Sunday, December 1, 2013

Come On Down And Meet Your Maker: Songs about Stephen King's The Stand

The connections one can make across the spectrum of popular culture are fascinating. Stories make us who we are, and whether they come from a song, a book, a movie, or any other kind of entertainment, it is always a pleasant surprise when one artist is so influenced by another that they must pay tribute.

Such is the case with Stephen King's epic brick of a novel, The Stand. I knew of two instances - songs by rock bands, in both cases - before I got the idea to research this topic and share my findings with you, fellow music lovers.

Those instances would be:

Among The Living, by thrash metal heroes, Anthrax...

...and obvious by the title, The Stand, by 80's alternative rockers, The Alarm.

Both songs kick boatloads of ass in their own respective ways, and have long been put on my mixtapes and playlists. While there are several songs about many different King stories, the only other one I was able to come up with in relation to The Stand was this:

New Jersey symphonic progressive rockers, Shadow Circus, devoted not just one song to The Stand, but SEVEN. Yes, you read that right. An epic tale like The Stand does deserve an equally epic tribute in song form, and I believe Shadow Circus may have achieved just that! Sadly, YouTube is devoid of all parts except 4, so to experience the full effect, you'll need Spotify.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Musical Geekery: The Best Band You've Never Heard Of

I'm going to apologize in advance, for a couple of things. First, I'm wordy as hell, so if you have a short attention span and find yourself typing TL;DR more than once a day, just skip to the audio/video shizz in the post. Second, I'm sad as I write this, because I'm going to tell you about a band that has been impressively awesome for a long time, but I've only known that fact for about a month. And I had the nerve to call myself a weird music aficionado. Still reading? Groovy! Ahem...

Strap on your seat belts folks. This car travels at the speed of light. 186,282 miles per second, to be precise. Make way for comets, it's 


OK, not the most amazing name for a band, especially one whose sonic vibrations are capable of blowing minds all day and all night. But, when you start a band in high school, you inevitably want to name it the most punk rock, nasty thing ever, right? No one likes soap scum. Especially moms. Tub Ring is music your mom will hate! Not really. If your mom is smart and has decent taste in music, she'll love it. What started out as a poppy ska infused punk band with clever yet goofy lyrics and fun tempo changes morphed into a genre bending sonic joyride with thinking person's lyrics. And that is putting it lightly, friends. LIGHTLY.

Take a moment to ponder the music you listen to. How much of it is about emotions? Love, hate, jealousy, the flotsam and jetsam of being a human being. Most of it, right? So maybe you're like me, and have intentionally looked for music that spoke to something else in you with it's lyrics. My love for Frank Zappa and Captain Beefheart stem from an appreciation of humor and nonsense in music. In the case of my They Might Be Giants fandom, it was learning something new, and gaining new perspectives. I loved Faith No More for having something deeper than typical rock songs of it's era. Seriously, who at that time used the word "omniscient" in their lyrics besides Mike Patton? And then I loved Mr. Bungle for being something even deeper than that - so deep that I didn't even begin to understand what some of the songs were about until I was older. While I appreciate their sound, and I enjoy the genre hopping weirdness of it all, I never felt like Mr. Bungle was trying to do anything more than fuck with my head. They were like a gleeful yet evil child with wisdom so far beyond it's years that it would be bored if it wasn't incessantly fucking with your mind and purposely trying to give you nightmares. (in related news, I consider Fantomas to be Mr. Bungle's creepy uncle.)

What does this have to do with Tub Ring? They have a similarity to all of the above, and then some. Almost no genre remains ignored, yet they sound mostly heavy and upbeat. Their influences clearly come from the realm of underground and independent rock music, with a little bit of electronica thrown in the mix. Lyrically, the song concepts are almost never about commonplace musical themes like human emotions -  a robot theme weaves it's way through the albums they released between 2001-2007, (and even makes an amusing cameo in their brilliant cover of the Johnny Cash classic "One Piece At A Time.") and that's only the beginning. Mathematics, science, apocalypse, space travel, the last thoughts of a dying soldier, crazed religious suicide cults, paranoia, utopia, receiving more time to ponder your life at the time of your death by driving as fast as possible, and vikings are only a small example of the concepts their repertoire is made from. The albums they released in the 2000's have all name dropped theories about the search for extraterrestrial life. In the interest of cutting my word count, I'll provide you with the respective Wiki pages for each of the theories, in case you wanna get edumacated.

Drake Equation (album released 2001)

Fermi Paradox (album released 2002)

Zoo Hypothesis (album released 2004)

The Great Filter (album released 2007)

I remain unsure as to whether 2010's Secret Handshakes follows this theme, but  the title conjures images in my mind of Freemasons and secret societies.

The demos that Tub Ring released before 2001 are kinda goofy and funny, (a prime example being "Breakdancing My Way Back Into Your Heart", wherein the protagonist of the lyrical story tries different ways to win back his ex, fails, and decides that if he learns how to breakdance and do it well, she'll take him back.) but they were also recorded when they were teenagers/20 somethings. That considered, it was evident early on that these guys were clever and inventive with their music. Despite the similarities to their influences, they very much stand on their own feet and forge a sound that can and will appeal to the weirdo and the nerd in you. Listening to those demos reminds me of all my skater pals in high school who were also cuckoo about Faith No More and Mr. Bungle ( a lot of them because I wouldn't STFU about them between 1989 and 1995...) Some of them had bands that made wacky ska punk songs, and we would all go dance at their shows. They all went off and did their own things in the arts, but this group of dudes in Chicago called Tub Ring kept writing, and recording, and playing shows. They effectively grew up, started observing the universe with a bigger telescope, and decided to report back their findings to the underground punk scene.

When I first heard Tub Ring, it was 2009. I was prepared to find something to dislike because the person playing them for me had insulted a few of my favorite musicians already, so out of spite, it took me all of one listen to some of 2001's Drake Equation (coincidentally produced by Trey Spruance) to come to the conclusion that my ears didn't need or want a Bungle Junior, and I banished his CD from my boombox. I didn't listen to anything else. Never even thought about it, really. The guy who introduced me to them became a permanent fixture in my life, so 4 years later, he played them for me again. And this time, he went all over their discography and I listened without spite or expectation. And I've been listening every day since. There's been a couple of times where I forced myself to listen to other playlists of music I like, and I still had Tub Ring forcibly taking over the decks that belong to the DJ in my brain. What does it mean? I haven't been this into a band in a long, long time. Imagine all of my dismay, when I decide to Google them to learn more, and there just isn't all that much out there. No fan forums. No official web site. A handful of videos on YouTube. One online store selling merch at a very discounted rate. I'm under the impression that they're taking a vacation - and who could blame them? They've been busting their asses and their wallets for years on the road. 

 I have a ton of respect for their DIY aesthetic, and was happy to discover that they aren't too busy or snotty to communicate with their fans. While digging for more info, I discovered that October 31st was the 21st anniversary of the first show they played. I commented to them that I hoped someone took them out to celebrate. Apparently, no one did. How did this happen, people? How did I not only miss this band completely in their most active years, but how did you, too? They were even on MTV at one point, which may possibly be how a small chunk of their fan base came to exist - but MTV at that time was already deep into the snowball of being less and less about music and more about teen moms, Snooki, and "real life". I have incredible admiration for Tub Ring, because as hard as they worked putting themselves out there, they remain well loved only in the underground. They never sold out to a major label or got national radio airplay, or played huge stadiums. So they stayed true to the punk roots that they began with. I respect that immensely, but at the same time, in a world where the majority of what is popular in music for the last two decades has been vapid, mind numbing garbage more about emotionless sex and partying than anything else, it saddens me deeply that an intelligent, revolutionary rock band like Tub Ring hasn't had much of a spot in the limelight. Hell, they haven't even been exposed to many people who would love them. I'm still baffled as to why I never heard of them before 2009, and kicking myself for waiting till now to be open minded enough to listen. So I guess that's why I'm writing this. I'm lost in wonder at how a band that is this good, and who worked tirelessly for two decades has less than 4000 likes on their Facebook page, and almost no activity on the page in the last year. Their most recent album was released in 2010, a small tour followed, and then their web site disappeared, the founding members live in different parts of the country and are working on other projects, and time, the cruel mistress, is piling new information and sounds and art right on top of them. I don't know why their music has gone largely unheard, but it deserves exposure.  I don't want to live in a world where music like this goes ignored, so I must do my small part to open some new ears to this awesomeness. I don't have much of a following myself, but I always feel compelled to show appreciation when art of any kind takes me by the shoulders and shakes me like this. The DJ in my brain is never wrong, and he has been intent on playing these guys whether I want to listen or not. 

I have no delusions that I will ever get to experience this phenomenon live - their relentless days of touring non stop seem to have come to a close, and who could blame them? Being in a touring band requires an enormous amount of sacrifice, time, and money. That being said, I do hope that the founding members of the band continue to maintain their friendship and musical collaboration. I know they have done a few projects, (Super 8 Bit Brothers, 3-2-1 Activate) and they're all worth listening to - but Tub Ring is something very rare and special. Dammit, guys! We missed out on some amazing shows, fellow noobs. Those of you who were there, cherish those memories, because y'all were lucky.

Dig deeper:

Rob Kleiner

Tub Ring (tub_ring) on Twitter

Tub Ring on Facebook

Tub Ring at

Tub Ring merch from Omega Order

Tub Ring on YouTube

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Lana Del Rey Pays Homage To David Lynch In "Blue Velvet"

I'm going to say it right off the bat, so there is no confusion - I adore Lana Del Rey. If you know me, you know that might be a little out of my range of musical taste, but the first time I heard "Video Games" played on a college radio station, I was hooked.

Del Rey is clearly coming into her own now, and while I'm not terribly big on the whole corporate/fashion/yadda yadda crap, (this cover and video are being used to advertise clothing store H&M) I can't deny that her cover of the classic Bobby Vinton tune "Blue Velvet" is simply divine.

What really nails it for me, as a fan of surreal and horror cinema, is the video. This is the closest I've been to Twin Peaks, since Twin Peaks was on the air.

Feel free to judge for yourself, watch the video here:

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

This is (not) a music blog.

It's turning into one, which makes sense for me, I guess. Music is one of the driving forces in my life. Lately, I've been starting to wonder why I'm not making music, why I haven't been making music all along. Probably got a bit to do with not having the confidence to perform in front of others, but seeing as how I really dig experimental sonic landscapes, a confidence thing shouldn't stop me. And what do I care if someone likes it or doesn't? One man's trash is another man's treasure, and all. So, we'll see. I might make some sounds happen. The internet makes it so easy to be creative these days, must to be taking advantage of all there is to offer.

That being said, I have always told people that my musical talent resides in listening to it, and that may or may not be true. However, I am now making a playlist on Spotify every week for y'alls listening pleasure. I used to make mix tapes, then I burned my CD's. Now I do some clicking, scrolling, and dragging. My taste is all over the place, so expect some interesting things coming your way, but I am mostly trying to compile all the most awesomely weird songs I can find. Some of them might surprise you. Some of them might make you groan and ask "WhhhhhyyyyyyyyyyyYY????" as you drop to your knees, sobbing overdramatically.

Without furrthuurr adoooo...

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Time to do the Meatstick!

OK, I am a bad excuse for a hippie. Not that I'm really a hippie at all, I just like a lot of the same things.

Phishis one of those bands that people seem to love or hate. I am in the "I'm interested but not terribly knowledgeable" camp. But today, thanks to my friend who is a bigger Phish fan than myself, I am a little bit more knowledgeable than I was before, and I've come to share it with you.

When I hear the word "Meatstick" I know what I think of. Pervert! Shut up. Anyway... Apparently, Phish have this uber rare tune called The Meatstick, and they wanted to blow past Macarenain the Guinness Book Of World Records by having the most people simultaneously doing a dance. Apparently, they failed - but hey, THEY TRIED, MAN!

And there is your lesson in High Weirdness for today. No need to take notes, just go boogie down.

Friday, September 7, 2012

When Faith No More was Faith No Man

Right off the bat, I am just gonna come right out and admit that my rabid fangirlness for just about everything died when I got a taste of The Real World(tm), so I only feel slightly guilty about only just now making this discovery.

And I did, very literally, JUST make this discovery. See, the other night, the husbutt and I were in our smoking room, discussing music and other random topics. We're both lifelong fans of Faith No More, and for whatever reason, the topic of As The Worm Turns came up.

For the unknowing, As The Worm Turns was originally released on Faith No More's (herein referred to as FNM) 1985 debut album, We Care a Lot.

The song was re-recorded with replacement vocalist Mike Patton during the Angel Dustrecording sessions, and to many fans, this is the superior version of the song.

So now you know what we were talking about - and this spurred me to look up the 1985 version, because I haven't listened to it in years. The internet and YouTube, manage to be very efficient rabbit holes, however - and I came upon the earliest recordings and performances of this band, one that I've loved since back in my just starting puberty days. I knew back then that FNM had been Faith No Man, but I never held any hope that there were recordings for me to hear. The internet was not as mighty then as it is now, dear readers. So, with no further tl;dr ness, here are the results of my digging. (get into your own rabbit holes if you look at the recommended videos that come up on the side!)


Faith No More - First Recording Ever 1983 - Part 1

From the 1982 single Quiet in Heaven/Song of Liberty:

RARE Faith No Man - Under the Gun [1983] (Live in San Francisco CA)

Sunday, August 19, 2012

New Awesomeness Alert: Up To Speed

Most of the time, Facebook ads serve as mindless fodder that I never look at. However, one caught my attention by letting me know that director Richard Linklater (Slacker, Dazed And Confused, Waking Life) was teaming up once again with Timothy "Speed" Levitch (The Cruise, Waking Life) to create a travel show like none that have come before. If you're already familiar with Linklater, Waking Life in particular, then you may remember Speed Levitch as the wandering dreamer on the bridge who tells our dreaming hero, "On really romantic evenings of self, I go salsa dancing with my confusion." There is something really endearing about Speed, he is an eccentric yet extremely endearing guy whose love of the forgotten history of America makes for a really fascinating and entertaining program. "Why The Fuck Not," indeed.

"Up to Speed" Promo from Mike Saenz on Vimeo.

Watch it here:

Keep up with new episodes and interesting stuff on the Up To Speed Facebook page.