Thursday, August 16, 2012

Summer Of Whatever

Local band The Downhearted have just dropped their second CD, Summer of Whatever.

While I don’t think it’s quite right to call this a retro record, it does dip into a pretty long period of past popular music, giving nods to some of the more melodic punk masters, such as, maybe, the Replacements, and such post-punk melody makers as, perhaps, American Music Club or Smashing Pumpkins. The disc’s second track, “On The Borrowed Time,” sounds like ‘60s pop until you hear the Sonic Youth-style riff in the chorus.

“Clock You” begins with a beautiful, twangy guitar hook that would fit in pretty well on a Nick Lowe record. The instrumental bridge resembles ‘60s garage music of the MC5 variety.

“The Madness Test” (which has been released as a single) also starts off with a tasty hook, this time of the multi-instrumental variety. This hook goes right through the cut, sometimes in a delicate, quiet keyboard delivery.

“Burn Down” makes it three in a row that start with memorable hooks. This one is in the form of a crisp, lyrical post-punk electric guitar solo. The song has a second melodic hook in the instrumental bridge that follows the first chorus. The chorus line — “Our love, it will burn down” — reminds me a little of Joy Division, both in its lyrical content and sound. The whole song has a distinctly melancholy sweetness.

The closing cut, White Sangria, is a simple, short acoustic ballad that reminds me, in lyrics, melody and tone, of Donovan.

Lyrics throughout this CD are thoughtful and a bit complex (though without ever becoming burdensome or vague or too abstract). Consider these lines from “Exhausted Heart”:

What horrid nonsense,
This time I spend without you and apart.
What wasteful days.
Exalted love with exhausted heart.

They have the poetic sophistication of Morissey, but none of his sentimentality or hyperbole.

Most of the songs on Summer of Whatever are love songs. But they relate to the adult complications of love and stay far away from the “I love her and she loves me, la di da da di di di” content of most rock.
When Nirvana’s Nevermind album was so big, a friend told me, “What I like about it is the hooks.” 

That’s pretty close to the way I feel about this record. Half the cuts have hooks that will certainly move you. Get Summer of Whatever for a record that sounds a whole lot more interesting than most of what’s called alternative and independent these days.

The cover art is done by C. Delle Bates of Orange, Texas, who also did the art for the band’s earlier Animal Lisa EP.

Summer of Whatever was mixed and mastered by Matt Moss of EMF Productions in Lake Charles. It can be downloaded free on and

I Promise This Column Will Do Nothing

The reporters say Gov. Jindal is touring the country, campaigning against the Supreme Court’s decision about The Affordable Care Act. On July 4, Politico quoted Jindal as saying, “It seems to me like the president measures success by how many people are on food stamp rolls and government-run health care.”

Well, that’s hardly news to me. When I was growing up in the 1960s and 1970s, all my aunts and uncles and cousins in the country said those exact same things to me — hundreds of times. They even used the same phrases: phrases like “food stamp rolls.”

So I’ve known for half a century that the problems of the country are caused by the people on the food stamp rolls and government-run health care. Why do they cause the problems? They take money away from rich people!

When I was a little boy, my middle-class parents could afford to get me all the health care I needed – and then some. But now that I can’t afford health care, I guess I’ve become one of the people who’s causing all the problems and taking money from rich people. I just wish I could remember where I put the money.

Jindal did make one statement that was pretty clever: “Obamacare, it doesn’t do what the president promised.” Saying that something isn’t the way the president says it is … that’s not bad. But wouldn’t it be even better to provide three or four examples of concrete evidence that the president’s statements were false? Well, maybe for you and me. But for everyone? Naw. A single simple abstraction is much, much more easily remembered than a bunch of concrete evidence.

Want to be a successful politician? Make it simple and say it over and over.

The News

“Cops: Pa. man aims at groundhog, shoots friend’s toe.”
— CBS, July 4

The News Made Easy

“Behind America’s Anxiety Epidemic”
That’s the headline of a July 4 Atlantic Magazine story.

Just what is Behind America’s Anxiety Epidemic? As a journalist, I can answer that question in a simple, easy-to-understand manner. Americans don’t have any money. Next headline, please.

Zombies: 27 Percent Real

It’s been many a long year since I thought a headline such as “Poll Analyzes How Presidential Candidates Would Handle Alien Invasion” might be a joke. Although this headline was written for KFSM of Fort Smith, Ark., it apparently refers to a real poll that was conducted by National Geographic.

Two-thirds of those surveyed said Obama was more prepared than Romney to handle an alien invasion. But that’s neither here nor there. What made the impression on me were these words: “Americans … hold much more confidence in the existence of aliens than superheroes. The survey found 71 percent of Americans think aliens are more likely to exist than for there to ever be real-life superheroes, vampires and zombies.”

Once in a while, I have to find out the hard way just how out of touch I am with the society of which I am a part. I’ve been going along laboring under the misconception that not a single adult in the United States believes superheroes, vampires and zombies really exist or could ever exist.

But am I really so different from my peers? I thought about it. Do I think it’s really impossible that a superhero, like Iron Man, could exist and could create perpetual free energy by melting and recasting 2 ounces of metal whose name he made up? Well, I decided, not only is it possible, but it’s somewhat likely, if you think about it. It’s a reasonable thing for a guy to do. I’d give about two to three odds it really happened.

What about aliens? Of course, I don’t believe in aliens. That would be silly. But if you mean the aliens kept on Level 6 at Area 51 in the spectral disginenacubator between the Montgomery Ward Steam Cleaner and the Mountain Dew machine that still sells Mountain Dews for a quarter, well, of course I believe in THOSE aliens. I mean, they’re in the photo in the Gemstone File, right?

Zombies? I used to think it was farfetched that people who’ve been dead and decaying for some time could have teeth, jaws and muscles that are strong enough to bite through living, healthy flesh. But suppose the playing of Celine Dion songs at funerals releases an enzyme into the body that strengthens decaying flesh. It’s possible. I say there’s a 27 percent chance that it happens; which means there’s a 27 percent chance zombies are real. Yikes! Time to work on the cardio!

Furthermore, am I 100 percent sure that no mythical creatures at all exist? Of course, not. That would be nihilistic. I mulled it over, and made a list of mythical creatures, along with what I think is the percentage of likelihood they are real:
— unicorn: 2 percent
— the loch ness monster: 6 percent
— Joe Arpaio: 6 percent
— Pegasus: 8 percent
— flying triceratops: 18 percent
— Bat Boy: 29 percent
— John Shaft: 36 percent
— James Bond: 37 percent
— the Blair Witch: 38 percent
— men in black: 39 percent
— the little doll in the Saw movies who rides on a tricycle and says stuff: 46 percent
— Foghorn Leghorn: 49 percent.

When  I saw that National Geographic had conducted its pointless survey, I got a suspicion. “I bet,” I thought, “that National Geographic now has its own network. That means that National Geographic is no longer trying to please people who pay for its magazine; it’s trying to please high-school and college dropouts who pay for cable TV.”

I was right. Just check out the trash National Geographic throws on the air to entice the audience. A program called Chasing UFOs features a team of three people who, I suppose, chase bright shiny stuff in the sky. In “Teenage Love Huts” a father builds a little getaway where his daughters can meet their boyfriends. Another show is called “An Abduction Story.” An interactive website feature titled WHEN ALIENS ATTACK bears the warning Prepare for the Invasion!

I looked up a 1984 issue of National Geographic on eBay. The topics of that magazine were American waterfowl, Africa, Antarctica, chocolate, and Grenada. Not everyone liked National Geographic, of course. Some people thought it was boring. But as far as I could tell, everybody thought all the stories were about things that really existed. Nobody, as far as I know, thought Antarctica might be some made up place. As for the aliens living in the serpentine tunnels hidden under the ice on what was once the mighty island kingdom of Lemuria, they probably weren’t mentioned in 1984.

Person In The News

At a recent press conference, Brad Goins announced that the Brad Goins Vigor and Zest Academy Of Journalism And Cat Psychology will offer student vouchers for the upcoming academic year.

“Vouchers will be $2,000 per student,” said Goins. “Since the name of our LLC is Brad Goins, please make checks out to Brad Goins. Parents who pay in cash get a 10 percent discount.

“Our goal at the Vigor and Zest Academy is to take our students back to the fundamentals of a true American education. We aim to remind students of the traditional vital connection between cats and journalism and enable them to reconnect with their cats’ psychic hearts.”

When the Louisiana Department of Education was asked for comment, an anonymous spokesperson said, “I’ll have someone send the wagon.”

News You Can Use

Meat pies should never be worn on the sleeves.

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