'Round the Dial: It's been real
Wednesday 02 May @ 11:14:00
by TOM HALLETT
Just a brief intro here to acknowledge that the Pulse is, indeed, about to shut down operations, at least in its street incarnation. I've been asked by the publisher and music editor to throw out a few words of goodbye, so here she is.
Firstly, I'd like to shout out a billion praises to my longtime readers, those of you who've only recently caught up with me here at Pulse, and even my many detractors (remember folks--if somebody will gossip about you to me, chances are they'll gossip to me about you, so I have a pretty good idea who my real friends on the TC music scene are). I might not have sold out and gone Hollywood, I might have worked for a pittance for ten years, but at least I can look in the mirror, bud. It's been a fucking blast shooting down in print those who either couldn't read or knew nothing about music. What fun!! Not as fun as exposing so many great albums/artists to the world, but fun nonetheless.
But that's neither here nor there--I've enjoyed every last goddamn minute of this job--I still have to work hard to believe I've turned in a weekly music column for ten years and lived to tell about it. The one you're about to read, a drug-fueled fantasy about what might happen if '80s dork rocker Robert Palmer died and returned to life as a dolphin to subvert Bush's "war on terror" and eventually take over the planet, was a fan fave when it ran, so it will stand as something of a testimony to my work here over the years--combining pure, maniacally drunken fun with over-the-top local and national music coverage while taking a definite, no-bullshit political stance, and making pure art out of the run-on sentence. Crazy? Damn straight! Music lover? Call me on it and I'll meet you at dawn with my sideiron on, pal. Ha. Ha.
I never made any secret that I actually lived the lifestyle I wrote about--if I told you I was shit-faced drunk in the Clown Lounge and fell off my stool on my birthday, it really happened. If I told you I met Lucinda Williams, Ryan Adams and Alejandro Escovedo at the Turf, it really happened. If I told you I thought a record either kicked ass or sucked the big one, I really meant it. I don't feel special or any better than anyone else, but I do consider myself very lucky to have met so many of you and so many of the world's greatest musical artists through my job at 'Round the Dial.
I could go on forever, telling you about how, inspired by then Pi-Press music columnist Jim Walsh, I walked into the old University Avenue offices of Squealer magazine and told them I was a writer who could get an interview with Tommy Stinson (all lies and conjecture, I freely admit, but hell, it worked), who was about to record a new EP with his band Perfect out at Pachyderm Studios. I could tell you that I was wearing a black leather jacket with an AC/DC pin on it, had long hair and was wearing a Judas Priest T-shirt, too.
Not exactly dressed like the guy that most "hip" publications in the early '90s were looking for. The staff of the mag was, to say the least, taken aback. Thanks to the Squealer editor Laura Brandenberg, who would go on to become one of my greatest supporters, local literary and musical inspirations as well becoming a lifelong friend, the head honchos believed my barely-true story and hired me on the spot. All true.
I used my connections with a pal, Peter Jesperson (co-founder of Twin/Tone Records, longtime local scenester and record-store clerk, host of killer REV 105 weekly radio program "Shakin' Street," and current Prez of A&R at New West Records), who was working with Perfect at the time, to score an interview with Tommy and the band. I took a ride to Pachyderm and watched the album being made, took a leak in the same toilet Kurt Cobain almost died on, and went on to work for Squealer (and a few other notable local 'zines--Servo among them), and to contribute to both the City Pages and the Pioneer Press over the years.
Note I didn't say HIRED by them, because my personal style of rock 'n' roll ranting and complete musical honesty went the way of the wind when Lester Bangs died, and if you're not willing to kiss label and management ass and give up any and all personal autonomy and personality in your writing these days, you've got a rough road ahead of you in the "biz."
Shame on ALL of our "local" news sources for pandering to political hacks and helping to turn this town--hell, this entire planet--into a flock of frickin' sheep. You should ALL be ashamed of yourselves. I hope your big fat, overfed Minnesota faces are turning red right now and you feel like shit at the office all fucking week. Of course, that vacation you're taking next month to Hawaii and the insanely-overdone retirement package you've squirreled away for yourselves will probably take those symptoms away soon enough, eh pal?
Anyway, soon after Squealer (where I was lucky enough to interview the likes of Vic Chesnutt, Billy Dankert and the aforementioned Mr. Stinson) folded, I was asked through a friend, Leo Kuelbs Jr,. to contact Ed Felien, publisher of the Southside Pride, who was wondering if I'd consider penning a weekly column and contributing interviews and reviews to a new publication, Pulse, that was to hit the streets soon. I believe that was in the spring of 1997.
My first interview for the paper was with Chris Dorn and The Beatifics, who'd just released an excellent album called How I Learned to Stop Worrying and were good sports as they worked at a local restaurant and I slurred out questions into a tiny tape recorder as my photographer, Jay Smiley, snuck around the room getting shots of them busing tables and wiping counters. In what would soon become a common practice, I sat--having stayed up all night drinking and binging on some powerful substances, and asked the right questions to the right people, and eventually wrote up the interview well enough to produce a nice article about the up-and-coming pop/rockers. Wow! I remember thinking, this is so easy I can do it DRUNK!!
From then on I either interviewed or reviewed literally hundreds of artists I'd worshiped as a youth, loved as an adult or had never heard of (local bands--THE most fun ones!) and made friends with a large portion of the music community, including the staffs and owners of First Avenue (HUGE thanks out to owner/manager Steve, who put up with my many requests for guest list spots and drink tickets--and ALWAYS came through, and Conrad S., who hated my guts at first but ended up giving me grudging respect in the end and let me backstage countless times to meet my favorite artists), The 400 Bar (them Sullivan boys were mighty nice to ol' Tommy back in the day), the old Turf Club (especially Rob and Leah Rule, Dave Weigardt, Dana and Eric, Drew, Raleigh and bartenders Jim and Dale), Big V's (The whole crew there is stellar but HUGE ups to Kermit Carter and Superhopper), The Terminal Bar, Mei Young, Dave Campbell and the entire staff of Homegrown and every record shop in town that mattered--though to this day, good old Root Cellar Records (RIP) still holds a special place in my heart. Extra special thanks out to Earl Root and John Ewing for all the great music deals over the years. Believe me, it went to a good cause. I kicked off "'Round the Dial" not long after, and it eventually became such a part of my life that everyday events would inspire thousands of words about the albums I was reviewing.
To wrap up what could become a full-length novel (ah, yes--I took particular glee in torturing my editors over the years with my neverending rants--and though I was offered the job myself a few times, I'd learned early on that "Editor" really meant "BABYSITTER."), I'd just like to say thanks to all the readers, artists, labels, record shops, bartenders, my excellent current editor and fellow writer Steve McPherson, Jim Walsh, Jim Meyer and all those narcotic-friendly doctors I've gotten to know over the past decade. It's not over for me--watch this space for new RTD info as it comes in, and remember--make yer own damn news!!
From April 2, 2003:
QUOTE OF THE WEEK: "In my next incarnation, I want to become a dolphin." – Robert Palmer
SONG OF THE WEEK: "Runnin' and Gunnin' You Down" – The Blood Shot
When I found the above quote from '70s/'80s schlock rocker Robert Palmer a few years back, I filed it away along with forty or fifty others that I thought I might someday use in a column. Most of those, cool ones from folks like Frank Zappa, Neil Young, Paul Westerberg and Hunter S. Thompson, were used up rather quickly. Bob's quote (I don't know the man well enough, really, to call him by such a familiar title, but then everything else about Mr. Palmer is stuffy enough, so I'll stick with Bob), however, simply sat as useless and idle as George W. Bush's little willy, right next to quotes from people who probably, at one time, caused some sort of excitement for said willy--people like Debby Boone, Carly Simon and Shaun Cassidy. Shallow people, shallow music, shallow quotes, whattaya expect, right? I never thought there'd come a day when Bob's quote would have any social, musical or timely qualities whatsoever. Shows how much I know.
By now, everybody out there in 'Dial-land knows that the U.S. armed forces are using dolphins and other, normally peaceful sea creatures to help fight the war in the Middle East. Leave it to our fucked up government to find a way to use Flipper and Buddy The Laughing Seal to help kill our fellow human beings, eh? Right on, dudes!! Way to go!! I don't want to go too far off on a tangent here, especially since so many stand-up comedians are having a field day with this one ("Send some New York City rats in them Afghani caves!" is one I recently heard), but it does get one to thinkin' about where this whole thing could lead us someday. I mean, it's one thing to unleash battle-trained dogs, rats, squirrels, jungle beasts (has anyone ever seen the damage a full-grown, pissed-off elephant can cause in an urban setting?), and tiny, deadly germs and microbes upon the world, but methinks it's quite another to train highly intelligent mammals with a proven capability for complex interspecies communication to fight, kill, spy on and maim human beings.
Like, what's going to happen when the dolphins finally agree amongst themselves that (shades of "Planet of the Apes") they've had enough of our bullshit and, knowing all of our deepest, darkest military secrets, decide to stage a surprise coup and take over the planet? And what up with porpoises? Aren't they as smart as dolphins? Are they going to be the generals and majors to the dolphins' intellectual community? What part will squids, moray eels and jellyfish play in the Great Oceanic Rebellion of 2029? Is Spongebob Squarepants part of a secret, nefarious plot by salt-water seditionists to brainwash human children? I guess, if it's going to happen, we should all pray it goes down before Bob Palmer kicks the bucket and reincarnates as a powerful, sea-bound leader of the New Dolphin Army.
Has anybody even stopped to wonder how we talked these happy, peace-loving ocean-dwellers into helping us greedy, warmongering land scrubs fight a bloody, imperialistic war in the first place? I mean, besides the fact that no other sane nation on the planet really wants to pledge allegiance to the flag that was? Was there a private, televised three-way meeting between Bush, Tony Blair and Bubbles the leader of the dolphin community? And what did Bush and Blair say to make Bubbles want to "help out" allied forces in this war? "Listen, um ... Bubbles ..." I can hear Bush muttering, "we like your kind, you know, we really do. Just the other day I bailed my daughters out and took 'em to see some of your cousins at Sea World. Loved it, they just loved it." "Er, so sorry, G.W., old chap ..." Blair would interject, "but we really should be getting on with this, shouldn't we then?"
"Right, right, Tony. So, Bubbles, as I was sayin', we respect your kind, we don't necessarily agree with your policies on non-aggression and whatchacallit, eco-conservatory-ism, but we think you're kind of cute. So we're prepared to refrain from dumping any oil on your major undersea cities for a period of oh, I don't know, two years? If you'll help us in this Iraqi thing, that is. Now, I don't want to get ugly here with you--God knows Jeb loved Flipper as a boy, heh, heh--but I've got friends in Texas who'd personally love to get the clean-up money on a large spill offa Galveston ... whattaya say, Bubbles, we on the same page here?" Of course, for reasons of national security, by the time human beings read the transcripts of this historic meeting, it'll be far too late. The dolphins will have taken over, and Bob Palmer will have his revenge for not having had a chart hit since before the turn of the century. Thank the gods that Fred Neil, Jacques Cousteau and Marlin Perkins didn't live to see this abomination of nature.
The planet Earth is over three-quarters water. That's a lot of space to set up shop, a lot of areas to begin building undersea satellite reflector beams that project back to Earth with 24-hour, non-stop Bob Palmer tunes. Every TV, cable, dish, radio and communications device on the planet would be barraged with a constant stream of music that only underwater creatures could possibly tolerate. Once all of humanity has been beaten, captured and put to work building and staffing gigantic underwater malls, corporate-chain seaweed clubs, churches and government edifices (Oh, yes, every war-like nation/empire eventually grows fat, stupid, decadent, and falls--history speaks for itself on that note--and just as Egypt, Rome, France, England, Russia and the USA did and will, so too will the mighty Dolphin Empire), the dolphin Bob Palmer, who will not only be the undisputed Head Dolph, but also Musical Director of Planet Earth, will set down a work routine, every day from dawn to dusk, that will be accompanied by the following:
Dawn--Reveille: "Bad Case of Loving You (Doctor Doctor)" will be played at full volume in every human barracks and sleeping quarters. Rise and shine, motherfuckers!! It's wet-suit time!! 10 a.m.--Mid-morning calisthenics: "Addicted to Love" shall be cranked in the seaweed fields, shipwrecks and sweat shops the world over as millions of half-dolphin, half-human clones--all looking exactly like those marble-complected, robotic back-up singers in Bob's videos--whip and berate their foolish, helpless human subjects. Noon--Half-hour kelp lunch break: "I Didn't Mean to Turn You On" will complement time-out for sustenance, supervised breeding and prayers to Neptune. 6 p.m.--Ten minute plankton dinner followed by lights out: "Simply Irresistible" will blare until Bob tires of hearing it.
Repeat ad nauseum, for the 23 or so years only the strongest humans will be able to endure before either keeling over stone dead, crumpling into a heap of babbling insanity, or growing fins and joining the Human Undersea Resistance League (H.U.R.L.), which will be led, of course, by a reinvigorated, gill-sporting, 95-year-old Don "Captain Beefheart" Van Vliet, and will find the human race discovering a whole new golden beginning , 20,000 leagues under the sea. First, of course, we'll all have to rise up and take out the dolphin Bob Palmer. Just ask yourself this--will you be ready? Me, I'm thinkin' about joinin' the Y and learnin' how to hold my breath under water for a really, really, really long time. And now for your regularly scheduled ‘Round The Dial, and more CD reviews ...
It’s always rewarding, after writing a slobbering review for a band’s debut EP, to find that you were right- it really was just the tip of the iceberg, and once in a great while, you find that the songs you liked best on the EP weren’t even the strongest in the outfit’s catalog. Such is the case with Lost, the full-length, Mike Wisti-recorded project from local gut-bucket country-rockers Hungry Horse; tunes from their 20-minute EP like “Funny At The Time,” a wry, post-ironic tale of surviving the self-wrought hazards of a wild youth that I raved on and on about, turned out to be merely finger food for the main course.
And what a course—jam-packed with Neil Young (yep, there’s a reason why they use Horse in their band name, kids) licks, roadside beer joint lyricism and whiskey-soaked harmonies, Lost is one local record you’re gonna be glad ya found. Kicking off with the reflective, Jay Farrar-ish “Empty Blue Sky,” the quartet sets the album’s tone—dark, meditative, witty, resigned and hesitantly hopeful all at once—right from the get-go. “Full Tilt Bender” showcases the 'Horse’s raunchier side, as lead singer/guitarist Kevin Kadidlo rouses himself after tearing up the town over roaring, dirty country-blues guitars: “Got my white flag flyin’ out over all the damage I done / My apologies to each and every one of you ...”
“Dashboard Jesus” struck me not only for its fragile beauty amongst the ruined lyrical landscape of the ‘Horse, but also because at times this music reminds me of the mighty Athens band The Dashboard Saviors, who hit upon exactly the same musical ethos these cats do. Not that this song sounds like any particluar Saviors tune, though. It’s an original number, albeit with the shades of classic Neil that permeate here and throughout the band’s repertoire (you can almost hear steel guitar whiz Ben Keith in the background—wait, no, that’s ‘Horse pal J. Wadeland, and a fine job he does, too) like a welcome injection of country/rock truth serum, rather than a cheap, modern urban imitation. It’s just there in the FEEL of the record. You simply don’t write songs like this, you don’t play music like this, unless you’ve been screwed blue, tattooed, built up an’ broke down, loved an’ left, and seen your own worst enemy staring back at you from the bathroom mirror five days a week as you get ready for your fucked-up day job. “Floral Dress” is a Scud Mountain Boys-ish tale of neglect, loneliness and depression, punctuated by an absolutely scathing guitar solo. Every broken home should have a copy of this album.
“Stateline” steers us back to the ‘Horse’s pounding, frenetic, freight-liner blues side—a white-hot, chugging murder ballad with a pounding, locomotive beat and growling axework: “Now I’m burnin’ up a mile at a time / When you leave a dead man back across the state line / Your mind it tends to wander ...” “Shallows” is a drop-dead gorgeous, from-the-gut love song to a man’s dog, a good jukebox and a healthy bottle of whiskey: “Whispering sweet nothings in a dog’s ear / Don’t try to tell me it’s a waste of time / You all can piss away your hours til they turn into years / This is how I spend mine / I guess it’s plain to see I prefer the company of my dog / I take her everywhere I go / She don’t help with the rent / But she never jumps the fence and she’s got more sense / Than any ten men I know ... (we’re) just caught in a hole and can’t get out / Maybe that’s what this life’s all about / Can’t feel the bottle pull you under / Can’t tell the shallows from the deep ...”
And that’s Hungry Horse in a nutshell—you’re only mortal when you’re sober, and you only worry when you’re dry. Life is a neverending blur of neon beer signs, deathly hangovers, loyal dogs, unfaithful partners, triumphant late-night highs, soul-sucking, empty lonely days, 18 beers and a pickup truck, thin ice and you’re outta luck. And you wouldn’t have it any other way. If you’ve got a hankerin’ for some down-to-earth, from-the-soul, down-an’-dirty country/blues/rock that pulls no punches and knows exactly where your buttons are and when to punch ‘em, these guys are for you. You’ll get a chance to catch ‘em live here in Minneapolis this Friday, April 4, at The Terminal Bar, along with Shamus 73 and a band TBA. Don’t miss this gig.
Upcoming: More CD reviews, rants, raves and rock ’n’ roll. As always, check out our live acoustic in-store this Saturday afternoon, 4/5, at Twin Cities Leather And Boot (570 North Snelling Ave., St. Paul, 651-917-8100), from 3-5 p.m., when local rock legend Danny Viper will make a very special appearance. And finally, I highly recommend checking out The Hang Ups, The Waxwings and Robert Skoro at The Turf Club on Friday, April 4—the Waxwings in particular will give yer ears a pleasant tweak. Until next time—make yer own damn news.
If you have local music news/gigs/events that you'd like to see listed in this column, or you'd just like to complain that I've now made it virtually impossible for you to present any rational argument concerning the musical merits of Bob Palmer to your friends, send replies to: TMygunn7764@yahoo.com. ||