there might be something better, something crucial and cataclysmic? The tyranny of selection is the opposite of freedom. And the more you click, the more you enhance the disposability of your endeavor.

Man, where do I even start here?

It’s easy as hell to form a relationship with a record. If it’s good you stick with it, and if it’s not you don’t. There are still those of us who don’t think to click to the next song in search of something better.

And I don’t see how that has to have changed, even with new technology. People are still going to discover new music and bond with it. I think of Sabra and how she first discovered Pat Green, for one, on a radio countdown show but got more familiar with his music with Pandora. And she told me she discovered a lot of other music she had never heard before. Beyond that, I think of all the heavy metal I got introduced to via Sirius, as well as all the old country music I had not heard in so long. It’s not exactly Pandora, Spotify or what-have-you, but I could have easily have clicked to the next song if I didn’t like what I heard.

And that goes to the real root of the problem that the article doesn’t really address — the disposability of so much modern music. After all, you hear all these names being bandied about now — Nicki Minaj, Justin Bieber, One Direction, and the list goes on. Does anyone really think those people have any sort of staying power? Or, hell, look at what country music has become. Hunter Hayes? Yeah, that’s just what we need, a Rascal Flatts soundalike, as if the original was worth emulating. If that’s what I had to listen to I’d be clicking to the next song as fast as I could.

But on the other hand, there’s George Strait, Merle Haggard, the Rolling Stones, The Allman Brothers, Rush, Iron Maiden, and the list goes on. And no matter how one discovers music from people like that, it’s something that the listener can easily form a bond with. It’s music that speaks to you, that says, “Come on in and sit a spell.”

The long and short of all this, I think, is that good music is going to endure. It’s going to withstand the temptation to click to whatever’s on next. I don’t see why that can’t be another of those universal truths.

(h/t Country California)

One down, two to go.

November 24, 2012

From Blabbermouth, earlier this morning:

Former MEGADETH and KING DIAMOND guitarist Glen Drover has left the Geoff Tate-fronted version of QUEENSRŸCHE before playing a single show with the band.

I wasn’t sure how long this would take, or who would leave first, but considering the economics of the whole thing it isn’t surprising. Tater’s latest solo album and his solo shows have been getting abysmal reviews, and the REAL Queensryche is signed to Live Nation, probably the biggest artist-management firm in the country, who controls pretty much every significant entertainment venue in the country. There was probably no way Tater could pull off getting enough people to fill the various iterations of Billy Joe’s Bar & Grill that he and his scabs were destined to play to pull in enough money to pay just Drover himself, let alone Bobby Blotzer and Rudy Sarzo.

Beyond that, it’d be interesting to see why Drover pulled out. I wouldn’t be terribly surprised to see if the reviews and general reception to Tater’s solo shows were a part of it. Of course there are those who will say, “but those were his solo shows, those were going to be different than his Queensryche presentation.” Considering the miniscule differences between Kings and Thieves and Dedicated to Chaos, though, I’m not sure I buy that. I wouldn’t be surprised if Drover went to Seattle, finally met the Taters, got a whiff of the nepotism and Geoff’s attitude and ran for his life.

At any rate, the only real downside to this is that with Drover gone there’s not a snowflake’s chance in hell that the solos are going to be played worth a shit, because Kelly Gray is the only guitar player Tater has left for his “version” of the band. This, sort of, is where the “one down, two to go” comes in. Even if Bobby Blotzer and Rudy Sarzo bail on Tater, Gray and Randy Gane are going to stick with Tater no matter what because he’s pretty much the only one who will work with them anymore. I wouldn’t put money on it just yet, but I would not be the least bit surprised if Tater rebrands his solo band as “Queensryche” before this is all said and done. We shall see…

Joe Pags FAIL.

November 23, 2012

A pretty spectacular one, to boot:

Unless you opt to go into management, (Walmart) is an in-between-jobs employer.  They are not paying anyone less than minimum wage nor are they forcing anyone to work there.  They are employing hundreds and hundreds of thousands of Americans.  With 22-23 million Americans under or unemployed, the last thing people who are gainfully employed should do is threaten to walk out because their bosses make more than they do.

In-between-jobs employer, eh? Apparently someone forgot to tell that to the head honchos, because Walmart has always marketed itself as a great place to have a career — which is pretty much the opposite of an “in-between-jobs employer.” And they continue to do this in spite of the next point.

23 million Americans un- or under-employed. Well, guess what? If a person has gone to work at Walmart in the last couple of years, the chances are good that person is under-employed. After all, if a person is “underemployed,” that person has a job that is not sufficient to meet his basic needs — things like, you know, paying the rent and the electric bill. With Walmart only hiring part-time workers, in addition to cutting back on raises, it ought to be pretty obvious that Walmart is contributing to under-employment.

And it sucks, of course. I would guess they do it out of economic necessity, and I doubt that the CEOs giving up their well-deserved pay is going to make things any better for the bulk of Walmart workers. I don’t necessarily begrudge Walmart its decisions. But if you’re going to defend a company and paint a certain phenomenon as a problem, it’s more than a little bit asinine to gloss right over the role of your company in exacerbating it.

Freaking out-of-towners with no sense of history…

November 22, 2012

Seen on the recommendations on KZEP’s Facebook wall:

Why don’t you guys add more quality classic rock bands to the station? Like the Grateful Dead, Traffic, Bruce Springsteen, Fleetwood Mac, The Guess Who (there’s more than just American Woman), The Kinks, Jethro Tull, David Bowie, N. Young, Supertramp, Steely Dan, Janis Joplin. The Beatles??!

In other words, “Hey, KZEP, why don’t you ditch what makes you stand out from other classic rock stations and play the same overplayed, overrated shit they do?”

Seriously, I for one got more than enough of all those bands on pretty much every other classic rock station I heard before I moved here. I am very, very glad that KZEP plays Iron Maiden and Judas Priest rather than the Beatles and Steely Dan. God knows I have done way more than my fair share of bitching about what the corporations have done to radio — both in general and to certain radio stations — but every now and then they do it right.

And KZEP is one way they have done it right. As has been noted before, San Antonio itself has played a very big part in hard rock and heavy metal history — Thin Lizzy, the Scorpions, Rush, Judas Priest, and my beloved Queensryche were just some of the bands that Joe Anthony and Lou Roney discovered and promoted to national and international stardom when they were at KISS. That’s the great thing about KZEP — it may be a corporate-owned station, but with playing those songs it still pays tribute to this city’s role in shaping the American musical landscape. I’d guess it gets them good ratings or they wouldn’t keep doing it.

Thank God for that, too, because it would really suck if they just became another clone of every other classic rock station in the country.

Not only can he not sing anymore, he’s also losing his eyesight.

November 21, 2012

Geoff Tate, on his former band’s namesake song:

Actually, it’s not very popular at all. It’s funny, actually — a lot of people don’t know about that song. A lot of people don’t care about that song. It’s an early song that was written and it shows. It’s funny the reaction you get, because it’s a lot of blank stares….So it’s not really a song that I enjoy singing, strictly because, lyrically, it’s pretty adolescent…For me, I honestly can’t relate to the whole dungeons-and-dragons lyrical content of that song; it’s really cartoonish and juvenile to me.

Wow, where to start?

Not very popular? Blank stares? That’s pretty funny, because “Queen of the Reich” has been the opening song for the band since Todd La Torre came on board, and every crowd reaction I have seen and heard — including the one I was a part of here in San Antonio — was about the furthest thing from blank stares that I have ever seen. To whatever extent Tater himself would get blank stares, it’d be because he can’t sing that song for shit anymore. He has more than enough trouble choking out “Silent Lucidity” and “Jet City Woman.” And considering the name of the freaking band came from the song, it’s absurd even on its face for Geoff to contend that so few of the band’s fans know that song that it would get blank stares, especially at this stage when the diehard fans are almost all they have left anymore.

And I am just not getting all the hate for the fantasy/Dungeons & Dragons-type lyrics. Frankly, I always thought it was pretty heady stuff, certainly the furthest thing from “cartoonish” or “juvenile” — especially considering how, as Sabra put it, Dungeons & Dragons is played largely by well-educated nerds. But considering this…

…on your knees, seem so contrite, I’ve something else in mind, it’s tight around your ankle, and your neck, plastic wrap, lots of “oh, oh, oh…”

and

Oh I’d stay up all night to see if you’re the kind of girl that bites, you’re not some China Doll I’d get over soon. You got mesmerizing advertising, want to make love to you…

…seem to be what Geoff Tate thinks modern metal fans want to hear, we should probably all consider it a good thing that he has such a low opinion of Queensryche’s earlier work.

If you needed another reason…

November 20, 2012

…to eat meat this Thanksgiving, here you go:

 

I saw that and thought, “Hey, Paul, shut up and sing! Better yet, just shut up.”

Like I said on Facebook, the dude looks a bit puny. Almost like he could actually stand some dead bird intake.

As always, though, my friends provided the comic relief…

JayG: “Well, two out of four ain’t sayin’ anything stupid…”

Ambulance Driver: ” Is it a coincidence that the two out of four that aren’t saying anything stupid are dead?”

Nope, no coincidence at all. Like I told AD, if I could like that comment a hundred times, I would!

My, how time changes things.

November 19, 2012

I would have scoffed at this once upon a time, but now I am not so sure.

Granted, I’ll admit that working on holidays is pretty much a given if you’re working in retail. Even on Thanksgiving people are gonna come for last-minute stuff they need, from  stuffing to wine. So griping about that I can’t understand so much, even if I might agree that Sam Walton would not have approved of such.

But the pay issue — these days I can completely grok their gripes over that. I worked for Walmart once upon a time, and it was great. I was getting full-time hours and raises every year. I might have mentioned here before that by the time I left Walmart I was making good money — more money than I ended up making at the job I took in the field I studied after I graduated college. In fact, I took an almost $3 per hour pay cut.

But I went back to work at Walmart for a time when I moved to San Antonio — and this time around it was not so good. Oh, there were still raises every year — but the hours were abysmal. There were some weeks that I only got 20 hours a week, and any week that I got 30 hours I considered myself lucky. But that wasn’t the worst of it.

No, the worst of it was seeing whatever slack that was left by hiring only part-timers, be pulled by temporary staffing services. Yeah. Instead of hiring full-timers, that’s what they did. I asked myself every damn day why they didn’t hire more full-timers instead. And every day I walked in and heard management mention the particular firm they were using, it just pissed me off even more. After I left, almost every time we drove past that particular Walmart I almost literally physically shuddered because of all the memories it brought back of the things I constantly had to worry about because of the fact I wasn’t getting paid enough. I did what I had to do, but damn was it ever a pain in the ass. You talk to some people and they’ll tell you about how great Walmart is to work for. But while I didn’t have any qualms about the way I was treated per se, I would vehemently argue that Walmart is damn sure not the way to go these days if you want to raise a family.

But on the other hand…what did I do, instead of staging a walkout or something like that? As Sabra put it: “You took the approved conservative path…you got another fucking job.”

I don’t know if that’s an option for many of those Walmart workers, but it’s certainly something for them to think about.

Say, that reminds me.

November 18, 2012

…or, Speaking of tragically dead woman songs…

From Sabra’s latest:

One of the singers Erik & I have a bit of a disagreement over is Alan Jackson.  Erik places him right up there near King George; my opinion has always been meh at best, and that was before he started in with the tragically dead woman songs.

But this isn’t about Alan Jackson; rather, it’s about Sammy Kershaw, one of the seemingly-forgotten ’90s neotraditionalists. My Kind of Country recently reviewed his 1996 album Politics, Religion and Her, which reminded me of the video to that album’s title track.

I suppose I should have seen the twist at the end of that video coming a thousand miles away, but given that the song is one of innumerable “she’s gone and I don’t want to talk about it”-type songs where you think the other person just walked out, I just never thought about it.

But it rendered me speechless, even though I was all of 18 years old, and to this day I cannot watch that video…