Backtracks–Supertramp “The Logical Song”

“When I was young…,” the four-word phrase that opens “The Logical Song,” Supertramp’s coming of age lament from 1979’s Breakfast In America, is one of my favorite opening phrases of any pop song. Few opening lines so perfectly set the tone of the song to follow or so easily take my mind to an emotional place that closely mirrors that of the song. It’s a place where youthful innocence, when faced with the sometimes harsh realities of adulthood, often turns to a sort of disillusioned cynicism.

When I was young, my family and I lived for one summer in a tent as part of a larger campground community. Though this living arrangement was at least in part born of the realities of adulthood that my parents were facing at the time, for me it was a time of blissfully ignorant innocence, wild and free. It was a time of rumpuses through thick forests, explorations of fiery sulfur flats, and daily swims in the cool waters of a swimming hole.

Next to the swimming hole was a clubhouse, and the clubhouse stereo was always tuned to rock and roll on the FM dial, so splashing around in the swimming hole was soundtracked by the hits of the day. I remember “My Sharona” by The Knack, Blondie’s “Heart of Glass,” ELO’s “Don’t Bring Me Down,” Cheap Trick’s “I Want You to Want Me,” and Frankie Valli singing “Grease.” There are many more I remember, but the song that has stuck with me the most over the years is “The Logical Song,” particularly since my own youthful innocence, when faced with the harsh realities of adulthood, turned to a sort of disillusioned cynicism. I, like the character in the song, sometimes wish for someone to “tell me what we’ve learned…tell me who I am,” and no other song captures the sense of disconnect between the way I saw the world, and the person I was, back in the carefree summer of tent life, and the way I see the world, and the person I am, now.

Though reflecting too much on this disconnect comes with the danger of going down a rabbit hole of paralyzed self-absorption that leads only to under-appreciated loved ones and over-extended bar tabs, I find that reflecting on it just enough helps me to balance a cynicism that was perhaps too easily acquired with a childlike, though no longer ignorant, bliss that is too often hard-fought. When the clock inevitably strikes six feet under, I might not have learned a damn thing, and I might not have figured out who the hell I am, but until then I’ll keep on asking.

And I’ll keep on singing “The Logical Song.” It’s so good, I don’t even mind the sax solo (something I generally won’t tolerate in a rock song–unless it’s a Springsteen tune with Big Man behind the horn).

Allysen Callery ‘Winter Island’

There’s an old argument I have with a close friend and former roommate about Joni Mitchell, and the argument can be summed up, more or less, like this:

My friend can not only knock back a case of Ms. Mitchell and still be on his feet, but he’ll also, when the case is dry, crack open another.

It doesn’t take but the smallest of shots of ol’ Joni for me to start feeling a bit nauseous.

The problem with my side of the argument, which hinges on the notion that Mitchell’s voice is just too damned pretty, is that I’m always falling for the intimate, often otherworldly vocals of some female folk singer who has quite likely listened to, and enjoyed, a Joni Mitchell song or two. Gaping holes in my argument include lesser-known 60s/70s contemporaries of Mitchell’s such as Sandy Denny and Linda Perhacs as well as current artists influenced by the folk tradition such as Meg Baird, Marissa Nadler, and Josephine Foster. Admittedly, these artists lean more toward British folk and have more psychedelic tendencies than Mitchell, but they share with Mitchell a poetic lyricism, a strong sense of melody, and the ability to create an intimate, affecting mood.

The latest gaping hole in my argument against Joni Mitchell landed in the los grillos inbox a couple of weeks back in the form of Allysen Callery‘s haunting Winter Island, a 7-song ep of delicate, finger-picked folk ballads sung with stark intimacy. Listened to through headphones late at night with the lights low and none but a bottle of wine for company, the ghosts of these songs come alive, dancing in your mind like the shadow of a flickering candle on your living room wall.

Winter Island was released in May 2011 via Berlin’s Woodland Recordings, but the label’s site shows it to be currently sold out. Never fear, however, for a digital version of the album is available at Allysen Callery’s Bandcamp page for a ‘name-your-price’ rate (support the artist–be generous!). Check it out here.

Hear Here — New Album Streams From Wilco, Zola Jesus, Ryan Adams, and Tyler Ramsey

The fall equinox is upon us, promising cooler temperatures, turning leaves, and a host of new albums with that ol’ autumnal sound of reflection on life and love and death. This week alone sees album streams from Wilco, Zola Jesus, Ryan Adams, and Tyler Ramsey, four artists whose restless muses often carry their music down leaf-covered paths that wind through skeletal forests of the mind.

Wilco’s latest, The Whole Love, excels at the art of being Wilco as it blends catchy little numbers with guitar jams and sonic experiments. It’s out on the band’s own label, dBpm Records, and folks can currently catch it streaming in its entirety over at NPR. Listen here. Pick up a copy here.

Zola Jesus wants to haunt your musical chapel with her troubled soul on her latest, Conatus, which is out October 4 via the fine folks at Sacred Bones. Give it a listen until then at NPR here. Pre-order the album here.

Ryan Adams is back with his latest, Ashes and Fire, a restrained album of soft melodies and country lullabies. It’s streaming at NPR until its release date via Pax-Am/Columbia on October 11. Listen here. Pre-order the album here.

Tyler Ramsey, perhaps lately most known as a member of Band Of Horses, steps out with his latest solo record, The Valley Wind, which shows off the singer/songwriter chops that likely helped Ramsey land his day job. The album is currently streaming in its entirety over at Spinner. Listen here. It’s out now via Fat Possum–grab a copy here.

Live Tracks: The National, Wye Oak, Yo La Tengo

Dear Los Grillos,

A steady stream of airplanes flew low over the Seaside Pavillion as The National played September 9 in Boston.  Staring up at them overhead, that sense of glimpsing, for a moment, someone else’s trip seemed the perfect side show to a concert that meandered through atmospheric emotional terrain both familiar and strange.

Reinforced by a huge video screen of disjointed, neon-hued monochromatic footage of wanderers, indistinct places and everyday imagery rendered disturbing or unfamiliar, Matt Berninger’s baritone took the audience on a dive into the band’s deep cuts (among them “Son” and “Thirsty”) and his shadow world of feeling and experience.

Blaring horns, smashing cymbals and melodic keyboard accompaniment swept us along through a satisfying tumult of ambivalence, rage, hate, confusion, self-pity and eventually into union, with the band ending the show on an all-acoustic, audience-sung version of Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks.

During the encore, The National was joined onstage by Ira Kaplan of Yo La Tengo, who played a set after show opener Wye Oak filled the Pavillion with a storm of incredibly bass-heavy sound. I’m a fan of Wye Oak’s plaintive, insistent sound and was looking forward to hearing them live, but they didn’t have the presence for the venue. Maybe my cheap seat put me at a disadvantage for engaging with the duo of lead singer Jenn Wasner and drummer/keyboarder/backup singer Andy Stack, but it wasn’t the connection I was hoping to make with Wye Oak live.

In contrast to Wye Oak’s slightly flat reception, Yo La Tengo hit the stage to extreme enthusiasm by the assembled hipsters and still-cool-even-though-we’re-pushing-40 ticketholders. Eschewing lyrics for a mostly guitar- and drum-driven set, Yo La Tengo left it all on stage. During the final 10-minute plus version of “Heard You Looking,” Ira Kaplan and drummer-wife Georgia Hubley were engaged in what can only be described as on-stage musical intercourse, with Ira lost in a rapturous, improvisational guitar copulation, with Hubley responding with passion on the drum kit, making all of us unwitting voyeurs. Based on the response, most were sated.

Sonically yours,
The Disbeliever

national/yolatengolive, a gallery on Flickr.

Thanks Helium Heels for sharing these wonderful photos of the show.

Ryche and Roll — Los Grillos Interviews Geoff Tate

Alright, so Queensryche isn’t rockin’ the space-age bondage look any more–after all, it has been 30 years–but the masters of heavy mental music, touring in support of recent album Dedicated To Chaos on what’s being billed as the band’s 30th Anniversary Tour, is rockin’ a set list that spans its career, from auspicious debut ep, Queensryche, to commercial peak, Empire, to “Get Started,” the opening cut on the band’s latest release, on which singer and main songwriter Geoff Tate defiantly declares that his audience “ain’t seen nothin’ yet.” The tour and the album work together as a bold statement that not only honors the Queensryche legacy but also continues a searching musical journey that builds on that legacy. Queensryche has always been a band that isn’t afraid to take chances, and those loyal to its 30 year reign will find their reward at the relatively intimate, deep-cut-rocking shows on this tour. “The Lady Wore Black” anyone? Hell yeah.

Always ready to Ryche and Roll, los grillos will be at the Houston House of Blues stop on the tour. Last week, in anticipation of this show as well as the Austin stop at the recently christened Emo’s East, I had the pleasure of talking over the phone with Geoff Tate about the tour, the album, and whether masterful concept album Operation: Mindcrime will see the light of day as a feature film. It was a pleasure to chat with Tate, and beyond the specifics of his answers, two more general truths were made clear:

1. Geoff Tate is a very nice guy who is gracious with his fans and thoughtful about his music.

2. I am a jackass.

But these things are perhaps not news to those who know us, so let’s move on to what Geoff had to say (ed. note: for the interview transcription I left in the Geoff-Tate-is-gracious-and-thoughtful parts and edited out the I’m-a-jackass parts)…

On Touring

The tour is going really well. We started in May and will finish up in December. We’re going to a lot of different places, playing our music wherever we can. It’s always a fun trip. You never know what’s going to happen [laughs]. We’re having really good attendance at the shows, and a lot of people are smiling when they leave, so that’s a good thing.

You have to put yourself into a headspace for the performance…You have to step right on the stage and be on 10. Sometimes the audiences are really pumped up before the show, and you feed off of them, and it’s really easy to get on 10. And sometimes they’re not pumped up at all, and it requires you, as a performer, to get them pumped up.  

On Recording

With every record we sit down and we map out what we want to try to achieve, and one thing we wanted to do [with Dedicated to Chaos] was write a collection of songs that doesn’t necessarily follow a theme. We put out two records back to back that are concept albums, Mindcrime II and American Soldier, and we wanted to stretch out musically and have the freedom to explore our musicality, and try different things. That was the goal, and I think we did that…it turned out pretty cool.

As a musician and writer you’re constantly trying to stretch out and not repeat yourself–at least that’s the plan. We [the band members] all have pretty vast record collections and a lot of different musical influences, and we’ve always managed to tap those over the years and find some common ground, which is  a good thing. It keeps it interesting for us and, therefore, hopefully interesting for the fans as well.

On the future of Operation: Mindcrime

Three different Operation: Mindcrime projects are in the works right now: a feature film, an animated film, and a Broadway musical presentation. It’s really a drama, so we’re approaching it and treating it as that. The music will be scored and featured as background music for scenes.

Queensryche is on the road now for its 30th Anniversary Tour and in support of its latest album, Dedicated to Chaos (available now). Check out the tour dates below. For more information, including ticket info, check out the band’s website here.

Time to get pumped up for some Ryche and Roll!

09/22/11. Dallas, TX.  House of Blues  
09/23/11. Biloxi, MS.  Hard Rock Hotel & Casino  
09/24/11. Houston, TX.  House of Blues  
09/25/11. Austin, TX.  Emo’s East  
09/28/11. Anaheim, CA.  House of Blues  
09/29/11. San Diego, CA.  House of Blues  
09/30/11. Las Vegas, NV.  House of Blues  
10/01/11. Los Angeles, CA.  House of Blues  
10/02/11. San Francisco, CA.  The Regency Ballroom  
10/26/11. Boston, MA.  House of Blues  
10/27/11. Lancaster, PA.  Chameleon Club  
10/28/11. Erie, PA.  Bayfront Auditorium  
10/29/11. Hampton Beach, NH.  Hampton Beach Casino & Ballroom  
10/30/11. Baltimore, MD.  Soundstage  
10/31/11. New York, NY.  Highline Ballroom  
11/02/11. Nashville, TN.  Wildhorse Saloon  
11/03/11  Baton Rouge, LA.  Varsity Theater  
11/04/11. Atlanta, GA. The Masquerade  
11/05/11. Myrtle Beach, SC.  House of Blues  
11/06/11. Winston-Salem, NC.  Ziggy’s  
11/08/11. Raleigh, NC.  Lincoln Theater  
11/10/11. Ponte Vedra, FA.  Ponte Vedra Concert Hall  
11/11/11. Ft Lauderdale, FL.  Revolution Live  
11/12/11. Lake Buena Vista, FL.  House of Blues  
11/14/11 – 11/19/11. Cozumel  Shiprocked Cruise  
11/20/11. Clearwater, FL.  Ruth Eckard Hall  
01/13/12. Wendover, NV.  Peppermill Concert Hall