Small Things That Upset Me (and other Blog B-Sides)

“What’s for dinner, mom?”

“Leftovers.”

That dreaded L-word could ruin an evening for me when I’d come home on a school day. There were never leftovers of my favourite foods (Shake N’ Bake chicken, Cheesy Beefy Potato Pie), just those that were kind of less… sexy (sexy in a food sort of way). But as I entered adulthood, I realize that leftovers are a necessity. Some days, perhaps in a measure to save time or if you over-estimate the quantity of ingredients for a given meal, you make far more food than you require. If you saved relatively small portions of leftovers across a week, you could even end up with interesting, Frankensteinian meals with whatever you have remaining in the fridge in an effort to not waste any food.

This blog entry can fit firmly into leftovers categorization. I write posts for my blog in the least efficient and effective way possible, by attempting to write dozens upon dozens of entries simultaneously. That slows me significantly, but that’s my problem for not being able to focus on one subject at a time. Some of these partial thoughts and ideas I never seem to be able to build into an article worth standing by itself. It started as an attempt to make a list of small things that have upset me in my history of music absorption, but in the end, I decided this would be a dumping ground for an assortment of thoughts and observations I have had over the nearly three years that I’ve been writing on this site.

Here are but a few of my blog B-Sides. That sounds much better than leftovers, doesn’t it?

 

Fire Trouble

With my rotten luck, most of the time I think I see a fIREHOSE album at a second-hand music store, it turns out to be a Firehouse album.

 

 

After acquiring Minutemen’s Double Nickels on The Dime a few years ago, I soon learned that the band’s rhythm section reunited in a different project with a new guitarist/vocalist following the death of D. Boon. Particularly because of my growing appreciating for the playing of bassist Mike Watt, I would go to the same store, scan the discount bin of used CDs to find any fIREHOSE album whatsoever, see FireHouse stamped in red on the spine of one particular package, and get fooled. Every. Single. Time.

I’m not the only one to confuse the two drastically different bands. Youtube mistakenly classified their “Witness” video as a FireHouse song when uploading it in 2009. The error remains as of this post, and the same goes for at least three other videos. The “Witness” video points out one of the biggest contrasts between the bands. fIREHOSE are shown loading in their equipment themselves and driving their own modest van between gigs, and compare that next to another band that were once at double-platinum level. If you told me each member of FireHouse brought a personal stylist on the road with them, I wouldn’t doubt you.

Did this inadvertently start a rivalry between these two bands? The comment sections under the band’s respective videos leads me to believe so. Trash-talk aplenty, with “This is so terrible. I think Firehouse added this to their VEVO to make people laugh” and “Oh God I accidentally clicked on a “firehouse” link and caught a few second of it … vomited … now I’m back” being among the back-and-forth barbs on the erroneously tagged fIREHOSE videos.

It’s also a crime that on the same channel “When I Look Into Your Eyes” has over 20 million views, and none of the fIREHOSE ones have cracked 100K. To each their own I guess, but there are other bands in their mould that do much more for me than FireHouse.

 

Con-Fusion and Blank-Mindedness

Speaking of “falling for it”, here’s another constant mistake I’d make with a record from jazz-fusion legend Billy Cobham. Could you please read the following album’s name aloud?

 

 

Did you just say “A Funky Side of Things”? Some of you may have, as I did when first being made aware of this recording. Of course, a more careful glance reveals it to be A Funky Thide of Sings, but I went years without being careful. I originally heard the title track through the compilation Introducing Billy Cobham, which I bought when I was in college back when Chapters had a large CD/DVD section. I would get some great buys there, finding jazz albums that rivalled and sometimes exceeded the selection found at other nearby stores. It was at least ten years before I got the album from which the track originated, and the vinyl dimensions should have made the title far easier to read.

“How dare he play a dyslexic trick on me!” I thought the day I finally caught my long-held error. I’m guessing the title could be imitating some sort of lisp, but I can’t get past the nail-biting orangutan on the cover. It looks so cheeky as if they knew they were pulling a fast one on me, waiting for the inevitable screw-up to occur. To make things a bit more troublesome, a late album cut is titled “A Funky Kind of Thing”, which could lead rubes like me to throw another album title mistake into the conversation.

I had a similar problem where I would never read the name of another album correctly for the longest time. Until I heard someone reference the Porcupine Tree album Fear of a Blank Planet, I would call it Fear of a Black Planet. Of course, I had the Public Enemy title stored away in my head, and the joke was on me.

 

 

The Porcupine Tree album has no name on the front, so I chalk it up to a case of something that’s out of sight and out of mind. I don’t think a Venn diagram would show much overlap between the fan bases for each band, but I know I can’t be alone in my screw-up. Of note, Steven Wilson has been a popular person when it comes to remixing classic albums, being hired for work for artists ranging from Jethro Tull, XTC, and Tears For Fears. Would he collaborate with Public Enemy to breathe new life into their classic? I wouldn’t hold my breath.

 

A Lack of Clarity

I was a bit late to In Flames. I was slowly getting exposed to them through their albums like Whoracle and The Jester Race being listed on Top Albums lists in numerous publications, and a college classmate / future friend had an instrumental band that was heavily influenced by their work. By the time I got into the band, their new album that I was anticipating was 2006’s Come Clarity.

 

 

It was a bit unfair for me to go into their eighth album with sky-high expectations after binging for a few years on their earlier material because nothing the band could put out could really live up to it. But if grabbing my first album of new material by In Flames wasn’t exciting enough, as an incentive to buy the album, they were packaging a special edition that featured a bonus DVD where the songs would be performed live. I was familiar with this idea through Metallica’s infamous St. Anger album, which I thought was certainly the highlight of the bundle when buying it the day it came out. However, this experience with In Flames was totally different.

The rehearsal footage includes all the album’s tracks minus the closer “Your Bedtime Story Is Scaring Everyone”. That’s not a deal-breaker, especially considering the band’s configuration didn’t factor in a keyboard player to pull it off properly. However, it doesn’t take a keen ear to spot that the performances sounded a bit too perfect. The footage has largely been deleted off Youtube, but I’ve found a few like “Our Infinite Struggle” and “Pacing Death’s Trail” in low-resolution glory. Still, that is evidence enough to gather that the audio between these takes and what is on the CD is virtually identical.

Guest vocals on “Dead End” by Lisa Miskovsky may have been part of the decision, but they could have used that in playback and continued on live (some unknown guy is dancing during parts she sings, which is at least creative). Was there lost audio? An insufficient performance? I’d take it, warts and all, over this. There’s no reason to put this DVD in the player when you own the album.

When I cease to become an active listener to any particular artist, I don’t express regret as I fill the void through devoting more attention to other artists. I often poke back in to see if I’m hearing something interesting years down the line, but I’ve yet to hear it. The band was pretty much locked into a sound at this stage that had been gradually building starting with Reroute to Remain or possibly Clayman. This album had its moments, but I’d started to move on to other music interests away from metal when it dropped in 2006. It was the last In Flames album that I ever got into in some degree, but I was bummed out that I wasn’t getting a fresh take on the songs that a live performance can bring. Could someone listen to Come Clarity and be converted to In Flames fandom? Sure. It has much of their trademark sound intact. In my case, it was a simple case of In Flames fatigue, and I don’t think this “live” footage helped to endear the album to me in the long term.

 

Prehistoric Problem

Do you ever misidentify artists based solely on their names? I keep having moments of confusion and mix-ups. I’m surprised my love for dinosaurs as a kid didn’t help me later on in discerning between the bands Dinosaur Jr. and Jurassic 5. Never mind how they sound, but could you ever mistake one band for another by looking at them?

 

 

This was at a time when I didn’t own any Dinosaur Jr. albums. I think I caught an interview or two featuring J Mascis, whose voice I remember being distinct and probably further confused him for a Brian Posehn character. I’m slowly making up for lost time with this band. The quirky vocal delivery took some getting used to, but I got into them when sampling their early 90s offerings and began with Where You Been. I soon caught them in concert on their Give a Glimpse of What Yer Not tour, and would easily recommend their live show to any rock music fan.

Jurassic 5 I still don’t listen to, but for a more mainstream-oriented hip-hop group, I can dig what I’ve heard in my brief sampling of their work. I clearly never paid them any attention at the time, likely because I was trying to invest my time and money in building up my death metal collection. Stacking them next to the popular hip-hop artists I’ve heard in the past several years (I guess not having a taste for Drake makes me a bad Canadian to some, and a poor Toronto Raptors fan to others), I’d gladly go back to a time when these guys were on the airwaves. I can envision one of their albums on my shelf in the future.

 

Bonded by Blood

Ever believe that twins have supernatural powers? Around two months ago, I played a game with my brother: Guess the Metallica Riff. It’s an alteration of the typical mind-reading game we play called “Guess what (insert artist) song I have in my head”, only it’s a much more difficult task. Sure, just the other week Alex guessed that I had “Silent Scream” by Slayer in my head, but what self-respecting metal fan wouldn’t have that song in their head?

I simply had a riff in my head, didn’t vocalize it aloud periodically throughout the day or any other such nonsense. I let him take a wild stab at it… and he TOTALLY GOT IT!

 

 

It was the pre-solo riff in “Ride The Lightning” that begins at the 2:35 mark. And what a riff! It’s got that slow, Beavis and Butthead hummable quality. Lots of meat on the bone.

If you don’t think that’s impressive, consider that on their studio albums alone (not including cover albums/EPs) they have (by my quick count) 107 songs. Do you know how many unique riffs those songs contain? Even if you go with an extremely conservative estimate of 5 (a number someone who has never heard the Justice album might guess). Those are a staggering 535-1 odds! Those may not be lottery-odds, maybe not even the 50/50 ticket odds at a Toronto Argonauts game (Not a hater! I’ve recently purchased season tickets), but it’s nothing to sneeze at. I can even further assume Alex is only familiar with half of Metallica’s songs, and the numbers look good. You could still make a pretty penny on that wager if limiting the game to just the one song, as I count at least 8 riffs I’d consider as unique (i.e. not variations on other riffs within the song).

We’ve since told the tale at social gatherings and around the water cooler at work to the delight of nobody. They’re all too sold on the stereotypical characteristics of identical twins (e.g. we share a Borg-like hive mind, swap identities for shits and giggles, and are creepy, soulless beings), so there’s nothing we can do to impress them.

 

Two Sides of a Dime

A late addition to this entry comes hot off seeing Machine Head on their Burn My Eyes 25th anniversary tour. When I saw Robb Flynn from my seat in the balcony, his look was reminding me of another ageing rocker, ex-Dream Theater drummer Mike Portnoy. I thought that both men share one thing in common: they have that Dimebag Darrell look locked down.

 

 

I’ll admit it seems like a bit of a generic look, but Dime was one of the first that I recall having the long hair and lengthy beard, which he would dye pink later in his relatively short music career. For the longest time, most metal players would go clean shaven, with thick stubble being the most you’d often get. Then once the trend went towards wearing short hair or a shaved head, it was at that stage they’d begin to get adventurous with their facial hair. Both those style aspects together was a rare thing.

It’s much more of a common look now, but of further amusement to me is that both Flynn and Portnoy are both rather heavily tatted up and rock sleeveless shirts or vests much of the time just as Dime did. It lead me to the following question: Which of these men has the credibility to rock the look of a metal legend?

Robb Flynn’s music is unquestionably closer in spirit and style to what Dime did with Pantera. That alone could be enough for some. On top of that, Machine Head would be far more likely to have toured with Pantera (they did so twice) or even Damageplan than any group where Portnoy was a member. And what was one of the trademark elements of a Pantera show? Drinking, and keeping a party-like atmosphere. At the show I attended, there was many a moment where Flynn was playing the every-man who loves a good time, asking the crowd to “Raise your beers”,“Who’s smoking weed tonight?” or “Take off your shirts and wave them in the air” (in February). Much like the Abbott brothers experienced in their pre-Cowboys From Hell years, Flynn kept the hopes of Machine Head alive as they were being rejected by every major label after some bad luck following Supercharger in 2001. Flynn remains a popular figure in the metal community, as was Dime, and both always seemed to maintain a level of approachability that is good to see of celebrities in a genre that is stereotyped as consisting of a bunch of angry men.

Mike Portnoy may be known as a progressive metal musician, a haven for nerds (we can spot our own kind), but Dream Theater have had their share of heavy moments. My favourite of their albums, Awake, was heavier than the two that precede it by leaps and bounds. Into the 21st century, Portnoy seemed like the one in their band who gave them a stronger push into a metallic direction, even adding what could loosely be described as death metal vocals on “A Nightmare To Remember”. He’d often discuss how big an influence bands like Iron Maiden and Metallica had on him as a musician, and even filled in behind the kit for Overkill for a show or two. After he left Dream Theater to focus on other projects, he played in several that are undoubtedly metal or on the harder edge of rock. Among them, you’ve got his power trio thing with The Winery Dogs, back to more proggy metal with Sons of Apollo, and he’s even started a thrash metal project with some other notable names. Though I’m not a fan, he did also have a brief stint as Avenged Sevenfold’s drummer as well, which is worth a mention. And on more loose connections, Mike and Dime were once labelmates (East West Records) and both garnered several accolades in musician-focused magazines (Modern Drummer and Guitar World respectively).

There’s much more detail I could add, but whatever. Why even think too hard about this? You could walk away thinking both are a couple of posers for all I care.

These are just B-sides, after all! 😉

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