On marriage for all

As with way too many things in life, I’m confused and frustrated with the way things are, with the way people are. I know that people are confused and afraid and distrusting of things that are different from them — by belief, by nature, by choice. What confuses me is why, and why more people don’t make the concerted effort to overcome that basic human trait.

SCOTUS declared yesterday that marriage as a legal entity (with the legal benefits that it provides) can not be denied to anyone based on their sexual orientation. To my knowledge, it hasn’t been stated that any of the religions have to redefine marriage, or that any minister, pastor, reverend, rabbi, or any other religious leader will be forced to perform a ceremony wedding two people in a manner that disagrees with their beliefs. It simply says that there can be no law denying marriage and its benefits to anyone, straight or gay.

My religious friends and family that object to this ruling continue to repeat a thought along the lines of, “The Court has redefined marriage, contrary to what Christians believe it is.” First and foremost, if this is true, then certainly, SCOTUS made the correct ruling, as:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

My interpretation of that is that there would be no laws related in any way to religious beliefs, including marriage (my bachelor’s degree notwithstanding, I’m clearly no legal scholar, so I’m open to being corrected by someone who knows better). And what SCOTUS did yesterday, contrary to some beliefs, was NOT to create a law redefining marriage; anyone with an elementary knowledge of the U.S. government can point out that the judicial branch can not make laws, only rule on them; quite the contrary, SCOTUS only said that laws preventing gay men and women from marrying are unconstitutional.

I take issue, too, with the fact that Christians are speaking as though their definition of marriage is the only one, ignoring the fact that there are different definitions of marriage for different religions and cultures, and that marriage, as an institution, predates Christianity (and Judaism, for that matter). This stance, while it may hold true for a vast majority of Americans, is still arrogant and unfair.

But really, I guess the bottom line is this: why does anyone — ANYONE — care? There’s this atmosphere of horror surrounding the whole thing, as though this is the beginning of the end, or that tomorrow, there will be armed soldiers knocking on their door and forcing them to marry their best friend. But none of these things are true, or have any grounding in any truth, at all.

My understanding of Christianity — and again, I’m not as well versed as many of my friends, but I have spent a lifetime learning and questioning and exploring, so I feel comfortable publicly stating my opinion — is that no sin is greater than any other. It’s a tough pill to swallow, that having wanton thoughts about your neighbor’s wife is no better or worse in the eyes of God than wholesale genocide, but that’s what is put forth – not directly, but it can be inferred from verses like the following:

James 2:10 (NIV)

For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it.

And then there are the words of Christ Himself:

Matthew Chapter 22

36Master, which [is] the great commandment in the law?

37Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.

38This is the first and great commandment.

39And the second [is] like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.

40On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.

Now, I’m not particularly interested in getting into religious debates. There are many, many levels on which I am still exploring and learning and discovering my faith, and I’m definitely sure that I’ve had more than my fill of being the audience to too many people presenting me their (or worse, a spoon-fed) opinion of what’s right and wrong as though it were fact carved in stone. But I will say that I find Jesus’ teachings — the words that came from the mouth of the man Himself, even presuming that they are subject to having been changed and revised over the last two millenia — to be the most important part of Christianity for me, with the Old Testament laws a distant second. Christ spoke, at the core, of love — for our fellow humans, regardless of profession or behavior or belief; and for God and His love for us.

There’s also this idea that this decision, and the new-found right to marry will be somehow detrimental to society as a whole, but I think that’s nothing more than fear speaking. You know what’s detrimental to society? Families where one parent or the other has abandoned the family. The ease of divorce. Our cultural glorification of violence and our quickness to show anger and hatred and to deny happiness and love. We choose to focus on the differences between ourselves and others rather than embracing our commonalities. We push the less-fortunate down and create as much distance as possible between us and them instead of doing all that we can to lend them a hand and help them rise closer to our station.

It is my opinion — and only that, an opinion — that those who are decrying the right of gay people to marry, preaching to anyone who will listen that it’s the end of the world as we know it because two men or two women who have love in their hearts for each other can now enjoy the same legal right and benefits as a man and a woman with the same are the real detriment to society.

I can’t understand why we can’t, as a people, just live and let live, when the actions and beliefs of others do us no more harm than make us uncomfortable, because we’re too lazy to try and understand differences better.

The death of the wait

In January of 1984, I got to go see Van Halen at the Birmingham-Jefferson Civic Center, with Autograph opening up. I was (and still am) a big fan of both bands, and was thrilled to be going to my first ever concert. It was a huge experience, made even more so by having no idea what to expect going in to the show.

Back then, there was no Internet from which to download setlists or even reviews of previous night’s concerts. There were fanzines and newsletters, but those travelled by US post, and were put together with Xerox machines and typewriters. Bootleg cassettes and LPs existed, but were only available at small specialty shops and record collector conventions. Video cameras were bulky and expensive, and so pirated live shows were few and far between.

Last week, I went to see My Morning Jacket at the Alabama Theater. I’m not that familiar with the band, but I was able to listen to random selections from their discography throughout the day of the concert by searching for their material on iTunes and YouTube. Since this was their tour opener, there was no way to know what songs they would be playing — though I reviewed the show, and the next day I had emails and comments asking for setlists and clarifications. My girlfriend (a huge MMJ fan and the reason I went to the concert) had said a few times that she wanted to go back and do it all again, that the show was in her top three MMJ concert experiences (she’s a repeat attender) — and by 10 AM the next morning, I had managed to find a quality recording of the show (bootlegged by an audience member) online, downloaded it, and burned it to a couple of CDs for her listening pleasure.

It’s fascinating to me, the differences of twenty-five years, brought by technology. I remember not a decade ago waiting anxiously for CDs to hit the store shelves on Tuesdays, ready to hear the latest discs that I had been reading about and imagining for months. Fifteen years ago, I would record videos on MTV and tape radio shows because they would get songs from albums that were two or three weeks away. We would read guitar magazines and Rolling Stone and Spin and Revolver to get what scraps of news we could about albums or tours that were in the works. Even five years ago, the bandwidth wasn’t necessarily there to grab songs at a whim or find pre-releases without a little bit of luck.

Now today, release dates are a guide as to when you might start checking the BitTorrent sites for review leaks. If you’re wanting to see a band live, you can read a billion reviews from pros and fans alike the day after their first show (if not sooner), find out if they’ll be playing your favorite songs, watch videos from the current tour on YouTube and maybe download the audio (or video) from a few shows, and then purchase your tickets online before you head out the door.

Part of me is a huge fan of all of this. I’m a data junkie and patience is not my strong suit, so being able to find out anything and everything about the upcoming Pain of Salvation or Devin Townsend albums and listen to song samples is exciting and important to me. I can check out audio and video from shows I could never attend, across the country or across the world, and record those alternate versions of songs that I love to my iPod for listening anytime, any place.

But I remember those days, those days of old when we would run to the record store uphill, both ways, in 2 feet of snow and hundred degree temperatures in our shoes made of wood. The excitement that would build all day on Tuesday, as we sat through school or work, thinking about the new CDs hitting the stores, and how awesome all those songs might (or might not!) be — that would eat at us, but in the best possible way. Going to concerts having no idea what surprises might be in store, what songs might get played. Finding that bootleg recording of rare b-sides or amazing shows that you had heard whispers of but never imagined hearing was a once in a year occurrence.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m just as anxious to hear Road Salt One in a month, to see Devin Townsend when he tours later this year, as I was as a teenager.  But it feels like maybe something’s lacking, like I know too much too soon now to appreciate it the way I used to.  It’s not age — my passion for music has only grown as I’ve gotten older.

This isn’t meant to be a luddite rant at all — I love technology, that I can fit my entire (and rather large) music collection in a wallet-sized piece of metal that can be played at home, in the car, on the computer, or through tiny ear-bud  headphones.  I love that music can be recorded, bit-by-bit, as perfectly or as loosely as the musician chooses. I love the sound effects and DTS 5.1 surround.

I do feel for those that will never know the anticipation of a new release, and for those that feel that if it’s out there, they somehow deserve or are owed this music.

And I wonder what the music fan who is twelve or thirteen today will bemoan in another generation.

MUSIC: The best of 2009

(This article was originally supposed to appear in the 2010-opening issue of Birmingham Weekly.  It did not.  Perhaps it will eventually pop up there, but in the meantime, you can read it here.  Do so… now:)

Mastodon “Crack the Skye” – It’s the year that Mastodon reached out to the overlooked and underappreciated Trustifarian metal heads.  A friend remarked at their tour kick-off at Workplay in the spring that Mastodon had become “Widespread Sabbath”.  And maybe they have, but goddamned if these aren’t the scariest, most brutal hippies ever.  Blenderize old-school Metallica, Black Sabbath, Pink Floyd, a conceptual thread inspired by Bill Burroughs and a sheet of blotter acid, and two bottles of Absinthe, and you’ve got a hangover made just me.

Hey, Charlie Manson might really dig this disc, now that I think about it.  Maybe Phil Spector can pass him a copy?

Bigelf “Cheat the Gallows” – I’ve heard people categorize Marilyn Manson and Rob Zombie as horror rock, but I think of both of them as more slasher-metal.  Really, is Jason Voorhees that scary? Bigelf, though – man, there’s something really creepy lurking underneath the surface of this whole disc.  Yeah, it sounds very retro, sort of Alice Cooper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band and the Floyds From Mars, but then you start picturing the three-ring circus, and the tent, and the clowns… Yeah, lots of clowns, but not the happy ones.  More like that goddamned doll from Poltergeist. And John Wayne Gacy.  And Willie Whistles. Ever been ear-raped by a clown?  Yeah.  That’s it. (Note: This apparently came out in August, but I live in Birmingham, AL, where nothing happens when it’s supposed to.  Therefore, it counts. For me.)

Swallow the Sun “New Moon” – In a better world, the sequel to TWILIGHT would have been written by 1970s Wes Craven and directed by Eli Roth.  It would have been filled with torture and buckets of blood — not red syrup, but actual blood.  The entire soundtrack would have been replaced with the latest release from Finnish doom metal band Swallow The Sun.  It would have been AWESOME.  And teenage girls everywhere would be traumatized for life.

Ah, to spend a day in my fantasy world…

Muse “The Resistance” – Does Matthew Bellamy have a Thom Yorke fixation?  Does Muse want too badly to be Queen? Are positive answers to the previous two questions bad things?  Really, imagine it: Paul Rodgers stuck with making Muddy Waters tribute albums, and so Brian May and company invited Yorke to spend six months away from Radiohead to work on a new album. How wonderful would that be?  The correct answer: “The Resistance.”

Animals as Leaders “Animals as Leaders” – I wouldn’t normally list an all-instrumental guitar record on a year-end list, but there’s something so phenomenal and out of this world about Tosin Abasi’s debut that not including it is a musical injustice on par with Jethro Tull’s 1989 Grammy win.  Sometimes I want to compare his writing and playing to Miles Davis, but that’s only because both are so far beyond my ken that it’s pathetic.  Other times, I compare it to putting Mentos and bleach into a mixture of Diet Coke and ammonia.

3 “Revisions” – You know how critics are always all like, “These guys are an overnight success!” And then the bands are all like, “Nuh-unh! We worked for, like a month on this!” New York’s 3 are not at all that band; in fact, they had three discs released indepently before scoring a national distribution deal.  REVISIONS is a nice little project of re-recorded reboots from those first three discs and some bootlegs, cleaned and tightened for a modern day.  These are tight pop songs, not as adventurous as their last two more progressive efforts, really showcasing Joey Eppert’s songwriting and arranging abilities. It’s a great introduction to the band, as well as being something that fans of other bands may find themselves wishing for – another, more polished listen to songs that deserve a wider audience.

Them Crooked Vultures – This is like the best tribute album you could ever imagine.  It’s Zep, but it’s not.  And it’s not a Queens of the Stone Age disc, but it kinda is.  If you know both bands, and picture smashing them together so violently that neither one ever existed, then this is the album you got stoned to every day after class in high school. I expected Grohl to be more prominent, until I realized that if ever John Bonham had a natural successor it was the guy who played drums on Queens of the Stone Age’s SONGS FOR THE DEAF. In all honesty, this disc made me ask for a Karmann Ghia for Christmas.

Andrew Bird “Noble Beast” – My girlfriend couldn’t make Bird’s show at Workplay earlier this year, and so passed on her ticket to me. I was, to drastically sell the moment short, blown away, so I borrowed her iPod and now refuse to give it back. Among all the indie, alt-kewl stuff I’m finding there, Andrew Bird’s is probably the most cinematic, like watching someone paint with sound.  It’s captivating, provocative, and best of all, happy.

I still though, for the record, hate hipster audiences.

Porcupine Tree “The Incident” – There’s this idea that progressive rock has to be pompous and effete, that concept albums are for stoners and armchair philosophers. But remember TOMMY? Or THE WALL? Both are concept albums, progressive in their own right, that have a number of brilliant and classic songs that stand alone (Pinball Wizard and Comfortably Numb, respectively). Add THE INCIDENT, a fourteen track “song cycle” about “beginnings and endings and the sense that ‘after this, things will never be the same again’”.  It’s a seamless, beautiful  but demanding project filled with dynamics and explorations both comfortable and challenging.

Devin Townsend Project “Ki” / “Addicted” – Look, folks. Off and on, since 2000 (holy crap, Glenny – 10 years!), I’ve been writing these little capsule reviews of albums that I love and hate.  I try to focus on the stuff I love, because there’s too much hate in the world.  And seriously: if you’ve not yet picked up a disc featuring Devin Townsend – either one of his solo projects or some of his work with Strapping Young Lad – then maybe my job here is hopeless, superfluous.  There’s only so much I can rant and rave about something before I realize that no one’s listening.  KI is soothing, sublime, reflective – I love it, but I’m willing to accept that maybe it’s more personal than something I can recommend to everyone.  ADDICTED, though – frankly, if you don’t pick this disc up, you’re doing yourself a real disservice, and if you pick it up and don’t like it, your soul was stolen in the middle of the night.  It’s bouncy, and heavy, and poppy, and layered, and filled with so many ‘ands’ that your head will explode.  If there’s such a thing as an aural orgasm (an eargasm, maybe?), you will experience it sometime during tracks 7-9.  And then you can thank me – after you wash your hands, please.

Friends of mine also suggested the following albums make the list: “Born on Flag Day” (Deer Tick), “Veckatimest” (Grizzly Bear), “American Sunshine” (Colin Hay), “I and Love and You” (The Avett Brothers), “Cage the Elephant” (Cage the Elephant), “OK Bear” (Jeremy Enigk), “Me and You” (VAST), “Elvis Perkins in Dearland” (Elvis Perkins in Drealand)“Monsters of Folk” (Monsters of Folk), “Black Clouds and Silver Linings” (Dream Theater), “Outer South” (Conor Oberst and the Mystic Valley Band), “Wilco” (Wilco), “Back from the Dead” (Spinal Tap),”It’s Blitz” (Yeah Yeah Yeahs), “Bitte Orca” (Dirty Projectors), “Masterful Mystery Tour” (Beatallica), and “Kingdom of Rust” (Doves).

Sadly for them, this is my list, not theirs.

Someone also suggested Scream (Chris Cornell), but I punched them in the throat, and we are no longer friends.

Lie To Me

I know not many people read this blog, but maybe you few can help me spread the question and I can get an answer.

I’ve been enjoying the new series “Lie To Me” (starring Tim Roth — excellent procedural, in the same vein as “House”, only dealing with microexpressions and body language instead of medical mysteries).  It’s generally really well done, and even with a lead character who is somewhat arrogant and standoffish, you still find yourself really liking the group (at least, I do).  This week’s episode, though — something just struck me as off, and I really don’t like any of the core characters that much.

It’s not the story issues — I found those fascinating, actually, dealing with suicide and finance theft.  I don’t commonly notice directors, but that might have been it…

Anyone else watch the show and notice the same thing?  If you don’t watch the show, consider this a recommendation.

The Trouble With Music Today

I’ve heard complaints about it for years.  I’ve watched people move away because of it. I’ve conducted a roundtable interview on the subject for the Birmingham Weekly, and tried in a number of ways to improve it.

No, not chlamydia; the local music scene is what I’m talking about.

Birmingham is a hotbed of talent, even moreso than our dominance of American Idol would lead you to believe. We’ve got a few people here who have gotten national recognition (the quality of such recognition, of course, depends on your tastes and your social scene): Maria Taylor and Orenda Fink (formerly of Little Red Rocket and Azure Ray), Brother Cane, Vallejo, Lynam, Dan Sartain, Eric Dover (yeah, Jasper, I know), Remy Zero, Verbena, John Strohm. And, even being tragically out of touch with the local music scene since Bailey’s shut down, I can tell you that there’s some absolutely jaw-dropping talent that tragically few people have heard of — Eric McGinty, the Big Tasties (and every member of that band is a frightening talent on their own), Honeybaked, Heath Green, Stuart McNair,

That’s even more than I thought it was going to be.  Wow. Which is both equal parts exciting and confounding. Exciting, because I had underestimated the amount of very real talent in my hometown, and that’s keeping in mind the fact that I don’t really get out to clubs other than wherever I might be working, so there’s a lot of acts that I’ve never heard or experienced live.  Confounding because, with the amount of talent that has been recognized, I wonder why more hasn’t.

This lack of recognition/difficulty getting noticed in Birmingham has been at the heart of the debates about the usefulness/validity/existence of a Birmingham music scene.  A lot of it is musicians bitching that they haven’t gotten noticed — which to me is equal parts ego, denial, and laziness talking.  Some of it is bar owners or other fans of original homegrown talent wondering why their friends and favorites haven’t found more success, and to me that’s just misunderstanding what the public wants.  Some of it is just cold, hard fact.


A lot of the problems that cross my mind are not the sole property of Birmingham, but rather characteristic of a given population.  Artists — musicians, specifically — are a stubborn, proud bunch.  If you write songs, playing other people’s music is not what you want to do, even if it means making money to invest in equipment or advertising, making connections with bar owners or booking agents, or building a crowd.  And yet, sadly, sometimes you’ve got to do distasteful things, like working for an ad agency while you develop your own graphic style, or doing commercials to build a resume for your film career.

Musicians: none of us enjoy playing set after set of covers, but sometimes you just have to bite the bullet.  It doesn’t mean you’re selling out, or that your dignity has somehow been compromised.  it means you’re paving the road and building the foundation for your success.  It’d be nice if all our demo CDs found their way into the hands of Radiohead, but it doesn’t happen that way for any but the rare exception.

Deal with it while you’re figuring out which songs you can learn that you don’t despise but crowds will still dig (the Exhibit(s) have discovered that Radiohead, Muse, and Failure all go over pretty well, as do Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin — and crowds really dig an original tune that includes a bridge filled with random hip hop snippets).


Ideally, your bar owners and bartenders and booking people are only concerned with business — making money.  If you’re drawing and building a crowd, especially one that drinks a lot and doesn’t cause problems, you should be getting more gigs.  It doesn’t always work this way, sadly; personal politics and tastes enter the equation also.  You might never get a chance at a good club because you’ve pissed the owner or one of the bartenders off, or because they’ve heard bad things about you (musically or personally), true or not, or because you listed Metallica on your cover catalog and they hate heavy music.

Keep in mind that this can also work to your advantage; if you find a bar staff that really believes in you, they’ll push you to all their regulars and new customers alike, and give you chance after chance (even when you maybe don’t deserve another).


Also known in binary logic terms as {var musician != “marketing genius”}.Your art is just like any other product out there: you’ve got competition.  People have to know you exist in order to become a viable option.  You’re up against people who don’t know if you’re any good, or if you’re even worth trying, and other bands that are equally unknown (or worse, well-known and liked).

Why should people give you a chance, especially in a strong market or a tough economy?

This is a collaborative effort, to some extent.  The bar wants as many people to come in as possible, because their bottom line is affected by your crowd as much (if not moreso, in the case of guaranteed band payouts) as yours.  BUT:

Here in Birmingham especially, people generally don’t follow bands, but rather their bars.  At Bailey’s, we had the same crowds night in and night out, to about a 75 – 85% level.  There were bands that would drive people away because of musical tastes or lack of talent, but evens for the biggest bands, we would only pick up 15-25% of a crowd in new or irregular people that were drawn by the band.  Speaking from the Exhibit(s) POV, we have a small core crowd that will come see us at various and sundry venues, but mostly what I see when I look out from the stage is faces that I’m apt to see at that same bar every weekend.

Point of all this being that the bars already have their crowds, and odds are good they’re not going to follow you to the next show.  Unless you really work hard at getting your name burned into their heads, and work even harder at promoting your next shows.  Make phone calls, make fliers for cars and telephone poles, send out mass text messages, utilize email groups and MySpace and Facebook and any tools at your disposal.  Keep in mind that the more people you bring out to your shows, the better life gets: your payout goes up, your reputation goes up, your guarantee gets bigger, your crowd begins to grow organically because hell — that’s where everyone else is.

This ties into another generalization about artists: that we’re a bunch of lazy fucks who think life shouldn’t be this hard.  To which I say: buy a helmet, ice down your aching vagina, and work to change it or shut the hell up.  No one owes you and your grand masterpiece anything.  Bands don’t talk about paying their dues for nothing, and I guarantee you my iPod is filled with musicians infinitely more talented than you that worked hard and still never made it.


And here’s the rub, one that is really endemic to Birmingham: the large mass of people here don’t appreciate or enjoy original music, or really anything that is remotely unfamiliar.  You don’t get a chance to impress them with your own tunes, because even the stuff they enjoy is forgotten the next day.  What they do remember, though, is dancing to Jimmy Buffet or the Dead, getting housed to Nirvana, getting laid because they sang along with the hot guy while you played Hank Jr.

We have a sizable number of people that want to hear the originals that Eric wrote, but they’re a drop in the bucket of the audience we would like to have.  And most of that audience has never heard of (much less supported) Verbena, or Maria Taylor, or Eric Dover or John Strohm.  These folks were successful outside of Birmingham, perhaps even in spite of large chunks of Birmingham.  And that’s the saddest thing of all.


I used to think that I was in a unique(ish) position to help fix the music scene around here, as I’m not approaching the problem just from the perspective of a musician, or a music fan, or a bartender but rather all three.  True, it gives me the viewpoint to see where the other groups are thinking egocentrically or blaming things on others for which they are at fault;  sadly, it also let me see where some viewpoints are likely to never change.

Anyone that has suggestions is encouraged to make them, because all three sides of me stand to gain from them.  In the meantime, I’ll be over here, typing and pondering, listening to all the bands like Porcupine Tree and Devin Townsend and Oceansize that certainly would be rich and famous and appreciated in a perfect world.

Let the end begin (I)

The year in music, 2008:

Live, it was a mixed bag.  In fact, now that I think about it, 2007 sets up ’08 for a massive dose of failure, but you take what you (and your budgetary and time constraints) can get.  Van Halen’s reunion show at Phillips Arena in February was a tremendous disappointment, certainly not remotely worth the $125 price tag.  The sound was atrocious from beginning to end, and the show itself just sort of felt — enh.  Totally enh. The price of nostalgia, I suppose.

Far better was the Progressive Nation tour.  Opeth is amazing live, Three was spectacular as I remembered, and I was finally able to check Dream Theater off of the list of bands I haven’t seen live. Not to mention that they played one of my all time favorites (Voices) in Atlanta.  Also good, in the really small list of shows I saw this year: Tom Waits (very glad I paid the $120 for this ticket, if only to say I experienced it — Waits is a phenomenal showman), the Tour de Frank (Dweezil Zappa and Co. playing the music of Frank Zappa), and holy crap was that all the live music I caught this year?  I think it was.  Wow. Almost kinda sad.

As for albums… well, this is where memory always gets me.  If some of these are from late 2007, oops, but I’ll say that i spent a lot of 2008 enjoying that music.  Tops this year included In Rainbows by Radiohead, Nine Inch Nails’ Ghosts I-VI and The Slip, Meshuggah’s obZen (rhythmic brutality), A Sense of Purpose from In Flames, the self-titled Flight of the Conchords (old music, new recordings, classic laughs), Anthems for the Damned by Filter, Flavors of Entanglement by Alanis Morissette (whodathunk?), Sigur Ros’ Með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust, Diffusion by 7 for 4, No-Man’s Schoolyard Ghosts, Mygrain’s Signs of Existence, Cynic’s Traced in Air, and The Final Conversation of Kings by The Butterfly Effect.

Album of the year?  From memory and judging from the play counts on my iPod, Watershed by Opeth and Steven Wilson’s new Insurgentes.  Both absolutely brilliant pieces of work. Followed closely by Experiments in Mass Appeal by new discovery (to me) Frost*.  And apologies to Brian May and Co., but Paul Gilbert and Freddie Nelson put out the best posthumous Queen album that we could ever hope for with United States.

I’m totally not counting the best-of compilations from Dream Theater or Strapping Young Lad, though I feel like I should.

Disappointments?  Bauhaus’ Go Away White, Professor Satchafunkilus and the Musterion of Rock by Joe Satriani (I want to like his albums, but post-Extremist, they all sound really, really uninspired), Testament’s Formation of Damnation,  Extreme’s Saudades de Rock (which surprised me, as Nuno Bettencourt’s post-Extreme catalog is well above average), and Let the Truth be Known by Souls of We.

Metallica’s Death Magnetic and the long awaited Chinese Democracy? Both are better than I expected, but I’m waiting to see in the long run how I feel about them, past expectations and long-wait.

I guess the lesson here is that I’m getting old, but not too old to enjoy the Metal. m/  No, wait… it’s that I need to stop expecting to like new discs by bands I discovered in the ’80s and ’90s, unless they make me wait 5-13 years for a new album.  No… no, the lesson is simply to enjoy music new and old, with no preconceived expectations or judgments, and to hope that 2009 has half the quality this year has had.

Or something like that.  I’m getting distracted by that new Opeth cover of Would?

I have to agree — as much as I don’t want to, I have to agree that it’s time to let the system do its job in determining the guilt or innocence of Larry Langford.  I don’t want to because I feel in my gut that he’s guiltyguiltyguilty, and it’s the kind of innocent victimless crime that has an entire city as it’s victim.

Innocent until proven guilty, and all that.

But then I look at some of the people in this city, and think that maybe we deserve to be victimized, either by being bankrupted by those we elected, or maybe just collectively ear raped with a multiheaded syphillitic demoncock:

“It’s like they’re a lynching mob. Langford is doing a lot of positive things for the city, and it’s kind of like what they did to (Richard) Scrushy or (former Gov. Don) Siegelman,” said the 50-year-old Jenkins, who lives in Hoover. “They’re trying to do good things and they’ve got the cards stacked against them.”

Hey, moron: Scrushy and Siegelman were found guilty, and put in jail.  Because they committed crimes, thinking (just like so many others in the past decade) that their wealth and influence put them above the laws that the rest of us average-salaried schleps have to obey. And really — what cards are stacked against them?  The ace of greed?  The queen of elitist thinking?

There are too many floaters in the gene pool, and I’m fairly sure that most of them are not disguised tasty Snickers bars.

Change (yeah. We did.)

I’m happy that change is afoot. I’m happy that it’s the change that I voted for.  I’m hesitantly excited, seeing the potential but also aware of the possibilities for things to go horribly awry.

What makes me happiest, though, is knowing that people like Fred Shuttleworth, F.D. Reese, and James Armstrong — and my parents, and everyone else that fought on any level to bring equality (on at least a legislated level) to this country — got to live long enough to see the fruits of their labor.  For all those that aren’t around to see it, at least there are some who can witness that their efforts weren’t in vain.

In the meantime, everyone watch this, and laugh.  Because after the last 21 months, we can finally all start to breathe again, and laughter is just excited breathing, really…