Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Pujol || United States of Being || Album Review 2012

I stumbled upon this artist completely by accident.  I had been meaning to buy something from Jack White's Third Man Records for quite some time now.  Finally I had a little extra cash come my way and I picked up the new Jack White, a single of his from the movie "It Might Get Loud" and I wanted to pick up a live record from the Live at Third Man series.  I randomly picked Pujol.  What an awesome experience hearing this 6 song live EP that they put out.  I immediately started to research this young artist who was kicking some live ass and taking names.  I noted that he had just released a new full length album.  I went to my local record store to pick up a copy.  I could not find it.  I went to the other local record store and thank the lord all mighty they had one copy of United States of Being.

Upon first listen my impression was that the live tracks had more intensity.  Way more intensity.  But I began to look deeper into the tunes.  Pujol is a poet.  There is no other word to describe what ink flows out of his pen.  The compilation of these songs are ones that come from the heart.  The word play is witty and the furthest thing from boring.  Songs today tend to be trite and redundant and just plain boring.  This description runs the gamut from emo love songs to hardcore punk rock to danceceterra rap music.  The same old thing that is pumped through our systems; hashed and rehashed up like an old sack of potatoes.  The closest thing that one may get to something that is real would be some of the modern folk artists (like Conor Oberst, et al..) or a an underground veteran for the last 25 yrs, like Jeff Tweedy.  Still, I like to rock.  Bright Eyes or Mumford and Sons don't rock.  Wilco may rock 20% of the time.  This new album by Pujol  plain and simply rocks.  It has a certain energy within it that makes me want to go out and see this band live.  I love that.  Now let's get down to dissecting a little bit of this album.  It is not all perfect but a worthy acquisition.

DIY2K- starts off the album.  It is an anthem.  It will get your toes tapping and your hands clapping.  It makes you want to sing a long.  But read along to the album with the lyrics because this songs lets you know what you are about to be in store for.  Mission From God- This song is where Pujol really rips apart his ribcage and shows you the soul buried deep inside.  It is just a brilliant number that has a toe tapping energy that makes me want to smile.  And isn't that what music and art is all about? Expression. Providence- I did not particularly care for this song on the first listen (which happened to be a live solo acoustic version I found on youtube).  But after several listens to the produced version on the album I see it comes to sit in the third position out of the gate.  It is really radio friendly.  A lot of this album (and especially his live recorded performances) has a raw garage rock, punk attitude feel about them. This can get airplay on mainline stations and probably could appeal to a more mainstream audience.  It is growing on me.  Keeper of Atlantis- Ah, an ode to Dad.  That is how this song comes screaming out of the gates at me.  A beautifully written nod to the lessons and stories handed down to one generation to the next.  And either you can relate to it or hate it.  Either way it is true emotion.  Made of Money- Irony.  Not my favorite track on the album, but catchy enough.  Endless Mike- Oh shit!  Now we are getting deep into the good stuff.  This song kicks ass.  The funny thing is that it totally threw me for a loop on the first listen.  See, it is the first cut on the live EP I purchased from Thirdman.  In other words, the live version was my full and uninvited introduction  into Pujol.  It blew my mind.  I'd buy that record all over again for that track alone. -This one is slowed down, more melodically driven and well produced that only adds to the emotion of the song.  As Endless Mike led off the heart of the line next up comes probably my favorite song on the album, Reverse Vampire.  Such a great chanting tune with remarkable musicianship put on by all musicians.  But the what makes this catchy little tune particulary good is the poetry that has been turned into lyrics.  It starts off:
 When I look around
And what I see is not the best
But it's good enough for me
right here right now
I guess
It's sort of boring
I got a million ways
To occupy my mind
And waste my time
Then the toms come in strong and the second verse starts and it is just plain brilliant.  The production of the song has a great building effect.  So good!  The bridge is just the right length and the simplisty make it very approachable by most music fans.  I cannot say enough positive things about this tune on United States of Being....until you hear the acoustic version of just Daniel and his beat up six string playing this to a handful of fans in an office environment (see below).  One thing comes to mind; I think Bob Dylan would approve.  Niceness-This song did not strike a chord with my right away.  Probably due to the fact that it is sandwiched in between two of my favorites on the album.  I gave it several listens in a row to really get a good sense of what it is all about.  First off, it is an ode to Untitledpositivity.  A chant. An anthemn to keeping a smile on your face.  I like the birds a tweetin' at the beginning however, the stuttered drum entrance into music is not pleasing to the song.  Don't know why.  Maybe it just doesn't agree with me.  This song is probably insanely awesome live due to the powerful nature of the chant associated with strong drums and power chords.  Black Rabbit-This would be considered the "single" on the album.  It was the first studio produced number that I heard due to my youtube search and this official music video came up (great video! Is it directed by the Stewart Copeland?  See below).  This song like so many others on this album just has a wonderful rhythmic pulse to it.  The beginning stabs and opening howl get you going in the right direction, then pure garage pop genius follows.  I can easily listen to this song over and over and over again.  It should be a pre-requisite for all struggling artist on how to right a good song.  Each And Every Day-  Tonally this song begins and Dinosaur Jr. come to mind.  A little "Feel the Pain" but the pain only lasts moments  as the vocals kick in and a newborn man with a highness for life begins to go on a mantra about life.  It is a good tune however I see why it is buried in the back of the album.  Pujol is still a young artist and coming out of the gates with such strong numbers beforehand it is really tough to top it.  This is a filler.  A filler that gets bonus points for the solid clap tracks strategically placed in the tune.  Dark Knight in Shining Armor- Did the kid like DC Comics way back when.  Again another album filler.  Not too bad but it was smart of them to make this and the song before it short.  Psychic Pain-  Not much to say about the last song on the album.  More of a ballad.  I always like big strong endings on Albums, but for marketing purposes this is probably a smart choice.  One of the best parts of this song is the nice Tenessian draw you can hear while Pujol pronounce "pain".  It's cute, but I always like to end on a high note.  Speaking about that, not too sure of the minute dribble at the end.  An album that comes out of the gates soooo strong deserves more.

Either way, Please come west.  I am 100% positive that the live Pujol show will be worth the price of admission and merit this artist a long and successful career.

Black Rabbit Official Music Video directed by Steward Copeland

Reverse Vampire Acoustic Version----> Who is Ben Todd?????

The United States of being is Daniel Pujol's decree to the listening world.  At this time in his life and maybe for all of enternity, it is what he believes much he had the instructions tattooed onto his rib cage and proudly posted it as the album cover for all the world to see.

Monday, March 5, 2012

The Pack A.D. || March 2, 2012 || The Rickshaw Stop -SF, CA

I am a man who loves women.  It's true, I do.  And, to a guitar player, there could be no better site than that of woman who can rock like nobodies business.  Looking past of my decree; The Pack A.D. concert last Friday night was a demonstration about the passion to not give a shit, go up on stage and play your brains out.  And that is exactly what The Pack A.D. did to a meager crowd at the hipster "no-name on the door" Rickshaw Stop.  They didn't even headline the show, a fellow Canadian band, Elliot Brood took the headlining honors.  Brood was good, but damn, it must be hard going onstage after a dynamite infused set that the ladies, Becky and Maya,  tore through.  They are living proof that if you practice real hard, you'll look like you know what you are doing.  They keep it real simple (unlike the opener Mwahaha who need to learn how to use their pedals before hitting the stage) and go for the classic formula of over-driven blues inspired rock and roll.  But it is the attitude that really sets them far apart from any other young band I have seen in some time.  It is like they have taken Mike Damone's 3rd rule in his "Five Point Plan" and they have mastered it.  I am really pleased to have seen them in such a venue, because I believe the next time it will be across town at The Fillmore.  And I will gladly shell out triple the cash and enjoy every minute of it.

Technical notes:
I figured that since I was able to get so close I might as well spew out Becky's rig setup as best as my memory can serve me.  She played at LTD carved top guitar with two humbuckers.  She played two amps, 1) '68 bassman amp through a newer Fender 2x12 Cabinet and a Marshall JCM900 through a Mesa 4x12 Cabinet.  She was masterful at switching between the two amps for effect.  As pedals go I believe she used a Boss SD-1 Overdrive and a Crybaby wah.  She also played a bolt-on hollowbody neck Aria guitar tuned open for one slide song.  I wish there was another one!

Top photo courtesy of Bagelradio and bottom two courtesy of Pat.

Here is the video I took:

Monday, January 23, 2012

Dreaming || 1984 Designer Series Gibson Flying V || Old Guitars

In september of 1984 I was a 12 year old kid taking a huge bite out of the guitar licks bellowing from the Scorpions newly released album, "Love at First Sting".  The dueling solos between Mattias Jabs and Rudolph Schenker filled my young head with dreams of someday being on stage wielding an axe nearly as cool as these guys.  I loved Matthias' explorer, but oh that flying V was the real dream.  Ever since I saw it sketched on Dave Fedorenko's book cover in math class the love affair began.

However years, responsibility, boredom, etc. got in the way and it took me until 2006 to finally think about getting a band together.  The Booty Chesterfield Trio played the circuit for several years.  My main axe at the beginning was a 1982 Smith Stratocaster by Fender.  It is still a sweet guitar, but not much of an attention grabber.  Around the end of 2009 I saw The Gillbillies play for the first time.  The first thing that struck me about these cats was how bad ass Jimbo was for rocking a Flying V.  The flame of my old (and almost forgotten) love was reignited.  I wanted to be like Jimbo.  I wanted to rock a Flying V.  But not just any V would do.  If there is one thing that I learned from The Gillbillies is that you have to have a different, unique approach.  So I wasn't just going to find an "off the shelf" V; I wanted something with style.

Months went by.  Then in February of 2010 I saw this beauty rear its ugly head on good old Craigslist.  A 1984 Designer Series Gibson Flying V.  I had to have it.  Plus, I thought it was a heck of a deal.  My main reason for acquiring it was kind of as a joke, i.e. to live out a childhood fantasy of rocking a Flying V on stage.  Then I got my hands on it....

I got it off some kid in N. San Jose's Japantown.  It was in decent shape.  At one time it had stickers all over it that had been removed still the clear coat has aged at different times.  The pickups had been switched out a long while back to Seymour Duncans.  There were no breaks or major chips and the neck felt good.  There were two missing volume knobs and a cracked tone knob.  After a quick test run I quickly paid the chap his cash and headed home for a true test drive.

The first thing I noticed was how good the pickups sounded.  I had a Classic Les Paul before with 500t & 496r pickups in it and it sounded like golden ringing compared to my LP (which I soon traded away).  The neck also was super fast and played awesome.  I replaced the volume and tone knobs with some old jaguar ones and we were off to the races.  I played this guitar as my main stage axe for all of 2009 and pretty much all of the rest of the Booty Chesterfield Trio shows.  I don't ever plan on selling this bad boy.  Too cool for school, plus it has a little bit of my childhood metal roots embedded within those licks it puts out.  Enjoy the pictures.

And here are a couple of videos of the V in action:

Live shots are courtesy of Ian Healy & Murray Bowles

Monday, January 16, 2012

Human Race 1, Pinks 0 || Thank you Joseph Izzo, Jr || Oct. 21, 1950 - Jan. 5, 2012

Strike it up as a victory for all mankind.  Joe Izzo walked this earth and left an indelible mark that will stay with me and I am sure many others for all of our entire lives.  He was a true individual that saw the world in a unique perspective and passed that view unto others.  It's known as being a teacher who is also an artist.  He was one that could surprise the hell out of you, still if you had the opportunity to hang out with him more and more, one began to crave the surprise.  You never were really quite sure what you were going to get but that was the true beauty behind Joe.  Let me tell you how Joe and I came about to be friends.

The first time I met Joe was at a dinner party at my venerable Uncle Craig's house around 1995.  Him and his lovely wife Lisa were in attendance and the first thing that struck me about Joe was not him, but Lisa.  She had brought her Banjo and strummed it along to passing guitar chords assisted by my uncle all the time singing  protest songs that she learned many years before while marching with Cesar Chavez for immigrant worker rights.  This fascinated me.  The look on Joe's face was pride mixed in with some subtle concern.  Who were these people?  My freshly marked "educated" brain was just entering the work-a-day world and interesting people have always perked my curiosity.  Joe and Lisa fit this mold.

Our next occasion for really hanging out came to be known as "Tuesday's with Izzo" between me and my uncle.  At 6am I would wake up and out in front of my little apartment in Los Gatos would be the surf sled with Joe behind the wheel and Craig riding shot-gun there to pick me up.  Always a smile glued to both of their faces.  We were going surfing.  I always sat in back and they would usually just ramble on about anything that was on either of their minds.  We'd roll up to the point, suit up and jump off the mothership and paddle out into the deep blue spacious swells generated by mother nature.  Such a good way to start your day.  Joe and I would usually do most of our talking out in the ocean waiting for sets.  This is where I learned about the legend of J.J. Moon.  Joe turns to me one morning amongst chit-chat and says, "Chad, you wanna know why I love surfing so much?  Because just like J.J. Moon said, if they want you, they gotta come out and get you."  Surfing is a time where we could really leave all of the worlds problems on the shoreline and just focus on living.

The most memorable car ride to go surfing can easily be pinpointed out as the time where I learned about the Mai Tai.  We were headed to Santa Cruz early one morning. For some reason, be it possibly the kentucky derby, Joe was discussing Mint Julip's with my uncle and the topic quickly changed to a Mai Tai.  I woke up from the back seat blurted out how I had never had a Mai Tai.  Joe turned his whole body squarely facing me all the while still behind the wheel on the 17 and said, "You have never had a Mai Tai?  Well, we're going to fix that!"  A plan was quickly hatched about how we were all going to review the Thai restaurant around the corner from my apartment.  When the evening arrived so did Mr. Izzo with a box of ingredients.  He showed me exact instructions of a personalized recipe all his own, then left the box of delictable juices and told me to practice.  Which I did.  And from that spawned the annual Mai Tai parties.  I had to pass on this great treat.  And I still do.

Another thing that I learned about Joe was the true beauty behind a good meal.  The guy was a food critic.  A job he took seriously.  It may have been the passion in his soul that made it so much fun.  Whatever it was, it was always a good time meeting him out at a restaurant and reviewing it for the benefit of others.  Though it was I who lucked out the most.  I gave my input on many a review but, easily, the funnest was when Joe, Birk McCandless and myself all went to Michi Sushi for a review.  See, this was a favor.  I had a good friend, Randy, who had just started as a sushi chef and was really doing some good work behind the bar.  Joe said, "Let's review it!"  We went down there one evening and sat in the tatime room and were treated like royalty.  We ate until our hearts were content, drank with the owner and were rewarded with shirts for our good behavior.  Laughs, gags and giggles were exclimated through the night.  I don't believe I have ever eaten sushi like that before.  Needless to say the review was glowing.

How Joe and I really grew close was through writing.  As many of you know, Joe always loved a good rant and was always prepared with one (or ten) in his back pocket ready to light up at a moments notice.  When we first started surfing together an email relationship developed.  Joe and I would exchange thoughts, ideas, concepts back and forth, but the real bread and butter were the rants.  I still have many of these emails, because I hold them dear to my heart.  Here is a little sampling of the goods that Joe would spew out:

  "I heard that you and the Friar were making music on
Sunday. I cannot reveal my source for this person
remains underground and lost to common hearing
devices. This could be good, or not, depending on what
preceded the session. I expect a full report on all
activities. so does Bob, and your parole officer, who,
by the way, is becoming very suspicious of all
activities in and around your domicile. Friar Leiker
is under the closest scrutiny for his continued
transgressions against the color pink. You could be
soon, but so far, have avoided coming under the eye of
the dead fish." 

They were true rants & uniquely Joe.  I loved them.  Joe was a storyteller.  He encourage that in others.  He was one of the first persons that heard me play an original tune on the guitar and fell over backwards letting me know that I need to "keep it up."  He was a teacher that could light a fire of encouragement to anyone that needed it.  In the end he really encouraged himself.  Which in my opinion is living.  He did this by following through on a life long dream of writing, editing & producing an entire feature length movie with some friends.  This kept his mind focused and his soul going.

Uncle Louie was a gift to all of us.  Probably three or four edited versions into the movie is when what I realized that Joe was giving us all a gift of Joe.  It is filmed at his house, in his town.  We journey with him to some of his favorite spots.  We see his cars and his friends and his family.  We hear his stories and experiences.  And if you look really close, you even see a cameo.  This is a true gift to anyone who wants to know Joe better.  Upon discovering this, I balled like a baby in the middle of my living room.  I had discovered what he had done and I was overcome with happiness.  It truly is a beautiful thing.  And to be a part of it was a real treat.
The Majestic Scribes

The past 365 days were special.  We knew by now that he wasn't going to get any better.  Joe knew it too and preached it.  But he would keep on living.  He got heavy into his Mandala's and I cherished our weekday walks for coffee with my daughter, Makenzie.  We would shoot the bull and talk about all the great art and aspects of life out there.  The trip to Buffalo, New York was the best.  I got to see him with his other comrades, the majestic scribes, in which I proudly became their chauffer.  Oh the anitcs!  They're all individuals that spawned a commmon bond of looking out at that world in a unique way, all the while giving a polite bird to all that were dressed in the color "Pink".  This not only let me grow closer to Joe, but the other majestic scribes, Joe Mangelli and R. Allen Russell.

The last time I saw Joe was on December 20, 2011.  Two weeks before his journey into the great beyond.  He was still trying to work hard on his new screenplay, Peter Knorll.  I kept encouraging him (and myself) by asking to get a copy of the script.  I told him that I was going to take a first pass at writing some tunes for his new movie.  On that day I delivered him a 5 song CD that were the first demo's for the new movie.  I figured it was what I could do to show that I was still 100% behind him and his new project even though we all knew that his walk from this earth was near.  To quote Joe upon receiving the CD he said, "Chad , you do not know what this does to me.  This is like a shot of adreline straight into my arm."  It was the least I could do.  Along with that he asked for one more favor.  I told him the story about my prior visit talking with his wife Lisa upon leaving.  She told me about how her Dad used to play the ukulele and she had always wanted to learn.  Joe asked if I could get Lisa a Ukulele.  I did.  And I dropped it off on their doorstep Christmas eve.

Joe will never be forgotten.  He was a catalyst of a higher power whom walked this earth with the one intention to make people better people.  Who could not love a guy like that?

A morning walk with Joe

In Buffalo, April 2011

Joe & the writer, April 2011 - Buffalo, NY

Friday, January 6, 2012

Grenadine as life.....

Do you ever think of yourself as the grenadine in the infamous concoction entitled the Mai Tai-? 
I do. 
No matter when you are put into the arena of the barreled glass, you slowly but surely sink to the bottom. 
As your soul filters through the layers of premium juices, you gasp, trying to take in their promised enjoyment.  However, to no avail, you sink past the opportunity. 
Finally resting on the bottom of the barreled glass. 
Here, it is your turn to wait, suffering the tortures of some other rum dum at the opposite end of where you lie, enjoying the premium juices. 
Taking them all in as his head gets lighter and lighter with thought and surely fills with slack.
You watch this process, gulp by gulp, at the bottom of the glass. 
However you are not stagnant in this procedure. 
As the surrounding air temperature heats up the glass, the cold chill of the ice cubes gradually melt diluting your existence. 
You are the last to go. 
As half your soul gets swallowed, the other half usually gets dumped down the drain taking place amongst a pineapple core and stems of the eaten maraschino cherries. 
You are now utterly worthless as someone else has drained your slack.

                                                             -Written in an email to Joe Izzo, January 17, 2001