Not Getting Shit Done in Corporate Hell

It’s true, whatever motivation and subsequent productivity I experienced yesterday here in Corporate Hell has seemingly been washed away and replaced with more of an “I don’t give a shit” attitude.  Maybe it’s the fact that I start my “vacation” tomorrow, or that I’m just overwhelmed with all the stuff I have yet to accomplish before I go, I don’t really know.  I still have lots to do however and I have to get out of the current ‘office funk’ I’m in and get back to the business at hand – kicking ass. To this point, I’m listening to something which, I’m hoping, will provide with that desperately needed forward momentum today:  the ‘Modern Life Is Rubbish‘  album by Britpop moguls Blur.

This is actually the second offering by the band, released in 1993 on Food Records.  Although their debut album ‘Leisure (1991) had been commercially successful, Blur faced a severe media backlash soon after its release, and fell out of public favor.  After the group returned from an unsuccessful tour of the United States, poorly received live performances and the rising popularity of rival band Suede further diminished Blur’s status in the UK.  Under threat of being dropped by their recording label, for their next album Blur underwent an image makeover championed by frontman Damon Albarn. The band incorporated influences from traditional British guitar pop groups such as the Kinks and the Small Faces, and the resulting sound was melodic and lushly produced, featuring brass, woodwind and backing vocalists.  In short, it’s a much lusher, more fun listen than it’s predecessor.

The album achieved moderate chart success in the UK; the album peaked at #15, while the singles taken from the album charted in the Top 30.  However, applauded by the music press, the album’s Anglocentric rhetoric rejuvenated the group’s fortunes after their post-Leisure slump and it is now regarded as one of the defining releases of the Britpop scene, and its chart-topping follow-ups — ‘Parklife  and ‘The Great Escape’ – which saw Blur emerge as one of Britain’s leading pop acts.

‘Modern Life Is Rubbish”s sound is highly-influenced by the traditional guitar pop of British bands such as the Kinks, the Jam, the Small Faces and the Who – all favorites of mine.  I vividly remember the ‘Wow’ moment I had when I first played it in my dorm room the day – literally – it was released.  The songs explore a number of styles — punk rock (‘Advert‘), neo-psychedelia (‘Chemical World‘ – a dance floor staple that year at ‘Phil’s Grandson’s Place’ in Waterloo, Ontario), and vaudeville music-hall (‘Sunday Sunday‘).  My personal favorite, however, is – for some strange reason – ‘Oily Water‘.  I don’t know why exactly, but it just appeals to my sense of the strange.

On another side-note, the album’s title derives from stenciled graffiti painted along Bayswater Road in London, created by an anarchist group and it was one the first landmark sights I made the serious effort to find in the first week arrived in London two years later.  For Albarn, the phrase reflected the “rubbish” of the past that accumulated over time, stifling creativity.  Albarn refers to the phrase as “the most significant comment on popular culture since ‘Anarchy in the UK'”.  On another side-note, due to Blur’s disdain for America at the time, the album’s original working title was ‘Britain Versus America’.  Nope.  No hard feelings there!

Anyway, this album is definitely serving it’s purpose by picking up my spirits today and inspiring me to accomplish a bit more at my desk this morning than simply refilling my coffee mug.  Mission accomplished.

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Getting Shit Done in Corporate Hell (Part 2)

I’m getting so much shit done today I even have time to make this second blog post.  Do I rock or do I rock?  So this is what it’s like to feel productive?  Huh.  Anyway, I’m moving on now to another Peter Murphy album, specifically the ‘Love Hysteria’  album released in 1988.

Back in high school, I started with the Deep’  album as my initial starting point and then later with the ‘Holy Smokes  album and then gradually I moved onto his earlier work with this album, his 2nd solo release. The album was largely written with former B-Movie keyboard player Paul Statham, who had joined Murphy’s band (having assembled, for touring purposes, what would soon be his formal backing band), The Hundred Men and was produced by former member of The Fall, Simon Rogers. Up to this point in his career, this album represented his most elegant post-Bauhaus effort to date. There are definite echoes of David Bowie, though the feeling was more late-’70s Berlin-era than Ziggy glam.

The Lead single ‘All Night Long’  was something of an American breakthrough hit; its upbeat rock drive and lush keyboards are a perfect bed for Murphy’s performance. Other moments, such as the ringing acoustic/electric guitar combinations on ‘Indigo Eyes’  (my favorite track) and ‘Dragnet Drag’, take Murphy even further away from Bauhaus’ shadow. And there’s the beautiful ‘Time Has Got Nothing to Do with It’  that I had all but forgotten until today. The album even closes with a fun romp through Iggy Pop‘s ‘Funtime’, saluting another one of Murphy’s old heroes with an appropriately strong vocal and amusing horror-movie samples.

Definitely an enjoyable listen.  Oh, to be 18 and color-challenged again.

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Getting Shit Done in Corporate Hell (Part 1)

Since I’ve returned from my business trip to San Antonio last week I’ve been on a roll in accomplishing stuff. Seriously, I’m on fire. If I’m not careful they might actually begin to expect this level of productivity all the time. Truthfully, keeping busy here at the office is keeping my mind off my upcoming Incredouble Triathlon this weekend for which I’m feeling woefully unprepared. But at this point it is what it is so there’s no point in worrying about it; but that’s easier said than done of course. Anyway, while I’m kicking ass here today in Corporate Hell I’m deviating from the Texas-inspired theme I established last week and getting back to my ‘ol high school Goth days I started to revisit before I left and, today, that includes this ‘Deep’ album by Peter Murphy.

This album represents Murphy’s 3rd solo studio effort produced by Simon Rogers and released on December 19th, 1989 through RCA and Beggars Banquet Records. It features contributions from Murphy’s then backing band, The Hundred Men. The album spawned three singles at the time: ‘The Line Between the Devil’s Teeth (And That Which Cannot Be Repeat)’ (a virtual rewrite of the Bauhaus classic ‘In the Flat Field’), ‘Cuts You Up’  and ‘A Strange Kind of Love’  (my favorite track). The track ‘Cuts You Up’  became a modern rock hit in 1990, spending seven weeks at the top of the U.S. charts and crossing over to Billboard Hot 100, where it peaked at #55. The other singles also charted on Modern Rock Tracks chart, peaking at #18 and #21, respectively.

The Hundred Men here provide everything from the lush, acoustic guitar wash in ‘Marlene Dietrich’s Favorite Poem’ (my second favorite track) to the stripped-down Arabic-tinged funk/hip-hop punch of the commanding ‘Roll Call’. Through it all, Murphy (for once) simply sounds like he’s having the time of his life, singing both for the sheer joy of it and for the dramatic power of his commanding voice.  All in all, this is still my go-to album when it comes to Peter Murphy. Quite why nothing else on the album ever connected with the public as strongly as ‘Cuts You Up’  sure beats the shit out of me given it’s pretty freakin’ awesome from start to finish.

And with that, it’s time to get back to the kicking of corporate ass.

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It’s time for the kid to begin her swimming lessons again after taking the summer off, so I’m using the opportunity to stretch out my stiff Achilles and do some light core work.  I am racing the Incredouble Triathlon this coming weekend so I am definitely in damage control mode, so it’s easy-does-it this evening.  Nothing crazy.  Part of that easy-does-it mentality this evening then is my listening to the ‘Things That Fly‘  album by the Infamous Stringdusters.

The Infamous Stringdusters are an acoustic Bluegrass ensemble out of Boston, MA and then later in Nashville, TN.  They won three awards at the International Bluegrass Music Association Awards Ceremony in October 2007: Emerging Artist of the Year, Album of the Year for ‘Fork in the Road’ (in a tie with J.D. Crowe & the New South’s album ‘Lefty’s Old Guitar’), and Song of the Year for the album’s title cut.  The band was also nominated for 2011 Entertainer of the Year by the International Bluegrass Music Association.  This is their 3rd studio album released in 2010 on the Sugar Hill Records label, two years after I first became aware of them when I happened upon them playing in the hot and dusty Dance Tent at the Greyfox Bluegrass Festival.  I was probably three sheets to the wind and higher than kite at the time, but I remember enjoying them immensely.

Things That Fly’  has been described as another example of the band’s ever-evolving sound and a showcase of each member’s individual talents through tracks such as ‘All The Same’, ‘Those Who’ve Gone On‘, and ‘The Deputy‘.  The album also includes a bluegrass remake of the U2 single ‘In God’s Country‘  and peaked to #2 on Billboard’s Bluegrass chart.  The ‘Magic No. 9‘ track was even nominated for a 2011 Grammy award for “Best Country Instrumental.  So all accolades aside, it’s a very good album.

Now, hopefully my Achilles likes it too.

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Easy Run (7k)

With the Incredouble Triathlon weekend quickly approaching I’ve only now begun to develop some issues with the Achilles tendon lately so this is only the second run that I’ve been able to manage in about as many weeks.  So it was with extreme trepidation that I headed out for this short and easy 7k run (well, it was more of a 6 x 1k run w/ 200m walking recovery intervals really) down the Friendship Trail this afternoon.  Fortunately though, the humidity of last week has broken so the weather is pretty nice actually and I even have some old tunes queued up for the occasion that will hopefully take my mind off the lingering numbness in my left foot.  With all that in mind, today’s musical soundtrack is the self-titled Max Q album dating back to 1989.

I had this album back in high school, lost it somewhere down the line, and then recently reacquired through the magic of bittorrents.  Needless to say I have some fond memories of this album and I had hoped that that appreciation would still hold over today but, alas, it didn’t.  I mean, it wasn’t totally shitty or anything but it still didn’t have that original hutzpah it had back in Grade 13; but more on that in a minute.

Max Q was an Australian late 80’s collaboration between Michael Hutchence of INXS and Ollie Olsen (Whirlyworld, ‘Dogs in Space’  soundtrack), as well as key members of the post-punk scene in Melbourne, Australia playing largely electronic music bordering on a puke meets disco/house kind of vibe.  While the project was named after Ollie Olsen’s dog Max,  “Max Q” is also an aerospace term referring to the point at which the dynamic pressure (Q) on a launch vehicle is greatest. Consequently, there is another band called Max Q which consists of astronauts assigned to the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas.  Coincidentally, the author of the current autobiography I am reading, Chris Hatdield’s ‘Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth‘, was a member of this band.

Songs I instantly recall from the good ‘ol days include ‘Sometimes‘, ‘Ghost of the Year‘ and ‘Zero-2-0‘, which I used to end all my mixed cassettes with.  More than anything I remember the “whether it’s God or the bomb it’s just the same it’s only fear under another name” lyric from ‘Way of the World‘ which, at the time, I found to be rather poignant for whatever reason.  Now?  Well, maybe.  I guess.

Anyhow, I had hoped that I would instantly fall back in love with this album.  But it turned out to be more of the love that you might have for say, the first girl that ever broke your heart.  You still kinda have feelings for her but you still hate the bitch and listening to this album wasn’t much different.  Still, it was fun…maybe.  I guess.  My Achilles felt okay however while still being a bit stiff so I’m hoping that that’s a good sign anyway.

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Flight 1641 from San Antonio to Atlanta

Last night, my final night in San Antonio, I celebrated by devouring an amazing 20 oz. steak at the Granary ‘Cue and Brew restaurant at the Pearl Brewery and a few pints of their local brews.  Of course, I may or may not have pooped a small mini bus in the middle of the night afterwards – but it was all worth it.  And now I’m on my way home.  My final Texas music tribute this trip is by one of the true masters of the live singer-songwriter craft, the late Townes Van Zandt.   

This particular performance was originally made at the Trysull Village Hall in Staffordshire, U.k. (October 15th, 1990).  Born in Fort Worth, Texas, into a wealthy oil family, Townes Van Zandt was a third-great-grandson of Isaac Van Zandt (a prominent leader of the Republic of Texas) and a second great-grandson of Khleber Miller Van Zandt (a Confederate Major and one of the founders of Fort Worth).  Van Zandt County in east Texas was named after his family in 1848. 

While alive, Van Zandt had a small and devoted fanbase, but he never had a successful album or single and even had difficulty keeping his recordings in print.  In 1983, six years after Emmylou Harris had first popularized it, Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard covered his song ‘Pancho and Lefty’, (which would definitely appear on my list of Desert Island songs had I had one), scoring a #1 hit on the Billboard country music charts.  Despite achievements like these, the bulk of his life was spent touring various dive bars, often living in cheap motel rooms, backwoods cabins, and on friends’ couches.  Van Zandt was notorious for his drug addictions,  alcoholism,  and his tendency to tell tall tales.  When young, he was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, and insulin shock therapy erased much of his long-term memory.

My last dinner

My last dinner in Texas. It didn’t suck.

Sadly, Van Zandt died on New Years Day 1997 from health problems stemming from years of substance abuse.  However, the 2000’s saw a well-deserved resurgence of interest in Van Zandt and his music has been covered by such notable and varied musicians as Bob Dylan,  Nanci Griffith, Norah Jones, Lyle Lovett, Steve Earle, Cowboy Junkies, Guy Clark, Robert Plant, Alison Krauss, and Gillian Welch.  His own major influences included Lightnin’ Hopkins, whose songs were a constant part of his repertoire. He also cited Bob Dylan and Hank Williams as having had a major impact on his music as well as Muddy Waters, The Rolling Stones, Blind Willie McTell, Tchaikovsky, and Jefferson Airplane as influences.

It’s the perfect way to round out this particular trip.  Hard to believe that tomorrow I will be riding 100k as part of the Big Move.  No rest for the weary I suppose.

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Easy Tempo Run (6k)

My left Achilles tendon has been acting up a bit lately but it wouldn’t be a trip to San Antonio without at least one sweaty run around Woodlawn Lake.  It didn’t help that my 6k tempo run occurred approximately 20 minutes after the first true rain they’ve had here in months making my run more of a swim given it was like trying to run through hot soup.  At least it gave me another opportunity to check out more Texas style blues, this time by the legendary (and late) Stevie Ray Vaughan performing at the equally legendary El Mocambo in Toronto, Ontario (July 11th, 1983).

Tonight's luxurious dinner

Tonight’s luxurious dinner

Funny that I – a Canadian – should be here – in Texas – listening to Texas music that had originally been recorded in – yup, you guessed it – Canada.  Ironic or what?  Anyway, Stevie Ray developed and popularized that quintessential Texas guitar sound which was awesome to keep me moving through the current hot and humid yuck.  Oh, and then there was the hat.  Don’t forget the hat!

Born and raised in Dallas, Vaughan began playing guitar at the age of seven, inspired by his older brother Jimmie. In 1971 he dropped out of high school, and moved to Austin the following year. He played gigs with numerous bands, earning a spot in Marc Benno’s band, the Nightcrawlers, and later with Denny Freeman in the Cobras, with whom he continued to work through late 1977. He then formed his own group, Triple Threat Revue, before renaming the band Double Trouble (his band for this performance as well) after hiring drummer Chris Layton and bassist Tommy Shannon. He gained fame after his performance at the Montreux Jazz Festival in 1982, and in 1983 his debut studio album, ‘Texas Flood’, charted at #38.  This concert contain all the gems from this album including ‘Testify‘, ‘Lenny‘, ‘Pride and Joy’, ‘Mary Had a Little Lamb‘, ‘Tell Me‘ and the title track as well as few classic Stevie Ray staples like Hendrix’ ‘Little Wing‘ and a smoking ‘Voodoo Chile‘.


So now that that nastiness is behind me I can get on with the important things in life, namely a Milanes sandwich at the ultra-hip Luxury, which is essentially a converted cargo container, featuring breaded pork, aoli, poblano ham, pico, swiss cheese, guacamole and a fried egg, all washed down with a pint of crisp NBBCo’s Shiva’s Tears stout.  And then there was the deep fried Snickers bar.  I may or may not have orgasmed. 

So yeah:  I ran, I sweated (swat?), I ate. 

Mission accomplished. 

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