Glorious Noise Reader Feedback

Recent visitors to Glorious Noise might have noticed that if they click on the “Discuss” link at the bottom of a post, they’ve been getting nowhere for the past couple of weeks. I apologize for that. The interactivity is what makes this fun and interesting.

I implemented a new, temporary commenting system tonight. The only reason I bring this up instead of leaving it behind the scenes where this sort of technical update belongs is that the new system has pop up ads. As dreadful as they are, we’re going to have to put up with them until our old commenting system comes back to life or our gracious webhost installs a particular scripting application. The pop ups are the annoying cost of an otherwise free webhost that allows PHP scripting. Believe me, they bug me as much as anybody so I will get rid of them as soon as possible.

Unfortunately, the old comments are not available under this new system, but I will attempt to restore them as soon as the old system is resurrected enough to do so. Thanks for your patience.


The sign outside the festival makes it seem so simple: DETROIT TECHNO.

Inside the first tent, an ecstatic club kid flails about as a wall-projected corporate logo swirls behind him and the DJ’s vibe emanates from the hatchbacks of two loc’d out economy cars. As the beats crescendo, smoke fills the tent, making it difficult for the users at the Be Your Own DJ kiosk to see the miniature turntables on their monitors. Evidently the spinning corporate oval feels the music, too. It begins to morph between its corporate identity and that of an amorpous color wheel which splays reds, browns, and jarring yellows across the skinny frame of the raver busting his nouveau running man before it. Welcome to the 2001 Detroit Electronic Music Festival, sponsored by Ford. Counterculture meets corporate culture in the streets of the Motor City, and the beats echo through empty buildings.

The sins of Detroit have entered the vernacular. The automotive corporations still call the city home. But the decrepit outnumber the vital buildings in an aging downtown that can only whistle with the ghosts of its boomtown past. There is life here. The city burns with a sense of urban cool that seems borne from its hardscrabble existence. Unfortunately, sometimes it just plain burns. Despite a recent downtown resurgence of sports teams and theatre districts, despite the city’s proud subculture of punks, pimpdaddys and DJs, it’s D-Town’s cliched and sad downfall that remains its calling card. As if apologizing for the city’s woe, the sad, deserted visage of the 88-year-old Michigan Central Train Depot greets highway visitors with empty windows and 18 deserted stories of Indiana limestone.

Detroit Techno has always been about imbuing soulless beats with the sunny grooves of Motown’s stable of artists. The electronic music internationally known as the Detroit Techno sound does its best to combine the Motor City’s industrial heart with the soul of its ever-enterprising culture. Motown was a part of this, as was Detroit rock pioneers like the MC5, Iggy Pop, and even Bob Seger. DJs like Juan Atkins, Derrick May, and Carl Craig are superheroes within the community, having established and developed the music while fiercely protecting its hometown affiliation. The Detroit Electronic Music Festival is derived directly from Detroit Techno’s pride – both for itself and the city it thrives in.

Held over three days Memorial Day weekend in an outdoor plaza shadowed by skyscrapers, DEMF 2001 was a free event showcasing not only local DJ talent, but also an international array of electronic musicians, either influenced by or paying tribute to Detroit Techno. Three stages featured a non-stop onslaught of beats, scratches and grooves, with instant dancefloors happening all over as the rain poured down. Over a million people, mostly kids with something to prove, made the trip downtown to hear the music. Over a million people added a bottom end to the soundwaves reverberating through normally empty downtown streets.

This year’s festival featured a major corporate partner in the Ford Motor Company, on board to promote the Focus, a flashy little thing aimed at the very demographic that was shaking its pants off to DJs on three stages. Ford’s presence was not as overt as it could have been. Backing up the Focus TV campaign, futuristic signage hung about proclaimed ‘DETROIT TECHNO’ over a shot of the car in action. The aforementioned ‘Focus Tent’ featured plenty of smoke, beats, and (surprise!) a few Focus floor models for the Great Unwashed to check out. But for the most part, Ford’s sponsorship, even its siphoning of the DETROIT TECHNO tagline, seemed to be more about supporting a good thing than milking it for sales.

There was a sublime moment in the evening of the second day. As frenetic breakbeats cascaded out from the Motor Lounge stage, the club kid proletariat grooved beneath a giant, windswept American flag. Behind the stars and stripes was the sheer limestone wall of the (soon to be demolished) Ford Amphitheater, upon which a flickering hologram projected itself, larger than life. The spiraling image shifted from the blue Ford oval to a rainbow color strobe to a drivetrain schematic to a Blade Runner-esque florescent cityscape image and back to the spinning blue corporate logo. It was as if Ford could feel itself mixing with the kids dancing below, shape-shifting between its 9-5 identity and the freewheeling rainbow of color that signified the DEMF’s never-ending groove. Finally, just beyond the amphitheater, the neck of a great steel crane jutted out, silhouetted against the night sky. As the beats and sounds of two stages met and mixed in the airstream, all of the faces of Detroit co-mingled in a single image of pure potential.

And the people danced.


The Song Remains the Same

Is a band’s most popular song ever its best?

For some people, the question really is no question, as they suggest with more than a little heat that the answer is obvious: Yes. A friend is unwavering in his insistence that Led Zepplin’s best song from all aspects is “Stairway to Heaven,” which is undoubtedly its most popular. Even though that prom-schmaltz is derided and other examples of better Zepplin tunes are provided (e.g., a song that has much the same structure as “Stairway”: “Babe I’m Gonna Leave You”), he stands unmoved. Indeed, he digs in his heels.

While many of us come down on the negative side of the question—perhaps exhibiting a crypto-elitism that may be unbecoming—and could spend plenty of time citing better B-sides (now proverbial B-sides, as 45s are only in the bins of used record shops and so that notion is essentially behind us), perhaps the answer really is yes, but not for the reason that my Zep-loving friend thinks.

It might seem as though the most popular song would be the one that appeals to the lowest common denominator. Consequently, there is a bigger group on the top side to be appealed to. Because of the breadth of the possible appeal, we quickly assess that it must, perforce, be bland. However, as I am writing this, I am on an NWA airplane on which the video entertainment includes a documentary titled “Elvis Remembered.” Presley, certainly, appeals to a diverse group of people, social classes, levels of education, wealth, and even age notwithstanding. There are those who write for GloNo who think he is certainly the King. There are those for whom “Soap Opera Digest” is War and Peace who share the same belief.

The ability to cut across such a wide space is undoubtedly an indicator of an unusual degree of talent. Consider, for the sake of argument, that there was a performer named “Melvis.” Further, that his career had the identical time span of Elvis’s. Let’s assume that from the points of view of both talent and proficiency, Melvis was a better musician than Elvis. But Melvis was appreciated only by the cultural cognoscenti. They applauded his recorded and live performances in journals that have an annual circulation measured in three digits. Not only did Melvis not appear on “Sullivan,” because of the timing of his career, there weren’t even cable-access channels.

Who, then, is better: Elvis or Melvis? Elvis is (was) undoubtedly more popular. Even if Melvis actually existed, he would barely exist in the public consciousness and would therefore be essentially irrelevant.

Although it might seem easier to appeal to the masses than it is to collect the laurels from the learned few, the opposite is more likely the case. A subset of individuals (i.e., the few) is related by a common idea, notion, worldview, what have you. It is merely a matter of identifying what that something is, then fashioning a congruent object. It’s like Cinderella’s glass slipper: there are plenty of women with feet, but the Prince was only interested in one pair. Fitting narrow limits can be easier than dealing with wide boundaries.

Consider the inherent difficulty of creating not merely something that’s one-size-fits-all (which tends to be a situation wherein there is an inverse relation between breadth and suitability to any given individual) but something with mass and individual appeal. That is undoubtedly a sign that whatever it is that can do that must be able to rise above other objects in the same class: Elvis, unquestionably, trumps Melvis.

And “Stairway to Heaven” really must be Zepplin’s best song.

But I still don’t like it.

So what do you do when your best friend is Jeff Tweedy?

So what do you do when your best friend is Jeff Tweedy?

Okay, so I’m lying; he’s not really Jeff Tweedy. But he’s written and recorded a song as good as anything I’ve heard from Tweedy (including my faves, “Acuff-Rose,” “Passenger Side,” and “Via Chicago”).

“So what?” you say. Well, here’s a bit of background—on my relationship with Tweedy and my relationship with my buddy.

Tweedy is my favorite songwriter of the moment, in fact, I’ll admit that his band, Wilco, is about the only band I have given a shit about for the last few years. I’m a big music nut—hence my involvement with this here Web site—but many days I feel like music did in fact die in the mid-70s. If you told me from now on there would be no more new music made, I couldn’t care less. Yeah, that’s right; there are enough Bob Dylan albums that I haven’t listened to, and Joni Mitchell albums that I own that I’ve never so much as dropped a needle on, that I’d be fine living out my years listening to all the great stuff I’ve yet to discover. (Shit, even if you took away all the rock music ever made, I could live happily listening to my dad’s jazz collection, forever.) So, point being, Tweedy and Wilco are pretty damn important to me. In an era of mediocre music and my own post-collegiate corporate-motivated angst, they’ve been burning the torch for credible rocks-off music for me for years.

Why Tweedy? Because he can write songs and lyrics with catchy hooks and deep words. Lyrics that are fun to sing along with. Lyrics that sound good to the ear. Lyrics that make you think. Lyrics that tug at your heartstrings. Lyrics that make me feel like I’m not the only miserable motherfucker on the planet who’s had to go through the self-torment of being me. Sure, that’s pretentious and self-absorbed and probably boring to anyone who’s not me—unless you’ve also been moved by Tweedy and Co. and you know what I’m saying.

Now about my friend. He’s been in some bands and they’ve all been cool. Garage stuff, mostly. Catchy tunes about nothing at all, girls and booze and fun. Live music, music to see with that proverbial head full of beer. We’re into that. But that’s not the sort of music you listen to late on a Sunday night by yourself when you’ve polished off a whole bottle of red wine and you’re feeling sorry because you were stupid enough to dump your girlfriend. That’s when Neil Young and Bruce Springsteen and Gram Parsons and John Fogerty find their way onto your turntable. But once you’ve broken up with enough chicks, drank enough wine to sail a yacht, and cried enough tears to drown a hound dog, you get to looking for new sounds to soothe the savage beast. Hence the aforementioned love of Tweedy and Wilco and Uncle Tupelo.

But there’s a more positive side to Tweedy than the rest of that group of songwriters, a side that brings people together, that forms bonds, like between me and my friend. Tweedy is not the existential loner that Neil is. He’s not a populist preacher like The Boss. He’s not as fucking crazy as Parsons, and he’s not as, I donno, classic rock (?) as Fogerty. Tweedy is more like sitting-round-the-oak-tree-sucking-down-a-bottle-of-something-with-your-pals-writing-songs-and-singing-off-key. That’s the spirit of the music that attracted us, more than the personal shit. But the misery loves company line is fitting; my buddy and I have realized that maybe, if you put aside all that macho shit and share in the life experience together, maybe things ain’t really so bad. Wilco’s music hits that point spot-on better than any other band, ever. “Colloquial” is the word that sticks in my mind. Plus they are amazing live—transcending the intellectual level of the lyrics: The rhythms of the music and the wild essence of the jam say the same things to the body that Tweedy’s words say to the mind.

So given the adoration that we have for Tweedy, it was only a matter of time before my friend’s garage rock bands gave way to a larger project, a bigger band, more of a musical challenge. I remember my friend telling me one day when we were goofing on some lyrics around a campfire—he was strumming his guitar—that he couldn’t play good enough to be in a bluesy country-rockabilly band. This was before anyone had told us that the genre of music we were loving was called alt-country and we didn’t really know anyone else who liked Sun-sessions Elvis, CSNY, and Uncle Tupelo—and liked them all for the same reason.

Now it’s a few years later and I guess he’s been practicing, because he’s got his alt-country band and they sound as good as anyone doing this type of music. They’ve got great songs and tight production on their demo EP and the lyrics are cool and slick and emotional and everything is right. But after a listen or two, I was looking for the soul. It was hard to find. I kept hearing someone else’s songs. I kept hearing the influences, “worn on the shirtsleeves” but I couldn’t hear who they were, this new band. They were a lot of things: Wilco, Parsons, Dylan, etc.; even a bit of Kurt Cobain.

Then I realized it was me. We’ve been talking about this sort of a band for years now—how cool it would be for my buddy to play in a band that did the things that Wilco, et al, do. How great this genre and style of music is, how much opportunity there is in the songwriting to say things, meaningful things. I’d even written the lyrics to a couple of songs, trying to draw a blueprint for this new endeavor. Then it just happened, all of a sudden, he has the band and they’re everything that we’d always thought a band like this could be. But I can’t hear the music because I realize that all I’d ever really been wishing for was that my best friend would be Jeff Tweedy.

But he’s not. He’s just the same guy he’s always been.

And when I realized this, I also realized something else. I listened to the EP again and really listened for my buddy’s voice, for his thoughts, for his elegant guitar playing. And I heard him this time, not Tweedy, not Neil, not any of the other guys who’ve worked their magic through his fingers and his interpretation. They were gone, but my friend was there now and I realized the greatness of his work. It was no longer imitative, it was him. And he was talking to me in his voice, telling me things that I’d never heard before, telling me things that weren’t takes on Tweedy, but his takes on his life, and my life too. There and then, he became a great singer, a great guitar player, and a great songwriter.

And goddamn it, he’s a great friend too. And I hope he realizes just how important his music is to me.

Happy Birthday Dude

It’s Bob Dylan’s 60th birthday.

Jolie told me a story about how when she was a little girl she heard a song on the radio. The singer’s voice appalled her. She couldn’t believe how grating this man’s voice was. She asked her mom why music like this was allowed on the radio.

“It’s political,” her mother said, and left it at that. That was enough. It all made sense.

I love Dylan’s voice. And I love his songwriting. And I love the fact that he introduced the Beatles to grass. And I love that he plugged in and went “rock and roll” when all the folkies thought of that as the ultimate sell-out. He may be a creepy old guy who looks like Vincent Price now, but he’s still got more of the rock and roll spirit and soul than anyone else out there today. Especially those of his generation…


I always thought that Maxim was written at a 12th grade level. Now that I’ve read MH-18, the new magazine aimed at America’s male teenagers from the makers of Men’s Health, it turns out I was right.

Ask my man Phil Wise about Maxim Magazine and he’ll most likely wince in pain. Back in the day, he’d subscribed to the mag, and found it to be to be a good read…if the cable’s out, you lost your little black book, and bandits made off with your record collection. Excluding the occasional decent article, Maxim’s content pretty much puts the toilet bowl back into bathroom literature. The joke got even funnier when Dennis Publishing (Maxim’s sugardaddy) unleashed Blender, a music magazine written in the same towel-slapping tone as its brethren. And now Men’s Health has sent out MH-18 to meet the masses. Like li’l Aaron Carter following in the Backstreet footsteps of his crooning brother Nick, MH-18 has combed its hair like Maxim and started hanging out at The Peach Pit.

MH-18 is published by Rodale, Inc., the parent of Men’s Health, Men’s Journal, and other magazines with covers featuring shirtless dudes with great abs. Though it isn’t affiliated with the Dennis Group, there’s no mistaking the look and feel of a mag like Maxim, Blender, or Stuff. Where Maxim’s masthead features the calling card of SEX SPORTS BEER GADGETS CLOTHES FITNESS, MH-18 has its own, pre-kegger version: FITNESS SPORTS GIRLS GEAR LIFE. The articles are a potpourri of inspirational bios, female tips, product reviews and Men’s Health-type fitness how-tos. The snapshots of young athletes are the best. In a very Boy’s Life sort of way (“you too can be a rodeo rider! C’mon, it’s easy!!!”), surfers with names like C.J. and Hawkbit tell the average lawn-mowing high school shmoe what’s it’s like being a world-class wave rider. It’s the same fawning type of copy that reigns over at Rosie, where a profile of Hollywood newcomer Shannyn Sossamon lets every lonely girl in the world know how to get discovered lickety split.

One insight into the demographic research sunk into MH-18: no music/movie reviews. Instead, the last third of the book features reviews of video games and personal electronics gear. In the Summer 2001 issue (ft. a Judas Priest-clad Mena Suvari on its cover), the “Report Card” section features reviews of personal CD systems by two high school cross-country runners. Like the interactive nature of Disney’s Zoog TV cable outlet or similar articles in magazines aimed at teen girls, MH-18 is making an attempt at least to actively involve the voice of its target market. I guess I’d still like to see music reviews or band profiles. Maybe the guys in Blink-182, Sum-41, or SR-71 could review MH-18…

Now don’t get me wrong. I’ve subscribed to Maxim, too. After all, I’m as big a fan of young starlets doffing their kits as the next dope. But just like Phil Wise, it’s the copy that kills me. It’s white noise in print. And MH-18’s attempt to latch onto the younger brothers of Maxim’s subscription base kind of kills me. Rodale’s press release for MH-18 describes what its editor believes about his new ad vehicle: …[MH-18 will] “help teen males break through the clutter of information to find out what they really want to know about being fit, looking great, and staying on top of their lives at home and school.” And hey man, that’s great. I know that I was like a little lost sheep without MH-18 to guide me through puberty. But later on in the same PR, MH-18’s ad director weighed in with his thoughts (perhaps while lighting a cigar made of C-notes). “Teenage spending power was more than $150 billion last year, and is expected to grow by almost 10 percent a year well into the decade,” stat[ed] Steve Bruman, Advertising Director for MH-18. “MH-18 magazine and Web site offer a new conversation for marketers to reach this young, dynamic segment.”

MH-18: We’re here to make sure that you’re just as dumb as your older brother.


Who needs Napster?

Napster’s new subscription service is dumb. More than five bucks a month for files “limited in audio quality and unable to be burned to CD.” Please.

Fortunately, there’s a new kid in town in the peer-to-peer file-sharing world, Unlike Napster, it allows you to search for and download files directly from your browser. Actually, it only allows you to do this 15 times before it requires that you download the KaZaA Media Desktop, which claims to provide faster searches, faster downloads, resumable downloads and more files. Or you can delete KaZaA’s cookie and do another 15 browser-based searches. Also unlike Napster you can get at other users’ video files, documents, and other files as well as audio files.

KaZaA is not a Gnutella client, so those of you who are trying to reunite the world will be disappointed by one more splinter of an already fractured user base. But most of my searches returned several hits, so there are apparently a lot of people using it. The technology claims to be 50 times more scalable than Gnutella.

KaZaA’s network is a distributed, self-organising network. Neither search requests nor actual downloads pass through any central server. The network is multi-layered, so that more powerful computers get to be search hubs (“SuperNodes”). Any KaZaA client may become a SuperNode, if it meets the criteria of processing power, bandwidth and latency. Network management is 100% automatic – SuperNodes appear and disappear according to demand.

So it seems pretty cool. Unfortunately, they will only allow you to get at mp3s with a bit rate of 128 kbps or less until they can figure out a deal with “European collecting-rights organisations.”

It’s worth checking out before the Man shuts it down.


In a recent GloNo discussion (see the comments on my EX-FL article), I suggested that MTV might look into some sort of reality series combining dopey Americans’ passion for wrestling antics with the lowest-common-denominating tripe of its current hit show “Jackass.”

Well, when you’re right, you’re right. Even if it is about something as moronic as this.

A story on details the World Wrestling Federation’s plans for a reality-type show – broadcast on MTV, of course – featuring a house full of wrestling wannabes duking it out for 12 weeks. The payoff? Nah, not a cool million. Instead, the final male and female left standing will receive their hearts’ desire: a pro wrestling contract.

Hear that? It’s the sound of America’s collective consciousness getting dumber.


Nobody Move, Nobody Get Hurt

Very seldom does a internet news posting make you want to run out and rob a bank, or better yet, knock over one of the largest auction houses in the world on a Thursday afternoon. This is one of those rare occasions. Christie’s is auctioning off the original typed scroll of Jack Kerouac’s On The Road. I quote from the auctioneer’s site: “the working draft from which the published novel derives. Typed by Kerouac in New York City in a 20-day marathon between April 2 and 22, 1951.” Still mulling over whether or not you should dig out your ski mask and water pistol and head over to your nearest savings and loan? It’s 119 feet long, typed on a continuous scroll of paper! Throughout the manuscript Neal Cassady’s name is crossed out and Dean Moriarty’s is pencilled in by ol’ Jack himself…

Weezer, or Harvey Danger?

Weezer, or Harvey Danger?

The problem with Weezer’s newest self-titled album is that Harvey Danger already made it. But Harvey Danger sounded like Weezer when they released their first record in 1998. Uh-oh. Who’s on first? And does it matter if it’s all just the same?

In 1994, Weezer released its (first) self-titled album on DGC, and blew alternative music wide-open with a series of witty, rocking singles that were accompanied by witty, scholcky videos (courtesy of Yahoo Serious-esque auteur Spike Jonze). Within Weezer’s arsenal of chugging riffs and cooing harmonies could be heard echoes of The Cars, Cheap Trick, and even the 70s cock-rock of AC/DC and The Sweet. The band’s success was notable, inasmuch as their members went out of their way to appear as geeky as they were in real life (Overheard at record store in 1994: “Who are these losers on the cover of Weezer’s album?”) Sure, the “Happy Days” reset in Jonze’s clip for “Buddy Holly” was funny, but it only fueled the geek nitrous in the back of Weezer’s Chevelle. You ain’t going to catch STP looking likes geeks in their videos, dude…

Two years later, Rivers Cuomo, et al released the more introspective Pinkerton. It was promptly shit-canned.

You might remember the boys of Harvey Danger, but their record company doesn’t. In 1998, their churning, vitriol-spitting rocker “Flagpole Sitta” broke nationwide on modern rock radio after the fledgling group’s album was snatched up by Slash Records. The kids from Washington made the rounds of MTV chats, Spring Break concerts and radio station appearances. They were well on their way to rock stardom. They were promptly forgotten. Did you know that the followup, King James Version, was released in 2000? It was pretty decent, too…

It’s funny. When “Flagpole Sitta” hit, I remember thinking that it was the best song Weezer never wrote. What I had always loved about Weezer’s first record was the viscous brown noise of the riffs. Harmonies were fine, but it was the teutonic underbelly of “My Name Is Jonas” that melted my butter. Same deal with the Danger and their big single. “Flagpole Sitta” stood out from the modern rock pack because of its surging beat that seemed to choke the very melody being sung by Sean Nelson. Unfortunately for Nelson and his band, they spent all their gold with “Flagpole Sitta.” But evidently Spike Jonze wasn’t interested in crafting a few wily, culture-twisting videos for them to sustain the wilted power pop of their would-be followup singles, and they faded faster than you can say “writer’s block.” And 2000’s King James Version was released to the kind of fanfare reserved for a CCM crossover act. Sound familiar, Weezer? It should, because Pinkerton suffered a similar fate. Taken at face value, it’s a great record. But after the animated geek metal of their first album, Cuomo’s “series musician” gag didn’t have anyone laughing.

Unless their next video is the sequel to “Sabotage,” Harvey Danger will most likely be erased from most memory banks until “Flagpole Sitta” surfaces as track 5 on Rhino’s Monsters of 90s Alternative in 2010. But Weezer? Ho ho, they’re back with a tour and an album. It’s even produced by Ric Ocasek, and the single “Hash Pipe” is getting a major push in modern rock formats. And darn it anyway, there’s even a side-splittingly hilarious video to accompany the track, as well. But the master tapes must have been switched, because the mediocre sonic rough-housing on this most recent of self-titled Weezer records just makes me think of…Harvey Danger. Cuomo, Inc. has spit out 25-plus minutes of Play-Guitar-The-Roy-Clark-Way “alternative” rock, most of which wouldn’t sound out of place as filler on the next Halloween installment’s soundtrack. Basically, if you take ‘Weezer’ off the front cover, you’re left with a bunch of guys writing follow-the-melody guitar solos with an occasional flash of their lost brilliance.

I don’t think that Weezer’s new record can be saved by a few funny videos and the Geffen marketing machine. Bizarrely, neither does the band. My man Jake quotes River himself in his GloNo feature article on Weezer. Cuomo lays it down:

“I don’t expect it to succeed commercially, unlike everyone at the record company,” he says. “They’re all gonna be incredibly disappointed in a few weeks. The thing that I’m worried about, and this is a real concern, is that I also think our fans are gonna hate it.”

If a half-hearted attempt at rocking falls in the forest, will there be any fans around to hear it? I don’t know, but the Danger’s Sean Nelson does. You can ask him. He works third shift at the Carl’s Jr on 29th Avenue in Spokane.

Say it ain’t so…


Rock and roll can change your life.