barenaked ladies

#638: BNL

GETTING MORE TALE #638: BNL

First year of university involved “frosh week”.  All the new students would have events and basically just party for a week.  I wasn’t into that and I only attended the first night.  It concluded with an Australian comedy band playing some amusing novelty songs.  Wish I could remember their name.

My friend Andy, who was accepted at  the University of Waterloo, had different entertainment for frosh week.  “We had this shitty band called Barenaked Ladies,” he told me.  Barenaked Ladies?  The fuck was that?

Barenaked Ladies were an acoustic group from Scarborough Ontario who specialised in quirky and often humorous original songs.  Little did I know that their Yellow Tape demo was making waves.  I was focused on what was happening in Canadian metal.  It didn’t take long after that Waterloo gig for the band to gain national awareness.  Their excellent cover of Bruce Cockburn’s “Lovers in a Dangerous Time” got a nation wide release on a tribute album called Kick at the Darkness. The quintessentially Canadian music video was in constant rotation.

And for comparison:

The Cockburn cover was impressive.  It showed off the central vocal harmonies of Steven Page and Ed Robertson, and it was obvious the band were schooled on their instruments.  Barenaked Ladies didn’t focus on mainstream instruments, preferring double bass and congas.

My sister became a fan quickly, and when their first official album Gordon was released in ’92, she dove right in.  Before long she had a vast collection of Barenaked rarities, including a bootleg tape she recorded herself at a Kitchener show.  Some of the bands’ most popular songs with fans were not on Gordon, such as “McDonalds Girl” and the Public Enemy cover “Fight the Power”.

I casually followed the band along with her, appreciating their lyrical cleverness and occasional emotional depth.  I helped her collect rarities at record shows.  She sent pianist/percussionist Andy Creeggan a vintage 1977 Darth Vader sticker to put on his congas.  And he did.  And it can be seen in some video footage if you look hard enough.

I went to see them with her on their 1996 Born on a Pirate Ship tour.  I was impressed with a lot of their new songs, especially the intense “Straw Hat and Old Dirty Hank”, a track about an Anne Murray stalker. They played it live at that show (which featured Mike Smith aka “Bubbles” in opening band Sandbox).

As soon as Steven Page hit the stage, he seemed to be simmering.  He was dressed in his goofy shorts as usual, but he seemed…angry?  Intense.  It really came out in “Straw Hat and Old Dirty Hank” which boiled over.  I gained a real appreciation for the band that night, and also for Steven Page as an artist.  Whatever was bothering him that day (if that was indeed the case), he poured it into the show.  It was an incredible night.

Unfortunately for us, Barenaked Ladies evolved into the mainstream over the years.  Both of us lost interest as they changed.  Andy Creeggan left the band after their second album Maybe You Should Drive, which meant the congas were gone.  Jim Creeggan traded his big stand up bass for an electric more often.  The emotion seemed to drain from their albums as time went on.

I wasn’t very surprised when Steven Page left the band in 2009.  As their music became more campy and often aimed at kids, Page was less comfortable.  His drug bust in New York was the real shock, since he was caught doing cocaine.  That certainly clashed with the band’s family friendly image.

The band carried on and Page went solo, but there’s a new twist.  On March 25 2018, Barenaked Ladies will be inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame.  It’ll be done during the Juno Awards broadcast, and Steven Page will be returning to perform with them.  “I hope it’s fun,” said Page.  “I honestly haven’t been in the same room as the other guys – all the other guys at once – since I left the band. It’ll be good to see them all, but it’s going to be odd. It’s not like we’re getting back together.”

Odd indeed, but stranger things have happened.  Will you be checking out the big reunion on March 25?

 

#547: The Redemption of the Worst McDonalds Ever

Getting More Tale #547: The Redemption of the Worst McDonalds Ever
The sequel to #536: Worst. McDonalds. EVER.

I’ve been visiting the “worst McDonalds ever” regularly in the past few weeks.  All McDonalds stores have been renovated since the 2006 disaster area we encountered in the last installment.  They’ve made a number of changes to their menu and how you order.

Where a typical McDonalds used to have a huge counter full of cash registers to order, now they have just one.  This is because they have switched over to an automated ordering/paying system using touch-screen kiosks.  You might think that removing the human element is a bad thing.  When it was first rolled out, it seemed things got slower.  Today is another story.

Using the former “worst McDonalds ever” as an example, service is now much faster and accurate.  You don’t have to get in line.  Just walk in and stroll up to a kiosk.  Follow the instructions on screen and touch what you want to order.  You can do it as a combo, and you can change sizes quite easily.  Making modifications is easy peasy.  The kiosk then reviews your order and asks you to confirm it.  Once this is done, you can either pay by debit or credit card right at the kiosk, or go to the cash register to pay.

The kiosk spits out your receipt with a number.  That number then appears on a big screen that says “now serving”.  Your number climbs to the top when your order is ready.  Usually this happens quickly.

It used to be the case that we didn’t like to get McDonalds “to go” because by the time you get back, the fries are cold.  Everybody knows McDonalds fries are best when they are piping hot.  Cold McDonalds fries just don’t cut it.  I am pleased to report that I can go to the former “worst McDonalds ever” and get back to the office in time with hot fries. My turnaround time is usually 15-20 minutes from door to door.  Additionally, my order has been right every time. It seems the new kiosk system has cut down on human error.

This is all just personal experience; I have been to a few of the new McDonalds and only had a bad experience once, in Ottawa, when the new system was first introduced.  That McDonalds was drowning in confusion and upset customers, including one who claimed this was the “worst McDonalds ever”.  That first time aside, food has been fast and accurate since.

What does this mean in terms of general retail?  Automated checkout is becoming more and more common.  As long as the speed and quality remain in good standing, this trend will continue.  It will probably not impact the music business very much.  Most people who go shopping in a music store go there partly because there are humans to interact with.  As long as music stores exist, so will manual checkouts.  Of course, many folks (myself included) buy a huge chunk of their music from online retailers.  However when we do visit a music store, we want a flesh and blood human being there.

Good for McDonalds for improving their service.  I think the music business will continue on its own path.

 

GUEST SHOT: 30 Albums that Uncle Meat Thinks You Should Visit (Or Re-Visit) Part 3

Meat is back for the final installment of his essential list:  30 Albums that Uncle Meat Thinks You Should Visit (Or Re-Visit).

Missed any?

Here’s Part 1.  

Part 2 is here.

And make no mistake, Meat wrote every word.  No messing around from me.  Enjoy!

PET SOUNDS   –  THE BEACH BOYS (1966)

When The Beatles released Rubber Soul in 1965, Brian Wilson heard something that inspired him to try and make his own masterpiece.  The result was Pet Sounds, which saw The Beach Boys discard their typical surf-inspired ditties and create an album that will always be a classic.  I remember when I first heard this album I was completely blown away that it was a 1966 album.  The overall sound of it is so full and rich, and it’s funny how everyone thinks The Beatles main influence for Sgt. Peppers was drug-related, and I am sure it was, but that classic would never have been without this classic album first.  Do yourself a favour and re-discover The Beach Boys by checking this out.

 

QUEENS OF THE STONE AGE  –  QUEENS OF THE STONE AGE (1998)

There are a lot of people that think that the QOTSA album Rated R, is the band’s first release.  In all reality it is their third release if you count the Kyuss/Queens of the Stone Age EP. However, it is a shame that this album has been somewhat overlooked.  I think it is by far their best album.  To gauge just how much I got into this album could never be measured.  For years, I stated that this album was my favorite album ever with distortion.  Now trust me I realize the exaggeration in that statement (I have since relented) but it doesn’t take away how brilliant I believe this album truly is.   This is a true collection of groovy rock songs, so much so that QOTSA could have titled this album exactly that.  I have not been a fan of the last few QOTSA albums, and frankly I wish they could harness this approach once again.  Check out the included track “Avon”.  An absolute air-drumming seminar at its finest!!

 

ROXY & ELSEWHERE  –  FRANK ZAPPA & THE MOTHERS (1974)

One of the albums previously on this list, Joe Jackson’s Big World, was a live album containing new material.  Considering the content of this particular album, that format was never more impressive or more challenging than Zappa’s album Roxy & Elsewhere.   From beginning to end, it’s hard to believe the complexity of what was happening onstage during these recordings.  From the colourful vocals of Napoleon Murphy Brock, to the guitar-fueled madness of Zappa himself, this is my personal favorite of all of Zappa’s recordings.  Songs like “Pygmy Twilite” and “Village of the Sun” are absolute genius.  The concert film of these recordings is STILL in limbo for whatever reason.  Included is a clip of the song “Montana”, recorded during these sessions but not included on the album itself.

 

 

SCENES FROM A MEMORY-METROPOLIS 2  –  DREAM THEATER (1999)

I simply couldn’t do a list like this without including Dream Theater.   I like heavy music and I like progressive music.  This band combines those two qualities perhaps better than any band ever has, and on this album its done to perfection.  This is your classic “concept album” and tells an interesting story that needs to be experienced.  But the true experience of this album is that it is a piece of song-writing and musical brilliance.  If you have seen Rush’s biopic Beyond The Lighted Stage,   you might recognize the now-familiar voice of long-time Rush producer Terry Brown (who also produced the vocals on this album).   The album sees John Petrucci and Mike Portnoy at their monster best and requires many listens to truly appreciate.  I am not a “Rolling Stone” magazine guy myself, but it does say something that in 2012 they named this album as the Number One all-time progressive album, beating out Rush’s 2112 and Yes’s  Close to The Edge.

THE ACTION IS GO  –  FU MANCHU (1997)

This album starts off with a bang, it also ends with a bang and actually this album is just one big resounding rhythmic bang.  After a few good, but not great albums (in my opinion), new drummer Brant Bjork was brought into Fu Manchu.  This would result in one of the greatest “Stoner-Rock” albums of all time.  This is literally the perfect driving album.  Sometimes you find yourself emulating driving just sitting and listening to it.   You can hear a huge Sabbath influence on this album, at least in the sound of the instruments and the driving low end.  Sometimes the vocals can leave a bit to be desired, but it is not really singing in the first place.  Almost sounds like a dude talkin’ to himself, which adds to the coolness of this album.  One of my favorite albums of the 1990’s indeed.

WELCOME TO SKY VALLEY  –  KYUSS (1994)

Somewhere around early 1995, I walked into a Sunrise Records where Tom (Tom has been mentioned many times in Mike’s blogs) was working.  At this point Tom and I only really knew each other from local concerts we would run into each other at.  The second I walked in he begged me to check out this Kyuss album on the listening station.  I remember the look on his face when I didn’t instantly “get it”.  Years later I had to bow to him and thank him for trying to open my eyes earlier.  No one knows how to set a mood quite like Kyuss.  The last album listed was Brant Bjork’s first album with Fu Manchu.  This album is the last Kyuss album featuring Brant Bjork on drums.  No coincidence here.  This man knows how to wash songs with a subtle intensity.  Check out the song “Demon Cleaner” sometime, with Josh Homme singing and see how Queens of the Stone Age were born.  This album has been listed as a major influence for many of the heavy metal greats of the day.

 

WHALE MUSIC  –  THE RHEOSTATICS (1994)

The Rheostatics are definitely one of my favorite bands of all time, and the artist I have seen live the most in my life.  Any band that calls their first album Greatest Hits obviously has a good sense of humour.  There really is no album that quite captures “Canadiana” quite like Whale Music.  Not to be confused with the later-released official soundtrack of the same name, this album ranges from the sweet to the insane.  Take the song “Queer” for example.  “Well the screen door is still broken, since you kicked your Kodiaks through it” and “I scored a hat trick on the team that called you a fuckin’ queer”, are lyrics that paint a Canadian portrait of everyday life.  I love this album and frequently re-visit it only to find it gets better with age.  Notable appearances on this album are Neil Peart on a song called “Guns” and The Barenaked Ladies (credited as The Scarborough Naked Youth Choir).   Included here is the amazing opening track.  Check it out eh ….

WHITE PEPPER  –  WEEN (2000)

Simply put, this is my favorite “Pop” album of all time.  I am not a Ween fan per se. I cannot say I have actually connected strongly with any of their other albums.  But when this album was introduced to me, it grabbed a hold of me and it will never let go.  First of all, the sound on this album is absolutely wonderful.  Second of all, the melodies on this album (with sprinkles of Ween weirdness of course) are something very reminiscent of The Beatles.  I have always tagged this album as their “Beatles tribute”, and it was pointed out to me by a friend that “The White Album? Sgt. Peppers?  White Pepper?”. Now I have not read that in fact that is what the name truly means, but I think that is a very good guess.  I have played this album for a few musician friends of mine and the result is pretty much the same across the board.  White Pepper  simply “hooks” you in, it is that simple. Check out the Trey Parker and Matt Stone directed video for “Even If You Don’t” included here.

 

UNCHAINED  –  JOHNNY CASH (1996)

I was working at the “Record Store Chain” Ladano blogs about when I was first introduced to this album.  It was instantly a revelation of what I do actually like about Country Music, and was the reason I became a fan of the older-style albums of the genre.   Not enough can be said about the genius of Rick Rubin.  The man who changed the careers of Slayer, The Beastie Boys and the Red Hot Chili Peppers got a hold of Johnny Cash and re-introduced him as the icon he always was.  Hiring Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers as the backing band for the second American Recordings Johnny Cash release was a stroke of brilliance.  The opening track “Rowboat” sees Cash cover a Beck song and make it his own.  “Sea of Heartbreak” is a melodic ass-kicker.  Everyone by now knows of the genius cover of Soundgarden’s “Rusty Cage”,  so good in fact that for a long period of time Chris Cornell refused to play it live stating “It’s not our song anymore.  It’s Johnny’s now”.  No album of this genre has ever sounded bigger, if not any genre.  A must have album.

VS.  –  PEARL JAM (1993)

This album had to be included on this list.  I understand that everyone looks at Pearl Jam’s  first album as this massive crowning achievement, but frankly I didn’t get it then and I really still don’t.  Their second album I think is the best album of their career and probably my favorite “Grunge” album ever.  Every song on this album is a classic to me and it does seem weird to call an album that was a Number One album on Billboard for five weeks straight “underrated”.  But I truly do feel this album gets overlooked and that’s a shame.  I find Ten to be kind of boring and redundant to be honest.  This album is still fresh to me.   I hope when it’s all said and done that this album is what truly defines them.

 

Part 96: Aerodouche Dandy

RECORD STORE TALES Part 96:  Aerodouche Dandy

The year:  2003. Aerosmith were in town, playing a private party for Research in Motion.  I know a few people who went.  But I also know someone who ran into Steven Tyler downtown that day.  (As an historic footnote, the opening act for that party was Barenaked Ladies.  Thanks to Melvin Lapandano for that information.)

The person who bumped into Tyler was “Dandy”, one of the biggest assholes I’ve ever worked with.  And that doesn’t even bother him, he used to be proud that he was a dick.  Once he dropped his façade and showed his true colours, I had no use for the guy.  He was the kind of lazy disinterested employee who knew when he was safe to screw the pooch and when he had to work, and who to kiss ass for brownie points.  He was an expert at keeping up appearances.

The only time Dandy did anything (arguably) funny was the time met Steven Tyler downtown.  But he was still a dick.

Aerosmith’s last album, Just Push Play was pretty dismal, loaded with pop, ballads and samples.  Even Joe Perry says it’s his least favourite album.

So, Aerosmith are in town to play the private party.  Dandy’s walking downtown, acting like a douche (that part is speculation, but it’s probably true), when he bumps into Steven Tyler.  The conversation went like this.

Dandy – “Hey!  You’re in Aerosmith, right?”

Tyler – “That’s right, how are you doing man?”

Dandy – “I’m OK.  You guys kind of suck now don’t you?”

Tyler – (frowns and walks away)

Dandy – “Cheers.”

Then, to conclude the story, Dandy told me, “Later on I saw the bass player too.  But I didn’t say anything to him.  He’s just the bass player, so it already sucks enough to be him.”

What a douchebag!