I’m gonna do it kind like the solo gigs I been doing since ’08 or so, with drum machine and looper, but playing bass instead of guitar, and playing it loud and slow and sludgy the way Distant Trains rolls. I could maybe use a bandmate though, for future performances. Maybe someone who plays both drums and spaced-out synthesizers.

The show is at Vaudeville Mews here in Des Moines this Wednesday at about 9:30 pm. The Bassturd is the evening’s headlining attraction, and deservedly so; if you have not seen The Bassturd yet, you really should. The man is a songwriting keyboarding rapping improvising accordioning juggernaut of hilarity, absurdity, and awesome. A past collaborator of The Bassturd is also on the bill, Des Moines O.G. songwriter Todd On Acid, and newfangled local psychobilly outfit S.E.R.F.. I’m not quite sure what the order is other than of course The Bassturd goes on last.

I would have posted this bit of news much earlier but shit has been hectic in Centipede Land. I moved from a rented split-foyer in southeast Des Moines to a cheaper and lower-maintenance apartment in West Des Moines and started a new job as a combination Ruby On Rails programmer and server admin and possible development team lead. It’s the kind of job that forces me to learn a bunch of new shit to keep up, which is the kind of job I like. I went to 80/35, which I’ve already written about. I worked out an apartment-friendly headphone-based practice setup for bass + drum machine. I bought a Stylophone, and that kept me kind of busy for a while. I’m reading about four books at one time. In the process of moving, I unloaded a lot of random, bulky, oddball possessions that I didn’t really have much of a use for any more, but I’ve still got a lot to go. Feel free to make me an offer on a Yamaha CP-30 electronic piano or an epic collection of pencil sharpeners, including a ton of those die-cast metal ones that look like old cars and appliances and shit. The collection of Pascal programming books didn’t sell as well as I had hoped, most ended up in the recycle bin. My Atari 2600 and large collection of cartridges and accessories will be going to the International Video Game Hall Of Fame being started in Ottumwa, Iowa, in hopes that they do in fact appreciate the significance of Chase The Chuckwagon.

Anyway I didn’t start Centipede Farm to be a personal blog, in fact I very expressly started it not to be a personal blog, but you know, I’m sure that’s all interesting shit, and it ties in in some ways with my musical projects. Another rad thing I’ve got going on is the Fetal Pig reunion, which also involves a reunion of yet another classic ’90s Des Moines band, Going To Grandma’s. It will also be happening at the Vaudeville Mews, this Friday, along with another classic Des Moines rock band that needs no reunion because they never went away, Squidboy. Learning Fetal Pig songs, which are these crazy complex riff-fests that sound like a cross between The Minutemen and King Crimson, has been an awesome mind-bending experience and one that I hope will influence my writing for Distant Trains. There is talk that since we’re getting the songs down pretty tight we should go down to Luke’s and record an album.

See you Wednesday and Friday

(Now listening: Sleepy Sun – Fever)

cover art

I know, I’m probably late to the party writing about this album. Then again, I never claimed to be any kind of real music journalist, just a guy who likes to write about music. Plus, it’s a big album, I needed adequate time to chew it over.

There’s a misguided, but nonetheless widespread, conception that playing rock and roll music is the province of the young and naive, those yet to take on real responsibilities in life; that being in a band, supposedly thereby chasing some elusive/illusive stardom, is something you’re supposed to grow out of. And indeed, playing in a band can look incompatible with full adult life; for instance, most 9-to-5 gigs don’t take kindly to your just picking up and taking off for a month on tour. So when it comes to the music game, there’s a looming societal pressure as one stares down their 30s to give up the silly teenage rock-star dreams, hang up the guitar, and just grow the fuck up already.

But that’s just it: nobody with an immature, teenager mindset would take music seriously enough, nor would they be organized enough, to be able to still do it while working it around jobs, families, grad school. Certainly not after one’s bandmates have all moved to different states hundreds of miles away from each other for those things. Working hard to write the best songs you can, and slogging through the grunt-work of getting out and selling a record, is actually a downright grown-up thing to do. That’s just what Poison Control Center have done, and the album itself is about those very conflicts: about worrying about your youth slipping away, and whether growing up/older really means being obligated to stop being creative and fun, to stop burning with that brightness and energy we’re all supposed to associate with youth.

Youthful energy and abandon are certainly something that Poison Control Center know a thing or two about. In their live sets they’re known for getting absolutely crazy, hanging upside-down from the rafters, knocking over their gear. There may not be a more fit band out there at this moment to write and perform the songs on Sad Sour Future. Yet it’s hard not to see the ambitious 17-song album, and the epic, some might say insane, year-long tour now in progress, as a desperate last-ditch attempt by Poison Control Center to try to transcend their hometown-hero status while they still have a chance, to see if maybe-just-maybe they can make a career out of this music thing and thus avoid that very growing-up that’s probably expected of them, which, maybe they really believe means that if they don’t “make it” in some sense with this record, that the band will finally have to end. If they have even half of another record like this one still left in them, then I sure hope not.

Yeah I know, yawnsville, none of this addresses what the record sounds like. Fine. Never mind the Pavement reunion, Poison Control Center have everything you love about Pavement but with new melodies, new lyrics, and a bit of that Flaming Lips whimsy thrown in. Poison Control Center’s pop instincts are always very much evident, but never to the detriment of the raw and freewheeling (experimental?) tendencies beloved to the duct-tape-guitar set. These songs are both patchworks of gritty guitar sounds, and summery jams you can sing along to, of the sort likely to end up with that “soundtrack to a chapter of your life” quality that lends emotional weight and meaning to the well-chosen chord changes — another one of those musical experiences that, at 35, I had suspected one is supposed to grow out of, until this album proved me wrong. This is music that works on the age 25-to-40 heartstrings the way you thought pop music was only supposed to work on the 17-to-25, much of it revolving around those themes I’ve already addressed, and in the final analysis the orientation seems to be one of cautious optimism that the rock and roll spirit will prevail. If Poison Control Center are right, maybe we’ll all be at the rock club in our middle age, embarrassing our kids, knowing that we probably look like dorks to the twentysomethings and completely not caring because we know in our hearts, hearts bursting with fun and meaning and creativity, that we are in fact more rock and more awesome than they in their limited experience can possibly know. We at least have had time to live some shit worth singing about.

here, and heavy as hell. One week to go until release date.

80/35 Festival just finished up, it was pretty cool. I debated with myself whether to write anything about it at all since everyone else is bound to, and anyway I probably missed a lot of stuff. This was my second 80/35, and the first I had main-stage tickets for. One thing I think is cool about 80/35 is that even if you can’t muster the cash for tickets, there’s still a lot of stuff to see: there are free stages; no tickets are needed to hang around the various vendor tents; one such tent, that of Yellowbrock magazine, hosted some acoustic performances, including Poison Control Center and Des Moines’ own American Idol contestant, this past season’s Katelyn Epperly, with her pre-Idol bandmate Nick Frampton, the duo now known as Katelyn & The Bruises. Plus Des Moines Social Club, located right nest door to the second stage, puts some bands on for free in their Sideshow Lounge area. This year’s “third” stage had a new emphasis on electronica, DJs, and hip-hop. I didn’t catch much of that, but the second stage featured no lesser lights than Califone, William Elliott Whitmore, and local rising stars Canby, Christopher The Conquered, and Cashes Rivers. This is a pretty cool time to be a music fan in Des Moines.

However, I must admit that a combination of factors kept me from seeing a lot of stuff:

  • being still in the process of unpacking from our recent move, not to mention still recovering from said move, in the sore-and-tired department
  • having an 18-month-old, which requires certain preparations and/or accommodations
  • being rather down on social activity in general of late, and pretty much hating people overall
  • having pretty much no idea who any of the third-stage hip-hoppers were, and hence whether any of them held any interest for me
  • weather that alternated between oppressive heat and humidity, and rain

Most of what I turned up for was the main-stage acts, which this year were just too compelling for me to pass up. Related to that last item, my favorite moments of the festival both directly involved rain:

  • A gentle rain that begin falling, as if on cue, precisely as Yo La Tengo hit the final chord of their final number “Pass The Hatchet”
  • The Walkmen soldiering on through their set in a driving cloudburst, even as the water shorted out their organ, a very appreciative crowd cheering them on

It was great to see Yo La Tengo with Leah. In a way, Yo La Tengo is kind of “our band” in the way some couples have an “our song.” Before we were dating she hadn’t heard them, and I like to think she fell for me when I played Electr-O-Pura for her. Then, in November 1997 when we had been dating about four and a half months, I got her to go see them with me at Gabe’s in Iowa City, something that’s one of our most special memories of our relationship. I was super glad that this time our 18-month-old son Wesley got to share the experience with us.

Right after Yo La Tengo I did catch half of William Elliott Whitmore’s country-soul stylings. He made shout-outs to Why Make Clocks and Ed Gray.

And I must say that I am glad I caught The Walkmen’s set. I kinda-sort liked them before, based on several really beautiful moments on Bows & Arrows I found when I got it a few years ago, but other parts of that album, and much of their first, Everyone Who Pretended To Like Me Is Gone (boy, if that isn’t a title I’ve really related to a few times), coming off as so languid as to be nearly shapeless, left me a bit unsure. Their most lovably shambolic qualities were definitely in effect yesterday, but I think that the appreciativeness of the crowd made it difficult for them to maintain a properly cool indie-rocker disinterested facade, and they were revealed to be guys who really love and care about what they’re doing. Their floatier numbers somehow made a bit more sense live, but maybe it was just the mood of the overcast day. In short, they were pretty awesome. The newer numbers, that I recognized by how little I recognized them, sounded even better than some of the material from the first two albums that I knew. So I’m looking to pick me up a copy of You & Me once I’m slightly less broke-ass.

I had to go out alone for Spoon, and it wasn’t as fun to be there by myself. I ran into some friends and ended up mostly chatting with them instead of watching the band, as there was such a heavy crowd that it was hard to get a good view of the stage. The problem with big shows is how big they are. Spoon sounded great, though, with kudos due to the sound crew. The band played several of my favorite of their songs, and I thought it was cool how they brought along a big ol’ horn section. The horns even did riffs that on album were done on guitars. The dubby effects on the vocals that they used so much on Transference were thrown in all over the place during their set.

I didn’t bother sticking around for Modest Mouse on the second night, I was pretty much burned out at that point and just wanted to lay around.

Anyway, good festival, et cetera.

This is so totally overdue. I can’t even be trusted to get the news out in a timely manner about my own album. Forgive me, I’ve been in the throes of moving. “Congratulations On Your Suicide” is out on Sleep On The Floor.

I like this band, even with the doofy sunglasses. They’re from Lincoln, NE, and they have an album called Teen Challenge that I’ve only ever seen CD-R copies of with simple homestyle screen-printed sleeves, but I’ve listened to it a bunch of times and I like it a lot, and I think I heard that you can get it on vinyl now. Then again, they also said on twitter that they’re a 12-piece now, and I’m having a difficult time picturing that.

The other day I received an e-mail informing me that the music website garageband.com (which predates the Apple music software that bears its namesake by some years) will be discontinued effective July 15.

Garageband.com was an interesting concept in new-music-discovery at a time, just after the Napster mess and the death of mp3.com, when folks were up for trying just about anything. The concept was this: musicians upload songs; then people go, listen to songs chosen at random, and submit reviews of them, and via the ratings you give, songs are ranked. Artists whose songs topped the rankings would receive such prizes as music gear, or the grand prize, a signing with garageband.com’s own record label. To ensure some level of participation, as well as to avoid people uploading a glut of stuff just to see what might stick, musicians earned their uploads by doing reviews. If you weren’t a musician, your motivation for doing reviews was, I guess, to discover some new artists you might like.

Of course nowadays, and in hindsight, it’s easy to look at this model and understand why it didn’t really work that well. For instance just about the whole userbase was struggling musicians, reviewing each other, or if you want to look at it this way, reviewing their competition. For one thing, the musical taste of musicians, as a group, tends to differ from that of the general public. Also, reviewers were required to include a short paragraph about what they thought of the song, and the reviews were actually themselves reviewed by the artists, supposedly in order to keep people sincere. But in reality it just ended up being overcomplicated. Most people don’t want to have to explain why they liked a song after they hear it, especially not the very first time they hear it. But many of the changes to the landscape of the music business that we now have become pretty much used to were in those days pretty unresolved and nobody had any idea what the shape of the music business was going to look like once the dust settled, so garageband.com seemed as viable a concept as anything anyone else was trying. These days the garageband.com folks are behind iLike, and it appears they’ve finally decided which venture is working out better.

I was a member on garageband.com for a long time, uploaded quite a bit of No Consensus and Exit Drills stuff, and hung out in the site’s forums, which is were I think the real win was there. Those forums had a really great community. Eventually I drifted away, but I communicated with some really great fellow musicians on garageband.com, had a lot of laughs, and even discovered a couple really good bands. One of those bands was The Nuevos.

Shortly after reading the email notice that garageband.com was closing up, I got about 20 automated messages from the site of a kind that you can sign up for to be notified what a band you like has uploaded new songs, telling me that The Nuevos had somehow just uploaded about 20 songs to garageband.com all at once. Wow. I had just about forgotten about The Nuevos, whom I had even had some mail correspondence with at one time, from which I still have a CD-R of some of their early demos, but it was crazy having not had any news about them for so long, and suddenly they hear that garageband.com is closing down so they decide to upload 20 damn songs to it. I haven’t listened to them yet, but I plan to and you should too because The Nuevos are pretty good. They’re all downloadable too, it looks like.

Isn’t this just like me, I come up with a concept for something and immediately I’m breaking the very formula I came up with. I started the “The Centipede Tapes” category to post odd obscure stuff from my large cassette tape collection, and here I am posting something I don’t have on cassette at all. Rather, I have in my possession two artifacts pertaining to this band called The Trouble With Larry: this 1992 self-titled CD and a 7″ containing two songs from it (“Otto Mesmer” / “The Rodent Song”) and I was pleased to find a download of the album on some blog called The Thinner The Air, so I decided to post it here.

Whoever The Trouble With Larry were, they made an intriguing album full of jerky rhythms, scratchy/twangy guitars, declamatory vocals with gimmicky black-humor lyrics, and they somehow managed to make a drum machine sound loose, even a bit sloppy (in a cool way). It sounds like some kind of cross between Big Black, X, and Devo. Maybe a little Gang Of Four too.

Check the above-linked post for slightly (though not much) more info on the band and album, and download it off Mediafire at this link.

I’ve been listening to this a bunch lately and thought I’d share it. Olde Growth, who I heard about randomly somewhere online, is a bass/drums two-piece. I have a bit of a thing for bands with that kind of lineup ever since I saw godHeadSilo in the basement of the Black Hawk Labor Temple in Waterloo in ’94. (In fact, I’m interested in a drummer for Distant Trains if any of my drumming friends are interested in getting in on that.) The sound is heavy sludge doom kind of like a backwoodsy Electric Wizard. They’re giving the download of this album out for free at http://oldegrowth.bandcamp.com and I found a web site for the band at http://www.oldegrowth.com/. No word on whether you can get it on CD but the cover art looks like a screen-printed rough cardboard sleeve so I suspect such an artifact does in fact exist.

Just out today the latest video, number 8 in the weekly Coolzey and the Search for Hip-hop Hearts series, is drop-dead hilarious. A must-see.