I've been thinking about this for a while now, and I'm sick of thinking about it at this point. So it's here.
5 Old School Records I Still Love... in no particular order:
The Regrets - New Directions: Results Beat Boasts - 1997
The Regrets came out of the remains of Vitreous Humor, also a band worth checking out. When I listened to all the Crank! stuff, they were a band I was interested in because of Vitreous Humor. One of the best things about it has to be Danny Pounds vocals. I think this was before his collapsed lung, and though it's been done before and will continue to be done before, it reaches a combination between singing and talking, sometimes separate, sometimes both. The lyrics are also great, and you can tell he reads a lot. And musically, the dissonant guitar, which is usually playing bizarre chords and imbibing in scraggly left-field acrobatics, just works perfectly. The lo-fi recording fits every instrument too. This was their only record. I interviewed Danny shortly after for the now-defunct zine Rocket Fuel, and the interview used to be archived online until I think about a few weeks ago. Since then, Danny Pound has gone kind of country. But if you can track this down, try to. After nearly twelve years, it still holds up so well.
Sweep the Leg Johnny - 184.108.40.206 - 1997
Sweep the Leg Johnny is one of the bands who really got me into music during my early high school years. I had a zine (even before Pitchfork I think, if such blasphemy can be uttered) called The Cupid Kidnap, where I, you guessed it, reviewed records. I was in contact with a ton of great indie labels and got great records to review, and none of them knew I was still in high school, which was nice. Though one time I tried to interview Don Caballero at a show in Cleveland, and Damon Che was a complete dickhead. The situation was later rectified when I called Ian Williams a few months later in Chicago, for an interview that's still on a tape somewhere that didn't get transcribed.
I don't exactly remember how I heard Sweep the Leg Johnny, but I then started talking to the singer / saxophonist, Steve Sostak, who was always a super nice guy. The first time I heard this record, on a shitty cassette tape I think, I fell in love with it. The recording's great, even for a a little studio in 1997, and each member has their own strengths they wholly contribute. There are rock bands with saxophones, but it works so well here. Chris's dissonant weird-ass guitar. Matt's rolling bass lines. Scott's awesome rolls and fills and subtle technicality on the drums. Steve also is a smart guy who you can also tell reads a lot, and it seems to show with his lyrics.
Somehow I was able to convince them to come to my hometown and play a show nearby in Mercer, where I ended up getting a few bands to come. They stayed at my house, thanks to my parents being awesome, did laundry, we watched Flatliners and they told me about some of the Chicago locations. I remember I had to take a vocabulary test the next day on Fahrenheit 451. I was a sophomore in high school. All of us were so pissed because the words were ridiculous, and the student teacher who gave us the test felt really bad. We stayed up late, I had to go to school and take a test, and my mom made them pancakes in the morning before they left.
If you have any old copies of Held Like Sound, I did an interview with them and John used my pictures from said show. Was that really over ten years ago?
Six Parts Seven - Things Shaped in Passing - 2002
Still one of the most beautiful records ever made. My first real breakup was in college, and she broke up with me. I was working for our radio station as a DJ wanting to work myself up the ranks, and I remember the day this promo came in. I immediately went nuts, having loved every single note they played before this, and put it in the CD player. I still remember the feeling I got when "Where Are the Timpani Heartbeats?" played. I knew that it would be a record I would forever be indebted to.
I recently posted pictures on my Facebook page from their record release show, in which they played every note from Things Shaped in Passing. Having obsessed over the record for months, it was, probably needless to say, one of my favorite shows ever. James Haas even broke out the screwdriver for the reverbed lap steel at the end of the aforementioned first song of the record.
One show (out of maybe ten or more I attended in the last six years) I attended with my buddy Wes (we saw a few) was a semi-disaster at the
I don't know what's going on with them: if they're broken up or on hiatus or back to work, but this record will always always get spin opportunities.
Castor - Castor - 1995
If someone asked me what record I've listened to the most during my lifetime, it would probably be Castor's self-titled record. Their first. Which is now nearly fourteen years old. Which is insane. One of the odd things about this record is that it should've been an EP, and not a full length. It's around 28 minutes long I think, and that's pretty damn short. But I think of a book of poetry like this in a way: it's so short that you always want to return to it. You never skip the first section and only read two and three. You never skip the last ten pages because by then it's just too much. It's the book that's 45 pages and wins a contests that's supposed to be a minimum of 48 because it's got its own small ass-kicking embedded soul.
I had a wild idea with a friend that we were going to start a label and put out a Castor 7". I had a feeling it would've happened if the band, like every band, finally spiraled toward the inevitability of break up.
Jeff Garber is now in National Skyline, who's clearly heavily influenced by U2. Check out his stuff. It's good.
We used to talk a lot on the phone. One time he told me he cheated on his girlfriend. Then he said, "Don't tell anyone about that." And then he paused. And then he said, "Though I don't know who you'd tell there." As a Podunk Pennsylvania high schooler, he was of course right.
One thing that pisses me off is the Castor mix tape he made me, which I remember listening to one summer over a week or so when I painted our garage. Pipe dreams later were discussed: a Castor double-CD anthology. So I sent him the tape without recording the amazing Castor songs that weren't released but were on the tape. So they're gone. But God this record's great.
Mercury Program - A Data Learn the Language - 2002
Another one of my favorite instrumental records. I remember driving into Richmond for the first time listening to this. Thanks again to Pir for letting me crash on his couch.
It's another record that has so many great moments. Inter-locked melodicism abound. Tons of technicality. Yet it still remains kind-of a pop record.
I had a chance to see them at the, not-surprisingly at this point, now-defunct Nanci Raygun in Richmond. I remember I ended up getting drunk instead. And the next day I was so pissed. They're supposed to be amazing live.
Check. Out. These. Records.
Thanks to a friend, I realized Seth "Mr. Omnipresent" Abramson has this list on his blog.
Had I not already heard from Oklahoma State, I have to admit that I'd probably be freaking out just a bit at least. But it's still this murky pool of confusion, because everyone thinks if a date had already been chalked up and it wasn't you that got the call, then you're done. Out. No call or email.
But that's definitely not the case. Many factors are involved. Money. How many students they're taking. Letting their favorite picks know first. Waitlisting. Response times varying year to year.
One thing I'm thankful for: being done with my MFA. I've said it before in previous posts, but there's so much written about it now that it's almost become the cool and popular thing to do. So many more students in MFA programs = less and less folks succeeding. It's the nature of the beast, yes, but there are going to be a lot of sad students at the end of their two or three years.
Still I have six schools to hear from, which is nice. And Oklahoma State is giving me plenty of time to let them know, which I very much appreciate for that reason.
One of the things I tried not to do was look at lists of top schools. Or should I say, "top schools." I personally think all of that talk is hilarious, and I probably always will.
I remember one fairly prominent poet talking about a fairly prominent school in California, where she attended and then dropped out. As she told me, "I already had a book, so for some reason the students were gunning for me and needlessly tearing apart my work because of that." Was I there? No. Could I see this happening? Absolutely. And why, on God's green earth, would anyone want to have that kind of community at a school? I'm not saying everyone needs to go into the woods and become nudists and worship the earth with perpetual smiles about peace and love and a warless world, but when people are dicks like that, it just makes me sad.
And I know some of that goes on at other programs. Sometimes it's probably tough to avoid. But that's exactly what I do not want in a program.
Probably about a year into my MFA, I realized I was going to have to take it upon myself to figure out where I wanted to go and what I needed to do to get there. And thankfully I can use that wherever I end up for my Ph.D, and for that I am proud and excited and thrilled.
I know it's going to be a lot of work and a rough four to five years. But I want to get another book together I can send out to contests. Or who knows: maybe two. I'd like to write stuff that challenges my core.
And all these issues with money. Does an extra [insert here] grand matter if you're still not going to bust your ass and try to always keep pushing yourself? Nope.
Anyway, I find myself wanting to stop talking about all of this and then always picking it back up. But I'll let this lie for now as I continue to wait and hopefully have a chance to weigh some options.
On the chapbook front, I've gotten it together and I think it may be ready for editors to see.
But what's the harm in letting it sit a while with so many poems from it still out in the world?
I feel like if I'm going to spend the money to send to contests, I'd rather throw Ghost Lights out there.
But my confidence is building. Maybe this is even the possible half of a new book. Who knows?
I started watching The Wire yesterday, and realized I probably shouldn't start.
My conscious is saying, "Spend time with the poetry books and get questions out to the first book interview poets," and I think it's right.
So The Wire will be put on hold. Sixty-minute episodes are also a haul, especially with seasons of twelve.
And apparently the film version of The Road is finished. Finally.
Don't get excited yet, since it'll probably end up being released at the end of the year.
I hope a copy leaks soon enough somewhere online.
Burned-out and scorched apocalyptic Pennsylvania.
I can't wait.