Saturday, January 21, 2012


You betray yourself immediately by admitting your tapioca panic attack. I don't think most people even like tapioca, and even less realize there are different tapioca "sizes". I hate to break this to you, but I'm afraid your toit rating may be precipitously high. Though it concerns me that I, too, love a good bowl of tapioca, but I must confess I've never obsessed about the size of the pearls or any other relative merit of one brand or "type" versus another. And just where the heck did you get that package? Are you a time traveler?

Thank you for the picture of Duran Duran that you posted.

As for your questions:
1) I can't remember exactly when I first heard of S-K, but I was non-plussed from day one. It wasn't an active, itchy sort of dislike, more of an annoyed, "here we go again" kind of response. I think you hit the nail on the head when you said you thought they sounded like Patti Smith and The Clash, etc. Don't get me wrong, these are fine people to emulate, but doesn't everyone? Now if a band can pull it off, more power to them, but it's "difficult" (you and I should know): The Clash wrote incredible SONGS, and let's not forget that the definition of a good song is one that can be played in the most naked of ways, like one instrument and a vocal, and still sound great. And of course Patti Smith is a wordsmith like few others. See, the problem with people like you and me, besides any suspected toit-tosity, is that we were around when these artists were in their heyday, and there have been sooooo many copycats, not to mention at this point the preponderance of the copycat copycats, that it gets harder and harder to find the real deal. That being said, I like a LOT of new music. But S-K isn't in that particular mix. (Though I must admit I've heard a song by Wild Flag that has me interested in more.)
2) I went through a looooong period (this Nineties) where I had a really hard time finding new music, but those days are over, of course: the inter-tubes have all the recommendations you could want, and probably more than you can handle. For my Americana/country fix, I usually check out The Real Big Rock Candy Mountain. For a general source of recommendations, I regularly check out Metacritic. There's several others. I try to find sites that, obviously, aren't too "mainstream", but also that don't go in the opposite direction: a lot of places I end up are recommending stuff that is too obscure. Some people really like extremely "lo-fi" efforts; I guess I wanna hear at least a little bit of experience/musicianship. But then something will come along that defies all my "categories"; I try not to be too limiting, but also have a new interest in wasting less of my time. And then there's my other problem: I'm still old school enough to want a physical product. Every now and then I buy a song from a site, but I'm still interested in lp's or cd's.
3) I went on a hunt for hipsters of the Sacramento variety, but couldn't find any, perhaps because I was searching during daylight hours. If I sight any, I'll be sure to let you know.

So I want to start sending out 15 or 20 song playlists/"radio shows". What's the best way to do it? Whaddya think of Spotify?

Would that take care of my needs?

Ok, let's see...

--Where the heck did you get that package?

That would be Shopper's Corner, a Santa Cruz institution, in the historical photo in the last post. Now this *was* several years ago...

--Thank you for the picture of Duran Duran that you posted.

Uh, thanks, I guess, but it's hard to tell whether the The Backstreet Boys will be flattered or insulted..

...there have been sooooo many copycats,...

Oh, amen to that - I confess that I sank into a been-there-done-that as I listened to both of those groups...

... I had a really hard time finding new music, but those days are over...

- and to that! Pandora alone is a remarkable "suggestion box", and has gotten better and better at its version of stochastic tastemaking. As an experiment, I put in "Cream" as the seed, then immediately added "David Wilcox" for variety, and got the famous live "Crossroads" (before the varietization applied), Zep's "Good Times Bad Times", then some Hendrix rock, then the Animals' "House of the Rising Sun" - then a recent Wilcox release - this starts to look like a trajectory - then an artist I hadn't heard called Bebo Norman in the Wilcox vein, then another previously unknown folkie, Howie Day before I was tapped on the shoulder by Pandora for too much skipping. Wouldn't it be interesting to have it just spit out lists?

Then there's - I just jumped in to a tag called "punk revival", hit The Donnas, who I'd heard a little, then hit under their "Moods" list the term "campy", then ended up at "Ziggy Stardust" - next to which can be found Small Faces' "Lazy Sunday". The problem here is that starting in this vast compendium produces for me a sense of surfeit, a negative commitment. But if you start with a desire for very specific comparisons, it can be kind of great - have you used it much?

And even the anarchic associations of YouTube serve as a reasonable conduit, since the right gutter almost invariable represents someone's predictable taste. (Side note: at this point, that Pandora station I just created has dumped me into War's "Low Rider"; maybe I was a little *too* divergent in my seeding.) Was YT too frustrating for you?

-- I'm still old school enough to want a physical product.

It's funny, a CD never quite seemed to me as real as an LP, simply because the canvas of a 12" cover and sleeve already seemed like a fulfilled promise - and so I've more or less ceased to care.

--Would [Spotify] take care of my needs?

I was going to say Mog based on recent reviews, but I see they require a Facebook account; go Spotify! And this posting shows an interesting graph comparing top hits there vs. Rdio, an up-and-comer. I might be able to live without "Say Say Say" by going that direction.

Friday, January 6, 2012


William Fuller: Whilst taking a stroll through midtown late last year, on the way to my weekly Society for the Blind recording, I came upon musician/producer/engineer supreme Chris Woodhouse. He seemed to be in a somewhat giddy daze. He said that he had recently engineered Wild Flag's new album here in Sacra, and that he just found out it had received a very rave review from music blog Pitchfork. Wild Flag is a coming together of four indie musicians from well known, at least in that world, rock bands. One of the four is Carrie Brownstein, whose last band, Sleater-Kinney, is probably the best known of the various represented bands.

(He also talked about trying to learn Capt. Beefheart's "One Red Rose that I Mean" from LICK MY DECALS OFF BABY. I asked him if he was going to learn "Peon", but he gravitated toward "Rose" because it's a solo piece. I'm still waiting for a promised recording when he masters it.)

At any rate, I didn't realize till yesterday, when I was recording the latest New Yorker at the Society, that Carrie Brownstein is the lead, along with Fred Armisen, of the TV show Portlandia. They're just starting season two this month. I endured one episode last year. It's basically a snarky, perhaps somewhat affectionate, look at the pretentious miasma that is part of Portland, complete with vegans, lesbian bookstores, and music snobs (not that there's anything wrong with any these!) It's a look at the hipsters who populate any decent sized city, but seem to proliferate in that particular American Northwest city (I'm lookin' at you, Colin Meloy - even though I love ya!) One usually equates hoity-toityness with money, but as you watch the show you realize it can span all income levels, and as you watch the show, if you're honest with yourself, you have to ask, in between condescending laughter: am I actually one of these people? Of course not in all ways, but in some? (Maybe that's why I stopped watching after one episode.)

So today my wife sent me to the grocery store and a local specialty German meat market. I went to the grocery store first, and of course didn't purchase any of the required meat, because my wife demands a certain high quality that most grocery chains, of course, just can't achieve. But when I got to the specialty shop, alas, it was closed for their annual winter vacation! What to do?!? Not just any old ground beef and ham would do; it had to be "special"! I was facing a full scale toit-tastrophe, i.e., a knotty, perplexing challenge that only a certain kind of true snob will have to face.

I live in a pretty diverse part of town, and at this point I was in the low rent section. As I drove down the boulevard thinking about where I might go, I realized I was fast approaching Mercado Loco, an independent Mexican grocery store with a very decent butcher section if you were interested in carnitas or carne asada or buche (pig stomach). So I stopped there. Unfortunately, the dish in question was not one that required any of these items, and the quality ground beef and ham that I needed just wasn't in evidence. I had to leave empty-handed, a cold sweat starting to bead up on my face.

Luckily, ANOTHER independent grocer about a half mile away popped into my mind, one that catered to the "foodie", the discriminating, the discerning. Expensive? Yes, but of course worth it! That's where I went and I wasn't sorry. My nightmare was over.

So to my fellow blogger Spence:
1) Do you have any recent tales of a toit-tastrophe?
2) Have you ever heard Wild Flag or Sleater-Kinney?
3) Have you ever watched Portlandia?
4) Do you think you could learn One Red Rose that I Mean?

Well, in the case of 1), no, I don't think I've had one of those, gastronomic or otherwise, anytime recently. Although I spent awhile looking for giant tapioca, and that before ever sampling bubble tea at a Pho house. But white tapioca pudding made with extra-large spheres of starch doesn't somehow feel toity. In any case, what came to my rescue was

who carried in a black box said product, which however now looks like

-and will provide any tapioca hound with the appropriate slimy chewiness.

As to 2) Wild Flag and Sleater-Kinney, the first was an unknown and the second my daughter's recommendation from awhile ago. I listened to a couple of agreeable rockers that sounded like they have influence from The Clash, Patti Smith, and no doubt many others, but didn't go back for no particular reason - though I did wonder at the time how the Olympia Public Works Dep't keeps up with what must be a chronic disappearance factor for

not to mention a couple of sizeable offramp signs. A quick refresher and intro to Wild Flag convince me I'd better dive in a bit as a new year's res.

My daughter also mentioned 3) Portlandia, but on that score as well I remain ignorant. She has been educating us on "hipsters" in the wild

at least on her Seattle context, and said that Portland, in perhaps the throes of Seattle-wannabe, exhibits similar plumage. Notwithstanding the hoodies, much of hipsterism has changed little since our band scenemaking days before 1980; black leather never quite goes away, ditto laddered stockings, wayfarers, elaborately torn jeans with or without duct tape (we went to get a calendar at a local office supply, and duct tape was an entire aisle; apparently silver is for the classicists, since they have plaid, stripes, dots, stars - do middle schoolers duct tape their backpacks with stars? do younger kids apply duct tape strips to everything instead of collecting stickers?), and spiked hair even is not quite gone. Although there are those hats...

And finally, in a final sign of resignation, I confess I probably never will learn 4) "One Red Rose That I Mean", even after an intrepid soul rendered clear all of its mysteries

because probably a) I like "Peon" better, even given that it requires someone on bass and b) it's probably just too hard, although I have no doubt I could dial it in.

So the questions of the moment: 1) Do you remember how or when you first heard or heard about Wild Flag and Sleater-Kinney? 2) (this one from both daughter and father) How does that exposure relate to your history of ways of being exposed to, becoming enthusiastic about, various albums and artists - or put another way, what's the new deejay and new-releases-auditioning mechanism for our era? and 3) what do hipsters wear in Sacramento?