Marcy Playground – Self Titled


marcy_playground_-_marcy_playground_album_cover-1(25 February 1997, Capitol)

I was driving in the car with my girlfriend the other day when the Seven Mary Three song “Cumbersome” came on the radio. She told me she was really into Seven Mary Three when she was younger and listened to their album all the time. That blew my mind. It never even crossed my mind that Seven Mary Three would have an album and fans. To me they were just something that was always there. Like a DirecTV satellite dish that you mow around because you don’t want to take the time to pull it out of the ground. That’s how I thought of Seven Mary Three.

It wasn’t until today that I realized other people must think of Marcy Playground in the same way.

“Sex and Candy” is just as prevalent than “Cumbersome.” I hear it on the radio. I hear it at the gym. I hear it at Walmart. It’s all over the place; just like “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” or “Possum Kingdom.” But I actually own the album.

It’s not a bad album. It’s Folksy, Post-Grunge AOR. There are songs that I really enjoy and a few that I can’t tell from one another. Opener “Poppy’s” is held down by quirky guitar riff. Songs like “Gone Crazy,” “One More Suicide” and “Vampires of New York” are simple folk tunes made interesting by the wry vocals.

It’s something I enjoy, but when I listen to it and find it difficult to write more than 300 words about it I understand why they were a one-hit wonder.

Don’t Dwell On What Is Passed Away…


Leonard Cohen "The Future"When I first got my copy of Leonard Cohen’s album “The Future” I remember thinking that the cover image would make a really cool tattoo. Hearing the song “Anthem” reinforced the idea. “Bought and sold and bought again, the dove is never free.” I think that’s one of the most beautiful lines ever written.

But like a lot of ideas I filed it away somewhere in my mind and didn’t think about it for two decades.

Then a few things happened this year that brought it up again. Of course, the death of Leonard Cohen had me thinking about “Anthem” more than any other song. The line “Don’t dwell on what is passed away, or what is yet to be” is one that can be appropriate when anyone dies. I think I’m going to update my will to include that track along with Queen’s “Another One Bites The Dust” and AC/DC’s “Highway to Hell” as tunes I’d like played at my funeral.

But more than that, I’ve suffered from a really severe and long lasting depression for the last quarter of this year and that line is one that I really feel is good to latch on to. I mean, I’m depressed because I’m dwelling on what has passed away and what is yet to be. I suppose that’s probably what makes most people depressed.

Anthem TattooSo with that perfect storm in mind I walked into a tattoo shop last week and had someone mark me up. It was done more to help me get over the depression (which it seems to be helping) than as a way to commemorate Leonard Cohen, but I think it’s the best tattoo I have.

I think it’ll help me to live in the moment, and if I ever forget I just need to find a mirror.

 

 

 

 

Leonard Cohen (1934-2016)


 

leonard-cohenI feel really bad about the death of Leonard Cohen. Not just because we’ve lost one of the most original artists to ever grace popular music or because his style, words or voice will never be duplicated, but because I had the idea to write this post a few days before his death. It may have been because I recently watched the 30 Rock episode where Alec Baldwin gets the idea to prerecord a celebrity studded special honoring the victims of a yet-to-have-happened tragedy. Or it may have something to do with a preoccupation with the morbid.

Either way, my bad. I really feel like I jinxed us with this one.

I’m 98.537% sure that the first time I heard the name Leonard Cohen was in the Nirvana song “Pennyroyal Tea.” But it didn’t really interest me a whole helluva lot. It didn’t have the same interesting backstory as “Frances Farmer Will Have Her Revenge on Seattle” or the violent torture in Mayberry of “Floyd the Barber.” So really it was just a name in a Nirvana song. Nothing any more special than Alvin Tostig or Levon.

But then I read a Guitar World interview with Lou Reed. I can’t remember the exact context of what they were talking about, but Reed said something along the lines of “Leonard Cohen had one of the greatest opening lines ever: ‘Give me crack and anal sex.'” The interviewer corrected him in saying that’s actually the beginning of the second verse to “The Future” and then Reed pointed out that a line like that will really get your attention.

Well, it sure managed to get mine. But this was in the late nineties, long before Spotify, YouTube or the Play Store. I knew that there was this song with a really fucked up line in it, but I had no idea where to find it. Would they carry something like that at the library in Amish country? I didn’t think so.

So that brings us back to me being a rather morbid individual. In high school I didn’t participate in many after school activities. Like any clinically depressed teenager I would get off the bus, smoke some pot, watch a movie a movie and usually fall asleep. One day something went wrong and I managed to stay awake until the end credits of one of my favorite flicks, Natural Born Killers. (I’m surprised that movie isn’t a cult classic along the lines of Fight Club or The Rocky Horror Picture Show. You’d think for a society that relishes vilifying the media as much as ours it would be a modern classic.) Anyway, the movie ended and the credits started to roll. I hear a nice organ riff and some clean guitar under a gravelly voice. And then I hear the line “Give me crack and anal sex.”

So my discovery of Leonard Cohen was more of a result of Lou Reed and Oliver Stone than Kurt Cobain, but I made it there eventually. I remember it worried the shit out of my mom when I bought a copy of The Future. I suppose it would worry any parent if their child took as much interest as I did in the movie Natural Born Killers, but give me a break; it’s a great flick.

leonard cohenOf course, I didn’t hear his biggest hit until a few years later. I want to say it was 2007 and I was seeing a girl who took me down to the Baptist Church on the South Side of town. I usually prefer organ music during a worship service, but this church had a contemporary band and something about that song really stood out. Maybe it was the fact that it just doesn’t seem like a song you’d hear in church. Sure, the chorus has a great melody of “Hallelujah,” but if you look at the verses… is it really a christian song.

And maybe that’s the most beautiful thing about Leonard Cohen. His songs are filled with beautiful instrumentation and some of the most poetic lyrics I’ve ever heard, but most of the time I have no idea what exactly he was trying to say.

 

Beck “Mellow Gold”


MellowGold(1 March 1994 DGC)

Have you ever come across an album that you really enjoy – by a band that you don’t? I don’t want to imply that I dislike everything Beck’s done aside from Mellow Gold, but I wouldn’t call myself a fan. I did like “Devil’s Haircut” from Odelay, but that’s about it. I had a girlfriend who was a big fan, but I never got into Odelay. And as such I didn’t bother to listen to Mutations or anything else until the huge buzz around Morning Phase caused me to listen to that album last year. I still have to say that Mellow Gold is the only Beck album I enjoy.

I suppose a big part of this is the lo-fi quality of this album. It sounds like it was recorded on a cheap boombox in a shed. But that suits Beck’s songs and style more than the polish of the Dust Brothers and professional studios.

I’m sure everyone knows the song “Loser.” I really enjoy that song and not only is it the best mixing of folk and rap since Bob Dylan’s “Subterranean Homesick Blues,” it’s also the only example of the mixture I can think of. I know Beck’s music is generally considered alternative, but I think experimental folk is a more apt description.

“Pay No Mind (Snoozer)” has always been my favorite. A nice mellow voice and guitar piece with pleasant lyrics about toilets overflowing and a giant dildo crushing the sun. It makes me feel like I’m ten years old again and laughing at dirty jokes.

 

Originally I had the album on a cassette tape and when I got to the song “Truckdrivin’ Neighbors Downstairs (Yellow Sweat)” I always thought something was wrong with my tape or the player because of the slowed down vocals. Of course, the rest of the album was fine so after a few listens I realized this was the way it was supposed to be.

“Beercan” sounds like something I heard in a commercial with it’s ‘How do you like me now?’ hook. Maybe that’s where Toby Keith got the idea for his much bigger song. Then “Motherfuker” comes at you and kicks you in the head with something I can only describe as faux-metal.

The album is littered with things I love. Scratchy distorted vocals, odd samples and crazy nonsensical lyrics (my favorite may be ‘And she’s coming after me with the butterfly net’ from “Soul Sucking Jerk”). This is just great acoustic guitar driven songwriting with a lot of goofy production thrown over it. It’s the kind of music I would like to record, but I don’t have the talent or the patience to pull it off.

Of course, nobody else has made an album that sounds like Mellow Gold either.

The Last of the Wildmen


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I was a little apprehensive when I received a comment from Ben Taylor, the person representing Fremont, OH’s Last of the Wildmen, asking me to review a show. With all the bad press I’ve been receiving for airing my views lately I wasn’t sure If I was the man for the job. Though I love checking out new music and hearing new artists I worry that I’ll end up turning more people off to the stuff I want to promote.

Not to worry, I’m working that day so I won’t be able to attend.

I did; however, talk Mr. Taylor into sending me a few tracks from the upcoming EP “Ship Set Sail” and to my relief, I enjoyed them. So I’ll bust out a few paragraphs telling you about them and hopefully it’ll entice you enough to check them out for yourself at lastofthewildmen.com

The Last of the Wildmen bill themselves as a folk-rock band, which was the main cause for my trepidation. Sure, I like Bob Dylan and Simon and Garfunkel, but I wouldn’t consider myself a big fan of folk music. Folk music makes me think of the crap that high schoolers play at open mics: Neil Young covers and songs to boyfriends. Thankfully the wildmen mix in a healthy dose of modern pop rock which makes it not just bearable, but delightful.

“Running Wild” is a catchy mellow rock tune with plenty of clean guitar work that evokes Foo Fighters and Weezer. The lead riff is so catchy that it makes you want to sing along. “Earthquake” is a bit darker and fuzzed out and features a full fledged scream that any metal band would be proud to have but still retains the catchy hooks and simple composition that proves at heart the Wildmen are just a folk band with a few layers added. “Morning Light” starts with a multi-layered vocal intro that makes me think it could be a traditional ballad Alan Lomax recorded a hundred years ago. The banjo and harmonies help retain the feel of a folk tune but the electric guitars do a brilliant job of bringing out hidden melodies and making the song contemporary.

Aside from the three songs I also found a web series featuring the band called “en Route”. It was an interesting way to get to know the boys and while I don’t want to say too much about it for fear of spoiling some of the drama, I will say that it’s worth checking out. The theme song “Soul Searching,” has been stuck in my head for most of the week. The series recently wrapped up its first season and also includes behind the scenes views of the making of some of the bands videos, which are also quite enjoyable.

Do yourself a favor and check out the Last Of The Wildmen when they appear with Cute Boots and Cold Front at the Buzzbin Art & Music Shop on March 5th. Admission is free and there will be great deals on PBR in addition to the awesome live music.

THIS JUST IN:
Here is a short email interview with answers from guitarist/vocalist Jimmie Getty.

Almost Famous: How did you all meet?

Jimmie Getty: Four of us had been in bands in Northwest Ohio for the past eight years. We would get together off and on and write/hang out, but we were always more committed to other projects. Phil moved up here from Kentucky a little over a year ago, and we became fast friends. It made sense that we should all play together.

AF: Where did the name “Last of the Wildmen” come from?

JG: We were initially called “Wildmen”. The five of us enjoy hiking, camping, and spending time in more natural, remote locations. There’s a band in Italy called “Wildmen”, and they were convinced that we had stolen their one-word name. We decided to adapt ours and make it a little more specific. So far it’s been working! It isn’t necessarily intended to refer directly to us. We’re developing a story that involves the guy on our album cover. He has intrigued us, and we feel like he needs to be brought to life a little more. He may be the last of the wildmen.

AF: What makes a Wildman?

JG: Wildparents.

AF: What makes you guys Wildmen?

JG: We’ve always felt more inclined to take the less “comfortable” route. We’d rather be on an adventure and sacrifice some luxuries than sit at home and enjoy cable television.

AF: Why do you all have beards except for Phil?Is he the only one with a razor?

JG: Phil has not been faithful in saying his nightly prayers to the beard gods. We all have razors, they’re just buried in dust and cobwebs.

AF: Who writes the songs?

JG: All 5 of us are writers. Matt, Kyle, and I wrote “Open Future”, but Sam and Phil have both written on our upcoming release.

AF: Is this your first time in Canton?

JG: As a band? Yes!

AF: What made you want to play music?

JG: Music is the best way that we’ve found to travel on a regular basis. It’s been an escape from every day life, as well as a literal escape from our little hometown. We all enjoy writing, and playing songs for people as well. It’s a cool way to connect with other human beings.

AF: I really enjoyed your web series “En Route,” whose idea was it? When will we be seeing more?

JG: Thanks for checking out the web series! It was mostly Phil’s idea to start documenting and sharing the “process” of us pursuing music. We are currently editing together footage for a new en Route episode. Our goal is to release one every couple of weeks or so.

AF: What kind of jobs do you guys have?

JG: I work at a coffee shop/art gallery a few days a week, Kyle works at Big Lots. Sam works for a custom trailer building company. We’ve always tried to keep our work schedules simple so we can spend more time working on music, but it gets tricky with 5 people.

AF: You had some experience with a major record label with a previous band. Was that a positive experience?

JG: Looking back on the experience with a major record label, it’s much easier to see the positives now. At the time, it was incredibly frustrating. We had met some great people in the industry, made what we believed was the best album we could make, and then we sat around and waited for permission to do….just about anything. It’s reinforced to us, the importance of working hard for yourself. If other people want to contribute down the road, that’s great, but record labels are no longer necessary for bands to get themselves off the ground.

AF:  What does The future hold for Last of the Wildmen?

JG: I have no idea what the future holds for this band. I think we’re all having so much fun playing music together that we enjoy soaking up the present. Our goal is to make a career out of this band, and to go about it in a manner that is responsible and business savvy, but the goal at the end of the day is simple: make music and go play it for people.

Best of luck to Jimmy and the rest of the Wildmen!