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In Rainbows

September 30th, 2007 9 comments

Radiohead has finally completed their new album, and has made it exclusively available via their website. It can be downloaded starting 10.10. For downloaded copies of the album (most likely 128kbps crap), they’re using the pay what you can format. The discbox (double heavy gram vinyl+CD+download) is rather pricey at around $80, but at least they’re including a heavy vinyl copy and they throw in the download. Radiohead’s choice of making the album available only from them is a rather obvious and refreshing giant middle finger to the record industry that seems intent on implosion.

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Jeff Tweedy on Chicago

July 11th, 2007 No comments

I’ve been quite enjoying Wilco’s new release Sky Blue Sky of late, and I recently came across an interview with Jeff Tweedy by American Way magazine (American Airlines) about living in Chicago, an interesting perspective on the city from a musician. His favorite pizza joint is of course included.

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Potts Wins!

June 19th, 2007 No comments

Paul Potts won ITV’s Britain’s Got Talent competition. As if he was going to lose to a little girl in a dress. I love what the host said to him on stage following his performance in the final: “Paul, I’ve got one question for you – can you get me a Nokia 6210?

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Paul Potts

June 15th, 2007 2 comments

American Idol has a bit of UK competition, ITV’s Britain’s Got Talent. It’s very much like AI, except that it’s more of a traditional talent show where all kinds of lunacy can ensue. And it’s even got Simon Cowell as a judge. And now, there’s an American version, hosted by Jerry Springer and featuring people like David Hasselhoff and Sharon Osbourne as judges. I think I’d rather have Simon Cowell – and hopefully Hasselhoff won’t be singing anything. It would be very cool though, if Sharon’s husband showed up on occasion as a guest judge. Cowell is the executive producer of the US show.

Recently on the UK programme (sorry for the spelling, but hey – the show is english), a mobile phone salesman of rather modest means from Wales turned up. He’s called Paul Potts, and he gave an amazing performance (especially for a guy schlepping phones at Car Phone Warehouse) of a piece from the opera Nessun Dorma. It’s brilliant. The winner gets to perform for the Queen at the Royal Variety Performance, and also wins 100k pounds sterling. 

*update* – Paul won!

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There is no such, thing in life as normal

May 24th, 2007 No comments

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Camera phone image of Morrissey at the Pageant in STL

The title of the post is a refrain from song by Morrissey titled “The Youngest Was The Most Loved” from his current album Ringleader of the Tormentors. A brilliant song, and Moz features a children’s choir for the refrain which I find quite fitting. The line also seems to fit what I did for the past two days.

The MINI and I have just returned from a rather epic 1100 mile journey through the midwest, to catch three Morrissey shows in one week. The first show was quite easy and didn’t involve driving, a simple 3 stop ride from home on the blue line to the Auditorium Theater here in Chicago.. I already had plans to see the Tuesday night show at the Pageant in STL the following week with Brendan and Dougie, and I figured if I was going that far why not check out the KC show on Wednesday night at the very cool and newly remodeled Uptown Theater in Midtown. It would also give me an excuse to attend the show with my very good pal and equally big Moz fan Kevin, and consume some world famous KC barbecue as well. KC (as it never does) did not disappoint. I also got to stop in Columbia, Mo. on the way to KC, and it was good to be back there as well for a bit.

Three very different cities, and three very different crowds. Chicago’s crowd was the largest and most diverse, and the venue was a monster. KC and STL are much more comparable cities in terms of population and venue size, but they seem a bit different in how the crowd behaved. In Chicago I was in the lower balcony, in STL and KC we were on the floor close to the stage. It was Morrissey’s 48th birthday the night of the STL show, and he got a rise out of the crowd by singing to himself “I’ve come to wish me an unhappy birthday” as well as getting quite a few gifts from people at the show.

The KC show seemed a bit more lively and intense, and this might have been due to the fact that the Uptown Theater’s standing area in front of the stage is 5-6 times larger than the area in front of the stage at the Pageant. I also got the sense that the people in KC were a bit less reserved and provincial – an observation I’ve seen before in comparing the two cities, which is why I find KC so refreshing. Quite a few less Trixies and Chads in KC as compared to STL, Chicago’s Lincoln Park neighborhood of course being the indigenous home of the Trixie and the Chad. Morrissey seemed to have more of a connection to the STL crowd though, and that combined with a smaller venue and the fact that it was his birthday made it an amazing show in its own right. There was a great deal of interaction at all three shows, with Moz shaking quite a few hands during songs and making lots of gestures and eye contact. There was of course the obligatory throwing of the shirt at all three shows – in STL the fans wrestled for one of the shirts for what seemed like a half hour, some of them only to come away with a tiny shred of what used to be a very sweaty armani shirt.

The set list from the STL and KC shows was very similar – it was very cool to hear “Please Please Please let me get what I want this time” as the first encore at the Chicago and STL shows, but maybe Morrissey sensed the KC crowd was a bit more rowdy, and chose “The last of the Famous International Playboys” which was probably a better fit for that show. I would have loved to hear “There Is a Light That Never Goes Out” as it’s one of my favorites from The Smiths but that was probably the only want in an otherwise amazing three nights.

Moz is a complete showman. He worked his ass off at all three shows I attended, and the band was completely into everything they played. There were no lulls whatsoever, and it was a pleasure to see the 48 year old Morrissey still enjoying life (as only he can enjoy it). The set list from the KC show:

The Queen Is Dead / First Of The Gang To Die / The Youngest Was The Most Loved / In The Future When All’s Well / You Have Killed Me / Disappointed / Panic / Let Me Kiss You / I Just Want To See The Boy Happy / The National Front Disco / I Will See You In Far Off Places / All You Need Is Me / Girlfriend In A Coma / Everyday Is Like Sunday / The Boy With The Thorn In His Side / Irish Blood, English Heart / At Last I Am Born / I’ve Changed My Plea To Guilty / Life Is A Pigsty / How Soon Is Now? // The Last Of The Famous International Playboys / You’re Gonna Need Someone On Your Side

The hard part was getting in the MINI after the show in KC, and driving back to Chicago. I took the northern route through Iowa as I thought the traffic would be a bit lighter, and it was cool to have the top down looking at the stars in a state with not very many lights or buildings – until it started raining.  I’ll have a word about my pal Kevin as well as a detailed review of Arthur Bryant’s bbq in a later post as they deserve an entry of their own.

A few more camera phone images:

Moz in KC

Moz in STL

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The Zimmers

May 17th, 2007 No comments

The Zimmers are a British geriatric pop ensemble. They’re a 40 member group with an average age of 78. I hope if I make it to this age I can be doing something like this, as it would sure beat sitting about watching 45 year old episodes of The Office.

It brings me to a query – when my generation finally makes it into nursing homes, will people come by to play live covers of Radiohead songs while our wheelchairs fill the dining room?

Click on the pic below for a video of The Zimmer’s first release, a brilliant cover of “My Generation” by The Who.

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Morrissey at the Auditorium Theater in Chicago

May 15th, 2007 No comments

Brilliant show tonight. I saw Morrissey when he was in town for a show at the Aragon last year, and when the new tour dates were released with a Chicago date, I had to go. The place was completely full – the AT is a 4k seat theater, and it’s more of a classical/opera/play venue than it is a rock hall – it seemed a bit too indulgent for this sort of thing. After the first few songs Morrissey said: “Welcome to the lovely auditorium. I promise, nothing will go wrong.” He seemed to be speaking to the auditorium staff. He came out on stage in a suit, which was a nice touch that seemed to fit the space – though it didn’t stay on long.

And nothing did go wrong. In between Kirsteen Young’s opening (imagine Bjork, but even more angry – still a very cool sound through only a keyboard/sequencer and a drummer) and Morrissey a few influential videos were played on the stage – a performance by the New York Dolls (with the lovely Buster Poindexter) from German TV, a screen and wardrobe test from the film East of Eden starring James Dean (Morrissey is rather obsessed with Dean – and the screen test was more than a bit creepy as Dean just stood there and stared at the camera in different outfits with another actor), and a few other odd clips, including a wonderful video of “Ou Ca Ou Ca” by the French crooner/showman Sacha Distel and and one by a very Elvis-esque Vince Taylor. The stage backdrop was a huge double image of James Dean.

The sound was quite good – I was in the lower balcony, and there was very impressive bass that could be felt as well as heard, and the high frequencies were not too overdone. They had a huge bass drum as well as a giant gong, and these were miked pretty well. The band was much tighter than the last show at the Aragon, and Morrissey and his band were quite an interesting and irreverent contrast to the names around the stage which rather ornately listed people like Schuman, Haydn, Mozart, Bach, Rossini, Berlioz, Gluck, Beethoven, Gaunod and Verdi.

The set list was:

The Queen is Dead

First of the Gang to Die

The Youngest Was the Most Loved

You Have Killed Me

Disappointed

Panic

Let Me Kiss You

-band intro-

I Just Want to See the Boy Happy

I Will See You in Far-off Places

The National Front Disco

At Last I Am Born

Irish Blood, English Heart

All You Need is Me

I’ve Changed My Plea to Guilty

The Boy with the Thorn in His Side

Drive-In Saturday

Everyday is Like Sunday

Ganglord

Life is a Pigsty w/piano coda and Auld Lang Syne

How Soon is Now?

Encore:

Please Please Please Let Me Get What I Want

You’re Gonna Need Someone on Your Side

The first encore was a favorite of mine, and I enjoyed watching everyone sing along as if they’d finally found other people who could understand the desire to sing this song aloud. It was yet another one of those “I’m where I’m supposed to be” moments – I had one at the last Morrissey show I attended as well as a brilliant Badly Drawn Boy show not too long ago at the Metro here in Chicago. I love feelings like that – they seem to be more numerous of late for some reason.

Overall it was a great show – Moz got quite a rise out of the crowd when introducing the rest of the band as the bass player and drummer are from Chicago, as well as the requisite “I Will See You in Far-off Places” line of: “If George W. Bush, doesn’t kill you.” I look forward to seeing Morrissey in St. Louis next week when he plays a much smaller venue. Maybe I can get on stage….smile

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The compact cassette

May 11th, 2007 No comments

The compact cassette has gone the way of the dinosaur. If we want to record something now, we do it on a cd or a hard drive or other digital memory device. But I’m old enough to remember when the cassette was really all that was available – though my dad heavily influenced me to greatly appreciate the open reel format, due to its far superior sound quality. While the open reel formal was much better, it couldn’t be used as a portable medium, and the compact cassette was born.

The cassette was originally designed for speech and data storage, not for music. The tape speed of 1 7/8 inches per second was far too slow to be able to record full range sound. Over the years different chrome and metal tape formulations were developed which could accept a much higher input signal with a wider frequency response, and these developments along with better tape heads and more stable transport systems from the equipment manufacturers, made the cassette work pretty well for music.

There is something romantic about a cassette. It was through the cassette that the mix tape was born, a dating ritual that would have been quite a bit more awkward if only open reel tape had been available. Who (assuming you’re over 25) hasn’t made and/or received a mix tape at some point in life? Sure you can burn a cd or email a pile of mp3’s or a playlist to someone special, but it’s not qutie the same thing. To make a mix tape you had to first come up with a set list – this component is quite important both in content and order. Once you had the content and order, you couldn’t simply point and click or drag and drop – you had to set recording levels, drop a stylus (if you’re old enough to have made the tape when vinyl was the only source), and record the songs in real time. Then you had to wait for the right moment to actually deliver the first tape. Not to early in the relationship, and you couldn’t wait too long either.

In honor of the cassette, click on the above pic for a gallery of very cool cassette tape j-cards. People were paid to design these things long before quark express, and a few are pretty interesting. Via Coudal Parnters.

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ipod in a MINI

May 1st, 2007 4 comments

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I’ve got a 20g gen 4 ipod, and I have a MINI, so this past Saturday I set out to engineer a solution to the problem of integrating the two. I installed a hidden ipod controller in the Volvo a little over a year ago which operates the ipod via the steering wheel controls through the cd changer input, but it only operates 5 playlists. You can go through the five playlists, and access the tracks only in sequential order. On a trip to STL last weekend I quickly went through all 5 playlists, and if I wanted to hear a song again I had to hit the next or previous track button as many as 99 times depending on how many songs were on the playlist.

I didn’t want a similar system in the MINI – I wanted full (and cheap, since the ipod controllers are all around $150) ipod control that could be operated without taking a hand off the steering wheel. My plan was to somehow mount a Pro Clips ipod cradle to the back of the tachometer – that way the entire ipod can be directly controlled with a finger without having to take a hand off the wheel, and the display is very safely readable while driving as it’s in the line of sight. I got a SIK dock cable/charger/line out, so the ipod’s output is the much better sounding line level out of the dock as opposed to the distorted headphone output. I had to take the MINI head unit out (which only took about 4 minutes) to install a factory aux line input to the radio. Having the ipod as part of the interior seems to fit the MINI as well.

I looked online for an ipod mount that would attach to the back of the tachometer in a MINI, and there is actually a company that makes pretty much what I put in – except it’s $70, just for the mount. It’s made by Craven Speed, and it’s a universal ipod cradle (which usually means it universally won’t work) as opposed to the Pro Clips mounts which are ipod model specific. My solution was to get the Pro Clips 4th gen 20g ipod specific padded mount for $25 (they have cradles for every type of ipod), then I spent another $1 at the home depot for a 5” genuine Stanley steel trim plate. I painted the trim plate in a grey anthracite to match the interior. I then mounted one end of the trim plate to the right side screw on the back of the tach, then mounted the Pro Clips mount to the other side of the plate. The holes that were pre-drilled in the plate worked out perfectly for distance and mounting height – I even put a few neoprene washers between the plate and the tach for scratch/shock resistance, and it all works out very nicely. The ipod charges when the car is on as well. It all went in Saturday evening, and took about an hour and a half, including the painting of the steel trim plate. The entire system goes up and down with the tilt wheel feature, so perfect line of sight to the ipod is available to all drivers, big or small.

The only problem is that my 20g ipod now has over 19g on it, so I now have to start managing content a bit. It’s my own fault though, as I’ve got quite a bit of stuff at 320kbps, and more than a few things in the apple lossless format, which sound extremely good – but the apl lossless files take up quite a bit of space.

Having the ipod so accessible is both good and bad – I made the dire mistake of explaining to the girls that this type of installation allows all of the ipod’s content to be accessed, so yesterday we were listening to “Dress Up in You” by Belle and Sebastian (Ellesse calls it the trumpet song) about 6 times in a row. A few hipsters at a bus stop in Wicker Park liked the B&S quite a bit as well. It also makes me look rather like an apple fanboi, which would ordinarily be a really bad label if I wasn’t, well, uh…..kinda one of them.

This would work in just about any car, as long as the radio has a line/aux input/fm modulator/tape adapter (Pro Clips sells vehicle specific mounting kits too, if you don’t want to use a piece of steel from the Home Depot), and you don’t mind looking like a fanboi.

A few more pics are here:

ipodmini2.jpg

ipodmini3.jpg

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