4 Rock Albums from the 90s that You’ve Probably Never Heard But Should Hear

4 Rock Albums from the 90s that You’ve Probably Never Heard But Should Hear

I grew up in the 80s mostly, but really started paying attention to music in the 90s.   Here are some of my favorite unsung heroes from those days.


Superdrag – Head Trip in Every Key (1998)

This, Superdrag’s second major label release, finds the Knoxville quartet expanding beyond the snarky power pop of their first album, Regretfully Yours.  A true studio masterpiece, Head Trip is what the Beach Boys would have done after Good Vibrations if they hadn’t gotten so into LSD and hanging out with Charles Manson.  Dense layers of fuzz guitars rest on a soft bed of drums and bass in a huge room full of feather pillows.  Listen to this three times, and it will be your favorite album.  Headphones recommended.



Failure – Magnified (1994)

A lot of attention has been given in recent years to Failure’s follow-up to this album, Fantastic Planet.  A great album, no doubt one of my favorites, but the brilliance of Magnified cannot be ignored.  This is where Failure really came into their sound.  Heavy, grungy guitars, overdriven bass, dissonant arpeggios, slamming drums, with complex arrangements all coming together to create a sound unheard before or since.  Overlooking this record is a big mistake, in my opinion.



Handsome – Handsome (1997)

Supergroups are usually supposed to do better than this album did.  Comprised of ex-members of Quicksand, Helmet, Cro-Mags, and other New York hardcore veterans, Handsome never got any traction in the mainstream media.  At first listen, this record could come across as a bunch of old hardcore guys who were trying to get on the radio, but to write it off as such would be such a disservice to such a great record.  As short-lived as this lineup was, they managed to pull off something very special.  The Terry Date “wall of metal” production sounds a bit dated (pun intended) and doesn’t fit the band as well as perhaps the first couple Deftones albums, but the songs, man… the songs.  Catchy, emotive, powerful, riff-tastic, and awesome.



Self – Subliminal Plastic Motives (1995)

Matt Mahaffey, who makes music under the pseudonym Self, is one of those guys that, as a musician, I want to hate.  He can play every instrument, and play it well, he’s a prolific songwriter, and has made a career as a sideman for Beck, among others.  His first major label release, Subliminal Plastic Motives, which was 95% performed and produced by Mahaffey, is a collection of quirky pop anthems that fit right in with the developing alternative landscape.  By all accounts, this should have been a huge hit, but never quite cracked the egg of mainstream consciousness.  Equal parts XTC, Cheap Trick, and Prince, SPM is a joy front to back.  There isn’t a bad song on this record, which is even more the feat considering it all came out of one person’s head.






GOP Debate – 12/15/15

GOP Debate – 12/15/15

In keeping with my new tradition of watching the debates the day after, here we go again.  Last night, the leading GOP candidates gathered on a stage in Las Vegas to talk about stuff.  A few observations…

  • I wasn’t aware of this, but apparently America is a very dangerous place, because all the candidates are very preoccupied with keeping America safe.
  • American exceptionalism is alive and well in the mind of Marco Rubio.
  • Nobody has as much respect for Donald Trump as Donald Trump.
  • Jeb Bush calls Trump out for being full of one-liners. Trump responds with one-liners.
  • Giving up personal privacy for national security is a no-brainer to these people.
  • Agree with Ben Carson that the politically correct “fear of being perceived as Islamophobic” among liberals and others is stupid and counterproductive. (A side note: Obama’s refusal to refer to Islamic extremists as such bothers me a lot.)
  • I agree with Ted Cruz that political correctness is a bad thing in terms of the conversation surrounding radical Islamic terrorists. I do not agree with Cruz when he says that president Obama is perpetuating the idea that the terrorists are winning.  I think that responsibility falls with him and his colleagues on the stage, and other conservative pundits.
  • Trump got booed! Sweet music to my ears.
  • Trump, in a rare moment of clarity, said something that I agree with – that the US would be better off if we had stayed out of the war in the Middle East and spent that $4 trillion locally to fix things that need fixing.
  • Chris Christie just got away with calling Obama a pussy by using a word that no one knows what it means.
  • I liked Ben Carson’s “citizen statesman” comment. Totally agree.  Can we get some term limits in the congress?  Pretty please?
  • Shout-out to Reagan count: lost count a long time ago.  I’m pretty sure one of the pundit websites will release a figure in the next day or two.
  • I don’t think that the heroin epidemic as mentioned by Jeb Bush has as much to do how easy it is to bring heroin here as it does just about every other contributing factor to drug addiction.
  • Chris Christie really wants us all to know that he is a former federal prosecutor. He also doesn’t think that the federal government hides anything from the American people.  Is he joking?  Two words:  Edward Snowden.

So much of this debate was spent talking about keeping America safe and defeating ISIS.  That’s cool and all, but what about the rest of the issues? What about poverty, or health care, or veterans, or the budget, or our crumbling infrastructure, or corruption in government, or the deficit, or common sense gun laws, or taxes, or campaign finance reform? Would it be possible to alleviate some fear, rather than prey upon it?

If a Republican wins the white house next year, we can be sure of four things:  1) military operations in the middle east will not only continue but escalate until at least 2020, 2) mass shootings will not only continue but will see an increase (which might happen anyway), 3) poverty will not be addressed as a social issue (i.e. one of the root causes of homelessness, drug addiction, depression, suicide, etc.), and 4) more tax breaks for their rich buddies.  Hooray for progress.


“Love is but a song to sing
Fear’s the way we die”

War on Christmas?

War on Christmas?

According to a not-so-recent Fox News poll, 42% of respondents believe there is a “war on Christmas” going on in America.  From what I can gather from things my relatives and others post on Facebook, this means that in their minds, people should be saying “Merry Christmas” instead of less specific, more innocuous greetings like “Happy Holidays,” and when they use these more innocuous terms, they are declaring war against God, against Christianity, and against Christmas!  Starbucks was recently accused of being guilty of attacking Christmas because they decided to omit all imagery and other references to any specific holiday from their winter coffee cup.

Basically what’s going on here is that some Christians, empowered by such folks as Bill O’Reilly, have become deeply and personally offended that the holiday greeting used by others does not acknowledge their own superstitions.

May I gently remind all of us that not all people in the world believe that Jesus is the son of God.  For people that do believe Jesus is the son of God, this often has more to do with where you were born, not how right you are.

By forcing one’s will for others to acknowledge religious beliefs that they may not hold, we are in violation of the first amendment.   Freedom of religion implicitly includes freedom from religion.  Despite what our religious beliefs may be, we need to allow others the freedom to believe what they believe, as they should allow us to do the same.  At some point I may address the fallacy of the Christian Nation, but not now.

So next time someone smiles at you and says, “Happy Holidays,” smile back and say, “Thanks, same to you.”  Because anyone getting offended at two words, one of which is HAPPY, is not only ridiculous, but also 100% un-American.

The Next-to-least I Can Do

The Next-to-least I Can Do

Another blog.  Just what the world needs, right?  I know.  Blogging might be a good metaphor for life, though.  Generally speaking, there isn’t a whole lot of point to it, but it can be fun anyway.

So why another blog?  I suppose for much the same reasons anyone else writes a blog.  It is an outlet, a way to get things off my chest in a semi-constructive way, a vehicle for conversation, sharing ideas… whatever it turns out to be.  I understand that some people make a living writing a blog, but I have no delusions of grandeur there.

I like to think that I pay attention to politics and current events.  I listen to NPR on my way to and from work, so obviously I put a ton of time and effort into it. (Sarcasm!)  I have a habit, some would say a bad habit, of posting things to my Facebook page that I find interesting or provocative.  Often these things are articles about guns (control or violence or both), or whatever Bernie Sanders is talking about at the moment, or some ridiculous nonsense the GOP presidential candidates are saying.  (There is my bias. I will try to be nice.)  I came to the realization recently that posting on my Facebook page was literally the least I could do and still act like I give a shit.  Perhaps writing a blog is one notch above the least I can do, like, the next-to-least I can do.  Hopefully as an intended side-effect, it will also give my less-politically-minded Facebook friends a well-deserved break.

I also like music a lot, and vinyl records as the picture above suggests.  I’m the only person in my office that has a functional turntable in my cubicle.  Craft beer (IPAs mostly) and fine wine are among my hobbies as well.  I may write about any of those things, or whatever else is on my mind at the time.

The best I could hope for in writing anything is to start open and honest conversations about real things that are happening in the world.  I would like to explore topics beyond my own preconceived notions and prejudices.  I would like to better understand why people believe what they believe, and why I believe what I believe.  I would like to challenge myself to look beyond my own limited experience and understanding.  I welcome your involvement in that process.  I also encourage anyone who reads these words to challenge yourself as well in the same regard.  I will also try to post a relevant song at the end, because.. you know, music.  Music is good.  Or rather, good music is good.  More on that another time.

American psychologist Wayne Dyer once said, “The highest form of ignorance is when you reject something you don’t know anything about.”  I hope that the few of us who might come across this blog could collectively aspire to not be guilty of that.


“If ever I would stop thinking about music and politics, I would tell you that music is the expression of emotion, and that politics is merely the decoy of perception.” -Michael Franti