Category Archives: 90’s

Book Review: Jason Molina: Riding with the Ghost – Erin Osmon

For those who know the name Jason Molina, there is a certain unspoken agreement that his talents were plucked from his adoring fans far too soon.

As many know, he was a musical genius who succumbed to an addiction he could never overcome and in turn put down his guitar and great talent in order to hold on to a bottle.

I call myself a fan, but a Molina novice at best.  I openly admit that I am one of those late fans who never got to see him play live and grew to appreciate his entire catalog after his passing.  I can not say I have ever quite heard music like what Molina created.

I didn’t know the whole story of a man who got his start less than an hour from where I live.  I knew he was with Secretly Canadian and knew how he passed, but I knew nothing in between.

It only seems fitting to have someone collect all the memories, both good and bad, and put them into a book for all inquiring minds like mine.  This biography, to be released by Rowman & Littlefield on May 15th, was full of memories and folklore about a mysterious individual who took his music far past any boundaries ever set prior and in doing so did it his way.

Jason Molina: Riding with the Ghost, written by Erin Osmon, pretty much answered questions about Molnia’s life that some of me never wanted to know.  From tales of his youth in a trailer park Lorain, OH to memories in recording studios and overseas, this family-authorized book really covered it all.

Family, friends, bandmates, and even tourmates all provided insight to the life of Molina.  Where most of the book spoke on Molina’s journeys from Songs: Ohia to Magnolia Electric Company and even his solo work and impromptu sessions, the book also brought to light family tensions, failed relationships, depression, and of course the demise of greatness.

Molina’s college days and the years shortly after were probably my favorite recollections to read.  Obviously, the toughest parts to read were about his separation from his wife and an attempt at recovery through bandmates and the very label he helped get their start.

It was interesting to learn how Molina formulated his albums in homes and studios alone and with others.  I was also fascinated learning about his life outside of the music including living conditions and places of employment.

Reading how Molina got material released by Secretly Canadian seemed like something that would have happened in a comedy movie, but it was all true.  He was the stepping stone of a label that may not have gotten their start had they never connected.

Molina’s humor style as told by others made me laugh more than once.  His approach with his bands though seemed rather repressed at times, especially when he would up and leave without communicating properly to those involved.

The book obviously was not all fun and games.  Reading about uncomfortable obsessions and how they were put to song made me realize the inventiveness Molina’s mysterious mind carried.  The self-sabotaging of a musical career as told in detail, really opened my eyes and held my interest to the point I couldn’t put down the book.  The marriage that never ended in divorce was painful to absorb but the love that remained was inspiring.

The last few chapters were very difficult for me to read as I lost an uncle to alcoholism earlier this year.  The stories of the support Molina received by loved ones and all of the chances given to him that were eventually passed upon just reminded me of what addiction can do to someone.  Reading about the deterioration of a proud man who kept too many secrets just hit too close to home for me.

Overall, the book carried a life-spanning account of a musician from his young days on Lake Erie to his final days secluded in a room slowly drowning his life away.  The emotions were really felt through this book from those who were stunned at his approach to making music to finding out their friend was no more.

My only small distress with this book is at times it seemed the author had a synonym book handy that was used frequently.  Perhaps it was I, the reader, who needs to dip deeper in to a more prolific writing style, but in the first chapter alone, Molina’s father was referenced as a “patriarch” and the term “spinning platters” was used over playing records.

Eventually I was able to get in tune with Osmon’s style, but there were times I just felt some of the vocabulary used was just too much and interfered with the story-telling.  One thing Osmon did well was put all of the memories and stories together in a chronological order making it easy to set down the book and pick it up again without losing your spot.

The copy that I read was not the final copy but one provided to me early on my the publisher, so there is a chance things will be changed.  I will tell you this, the chapters at times were long, but they were read through quickly as the memories were so well put together.

Fans of Molina will appreciate this book due to all of the content Osmon was able to hunt down over the span of three years.  There were so many angles of Molina’s life put down in this book and I am sure it was not easy for Osmon to capture it all, yet she did it well.

As an added bonus to die-hard Molina fans, Secretly Canadian is releasing a limited-edition bundle of the book with a LP pressing of a 1994 Jason Molina WOBC radio session at Oberlin College.  Where I failed to pre-order my copy in time before it sold out, I did get to listen to the performance and I can tell you it is beautiful and will haunt you, but not in a scary way.  Molina even back in 1994 was so laid back and happy to be sharing his songs with others.  Personally speaking, I think had I heard that session live back then on the radio, I would have been a changed man.

Jason Molina: Riding with the Ghost is available for pre-order through Rowman & Littlefield, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Target, and other fine retailers.

Album Review: Me First and the Gimme Gimmes – Rake It In: The Greatestest Hits

A few weeks back, I found a photo of myself from when I was working in shipping and receiving at some internet company.

I was about 21 years old at the time and looked ever so thrilled in the picture.  The photo showed me working hard while I rocked a backwards hat as well as a Me First and the Gimme Gimmes shirt, a shirt that I basically wore in the late 90s until it fell apart.  That was almost 20 years ago.

Where am I going with this you ask?

Well, clearly I was a fan back then, and I still am today.  Ever since I heard the Gimmes play “Country Roads” on a Fat Wreck comp, I fell in love.  There was just something so appealing about hearing a song my parents listened to in the 70s altered to my standards.

For those of you who live under a rock, Me First and the Gimme Gimmes consist of Joey Cape, Chris Shiflett, Dave Raun, some guy who calls himself Fat Mike, and good ol’ Spike Slawson.  They have been taking overplayed and classic tunes and covering them the only way they know how to.  The result is catchy, likable, and just downright fun.  i should probably add that they have been doing this since 1995.

Over the years, they have tackled adult contemporary, Motown, show tunes, country, and even Japanese pop songs just to name off a few genres.  I guess you could say they are not the gimmicky type.  Hell, they have 7 studio albums under their belts released on Fat Wreck Chords.  Clearly they are pretty damn important in the punk cover band scene.

To showcase their accomplishments (and squeeze you out of your hard earned cheddar), they are about to drop a greatest hits album on April 7th full of renditions of songs cleverly titled Rake It In: The Greatestest Hits.

Featuring 17 memorable covers, the Gimmes threw together the best of the best for all to hear in one collective listen.  I am sure it was tough for the Gimmes to pick the right songs for this “greatestest” hits album, but I think they did a pretty good job.

Starting with Bob Dylan’s “The Times They Are A-Changin'”, the album spans the Gimme’s eclectic taste in covers.  It was great to hear “Straight Up” and “Jolene” and of course “I Believe I Can Fly”.

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t stoked to hear “Desperado” as well as “End of the Road”.  I adore the Gimme’s take on these two originally over-played-as-hell songs.

As an added bonus, a few non-album tracks that I have not heard in a long time appeared.  “City of New Orleans” off of Willie, a Fat Mail Order limited edition EP, was an excellent surprise to hear.  The Del Shannon classic “Hats Off to Larry”, originally on the Live Fat, Die Young: Fat Music Vol. V, was the other.

The one track missing that I felt should have been on this greatest hits was the Gimme’s version of “Rocket Man” by Sir Elton John.  Luckily, I have Have A Ball in my collection and can listen to it whenever I please, but for those out there that are just discovering this punk rock cover band, that is one song I know they would enjoy.

To be honest, I was really hoping for the band to have a new album full of covers, but I will take this “greatestest” hits release over nothing.  I hope one day they decide to cover 90s hip hop songs in the key of punk rock, I seriously think that would be amazing and I know they could pull it off.

What I’m trying to say is simple:  Long live the Gimmes.  They are the best cover band of my time.

In support of this release, Me First are touring and have been since February.  I can not even tell you the last time I have seen these guys tour, so make sure you go see them live.  It is going to be an all out blast.  Give them your money.  All of it.  Being in a cover band can’t pay that much, can it?

Tour Dates:

04/11/17 Pittsburgh, PA at The Rex *
04/12/17 Cleveland, OH at House of Blues *
04/13/17 Chicago, IL at Concord *
04/14/17 Detroit, MI at Majestic *
04/15/17 Toronto, ON Canada at Phoenix Theatre *
04/16/17 Montreal, QC Canada at Club Soda *
04/19/17 Boston, MA at Royale *
04/20/17 Philadelphia, PA at Union Transfer *
04/21/17 Baltimore, MD at Baltimore Soundstage *
04/22/17 Asbury Park, NJ at Stone Pony *
04/23/17 New York City, NY at Webster Hall *
05/02/17 Portland, OR at Wonder Ballroom ^
05/03/17 Vancouver, BC Canada at Commodore ^
05/04/17 Seattle, WA at Showbox ^
05/05/17 Boise, ID at The Olympic ^
05/06/17 Salt Lake City, UT at The Depot ^
05/07/17 Denver, CO at Summit Music Hall ^
05/10/17 Scottsdale, AZ at Pub Rock ^
05/11/17 San Diego, CA at House of Blues ^
05/12/17 Santa Ana, CA at The Observatory ^
05/13/17 Los Angeles, CA at The Fonda ^
05/14/17 Berkeley, CA at The UC Theatre ^
05/27/17 Las Vegas, NV at Punk Rock Bowling
06/09/17 Interlaken, Switzerland at Greenfield Festival
06/11/17 Milano, Italy at Carroponte w/ Descendents *
06/14/17 Attnang-Puchheim, Austria at EQUALITY Festival
06/15/17 Nickelsdorf , Austria at Nova Rock Festival
06/16/17 Bischofsmais, Germany at Rock The Hill
06/17/17 Bischofsmais, Germany at Rock The Hill
06/23/17 Neuhausen ob Eck, Germany at Southside Festival
06/23/17 Scheessel, Germany at Hurricane Festival
06/24/17 Neuhausen ob Eck, Germany at Southside Festival
06/24/17 Scheessel, Germany at Hurricane Festival
06/25/17 Scheessel, Germany at Hurricane Festival
06/25/17 Neuhausen ob Eck, Germany at Southside Festival
07/01/17 Würzburg/Giebelstadt , Germany at Flugplatz Mission Ready Festival

* = w/ PEARS & MASKED INTRUDER
^ = w/ Together Pangea

Album Review: Mike Watt – “Ring Spiel” Tour ’95

"ring spiel" tour '95It seems like 1995 was forever ago.  I was fresh out of high school and naive to the world.  There were no smart phones with cameras on them, no Facebook statuses, and people actually talked to one another in the same room.  Times were different that’s for sure, and the music scene back then was amazing.

When I heard that Legacy Recordings and Mike Watt decided to release a live show from 1995, I told myself that I just had to check it out.  Having been a young fan of Watt in Minutemen and fIREHOSE in the 90s, I became a bigger fan of him in ’95 when he released Ball-hog or Tugboat?, his debut solo album full of special guests including J. Mascis, Adam Horovitz, Dave Grohl, and Henry Rollins just to name a few.  Hell, I still have the double LP promo that Mike from Disc Den gave me when he heard how much I loved the album.

In support of that new release, Watt hit the road with Hovercraft and the barely known then Foo Fighters (lead by Grohl who apparently was touring for the first time since Kurt Cobain’s death).  He formed quite the impressive backing band for this tour to accompany him consisting of Eddie Vedder (Pearl Jam), Dave Grohl (Nirvana / Foo Fighters), Pat Smear (the Germs), and William Goldsmith (Sunny Day Real Estate / Foo Fighters).  This was a once in a lifetime tour and can finally be heard on “ring spiel” tour ’95.

[Side note: I actually caught Watt live in the summer of ’95 when he opened up for Primus at Nautica in Cleveland.  I do not recall him having any of the heavy-hitting musicians as his backup band there, but I still have a scar on my left thumb due to someone’s Dr. Martins making contact to a barrier with my thumb in the way.  Concert war wounds are the best.]

Recorded live at The Metro in Chicago on May 6th, 1995, Watt’s live show was beyond amazing to listen to and brought me back 20 years to my youth.  One could only imagine being at the Metro in person seeing the energy that came from Watt and his special crew taking turns playing behind the legendary bassist.

Having never heard about this live show before, it was insane to hear Watt start the set off with a Daniel Johnston cover of “Walking The Cow”.  As someone who has found appreciation in Johnson material over the last 10 years, I know I probably would have been clueless about this track had I seen it played in front of me at this show.

It only made sense for Watt to play his rendition of Chip and Tony Kinman’s (Rank & File) “Big Train” seeing how it was the first single off of Ball-Hog.  At first, the crowd really did not seem into it, but that soon changed.

“Against the 70s” was a straight up jam with Watt and Vedder singing hard.  Perhaps more toned down on Vedder’s part over the studio version, I actually liked this live version better.

“Drove Up from Pedro” deserves to be heard especially if you were too young too have seen a show in the 90s.  This track alone brought back so many memories and it was all in thanks to the crowd.  They absorbed the sounds when needed, and then just belted out their approval.

After playing fIREHOSE’s “Makin’ the Freeway”, Watt took a moment to ask the crown to chill out on the crowdsurfing by saying: “You like those people rolling all over your heads?  Why don’t we give it a break.”  Classic.

“Forever…One Reporter’s Opinion” had Pat Smear offering vocals alongside Watt.  The song was just nuts and you could feel the venue explode at the end.

The cover of Blue Oyster Cult’s “The Red and The Black” was one of the best songs I heard on this set.  I loved his take on the song , especially the ending.

Another excellent cover was of a Madonna song, “Secret Garden”.  The best part was that just hearing Smear sing.  Was this a joke?  I think only the performers will know.  Regardless of their intentions, it was a fun listen.

fIREHOSE’s “Powerful Hankerin'” ended the show with just Watt on stage doing what he does best.  The solo playing was perfect for closing out an amazing show.  The crowd approved and so did this listener the moment after a humbled Watt said thank you and left the stage.

If you were a kid of the 90s who hit up all the cool underground shows, this album really deserves to be in your collection.  If you are someone who just likes to listen to live rock and roll, it doesn’t get any better than this.  I just with there was a full video to accompany this performance.

At least there is this:

As I was trying to search for more info on Watt’s ’95 tour, I found an online journal called “Clam Blow” Tour.  There was a pretty cool read from Watt and band mates in Cleveland.  They talked about playing Repeat The Beat Records in Brooklyn, OH.  How I missed that back then, I will never know.  Apparently CBS was even there covering the performance.  Read the entries from 7/28 and 7/29.

“ring spiel” tour ‘ 95 is available online on CD and LP as well as at your favorite local music shop.  It’s also on digital music streaming sites like Apple and Spotify.

Album Review: Blink 182 – California

Blink 182 - CaliforniaIt’s pretty crazy to me that Blink 182 still exists.  Don’t get me wrong, I have been a fan since the 90s when they were just some unknown pop-punkers.  After all they have been through, all of the fame, all of the drama, and most of all the departure of one Tom DeLonge, wouldn’t you think the band would just call it quits for good already?

Perhaps in a fit of spite, Mark Hoppus and Travis Barker continued on and invited Alkaline Trio‘s Matt Skiba to take on vocal/guitar duties for a reunion show of sorts.  I remember thinking “how bad ass would that be if Skiba just joined them and they put out a new album?”  I know I was not the only one who thought that either.

Shortly after, it was confirmed Skiba had joined Blink and they were recording a new album.  Now here I am about to throw some words and whatnot into a review for it.  Perhaps a little delayed, but here it is.

Time for a story about me.  Feel free to skip over…

The lyrics “nobody likes you when you’re 23” will always have special meaning in my mind for the rest of my life.  Any Blink fan knows what song those lyrics come from.  The year that song came out, an immature me swore the song was about my own experiences in a sense as I worked hard to get through a tough year thanks to an ex-psycho girlfriend and my own bad decision-making.

What I am trying to get at is simple, I was a Blink fan back then.  “Dammit” was one of my go to songs, I loved Dude Ranch and Cheshire Cat.  I remember even seeing Blink live at Blossom with Bad Religion opening for the Enema of the State tour.  That was the show Barker missed as he broke his hand punching some a-hole at the Taco Bell my cousin was working at in Akron.  Good times.

A few years later thanks to an old friend, I scored a front row ticket to see them again at Blossom with No Doubt.  Both shows were amazing.

As the years passed, more Blink albums came out, Angels & Airwaves, Boxcar Racer, Transplants, and other side projects emerged, and Blink slowly moved out of my continual rotation of daily tunes.  It happens folks, you know exactly what I am talking about.  I got bored with them.

Blink-182A certain Blink flame was re-ignited inside of me the day I heard Skiba was going to be on their new album.  I remember hearing the first single off the new album, I was stoked.  I still am stoked.  So pardon my fandom and honestly on this post, these are my favorite reviews to do, the ones that I am legit excited to write on.

California is Blink 182’s seventh full-length release.  Currently consisting of Hoppus, Barker, and the recent addition of Skiba (Alkaline Trio), who replaced Tom DeLonge.  Blink 182 has been around since the early 90s and moved from a silly pop-punk band on underground labels, to a heavy-hitting act selling out stages all over the world.

When I listened to California the first time, my initial thought was that there was a lot of filler songs on the album.  Long gone are the days of bands putting out albums with 16 tracks.  After listening to the album over and over, that thought went away.

Opening track “Cynical” reminded me of past Blink material, at least the start did.  Barker’s over the top drumming helped speed up the song and Skiba’s introductory backup singing proved this was not going to be the same Blink at all and not in a bad way.

“Bored To Death” has already taken over the radio stations.  The beginning had an “Adam’s Song” similarity to it, but not enough to discourage.  When the band jumps in together at the chorus, it pretty much blew me away.  I know in time I am going to get sick of this song in time as it will be played over and over, but until that happens, I am going to enjoy the hell out of it.  The video for the song cracked me up too, but only because I have reached old man status and remember feeling invincible once.

“She’s Out of Her Mind” will probably take responsibility for the younger generation to have a sudden interest in Bauhaus.  Aside from that, this catchy song really planted a positive reminder that you should be yourself and not care about what others think.

“Los Angeles” was more of a rock masterpiece than a pop-punk track.  I would not be shocked if this track alone brings in new fans of all ages.  Hoppus and Skiba trading vocals and howls throughout was just perfect.

A more realistic “Sober” sang a story about substance-abused-rough-times in relationships and carried a level of honesty throughout.  It was easy to compare my own bad decisions from my past in this track and also recall the apologetic resolutions.  This song grew on me the more and more I listened to it.  I loved the lyric “I’m a dandelion, you’re a four-leafed clover.”

The quick “Built This Pool” was about as crass as the band got on this album.  Seeing how raw they used to be, I am glad they have not completely thrown away their comical ideals.  Personally speaking, I really was hoping for a lot more of their humor throughout.

Skiba just killed it on “No Future”.  This track was the song that had me smiling ear to ear knowing that Skiba was the perfect fit for the redesigned Blink.  Hoppus and Skiba compliment the hell out of one another on this track.  This dreary track which seemingly sounded like a humble departure, was one of the more catchier ones on the entire album for me.

“Kings of the Weekend” was one of the tracks I felt was more of a filler track at first, but the more I listened to it, the more I enjoyed it.  This is everything a Blink fan could want in a Blink song.  Not to mention the different singing styles keep things interesting.

I feel like I can say there is a lot I can say about”San Diego” as it really reminded me of the good times, but I won’t.  I will just say it has grown on me a lot and I know the younger generation is going to eat this song up.

“Brohemian Rhapsody” was lame until I saw this:

Then it was hilarious…

All in all, California is an exceptional release.  I can admit that I have not been a fan of Blink’s last few releases, but this one hits all the high marks in my mind.  Initially I told myself and others that I only liked about 70% of the album, but the more and more I listen to it, the more I am digging it.

Perhaps my liking of California is because Skiba is on board now and I’ve been a AK3 fan for as long as I can remember, but I wish nothing but the best for Blink 182 and love seeing them at the top of the music world again.  I seriously hope they continue and can not wait to see what they come up with next.

Album Review: Face To Face – Protection

954_cover_450I am getting to that time in my life where the bands I grew up with and adored are hitting those milestones that make you realize how fast time is moving.

Face To Face have been around for 25 years now.  Seriously?  25 years already???

It certainly does not feel that long, but they did form in 1991, so it makes sense.  This So Cal punk rock band has been a favorite of mine since the mid-nineties and still are to this day.

So, how do you celebrate two and a half decades of being a band?  You release an album with help from an old friend.

Today, Face To Face dropped Protection on Fat Wreck Chords.  Without even breaking down the album yet, I need to tell you that this album is killer and certainly celebrates this band in the best way possible.  Listening to the album in full, it is clear Trever Keith and crew recorded the album for the fun of it for their fans.

“Bent But Not Broken” started off the album with some force.  I loved the quick baseline but loved more hearing Keith sing on what I interpreted as not giving up.  Following was “I Won’t Say I’m Sorry”, a track that has memorable lyrics that got stuck in my mind regarding denying fault.

“Double Crossed” reminded me of a much younger Face To Face complete with hard  bass lines and group vocals.  “See If I Care” to me almost sounded like a statement to those who ever doubted the band.   I’m sure it is about some ex though, still, I like my take on it.

“Fourteen Fifty-Nine” was another track I just dug a ton.  I think the thing I most about this track was how it spoke on the sad current state of affairs when it comes to entitlement.

“Keep Your Chin Up” was an upbeat positive track aimed at those who could use some confidence.  “And So It Goes” closed out the album and was as energetic as the very first track.

To he honest, I have not been this excited by an album for a long time.  Protection is exactly what I was hoping for by a band I have adored for more than half of my life (mind you all, I was about 15 when I first discovered them).  Still full of emotion and plenty of energy, this band certainly does not sound like they have been around for a quarter of a century.

I am not praising this album just because I like what I currently heard.  I am saying this because there are so many bands out there who lose their style that made them great as they mature and go through changes.  Face To Face has certainly seen their fair share of changes over the years.  Hell, I thought they were going to call it quits forever in the early 2000s.

I’ve been listening to Protection almost daily for almost 2 weeks now.  That is saying a lot right there.   In fact, I was not even the biggest fan of their last two releases.  Protection though for me is very up there next to their self-titled and  Big Choice.  I know, bold statement by me, but this album was seriously a great listen.

I am stoked the band dropped Protection.  I hope you are too.