You My Friend, I Will Defend

For all you Layne Staley die-hards, I feel your pain on having to mull over whether to embrace or shun the new Alice in Chains CD.

May I throw a couple of names at you …

Brian Johnson.

Sammy Hagar.

Now, you can add William DuVall to that elite list.

They are not just back … they are poised to shake up the current music scene with an infusion of masterful musicianship that ONLY Alice in Chains can craft. Take notes, young ones … school is about to open, and you very well may need the lessons.

Jerry, Sean and Mike have a new friend. Will he ever replace Layne entirely? Of course not. Layne’s visceral, tear-you-apart-from-the-inside-out, gutteral growling style of vocals was his own. William DuVall has his own unique sound that will lend a new, diverse sound to AIC’s discography, if for no other reason than, moreso than any other AIC CD, Jerry and William trade of frontman duties with frequent regularity … and it totally and utterly works.

Second pass listen, and I have yet to hear a song that even hints at borrowing from their previous musical catalog. Granted, their previous catalog was 3 LPs, 2 EPs, and a couple of tracks scattered over some soundtracks, and some “Greatest Hits” CDs, so sure, there isn’t a LOT of material to compare and contrast (see Rush for a good reference of diversity in sound over a 35+ year career).

I stumbled across their first single, “Check My Brain,” about a month ago. I instantly skyped my buddy and asked him if he had heard it. He hadn’t, so he checked out AIC’s website. His immediate response was, “Damn … I don’t think I’ve ever heard an opening like that before. Ever.”  or something like that. Which is probably true. The closest I can think of is Eddie Van Halen with his drill at the beginning of “Poundcake,” off of For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge.

The opening track, “All Secrets Known,” says it all: “Hope, a new beginning. Time, time to start living. Just like just before we died. There’s no going back to the place we started from.” Literally. You can’t bring Layne back … all you can do is move on and start anew. Precisely what Alice in Chains have FINALLY gotten around to doing.

It’s been about 14 years between studio releases for these guys. You would think that there would have been more of a change in sound, but really … it’d almost be cruel to hard-core fans to abandon the sound that got them where they are now. Their raw, visceral edge that’s so prominent on CDs like Facelift or Dirt is amply evident on the new CD. This is the AIC CD for the rising generation, and it will more than cement the new fans as AIC hard-core legionnaires.

In a nutshell, Layne would be proud.

10000 Days in the Fire Is Long Enough

About 11 years ago, I began working in the campus game room. Basically, I was surrounded by 12 pool tables, 30+ arcade games, a juke box, and a snack stand next door. So, yah. Lots of amenities.

There were these two girls who came in EVERY Friday and Saturday night. Because they gained “regulars” status, they were given the preferential treatment of playing on Table 1–the table right next to my register, and technically for my use, but … I mean … come on. I’m not stupid, right?

The CD they played the most was Tool’s Aenima CD. Unfortunately, a pool hall with loud background noise and crappy speakers is probably not the best way to be introduced to Tool, but it’s what I had. The two girls would come in, grab their cues, ask for balls (no, seriously … ), and then they’d go drop off their stuff. One would set up the table, and the other would drop coins into the jukebox. They played 3 songs at least every single time they’d come in: “Stinkfist,” 46 and 2,” and “H.” Never failed. Sometimes, they’d throw in “Pushit” just for fun, but not regularly.

Finally, one day I told myself that it was time to hear the rest of the CD and actually listen to it with headphones. I ran down to the local used CD shop. In retrospect, not finding it amongst the used items was not surprising in the least. It’s too amazing to sell. Period. Finally, I succumbed and checked out Hastings. Notorious for their wallet raping prices, they were the only ones who had it, and so I *had* to buy it there.

(ed. note: yes, I realize that, all things being relative, “had” is very much a subjective term. People *have* to eat; you *need* sleep. No one *needs* a CD. Yes. I get it.)

If you can imagine being punched in the gut by Mike Tyson in his prime (read: pre-ear chewing and raping, et al), then being thrown over a billion foot cliff and hitting the bottom, yet somehow miraculously surviving, that’s what the first track (“Stinkfist”) on Tool’s Aenima is like. It’s an amazing sensation the hear the opening drums, base and guitar smack you around.

Anyway, that’s not why I’m writing this.

I’m writing because of their “newest” CD, even though it’s been out for well over 3 years. There’s a reason it takes Tool anywhere from 4-5 years to release a new CD. Other projects notwithstanding, they craft their songs in such a way that there’s no way anyone could reasonably expect such amazingness to materialize year to year. Take, for example, the 3rd and 4th tracks on the CD: “Wings for Marie” and “10000 Days.” These two alone would make the CD worth buying. They span 17+ minutes, and for those 17 minutes, you marvel at the wonder that is his mother. You feel his emotion and his affection for her. And this is TOOL we’re talking about. “Freaks are in this hopeless f***ing hole we call L.A. The only way to fix it is to flush it all away” Tool. It’s amazing to me that they can write something like this and then, on the same CD, play a song about alien abduction and being told that “you are the chosen one–the one who will deliver the message. A message of hope for those who choose to hear it, and a warning for those who do not.”

Their music has avoided a lot of the political agendas that a lot of bands tend to tow (ala SOAD, Muse, etc). They do, however, convey a strong spiritual message. “We are eternal; all this pain is an illusion” (from Lateralus‘ “Parabola”).

In the end, 10000 Days is one for the ages. Some critics discount it as being not as strong or edgy as Aenima or Undertow. While it may not be, it’s definitely Tool. That’s all that matters.

41 Ways To Die …

A couple of years ago, a girl I worked with asked if I had borrowed her Vas CD. Since I had no clue what she meant, I actually had to ask if it’s a piece of software. She just laughed. “No, they’re a musical group. Heavy middle-eastern influence.” Obviously, I didn’t have the CD. I came home and did some poking around online. Here’s what I discovered.

Vas is the collaboration of Azam Ali and Greg Ellis. They’ve been working together since 1997’s Sunyata CD. They have 3 other CDs: Offerings (1998), In the Garden of Souls (2000), and Feast of Silence (2004).

Azam Ali is a busy little girl. In addition to Vas, she works on a few other projects:

  • Niyaz
  • Roseland
  • Solo recordings
  • Collaborative recordings

So far, I have 9 CDs of her stuff: 4 Vas CDs, 2 Niyaz CDs, 2 solo CDs, and Roseland.

Here’s the thing. Her voice is …

ummm ….

it’s ….

well, let me put it this way: you’ll either need a cigarette or you’ll have to pee after you’re done listening to her. She’s that good.

On some of her projects (Roseland, solo efforts to some degree), she mixes western influence in with her music. With others, you can totally tell that she is of Iranian descent.

Her music is great if you’re into mellow, relaxing, hypnotic soundscapes that send you on a trance-inducing trip, much like taking a Lortab 10. The great thing is that, once the music is gone, you’re not left with a chemical hangover. Cuz, you know … Lortab does that to you. Or maybe it just does that to me.

iPhone Blogging

So I have this iPhone, courtesy of my previous company. I installed the WordPress software on it, so now I can write from pretty much anywhere. That’s pretty cool. The problem is that I have fat fingers, which, sure, have their useful purposes, but writing on a tiny keyboard is not one of them.

Anyway, this is just a test blog to see how well this iPhone app works.

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,, hasn’t been updated since March 1994 or so. Their message board on 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.


When I was a kid, my mom got me Maurice Ravel’s “Bolero” record. I don’t remember what else was on it, but I do remember that the main piece–Bolero–was extremely repetitive. I liked it though. It always seemed really soothing as it started off, then as it progressed to the crescendo, it seemed to get more violent and agitated. Come to find out later in life that it was written to simulate the slow descent into insanity. Or something like that. That’s pretty amazing.

The other piece that I remember well from my formative is the William Tell Overture. Most of you would recognize the 3rd movement as “That Zorro Show Them Song” from something like the 50s or something. Regardless, there’s a lot more to it than just the “theme song.” It’s actually a very melodic, lulling piece before you get to the 3rd movement.

Now, having said that, I challenge any of you to throw that on your mp3 player of choice, play it, and not bounce up and down while driving. It’s the ultimate riding tune! We used to drive around to that in college. What a blast …

Welcome to

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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