Friday, November 19, 2010

A Culinary Revolution

I am nothing if not a man of ideas. Anyone who knows me knows that I am constantly thinking up new ways to prepare and serve food: the gravy-filled biscuit, the double-sided pizza, the monkey-staffed kitchen...the list goes on and on. Some ideas, such as the cereal restaurant and the breakfast pizza, have been ripped off from me by unscrupulous businessmen who used them for their own profit. And yet I soldier on. Anyway, I recently came up with a new idea for a restaurant which could, ahem, "revolutionize" the food industry. Let me explain.
One of Japan's greatest contributions to modern society is the conveyor-belt sushi restaurant. There are a number of them here in Seattle, and they're my preferred choice for eating sushi. The reasons are numerous. First, I always get exactly the amount of food needed to satisfy my hunger, no more, no less. Second, variety: why eat ten pieces of spicy tuna roll when you can have a couple pieces each of several different rolls? Third, instant gratification: no waiting around for the waiter to take my order or the chef to prepare it. Fourth, visual stimulation: watching all of those colorful pieces of sushi go around is fun. Even my one-year-old daughter can appreciate this. If there's a downside to conveyor-belt sushi, it's that you never know exactly how long the sushi has been sitting out. But a little extra wasabi should be enough to kill off any unwanted food pathogens.
So I got to thinking: why not apply the conveyor-belt method to other types of food? With the modern trend of small plates, it would seem like a natural fit. You could have conveyor-belt tapas, conveyor-belt BBQ, conveyor-belt Thai, you name it. It's such a no-brainer that I'm surprised that nobody's done it yet. But it's bound to happen sooner or later. You heard it here first, friends.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010


Wow, has it really been three years? No, not since my last post- I'm talking about three years since this blog started. So much has happened during that time: I got married, my daughter was born, I saw the Facebook movie...I'm a changed man now. And this blog has changed, too: what started as a humble celebration of an underappreciated grape has slowly evolved into a multimedia juggernaut with soundclips, videos, and lots of other stuff I can't remember right now. But enough about the past; what can you, the loyal Concord fan, expect in the future? More of the same! And that's a good thing. I'm talking about more Sounds From The Cave, more fake restaurant reviews, more hostile reader comments, and more of everything that has been charming the planet for the last three years. And, I promise, more frequent posts. Can you imagine a greater gift than that? No, you cannot.
See you next year!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Volcano Suns - Bumper Crop

Hello dear readers,
Welcome to another edition of Sounds from the Cave. As I write this, a volcano in Iceland is spewing huge clouds of ash and disrupting air travel all over Europe. In honor of this glorious event, I have chosen an album by 80's Boston band, the Volcano Suns. These guys formed out of the ashes (ha!) of another great band, Mission of Burma. Like a lot of other indie groups of the era, the Volcano Suns combined catchy melodies with loud, distorted guitars. They did it better than most, though, and had a sense of humor to boot. But what really separated this band from the rest of the pack was the fact that they had a singing drummer. This is remarkable because singing drummers are almost always a huge liability; two examples that immediately come to mind are Night Ranger and Phil Collins-era Genesis. In both of these cases, the drummers were so busy singing that they were unable to fully rock out on the drums, thereby causing them to play limp-wristed power ballads. This was not the case with the Volcano Suns--these guys played kick-ass, balls-to-the-wall rock n' roll. (That's right, I said "balls-to-the-wall.") So they broke the mold, so to speak.
The other thing that distinguished this band was their propensity for butt-ugly album covers, as evidenced by the image above. Just look at that eyesore--you're likely to burn your retinas before you even get the record out of its jacket. With album art like that, it's no wonder these guys never made it big. And on that note, I'll leave you with a question: What is the ugliest cover you've ever seen on an otherwise great album? While you're pondering that, here's a selection from Bumper Crop:

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Against Carrot Cake

Hello friends,
Once in a while you come across something that you had previously accepted as a normal part of everyday life, only to realize that it is completely worthless and does not even deserve to exist. I'm talking, of course, about carrot cake. It's not that it tastes bad, it's just that it is totally mediocre and undeserving of its popularity. Why it is on the shelves of nearly every grocery store is beyond me. I suppose you could say that carrot cake is the Lyle Lovett of the dessert world, but I think it's about time we stop picking on that poor guy. So let's just cut to the chase and list the reasons why this stuff is so awful.
First of all, it shouldn't be called carrot cake. It is basically just spice cake with a few flecks of carrot mixed in. The carrots add absolutely nothing to its character; they're just there because spice cake would sound too boring. People will try to convince you that the carrots make it moist, but you could easily substitute a million other things (e.g. applesauce, vegetable oil) to achieve the same effect. And there isn't the faintest hint of carrot flavor in this cake.
Second, nobody actually likes carrot cake. Oh, they may say they like it, but they're fooling themselves. What people actually like is the cream cheese frosting. Hell, I'd eat a piece of cardboard if it had cream cheese frosting on it. That stuff is like crack cocaine. But just try to offer someone a piece of homemade carrot cake without any frosting and you'll just get a blank stare. Nobody would even consider eating it.
Whew! I'm glad I got that off my chest. Next week: zucchini bread!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Genesis - The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway

Welcome to a very special edition of "Sounds from the Cave." As many of you know, my friend Trevor used to be my roommate, and he left a couple boxes of old LPs in my basement when he moved out. After he found out about my new blog column, Trevor suggested that I dig through his records and feature something from his collection. So that is exactly what I am doing for this week's post. Think of it as "Sounds from the Cave: Mad City Edition."
I chose Genesis's The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway because it'd been an album that I'd heard good things about but had never actually heard. It is widely considered to be one of the great albums of the 70's, but despite my many years of music listening, Lamb somehow always managed to elude me. I guess you could say that it was my white whale. I mean that literally- the album cover is white, and it's massive: four sides of epic progressive rock, with elaborate cover art to match. So why did I avoid listening to it for so long? For one thing, my earliest memories of Genesis are of the 80's Invisible Touch-era band. I hated that stuff so much that I pretty much swore off listening to them ever again. The other thing is my general disinterest in progressive rock, which is the musical style that Genesis played on Lamb. Don't get me wrong- I do like rock music that is artistic and inventive, but sometimes progressive rock just sounds too pretentious to me. There's also a vague Dungeons & Dragons vibe that I get from listening to it, which is not a good thing in my book (although I will admit that Rush were one of the first bands I ever liked).
Well, I've decided to confront my fears and dive head first into this so-called masterpiece. So what is this album all about? It is, in a word, fancy. There are fancy song structures. There are fancy time signatures. And there are fancy lyrics which create a complex narrative throughout the whole album. It is the quintessential rock opera. And after listening to it once all the way through, I can say that I enjoyed it. Quite a bit, actually. I could even imagine liking it more with repeated listens. That hasn't happened yet - this record is freaking long, people - so time will tell if this record ends up spending much time on my turntable. But one thing's for sure- this band used to be pretty damn weird, which makes it all the more puzzling that they ended up being Top 40 pop stars in the 80's. I'm still trying to figure out how a band that started out like this eventually ended up like this. Anyway, here's a selection from Lamb:

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Hiatt's Rule

What's the deal with John Hiatt? He's sort of the anti-Lyle Lovett: so normal-looking that it's hard to imagine him playing rock 'n roll. And the truth is, his music is just as boring as you would expect. Just remember "Hiatt's Rule": Never listen to music made by someone who looks like a mid-level office manager. Ah, never mind...

Thursday, March 11, 2010

The Legendary Joao Gilberto

Hello, and welcome to another edition of "Sounds from the Cave." Before we begin, I would like to offer an apology of sorts. As you recall from my last post, I said some rather mean things about Lyle Lovett, the basic message being that he is overrated. This is a bit unfair, since I haven't really listened to him that much. I'm sure he's probably a really nice guy, and I will admit that he's got a great voice. But I still stand by what I said. Like Leon Redbone before him, he belongs in the musical dustbin of freaks and curiosities. What I do regret about my post is the crack I made in the comments section implying that my parents (and old people in general) have terrible taste in music. There is a kernel of truth to this, since I typically do not like the same music as my parents. But there are some big exceptions, the most obvious of which is the subject of this week's post.
Today I'm going to talk about Joao Gilberto. He is the Brazilian singer/guitarist who, along with the composer Antonio Carlos Jobim, basically invented the musical genre known as bossa nova. You probably know the song "The Girl from Ipanema" (sung by Joao's wife, Astrud); it's the song that started the bossa nova craze in the 60's and spawned countless cheesy tunes heard in elevators all over the world. What you probably haven't heard are the earliest bossa nova recordings, which were made by Joao in the late 50's and eventually compiled on a fantastic CD called The Legendary Joao Gilberto. The songs on this disc represent the purest (and best) examples of the form, and many of them have since become standards. Joao's jazzy guitar chords and ultra-mellow singing make for some of the most relaxing music ever recorded; even my mom likes this stuff. It's a shame, then, that this CD is no longer in print (which is why I've included it in "Sounds from the Cave"). But you can probably find a copy at your local public library, so it's definitely worth checking out. Your mama would be proud.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Don't Lovett

Hello friends,
I'm taking a break today from my "Sounds from the Cave" series to talk about a subject that's really been bugging me lately. The subject is this: Lyle Lovett. Specifically, I would like to know why this guy is famous. He's a good enough singer, I guess, but his songs are totally unmemorable. If you saw him in "Short Cuts", then you know how limited his range is as an actor. So what, exactly, is so special about Lyle Lovett? Here's my theory: people are intrigued by his weird face and hair. And that's all. They think that someone who is that strange-looking must have artistic talent. But ask yourself this question: If Lyle Lovett looked like Mr. Joe Average, would people still listen to his music? I doubt it. Now, I will admit that I have only heard a few of his songs, but the ones I did hear sounded like nothing more than generic bar-band material. It's the sort of stuff that I imagine middle-aged couples listening to when they're drinking margaritas out on the deck. But is it possible that I'm missing something here? Does he actually have some great songs that I haven't heard? If you are a fan, I would like to hear from you. To use a phrase that Mr. Lovett probably knows all too well, I'm all ears.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Kiwi Rock

I know exactly two things about New Zealand. The first, obviously, is hobbits. The country is overrun with these furry-footed creatures. According to recent statistics, there are seven hobbits for every human in New Zealand, and they play a significant role in the country's economy. Hobbit fur is used to make Snuggies (a major NZ export), and their urine is harvested to make the local delicacy known as Marmite. The second thing I know about New Zealand is Flying Nun Records. Back in the 80's, there was a vibrant indie rock scene in New Zealand, and Flying Nun was the label that documented it. The bands on this label played catchy, lo-fi guitar pop, a sharp contrast to the hardcore and post-punk sounds being made in the U.S. at the time; it wasn't long before American bands heard this music and became influenced by it.
There were a ton of great bands on Flying Nun, but two of the better ones were the Clean and the Verlaines. Both bands made their best music at the beginning of the 80's, and these early recordings were eventually compiled on two classic LP's: the Clean's Compilation, and the Verlaine's Juvenilia. The former was upbeat and whimsical, while the latter was more romantic and folky. Both were full of great tunes and are worth hearing for anyone interested in the history of underground rock.

The Clean:

The Verlaines:

Friday, February 19, 2010

Neil Young - Time Fades Away

I am a huge Neil Young fan. His music was the soundtrack for innumerable road trips during my college days. I would even go so far as to say that I worship him like a god. In fact, I think everyone should set aside three hours every Sunday to sit down and listen to his albums. His name should be included in the Pledge of Allegiance, despite his Canadian citizenship. When you are faced with a tough decision, you should ask yourself, "What would Neil Young do?" His music will guide you to a better place, and for this we should all bow down and show him our utmost respect.
If there is a phase of Neil's career that I find particularly noteworthy, it would be the years 1973-1979. It was during this time that he released what I consider to be his best albums. The first of these was Time Fades Away. This album was unique in the sense that it was recorded live but consisted of entirely new songs. More importantly, however, it introduced a significant change in Neil's musical direction. The new songs were darker, more personal, and played in a much looser style than his earlier recordings. And of course, the songwriting was top-notch: rowdy rockers and fragile ballads, all of them essential listening. So it's a shame that this record was never reissued on CD. It's hard to imagine how this could be, especially with such a popular musical artist. Apparently, Neil Young himself was never totally thrilled with the album and has since prohibited his record label from reissuing it. To this I can only reply: KISS MY ASS, NEIL. Because your fans deserve better than that. They deserve to hear every note you played during those golden years. Sure, you can coast on your success and keep writing songs about electric cars and rapper jeans, but nobody really cares about that crap. In the meantime, I'll just have to listen to my worn-out copy of Time Fades Away and try to imagine what it sounds like without all the pops and scratches. And you can too:

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Feedtime - Shovel

Sometimes simpler is better. Like, I'll occasionally go to a restaurant and just order a hamburger, even if there are more exotic things on the menu. Don't get me wrong, I have an amazingly refined palate and do enjoy a good gourmet meal from time to time. But I can tell you from experience that a plate of free-range dolphin sashimi just doesn't satisfy in the same way that a big ol' greasy burger does. Which bring us to this week's record.
Feedtime were a noise rock band from Australia who were active during the 1980's. They took the basic sound of punk, slowed it down, and simplified it even further. No solos, no choruses, just two or three chords repeated over and over. The point was to be as raw and direct as possible. Not that you'd expect anything different from these guys: the back cover shows pictures of the band members, one of whom is sporting a mullet and the other two looking like they just got released from prison (there's also a picture of a dog, but I'm pretty sure he doesn't play any instruments). But what they lacked in complexity they made up for in feeling. Underneath the noise was a primitive blues sound which made the music seem more genuine than other bands of the era. Unfortunately, most of their records remain out of print, but you can hear a sample from one of them here:

Friday, February 5, 2010

Slovenly - Thinking of Empire

Hey kids!
Welcome to the first installment of Sounds From The Cave. Each week I will dig up a long-forgotten album from my record collection and attempt to rescue it from obscurity. Now, I've gone the extra mile and posted song clips from these records. I say "extra mile" because I had to convert them to mp3's, upload them to on online storage site, and then stream them to this blog. It's tedious work, but I think you (and the records) deserve it; after all, it's probably the only way these hidden gems will ever get heard. So without further ado, let's get started with this week's selection: Slovenly!
Slovenly were one of the great, underappreciated bands of the 80's. Despite being on the same label (SST Records) as higher-profile acts like Husker Du, Black Flag, and the Minutemen, they never gained much of a following and have since remained a mere footnote in the history of underground rock. Part of the problem can be attributed to a phenomenon I like to call Annoying Singer Syndrome (ASS). This occurs when an otherwise decent band is hampered by a singer who irritates the living crap out of you, something that fans of Modest Mouse and Joanna Newsom are all too familiar with. Sometimes ASS can totally ruin one's listening experience; in other instances, the band is so good that the singing doesn't really matter, as was the case with Slovenly. Their singer's melodramatic vocals and pretentious lyrics were only a minor distraction from the otherwise amazing music. And music really was the focus of this band, particularly the interplay between the musicians. The two guitars, bass, and drums locked together in a way that formed tight patterns and grooves. The result was music that was full of tension yet still melodic and enjoyable. Thinking of Empire, from 1986, was their best album in my opinion; although it was never released on CD, the vinyl worth hunting down if you have the patience. It's solid proof that something that sounds like ASS can actually be pretty darn good. Here's a song from it:

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Caveman Rock

Happy New Year! I hope all three of you had a wonderful holiday season. As you can tell, I treated myself to an extended break from blogging, and now I feel re-energized and ready to get back into the swing of things. This year I am introducing a new column: Sounds From The Cave. Let me explain.
Recently, I decided to create a personal space in the basement of my house where I could indulge in all of my manly obsessions. Many people call this modern phenomenon a "man cave," and I will refer to it as such from now on. But whereas most guys use their man caves to watch sports, play video games, and drink beer, I will be using mine to listen to records. I have a large collection of indie rock LP's from the 80's and 90's, all of which have been neglected for several years. Well, I just dusted off my turntable and now I'm ready to rock. The side-effect of this is that I will be writing about various albums in my collection, and each post will focus on one record that I consider to be noteworthy in some way. If this sounds like an idea I ripped off from Mad City or Quest For Manuka...well, it is. The difference is that each album I discuss will be out of print. What's the point of this, you ask? Well, I realized that some of my favorite albums have been virtually forgotten in this modern age of mp3's and iTunes. And that's a shame. These records are like hidden treasures, or as my wife cleverly called them, "Concords in the rough". My goal is to give these albums the credit they are due. Any idiot can go over to and learn about all the cool, new bands out there. But today's music listeners are being deprived of hearing some of the great, lost sounds from the pre-internet days of indie rock. Sure, you won't be able to find these albums on, but if you're motivated enough you can track them down in your local used record store. Stay tuned, dear readers, your ears are in for a treat!