Thursday, February 24, 2005

i don't believe in modern love

Long time, no blog. The Local Black & Red spent Valentine's Day with her heterosexual life partner at Clark watching Khaki Snack. It pretty much ruled. "What they didn't print in The Journal was that I said, 'I know FOR A FACT that Ethan Rabidoux has sex with dead people.'" Because Chris Provan sounded sad on the Internet, I brought him a valentine, which might have been awkward if there had not been ample social lubricant.

We could have spent Valentine's Day at AJ's Hangar for the finals of K-Rock's X-TREME Bandslam, but there were two problems:
1) We didn't really like any of the bands playing (although we love JKKB's website bunches)
2) "Misery clings to the walls like asbestos" - Vanessa on AJ's
We know #2 because we went to Round 2 of X-TREME Bandslam, which did feature eventual winners The Emily Fennel Band. Also playing were The Vinicious Knids and Wideye. Apparently The Vinicious Knids were pretty bad, but they just made me think about back in the day when I went to punk shows in K-W — not because I particularly even liked punk, but because there wasn't much else to do if you were underage, and I liked seeing live music. I guess fond memories can make you partly deaf to bad music. Wideye were . . . uh . . . yeah. The only way I could get through their set without rendering myself unconscious was to try to understand them as the Spinal Tap of nu-rock, down to their hilarious facial hair and use of a flying-V bass. They still completely ruined throwing the horns for me for about two weeks. The Emily Fennel Band were at least listenable, talented musicians, and very professional, even though it was all too adult-contemporary pop/new country for me.

Basically the best part was when Vanessa sent me pictures from The Radical Dudez's pretty-good-but-definitely-not-good-enough set, and I was like, "Holy crap, it looks like the bass player is shooting a laser out of his arm!" and Vanessa was like, "What?" and I was like, "He's a robot! WITH A LASER!" and Vanessa was like, "What?" and I was like, "LASER!" but by then I had opened MS Paint to explain myself and it was all over.



As far as I'm concerned, that's the best thing that came out of Bandslam, right there. (Oh, and Slaves Of Spanky juggling their shoes, but I didn't get to see that.)

While I was home for four days to have a dentist appointment and see my mom, we ended up having to put one of our dogs to sleep. We adopted Bailey from the pound when I was in Grade 7 or something. At the time, he weighed 85 pounds and was referred to by the humane society staff as "Lamb Chop." Bailey's health deteriorated very rapidly very suddenly, although it turns out he had some kind of cancer spread through the blood that was basically erupting everywhere at once, so the cancer itself must have been there for a while. It wasn't a good sign when I came home and his rectum was inside out, but a day later he couldn't go up or down stairs, and then he was blind in both eyes, and then there was the unmistakable stink of a dying animal.

One of the most "classic" Bailey stories is the time we had a bunch of family friends over watching the 1996 Summer Olympics, when Donovan Bailey won a gold medal. We were watching the 100m dash, and everyone was yelling "GO BAILEY GO!" Bailey got very excited and, as he did when very excited, peed everywhere, including all over one of the houseguests.

Also, one time he ate a plastic garden gnome. True story.



*David Bowie, "Modern Love"

Monday, February 14, 2005

top 5 songs about rejection: number one, with a bullet.

Brendan Benson - Metarie (long version)
"Met a girl, introduced myself, asked her to go with me and no one else . . ."

People will never stop writing songs about getting their hearts broken. As long as it continues to happen, you will keep hearing about it. However, objectively speaking, you probably need to write your song about the girl who wouldn't go out with you far more than anyone else needs to listen to it. There are only a few artistically "necessary" songs about rejection — no matter how many you might be moved to make, there aren't many you need to hear — but "Metarie" is definitely one of them. In fact, if only a single song about rejection were even allowed to exist, I would vote for this one. (This is actually one of my favourite songs ever, which may explain why I'm so miserable.)

Brendan Benson seems pretty fond of "Metarie" as well; it appears in two different forms on 2002's Lapalco (once as a hidden track), appears in another two versions on the Metarie EP, and has a dub remix. All of those five versions are easily distinguishable from each other, since everything from the lyrics to the instrumentation and song structure is up for negotiation. This is the sixth version, which was offered as a download on the Internet back in the functional days of MP3.com but never saw an official release. It's almost twice as long as the other recordings and has, in places, substantially different lyrics. And for our purposes, it is by far the best one (if you would like to hear the best of the rest, find the bouncier and more light-hearted Wellfed version from the EP).

"Love me, love me, come around; love me, love me, never let me down," Benson mumbles, sounding a little bit embarrassed about both the sentiment and the phrasing, before beginning to tell the clear-voiced story of his latest romantic failure. By the end of the first verse, the part about literal romantic rejection is technically over — he's met the girl, been criticized for his personal hygiene and fashion sense and mocked by her friend, and done his best to laugh it off. The magic of "Metarie" is that the song doesn't end there. The rest isn't really about girls, at least not about the girl. It's about fear, insecurity, regret, and need, about all those things that will continue to splinter inside you even after you stop remembering the birthday of the person you used to like or exactly how it sounded when they said your name.

"Made some tea, took it to my bed, laid right down and smoked ten cigarettes. Fell asleep with my shoes still on, and had a dream that my voice was gone: I couldn't talk, couldn't sing my song."

The story is filled in just as much by the music itself as the words — the vocal melody is appropriately sighing, and punctuated with deflated, faux-indifferent "yeah"s. One of the most affecting sections is when Benson sings "There's something I've been meaning to say to you, there's something I've been meaning to say to you . . ." over a tense-sounding bridge which only relaxes when he cuts himself off, changing his mind and telling himself "You've got it bad, put on the brakes in case."

Benson fantasizes about running away to California to "change [his] name, get a new face" and find success and fulfillment with a wife, a dog, and new friends, but seems to realize that it won't solve his problems, because the girls aren't the problem, and audiences that don't pay attention aren't the problem: he is the problem. Having exhausted all the possibilities for escape, he is finally backed into a corner enough to be honest: "There's something I've been meaning to say to you: love me, love me, calm me all around, love me, love me, never let me down." Despite coming to the point where he can admit his need, if not move beyond it, he still sounds exhausted, desperate, and a little bit hopeless. "I can't go home . . . Just take me home."

So there you are. Now we're going to go do some stats homework in preparation for spending the evening with Clark Hall Pub, our one true love. Happy VD, everyone!


Love,

THE LOCAL BLACK & RED

Saturday, February 12, 2005

top 5 songs about rejection: i ain't very good, but i get practice by myself.

I came back to Kitchener-Waterloo sick (with The Cold that everyone at Queen's has) and cranky this weekend to go shopping for bridesmaids' dresses. My best friend from highschool is getting married in August, which is still difficult to wrap my head around. One day this past summer, I went to look at wedding dresses with her and bought a new skateboard deck afterwards. It was then I learned a little something about "different life stages." Anyway, the most horrifying thing about our six-and-a-half hour excursion today was how many dresses looked like dresses I tried on for Fake Prom, except these ones cost at least twenty times more, were (theoretically) not designed in 1982, and were (theoretically) not supposed to be worn only as a joke. At least I wasn't almost killed by any of these dresses, as opposed to when my life nearly ended in a flurry of red sequins in the Phase 2 changeroom.

You get two songs in one go today because I got lazy and sick earlier in the week. These are both relatively light-hearted, because tomorrow, not so much.

The Long Winters - Stupid
"You tell me no, that I'm a fool to go calling her and calling her. You can call me stupid when she tells me it has to end. Stupid? You could call it that, stupid, but you have no idea how stupid I would feel if fifteen years from now I see her and she says 'Why didn't it happen between us, stupid?'"

Of course, there is a reason we put ourselves through all of this, and that reason is hope. And foolishness, but also hope. Okay, frankly, they're pretty much the same thing most of the time, at least when it comes to my love life. For several days several weeks ago, this was a big theme song for me and what was supposed to be my imminent declaration of love; then I found out the person in question had a conveniently undisclosed girlfriend, so it was more like "I'm Going To Beat You Up As Soon As I Stop Crying" by The You Pathetic Lying Alcoholic Band (it's pretty obscure, you can only find it on 7"). But despite my bitterness, I've found that it's almost always better to put yourself out there — even when the possible consequences include public humiliation, becoming the laughingstock of your entire junior high, ostracization by those of your 'friends' who still believe in 'dignity', and, always worse than all of those, just knowing that the person you like doesn't like you back (by the way, "the worst thing they can say is 'no'" is a big lie: people can get very, very creative when they find you repulsive yet non-threatening) — instead of wondering what could have happened. And I like this song because it knows that it's worth it too: not in a naive way, believing that nothing could possibly go wrong, but in a strong and deliberately innocent way that you have to earn through experience.

The Long Winters are one of my favourite bands, solely due to how much I love their album When I Pretend To Fall, and I'm pretty sure this is the first Long Winters song I ever heard. Although it's definitely been eclipsed by some of what I've heard since, "Stupid" is still a good introduction to a solid, clever power-pop band who never quite give you what you expect in terms of song structure, but remain very accessible. This is one of their simplest tracks, but comes off that much more bright-eyed and sincere as a result. My favourite part of "Stupid" is the enthusiasm in John Roderick's voice, so full of nerves and excitement that there are exclamation marks everywhere: "She has NO IDEA! she could make me do anything! She acts like it's THE SIMPLEST THING! for me to be there!" It's like that sense you have that you're going to explode if you don't tell someone how you feel about them, and then glittery pink heart-shaped confetti will fly everywhere, along with bits of your intestines.

No one wants to clean that up, so please grow some metaphorical balls and say something. "But what should I say?" you ask. "And what if I go down in flames?" Well, listen and learn, kids . . .

The Replacements - If Only You Were Lonely
"Well, I ordered a scotch as I bust through them doors — spilled half on my jeans, the other half on the floor — when I saw you standing by that video game. Well, I ain't very good, but I get practice by myself. Forgot my one line, so I just said what I felt: 'If only you were lonely, if only you was lonely too, if only you was lonely, I'd go home with you.'"

I'm going to be the bigger person here and admit that I only know three Replacements songs: this one, "Alex Chilton," and "Can't Hardly Wait." Apparently this isn't even an album track, and I'm not sure how I came across it in the first place, but it was too charming to forget. The Replacements get brought up a lot in Ryan Adams reviews, and even simply based on those three songs, it's not an inept comparison: in his drunker, more genuine, more heartbreaking moments, he's written a few songs that are at least spiritual siblings to stuff like "If Only You Were Lonely."

This is a stripped-down acoustic number where the vocals still sound just as woefully inebriated as the night being sung about. "There was LIQ-UORRRRRRRR on my breath, you were ONNNNNNNN my mind!" should be howled on university campuses just as often as anything from "Home For A Rest," but hey, I don't run the world (and that's probably a good thing). This song also celebrates the magical combination of alcohol abuse and trying to make new lady/gentleman friends, which I think is so popular in part because if you crash and burn, at least you can't really remember much of it. After getting shot down, our narrator drinks some more, pukes, passes out, and then wakes up with an awful hangover and a mysterious optimism, considering that the best part of his life seems to be his drinking problem. Maybe he'll meet a nice girl in AA.

"I walked out of the kitchen, I was tired as hell. Another day's here — oh well. Somewhere, there's a smile with my name on it."

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

top 5 songs about rejection: avoid getting either myself or jenny lewis angry. i will steal your ice cream, and she will kill you.

Rilo Kiley - The Execution Of All Things
"I'm feeling badly: it's not an attempt at decency. And if you're well-off, well, then I'm happy some for you, but I'd rather not celebrate my defeat and humiliation here with you."

This song can be an excellent passive-aggressive weapon when placed in the right hands, ie. mine. (Technically, I guess any song would have worked, but the fact that it was this one just made it that much better.) Once upon an unpleasant time, I got myself into one of those classic and universally bad in-love-with-your-housemate situations. I earn extra points for stupidity for having known I felt that way long before I decided it would be an okay idea to live together. When I finally told the truth after a year-and-a-half, so did he, and it wasn't what I wanted to hear. He started seeing someone a week later. We shared a bedroom wall. You fill in the blanks.

One day she was over at our house, and I didn't particularly want her there. (I didn't particularly want him there either, but he was paying rent.) So, with my bedroom door considerately closed, I played "The Execution Of All Things" several times over, at increasingly loud volumes, until I had to plug my own ears and sit on the other side of my room from the speakers in order to tolerate the noise. They didn't say a thing to me, but left for her house a few minutes later. I WIN. I also dealt with the conflict in an incredibly mature manner. After he left, I may have eaten a bunch of his ice cream. I know I did that at least a couple of times.

Anyway, the song. It begins with a warped music box that melts into synthesizers and strings, until Jenny Lewis' voice enters all sugar-spice-and-everything-nice, and brings a filthy bassline with it. Now you've got an incredibly catchy, well-written indie pop song that later busts out some great guitar lines. I guess it's probably not "current" enough to get played on The O.C. or something; otherwise, it would be so hot right now. But the best part of the song is when you discover that it is actually about murdering every single living creature on earth, except for the perpetrator of some unknown crime against Ms. Lewis, because the entire point of the exercise is for him to suffer through the massacre until just the two of them are left, when he will finally also get murdered. This is the catchiest song you will ever hear about wanting to commit mass murder simply out of spite. It is the cyanide in your Almond Crunch ice cream. In short: AWESOME.

"Then we'll murder what matters to you and move on to your neighbours and kids, crush all hopes of happiness with disease 'cause of what you did. And lastly, you're all alone with nothing left but sleep - but sleep never comes to you, it's just the guilt and forever wakefulness of the weak. It's just you and me! The execution of all things!"

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

top 5 songs about rejection: because you need to have all of these by valentine's day.

So I was going to make any number of entertaining posts involving pictures, except for the recent "massive hardware failure" on the echoing.org "server" that currently makes it impossible for me to "log in to my website and upload anything." Apparently it also makes me needlessly abuse punctuation. So instead, onto the long-promised Top 5 Songs About Rejection! These are probably not the best songs on the topic, but they are my favourites, and will not be appearing in any sort of rank order beyond saving the best for last. Also, despite the fact that it merits inclusion, "I Know It's Over" by The Smiths will not be part of the list, because I don't want to be blamed for anyone trying to kill themselves.

Brian Borcherdt - Co.
"When you're allowed to fall apart, you'll be a mountain in someone's arms. But I don't want your company anymore. I don't want you calling me. I don't want you . . . If I don't make it home, I'm still alive."

As a whole, The Remains of Brian Borcherdt sounds like an album to fall in love to, make love to, and fall out of love to — maybe all at the same time. The guitars on "Co.", the opening track, already sound shattered, like breaking icicles, and Mr. Borcherdt's vocals have the same crystalline, sharp, fragile quality as they build to a loud, violently trembling conclusion together. The entire song swells to the final admission that, whether or not anything had started, it's certainly over now. For the song's narrator, it is a triumph over his own cowardice and reservations, but for its interlocutor, nothing about the situation seems like a victory. Lyrically, "Co." is heartbreaking for the same reason that a song like "Don't Wanna Know Why" by Whiskeytown is heartbreaking — the arm's-length concern, the weak and hurried attempt at placating you, the very sincere hope that you will become somebody else's problem. Other people will find their own personal sunsets to ride off into, and they will decide that you're not coming with them.

"Oh, you're such a lucky girl. If you don't make it home, you're still alive."

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

"it's two in the afternoon, it's a tuesday, i'm in my underwear, playing warcraft III"

    3 Simple Reasons To See B.A. Johnston on Tuesday Night:
  1. "Dying Alone" (warning: contains a naughty word)
  2. "Humpty Dumpty"
  3. B.A. speaking about his new record, My Heart Is A Blinking Nintendo:
    "Old Nintendos blink, especially when you want to play a hot game like Marble Madness or Tecmo Bowl. It's like something great is right there and you can't get to play it. I guess my heart is like that because it never gets to play Legend Of Zelda or Excite Bike, and it feels gypped. The happy B.A. is just a shell. Inside, I am a bitter boiling ball of sad rage, kind of like an M&M. Outside, a hard happy candy shell, inside, bitter chocolate."
So join us at the Elixir for New Music Night, the first date of B.A.'s "No Fans, No Money, No Chicks, No Car Mega Tour," and raise a bottle of 50 to what may be the only good thing to ever come out of Hamilton.

Still to come: Top 5 Songs About Rejection, and an entry about fire (including the AFTERMATH of FAKE PROM)!

I am very, very cranky these days, for which I apologize.

*B.A. Johnston, "Dying Alone"