They Never Mention Possible Cult Abduction On Cigarette Warning Labels

August 18, 2011

An episode of Seinfeld is airing in which George mistakenly assumes the identity of the leader of a Neo-Nazi organization.

It reminds of my own inadvertant encounter with some fringe folk.

I had made a pilgrimage to meet up with a couple friends and catch a U2 show. The three of us had spent three weeks traveling through the UK in a rented Daewoo, but we hadn’t all been together since that trip several years earlier.

As we hadn’t been together, the occasion required a toast and we had essentially rendered ourselves incapacitated by the time the band took the stage.

(we had arrived just moments earlier having drank all the way through the opening act with some Irish kids at a nearby bar)

As the show ended, I hastily exited Atlanta’s Georgia Dome for a cigarette. By the time my friends made their way outside, I was being chatted up by some young ’90s-styled bohemian chicks.

(I think I just heard Paloma’s eyes roll)

My compatriots ushered me off with them as my potential hackey sack harem vanished like a mirage. The next morning as we struggled through hangovers, the three of us examined the artifacts from the event – some literature with cringe-inducing poems and a CD of music.

It was hysterical stuff.

It was the Zendiks – some bunch of commune-dwellers with names like Fawn, Arol, and Wulf and concepts such as Ecolibrium and Creavolution.

(I try to be open-minded, but if you dub something Creavolution…I’m struggling to take you seriously)

As for the CD…it was so dreadful we didn’t mind laughing, loudly, incessantly through pounding hangovers as the Zendiks raged against the machine in the most obvious of fashion.

(I do hope that during the next move I stumble across it somewhere…I fear, though, that it is lost)

Ten years on and I’m still not sure if I should consider the experience with amusement or concern.

Sure I had long hair.

Sure I was no fan of The Man.

Sure I dressed a bit like Jeff Lebowski.

Sure I found hippie chicks to be fetching.

But I was just a drunken slacker that wanted a smoke.

Thanks for the consideration, Zendiks. Here are four songs by the band The Cult…

The Cult – She Sells Sanctuary
from Love

My buddy Streuss turned me onto The Cult not long after Love finally reached US shores. I thought that the name was pretty dumb and uninspiring, but I was hooked upon hearing Love.

The sleek, supersonic She Sells Sanctuary was perhaps the high point of Love, a near perfect fusion of Billy Duffy’s pyrotechnic guitar work and lead singer Ian Astbury’s otherworldly howl.

The Cult – Fire Woman
from Sonic Temple

I thought the Rick Rubin-produced Electric – the follow-up to Love – was an unredeemable disaster aside from the wonderful Love Removal Machine.

(I seem to be in a minority on this one)

I was in school in southeast Asia when Sonic Temple followed Electric in 1989 and I was surprised to read that the album had made the Top Ten back in the States.

I finally snagged a bootleg cassette of the album at a street market in Bangkok and was duly back on board with The Cult. The band had regained the slinky swagger of Love and the breakneck boogie Fire Woman almost became a Top 40 hit in the US.

The Cult – American Horse
from Sonic Temple

Of course, The Cult were well known for their psychedelic trappings and – despite hailing from the UK – a lyrical fascination with the American west and Native American culture. And lead singer Ian Astbury was oft compared to Jim Morrison.

The sturm und drang of American Horse rumbles on for five minutes or so, flattening everything in its path like The Lizard King fronting Led Zeppelin. I’ve always thought the song was an underrated gem in their catalog.

The Cult – Star
from The Cult

After Sonic Temple, The Cult lost me again with the unmemorable Ceremony. There was also plenty of tension and instability within the ranks. In 1994, the band released a self-titled album that incorporated elements from the burgeoning electronic music scene.

(it made me think of hearing U2’s Achtung, Baby for the first time)

I thought it was their most interesting stuff since Sonic Temple and I really dug the pulsating Star. I think that Paloma and I had tickets to see them on the ensuing tour but the band broke up before reaching our date.

The #1 Pants

July 21, 2011

I suspect I drive Paloma to distraction with my lack of sartorial acumen and interest in such.

Often she will return home with a new shirt or pair of pants for me. I truly feel bad that I cannot participate in her enthusiasm.

Truly, I am.

It’s just that career choices afforded me the ability to dress casually with few restrictions well into my thirties.

(grunge played right to my strengths even if not all of the music associated with that era did)

Of course, during the past half decade or so, I’ve labored under the fashion standards deemed acceptable in the corporate world.

In the civilian world, I opt for simplicity and comfort – a pair of baggy cargo shorts, a well-worn t-shirt with The Who emblazoned across the front.

Two things about cargo shorts appeal to me. One is the loose fit, the free-wheeling vibe of not wearing pants while still wearing pants.

And then there’s the loose, deep pockets.

I have stuff – an iPod, wallet, keys, cigarettes, sunglasses – and that stuff takes up space that my work wordrobe’s meager storage compartments cannot handle comfortably.

(if humans are the most intelligent species on the planet, wouldn’t we have figured out a way to exist without carting so much crap everywhere we go?)

For the work day, I strive for as much comfort as possible knowing that I’ll still feel like fidgeting.

It is not easy – despite Paloma’s well-intended efforts – for new items to move into the rotation. I go for veterans that I know, through experience, will enable me to attain the greatest state of clothing Zen.

It must be the heat – what’s here and what is forecast as impending – but I feel compelled to announce that a new pair of khakis has ascended to the top of the heap in trousers.

Well done, pants.

Well done, Paloma.

I truly have no idea what kind of music best captures this event. I simply have few “pants” songs.

Here are four songs that pulled up scrolling through my 97X playlist on the iPod…

Talking Heads – And She Was
from Little Creatures

I could imagine that Talking Heads could have written an awesome song about pants. In fact, I’m probably blanking on some song in their quirky catalog celebrating clothing.

But, there is the band’s jaunty ode to levitation And She Was which has charmed me from the first time I heard Little Creatures. I used to hear it now and then on some of our more mainstream rock stations, and it even became one of the few songs by The Heads to make the Hot 100.

The Cult – Rain
from Love

The recorded output of The Cult is a bit uneven to me and, despite its success, I thought the Rick Rubin-produced Electric was an overrated yawn aside from the wonderful Love Removal Machine.

However, Love, Electric‘s predecessor, is a classic from the time and the driving Rain – with lead singer Ian Astbury’s howling to the heavens – is appropriate today.

Timbuk3 – The Future’s So Bright, I Gotta Wear Shades
from Greetings From Timbuk 3

Well, another song suitable for the occasion pops up because a man with new trousers is a force to be reckoned with in the corporate America workplace.

Thomas Dolby – Hyperactive!
from The Flat Earth

Thomas Dolby is an A-list act in our household and, like Talking Head David Byrne, I have absolute faith that he would succeed smashingly if I could commission him to write a song about my new pants.

(note to self: get mega-wealthy, commission Thomas Dolby to write pants song)

The Road To Rose-Hulman

May 1, 2010

At the risk of tempting the weather gods, this spring has actually been a relatively orderly, pleasant shuffle into the summer months instead of the luge ride into the sun – winter to summer – we often get.

The past few days have been perfect and it was a perfect Friday when I set out for Terre Haute with my friends Streuss and Smart. I’ve mentioned Streuss, a high school friend who turned me onto music like Robyn Hitchcock, The Cocteau Twins, and The Cure, numerous times.

Smart, like Streuss, was a twin. His identical twin brother was Dumb.

Actually, both of them were quite intelligent, but Smart was the twin that was a bit more responsible and slightly less carefree, so…

(of course, it was Smart who, on occasion, could be found sleeping in the bushes outside their house after a night of drinking)

Smart hadn’t decided on a college, yet, and was considering Rose-Hulman in Terre Haute, near the Indiana/Illinois border.

Streuss and I had known for months where we were headed.

It was our senior year, we were about a month from graduation, and we had already checked out. So, when Smart asked us if we wanted to go on a college visit one Friday morning, there was no hesitation.

Seniors were allowed so many absences for college visits, but they had to be with a parent, so, I’m not sure how we worked around that requirement – we likely didn’t care.

Dumb had missed something like thirty or forty days of school. Smart and the rest of us weren’t so accomplished, but we had spent a lot of time that school year everywhere but school.

So, the three of us set out in the late ’60s, light blue Ford Fairlaine which the twins shared and drove as though they were in pursuit of Mad Max in the Australian outback.

(oddly enough, one of our friends, Curt The Pyro, had been gifted the same car – same year and color – by his older brother Jailbait)

Terre Haute was two hours or so from our hometown. It was more than enough time on that beautiful spring morning – seventy-two degrees, blue skies with a few clouds for contrast – for Streuss and myself to convince Smart that he had to be deranged to even think of attending Rose-Hulman.

Now, Smart’s intention was to major in engineering and Rose-Hulman was regarded as on of the best engineering schools on the planet, but there were extenuating circumstances prompting Streuss and I to offer such contrary council.

Rose-Hulman was an all-male university.

We cruised down the highway at ridiculously high speeds and sorted out Smart’s future. As the song from a year or so later would declare – the future was so bright, we had to wear shades.

Actually, the future was the last thing on our minds that day. It was a beautiful day and we were hanging out while the rest of our friends – including Dumb and Curt The Pyro – were stuck in class.

And we had music.

There were new albums that spring from some of the staples of rock radio in our corner of the world. Bob Seger’s Like A Rock album was out and none of us could have known how sick NFL fans would be of the title song twenty-five years later.

The Stones’ version of Harlem Shuffle was on the radio and its parent album, Dirty Work, would prove to be fairly uninspired.

Van Halen’s first song with Sammy Hagar was on every station. David Lee Roth’s swagger, brains, humor, and sleaze was the soul of Van Halen, but I liked some of the Hagar-era stuff and Why Can’t This Be Love sounded great on the radio.

And Journey.

Journey would release Raised On Radio that spring. Sure, I bought a copy, but things had changed since Escape had been a soundtrack for the passage from junior high to high school.

But Raised On Radio didn’t resonate four years later.

(that’s twenty-eight years for any dogs that might be reading)

We also had a tape deck and we knew how to use it.

Here are four songs from some of the tapes I’m sure we played that day…

The Cure – Close To Me
from The Head On The Door

Streuss had discovered The Cure with The Head On The Door, most likely via the memorable video for the perky – at least musically – Close To Me. He was soon catching up on their earlier albums especially Pornography, which was my favorite.

Big Audio Dynamite – Medicine Show
from This Is Big Audio Dynamite

Though thought of, first and foremost, as a punk band, The Clash incorporated reggae, ska, dub, funk, rap, dance and rockabilly into their sound. When Mick Jones was sacked following Combat Rock, he put together Big Audio Dynamite and continued to draw from diverse musical styles adding samples to the equation.

We immediately took to BAD’s intoxicating brew which took the experimental bent of The Clash to a new level. Though commonplace now, the band’s musical stew was strkingly original at the time and, acknowledged or not, served as a template for many of the modern rock acts that found success in the early ’90s.

The Cult – She Sells Sanctuary
from Love

The recorded output of The Cult is a bit uneven to me and, despite its success, I thought the Rick Rubin-produced Electric was an unredeemable disaster aside from the wonderful Love Removal Machine.

However, Love, Electric‘s predecessor, is a classic from the period.

The sleek, supersonic She Sells Sanctuary was perhaps the high point of Love, a near perfect fusion of Billy Duffy’s pyrotechnic guitar work and lead singer Ian Astbury’s otherworldly howl.

The Outfield – Your Love
from Play Deep

Both Smart and Dumb were mental for The Outfield who, at the time, were breaking in the States with the irresistible single Your Love. Urgent and catchy, the song was all over radio that spring.

The British trio would manage to produce a handful of engaging singles over the remainder of the ’80s, but Your Love remains pinned to that spring, that trip, and the twins for me.