She filled my head with the awful noise of her disppointment and the Pet Shop Boys

I was going to write about how I was sitting around today watching the Bengals lose yet another game, but the lucky bastards just scored and took the lead on an amazing series of events. They probably still won't make the playoffs so I guess my disappointment will ultimately be rewarded. How's that for a bright outlook on the new year?

I figured I'd end my year the way I started it, by listening to an album on Declan. Today I've made it to England, Half English the most recent studio album by Billy Bragg, released in 2002.

Billy hasn't done an album in awhile because he's been contemplating what it means to be English, and this album represents the musical seed of those thoughts. There are tunes about immigration, international influence and the death of the British Empire. It's a little brooding and angry but still contains some of those funny lyrical nuggets that make me love Billy so.

(Update, the Steelers just scored so the Bengals are back on their way to losing.)

What I remember most about England, Half English, though, is it contains one of the truly terrible protest songs and possibly the worst one Billy Bragg has ever written. I've always liked Billy's political tunes, even if I don't always agree with them, because they were catchy and/or funny. Sadly "NPWA" is neither. It's a ponderous rant about the World Bank. Seriously, the World Bank ("NPWA" stands for the choral chant, "No power without accountability.") The song is stuck right in the middle of the album, interrupting any flow that might otherwise exist. Thanks, Billy.

As always, my favorite tunes on the album are about relationships. "Jane Allen" about an old flame looking for a hookup and "Another Kind Of Judy" about god knows what, but it's sweet. Some have frowned on the world music style backing band on the album. Fans of old school, Billy-and-a-guitar albums might be overwhelmed with all the stuff going on, but don't mind it. It does sounds like it could old, though, so I hope the next album is a return to simplicity. I also hope it's a return to protest songs that don't suck.

(Update: The Bengals just scored again, so they're back in the lead. This team is such a flirt, but they never call.)


This is what you face when geography breaks

I have to admit, I've been remiss. I guess that's true about so many things, but this one involves music so I correct it here.

Remember way back in February when I wrote perhaps my meanest post ever about the poor, innocent, Mid-Ohio band called Bel Auburn? I had admitted to having a bad day, but I'm still not a fan of their first album, Cathedrals.

Well, back in August I got a lovely email from Jared (who I'm guessing is the same Jared that is described on their web site as the guy "who writes all the lyrics and makes noise with his guitar"). He asked that I please download their new album Lullabies in A&C and give it a listen. I was warned that it, too, is a concept album ("We sincerely can't help it," explained Jared).

That's fair, I can give Bel Auburn another shot. Also, today I am filled with Christmas cheer so my feelings on the album won't be colored by a bad mood. I also just love the thought that Jared thinks I am an important enough blogger to have my opinions valued. Doesn't he know nobody reads this thing, and of the dozen or so who do, half of them are cats? Well, never mind, I guess you guys want a verdict. (And some tuna?)

I declare Lullabies in A&C to be not bad. "Roses" is a lovely song with all the pop sensibility I love so much. The production quality seems to be higher this time and there is an acceptable amount of the electronic pops and twitters that the kids seem to like these days. The songs are full of building crescendos and interesting guitars. The only drawback for me are the lyrics. While there are a couple of good lines scattered here and there, I am a lyrics freak and demand lines a little deeper than "Someday I hope you'll find the time to pick up all the pieces." It's the kind of thing a high school emo kid might write in a letter to his sad, sad girlfriend. I'm sorry, Jared, but it's true.

I am also happy to report that Bel Auburn has a new web page that no longer declares them gods of indie rock. Overall I'm left with a pretty good impression. Lullabies in A&C has managed to keep a place in my ever more crowded iPod. These days that's getting to be quite an accomplishment. You can also go to their website yourself, listen to the album, then tell me how wrong I am. Either way, have a Merry Christmas!


Who explains sexual harassment to you and me?

It's an exciting day people! Well, it's exciting if you live very near to me or perhaps work with me, because that means you have received a brand new copy of my new mix CD. See, here it is. Isn't it beautiful?

This mix is a little more moody and strange than some of my others, but I'm exceedingly happy
with it. Chances are, if you know me, you'll get a copy. If you're not sure about that, though, feel free to email me and grovel. If you include an address I'll probably send you one.


Hanging out with mom, trying on his father's tights

Now that all my world travels are over, I guess it's time to get back to the regular iPod listening. I'm sure Declan's felt a little neglected lately (except on those long airplane rides where he's a life saver). Anyway, it's time to get through some of these letter "E" albums and get moving.

Unfortunately, I feel like I've said about as much as I can about Blink 182. They make me want to break stuff (in a good way) and if I ever had to play a 16-year-old boy in a movie I would listen to nothing but Blink to get into the role. Also, I love them.

Enema Of The State is today's album and continues to be my favorite Blink 182 album. It's not as subtle as some of their later stuff, but who needs subtle when you're talking about off-color punk pop songs? Subtle kind of ruins it.

Still, "Adam's Song" is a sweet and poignant track about suicide. Mix that in with "What's My Age Again?" about acting stupid and you pretty much have the soundtrack for adolescence or for those of us who still wish for those days (only once in awhile).

Throw in the fact that I have great memories that involve this album through much of 2000 and 2001 and Enema Of The State becomes one of those albums that can never leave my iPod. It's just too good.


'Tis the season

I did some Christmas shopping this weekend and while I was out I picked up an extra toy. First, I don't get to buy toys much these days. I don't know a lot of kids (except Joshuetta) so I'm more of an electronics and sweater kind of buyer. I noticed a sign at the city building that said they were doing a toy drive, so I got my chance to venture down the toy aisle.

Did you know that My Little Pony is back? I had a few of them when I was a kid so I had to pick one up for the toy drive. It was a yellow unicorn that came with its own little brush. Thanks to Wal-Mart's low everyday prices, it only cost $5, too.

So I dropped off my new toy at the gift drive box today and was filled with the Christmas spirit. I love the thought of some kid getting a shiny new yellow unicorn. Gosh, I hope they like it. If you get the chance, go buy a toy for some kid this Christmas. It feels good and it's a nice excuse to find out that Power Rangers still exist.


I have dreams of orca whales and owls

Things are finally getting back to normal after all my great globe trotting adventures. I'm not sure that's all good. It's always nice to live a completely different life for awhile and always a little strange to come back to the daily grind.

So now that I'm back to that daily grind, people keep asking me about our trip to London. I won't give you a minute by minute rundown of the whole trip. It would be like watching someone's overly long slide show. I'll give you some highlights, though:

- First of all, I hope all of you who donated money to the Sad and British Motherland trip fund received your postcards. We filled them out at one of my favorite places in London, The Windsor Castle Pub. There we had winter Pimm's filled with lots of yummy oranges and lemons. We also sat across from the only guy under 30 who voted for George Bush twice! He was filling his British date's head with lots of interesting (mis)information about America. We finally had to get out of there before his republicaness rubbed off on us. Anyway, thanks to your money, all three of us drank for free until Thursday. It was awesome.

- On Sunday we went to the Tate Modern and participated in art. They had these big tube slides that you could ride on. We got there early for our (free!) tickets and went on the 3, 4 and 5 story slides. I guess that made us modern artists.

- One of our favorite nights was when we went to Fabric. Fatboy Slim had the place packed and the dancefloor was just a mass of moving people. We couldn't go anywhere, but everyone was laughing and dancing. Really, the best thing about Fatboy Slim was that survived Fatboy Slim.

After Fatboy we went to another room and saw Damon Albarn. His set was a little more poppy but he did use some stuff from the Gorillaz that was pretty cool. Carrie had had her fill of the big beat so we went to a third room to hear some more techno style stuff. We danced for about three hours straight fueled by just the right amount of Red Bull and vodka. On the cab ride home Carrie was desperate for a cheese omelet but they seem to be in short supply in London these days.

- Earlier that night, we went to a Socialist bookstore to hear Billy Bragg talk. He's so cute and earnest and he gave us a lot to think about. Afterwards, Jeff and I got his new book which he signed for us. Double awesome!

- Wednesday we took a train to Bath to see the Roman baths, drink the metallic tasting spring water and actually take a dip, too. We had a cool little outdoor hotsprings pool all to ourselves until the very end when some sketchy guy came in and took like 30 minutes to change. We think he was shooting up. He totally spoiled our macaque moment.

- Our last night was perhaps the strangest. We were going to go on a pub walk in Judi Dench's neighborhood up in Hampstead but a guy jumped in front of a subway train in Camden. So instead we went drinking in Camden. The bar we went to, Monkey Chews, was pretty awesome. Jeff and I had caipirinhas and they whipped up a tasty bloody Mary for Carrie. On the way there, one of these guys went past us. It was a strange night indeed.

After we got back to the hotel, we realized we were very hungry. We called our neighborhood Dominos and before we knew it an amazingly hot pizza was at our door. A cool biker guy delivered it and as I was closing the door, Jeff exclaimed, "He's from the future!" It could have been the caipirinha but it was the funniest thing ever. That was one damn good pizza, too.

That's all I can come up with for now. If you want to see more photos, go here. Oh sure, there's Stonehenge, the London Eye and Avenue Q but I'm getting worn out.


Have you guys heard of Regina Spektor? I think I'm a little late on this chick but she's really cool. Like Fiona Apple with more bodyfat and Russian sass. I just got her new album and I highly recommend it. I have a feeling one of her songs will be making an appearance on my winter mix CD, whenever I get around to that.