Sunday, March 15, 2009

bike mechanics

Why are bicycle mechanics so f*!^#ing arrogant? I would estimate that at least 50 percent of bike mechanics out there are arrogant sunsabitches. And I don't know why. Today, for instance, I went to this big bike exposition here in Mad City to just browse a bit. There were a bunch of mechanics working on bikes at one side of the expo hall, and the air over there was just thick with arrogance. All these guys (and they were all guys, FYI, which may be why arrogance is so endemic in their culture, because maybe they need a woman's noble and serene presence to show them humility; there's so much you could learn from women, guys ...) were just strutting and cranking and preening and boasting. And every one of them had some piece of flair - a big backwoods-crazy-guy beard (Look at me! I ride so damn fast, I don't have to worry about aerodynamics!), or some cocky bad-ass T-shirt, or an insane neck tat, etc - to make sure that they stood out from the commoners.

And this is not unique to Mad City: no matter where I go in this fair land, from the East Coast to the West Coast to the Midwest, it seems like that's the case. Tell me if you haven't had this experience: you bring your bike to the bike shop for a simple repair. And you either get the guy with the crazy beard and the why-don't-you-fix-it-yourself attitude, or the one nice dude who's patient and helpful, but all of his co-workers are smirking and groaning behind him, waiting for you to leave so they can be all like, "Dude! Why didn't you tell him what a dumb shit he is, for not fixing it himself?"

But here's the thing: auto mechanics aren't like that! Auto mechanics are rarely arrogant. They're typically just humble, blue-collar, Joe Lunchpail kind of guys. Sure, some of them are trying to rip you off, but they do it in a quiet, dignified, non-arrogant manner. (And bikes don't even have engines! They have only 2 wheels! There's no exhaust system! So why are bike mechanics so f*&#!*ing high on themselves?)

Which reminds me, I should send a shout-out to the guy who works on my car, who's about the sweetest guy you'd ever want to meet: hey Dave! And I'll also send one to my bike mechanic, who's a smug prick: kiss my ass, Tanner!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

numbers 28-30

30. The Replacements, Tim. The Replacements were hardly one-album wonders, but in terms of longevity and consistency they weren't exactly The Kinks or Neil Young either. I don't know enough about their history to explain why (I don't think we're on close enough terms where I can call them The Mats), but I think it basically came down to not being able to keep their Minnesota shizzle together. Which is a shame, because Paul Westerberg was a hell of a songwriter and had one of the great voices in rock 'n' roll. Some out there will be howling for Let it Be instead, but my vote goes to Tim. This baby just rocks in all the right ways. You've got the straight-out rockers - "Lay it Down Clown," "I'll Buy" - mixed with the more easygoing but equally brilliant classics "Waitress in the Sky" and "Kiss Me on the Bus." And then there's "Little Mascara": one of my all-time favorite songs, and it should be yours too. The kind of album that leaves you deeply satisfied, every time you listen to it.

29. Belle and Sebastian, Tigermilk. Another controversial pick. Every one of my sources says that If You're Feeling Sinister is Belle and Sebastian's opus grande. And yes, it too is a great album. (Greatest B&S song, in my opinion: "Seeing Other People") But I stand behind my pick, and I don't think it wins by a tiger's whisker either, ha ha. I've said it before, and I'll say it again: the best albums have this kind of organic quality to them, where you have to hear the songs in their natural order to appreciate them to their fullest. Tigermilk is so organic, it makes PCC look like an abattoir. The songs aren't carbon copies of each other; instead, they show off the various facets of a wonderfully talented band, like ... a diamond. The fact that this art-school project ever became one of the landmarks of independent rock is a miracle in itself - read about it sometime.

28. REM, Murmur. I still remember seeing the video for REM's "South Central Rain" on MTV at age 12 or so and thinking to myself, "What the hell? What's that guy's problem?" But at the same time, I had this sort of uneasy sensation, deep down inside, that there was something appealing about the song, but I couldn't admit that to anyone or I would get beaten down. (I grew up in a small, somewhat backwards town, you see.)
Thankfully, by the time I reached college, I had matured into a semblance of the man that you all know and love today. And Murmur was the album that finally put me in touch with my REM side, although it did mess somewhat with my preconceived notions of The South. (You were supposed to be walking around barefoot in overalls and spitting tobacco juice through your snaggly teeth, Stipe! Not writing songs about moral kiosks and shit like that, for chrissake.) I may love other albums more than Murmur (again, I'm kicking myself about not ranking King Crimson higher), but where would modern American music be without REM? If they're not in the Top 5 of the most "important" American bands ... no, they're definitely in the Top 5. Not just my Top 5: anyone's Top 5.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

the weather

Which month is supposed to come in like a lion and go out like a lamb? Is that March, or May? Bring it on, lamb! Damn ...

Thursday, March 5, 2009

numbers 31-32

32. Neil Young, Rust Never Sleeps. Why haven't I blogged in over a week? Partly it's due to #32 here. Before I started this list, it was a given that Neil Young would be on it. In baseball they talk sometimes of a "5-tool player," meaning a player who's proficient at hitting, fielding, running, spitting and juicing. Neil Young is the rock 'n' roll equivalent. He can totally shred and wail on the guitar. He's one of the great songwriters. He has a distinctive, mellifluous voice. He's taken tons of drugs. He can even match just about anyone out there on the harmonica, except maybe for rock demigod John Popper. There's only one important rock 'n' roll skill that he lacks, and that's dancing. But, you know, I also have a hard time visualizing Neil Young hoofin' it with some backup dancers (CS&N, maybe?).

BUT ... has Neil Young ever put out an album that belonged higher than #32? I dunno. Part of me even wonders if I should've put King Crimson here (Red really does kick ass) and plopped Neil Young's butt in the 40's. But geez, look at what he's accomplished in his lifetime: a whole lot. All the albums, all the groups he's played with, pissing off Lynyrd Skynyrd (who, incidentally, will NOT make it into my Top 50), etc etc. Plus, he wrote perhaps the 2nd-greatest rock song of all time, "Rockin' in the Free World." (Yeah! Rock! Boo yaa!) So this is kind of like a career achievement award for Mr. Young. At one point I even thought about leaving him off the list, just because he has no one album that really, you know, distinctly stands out for me. But then I saw "Rachel Getting Married," and that one scene where the dude from TV on the Radio sang a Neil Young song to Rachel at the altar, and I just completely choked up.

So ... we'll go with Rust Never Sleeps. It's hard to exclude Harvest (how can one leave out an album with a song like "Heart of Gold?"); but all in all there's a few great songs on Harvest and some not-so-great stuff, and I'm all about consistency. I tried not to include any live albums on the list here, but I'll make an exception for Rust Never Sleeps.

31. The Kinks, Something Else by the Kinks. This, also, is something of a career achievement award. However, I do love this album, especially the song "End of the Season." Lots of other good songs on here, too. Ray Davies was one of the cleverest lyricists in rock 'n' roll, but musically The Kinks also rocked the house too. Kind of fascinating, how they spanned the gamut from early British Invasion rock ("You Really Got Me"), to Ray Davies' wry observations on English life ("Victoria," pretty much any song on Village Green Preservation Society), to rock standards ("Lola," "Destroyer").

An interesting bit of trivia: did you know that I've seen both Neil Young and The Kinks in concert? Neil Young: Saratoga Performing Arts Center, solo show, sometime around 1992. The Kinks: Springfield MA during college, I think my freshman or maybe sophomore year. In the second row. Both great shows. I have to wonder if either of them would've made the list, if not for those shows! Damn ...