Hit the Bright Lights, Hit the Road

I moved to a relatively tiny little town in Utah in 1995. I quickly discovered the local music swap shop–Gray Whale. Lining its walls were what seemed like endless numbers of used CDs … a venerable sea of unchartered musical waters. At least in my little sea of sounds.

I have 2 criteria that have yet to fail my whole-sale when it comes to buying a used CD without the opportunity of listening to it first:

  1. Cover art has to be asthetically decent. Something like Tokio Hotel’s Scream CD (which sounds infinitely better in English, but maybe that’s just because I actually understand it) would have never made the cut, whereas anything by Amethystium would have immediately garnered attention.
  2. Song titles can’t suck. “Baybee UR Mine” and the like will automatically get you shoved back unceremoniously on the shelf or tossed back in the bin without so much as a glimmer of regret.

Those two points of interest have never once let me down with the possible exception of the Honeydogs’ Amygdala CD, but even that wasn’t an intestinal-breakdown-of-porcelain-shattering-proportions letdown.

During one of my meanderings through their catalog, I stumbled across The Cranes’ Loved CD. Interesting cover art, and relatively decent song titles. “Why not?”  Since most CD shops in 1995 hadn’t caught on to the idea of “listening before buying,” I made a habit of bringing along my portable CD player, but really only just so I could listen to some of my purchases on the bus ride home.

I don’t remember where I was when I first heard them. I don’t remember what I was wearing, or what I had just eaten or was about to eat … I don’t remember the day, date, or month … but I remember the voice. It was as if she had swallowed some wispy cloud and then started to sing, “She’s been making plans to go hit the bright lights, hit the road. To the city lights this time. Just don’t worry, I’ll be fine.” The only voice comparable to hers is Hope Sandoval’s, though Alison’s is just so … accessible. I guess. The Cranes are considered “shoe gazer” by some, though I rather doubt they’d pigeon-hole themselves squarely in the genre. Mazzy Star, in my opinion, truly define the term.

I spent the rest of (insert applicable time period here) listening to that CD over and over. It still ranks in my top 10 list.

It depends on the mood I’m in as to whether I’ll listen to their earlier stuff. There’s a reason they were classified as “shoe gazer,” but that era came and went before shoe-gazer music was even semi-in vogue.

Their career borders on almost 25 years. They’ve gone from experimental, to “shoe gazer,” to ambient. Alison and her brother Jim have been core throughout, switching out guitarists, bassists and drummers.  I wish I could provide a decent link, but everything is outdated. Their fan site, starblood.org, hasn’t been updated since March 1994 or so. Their message board on cranes-fan.com is semi-up to date, but it’s so scarcely frequented that there’s really not much relevant material. Sad, cuz the band just rules.

As I Reach for a Peach …

As mentioned in previous posts, I’m a huge fan of Pink Floyd. Having said that, and for the record on this blog, “huge fan” means I greatly enjoy their music. My accent wall in our living room is not painted black with a huge prism on it (though it is painted a lovely shade of tenaya green with a rather stunning mirror framed in stained oak), nor do I have a pet dog named Seamus. I don’t own a Pink Floyd shirt or boxers, and I highly doubt I’ll ever bid on any of David Gilmour’s used guitars. However, I thoroughly enjoy mellowing out with them while I work. I will also throw on “Wish You Were Here” for the drive home after visiting with my in-laws on a Sunday evening so my girls can drift off to sleep.

I came into the Pink Floyd realm post-Roger Waters. Easy enough to do; their last album with him was The Final Cut released in 1983. I’m pretty sure I was in 5th or 6th grade when that came out. No, I came into my Floyd era with the release of A Momentary Lapse of Reason. I was sitting in my bedroom, listening to the local classic rock station. The DJ got all school-girl giddy and announced that Pink Floyd’s new single was coming up. I figured I might as well give them a shot … everyone in school seemed to worship them as some iconic musical gods. 1200+ students couldn’t be wrong, could they?

The first single of the album was “One Slip.” This song is the reason I had such a difficult time getting into Rush’s Presto album. As soon as it came out, I ran out and bought the tape. It was worn thin inside a month. With songs like “Learning to Fly,” “Yet Another Movie,” and “Sorrow,” I wondered how this band had eluded me for 15+ years of life.

My buddy Jim told me that there were some other key albums of theirs that were must-haves. He immediately hooked me up with copies of “The Wall,” “Dark Side of the Moon,” and “Wish You Were Here.” Again, all reasons why I didn’t “discover” Rush for another 2 years.

In college, I loved perusing the local used music shop. One afternoon shortly after arriving in town, I wandered in on a routine wandering of the “downtown” area. There, sitting in the used tape bin, was a pretty well-preserved copy of Meddle. Maybe it’s just me, but this particular album seemed to bridge the gap between the psychedelic, “Several Species of Small Furry Animals Gathered Together in a Cave and Grooving with a Pict” style of of music into the more refined, polished floyd that emerged on Meddle. Echoes, while reminiscent of the old Syd Barrett days, definitely shone through as a new benchmark in prominence for Gilmour. It’s also one of the ONLY songs that Roger Waters absolutely cannot perform with his solo band. The harmonics that Waters and Richard Wright provide are practically impossible to duplicate. At least on that track, both of them have this lulling, breathy quality to their vocals.

The other day, I was in Best Buy, having my iPhone serviced because of that ridiculously lame 3.1 firmware upgrade. ( NOTE: Do NOT upgrade to 3.1 if you like using your phone as a tethered modem. 3.1 removes that functionality.) I tried installing it, which really shouldn’t have been a complex procedure at all, but for some reason, my phone went all brick on me. Couldn’t get it to do anything. Being in between jobs at the moment, it is extremely critical that the phone work at all times. Any potential employers with my resume in hand could be trying to call that number. While I was pacing around, fuming and staring wide-eyed into my jobless future, there was something eerily familiar drifting over the din of the melee’ that generally pervades Best Buy. I wandered around until I centered in on the source. The closer I got, the more clear the music became. I got to the source just in time to revel in the beauty of Gilmour’s studio solo on “Comfortably Numb.” For those of you not familiar with the song, become such. The demo speakers were these two unbelievable Polk towers, replete with built-in subs. The sound was amazing. As I sat there and audibly drank in every crystal clear note, I found myself having to prop myself up on the other speakers, which happened to be perfectly centered between the two demo speakers. Gilmour’s perfectly crafted performance hit me harder than anything had in a long time. Thinking about my family, being jobless, wondering how the hell I’m supposed to support my wife and kids on an income of 0 … then the wailing of his guitar as he nailed this incredibly soulful, sorrowful solo … you just don’t experience things like that all the time. To me, it was as if he was speaking directly to me 30 years ago. “Dude, you’re gonna feel this numbness, this overwhelming sadness … and you’re going to beg and plead for someone to understand you, and no one will because everyone around you–all your friends, all your neighbors, all your family … they’re all going to have jobs. You are going to be the lone loser who is without.”

Rushin’ Roulette

In high school, I had some pretty bizarre taste in music. I actually had a tape of “The Sea Hags.” No lie. Quite honestly, I thought they sucked. Their lead singer sounded like someone had put his hand in a blender, but he was too strung out to care much, so he offered this pitiful, semi-screeching, gutteral muttering that just didn’t come across as worthwhile.  Truly, an awful band. After a quick googling, they actually have/had a relatively tiny cult following, comprised of mostly Bay area natives who still remember them.

Anyway, I went in search of something more substantial. I thought joining a tape club would help expand my musical interests. One of the selections of the month was Rush’s new offering, “Presto.” Mind you, this was my Senior year of high school. As of then, my only brush with Rush was some kid on the bus in 10th grade who said that Rush’s new album was great because their drummer had finally transitioned to electronic drums (an accomplishment achieved by “the mighty Alex Van Halen” with the release of “5150” in 1986–a full year before the release of Rush’s “Hold Your Fire”). Wondering who this Rush band could be, I consciously did not send in my reply card and awaited the arrival of my selection.

To say that I was underwhelmed is like saying that Patriots fans found solace in the fact that 18-1 is still a pretty decent record for a single loss season, or as any Buffalo sports fan will tell you, “There’s always next year.” I had heard all this great stuff about them–the musicianship, the drumming, the incredible bass and guitar … nothing on this new tape lived up to the hype or pre-conceptions. Mind you, at the time, I was heavily into Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin–classic rock titans. This pop-drivel pouring out of my little rickety bedroom stereo didn’t even pale in comparison to “Dark Side” or “IV”; it hung its head in shame and slunked off into the corner to suck its thumb and whimper.

That was 1989 …

Flash foward to my first year of college. I decided to live in the dorms, where I was sure I would be surrounded by a diverse enough group to adequately augment my musical tastes. I was introduced to bands like TMBG, Nitzer Ebb, NIN, and a ton of other groups. One guy across the hall kept playing this one tape over and over, and I always heard it, but I had no idea what it was. Finally, one day around Christmas break time, I wandered over to his room when the door was open and the tape was on. “Dude … who is that?” He stared back at me with a look that said it all …

“You’re kidding, right?”

“Wish I were, now. Seriously, who is it?”

“You’ve never heard ‘Tom Sawyer?'”

“Apparently not. Again … who is that band?”

“Dude … it’s Rush. You know … ‘2112,’ ‘Moving Pictures,’ ‘Permanent Waves’ …”

It took a few seconds to process, but it finally sank in. “Wait … did they have a new album out a couple of years ago with a rabbit coming out of a top hat?”

“Yah. ‘Presto.’ So you ARE familiar with them.”

“Kind of … I thought that album sucked.”

“Well, it was definitely a change of pace for them …”

“Do you have anything else by them?”

“Tons, dude. Wanna borrow them?”

“ALL of them. Please …”

In one fell swoop, I was introduced to “Caress of Steel,” “2112,” “Hemispheres,” “Permanent Waves,” “Moving Pictures,” “Signals,” and “Power Windows.” I couldn’t soak it in fast enough. It’s probably a good thing all he had were tapes and that I wasn’t aware of the concept of CD dynamic tracking; I would have been skipping around all over the place.

There was a used music store down the street a bit from campus. I trudged there in one frigid January day with some loose bills and change. I bought everything I could get my hands on. “Hold Your Fire,”  “Grace Under Pressure,” almost all the above-mentioned … I think my tape collection doubled in a single afternoon.

I haven’t looked back since. Say what you want about Geddy Lee’s voice … as a 3-piece band, they have more talent than any 5-member band (I’m looking at you, Steven and Joe …). They’ve experimented with blues, dance, pop, alternative, straight-up rock … they transcend genre.

I won’t go on about their individual accomplishments or awards … you can research that for yourself. I will say that they are heading into their 60s, and they still put out amazing music.

For the newbie to the band, I recommend cutting your teeth on “Moving Pictures,” “Hemispheres,” “Hold Your Fire,” and “Vapor Trails.” Those 4 CDs span about 25 years of style.

Welcome to frissonic.net

I thought of this blog a few years ago, but never really got into the whole “blogging” thing. I dabbled with blogger for a while, and I still maintain that blog somewhat, but not with any ardent desire to post continually. This is the blog I was born to write.

This is the blog I share with you now.

Some explanation is in order, I suppose …

“Frissonic.” Where does it come from? Allow Miriam and Webster to explain.

Pronunciation: \frē-ˈsōⁿ\
Function: noun
Inflected Form(s): plural frissons \-ˈsōⁿ(z)\
Etymology: French, shiver, from Old French friçon, from Late Latin friction-, frictio, from Latin, literally, friction (taken in Late Latin as derivative of frigēre to be cold)
Date: 1777

a brief moment of emotional excitement : shudder, thrill

Pronunciation: \ˈsä-nik\
Function: adjective
Date: 1923

1 : utilizing, produced by, or relating to sound waves <sonic altimeter>; broadly : of or involving sound <sonic pollution>
2 : having a frequency within the audibility range of the human ear —used of waves and vibrations
3 : of, relating to, or being the speed of sound in air or about 761 miles per hour (1224 kilometers per hour) at sea level at 59°F (15°C)

So there you have it, folks. Music that makes you shiver and shake. Frissonic.

I’ll write about bands I like or dislike, concerts, emotions elicited through music … whatever. If you like what you read, post a comment. If you don’t, that’s fine–your opinion is yours, and I’m okay with tasteful comments contradicting my point of view.

Let’s get started, shall we?

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