RECORD STORE TALES & REVIEWS: Complete Table of Contents

February 1, 2012 7 comments

TITLE PAGE

RECORD STORE TALES

Parts 1 – 50  
Parts 51 – 100 
Parts 101 – 150
Parts 151 – 200
Parts 201 – 250
Parts 251 – 300
Parts 301 – 320

DIRECTORY OF REVIEWS 

Music, Movies, and more

WTF?

Part 320: End of the Line #4: A New Start

September 18, 2014 12 comments

A fresh start.

RECORD STORE TALES Part 320:  End of the Line #4: A New Start

My last day was a Wednesday, and Jen had come down to Kitchener from Brampton to spend the evening with me. I remember driving down to pick her up at the bus station in Guelph. I recall being very happy with my last day, and optimistic about the future.

My plan was this: I was going to take the Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday “off”. I wasn’t going to do anything those days. I was just going to enjoy the first four consecutive days off that I had in ages. And I did enjoy them. I bought the movie Office Space and imagined what it would be like having a non-retail job.

Then, Monday, I was going to begin the job hunt. My goal was to apply for at least one good job every single day. The strategy worked. I had an interview by the Wednesday of the following week. The interview went very well. I was told that my personality was one of my strengths, as was my creativity. I had been stifled before, unable to use these strengths to their full potential. The agency told me they had no doubt they’d find something for me soon.

I celebrated by buying a comic book, and I headed home feeling great.

A week later I was placed at my first new job in over a decade, with Aecon Industrial in Cambridge. Nervous and excited at the same time, it was there that I began my new life. I was surprised how different the atmosphere was. At the Record Store, there was always tension. There was also micro-management. I couldn’t do anything without somebody breathing down my neck and changing what I was doing. The ironic thing was that on my reviews, I was always told that I was a micro-manager. Meanwhile, I had been micro-managed by those above me into despondence. At Aecon, I was left to work at my own pace and my own way.

I remember showing up for my first day at Aecon.  There were two new hires; myself and a fellow from Quebec.  We both wore ties.  The manager we were reporting to, Al, strolled out and gave us a briefing as to what we would be doing.  He also said, “And you can take those ties off, you don’t need those things around here.”  We both removed our ties immediately with a sigh of relief, and the three of us shared a laugh.  It was a good first day!

However, the shadows of the past continued to haunt me. I was afraid to ask questions. At the Record Store I never knew if asking a question was a good or bad thing. Sometimes asking a question, even for instructions to be clarified, resulted in my office bully getting mad at me. “You mean you weren’t listening the first time I explained this?” I heard that one at the Record Store a couple times.  It took me a while to get used to asking questions again.

Once I had settled in, life became so much more relaxed. Having every single weekend off was a luxury I hadn’t known before. It felt like I was living in the lap of it, even though I was making less money. I learned that money is not everything in life. Happiness and family are.  The previous three years were a very, very dark place.  I don’t need to paint a picture.  On the outside I’m sure nobody knew.  I wore a mask.  I put it on every day when I left the house.  But it is a tiring thing to wear a mask, and it is a rare day today that I still need one.  For that I am most grateful.

To be continued…

ANUSTART

PREVIEW: The Next LeBrain

September 17, 2014 48 comments

Dear readers,

As you are aware, the original Record Store Tales are almost done.   There are only a few sub-chapters left in Part 320: End of the Line.  I believe that, taken as a body of work and not cherry-picking bits and pieces, that it is a story of human frailty but also human strength and survival.  There are laughs, and there are tunes.  Lots and lots of good tunes.

Even though the entire story is almost told, I will continue telling tales of life’s absurdities.  These Post-Record Store Tales (if you will) are already being written and are ready to be rolled out!  The title, as suggested by you, will be revealed soon.

I just needed a new mascot.  I felt that the old GI Joe LeBrain had run his course.  Finding a new mascot, a new LeBrain, was a bit of a quest but I’ve finally settled on one.  May I present to you:

THE NEXT LEBRAIN!

IMG_20140913_105632

Yes, it’s Simon Pegg.

Part 320: End of the Line #3: The Last Day

September 17, 2014 30 comments

STOPARRET

Emotional material ahead. If you have been upset by past Record Store Tales, do not read on. 
I’m not fucking kidding.

 

FARE WELL LEBRAIN 0

RECORD STORE TALES Part 320: End of the Line #3 The Last Day

The last two weeks at work after giving my notice were difficult, but now I had light at the end of the tunnel. My boss took me aside and asked me not to buy a hundred CDs with the last of my discount.

One thought that had occurred to me after giving notice was this.  If I had gone to my doctor on December 19 for some Prozac or something, instead of writing my letter of resignation, he immediately would have written me a note for at least two weeks sick leave, right in the middle of the Christmas rush, absolutely screwing them over.  Without question.  That’s how much I had cracked.  I chose not to do that.  Instead I chose to leave on an upstanding note, head held high.  I stated in my letter that I understood that this was the busy season, and I had no desire to cause scheduling problems for them.  I offered to stay until the end of the month of January 2006.  This would allow them plenty of time to find a new manager.

One thing that disappointed me was way that the store handled my departure.  They waited until my last day to announce that I was leaving.  This hurt my feelings. In my experience, when somebody like me leaves, an email will go out a week or two ahead of time. “So-and-so has decided to move on to new opportunities. His-or-her last day will be Friday the 13th,” or whatever. I didn’t get that. I speculate there was a certain amount of shell-shock. When your longest serving employee moves on to greener pastures, it’s hard to spin that positive, I guess? I really don’t know the reason behind it, all I know is that it stung.

Christmas had come and gone. I have almost no memories of that Christmas at all. All I really remember was that I went to Brampton on Christmas Day to meet Jen’s extended family. I met her Uncle Peter, Nana and Granddad for the first time. And I couldn’t stay long, since I had to open the store for our big annual Boxing Day sale the next day.  I have no memories of Boxing Day, New Year’s, or any of the other days from that period. I really only remember my last day.

Thankfully my journal has some details of my last two weeks, but they are few and far between:

Date: 2005/12/27 10:09 am

I have been at this store every second that it has been open since 1:30 pm on December 23.  That is an utterly depressing thought. How many more days of this?  I do not yet know.

Date: 2005/12/28 8:13 pm (I had been told what my final scheduled work day would be)

January 4, 2006, I will be a free man again.  The emotions I am feeling run the entire spectrum.  But on January 5, there’s a good chance I may just sleep the entire day, just because I can.  For the first time in 12 years I will have no reason to think about that store.  That is a very liberating thought.

Date: 2006/01/04 08:00 am

My last day.

I was hoping to just go home quietly today, but I hear there’s something planned.  I know my boss is buying me lunch, I don’t know what else is going on.  I hate being the center of attention at work.  At a party, sure, I’ll gladly take center stage and ham it up.  At work I’d rather just fade into the background.

Meh, I shouldn’t be complaining.  It IS my last day.  Hard to believe.  Well, I’d better be getting ready.

Date: 2006/01/04 10:49 am

The goodbye phonecalls and emails have started pouring in, they made the official announcement of my last day this morning.  It’s overwhelming.  So many people I may never see again!  The emotions I am feeling, they are overwhelming.  No matter how bad it got here, I had so many friends.  I lost sight of that fact.  I sure will miss so many people.

They bought me one of those giant “farewell” cards and had loads of people sign it.  I still have that.  It was a kind gesture.

I still miss a lot of people, but life does go on.  I had never done anything like this before; leaving a place I had worked for so long.  It was like losing a part of myself.  But, that part had become dark and cancerous.  So, my health gradually returned.  I slowly became myself again, a long journey in itself.

To be continued…

RST

Jen and two great co-workers arranged a surprise party for me a couple weeks after.   I have some pics from it.  I also have no idea who that guy is in the picture with me.

Part 320: End of the Line #2: The Last Straw

September 16, 2014 32 comments

STOPARRET

Emotional material ahead. If you have been upset by past Record Store Tales, do not read on. 

 

RECORD STORE TALES Part 320: End of the Line #2 The Last Straw

Date: 2005/12/20 08:32 am

Well, I guess it’s time for some major news.  I quit my job yesterday.  I feel that I have been pushed one step beyond what I am willing to accept.  I wrote my letter of resignation yesterday.  My last day has yet to be decided but come January I will be free as a bird to de-stress and spend every day finding that new job that I know is coming.

RST

I have never disclosed my exact reason for leaving the store.  I spent almost 12 years there, but the last several of them were not pleasant.  There were personality clashes and other issues that I will not get into to protect the guilty.  Suffice to say that if I wanted to, I could have written another 320 Record Store Tales about all the shenanigans behind the scenes.

One of the biggest signs of a problem was the fact that I was losing my love of music.  That is not something I thought would happen, but it set in slowly like a cancer.

I had been looking for other work for a little while but only half-heartedly.  I had discovered that, even though I had 12 years’ experience with 10 of them as a manager, retail experience was not valued in many of the jobs I was looking at.

Events became unbearable on December  18, 2005.  It was exactly a week before Christmas and our stores were busy.  I managed to get myself a couple days off for that entire month, the 18th being the last of them (besides the 25th itself).  I spent the morning with Jen and my parents, having breakfast at a local place that they enjoy.  We had a great breakfast of bacon, eggs, toast and beans.  It was a chance for my parents to get to know Jen a little better, who they only met two months previous.

As soon as I got home from breakfast, I found two messages on my answering machine from the store.  Somehow, I had a gut feeling that would be the case.  They had only been open for two hours.  Apparently there was some sort of power surge and our computer was on the fritz.  They couldn’t ring in sales, so all transactions were being done on paper.  In addition, somehow, the computer’s monitor was now displaying sideways!  They had turned the screen on its side just to read it.  The messages on the phone asked if I could run down to Office Depot and buy some receipt books for them to record manual sales on, and check in on the store.  They had already called in some extra help for the shift.  When I got the messages, I called and said I was on my way.

The store was busy when I got there but not overwhelmingly so.  I stayed an hour to help, and then went home.  All was well and there was nothing else I could do that day.  The computers were even working again.  Jen was with me the whole day and will stand by all of this.

The following morning, Monday the 19th, did not go at all like I had expected.

I went into work an hour before we opened, as I always did.  The monitor had righted itself, and all was more or less back to normal.  All was well with the world again.

Except for one person.

This one person was not happy.  At all.  Apparently, when the store’s staff couldn’t get hold of me (remember I was at a breakfast with my parents) they called someone higher up.  And that person proceeded to tear me a new asshole for it.  This person was not interested, at all, in the fact that I did come into the store on my day off and help.  I did everything requested of me.  This was not good enough.

“You have to leave your cell phone on, all the time, from now on,” the person demanded.

My personal cell phone.  I had owned my cell for about 6 years.  I selected it and paid for everything myself, for my own personal use.  Work never had anything to do with my personal cell phone.  It was mine, and I rarely used it.

So, I did what I had always rehearsed in my mind, should a demand I deemed unreasonable ever come up.  I nodded, paused, and the words came out of me automatically:

“Then I’m going to have to give you my notice.”

There was a very brief silence.

“Then you’ll have to write a letter of resignation.” Into the office.  Door closed.

That was it.  I had done it.  Finally, I had done it.

In my letter of resignation, I stated simply that I no longer wanted to deal with the stress of a job that had almost become 7 days a week, 365 days a year.  I signed the letter, perhaps the most important letter I ever wrote in my life.

It was the scariest thing I had done yet.

To be continued…

Part 320: End of the Line #1: The First Interview

September 15, 2014 18 comments

RST

RECORD STORE TALES Part 320:
End of the Line #1: The First Interview

Every journey starts with a first step.

By 2005 it was obvious that my career at the Record Store did not have a future. Franchises were struggling, and I found myself on the outside of the clique of people who ran the show. I had sunk into a deep depression, which was exacerbated daily by the store. I was working as hard as I ever had, returning home exhausted each night, but the writing was on the wall.  It had been for years. I put together a resume and began applying for jobs.

Assembling that first resume was interesting. I hadn’t had to look for a job in over a decade.  Retail experience was one thing, but I was beaten down so much that I struggled to play up my skills. I couldn’t see my strengths. As I worked on it and sought advice from people I trusted within the organization, I realized my experience was anything but limited to a cash register. I had been responsible for training dozens of employees, and even some franchise owners too.  I had been responsible for bank deposits, and sometimes I was carrying thousands of dollars in cash on my person. I had also spent a couple years running our website. I had travelled all over southern Ontario helping to deal with staffing issues. There was so much responsibility, and I had received so little credit for it, that I was selling myself short. Once I got some help and got that resume into shape, I started applying for jobs.  One franchise owner wrote me a glowing letter of recommendation that I still treasure.  It gave my spirit a huge boost.

Not having done a job interview in a decade, I was applying to anything, just to get my interview chops back. I had applied to sales and management-type jobs, but was shot down each time for “only having retail experience”. Even though I had managed a staff many times, it didn’t seem to matter. I worried that spending 10 years in one job wasn’t necessarily a good thing, like I thought it was.

I got a call back from a local chicken restaurant. They were hiring for an assistant manager position, so I gave it a shot. The interview with the manager was set for a Sunday; an odd day for sure but at least I had it off. I put on a pair of dress pants for the first time in a long time; I remember they were uncomfortably tight. I squeezed in and headed off to the interview.  As far as a first interview in years goes, I did pretty well. As this blog attests to, if there’s one thing I like talking about, it’s music. If there’s two, it’s music and myself.  I’m good at conversing, in other words.  (I get this from my Grandfather who had “the gift of gab”.) However I had no food service experience and I really wasn’t all that interested. I was more curious what was out there.

Of course I did not get the job, but that interview experience taught me two things. One, doing an interview is like riding a bike. Once you learn how, you never forget; you might be rusty but it’s easy to climb back on. The second thing I learned was to always make sure I have a pair of dress pants that fit!

PANTS

My second interview went much better.  I had applied for a position at Manulife and I nailed it.  Even though I had given what I still think was the best interview of my life, I did not get the job, and my mood sank further.  These journal entries have all the details:

Date: 2005/12/15 11:37 am

Man, that interview went so well. I was told that I was the best candidate they interviewed, but that there was also an internal candidate who was a favourite.

45 minutes after the interview concluded, I got an email saying the other candidate got the job.

Date: 2005/12/15 19:22 pm

Yeah, I guess I can admit I’m just really bummed right now. I definitely gave the best interview of my life today. And she said so many great things about me:

“You have such great personality, I would hate to see that stifled in you.”

“You are by far the best candidate I have talked to.”

We bonded over Pink Floyd, Helix, the St. Jacobs Market, Walkerton…it was a damn fun interview.

Ahh well. One thing for sure, I had a taste while I toured their building of what a REAL job is. They even had a Tim Horton’s on site! There’s a professionalism that my current job couldn’t even dream of having. It was fantastic. I have a very clear vision of what I want now, and I WILL get it.

Regardless of my bravado, this rejection hit me extremely hard.

To be continued.

REVIEW: Deadline – Tangible Vibe (1996)

September 14, 2014 2 comments

DEADLINE_0005DEADLINE – Tangible Vibe (1996 Deadline Productions)

When we last checked in on this old Canadian indi band, it was on the 1994 EP So This is Limbo, which I rated a 2.75/5.  I haven’t played Tangible Vibe, the full length followup, in quite a few years.  I remember liking it back in 1996, when hard rock was all but dead and we were forced to seek out other kinds of rock music.  Will I still like it now?

“Another Low” is a pretty simple pop punk track, not the kind of thing I usually listen to.  It’s fast with heavy guitars and poppy vocals.  What stands in for a guitar solo is a simple melody.  It’s more annoying than likable.  “Frustrated” is more entertaining, taking the tempo back to a radio-ready pace.   Seems that I still like this one!  You’d be forgiven for thinking it’s a new single by Sum 41.  Hopefully you’ll forgive me for liking it.  Back then we didn’t call this stuff “pop-punk”, we called it “alt-rock”.

I recall liking “Living Proof” which sounds very much like Green Day.  It’s still a catchy little tune, that just it needs identity.  There’s certainly no reason it couldn’t have been a hit.  On the other hand, I remember not caring too much for “Headtrip”.  Its seemingly pro-drug message didn’t appeal to me and I didn’t think the song had much individuality going for it.  My feelings haven’t changed too much although I do appreciate the great vocal performance and guitars, but it could have been half as long.

Then and now, I love the title track “Tangible Vibe”.  Almost Monkees-like, it’s a soft rocker with a heavier chorus. I really like the recurring guitar melody.  Maybe I shouldn’t say Monkees-like, when I have heard Weezer do songs similar to this.  It’s a standout and now that I have re-discovered it, I plan on playing it a lot more.  Equally good is “Kill Me Slowly” which again is firmly in pop-punk territory, with vocal harmonies.

DEADLINE_0006

As back in 1996, “Mary” bores me.  It feels like it’s a repeat of ideas from previous songs.  Such is the problem with these simple melodies.  Sure they’re catchy, but you run the risk of ideas that sound too similar.  There’s nothing wrong with it, but we’ve heard it before.  “Amore di Gatto” (“Love Cat”?) is a beautiful classical guitar intro to the dark song “Circus”.   This song has more in common with Deadline’s early hard rock roots than modern pop rock.  It’s mournful with with the strong melodies still intact, and a tricky guitar solo to boot.  It has the most emotion on on the album, and remains its best song.

“I Don’t Even Like You” is fast and fun; the drums are played with brushes and the guitars are acoustic.  It’s one of the shortest songs, which good because novelty songs are best kept short.  “Friend In Me” was the “hit”, and it’s the exact same version as on the So This is Limbo EP, which is great.  Closer “Go With the Flow” is another Green Day copycat, unfortunately.   It’s the early, heavier side of Green Day, but still the comparisons are unavoidable.

Shame.  A really great EP could have been made from the best songs on this album.

3/5 stars

REVIEW: The Sheepdogs – Learn and Burn (2011 bonus tracks)

September 13, 2014 33 comments
SHEEPDOGS AND LEBRAIN

Ewen, Leot, LeBrain, Sam & Ryan

THE SHEEPDOGS – Learn and Burn (2011 Warner reissue, originally 2010)

SHEEPDOGS_0002Like many of you, I first heard The Sheepdogs via the excellent single “I Don’t Know”, a rollicking journey through territory pioneered by The Guess Who and Neil Young. And what a cool Canadian success story, what with that Rolling Stone cover and all.

A few months after falling in love with “I Don’t Know”, I was invited to a private acoustic session with the Sheepdogs. There were about 40 people in the room tops, including myself and my co-worker Bart who was my “+ 1″. I remember them playing “How Late, How Long” and an older tune. They were great, friendly and gracious.  They did a short meet & greet after the show, and I appreciated it when Ewen said to me, “I really like your Beatles shirt.  That’s my favourite period of John Lennon.”  I told him I specifically picked that shirt because I hoped they’d dig it!  The beards, you know?

I’m going to coin a new genre here:  “Beard Rock”.

Before seeing the band, I bought the album based on “I Don’t Know”.  That was sometime in fall of 2010; I remember listening to it on a cold, cold night at the cottage.   My impressions?  It’s a really cool mellow rock album. It sounds as if it came right out of 1969. It sounds very authentic to the period, even sonically.  Very different from their current work with Patrick Carney of the Black Keys.  I am impressed. I really like it.  Admittedly though, it’s a bit too derivative.  SHEEPDOGS_0006

Highlights for me included:

  • “Please Don’t Lead Me On”, which was very Beatles-y.  It’s jaunty, I like it.
  • “I Don’t Get By” which has a very country (or even Led Zep III) vibe.
  • “Right On” and its fat saxophone solo.
  • “Southern Dreaming” which reminds me of the Allmans, CCR and The Band
  • “Soldier Boy”,  probably the most rocking song on the album.
  • “Catfish 2 Boogaloo” kind of reminds me of a laid back version of Cream.

And, the whole Medley. These four mini-songs all meld together seamlessly, but are distinct sections.  It’s a gimmick similar to Abbey Road side two, but in miniature form.

The only song that does nothing for me is the title track “Learn and Burn”. Not into the vocal hook at all. Sorry.  I also didn’t dig the lyric referencing “Facebook invitations”, it just doesn’t vibe with the vintage 1971 sound of the song.

The two bonus tracks on the remastered edition are “Birthday” and “Slim Pickens”.  Yes, I re-bought the album to get two more songs.  You knew I would.  “Birthday” is worth it, a lovely 60’s sounding pop rock tune, with twang and banjo.  I wasn’t expecting “Slim Pickens” to rock as hard as it does, but it does!  This is a smokin’ little electric guitar bluegrass boogie instrumental.

Good album though, and a band to watch. Their work with Patrick Carney on their 2012 self-titled record expanded on their sound.  I expect them to continue to grow.

3.5/5 stars

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