Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Just Because

Soulsavers and Mark Lanegan singing “Can’t Catch the Train.”

Sadly, I won’t be able to use Lala’s features to embed songs since Lala disappears in a few days. PS- If you were in the mood for something louder, this, from the same album, might fit the bill.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Now Spinning We Fell to Earth’s “The Double”

I know that there are probably hundreds or even tens or perhaps precisely zero people out there wondering what I’m listening to right now. Which is why I felt compelled to share.

I see that you’re wondering, what the heck does this have to do with Mark Lanegan? That’s an excellent question: Wendy Rae Fowler, one of the band members, is his ex-wife.

In case you were wondering.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Good Leapin’ Lord Jeepers

It’s almost as if they know me:

Take heed ‘n’ stuff, Mark Lanegan obsessives, even though you obviously know this already! UK electronica duo Soulsavers have made an album with your man Lanegan, and now Soulsavers and Lanegan and Lanegan’s voice box are coming to wail and clang and sometimes hush in your faces! Did you miss Lanegan? He is coming for you.

Dig it. It’s about half way down on this page.

Monday, March 31, 2008

10 (+1) Great Covers

Steve talks cover songs and I can’t help but think about some of my own personal favorite covers. While it’s true that it’s very rare for a cover to outshine the original, I think it’s just as true that many cover versions bring something new out of the song. Update: And check out Jed’s post (and thanks for the link) on the subject.

These are a few of my favorite things, although I’ve done it with a twist. Every other song is something covered by Mark Lanegan or a Lanegan-related group. If you don’t like his voice, you might want to skip those; if you do like his voice, they would make a tremendous EP all on their own.

Jeff Buckley - Hallelujah
Leonard Cohen penned a beautiful song, but Jeff Buckley’s voice and arrangement made it into something as near perfect as can be. It’s not often that I would call a man’s voice angelic, but Buckley’s qualifies. The entirety of Grace is worth hearing, but “Hallelujah” is tremendous.

Twilight Singers - Live with Me
Massive Attack’s “Live with Me” is a sort of mutant cross between electronica and blues with Terry Callier on vocals. Great stuff. Greg Dulli’s Twilight Singers slow it down a bit, bring out the full-on blues experience, and gives Mark Lanegan the chance to make it more desperate and earthy than the original.

Slobberbone - To Love Somebody
The Bee Gees’ wonderful “To Love Somebody” has been covered by more people than I can remember. Some of the best--and, to me, most surprising--were Janis Joplin, The Flying Burrito Brothers, and Slobberbone. And it’s Slobberbone’s version that I like the most. Slobberbone turns the R&B number into a slow, warm country ballad. Great stuff.

The Walkabouts - Feel Like Going Home
When Charlie Rich sang “Feel Like Going Home”, it came out pretty and nice. When The Walkabouts sing “Feel Like Going Home” it becomes something more personal and the weariness of “everything I done is wrong” becomes more real. Mark Lanegan’s voice comes in on the third verse ("Cloudy skies are closing in...") like an old man facing his death after a long life and wanting the release. It would be brutal if it weren’t so pretty.

The Gourds - Gin and Juice
Snoop Dogg’s “Gin and Juice” wouldn’t normally seem like a perfect fit for a bluegrass makeover, but it is one of the most fun songs to come from the 90’s alt.country (whatever that means) movement. Enjoy the groove and laugh when you hear the heavy accents singing about ghetto thug life.

Mark Lanegan - Carry Home
The original from the late Jeffrey Lee Pierce is a little rock number from The Gun Club’s album, Miami, but Mark Lanegan makes it his own. From his album of covers, I’ll Take Care of You, “Carry Home” becomes a sparse slice of Americana that is hardly recognizable as the original--just a simple guitar framing Lanegan’s rich, deep voice. 

Johnny Cash - Hurt
When Nine Inch Nails recorded “Hurt,” I would never have imagined that Johnny Cash could turn it into a deeper lament than the original. But his aging voice and emotional reading of the lyrics stand as one of the most blatant and affecting looks at failure, regret, and mortality.

Screaming Trees - Darkness Darkness
Basically a throw-away from the song from the Trees for the True Lies soundtrack, their cover stands well against The Youngblood’s original. It’s fun to hear Lanegan and company hitting full rock stride with a song that fit beautifully with their own work. A perfect fit.

Israel Kamakawiwo’ole - Hawai’i ‘78
Best known for his shockingly pretty cover of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” Israel Kamakawiwo’ole also covered “Hawai’i ‘78”, a song originally recorded by The Makaha Sons of Ni’ihau. Iz’s voice was truly special; sadly he died far too young from complications related to his morbid obesity (at one time weighing well over 700 pounds).

Soulsavers - Blues Run the Game
If you’ve heard “Blues Run the Game,” it was probably Simon & Garfunkel’s pretty cover of the little-known Jackson C. Frank original. The Soulsavers trade the folk guitar in for gentle piano and cello. Folkies will always love the original, but for the rest, the Soulsavers created a song that won’t ever be stuck in one time zone. Others have covered the tune, but none quite so effectively.

Bonus - Megadeth - These Boots
Nancy Sinatra couldn’t pull off the rocking attitude that comes with Megadeth’s speed-metal version of her rebellious classic. To be fair, Dave Mustaine will never be as cute as she was when she sang the song, but his growl does have a certain charm.

Big Bonus Territory
In the extended entry is an assortment of the songs and artists listed here. Where I couldn’t find an original or a cover, I went with something by the covering artist. And, yes, Megadeth is there at the end.


Read the Rest...

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Soulsavers, It’s Not How Far You Fall…

Soulsavers Album Cover

Good news for fans of brilliant, quirky music: the Soulsavers’ exceptional album, It’s Not How Far You Fall, It’s How You Land is finally available in the US. You can get it at decent local record stores, iTunes, or Amazon--although, on iTMS it is hilariously labeled as “Christian/Gospel” (not, to be fair, that I know what I would label the thing).

It certainly does have a gospel edge to it ("Revival" has a full blown gospel choir in the background) and is preoccupied with thoughts and images of religion. But I’m guessing the strange, Eastern drone of “Jesus of Nothing” wouldn’t grab your typical Christian as a statement of faith.

What do you get with this eclectic mix that still manages to feel all of a piece? Noisy rock, ambient, dance beats, mellow pop, fuzzy guitars, gospel, and something not far from blues. You also get Mark Lanegan’s voice in all its glory--and especially glorious it is on “Revival”, “Spiritual”, “Kingdoms of Rain”, and “No Expectations.” He appears on and wrote a good chunk of the songs on the CD, the result being something that sounds very much like a Lanegan solo album infused with electronic dance beats. I was skeptical of the mix, but it turns out beautifully.

Musical labels don’t quite suffice, so I’ll just say this: it is one of my favorite purchases of the last few years and is regularly in my CD player and on my iPod.

Buy it from iTunes. (This link will launch iTunes Music Store.)

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Soulsavers, Kingdoms of Rain

Years and years and years ago, Mark Lanegan had a little song called “Kingdoms of Rain” on his album Whiskey for the Holy Ghost. Shy little thing with a low tech feel--not quite country music, but some kind of old Americana. It was definitely one of the standout tracks on an utterly brilliant album. When Lanegan went to work with Soulsavers a few years ago for an album that was released earlier this year (and to be released soon here in the US), they did a remake of his old tune and breathed a creaky new life into the thing.

It’s a slow song that borders on somber; it’s still quiet but more full than the original. Mostly, though, it’s a mood and a voice that catches you--something like Johnny Cash’s version of Nine Inch Nails’ “Hurt”. A spiritual companion, if you will.  And here’s the video from the record label, V2.

Speaking of Lanegan, a song from his album, Bubblegum, was featured on Rescue Me a week or so ago. It’s good to see his name popping up as the artist, but I do wonder what people will think when they pick up the CD. The song features was “100 Days”, a slow, sweet love song of sorts--very pretty. But Bubblegum is a little more earthy than that--it starts out with the droning dirge of “When Your Number Isn’t Up”, a song about not quite dying with lines like “No one needs to tell you that there’s no use for you here anymore.” Not exactly uplifting and certainly not pretty.

In fact, before “100 Days” pops up, listeners roll through “Hit the City,” a restless rocker with guest vocals by PJ Harvey, and “Methamphetamine Blues” with its industrial clank and grind, distorted vocals, and Queens of the Stone Age guitar line. These are, for lack of a better word, grimy songs.

The pretty “100 Days” and utterly gorgeous “Strange Religion” are the exceptions on the album.

For any fans of Rescue Me looking to buy something from Lanegan that matches the beauty of “100 Days”, though, I might suggest that Field Songs would be the best place to start. “Field Song”, “Resurrection Song”, and “Low” are all amongst his best stuff, and highly recommended.

Just sayin’.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

A Very Lanegan Christmas

Lanegan fans rejoice. Over the next six months or so we should be seeing all kinds of wonders and spending all kinds of money to satisfy our fixation.

  1. Follow up to Ballad of the Broken Seas. Lanegan’s pairing with Isobel Campbell resulted in one of his most successful albums, mixed but mostly positive critical reaction, and part of a nomination for a prestigious music award (the Mercury Music Prize). Apparently, the muse is still with the duo because they’ve already put together the majority of a sequel to be released early next year.

    “We toured together in January this year and he came over to my house in Glasgow a lot in March so we recorded a lot of the songs then.

    “Most of the work is done, I’m mixing and mastering it now, but we probably won’t get it out this year, more likely early next year.

  2. Gutter Twins comes closer to reality. Greg Dulli and Lanegan have threatened to release an album as the Gutter Twins for a ridiculously long time now. Having signed to Sub Pop is a great indicator that the project might finally be ready to be unveiled. My guess is that the thing could be out either late this year or very early next year.
  3. Soulsavers are finally ready to invade America. One of the finest albums to be released this year is finally coming to America. Soulsavers’ It’s Not How Far You Fall, It’s the Way You Land might have a bit of an unwieldy title, but it’s filled with the most effective mix of dance, rock, and American roots music that you’re likely to find this year. Here’s what the band has to say on their MySpace page:

    We’re happy to say that we signed a deal with Columbia records for North America last week.
    I guess the plan is to hopefully try to get the record out by October & try and get over there to play some shows around that time too.

    Best case scenario (and reading heavily--and perhaps too hopefully--between the lines) would have Lanegan doing a mini-tour with the band in the US. Please, Lord, let there be a Denver date somewhere on that schedule…

Friday, February 16, 2007

Early Morning Nay Saying (Updated)

Just say “NO” to the use of eminent domain, especially on such a grand scale, and especially when “condemning” the homes involved is such an obvious and deceitful farce. The Rocky’s Vincent Carroll has it precisely right and kudos to the oft-condemned (in an entirely different way) Marilyn Musgrave for standing up on the right side of this cause.

Just say “NO” to Super Glue. Some things really shouldn’t be glued.

Just say “NO” to the misguided attempt to kill off junk in your mailbox (not spam in your inbox). Sure, it can be annoying. Sure, it adds up. Really, though, it isn’t as disruptive as phone solicitations, nor is it as pervasive as spam in your inbox. I’m not opposed to the idea of making my life a more annoyant-free (yeah, I know: that’s not really a word) zone; I’m opposed to a law that doesn’t really need to be on the books--and, as the linked article explains, there are already some options that consumers have to help control the problem. As I’ve explained before, when in doubt about the need for a law (or the potential for unintended consequences when the law is enacted), vote in opposition. Although it happens, it’s rare that a new law makes our lives better and common for a new law to have wide-reaching effects that we hadn’t considered, to cost more to administer than anyone had guessed, and to encourage our public “servants” to engage in more busybody legislation in the future.

Just say “NO” to Tim Hardaway. Although he’ll be confused because he wasn’t actually asking you for anything, at least you’ll have the peace of mind to know that you stood up to the belligerent jerk. As useless gestures go, it’s still far better than the more proactive left hook that you could throw (which would likely end you up beaten to a bloody pulp and then sent to jail--I’m pretty sure he’s bigger than you are).

Just say “NO” to missing the Rocky Mountain Blogger Bash tonight (see previous post). You know you want to come meet the crew. So, come meet the crew.

Just say “NO” to Ghost Rider. Not because you want to, but because you know that Daredevil sucked and it’s hard to get a comic book movie right. When I heard they were making a Ghost Rider movie, I was excited. When I saw the trailer, I was less excited. When I saw all the sneak previews and extended footage, I was worried. When I realized it was directed by the guy who screwed up Daredevil, I relegated it to the “video rental” list. It could be a great flick, but I wouldn’t make that bet.

Just say “YES” to the upcoming Soulsavers album, It’s Not How Far You Fall, It’s the Way You Land. From the sample songs, this is my most anticipated release of the year. With Mark Lanegan singing the majority of the songs--and with a stunning reworking of his “Kingdoms of Rain"--you had to know I’d be excited. But even the “Ask the Dust (Demo)” without vocals sounds good to me. With so much NO, there has to be a YES somewhere.

Update: I also agree with Off Colfax that we can give a hearty “YES” to 300 How stunning are those visuals? I’m all tingly now.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Another Bit o’ Lanegan

A while back, I noted that Mark Lanegan was doing a project with the Soulsavers. It looks like the album is slowly moving forward and the first taste of it can be found (apparently only for a limited time) on the Soulsavers’ MySpace page, and, even in its demo version, it’s mighty tasty.

“Ghosts of You and Me” is groovy, messy, loud, and tense--and I’m loving it. Unfortunately, the MySpace player is a touchy little thing and you might have a difficult time getting it to play the full song. Be persistent, though, and you’ll get a taste of what might just be an awfully damn good album. The song keeps playing through my head (which, honestly, is making it easier to get through my work day).

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Another Short Post

Andy rocks. Bonus points go to anyone who can tell me the name of the artist who is singing with Mark Lanegan on the song. And if you happen to attend the next Blogger Bash, I’ll even buy you a drink.

On an entirely different note: I’ll try to get back to posting tomorrow, but this has been a tough week in a number of ways. Getting back on track after an admittedly short vacation is proving to be pretty freakin’ difficult. I have a lot to say and very little time to pull it together.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Mark Lanegan News (You’ve Been Waiting for it, Haven’t You?)

The Isobel Campbell and Mark Lanegan and Ballad Of The Broken Seas has been nominated for the Mercury music prize (which is a kind of big deal if you happen to be from the UK). For the record, Lanegan is only eligible for this UK-only award because he collaborated with the twee--and cute as hell--Campbell.

I have mixed feelings on this honor (and being shortlisted for the award is an honor for the two). I don’t think it’s Lanegan’s best work and I wish that he were being recognized for something like Field Songs or Whiskey for the Holy Ghost--either of which ranks at the top of my all time favorites. This is also an honor that recognizes Campbell far more than Lanegan, and rightly so. She wrote and produced the grand majority of the material on the disc, bringing her particular musical vision to life.

That said, Lanegan’s voice shines on songs like “False Husband” and “Revolver” is something approximating brilliant. For that matter, the 70’s honkeytonk feel of “The Circus is Leaving Town” is surprisingly good for something that seems to be based on a long-running cliche. His voice is rich, full, and soothing--special.

So, congratulations to Isobel Campbell and Mark Lanegan and here’s hoping that they win the prize.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

100 Doses: A Long-Term Cure for American Idol

One of the reasons I continue to watch and critique American Idol is simply that, like most of us, I kind of like playing the critic. The contestants of a show like AI make pretty easy targets, don’t they? At the end of the day, though, I’m not going to buy any of their albums, I’m not going to put down money to see any of them play live, and I can’t remember if I ever got around to voting for any of the contestants that I liked.

As Walter pointed out in a comment yesterday, these people aren’t really artists. They don’t write their own music, they don’t always even choose their own songs, and, if they win, I doubt very seriously that they’re given much in the way of artistic control over the songs, production, or arrangements. AI exists as a sort of lottery for moderately talented singers; the end result is pre-fab pop with not much of a shelf life.

When you look at it like that, though, the next questions should be obvious: what makes a song great? What makes a singer great?

I’m not sure that it can be easily quantified, although I would agree with Walter in that it isn’t purely about mechanics. The best-trained voice is no guaranty of a memorable (or even good) song, much less a great one. Which explains why Bob Dylan gets to have a music career.

(As an aside, if you were to be asked to identify the most influential American poet, who would name? I would suggest that Dylan might well fit the bill.)

That said, a truly horrible voice can render a good song unlistenable--so there is a low bar to be cleared when it comes to the mechanics, but the mechanics aren’t the deciding factor.

I don’t know what ingredients build a great song, but I do have my opinions about some songs that I consider to be great. And, one by one, I’m going to share 100 of those songs. They won’t be in any particular order (and Mark Lanegan might be a little over-represented), but they will be accompanied by MP3s and the reasons that I think the songs are so brilliant.

Some of the songs will be familiar, although popularity is no quick gauge of virtue.

Think of this as a cure for American Idol. A group of songs that make up a hell of a playlist with songs that you’ll hate and songs that you’ll love and a little bit of musical exploration for the class. The only two rules are that the songs have to have a prominent vocal, can’t be a cover of another artist’s music, and that I think that they are so damned good that they are worth sharing.

Ready for some fun? Good, because this was all a lengthy introduction to the first song on the list.

100 - Mark Lanegan, “Judas Touch”

It’s only appropriate that I start out with a Mark Lanegan song and this is one of the best. From the brilliant album, Whiskey for the Holy Ghost, “Judas Touch” is a little drop of near-perfection. At only one minute and thirty-seven seconds long, it leaves a little too soon. Stuck somewhere between country and acoustic blues, the star is Lanegan’s voice on top of the simple guitar and brushed drum.

“Judas Touch” doesn’t cover new ground; it’s as familiar as a worn cliche. But Lanegan’s intimate voice is almost seductive and he remains one of the most distinct and fascinating voices in rock music.

Turn out the lights, close your eyes, and enjoy this gentle tune.

Download Judas Touch. (The file is no longer linked. Check back for Number 99 soon.)

Monday, March 27, 2006

The Collision of Strange Obsessions

My Mark Lanegan obsession is well-documented throughout this site. My American Idol obsession is, sadly, well-documented throughout this site. Now, my obsessions come together in some strange convergence of stars.

In USA Today‘s review of the American Idol singers from last week, Don Waller had this little nugget about Chris Daughtry.

If Ikea sold alternative-rock vocalists, they’d sound and look like this. As anyone who’s heard, say (ex-Screaming Trees/ Queens of the Stone Age/solo artist) Mark Lanegan, knows, this guy’s no Mark Lanegan. By the way, that penguin-in-bondage arrangement came courtesy of Live, who are currently — and deservedly —residing in the “Where Are They Now?” file. Chris has got to prove he’s more than a one-trick pony. They shoot horses, don’t they?

Makes me happy just thinking about it…

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Before Getting to Other (Arguably More Important) Stuff…

So I just got home. Sat down and turned on the TV to watch a football game. The game is going to commercial.

And they’re playing Screaming Trees’ “Nearly Lost You.”

It’s gonna be a good day.

Update: And, after diving into my email, I have a client who is asking me to increase my invoice by about 40% because they felt that I did far more work than I billed. They’re right, but I still try to live by the estimates that I give at the beginning of a project.

Not that I won’t turn my nose up at money when it’s earned.

Now I’m getting a little nervous about my good day, though.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Review: Dog Train

Dog Train Cover
I’d never heard of children’s’ book author Sandra Boynton before I heard about Mark Lanegan’s contribution to a just-released book and CD combo. Mark Lanegan--I may have mentioned him before--the man who writes odes to heroin, whose songs explore death and broken relationships in some of the most stark and melancholy ways imaginable.

That Mark Lanegan was going to be singing music for kids (along with a cast of other oddballs). Of course, there was a strange level of excitement in happening upon the book at Barnes and Noble this past weekend. But it was excitement tempered by fear: would his song make children cry or shudder in fear? And, just as disconcerting was the idea of a duet with Weird Al and Kate Winslet. Before I jump into a full review, let me just say that one of my fears was well founded and one completely baseless.

The book doesn’t actually present a story--it’s a collection of songs with corresponding lyrics and illustrations. While I have little room for judging how successful the presentation will be with kids, I can say that it is quite successful with adults. Just sitting on my desk at work, in an office of just ten people, there were three people who said they were going to order the thing--one for his son, another for a friend’s children, and the last for her husband.

If kids like it as much as their parents do, Dog Train should be pretty successful.

The book is broken into three parts with the first being big illustrations and partial lyrics, the second part with music and complete lyrics, and the third comprising a little information about each of the artists. For example, Mark Lanegan, we learn, is an “evocative, infinitely cool singer and songwriter, much sought after for his distinctive low-down voice, and his remarkable vocal and stylistic range.” Which sounds about right if you aren’t going to write about jails and rehab.

As a package, it’s fun stuff. The music is the thing, though, isn’t it?

And the music is good. It starts out with the Spin Doctors’ tongue in cheek “Tantrum” and goes through a series of songs ranging from utterly outrageous to simply beautiful. I found myself giggling during John Ondrasik’s disturbingly catchy “Penguin Lament” when he croons, “Little legs cannot stride so we rock side to side, side to side, side to side, to move. We can’t even fly!”

Just as good are Blues Traveller singing the title song, “Dog Train,” Alison Krauss’ gorgeous “Evermore,” and the light bluegrass “Dragonfire” sung by Rob Hyman and Eric Bazilian. In fact, while the songs trend towards simplicity, this isn’t just dumbed down kid entertainment, and that is all the better. I can’t help but think that some parents will rejoice simply because this is kid-friendly music that they won’t mind playing.

The range of performers is impressive, the laughs genuine, and the sound quality good.

But what about Mark Lanegan and the strange Weird Al/Kate Winslet pairing?

The duet, “I Need a Nap,” is out of place on this disk. It comes across as a parody of Disney movie music--and that isn’t meant in the nicest possible way. The rest of the songs are funny and original with, perhaps, the exception of “Boring Song” by Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gorme, which is short and good-natured where “I Need a Nap” is merely tedious. That’s the bad news.

The good news is that Mark Lanegan, if he weren’t covered in some pretty odd tattoos, could probably moonlight singing kids’ songs. His voice is warm and light, his tone is wry but not overdone, and the song (as, I believe all of them were, written by Sandra Boynton) is charming. It’s a bluesy tale of a bear and his sneakers--an addictive song with a funny punch line.

I bought the CD because I’m a completeist, but I was happily surprised by the music and the humor. I don’t know that I would recommend it to any adult who has overdosed on irony or cynicism--the urge to sneer would be too great--but for any grown-up who wants their children to listen to good music or who can enjoy kid flicks unashamedly, this could be a quality Christmas gift this holiday season.

Kid friendly, Zomby approved.

Visit Boynton’s Web site.

Monday, October 31, 2005

Creepy, Sepulchral Music for Kids

I was checking out the news section of One Whiskey, a Mark Lanegan fan site, hoping to find the release date for the Lanegan-Isobel Campbell album, when I found instead that my favorite musician will be on a CD meant for kids. The guy who makes a living singing about heroin, booze, junkies, burial shrouds, and death is going to perform something called “Sneakers” for Sandra Boynton’s book/CD set, Dog Train.

Presumably, it will be a sing-along.

Sheer curiosity means that I’ll own the thing. You have to sit back and wonder precisely how this happened, though.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Reason to Love the G-Phrase

I’m sure that if I were to take the time to make a comprehensive list, there would be thousands of reasons to love the g-phrase. Her good points are legion, her quirks cute, and her bad qualities--well, does she really have any bad qualities? Aside from bad taste in bloggers, that is?

Anyway, this isn’t about all or her good qualities, this is about one of her good qualities: she digs Screaming Trees.

When we were driving home from watching a particularly underwhelming laser light show thingy at Gates Planetarium at the museum here in Denver and listening to the Trees’ Dust, she was doing the cute little head bob with the cute little smile, singing along occasionally. When “Dying Days” came on, though, she really started getting into the song. Adorable, no?

Keep in mind that “Dying Days” is a freakin’ great song. It starts with an acoustic guitar and light keyboard while Lanegan sings quietly and suddenly Barrett Martin’s drums and the electric guitars kick in. If you pay attention, you’ll notice the almost soul-flavored keyboards swerving along in the background as the song keeps building in intensity and Lanegan attacks the vocals with passion.

Seriously good rock.

Not only does the g-phrase get into the song while we’re in the car, but she continues to sing snippets of the song randomly for a few hours.

Yeah, I’ll probably keep her.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Playing That File

Make it Bigger.

After the Gutter Twins--the mutant pairing of Mark Lanegan and Greg Dulli--performed recently in Italy, I was determined to find a bootleg of the set. With patience and regularly skimming through the Mark Lanegan and Queens of the Stone Age boards, I found a guy who seeded the concert and, over a few patient days with my bittorrent client (Azureus), I finally downloaded the over two gigs of concert footage.

And found that I couldn’t open any of the files.


I had expected the typical .mpg, .avi, or .wma file format, but was faced with a bunch of .ifo. .bup, and .vob files--which left me seriously confused as to what I was supposed to do to see the Gutter Twins doing a cover of Screaming Trees’ “Dollar Bill” (among a set of other stuff, of course).

A quick search lead me to a freeware program, VLC Media Player, that plays a variety of media formats, is developed for multiple platforms, is easy to operate, and can even be used to as a streaming server for various video formats. The program is fast and pretty well developed (strangely, it hogs the processor on my older G4, but the program itself never feels slow at all).

Aside from working on Windows and Mac boxes, it also supports a variety of Linux flavors, a couple handheld OS’s, and even BeOS (people still use that?). If your OS doesn’t already have a version ready to be installed, you can download the source code and roll your own.

I’m no longer amazed at the Open Source and freeware products out there--I’ve had far too many good experiences.

Anyway, if you find yourself in need of a cool little program that plays media types that I’ve never even heard of, it’s worth looking at VLC Media Player. And if you’re looking for a cool concert, you should look for the Gutter Twins on your favorite bittorrent site. With the exception the crowd making “Where Did You Sleep Last Night” (the scary Lanegan version) into a highly inappropriate sing-along, this is a seriously cool and eclectic set mixing Lanegan’s solo stuff, the Leadbelly song, a Mahalia Jackson tune, and Twilight Singers, Afghan Whigs, Screaming Trees, and Queens of the Stone Age songs.

Well worth showing a little patience.

PS- Once I realized what the files were, I also tried to open the folder using Apple’s DVD player--and it worked beautifully. But the other app is still cool.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Number 9

It’s music sharing time again, only this time I’m starting up a new method for sharing.

See, I want to share somewhat randomly. From now on, I’m going to share only song number 9 from my favorite CDs. Why? So that you get to hear a song that may not be my absolute favorite from a CD--but if that CD is as good as I imagine it to be, then the song should still hold up to scrutiny.

Call it a test, really, to reveal whether my favorite CDs are as good as I think they are.

First up is song number 9 from my favorite Mark Lanegan disc, Whiskey for the Holy Ghost. Whiskey is one of those CDs that has the power to change your life when you hear it--or, at least, it had the power to change my life. It dragged me into a world where music could be rough edged, harsh, painful, and beautiful all at the same time--and where a song that feels hard as iron wasn’t the loudest song on the disc.

It kind of comes across as a punk statement set to a mishmash of blues, country, and rock with just a dash of jazz thrown in for effect (and, truly, just a dash). But you won’t find too many songs more aggressive and combative than a song like “Borracho” with its menacing drums and Lanegan’s growling, sandstone delivery of lines like “to you who never need, fuck yourselves: I need some more room to breathe.” That the middle third devolves into a frenzy of noisy guitar while the martial beat continues on in the background just props up the feeling that the things is purposefully distant--unfriendly, even.

By the time you get to “Shooting Gallery,” the ninth song, you’ve already been through the country song “House a Home,” the twin nightmares of “Kingdoms of Rain” and “Riding the Nightingale,” the lunatic delusion of “Carnival,” and the anti-hymn “El Sol.”

It’s a hell of a ride, but you miss a lot if you don’t pay attention.

“Shooting Gallery” is one of those rough edged songs. The opening is awkward and the song develops slowly, but suddenly you realize that it managed to worm itself into your mind, that you are singing or humming along, and that, damn, this guy is good. The voice, the music, the lyrics, the tone of the whole thing is just perfect--if perfect could possibly mean broken and even a little bit lonely.

“Look my hands are stained/ I was washin’ ‘em in the water/ well the water fell away...”

The religious imagery in his albums is impossible to miss as is the seeming belief that there can’t be a happy ending for someone like him.

With that verbose introduction, here’s song number 9 from Whiskey for the Holy Ghost.

Enjoy the song and then consider buying the album. It’s worth it.

Shooting Gallery. (Right click and download link to disk--otherwise the mp3 will open in a separate browser window.)

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Hard to Keep Dodging Bullets When You’re Playing Russian Roulette


The past few days, it’s been rumored (and certainly not verified) on Queens of the Stone Age and Mark Lanegan message boards that the singer went into a critical care unit a few days ago. The rumor is that he went in after a massive drug overdose. It’s true or it’s not, and I’ll probably never know. But either way, it’s believable; drugs are nothing new to Lanegan.

It’s amazing to watch the slow, sure self-destruction of someone who has been in and out of jail and rehab, who has seen close friends kill themselves, and who seems smart enough to know the risks. Maddening, really.

Most people that I’ve known who used only used for a while. They used through their college years (or, like me, through their bartending years), they used socially, they may have done some of the hard stuff, but they never needed the drugs. They stopped when they grew up--when a family, a job, and a car payment became more important than getting high. Drugs--like frat parties and beer bongs--were just something that they outgrew. Not a single one of them lost a girlfriend or a job or went to jail.

Some people can’t get to that step, though. It hardly matters whether the drug of choice is cocaine or alcohol--the point is that there is something broken inside addicts that keeps them going back in spite of the destruction that they bring into their lives. There could be a million reasons--loneliness, maybe, or a fear of facing life’s difficulties without chemical assistance.

For that matter, it could be the excuse to fail that some people need. Intentional failure is a great tool for a person who desperately wants to succeed but has an intense fear that no matter what they do they will lose. It gives them control of their situation--that the control is negative is beside the point.

I have no idea why someone like Lanegan would choose self-destruction over living his life (for that matter, I don’t even know if the rumor of his trip to critical care is true), especially after seeing friends like Layne Staley kill themselves the same way. I do know, though, that whatever happens will have been his choice.

He’s an adult and he knows the potential consequences, just as much as a man playing Russian roulette. Play long enough and, sooner or later, that chamber will be loaded.

It’s a dumb way to die.


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