Friday, April 24, 2015

The Live 5

Live music is something we should all cherish. These days there is a tough decision we all have to make when witnessing a concert: do we watch it as we should, or do we watch it through our iPhone while we record the show that we pay good money to see. This is tough, but things get easier when you decide to watch the show through your own eyeballs and let someone else record it and post it to youtube. Inevitably, that will happen at most concerts, whether you think it is the sad truth or not. This being said, I was watching a bunch of youtube videos of bands that I like playing live music, and it hit me that I could do something with that. Therefore, let me present the first ever Breakfast at Jimothy’s Live 5. 5 live youtube videos of bands that I like and/or recommend to you, the reader. I’ll try doing this once a month or something and see how it does. As this is the inaugural Live 5, I’m going to hit you with some of my all time favorites. Let us begin:

5. Japandroids ‘The House That Heaven Built’ live at CAMP Basement, London

When you think of a two-piece band who can rock a place down to the ground, one may think immediately to the White Stripes. Unfortunately, they are a thing of the past. As unfortunate as that is, fortune is on our side as we have Japandroids to give rock n’roll duos a good name, especially with The House That Heaven Built. Crowd is into it, bouncing around and singing along, making this song seem even more exciting in person. Side note: check out the official music video for this song. It’s a fun black and white montage of the band on tour and although it is super simple, it is also super effective.

4. FIDLAR ‘Wake Bake Skate’ live in Phoenix, 2013

FIDLAR: modern day’s sign that punk rock has not died. I am seeing these guys live in Boston next month and I can honestly say I haven’t been this excited about a show in a long time. The crowd is going apeshit crazy just as you would imagine it might for a band that stands for “Fuck It Dog, Life’s A Risk”. It’s short, fast, loud and it would make the Ramones extremely proud (rhymes). Wake Bake Skate could be the anthem for the slacker youth of America who will run day be running this country! That is my first grandpa-sounding rant of 2015 and I’m surprised it took me that long for it to happen. Anyways, enjoy this video of a very happy crowd moshing, dancing, rushing the stage and crowd surfing.

3. Red Hot Chili Peppers ‘Don’t Forget Me’ Live at La Cigale

This is one of the most impressive live songs in my opinion, ever. John Frusciante is a weird dude, but his guitar playing is just absurd in this. Don’t Forget Me is my favorite Chili Peppers song, and just one listen to this song (especially the guitar solo) will make you understand why that is. This was the best thing to happen in France in ages.

2. Taking Back Sunday ‘Cute Without the E (Cut From The Team)' live 

This was at the Tell All Your Friends release party, which should make you all feel very old. Notable with Adam playing guitar, this video always stood out to me as the ultimate crowd singalong. This song really opened my eyes to a lot of different types of music when I was 14 or so, and you can see from the crowd’s reaction that they hang on to every lyric and chord. This is also the only time that I’ve ever seen a bouncer singing along and getting into the music as well, so bonus points for that. As much as I love this song, it is a close second to TBS’s rival: Brand New

1. Brand New ‘Seventy Times 7’ Live in London

Holy smokes. The description says how it was on his computer for a year or two, and he posted it to youtube in 2006, so we can put this maybe in 04 or even before that. This puts it into the peak angsty emo punk period of Brand New: The Your Favorite Weapon tour. Jesse Lacey actually looks excited to play Seventy Times 7, so that should really be an indicator of how old this is. I love the breakdown before the end, the bass flip is pretty epic at the 4:06 mark, the crowd rushing the stage and the guitar smash at the very end. Brand New shows have changed drastically since this, which isn't a negative, but man they were into it back then. This video is special, and that's why it lands at number 1 of the Live 5.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

The Curious Case of Brand New

Jesse Lacey is a master of torture. A Brand New storm is coming, and the fans are ready to embrace it. It has been a strange month or so for Brand New fans, and it all, oddly enough, started back in 2006 with their album The Devil and God Are Raging Inside Me. You may be wondering how something that is 9 years old become relevant and cause chaos, but allow me to explain. Back in 06, if you bought the physical CD of Devil and God, the booklet it came with contained no lyrics. Instead, it was just a bunch of random pictures and odd quotes and lines of words which may have seemed like a bunch of mumbo jumbo. The interesting part is that there was a page at the end of the booklet that said if you send one dollar to this address, you would be sent a lyric book at some point. For 9 years, people thought they wasted a buck, or even forgot they sent in for these booklets altogether. What seemed like a waste turned into a very procrastinated gift from the musical Gods when out of nowhere, people started receiving the long lost lyric books a couple of weeks ago. From pictures online, it looks like people received the booklet, a dollar, and a flyer for a future cassette tape of the Fight Off Your Demons demos (more on that later). This immediately sparked intrigue in the hearts of Brand New fans, who have been waiting for a new album since 2009’s Daisy, which many fans tried, but failed to embrace like the previous three albums.

The problem with Daisy was that it got kinda weird. Fans of the first two albums, Your Favorite Weapon (2001) and Deja Entendu (2003), fell in love with the heartache and angst that Jesse Lacey was feeling at that point. The band grew up and made their 3rd album, Devil and God, and although it was not the emo-pop-punk of the previous two, the music was kick-ass and deep enough that it still pleased the masses of fans. Three years later, Daisy came out to much hype, but in the end I think it was hard for people to wrap their heads around. We have all been waiting the comeback/make-up/redemption album, the back to basics album, the best album. Brand New fans are incredibly loyal. I can’t think of any other band whose fans take bits and pieces of news about the band (much of it rumors, since Brand New rarely does interviews) and immediately seek answers and hope of new music. Brand New fans care almost too much, and with the mysterious nature of the band, it has been a torturous month.

Around the same time of the lyric books being sent out, Brand New cleared out their Instagram account, and posted a picture of the band on a couch, with Jesse Lacey a blurred figure. More speculation followed just from that one move, but shit really hit the fan when they played a show in Denver soon after and opened up with a new single, called ‘Mene’. Youtube videos like the one below started racking up the views and it seemed as if the new album was upon us. In true Brand New fashion, they didn’t acknowledge the track and the end of Mene turned into the start of the next song, ‘Sink’. Not only were fans glad to hear of a new song, but it sounded like pre-Daisy Brand New! It was fast! It had a bit of a punk feel to it! Thank the good lord almighty! Brand New is back! Irytyoihglkjlksldjkf! Mene was here, and then it became a free download on their new website for 24 hours, before going up on iTunes and then Spotify the following day. Although there was still no word of a new album, the fans were pleased.

Just when ya think it couldn’t get much better, last night out in LA Brand New played a show with a solid setlist playing a lot of songs spanning the whole career (except Seventy Times 7, but that’s a blogpost for another day), and one song for the encore. Normally, Lacey comes out solo for the encore and plays either Deja cut ‘Play Crack the Sky’ or, if you’re really lucky, Your Favorite Weapon…favorite, ‘Soco Amaretto Lime’. Most were expecting one of these, but they turned out to be wrong the in the best possible way: a second new song called ‘Sealed to Me’. Jesse Lacey played by himself on stage and gave the world a new slow jam of a Brand New song, and by the sounds of the youtube videos, it’s pretty damn good.  Also intriguing was that they were handing out lyric sheets for Sealed to Me at the merch table.  Judging by Mene and Sealed to Me, this looks like the album most fans were expecting to get after Devil and God instead of Daisy. Daisy was disappointing, but I think Brand New fans forgave them and still shelled out money to see the Daisy tour, because they know just how mysterious and unpredictable they are.

My fear with Brand New was that Jesse Lacey desperately wanted to become the Smiths of the 00’s. The Smiths frontman, Morrissey, is one of Lacey’s idols. Lacey used to tape ‘Hi Moz!’ on his guitar at shows, and he has even recently started to tie a bunch of flowers on his mic stand like Morrissey would. If you haven’t listened to the Smiths, they were basically emo before emo of the 80’s. Their songs aren’t very cheery, but musically they were amazing and they produced great songs. You can certainly tell that The Smiths and Moz had an influence on the music of Brand New, which is perfectly fine. The thing about The Smiths that had me worried about Brand New was that they were incredibly short lived. The Smiths were formed in 1982, released 4 albums between 84-87, and then they were done. They haven’t played a show in almost 30 years now, and they famously have said that they never will, which is a damn shame. Daisy was album number 4 for Brand New, and with the lack of news and now 6 years in between, I think it was fair to get a bit worried about the uncertainty.

Nature at Coachella

Uncertainty is something that has been a problem for Brand New fans since Daisy. I saw Brand New play a late afternoon set at Riotfest in Chicago back in September of 2013, and rumors were flying rampant through the crowd (they had one of the biggest crowds of the entire 3 day festival) that they were breaking up and this was the final show. This was even mentioned to me by a friend of a friend who I only knew as ‘Lawyer Danny’ (I think he was in law school at the time and was named Danny, if memory serves) who tried getting a t-shirt, only to learn from one of Brand New’s merch guys that they had completely sold out of stuff, and when asked about the rumored breakup, the Merch Man shrugged and said “who knows, probably”. People were a bit on edge, but the band came out and played a great show with thousands and thousands singing along and moshing and savoring the moment like only Brand New fans can. There was a buzz around the show, angst and tension was thick and people wanted to unleash. People wanted to get out their feelings, frustrations, praise and emotions through one band, and it happened. There are few bands as captivating as Brand New on stage. Our fears turned out to be nonsense as they played a show a week later, but the uncertainty stuck around. Now we are looking at a new album. Who would’ve thought.

There has been no official announcement of the new album, which may be scary, but we need to keep faith as fans. That whole uncertainty thing? It’s very real. When making Devil and God, some asshole leaked 9 songs from it, which were all untitled, and they became known as the Fight Off Your Demons demos. As nice as it is that these 9 songs were leaked at the time, it was not as nice when Brand New got so pissed that they scrapped all the songs and started the album over virtually from scratch. Brand New beats to their own drum, which is noble, but also frightening. With such intrigue surrounding them, you know there may be people trying to find and leak stuff, which at this point would be a shame. In this way, the secrecy may be a good thing, and the album could appear at any minute, which would be fitting for them. I’m looking for a mix of stuff on the new album. As much as I’d love another version of Deja and Your Favorite Weapon, it is simply unrealistic. They are not the emo punk band of 2001 anymore. They have grown up and deal with different issues than girlfriends cheating with best friends. I expect it to be much more normal than the weirdness of Daisy and maybe not quite as serious as Devil and God. If you were to mix it up between Deja and Devil and God, I’d say it may be the safest prediction, and that would be awesome if it is right. The other great possibility? If there is a new album, that means there will probably be a new tour. Times are exciting in Brand New Land.

Sealed to Me lyric sheet

For this blogpost, I asked a bunch of friends to describe Brand New in one word, I got the following: angsty, angsty, angst, dark, raw, transcending, conflicted, fleek, irritating, angstyheaven and angstmazing. They are all accurate, even if I hate you Jom for using ‘fleek’. Brand New gets your emotion running. Jesse Lacey was heartbroken and stabbed in the back back in 2000 and it ended up giving the world a shitload of great music. As teens who have grown up, we know what Jesse Lacey was going through, and we appreciate someone being the spokesperson for this generation. Kids my age (yeah, we are still kids) appreciate their music because we feel like our generation is messed up. No one can relate to what we’ve gone through, with the rapid changes in technology, social media, heartbreak and the struggles for the pursuit of happiness. Jesse Lacey has become the Morrissey of this generation, and that’s perfectly okay. Kids growing up in the 80’s adored Morrissey, and kids of the 00’s adore Jesse Lacey, even if he confuses us. All I know is that I have faith in whatever is in store with this new album. I think it’ll blow us away and it’ll make people realize just how big of a deal they are. While it may be a time of confusion and torture for Brand New fans, I feel like it’ll all be worth it in the end.

Special shoutouts to: Paula “Sprinkles!” Tran, Steve “Skeeter” Sheridan, Kyle "The Fixer Upper" Towne, Sully, Julie “OMG” Strano, Andrew “The Worm” Chace, Tom “Denim Coat” Silva, Kristen "BoBo" Borowiec, Rachel “X-Ray” Palmisciano, and Tina “Boss” Brennan for their one word contributions. Well done, you guys.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Mad Men Final Season: The Ken Cosgrove Factor

The end of an era of a show about a different…era, is upon us.  The final half season of Mad Men is here, and conspiracy theories are running rampant.  From rumblings of Don’s soon to be ex-wife being killed off like Sharon Tate to Don falling out of a window like in the opening credits, everyone has their own theory.  I normally hate playing this game.  Truth is, anything can happen, and things can change.  I didn’t watch Breaking Bad, but I do remember hearing that Jesse Pinkman was only supposed to be around for a few episodes but his popularity changed the minds of the writers and he ended up being a pretty important character, or so I’m told.  The point I’m trying to make here is that it’s pretty dumb to have conspiracy theories about TV shows before the end is even written.  Anything can happen.  These writers have a blank canvas before them and try to surprise people to keep them watching, so you’re inevitably going to not expect to see things you think/want.  Honestly, if a TV show plays out exactly like you think it may, then you’re watching a pretty shitty show.  I guess when it comes to a show like, say, Pretty Little Liars, it may be fun to have a pool with your friends about who A is, but for the most part, keep your theories to yourself.  I hate people who talk TV show theories.  I also hate myself.

If you go back to my scathing rant about how theories are bad, I hope you noticed I mentioned the part about having them before a show is finished with the writing process is dumb.  Mad Men is already past the writing and is now airing the final 6ish episodes now.  This past Sunday kicked off the final half of the final season (another gripe for another day) and some things happened in that episode that made me think about certain possibilities.  This one episode had some scenes around a minor character, including one key scene of dialogue, that made me realize that I have cracked the code before Mad Men is even off air, and it all revolves around our favorite eye-patch wearing character: Kenneth Cosgrove.

Before I dive into the Ken Cosgrove wormhole, I do want to admit defeat in one thought that I had.  I had a hunch for the last couple of seasons that somehow, some way, Don would end up with Rachel Menken.  It occurred to me that she was the only woman throughout the show that Don cared for, wanted and couldn’t get in the long run.  There was reason for it, and I figured the show had bigger plans for her than just bringing her back out of nowhere and killing her via Leukemia just to make Don sad.  I felt like a genius with my Don-Rachel Menken love connection, but that died out and I have my new theory.  Now, onto the pirate looking guy in the world of Mad Men.

Why is Cosgrove still around?  Mad Men has no problem kicking characters to the curb, like they did with Lane Pryce, Sal, Bert Cooper, Paul Kinsey and most of Don’s secretaries.  Cosgrove has had his moments in the show, but unlike Harry getting his kinda-partnership/Jim Cutler’s lil bitch role, Cosgrove has been quiet minus the whole getting shot in the eye while hunting thing.  There would be no need for his character to be around after the episode in which he tap danced.  If the most recent episode showed us anything, it showed us that for some reason Cosgrove is important.  First there was a scene where he discusses his future in writing with his wife, ending in a fight.  Next scene he is fired by Roger and one of the McCann people over something little.  It would have been easy to write him out here, but there was more to follow.  This is where the theory comes into play.

Cosgrove has to give his accounts to Pete “The Meat” Campbell and while doing so, they discuss what Cosgrove’s future may have.  In passing, he says he will be focusing on his writing.  He then quips that maybe he’d write about the ad agency.  Campbell scoffs and asks why, claiming it’s a boring world, and tells him to write about adventures.  When you pair that along with his disgust for the advertising world during his rant to his wife, the signs started pointing to one thing and one thing only: Mad Men is the memoir that Cosgrove writes years later.

I look at the final episode and imagine a scene where it is the modern times or recent past, with a group of guys listening to an old man with an eye-patch telling them stories about Don and the memories of Madison Avenue.  It makes sense: right now Cosgrove is probably in in mid-late 30’s in 1969.  Fast forward to 2015 and that puts him around 80.  It is very possible that the Cosgrove character is still alive and kickin’, with a successful novel ready to be made into a TV show by producers who need something new.  Cosgrove can pitch the show to these producers and execs just like the old days when he was at Sterling Cooper, and telling the story of Don, who is obviously the most intriguing character to write about.  Cosgrove, later in life, got to fulfill his dream and write, and he wrote about what he knew: the world of Mad Men.  It would be the perfect way to have a creative ending that was fresh, awesome, and somewhat out of leftfield.

I think the Cosgrove idea will happen, yet there is still one big question: what happens with Peggy?  I can’t help but think she has to play a role in the ending.  If you go back to the start, the first episode of the first season is essentially Peggy’s first day in the Mad Men world as the sheepish new secretary.

The show is almost as much about Peggy as it is Don.  As Don self destructs and redeems himself, we see Peggy grow up as a person and at her work.  Peggy will most likely play a key role in the end, so I have to think that she’s in on the story with Cosgrove, maybe giving him the dirt on Don, as she knows probably the most about him out of anyone at Sterling Cooper.  It would be nice to just say Peggy runs off to Paris with her new love interesting Stevie, but let’s face it, there has to be more to it than just that.  Mad Men is too good of a show to just have Peggy fall in love and live happily ever after in the final 5 episodes.

If I’m correct in the Cosgrove theory, I will feel like a genius.  If not, I’ll also be enjoying the final episodes of what has been the best show on TV over the past 8 years and seeing what the real ending will be.  The beauty of Mad Men is that these final episodes have the possibility of a wide open ending, and there is still time for big changes to be made. I know I would normally tell you to not listen to bullshit conspiracy theories, but just keep mine in mind.  In Cosgrove, I trust.