And The Hits Just Keep On Comin': July 2006

And The Hits Just Keep On Comin'

A Music Journal Collective Effort

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Story Like a Scar
There was this guy from Camp IAWAH who I really got along with well.
We gelled. He only worked there for one summer. His name was Keith,
but more affectionately, he was known as Dr. Nye as he was really into
Science. Anyways, when he first told me about the Get Up Kids, I really
wanted to like them - because I thought Keith was a cool guy - but I couldn't.
Something just grained on me about Matt Pryor's whiny voice.
And now, here I am, almost 6 years after the fact, writing a review on The New
Amsterdams - an undercurrent side project of Pryor's for years and now his
main focus with the end of the Get up Kids. (I did become a Get Up fan, just
so ya know.)

From the opening, haunting melody of 'Death Of Us', Pryor establishes himself
as someone who has played the indie scene, but who has wizened with time.
The tune of it almost makes you want to watch a Clint Eastwood western as the
subtle harmonica and acoustic guitar laze along through a myriad ghost town of
relationship struggle-based lyrics. And so I listened on, flowing right into the second
and most popular track from the record 'Turn Out The Lights', showing a deeper
and subtler sensitive side of Pryor - sort of melanchoic and reflective but still
somehow upbeat with a few handclaps and the hope for connection in the lines -
'I've been wrong but it's alright / There've been long and lonely nights /
I was lost till I found you / Turn out the light, I'll stay if you want me to'

What impressed me was also TNA's ability to waver into some harder, more
electric songs like 'Bad Liar' and 'Past The Pines' that showed to be fairly short
in length, but still power-packed with some distortion and emotional/passionate
vocalizing. Pryor has an uncanny ability to make seemingly simple lyrics cover several
layers of symbolic reference, mainly in the area of failed friends and lovers.
This shows clearly in 'Bad Liar' in the idea of letting bygones be bygones
and how an image of someone is not necessarily who they are:
'Let's call it off, let's take the memories and run /
I'll be the villain, the man with the smoking gun /
I guess this is goodbye So have a nice life /
See you at the replay lounge'.

Keeping true to Pryor's musical style, the feel of this album is a little downtrodden
but still mysteriously upbeat and optimistic as many of the songs have a real
'live off the floor' type sound, without excessive layering, making you feel
like the band had a hoot of a time recording this work. Probably the most
outstanding song to me, of Story Like A Scar, is 'A Small Crusade'. This work is
probably one of Pryor's most achieving and stretching, both musically
and lyrically (again, simplicity masking complexity) as you get the feel of
the songwriter wandering through fields, on a journey of many kinds, to
discover his true essence of self, away from the influences of
people and organized religion:
'You're always a pilgrim leading a small crusade to find the essential
not a missionary or a guidethe past is part of this to cast aside'.

Though I need to give this album a definite few more listens before I've
made up my mind, I think for all of Pryor's genius, the listener is somewhat
left hanging and wanting more. Sure, the reprise of 'Turn Out The Lights'
is fun and catchy like a gospel choir singing old school Jesus-by-the-river
hymns, but it's not enough to earmark the whole story that is, in fact, like
a scar. Plus, with only nine songs (ten if you count the reprise), one wonders
what was left on the cutting room floor and why we couldn't hear the 'whole'
story. 7/10

Sunday, July 16, 2006



Catchy. Pop-punk. Teenagers. The "Next Big British Band".

Normally, using those words to describe a band would make me

want to vomit into a plastic grocery bag. But in this case, The Arctic
Monkeys manage to make it all work.

I first heard about the Monkeys from a radio DJ who mentioned

them in passing. He hailed them as the next big thing to invade
the US from England, but in truth I gave the comments no
further thought.

However, one day while driving to work I heard a particular song

on the radio. It had all the elements of greatness- it was well
written lyrically, exceptionally clever actually, and it contained
enough edge to lay outside the lines of the black hole of pop music.

I knew it was the Monkeys before the station could confirm my

excitement. That night, I went and spent the 12 dollars to make the
Monkeys my own.

Now, let me be clear on something. This is not a 'home-run' album

by any stretch of the imagination. There are some tracks that
these guys certainly do sound like a bunch of teenagers whaling on
their guitars.

But Alex Turner manages to write his lyrics with a wisdom that is

well beyond his years. He is insightful and weaves his lyrics together
with clever storytelling and simple rhymes, which work together with
some undeniably great riffs.

Turner has some fun in the song "Mardy Bum", about a relationship gone bad.

now then Mardy Bum, i've seen your frown and it's like looking down
the barrel of a gun, and it goes off,
and out come all these words, oh there's a very pleasant side to you,
a side I much prefer

In "Riot Van" Turner tells his tale of a run in with the police, while in

"When the Sun Goes Down" he tells of prostitution in the streets of his

Turner and the Monkeys do sing about some heavy topics, but they

manage to tell the story in a light-hearted way, using their talents to
make their debut album more than worth the 12 bones it takes to pick it up.

Are the monkeys the next big thing to come out of England? To be

frank, I don't care, because it's summer and this album is fun, with tracks
to take us through the good times like "I bet you look good on the dance
floor" and "Red Light indicates doors are secured".

My suggestion? Pick the Arctic Monkeys debut album "Whatever You

Say I Am, That's What I'm Not", and throw it on while you're hanging out
with friends, or driving to work on a nice day. It'll make everything seem
a little easier.


Wednesday, July 12, 2006


Everytime a new Radiohead album comes out I get pumped up for the week before where I proceed to take out the right money from the bank for it, listen to the previous albums in order that week, and make sure I'm out front of the cd store as soon as it opens and rush in to buy it as soon as possible. I wouldn't say I'm a die hard Radiohead fan, (I've never seen them in concert, I don't own any t-shirts, I wouldn't drink Thom Yorkes urine) but I would definately say I'm in it for the music. I enjoy all their albums, and can't say I have a favourite or that any of them suck, which most may come to expect. But when I heard the vocal genius was doing a solo album, I got to feel the rush I haven't felt since Hail to the Theif.
The fact that Yorke doesn't play the irrational rock star game is part of the basis of the appeal. I knew this wouldn't be some crap attempt to go off on one's own to see if the rest of the band is the reason for one's success (*cough cough Beyonce, Billy Corgan [sorry Mat]), Edwin from I Mother Earth, the list goes on). And the brilliance of this album came at a great time. On the cusp of Radiohead's next release (for 2007) and this "blog" revolution.
Spin Magazine described it as a "blog with beats" which can totally relate as Yorke has his own blog to spill his beans in which his personal thoughts are relatable to Eraser.

"The more you try to erase me, the more that I appear/The more I try to erase you, the more that you appear."

So I definately recommend picking up this piece of art. It's Yorke's prog rock on a whole new level. It's short. It's sweet. It's brilliant.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Tuesday July 4/2006 (Happy birthday to America and my little brother Benjamin Keith Johnson)
Artist: David Bazan
Album/Concert: Fewer Moving Parts
Reviewer: AJ

For a long time now, David Bazan has been pushing the boundaries of thoughtful indie rock.

With his best-known project, Pedro the Lion, he won legions of fans both inside and out of the Christian community. That band developed from what seemed to be obviously spiritual beginnings, but the lines have blurred incredibly over 10 years and half a dozen albums, leaving many religious fans scratching their heads in wonder about the PTL enigma.

“I believe in God and the Bible and everything, but I ain’t no fucking Christian,” Bazan once said during a show at Toronto’s Horseshow Tavern, raising more than a few eyebrows among the mostly non-drinking, Christian crowd.

Then there was the Paperback side project, another album or two from Pedro, then the Headphones experiment that left guitars behind and focused on keyboards and vocals.

And now, Bazan has stripped it all down, releasing and touring on his new EP, Fewer
Moving Parts, as a solo, acoustic act.

I’m past being worried when Bazan takes a turn like this. There’s a quiet confidence among long-time fans that whatever he puts his hand to will somehow turn to gold.

FMP is no exception, Bazan proved during a Saturday night performance in Toronto.

Playing in a small church to a sit-down crowd, he played 90 minutes of new stuff mixed with standard favourites from PTL and Headphones, mixing in his now-famous Q and A sessions between songs, answering queries with an understated honesty that has become his trademark.

Control’s Priests and Paramedics and Indian Summer, Achilles Heel’s I Do, Transcontinental and The Devil is Beating His Wife, rounded out the new numbers, including Fewer Broken Pieces, Cold Beer and Cigarettes, Selling Advertising, How I Remember and Backwoods Nation.

When I first began listening to Pedro years ago, the apparently honest, genuine songwriting tricked me into thinking every song was somehow a personal exposition on Bazan’s life. I was a little disheartened to eventually learn that his trick is to put himself in the place of a character, try to get in their head, and write from that perspective.

Once I got over the disappointment I was, and still am, awed by his ability to do this so convincingly. I Do, which describes the regret of marriage and parenthood in an almost sinister fashion, is a perfect example of this.

When his tiny head emerged
from blood and folds of skin
I thought to myself
If he only knew, he would climb right back in

And that transitions to:

Now that my blushing bride has done what she was born to do
Its time to bury dreams and raise a son to live vicariously through
The sperm swims for the egg
The finger for the ring
If I could take one back
I know what it would be
I do, I do, I do.

Like much of the PTL songbook it’s dark and brooding and full of deep regret – but at the same time it’s poignant, beautiful and somehow almost holy. He once told me after a show that that song explores a moment of doubt, or regret, fear or uncertainty, that he and his wife have both felt at various points in their relationship. But it’s not a description of how he feels about his wife or daughter – whom he seems to love dearly.

However, if there’s a song on FMP that has autobiographical content, it has to be Fewer Broken Pieces.

The song explores the nature of maintaining control at all costs, being a disappointment to friends, being proud and hurting the people around you.

“Fewer moving parts mean fewer broken pieces
When every other start requires a brand new thesis.
One good friend remarks with a rightfully angry ‘Jesus dude, none of us know what to do with you.’
And I in my pride responded, ‘I’ve got news for you, none of you have to,’
‘Cus I still run the show, and don’t you forget it.
So I have to let some go. Don’t think I don’t regret it,
‘Cus I do, and I don’t, think I’m better off alone.

It’s easy to picture Tim Walsh, formerly of PTL, saying those words to Bazan, expressing frustration at the decision to put the band on hold, or maybe kill it all together, leaving a committed, contributing member and old friend to find another way to pay the bills.

The song must be an illustration of one of Bazan’s own weaknesses – a window into something he’s struggled with over the past year or two. I’m convinced of it. But then again, it’s a measure of his brilliance that even now, as I write these words, I know I just might be way off.

Like always, he’s keeping people guessing with a mixture of brutal honesty and creative momentum that makes him impossible to pigeonhole. And somehow in the midst of all that, the music just keeps getting better, and I can’t wait to see what’s next.

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