Functional Strength/Core

It’s Tuesday night and that’s swimming lesson night so I’m trapped at the gym for an hour while the kid does her hand stands, belly flops and doggy paddles in the pool (it’s infuriating they call these ‘swimming lessons’ actually).  Of course, it’s pissy shitty outside so I don’t particularly mind being indoors today so I’m making the best of it by kick-starting my functional strength and core program beginning with this new album by Parquet Courts, ‘Sunbathing Animal‘.

If you recall, I was pretty impressed with their last album ‘Light Up Gold‘, so you can bet your sweet bippy I was pretty excited to learn that they had another recent release out this year (June).  If you believe Wikipedia, they would have you believe that Parquet Courts falls under the bracket of ‘punk rock’.  And while their previous album had lots of short and punchy pop numbers (a la Ween) that might fall under that umbrella, I think this album largely strays away from that particular classification into more – dare I say it – shoegazing.  Okay, shoegaze meets the Velvet Underground meets Pavement meets Television…maybe.  Whatever, it still sounds pretty cool and I bet this is what Thurston Moore is beating off to these days.  And nowhere is this more prevalent than on the fantastic tracks ‘She’s Rollin‘  and ‘Instant Disassembly‘, both of which I bet sound terrific performed live. Looking deeper, ‘Sunbathing Animal‘  is a four minute impassioned fury that doubles as the real solid punk tune and a speed-addled take on pre-Beatles rock and roll, ‘Ducking and Dodging‘ is a skittish garage blues number which also keeps things interesting and ‘Into the Garden‘ is a creepy, neo-Bauhaus like tune.  Alas, the closest the album ever really gets to it’s predecessor would be ‘Always Back In Town‘ which is less ‘Stoned and Starving‘, and more just plain stoned.

All in all, it was enough to keep my brain positively engaged while I ran the gauntlet of clams, planks, squats, and other girly Pilates bullshit and trying to avert the eyes of, like, every other dude in the place.  Yay me. 

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The Turkey Sweats

Since we missed last week in lieu of our annual ‘Festival of Calories’ (i.e. Thanksgiving), we had some making up to do this evening.  And that means I ratcheted up the over all suck factor to 12 for tonight’s class of high tempo spinning with some steady climbs and sprints thrown in for good measure.  At the end, it was an all out sprint for the finish; no retreat, no surrender.  Gobble gobble, bitches.

Tonight’s playlist includes:

  • White Knuckles – OK Go!
  • We Used to Be Friends – The Dandy Warhols
  • I Ain’t Hiding – The Black Crowes
  • All These Things That I’ve Done – The Killers
  • Family Tree – Kings of Leon
  • Sophisticated Honky – Orgone
  • Gold On the Ceiling – The Black Keys
  • Stargaze – Xavier Rudd
  • Hard Sun – Eddie Vedder
  • Funky Tonight – John Butler Trio
  • Love Will Turn You Around – Kenny Rogers
  • Hip Hug Her – Booker T. & the MG’s
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Grillin’ and Chillin’

Some friends of mine (Lance & Amy) have a weekly tradition called “Vinyl Sunday” dedicated to all things vinyl (preferably of the musical variety, but what they get up to in their intimate lives is none of my business).  Soon I hope to be hosting my own Vinyl Sunday tradition (the musical kind of course) and I’ve even been stocking up on some new acquisitions lately in anticipation of that in the near future, but those new purchases will just have to wait a while longer before they grace the pages of this blog (i.e I upgrade my current turntable).  As it goes today, I’m here alone prepping for a family BBQ later so I’m making the most of it with some tunes; may as well be the vinyl kind, albeit an older offering like the ‘Triumvirate‘  album by Bloomfield, Hammond & Dr. John from 1973 on Columbia Records.

I originally came by this album years and years ago while browsing through some milk cartons crammed with dusty records at a flea market somewhere and, low and behold, there it was.  I had mo idea that these three guys made an album together, but I knew of and loved all three individually so I didn’t need much convincing to take it home with me.  Of course, I think I paid about $2.00 in total for it so, yeah, it was a no-brainer.  Anyway, I played it once before my record player at the time crapped out so I ended up ordering a digital CD version of it and, well, let’s just say it didn’t have the same luster and hasn’t left the CD shelf in quite some time as I much more prefer the unpolished sound of vinyl, just as I’m enjoying it this afternoon.

I’m sure there’s a story on how these three were brought together (in fact there is, click HERE) but, that aside, this was still one of my first vinyl acquisitions that I truly loved.  I still do.  I do recognize that most people will consider this album lame in comparison with anything either of the musicians have released separately but I don’t care.  I have some find memories of this album, beginning with the opening chorus of ‘ Cha-Dooky-Doo‘  the opening track.  From there, there’s some Dr. John originals and after that and a few decent covers of B.B. King (‘Rock Me Baby‘), John Lee Hooker (‘Ground Hog Blues‘) and Willie Dixon (‘Pretty Thing’).  In short, I don’t care what the critics say as I think the album is pretty sweet…every last snap, crackle and pop of it.

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I had originally planned to do this workout on Wednesday but that never really transpired; Blame Mother Nature or my own laziness, whatever, it just wasn’t in the cards that day.  What can you do?  So after my physio appointment today after work, I decided to rectify that missed opportunity by re-initiating the old Friday Night He-man sessions of my not-so-distant bachelorhood while Kelly is zipping HRH  to Burlington to be with her dad.  Fortunately, I’m still prepared with a suitable album queued up on my iPod, the ‘Odelay‘  album by Beck.

Odelay‘  represents Beck’s fifth studio album released on June 18, 1996, by DGC Records and would ultimately go on to become his first hit album in the U.K., peaking at #16 on the Billboard 200, and eventually selling over 2 million copies in the United States.  It was nominated for the Grammy Award for ‘Album of the Year’ and won a Grammy Award for ‘Best Alternative Music Album’ in 1997, as well as a Grammy Award for ‘Best Male Rock Vocal Performance’ for ‘Where It’s At‘  and was ranked #16 in Spin’s 100 Greatest Albums, 1985–2005.  It was also awarded Album of the Year by the American magazine Rolling Stone  and voted the 51st greatest album of all time in 1998 by Q magazine.  In 2003, the album was ranked #306 on Rolling Stone  magazine’s list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time and #9 on its list of the 100 Best Albums of the Nineties.  So, yeah, there lots of love for this album to spread around.

At the time, however, I had no idea who he was.  I mean, I recognized the “shaggy dog album” but never actually paid it any mind attention given I was more into my Manchester shoegaze at the time.  and even when I did finally ‘discover’ Beck (my first initiation was the ‘Mutations‘  album in 1998), I somehow skipped over this album altogether and I’m only getting around to it now.  And good thing to I guess as it was a terrific listen this evening over the clanging weights and ripping muscle fiber.

Burrowing into the studio with sampledelic producers the Dust Brothers (in their first gig since the Beastie Boys’ ‘Paul’s Boutique‘), Beck came back with a Technicolor version of his Woody Guthrie-meets-Grandmaster Flash vision, demonstrating to his rock peers that turntables had a brighter future than the refried grunge pap being offered at the time.  There are interesting reworks of the blues (‘Devil’s Haircut‘), country (‘Lord Only Knows‘ and ‘Sissyneck‘), soul (‘Hotwax‘), folk (‘Ramshackle‘) and even rap (‘High 5 [Rock the Catskills]‘, as well as ‘Where It’s At‘).  In fact, the whole thing is pretty damn eclectic (and awesome I might add) making it the perfect compliment to my weights workout today.

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Wrapping up the Week from Hell (Part 2)

So far, this strategy of listening to more inspired artsy-fartsy has been a rousing success in that I’m getting lots of shit done and I’ve been equally successful in blocking out everything else that constitutes itself as a ‘distraction’.  Oh, and even better: I’m doing it all with a smile on my face.  Got a problem?  Don’t care.  Smile.  Last minute request?  Go fuck yourself, I’ve got things to do.  Smile.  Can’t find something?  Not my problem.  Smile.  And so it goes.  Smile.

The next on today’s playlist then jumps to 1988 (Grade 11) with R.E.M.’s amazing ‘Green‘ album.

Where their previous albums establish them as true musical savants, this is the album that officially put them on the map.  Despite being their 6th release, it was their debut album for Warner Bros. Records, and continues to explore political issues both in the album’s lyrics and packaging.  To promote the album, the band embarked on an 11 month world tour and released four singles: ‘Orange Crush‘, ‘Stand‘, ‘Pop Song 89‘, and ‘Get Up‘.  All amazing songs in their own forthright.  ‘Green’ ultimately went double-platinum in the U.S., reaching #12, and peaked at #27 in the UK.  It was R.E.M.’s first gold album in the UK, making it the quartet’s European breakthrough.

This album brings me back to high school as just about anybody who considered themselves as being ‘popular’ wore a ‘Green‘  t-shirt.  Along with the Polo by Ralph Lauren, the Green album cover was the official logo of Preppydom and I hated it.  Largely because I couldn’t afford trendy clothes, but also because even then I wasn’t a trend follower (by contrast, I was more into Nitzer Ebb and Public Image Ltd. at the time).  So it wasn’t until many years later in Univerity when I decided to give the album a spin and was blown away.  In fact, this was my R.E.M. initiation album leading me to explore their earlier albums which would eventually become my favorites.  But this album stills ranks pretty high up in that list, even though it does bring back a flood of unpleasant memories of cardigan sweaters, french-rolled cuffs, Bass shoes, Vuarnet logos and a general sense of not feeling ‘cool’.

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Wrapping up the Week from Hell (Part 1)

I’ve been rather pissy this week; which is keeping in check with the weather I guess.  It seems that everybody’s procrastination at work lately has become my crisis which is both frustrating and infuriating.  So my strategy today (in fact, all week) is to simply put my head down and get into my modules.  I decided then to shake the melancholy mood I’ve been wallowing in this week for something a bit more, well, inspired.  I’m heading back then to the 80’s with the  debut album by R.E.M., ‘Murmur‘.

‘Murmur’  was released in April of 1983 on the now defunct I.R.S. Records label.  The record ultimately reached #36 on the Billboard  album chart.  A re-recorded version of ‘Radio Free Europe’ was the album’s lead single and reached #78 on the Billboard singles chart that year.  Despite the acclaim awarded the album, by the end of 1983 ‘Murmur’  had only sold about 200,000 copies, which I.R.S.’s Jay Boberg felt was below expectations.  It was eventually certified gold (500,000 units shipped) by the Recording Industry Association of America in 1991 demonstrating that patience is definitely a virtue in the often cold-hearted music industry.  Upon release, the album drew substantial critical acclaim. Rolling Stone gave the album four out of five stars and named it Album of the Year, beating out Michael Jackson’s ‘Thriller’, The Police’s ‘Synchronicity’ and U2’s ‘War’.  Not bad for a debut release huh?

Murmur”s sound characterized the quieter, introverted side of the first wave of alternative rock in the United States.  The sound was new at the time, though not stepping beyond the constructs of traditional rock music. The guitars have a bright, ring-like chime that brought on comparisons to The Byrds, and the bass guitar has the bright punchy sound of the Rickenbacker favored by Mike Mills.  Mills carries much of the melodic element of the music on the bass which contributed to the moody sound of early R.E.M. albums. Also contributing to this sound is the distant singing of Michael Stipe whose obscure lyrics, sung indistinctly, lend to the mystery and depth of the music.

To me, this album personifies a time not only when R.E.M. was still cool but a time when ‘alternative’ was still ‘alternative’ and not a catch-all classification-slash-genre to automatically pigeonhole anything that isn’t played on AM radio.  On a side note, ‘Perfect Circle‘  was my go-to song in 1993 while living abroad in London, U.K. and feeling lonely and missing my then girlfriend.  I can still smell the lemony-pine freshness of wood polish every time I hear this song.

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Counting Down to Quitting Time

The weather has improved a bit today and I’m looking forward to quitting time so I can go home and take a leisurely bike ride with HRH.  But until then, there’s work to do and I have keep focused.  Yup, just another day here in office paradise.  So until I can bunk off for the day I’m taking in another Blue Rodeo album, ‘Tremelo’.

Truthfully, this was where I ultimately jumped off the Blue Rodeo bandwagon years ago.  I guess I decided to depart on a high note, whatever, my bad.  This seventh release from the Canadian alt-rockers in 1997 was pretty good, or so I’m learning anyway. On this particular album, the band attempted to maintain a more immediate vibe than its predecessor, which had been labeled as overly mannered by many critics.  To that end, songs were not brought to the whole band until the day of recording, so that the band’s performance would retain a more spontaneous flair.  And for the most part, it worked – the result is a technically polished album that retains a good deal of jam-type spontaneity.  The sounds range from genial acoustic folk-rock (‘Moon and Tree’) to more reflective singer/songwriter-type pieces like ‘Falling Down Blue’  to bluesier tunes like ‘Fallen From Grace’  and harder, heavier numbers like ‘No Miracle, No Dazzle’, which could pass for Buffalo Springfield on a good day.

It Could Happen To You’  was a popular upbeat Jim Cuddy single that received a lot of airplay at the time but I was about far removed from country back then as one could possible get so I never paid it any attention.  In fact, I probably avoided it like the plague.   ‘Dragging On’  is an atmospheric Jim tune, with some beautiful watery keyboards backing it, with fantastic lyrics of heartbreak that only Jim can sing.  ‘Brother Andre’s Heart’  and ‘Frogs’ Lullaby’  work together as one Greg Keelor tune, quite extended and jammy; 12 minutes in total.  Gawd I love you Greg Keelor, you moody son of a bitch you!

I definitely got off the bus a bit too early, true, but am I ever glad I decided to hop back on this week.  I can’t really think of any better Autumn inspired music to pass away the afternoon.

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