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#MusicMonday: “Blood for Poppies” – Garbage

I love music. I have so many favorite artists that it would take a month to highlight them all, and my “five-star songs” list in iTunes can play for days without a repeat.

There is one artist that eclipses them all: Garbage.

I have never been able to explain it. Garbage flies in the face of a lot of my specific musical preferences. They don’t have the best lyrics. They are not the most creative songwriters. Shirley Manson is not always a technically strong singer. They often let sophisticated production obscure the human performances that make a song.

I don’t care. I never have. There is something about their formula – Shirley Manson plus Butch Vig, Duke Erikson, and Steve Marker – that forms the most compelling possible music for me.

That means it is a very, very big deal when they debut their first single after a nearly seven-year hiatus, interrupted by the release of just a few scant b-sides.

(Hurry up and download “Blood for Poppies” for free directly from Garbage while it is still available!)

There are many familiar facets about this song. The throbbing, undifferentiated layers of guitars and drums topped with a crisp, chiming electric. The obnoxiously fuzzy riff that at once underpins and interrupts the phrases. Shirley’s sultry, half-spoken unspooling of lyrics. An unusual bridge that interrupts and deconstructs the song, yet perfectly returns us to exactly the point where it began.

Then there is the chorus. Layered vocals as far as the ear can hear, and army of Shirley Manson in perfect, major-key harmony, obscuring all but the most rudimentary rhythms beneath her.

I love it. It screams that Garbage is still Garbage, sounding somehow the same but different. Yet, it builds that from a stingily small handful of elements that are nearly recursive, all easily referenced to past exploits. Shirley sounds fierce and comfortable, a combination of her bombshell 00s vocals and her signature 90s wratch. Yet, the lyrics are stitched-together and nearly-rapped, less of the band’s tainted love hallmark and more of catchy outliers like “When I Grow Up” or “Shut Your Mouth.”

Do the detraction mean I’ve stopped pounding this track on repeat for the past week? No. Even the worst Garbage song (which this is nowhere near) is still a song that infects my brain in a neuron-by-neuron guerrilla campaign.

Will this be the sound of Not Your Kind of People? Probably not. No single Garbage song ever communicates the full arsenal of its album – especially not the lead single. Was the dark, surging, vengeful “Vow” the most representative track of Garbage? Was the pastiche of riffs and whispered howl of “Push It” a better sample of Version 2.0 than “I Think I’m Paranoid” or “Special”? Did the gender-bending stomp of “Androgyny” adequately explain the sour pop spectacular of Beautiful Garbage? And, did the Sabbath-esque riff and sparse verses of “Why Do You Love Me” explain the stripped down, real-band sound of Bleed Like Me?

I guess that’s just one more way that Garbage stands apart from all of the other bands I love. While I struggle to dissect and define their music, with Garbage all that is an afterthought. I have an inherent trust of Garbage that no other artist I love can engender. I can’t help but dissect their songs, but for once it is beside the point. It’s not why I’m listening.

I’m listening because, over fifteen years after I first listen to the full length of their debut, they are still my favorite band on the planet.

Not Your Kind of People is out on May 15 in standard and deluxe versions (deluxe includes extra songs, and Garbage are known for the awesomeness of their B-Sides).

Monday Mixtape, 8/9 Edition

I made you a mixtape!

A few weeks ago I received an email out of the blue from one of my favorite indie songwriters, the fantastic and frequently award-winning Mieka Pauley. Many moons ago I had volunteered our (former) house for a private show, and Mieka was finally ready to redeem our invite.

Such was the genesis of our impending house concert on 8/22, with Mieka Pauley and a special performance by yours truly, because this little shindig is AKA The Crushing Krisis 10th Anniversary Concert.

WOOT! (You can RSVP here.)

Mieka’s been on my mind all week, as is every one of Filmstar’s 17 songs as I try to absorb them all into my bass-playing body. Thus was the genesis of this mixtape. You can download all seven songs as a 38MB zip for a limited time.


1. “All The Same Mistakes” – Mieka Pauley
This was the free advance track from her outstanding 2007 LP Elijah Drop Your Gun. It’s an outstanding song, and probably the reason I chipped in towards her fan-funded album.


2. “The World Is Mine” – Filmstar
Despite it’s simple bass line, this song is the one that’s vexing me the most in rehearsal. Not coincidentally, it’s my favorite of all of their pre-2010 tunes. Watch it live on YouTube.
<a rel="nofollow" href="">The World Is Mine by Filmstar</a>

Read more….

7. “What To Do” – OK Go
Yesterday I (and all of the Social Media hive mind of Philly) saw OK Go play a free show at the Piazza. They played this song – a personal theme and mantra – on a set of handbells … like so:

Download the entire mixtape for a limited time.

What I Tweeted, 2009-07-19 Edition

My best and most-interesting tweets of the last week (including extensive skydiving coverage).

Read my tweets they happen by following me on Twitter.

Continue reading ›

Grudge Match

My friend Rob Baniewicz (of killer improv comedy duo Meg & Rob) shared an article from the Onion A/V Club Q&A titled “Lifetime Grudges.”

The article caught my interest because it’s about lifelong, subjective, sometimes irrational grudges that people develop against artists. Many of the Onion’s regular contributors shared their personal grudge matches, from Sofia Coppola to U2.

Surely you’ve done it. A movie star whose weird mouth-shape you just can’t get past? A musician whose utterly terrible new album forces you to lose faith? The reason doesn’t matter so much. just that they’ve jumped your personal shark permanently, never to return to your good graces.

A few spring to my mind immediately. Alanis Morissette – by her fourth US record she had entirely quit writing catchy, interesting music, so I gave up. Chuck Palahniuk – wrote too many overly-convenient, repetitive books for me to care that he might eventually get better. Jason Mraz – I found his songwriting schtick underhwhelming from the first second I heard him.

The grudge article is an interesting counterpoint to something else that has been on my mind lately: permanent “must-buy” policies. Lifetime subscriptions, let’s call them.

Surely you have these too – an unflinching desire to consume everything by a specific artist. I’ll buy any song by Garbage, watch any movie by David Fincher, and love any print by Mucha, no questions asked. It’s a form of brand-loyalty – these artists appeal to some aspect of your personal aesthetic, and you’ll support them forever for it.

Who is your #1 Grudge, and why? What about your most major undying, devoted subscription? Could the grudge ever (re)earn your trust? Could the subscription ever fall from the pedestal?

Earlier tonight in the back of a taxi I realized that Garbage’s “Bleed Like Me” is cribbed pretty directly from “Walk On the Wild Side” by Lou Reed.

Otherwise, nothing to report.


A week ago a blog I’ve become quite fond of – MLarson – quoted my statement from “Why A Link Is Not Enough“:

Links aren’t life.

His reflexive link might have been a thank you for all of the links to him I’ve featured in the past few weeks, or maybe it was an ironic commentary on the fact that I followed up a post stating “Links aren’t life” with a post with several dozen links in it. Or, maybe it was both.

I don’t dispute that links are a big part of blogging. I love posting links. I just like to pair my links with some personal commentary and context so that I at once show you interesting things you may not have read or seen and remind myself about that said things exist when I am old and senile. In, like, a month.

Anyhow, per positive feedback on recent link posts, for the moment they’re going to be a semi-weekly feature.

Unclutterer is to blogs what Real Simple is to magazines. I love it.

Gimme Sanity is back has been back, but I was too dim to look for it at its domain name. Duh.

Axis All Areas is a Garbage fan site with a very comprehensive breakdown of the gear the band has used on every tour. Also, the author has a signed Guild guitar identical to mine! Cool.

Mighty Goods is a shopping blog written by the author of the seminal Mighty Girl. Despite my unequivocal love for her taste in stuff I’ve never bought any of her selected items. The most recent contenders for first purchase are fork easels, and a pattern book that presents patterns in EPS and high res JPG so you can use them for various web and print projects.

Philly Blog The BM Rant tells the tale of the original (ghost)writer of The Hardy Boys. Also from my town, Vintage captures a scene from my daily life. And, XPNer Some Velvet Blog introduces me to Trolleyvox, an awesome local band.

Visual Search Lab is like a user-powered Google Image search, aiming to “find visually similar images.” via Photojunkie.

Brandon Fuller, creator of the technology behind my Now Playing sidebar, laments missing the boat with other big ideas. I feel his pain, having missed out on cashing in on a number of great ideas and web trends due to lack of time or lack of savvy. But, I say, never give up: Friendster seemed to have the annoying lock on social networking before the even more annoying MySpace cropped up, and now they’ve both been eclipsed by the classier Facebook.

10 Future Web Trends is an apt examination of up and coming web technology, via Akkam’s Razor. Also at Akkam’s: the math of making money on your blog.

CNN shares five simple keys to nutrition. Unlike their organization article, I have yet to master any of these habits. Also handy: how to clean your home in 19 minutes. I really enjoy when CNN subcontracts their open article slots to magazines rather than shoddily written AP stories.

Awe-inspiring communications blogger Debbie Millman contributed to A Brief Message – which combines a 200-or-less word essay on design with an accompanying illustration. I love their current one, Arrogance and Humility.

Links from usual suspects: this week TDavid and I chatted about link rot and social networking. Kottke posted a highly addictive web-game, Bloxorz. I grew bored in 15 minutes; Elise beat it within an hour. Also from K, light pollution, and the absence thereof is one of the many reasons I’m jealous of E’s impending trip to Australia.

Largehearted Boy posted a great interview w/Rufus Wainwright; oh, Rufus, if only your album didn’t suck quite so much. Also from LHB, a 69 Love Songs wiki. And, finally, the aforementioned MLarson found an illustrated guide on how to be creative.


2007 Song of the Day #2 – Supervixen (Garbage)

If there’s an album I have hopes of covering fully by the end of the year (by someone other than Madonna) it’s definitely Garbage’s debut, so the the first song on it seemed like a good place to start.

Supervixen” is by far my favorite song by my favorite band, which might give the impression that it’s my favorite song of all time, but not quite.

It’s one of those songs I play a hundred times a year but never quite nail when recording. Tonight’s isn’t perfect, but I think any song this loosely translated from the original will always have an air of the unexpected surrounding it.

(It’s also one of those songs whose title has only a implied relationship with its lyrics, something I do with my own songs more often than I intend.)

It took me a long (long) time to figure out a way to emulate the crazy multi-layered intro on one acoustic guitar. Tonight i was having trouble counting myself into it, so i skip the first pass at it altogether. This gives the song a much more ponderous start rather than the usual guns-blazing approach, which was fine by me, since I don’t know if my vocals were up to “blazing” tonight.

Incidentally, my extra vocals on the bridge and at the end of the last chorus were originally ad-libbed during Blogathon 2002, and ever since then I’ve done it that way every time.

If you want chords, performance notes, and lyrics for “Supervixen,” Read more…

I Do Do Meander

Picking up cigarette butts as the scent of pancakes and sausages wafted over me, I found the sun to be bright.

Wait. Saturday was a day. All days are days, but Saturday was quite one, mostly because of Garbage. They were here in Philadelphia, and I was to see them (a fourth time) with Ayelet (a third).

Outfit after outfit was donned and dashed as I prepared – how to best recapture that youthful androgynous energy I wrapped myself in when I was first introduced to these songs? My past blasted in from the living room, each new track a flashback: I have very visceral connection to those songs, and sometimes hearing one transports me to some other place. Ayelet is slipping earphones over my head as “Fix Me Now” begins on the bus to New York. The sun has not yet risen, and Mr. Benjamin is there, somewhere in the front; Ayelet is telling me that this is her favorite one so far.

Back in the present, I decided on jeans (so unglam!) and made the trip down to South Street, eventually finding both Ayelet and my way into the TLA, which Garbage completely overwhelmed me. Each song was spectacularly re -magined while still taking me to places in time and space I cannot otherwise access. What was also incredible was running into Jen&Mel – direct from one of those flashbacks.

J&M were conspicuously inseparable, those cool older kids when we were in high school – the kind that knew everything about music, and would come back from concerts with pictures and scrapbooks and set lists torn right from the stage. I feel like they coached us – me, Andrea, and Gina a little bit too – on how to live in the world of music and culture. They’re older now, as much as I am, one married and the other an opera singer! (She couldn’t scream, for fear of hurting her voice, so every time she felt moved to scream she tugged on Jen’s shoulder and said “Scream, Jen, scream!”).

I devoured their phone numbers after the show, crossing my heart to call, that it wasn’t just an act of acquisition. I do love to acquire; no toy is ever as good as the next toy. I’ve found that eventually this leaves you poor, and with too many toys you don’t really want or use. It made me think that I treat friends and their phone numbers too much like toys, always looking for new ones, and not too concerned if I lose one. It shouldn’t be that way.

After the concert (at the party; I haven’t mentioned that yet) I had a great time. I hugged and kissed our newly returned Jack profusely. I learned about contemporary architecture from ‘Cesca, and the history of the Marshall islands from Kate. I danced with Laura without feeling as though I’d go into cardiac arrest. The day eventually overcame me, and I nodded off on a couch, with someone laying a blanket on me as they passed by from dancing to the kitchen.

Picking up cigarette butts in Ross’s yard, I checked the brands on the stubbed ends and imagined which of my friends had probably smoked them. Some were butts were longer – a few ill-advised drags, quickly abandoned. Others were sucked down to the filter. Every one a story.

I love my friends. All of them – even the ones who I might not even recognize anymore.

I wish they would all stop smoking, though.

I cribbed the A-Z game from Largehearted Boy, but originally it’s from here via a Guided By Voices mailing list. The concept seemed like it would be an overwhelmingly easy exercise, but it definitelty wasn’t. Aside from the obvious S dilemma, i don’t own any artists whose name start with Qs, Xs, Ys, or Zs, so a combination of cheating and omission was in order.

Well, okay, i have some Ys, but i hate Pete Yorn.

  • Ani DiFranco
  • The Beatles
  • Death Cab for Cutie
  • David Bowie
  • Erin McKeown
  • Fiona Apple
  • Garbage
  • PJ Harvey
  • Hedwig and the Angry Inch
  • Joni Mitchell
  • Kaki King
  • Lisa Loeb
  • Madonna
  • Nikka Costa
  • Joan Osborne
  • Peter Mulvey
  • Rilo Kiley
  • Sarah Harmer
  • Tori Amos
  • The Velvet Underground
  • Veruca Salt
  • Rufus Wainwright
  • Andy Stochansky
  • Weezer

    You see that i’ve gone out on a limb to select a few worthies with only a single album out, and have similarly selected more than a couple whose catalogues i cherish despite giving up on their present endeavors. Unfortunately, due to our unkindly tiny alphabet, i was forced to leave off such luminaries of my collection as Garrison Starr, Lauryn Hill, No Doubt, Sheryl Crow, Sarah Shannon, Guster, Elastica, Juliana Hatfield, Elliott Smith, Mike Kovacs, Tracy Bonham, Sleater Kinney, Ben Folds Five, & Michael Jackson. Otherwise, this just about covers it.

    Maybe one night i’ll get bored and link to good resources for all of those artists. Until then, feel free to bash my taste in music and create your own lists in the comments section.

  • Trio: Season 4, #3