Wednesday, November 29, 2006

(Not So) Breaking News!

It's a good thing a certain someone doesn't mumble in his emails in the same, almost-unintelligible manner as he does when speaking, because otherwise this little bit of news wouldn't have registered.

Tomorrow night, at the absolute worst bar in all of Washington, the one and only Rob Van Winkle, aka Vanilla Ice will be appearing (performing?). You can all thank me later.

Two nights of My Morning Jacket, and now this? Oh, man. This week is turning into a fantastic shit show. I'd better hunker down and get my beauty sleep tonight. In the meantime, I'm going to study up on the man's Wikipedia entry. It's almost as entertaining as the insanely thorough one dedicated to Darkwing Duck. I leave you today with Phife's prophetic lyrics in the excellent "What's the Scenerio (Remix)" from Tribe's otherwise shit-tacular final album, The Love Movement:

Pull out the red carpet cuz I'm kickin this/Vanilla Ice platinum? That shit's ridiculous/Excuse my French, but profanity is all I knew/And to you other sellouts, oh yeah, 'F' you too

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Fuck it.

Darkness? You're getting bumped. When your founder/lead singer/front man quits the band, you exit the top 3. This is a list reserved for current, active bands, and there's no room for flakiness. Only the strong survive, my friends. The Most Awesomest Live Band list now stands as follows:

1) Pearl Jam
2) Drive-by Truckers
3) My Morning Jacket
4) The Darkness

I have to say that, personally, Monday night's show was just slightly better than last night's, but only because of the setlist. I thought the band might have blown their load(s) a little early by coming out big with "One Big Holiday," though it was pretty killer when the curtain dropped on cue during the opening guitar solo. On second thought, I don't know what I'm talking about. Those first 30 seconds were unbelievably awesome, and I think I've officially converted Rocky into a diehard fan. Earlier in the evening, we'd been discussing Built to Spill's stage presence (or lack thereof); ten minutes into last night's show, as Jim James pinballed around the stage, Rocky leans to a friend and said, "now that's what I call stage presence."

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Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Random Notes

In no particular order...

1) Thanksgiving in Beaufort, SC w/ the extended Fam was surprisingly non-confrontational. Maybe I'm just getting used to everyone talking over each other. Cousin #1 is just as fried and hippified as ever, but she's eating meat now thanks to her newest boyfriend who is an avid bow-hunter. She even joined him on an elk hunt a few weeks ago. This is also the same cousin who toured with the Grateful Dead for five years and joined a cult ("family" - her words), so let's just say she's easily swayed. Cousin #2's 20 mo. old son was in tow, and the cute little bastard (not actually a bastard) brought much joy and distraction from awkward silences to the group. The Big Chill (set in Beaufort) wasn't mentioned until the last night, when my uncle said something to the effect of, "I never understood why everyone liked that Goddamn movie so much. They're always saying it's the definitive children of the 60's movie, but I never liked it much." This is coming from one of the stuffier, WASPier members of an already shockingly stuffy, WASPy family. Inevitably, the great soundtrack was brought up, to which my uncle grunted some bit of approval. The second night of Charades (a huge Frankencow family game) wasn't as boisterous as the first, but it at least provided some entertainment. On both nights, Facelift Aunt and Cousin #2 took the "obscure-is-better-because-it-allows-me-to-show-off-my-intellect" route to the clues, leaving the opposing team to act out things like "Yellow Rose of Texas" and "The Westerkerk." My suggestions, usually focusing on the Redskins and The Macho Man Randy Savage, were promptly shot down, though I did manage to sneak in "The Ambiguously Gay Duo" for my soon-to-be brother in-law. He tried his hardest, but nobody on his team knew the cartoon, thus making all of his miming for naught. Cousin #2's husband, on the other hand, did a terrific job with "The Kama Sutra" and Cousin #1 was quite quick to recognize his actions.

2) My Morning Jacket last night at the 9:30 Club were predictably excellent, as always. Hair, smoke, and guitar strings were flying everywhere, and when they finally wrapped up their 1 hour, 45 minute set, I was spent. I'm looking forward to seeing them again tonight, and introducing Rocky to them. He doesn't listen to MMJ much, and has never seen them live, so he's not sold on the band, but I think that will all have changed by 11:30 tonight. I'm almost prepared to put them at #4 in my list of favorite live bands (#s 1-3 being Pearl Jam, DBT, and The Darkness - single tear - I need to see the Twilight Singers more than once for them to earn a spot in the Top 5... Jamiroquai, whom I've only seen once, as they never come to the US anymore, is also high on the list; shocking, I know, but true).

3) Currently, I am wearing my trusty 33-30 pants at work and have received no comments of floods or high water. I do not like having a 31 inch inseam. 33-32 trousers are a little too long, but 33-30 pants are far too short. And sadly, I am too cheap, despite my nobility, to spend money on tailored pants. So my options are either to Urkel it up, or middle school band recital it up. Soon-to-be brother in-law sympathizes with me, as he's in the same predicament with his body. He makes, literally, about 10x as much money as I do, so he is not cheap, and can afford to tailor his trousers. Bastard (again, not actually a bastard).

4) The 7-Eleven on 12th and U might possibly have the friendliest staff of any convenience store I've ever visited in Washington. I always look for an excuse to drop in to buy something (anything) because they're all just so pleasant. And it rubs off on the patrons as well. Maybe they're pumping nitrous into the air over there.

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Thursday, November 16, 2006

The Twilight Singers at The Cat

I've got a bone to pick with all of the music lovers and listeners out there. Over the last few years, since I first heard Blackberry Belle and began trying in vain to convert my friends into fans of the Twilight Singers, nobody has once mentioned just how damn good they are live. Maybe we were treated to a rare performance at the Black Cat, but something tells me that last night's show was par for the course with Dulli, et al.

When the band came through town last June, playing at the bigger, more established 9:30 Club, I had a ticket, yet opted to stay in for the night. I'm not sure why, but I think I was tired and skeptical that the Twilight Singers would be any good in a live setting. I think I may regret that decision for a long time to come. From the moment they stepped onto the candelabra-lit stage and the opening notes of "Teenage Wristband" twinkled out of Jeff Klein's keyboard, I knew I was going to see an amazing show. Songs were played from all incarnations of the band, focusing on their two better known and more recent albums, Blackberry Belle and Powder Burns, including "Papillon," "Fat City," snippets of "Amazing Grace" and "Shine One You Crazy Diamond," and a killer "Underneath the Waves" to close the show. I kept waiting for a kickass live version of "Decatur Street" but it looks like the band hasn't played that song for some time, so beggars can't be choosers.

As for the band itself? They were phenomenal. Bobby MacIntyre did his best Keith Moon impression on drums: sitting in the dark at the back of the stage, all I could make out was a flurry of hair, sweat, and drumsticks whirling around. And who knew Dave Rosser could hit those high harmonies meant for Apollonia, all while dominating on lead guitar? Also trotted out for a few songs in the middle of the first set, as well as for the encore was baritone-singing extraordinaire Mark Lanegan, formerly of Screaming Trees, giving Dulli a much-needed periodic rest. Scott Ford's bass was steady and, thankfully, cranked up pretty loud, announcing to the crowd that the band wasn't messing around, and as his first note rumbled out of the speakers and through my core, a huge smile crept upon my face. Jeff Klein spent most of the evening behind the keys, occasionally trading rhythm guitar duties w/ Dulli. And the brawn and the brains behind the Afghan Whigs and the Twilight Singers, Greg Dulli, was in top form. His voice sounded strong, despite a recent vocal strain which caused the band's Athens, GA show to be canceled. And by the end of the evening, he looked like he could still play for another two hours.

I think what surprised me most was how much energy the five-piece band brought to the stage. Their albums are so heavily produced that I had a hard time imagining how that sound would translate into a live setting. But witnessing the Twilight Singers in person made me realize that all of the horns, strings, backup singers and effects heard on the albums are really not necessary. I'm not trying to imply that the albums are worse because of the production, far from it, but I am trying to say that the live experience is so much more energetic. The band that plays on Blackberry Belle and, to a lesser extent, Powder Burns is extremely sensual and moody, recording albums that should be heard in their entirety. The live band, on the other hand, is fun, boozey, and slightly surly, temporarily transporting all witnesses from whatever dreary day-jobs they might have to the moldy, throbbing basement in New Orleans where Greg Dulli pounds his guitar, keyboards, and scotch with equal force.

After finally getting the opportunity to see the Twilight Singers live, I think I now know what Greg Dulli's mindset must be going into every recording session with his ever-rotating band of musicians. He's clearly trying to bottle that magic that can get an entire room of Washington D.C. hill staffers, lawyers, and consultants moving to his drums, his guitars, and his screaming voice. What I do know for sure is that I'll never, ever let a little thing like exhaustion get in the way of attending one of their concerts again.

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Monday, November 13, 2006

Turn That Page, You Sick Trucker

So it was on a recent road trip that I remembered a bit of hearsay from a while back. Apparently, there is some outrageous statistic that 25% of the time you see a trucker looking down at you on the highway, he is masturbating. Now, some of you will say that it’s just not true, but whatever proof you may have, I’m convinced that 60% of the time, this statistic works every time.

It was after a while of discussing this and feeling very American due to both the acquirement of this new knowledge (because road-jerking could only happen in America) and the fact that we were listening to Bob Seger. And Bob Seger is about as American as it gets. Chevy could benefit from going back to Bob and staying away from John Cougar.

I’ve got news for you Seger fans: Bob knows all about truckers and their dirty habits. “Turn the Page” is undeniably about masturbating truckers; it’s just a fact. Turn the Page of that magazine you chicken hauler, feel the eyes upon you from all that guilt, then turn the page again.

Check out the lyrics

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Friday, November 10, 2006

Relief (in a completely self-absorbed kind of way)

Oh man, am I glad I didn't end up getting tickets to Panic! At the Disco's show at the Patriot Center just to see Bloc Party play an abreviated set. It appears their drummer, Matt Tong, has been hospitalized and the band has cancelled three performances, including Saturday night's here in town. Get well soon, Matt, and we all hope that you make it back to our neck of the woods in the near future (preferably without Panic! At the Disco).

Special thanks to DCist for bringing this to our attention.


Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Losing Faith

Rocky and I don't really listen to country music all that much (unless you count Steve Earle), but we did absolutely agree on one point: Carrie Underwood is HAWT. Randy Jackson, you've done a service to America, my friend. And when we saw this footage of Faith Hill freaking out about the hottie from Oklahoma beating her out for some paperweight at some country music awards show last night, we didn't get too upset about her loss.

Ladies! Please, I have a windowless basement and a bathtub filled with body chocolate and whipped cream where we can work this out. Please, girls. Don't hate.

(call me)

Ms. Hill issued a statement today saying she was just joking around, but we're calling bullshit over here in the Styched offices.

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Styched Fieldtrip: Redskins Victorious Edition

This is a little late, thanks to a massive amount of beer imbibed over the course of Sunday afternoon. Starting around 11 in the morning upon our arrival in the Purple Lot, until around 6 in the evening, hours after the bizarre finish, the celebration maintained the fame. But, of course, there was reason to celebrate! The Cowgirls were in town, the Redskins were (are) struggling, and we had amazing seats to the game, thanks to a friend with a strong sense of decency and a mother with insanely good season tickets:

These stupid advertisements for The Dan's threesome of static that soothes the Washington area awaited us when we got to our awesome seats. Front row, suckah! Someone in the Skins' marketing department came up with this clever slogan, written on the sign with a Sharpee. Get it? We're in DC! Politics! Big election coming up! Alliteration! Perhaps the Snyder-Cruise marriage has also resulted in the acquisition of a troup of rejected Jimmy Kimmel Live writers. On the plus side, no surface is left untouched when it comes to the marketing machine that is the Washington Redskins under Mr. Snyder's leadership. The back of this sign? How would you like a little Easterns Motors with your Redskins radio? Ah, yes... Easterns - just what Washingtonians living below the poverty line with no credit need.

Note the score:

Note the cheerleader:

Oh yeah, and some football was played too.

The Duke was quite distracted for all of the 4th quarter, despite the intense football game going on in the background. Rocky thinks this might be becoming a problem, noting that a bit of a pattern is emerging.

Ah, Señor Novak. How we hated ye back when ye played for the Maryland Turtles. Times do change, eh, Nick? Keep warming up, my man, because I have a feeling we'll need you again, despite the fact that you just missed that field goal that would have given us a 4th quarter lead.

Moments before von Vincent's miraculous block.

Uhm, 0:00 on the clock, score tied at 19 all, hot cheerleaders standing in the foreground, action occurring at the opposite end of the field, and six straight hours of boozing... needless to say, we have no idea what's going on right now.

Ah, victory is sweet.

Eh, the stats? Not so much. Let's just say that Tony Romo, despite the loss (and our repeated chants of "ROOOOOO-MOOOOOOOO! ROOOOOOO-MOOOOOO!") still has some job security.

You mess with the bull, you get the horns. And you rush the field after everyone has exited the stadium, you look like a jackass, and you get carried off in a headlock. Actually, this guy's buddy gave the FedEx field security a run for their money.

The final score:

What? This was next to our tailgate all along?

Howie Long is a large man.

Curt Menefee is a VERY large man.

Ah, Howie. We really do think you're actually a pretty good guy, despite Firestorm. Give us a smile. That's the spirit.

Who is that balding, bloated, pale woman who's just taken the set? Oh, dear God. Tom Brady, is this really what you have to look forward to?

Aaaaaand... ACTION! Terry pulls out the ol' half-lens reading glasses and gets to work reading through the day's highlights...

... and the Duke suspects that his ride back to DC has left without him. He must leave the Fox NFL Sunday Visa Halftime Report, along with the ecstatic Washington crowd and the stunned Dallas fans.

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Friday, November 03, 2006

Post-Borat: Quivering in Ecstasy

Considering I was expecting to be let down, Borat pushed the limits of satisfaction. If you’ve been busy putting together a collage or knitting in your closet, you may have missed the countless TV appearances that Sacha Baron Cohen has made in the past few weeks. Hype for this film has been just as much or more ridiculous than that of Snakes on a Plane earlier this summer. Cohen, of course, never appears as himself, but instead remains in character at all times, apparently even after the camera shuts off. Instead, he’s used the same lines on every show on every channel. I didn’t laugh when I saw him on the Daily Show last night, and I didn’t laugh when he was on Fox News this morning when I walked into the office and passed by a co-worker’s TV. Same jokes. I wasn’t expecting much after all the hype and all these carbon-copy appearances.

I was absolutely wrong. This is by far the funniest movie I’ve seen since Dudley Moore starred in 10. Pure genius. I can’t tell you the scenarios or describe any of the sometimes painful situations because I don’t want to give anything away and ruin your movie experience. In all honesty, I’m pretty sure I could go see this again tonight and laugh just as much. Just as the media has been reporting, there are a lot of people in the film that are most likely very embarrassed right now. The guy at the rodeo won’t respond to phone calls from reporters, and I’m pretty sure that there’re a few South Carolina fraternity boys that are currently being expelled. Other than that, the only backlash from this movie will be the urine stain on your pants and the subsequent dry cleaning bill. As my good friend the Duke just told me, “I don’t think I’ve ever laughed so hard in a movie theater.” I completely agree. The last time I remember coming close was when Jeff Daniels was taking a very audible poo in Dumb and Dumber—I laughed a lot then, but not this much.

Sprint to the theaters and give Sacha Baron Cohen your money immediately! He deserves it and he needs it to make another movie. And damnit we need that movie (maybe this one or maybe this one will live up to the same glory). My life will forever be haunted by the image of Borat lying in bed in the dark clutching an axe-hammer in one hand and a wad of cash in the other. Thank God for that, or should I say Jesus?


Pre-Borat: Quivering with Anticipation

This is part one of a two-part segment. Duke Frankencow is your author for Part One, and Rocky Racoon will be your author for the follow-up.

Since Rocky and I are our own bosses, we can adjust our schedules to conform to cultural events here in Washington. The Million Man March was just such an event, as were the inaugurations of President Bush. Earlier this year when thousands of immigrants marched on the Mall to gain rights as guest workers and to further their efforts in becoming naturalized citizens, Rocky and I closed down the Styched offices to bear witness. And today, another of those events is taking place, the kind of event that defines a generation. Rocky and I will be putting our computers on "sleep" mode, turning the lights off, and locking the doors behind us for two hours. Why, you might ask? To paraphrase David Byrne, "The answer is obvious. [Borat] has come to town."

That's right. Sometime around noon today, in a dark movie theater somewhere in downtown Washington, Rocky Raccoon and yours truly will be experiencing - what we anticipate will be - comedic brilliance: the first public showing of Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan. Male nudity, rampant anti-semitism, a grizzled Pamela Anderson-Rock, and ignorant Americans - does it get any better? Sure, there's been a bit of over-exposure for Borat. When I was returning from lunch one day last week and found the Kazakh reporter being interviewed on CNN, I suspected that the joke might be getting old before it had even been told to most of America. But, in the words of my 7th grade English teacher, that's neither here nor there. I have a feeling that after the whirl-wind of promotion surrounding this film's release dies down, we'll never see or hear from Mr. Sagdiyev again. So my advice is to cram in as many laughs as possible while you can.


Thursday, November 02, 2006

On Golden Pond: MD Election Edition

This photo was what greeted me when I logged onto this morning. Never have so few pixels summed up so much about my grandparents' generation. But, it's true what they say: Senior citizens, although slow and dangerous behind the wheel, can still serve a purpose.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Is It Time For New Brake Pads?*

Well, I finally made it over to Brakes' MySpace page to listen to some tracks off their forthcoming album, The Beatific Visions, and I was sadly underwhelmed.

Sure, their debut, Give Blood, was sort of silly and adolescent at points, but pretty much any song that clocked in at over 40 seconds was great pop/punk/garage rock. It opens with "Ring A Ding Ding," a song with lyrics that unabashedly make absolutely no sense whatsoever, but a tune that brings to mind visions of four teenagers banging on guitars, drums, and a bass, making up the music on the fly while Mom feverishly stamps her feet in the kitchen above them. "NY Pie" brings a pretty honky-tonk ditty to the streets of New York, while "The Most Fun" starts with a simple two-string guitar part and a dissonant harmony that, over a minute and a half, builds to one glorious climax incorporating the whole band (and all six guitar strings!). "Heard About Your Band" and "What's In It For Me" are the fast, fist-pumping bar-band songs that we all secretly yearn for. The band's take on "Jackson," the classic song by Jimmy Leiber and Billy Edd Wheeler, made famous by Johnny Cash and June Carter, is recorded without any frills or "artistic interpretations," filled with tons of slide-guitar and plinking pianos - exactly how the song should always be played. And "All Night Disco Party" is just the type of song that was written to be remixed into a ten minute dance-party number.

But the three songs available on Brakes' MySpace page really don't live up to anything on Give Blood. "Porcupine or Pineapple" tries to replicate some of the brilliant stupidity of "Pick Up the Phone," but leans a little too far to the idiotic side of things. "Cease and Desist" sounds a little bit too much like a Foo Fighters or a Stone Temple Pilots song (I don't mean that in a good way). "Margarita," the third and last song available on the page most closely captures some of the fun of "What's In It For Me," but singer Eamon Hamilton's voice begins to grate on me as the chorus rolls around, which basically ruins whatever momentum the song had.

My only hope is that these three tunes are not representative of the rest of the album. Brakes is a genuinely fun and endearing band that deserves more than a mediocre sophmore album.

*We appologize in advance for the groan-inducing title.