THE GROOVE MUSIC LIFE

TGML VIDEO: The Magic Is Gone

With their long-craved-for induction into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame coming in less than two weeks, their first-ever Rolling Stone front cover happening after forty years, a Paul Stanley autobiography also set for the middle of next month, and a lot of he-said/she-said going on between Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley on one side, and founding former members Ace Frehley and Peter Criss on the other side… well, let’s face it. Is it really worth it?

Watch this footage from last October in Tokyo, and you tell me:

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Before we go on, it should be noted that Gene and Paul wanted their performance to happen with their “current” lineup of Simmons’s longtime lackey Tommy Thayer cosplaying in Ace Frehley’s makeup (which Ace reveals himself in the Rolling Stone feature to still be the owner of, only licensing the character for a time period that is set to send soon) and the band’s third drummer, Eric Singer, wearing Peter Criss’s facepaint, with Ace and Peter only “sitting in and sharing the stage” with their cosplaying doppelgangers. Not surprisingly, as many of you may already know, Kiss fans, along with Ace and Peter, cried fowl, so Gene and Paul took their ball and chose to lock it away back home and only hang out by the playground like a couple of hoodlums.

It’s a good thing that Gene and Paul pulled out, judging from the video footage above. Paul Stanley’s voice is shot. In the aftermath of a throat operation, the band has had to tune down their guitars an extra half-step to compensate for this. Unfortunately, Paul’s voice is still not what it should be even after the operation and and even after having to transpose their current repertoire into lower keys. The rest of the band is doing very little to make up for this – Gene is phoning in his performance (not much different from how he’s phoned in most of his songwriting since Dynasty), and the two professional cosplayers behind them are following along in lockstep.

Unfortunately for posterity, the above footage captures them in a Japanese venue. Normally, the Japanese are the most enthusiastic audience on the planet. But when a Japanese audience is just sitting there with their jaws dropping because they’re watching Paul Stanley’s inability to sing an acapella intro he used to flawlessly for the entire time “Heaven’s On Fire” was part of the Kiss set list, followed by a pretty much phoned-in, by-the-numbers performance from the entire band, well… that speaks volumes.

They haven’t been better in the studio lately, either: Both 2009′s Sonic Boom and 2012′s “Monster” were basically just Paul Stanley solo albums interrupted by three other people. The sales were there initially, but the music wasn’t.

This just reinforces what I said a couple of years ago when I posted about how Kiss didn’t deserve to be in the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame as a group. In fact, I stand by it.

I also stand by this statement: KISS is officially toast, folks. Don’t believe me, even after seeing that footage? Should I point out how the past few times they’ve done American tours, they’ve had to co-headline with acts like Motley Crue and, this summer, Def Leppard, just to get asses in seats? Have you noticed how hard Groupon has been pushing discounted tickets to this farce? Apparently, countless longtime Kiss fans know better than to spend money what’s been passing for their once-favorite band since 2003, so the band is doing anything they can do deceive casual fans into spending their hard-earned money on that they think is the 100% real deal.

In the same Rolling Stone article, Simmons admits that he’s got “three tours” left in him – “[maybe] two, if I have a life change of some kind.” Gene, don’t even bother. Just quit now and take Paul with you. Kiss has been like a fish out of water for the past decade, flopping around and gasping desperately for breath.

Mission of Burma does the Beatles!

If you’re sick of all the “hype” over the 50th anniversary of the Beatles’s American debut on the Ed Sullivan Show, shame on you.

You obviously don’t need a blog like mine to tell you how crucial the Beatles are to contemporary music, but there’s still some people out there who, out of sheer ignorance and nothing but, don’t seem to get it.

If you don’t think the Beatles’s influence extended to the punk generation, tell that to the Ramones, who openly acknowledged the Fab Four as an influence. In fact, also try telling that to Mission of Burma, the legendary post-punk group from Boston. Recently, the band added both sides of an iconic Beatles single, “Paperback Writer”/”Rain” to their set as an encore on their current tour – doing so not as acknowledgement of the then-forthcoming anniversary celebrations but just as cool cover versions and a salute to their – and all of our – fourefathers.

Judging from the video, drummer Peter Prescott is doing the lead singing on “Paperback Writer”, while guitarist Roger Miller is handling the lead vocals for “Rain”. Roger posted on his Facebook page with regard to this clip: “We learned Paperback Writer and Rain for these east coast shows. We started learning them in December and had no idea that there was a 50th Anniversary thing coming up. And it wasn’t until last week we realized that RAIN had the first use of backwards vocals by the Beatles – pretty much one of our “things.” This video has about half of each song – probably a good thing only half!” I would actually disagree with that assesment, Mr. Miller… if anyone has a complete video clip of both songs in their entirely, cough it up!

Why Most Cover Bands Need To Die

One of the things that kept me from posting here on the regular for all of 2013 and much of the previous year was being involved with live music again… which would have been well and good except for some things that are best left expounded upon in a longer series of posts – and I intend to do so at random points over the next several months.

Earlier this evening, a local club posted on their Facebook page the set list of a cover band that is booked to play there this weekend. Say what you will about the mere idea of posting someone’s set list in advance (the post has since been removed from their Facebook), but I can safely say for sure that if I saw a set list like this, I wouldn’t bother going to see the band (click the image to see the full-size image):

typicalcoverbandset

Out of 38 songs, at least 35 of them are songs that every other fucking bar band in the country is playing – to death, and with little or no conviction, it seems. The band – who unless they got their collective handle from the nickname bestowed on Kaori Iida during her early Morning Musume days by the hosts of Utaban, has a typically stupid cover band name – apparently didn’t spend too long in rehearsal, maybe a month or so, hashed together a list of songs that most of them already knew, rented a PA and maybe a few can lights, and figures they’ll make a good chunk of extra money for very little work. That’s the private reason behind such a cloney set list. The typical public excuse for playing these songs is always some minor variation on “That’s what people want to hear.”

I have a news flash for the people who peddle this sorry excuse for cloning the set list of 20 other bar bands in the area: THERE IS LITTLE OR NO TRUTH TO THAT CLAIM. I was in a working cover band for several months between the second half of 2012 and the first half of 2013. We played a lot of these same songs and, outside of some golf clap applause, we got no reaction to whatever standards we played. We might as well have been a jukebox in the corner of the bar. We had a better reaction when we played the Sex Pistols’s “Anarchy In The U.K.” and Husker Du’s “Don’t Want To Know If You Are Lonely”, and that was our first clue that we should have been doing more of that kind of material. You know, stuff that isn’t PLAYED TO FUCKING DEATH. But a variety of other issues – mostly internal – interfered with that game plan, to the band’s eternal, and eventually fatal, detriment. (Much of the sordid details are to be referenced in future postings, but I will point out that I’d been gone from that scene for several months when I got news of the band’s long-overdue collapse.)

When I made a comment not dissimilar to my “cover bands shouldn’t play the same 30 songs as 30 other cover bands” statement, someone told me that I should go to a bar and pay attention to what is played on the jukebox. I don’t go to corner bars to begin with – Until I got sick of cover bands, my policy was that I never went to a bar if there wasn’t a live band playing. (And trust me, you do not want me anywhere near a jukebox, especially if it’s a TouchTunes jokebox, because I damn sure will break the monotony by booting up the TouchTones app on my iPhone and queue up some songs guaranteed to break the monotony.) Getting a random idea for a song or two from a jukebox play or radio broadcast is fine. Basing your whole band’s set list on it is a lazy mistake.

What is the solution to eliminating the Attack of the Cover Band Clones? It’s pretty fucking simple: DON’T BE A FUCKING CLONE BAND. A set list like the one above should be the B-list or even the C-list of a band’s repertoire. As suggested above, it seems obvious that the set list came together out of mutual “Well, we played these songs in other bands before, we all know them, let’s stick to those”-ism, did them in a month of rehearsals, and assumed the best. If I were the manager of this band, and I saw what was on their set list, I wouldn’t let them play any shows unless they learned 30 other songs that aren’t played to death, PLUS, I’d make them add at least two songs a week to their set list. If they weren’t willing to do that, I wouldn’t keep them as a client anymore. Because, you know what? I’m willing to bet that, if this band with the dick-joke name even lasts six months, they’re never going to change much of this set list, for the same reason of sheer laziness and the delusional “these are the songs that people want to hear” fallacy that are out and out giving cover bands in general a bad name. (At least this band doesn’t do any fucking Lynyrd Skynyrd covers, although the presence of “Brown Eyed Girl” in the set makes me want to do to Van Morrison what Varg Vikernes did to Euronymous.)

Bands like this make me wish I had some sort of Kitchen Nightmares-styled TV program – even if it was just on YouTube, for Chrissakes – where I could go Gordon Ramsey on some of these bands. Believe me, I’ve seen enough lame cover bands in my lifetime where I could have easily done such a thing with confidence. Otherwise, and until then, there’s always postings like this where I, through my own experiences as both musician and observer, can point out the faults and mistakes most cover bands make.

TGML’S TOP 20 ALBUMS OF 2013

Nothing like waiting until the last minute? More like nothing like debating what was going to make the cut until pretty much the last minute. Quite a few times I wrote out every album that stuck with me, rearrange the list seemingly every five or ten minutes, end up remembering three or four more albums that I’d forgotten about, and started all over. Some stood out more than others, and for the first time in a year-end countdown there ISN’T a Morning Musume album in the list (but only on a technicality – their current long-player The Best Updated is essentially a remix/rerecorded album of some of their past hits rather than a full new studio album, and I don’t count best-of releases in my year-end lists). After way too much revision and re-contemplation, and admitting that this year I had to do a Top Twenty rather than a Top Ten, and with less than an hour until 2014 starts as I post this (talk about cutting it way fucking close!), here’s the end result:

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If You Just Tuned In…

…With the help of some friends at The Indie Authority (where I’m currently the station’s music director), I’ve been able to redesign the blog, a long overdue event. There’s still going to be tweaks here and there, so ignore the sawdust over the next few days while we do what has to be done. I’ll be kicking things off with my 2014 Year End Albums List, so stay tuned, folks… TGML is back!

“What The…”, Indeed.

When Black Flag announced their reformation earlier this year, with the frontline of guitarist/founding member Greg Ginn and Jealous Again-era vocalist Ron Reyes (credited on all Black Flag releases from that period by the moniker Chavo Pederast), there was a lot of skepticism over the whole thing. After all, reunions of classic bands are always a risk. Some have been beyond successful: The Stooges and Mission of Burma have extended their legacies well and been consistent live draws. The New York Dolls were right behind them until they dropped their fifth and quite frankly, worst studio album Dancing Backwards In High Heels a few years ago (a rather ‘meh’ review of the album here at TGML led to Sylvain Sylvain deleting your humble writer from his Facebook page). The Sex Pistols’s reunion didn’t result in any new music, just some short, hard-hitting reunion tours.

And then there’s what happens when reunions go wrong: The Velvet Underground’s reunion tanked before it could hit Stateside shores thanks to unresolved tensions between Lou Reed and John Cale. Cream’s reunion several years ago was already doomed because Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker have hated each others guts since before Cream was even formed.

Black Flag 2013And then we have Black Flag, who have had a rather interesting first year back, to say the least. No sooner had the return of the Jealous Again-era Ginn/Reyes frontline (with longtime Ginn collaborator Gregory Moore behind the drum kit and, at least in a live setting, ex-Screeching Weasel bassist Dave Klein [Ginn played bass parts on the forthcoming Black Flag album What The… under his Dale Nixon alter-ego]) been announced, than former members Keith Morris, Chuck Dukowski, Bill Stevenson and Dez Cadena had gotten together with Stevenson’s Descendents/ALL bandmate Stephen Egerton handling the lead guitar duties, under the moniker FLAG. To be fair, both formations were a long time in gestating and completely independent of each other. The seeds for Ginn and Reyes making music together again under the four-bars banner had been sown when Reyes invited Ginn to participate in a 50th birthday concert in Vancouver in 2010, while the FLAG lineup stemmed from when the members, minus Cadena, had done a semi-impromptu appearance at the Goldenvoice 30th anniversary show in Santa Monica where, after being introduced as Black Flag, they played the entire Nervous Breakdown EP from beginning to end.

Then things got really interesting. Black Flag dropped their first new single since 1986, “Down In The Dirt”, as a free download (coincidentally on the day Slayer’s Jeff Hanneman passed away). Keith Morris, having already cut a promo on Ginn in the OFF! song “I’ve Got News For You”, dismissed the Black Flag reunion as [paraphrasing] “Greg and hired hands playing along to a tape loop of Greg playing Chuck’s bass lines”. Ginn fired back, semi-anonymously, on the band’s website by accusing the FLAG party of “mailing in” their performances.

Thanks to social media, though, people started to make up their minds. If there were any bad reviews of the FLAG performances, I didn’t see any. Reviews of Black Flag’s performances were mixed, to say the least. There were good notices like that of an Austin performance where the reviewer was critical of the soundman having Ginn’s guitar sound too low and Ginn being a bit too fond of his Theremin (an instrument he’d already been using to good effect on his electronica project Greg Ginn And The Royal We, and for no reason other than he wanted to with his other rock band Good For You with former skater Mike Vallely on vocals) for some liking… and others where there had been reports of sloppy playing (some of the blame being lobbied at the Moore/Klein rhythm section, some at Ginn himself), too much Theremin, and dismayed fans walking out of shows.

And then the descent, in retrospect, seemed to have started. Ginn and his label, SST, sued not only the participants in FLAG, but former longtime vocalist and best known member Henry Rollins, for trademark infringement and related charges, including filing a trademark application for the Black Flag name and logo. Probably the most shocking thing about this lawsuit was the fact that Ginn had never bothered to trademark the band’s iconic four-bars logo, despite the fact that the band’s back catalog and merchandise had been steady sellers worldwide. Even more damaging to Ginn would be the fact that a judge refused to issue a temporary restraining order preventing FLAG from performing with any variation of the Black Flag logo whatsoever – the FLAG partnership had basically managed to cover their asses by openly emphasizing that the band consisted of classic members playing the songs of Black Flag; Ginn’s only “witness” in his case was one person who had naively asked Ginn at a Black Flag show if he’d be playing with the FLAG lineup later that year.

BLACK-FLAG-What-The…-SST391-569x569Probably not helping matters, at least in the eyes of people who wanted to shit on the Black Flag reformation just because they wanted to, was the release of the cover art to the long-awaited reformation album, What The… … which raised a lot of eyebrows for being the most unlikely bit of artwork to grace a Black Flag album, ever. Ron Reyes, who had done the artwork, ended up defending it on his Facebook page thusly:

“Well, I gotta admit that I was the one who designed this. I submitted several designs, all of which I liked much better. But this is the one that stuck. Originally it was black and white but then I was asked to add some color. I was aiming for something kinda fun and not serious like some early Descendents art. I fully expected that some folks would hate it. I guess I was right. Does that make me prophetic? Lol. Lighten up folks, geesh, it’s only rock ‘n roll.”

Through all this, both bands continued to play, with FLAG capping off their 2013 tour in late September (Dez Cadena was already slated to return to his main gig with the Misfits after that), and Black Flag playing their first ever shows in Puerto Rico (a visit that had to have some personal significance to Ron Reyes, who is of Puerto Rican heritage) and in Australia. The whole time Black Flag were touring, Ginn’s other band Good For You were the openers. The only actual difference between Black Flag and Good For You were the vocalists, and Ginn’s performing history is rife with instances where he would play multiple sets with different acts in the same evening, going back at least to the time when he would play bass with Tom Trocolli’s Dog at the start of a show and then play guitar with Black Flag to close things off.

So far in Black Flag’s history since their reformation, the only publicly visible bump in the road (not counting fan criticisms) was that of the release date for What The… originally being set for early November digitally, only for the release to be pushed back to next Tuesday, December 5th, to coincide with the physical release. Then a few rumblings started to manifest after the closing date of the Australian tour on November 24th.

Ron Reyes would take to his Facebook account to explain everything:

On November 24th, 2013, the last night of the Australian Hits and Pits tour, with two songs left in the set, Mike V comes on stage, stares me down, takes my mic and says “You’re done, party’s over, get off, it’s over…” He said something else to me but it was a lie so I won’t repeat it here. So with a sense of great relief that it was finally over I left the stage and walked to the hotel room. They finished the set with Mike V on vocals.

There is much more that can and perhaps should be said. But for now, I will spare you the gory details. The writing was on the wall since before we played our first show. So many things went wrong from the start. I was into things like having a good drummer, rehearsing and spending time on things like beginnings and endings of songs, being a little less distracted with tour life, and a little more on the ball. You know, things that would make our efforts worthy of the name Black Flag… Yes, it is my opinion that we fell very short indeed, and the diminishing ticket sales and crowds are a testament to that. However, it was made clear to me that raising these issues was tantamount to a blasphemous stab in the back to Greg. How could I question him, his efforts and hard work? How could I dare be a fan of OFF! and/or be friends and a fan of FLAG? I was told that I had to choose sides. But I refuse to treat someone like an infallible Pope figure. No guitarist deserves such unquestioning blind devotion. And so, I have been excommunicated in a very strange fashion.

I truly feel sorry for anyone who had to witness the infantile behaviour and the relentless provocation I was subjected to both on and off the stage. I regret that under such fierce provocation and taunting I sometimes responded in manners bellow my standard. I am grateful for the opportunities Greg gave me. There were some magical moments at first. I was naive enough to believe in the promise of potential. But in the end, the good was no match for the overwhelming bad. It am proud of my contributions including the new album and it’s cover. Come on, folks, it’s only rock n roll.

I would not be surprised if Mike V becomes the new singer for Black Flag. It is my opinion that they have been planning this for some time. I wish them well. Mike is a true disciple of Greg and so they have a good working relationship, and ironically the tension over the last weeks has brought out some of Greg’s best playing. So, it could be interesting. I will miss playing with Dave Klein. He is a great kid and truly an outstanding bass player. Dave was an anchor that kept me from losing my place on a nightly basis. Trust me, that was no easy task for either of us.

I truly apologize for being in or more accurately “appearing” to be in competition with FLAG. They know my heart on this matter. From the beginning, I was happy for them and fully supported and understood why they would want to rock those songs and have a good time with friends and family. Yes, I questioned their use of the name and logo but in no way questioned their motivation or right to do their thing. I envy them for they have succeeded in ways that were never possible with Black Flag. And once again, for the record, I agreed to do Black Flag before I knew there was a Flag. I mean no malice towards Greg or Mike although they will most likely see things very differently. I wish them luck and prosperity. I have learned many valuable lessons this year. And these lessons will enrich my personal and musical endeavours.

Cheers,
Ron Reyes.

In a way, some of this is business as usual for Black Flag. This will not be the first time a lineup change occurred right before the release of a record featuring a previous lineup. Bill Stevenson had quit Black Flag in 1985 right before Loose Nut came out, and Kira Roessler would be similarly parted company with at the end of that year’s touring, even though an entire album’s worth of material with the Stevenson/Kira rhythm section, tracked at the same time as Loose Nut but not completed until later, was in the can. (The album in question, In My head, came out later in 1985.)

Does the split between Ron and Black Flag color my perspective on the album coming out next week? Well, I’ve been awaiting the album since the reformation was announced, and given Black Flag’s history it doesn’t matter. I’ll still give the album its due. Whether there will still be a Black Flag in 2014 is up for grabs – if Ginn puts Mike V in the Black Flag vocalist spot after doing two albums worth of material with him under the Good For You moniker, it’s guaranteed that the move will alienate fans.

Not like Ginn has ever given a shit – he’s always recorded the music he’s wanted to make, whether or not it fit his Black Flag image.

Ron Reyes will go back to his family and his own main band, Piggy (who already have a fine 12″ EP out). Ginn will still make music whether it has that four-bars logo on it. And the world will still turn.

Buy an ebook, help a family, and generate some good karma!

(This was just posted by me on Facebook. A quick summary of what this is referring to: Last month, a family’s home im McAdoo caught fire while the father figure, who runs a local internet radio station devoted to the region’s independent music scene, was away on a gig. His youngest daughter perished as a result of the fire, definitely the biggest loss in an incident where the family lost everything.
Last Saturday there was a benefit concert to raise money for the family. At least $3000 (perhaps even $3500-$4000) was stolen by some scumfuck at the end of the night. I was shocked and sicked when the news broke early Sunday morning. Some friends of mine that I had been in a country-rock band with played their second show ever at the benefit and they were beyond disgusted by this incident, too.
I wanted to do something but wasn’t completely sure what or how until tonight. That’s when I posted the letter below on Facebook. The rest of the story unfolds below:)

In the wake of Jerry Fisher Jr and the Hazleton Our Town Radio family having their benefit money in their late daughter’s name stolen by some scumbag the other night, I have decided to help in my own way.

As many of you may or may not know, last year I released my first novel, “Resonant Blue”, on my own book label, TGML Press. The easiest and cheapest way to get it is as an e-book via the usual suspects (Kindle, iBookstore, Nook, and Smashwords). The book in this form is only $2.99. All you have to do to find it is search for either the book title or my name.

Between now and August 1st, I will donate $1 from every sale of the ebook from any of the above stores. I’ll know of sales from Smashwords almost immediately. Getting reports of sales from the big three ebook retailers takes a while longer, so if you forward a copy of the email receipt to me at cj@thegroovemusiclife.com, I’ll add that sale to the tally. I don’t expect to make up for the three grand lost to some greedy prick’s heartless anti-gesture, but it is something I can easily and happily do to help.

Feel free to share this with all of your friends. Do it for good karma. Do it to give the finger to the assclown who stole the money. Do it in the honor of a little girl who lost her life way too soon. But just do it!

Thanks,
CJ Marsicano

From MiniMoni To CuckoldMoni (Or Should That Be CougarMoni?)

I was rather shocked to hear of Mari Yaguchi publicly admitting last night to having an affair with another man earlier this year – an affair discovered when her husband walked in on her and her younger lover while en flagrante delicto. My initial thoughts weren’t much different than what essential brother Ray Mescallado posted at Idolminded last night, twinged with amusement over the Tomo News CG recreation of the incident. Then I remembered, with a chuckle, an instance where (I forget where it was originally posted) Mari Yaguchi had brushed off her participation in a TV scene involving some on-set (if not on-screen) male nudity by admitting something to the effect of, “Male nudity doesn’t bother me anymore – I’m kind of used to it by now.” That report came a few months after Marippe had been photographed by stalkerazzi in the company of actor Oguri Shun, an instance that led to her resigning from Morning Musume mere weeks before her first (and only) single as band leader was released.

From a Western perspective, the Gooch’s public admission and apology is a far cry from how such a story would have treated in American gossip rags like People, OK, LifeStyle, and so forth. In a world where the professional gossip mongers (the above-named magazines, plus websites of questionable journalistic integrity like TMZ and Perez Hilton) will deliver a multitude of conflicting stories on the latest goings on of, to give two recent examples, the Kanye West/Kim Kardashian relationship [Of all the people Kanye could be reproducing with… yecch!] or Teen Mom cast member Farrah Abraham’s transition from reality TV participant to porn actress, such media venues would have had a field day with Marippe’s cuckoldry (not to mention how both her soon-to-be ex-husband and her fuck buddy were both younger men, which would make her a J-Pop cougar at this point)! I’m sure Japan’s own tabloid press will have a field day with Marippe going from MiniMoni to HornyMoni, but given that country’s own culture I don’t think they do it with the level of disrespect certain aspects of the Western entertainment “press” lean on for pretty much every story they write.

Me, having passed the shock and alarm stages of the news already, am just going to forgive Mari for her indiscretions. This incident isn’t going to damage how much I like her as a singer and a person, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to have some semi-private amusement of my own over her recent inability to keep her coochie under wraps. Certain songs by the Rolling Stones and Sonny Boy Williamson II came to mind almost immediately, and so a Spotify playlist (which anyone with a Spotify account and a good imagination can contribute to) was born…

THE GROOVE MUSIC LIFE RADIO SHOW announces new station home, expanded format.

The Groove Music Life Radio Show is pleased to announce our new home. We will be live on Friday nights from 9pm until 11pm EST on The Indie Authority. You may tune in by going to www.theindieauthority.com or downloading the Tune In Radio app and searching for The Indie Authority. Head on over check them out on Facebook:

http://www.facebook.com/TheIndieAuthority

Follow them on Twitter:

http://www.twitter.com/theindieauth

Be sure to join in the chatroom during the show for LIVE interaction !

And of course, there’s also the show’s own links:

http://www.facebook.com/tgmlradio

http://www.twitter.com/TGMLRadio

http://tgmlradio.tumblr.com

and this very blog right here…

One Does Not Simply Grow Out Of Their Passion For Music

“When are you going to grow out of that J-Pop stuff?”

This has a frequent question from my wife Tara, who I’ve known since 2004 and have been married to since 2010. The question doesn’t seem to come up very often anymore, for which I am thankful, but the last few times it occurred was when I bought home the latest releases from my usual favorite acts (Morning Musume, SCANDAL, Koda Kumi, etc.). I think the last time the question was posed to me was when I mentioned pre-ordering Morning Musume’s new single “Help Me!”, in which case, I replied with all honestly, “We are talking about my favorite band here – what do I have to do, tattoo their logo on my fucking arm to make it official?” That usually shuts her up.

I might not have shown it much on this blog – 2012 was a crazy year for me with everything from my first published book project to two different bands (one a general flop, the other current one off to a good start at first, only to… well, I’ll get into that in an entirely different column but as of 4.6.13 it’s not my problem anymore and I’ve moved on to other musical projects already) to some medical issues with both my mother and myself to deal with – but for the most part, my love of J-Pop in general and Morning Musume and SCANDAL in particular was alive and well and occupying good amounts of airtime on the hour a week I get for my program The Groove Music Life Radio Show (9PM Eastern Friday nights on ROK Out Radio, BTW)

There’s at least one good reason why I don’t see myself growing out of J-Pop at any point… there isn’t too much music out there outside of punk/alternative/indie rock that I easily associate with most of the high points of my adult life.

I had similar questions asked of me by many of my peers who looked down with severe disdain at the punk rock that I loved. “Black Flag? Isn’t that a bug spray?” was one of the milder insults. Why wasn’t my record collection dominated by the same dinosaur rock acts they were playing tapes of as background music while they were illicitly drinking booze and smoking cigarettes and joints? A lot of those same losers owned guitars and dreamed of being rock stars. Most of them boasted of their bands but either didn’t make it out of their basement or only had a couple of keg-party or church bazaar shows to their name before things fell apart for them. These guys didn’t even like the “Top 40″ cover bands that were getting most of the gigs at the time… mostly out of sheer jealousy.

To more casual observers like my wife, the forthcoming events involving Morning Musume in general and my favorite member of that group for the past ten years, Reina Tanaka, might be excuse to start up the “When are you going to stop listening to that crap?” nonsense again. This would definitely be the wrong time for me to stop and I don’t think there ever is going to be a wrong time with a group that I’ve been so emotionally invested in. Right now, for me at least, but I’m sure for other longtime Morning Musume and H!P fans, it’s an exciting time for me as a fan. I’m looking forward to receiving my copies of Reina’s final single with the band this week, and am already anticipating the first Lovendo? CD next month, very pleased with the fact that Reina is going to continue to make music for the forseeable future, unlike some of her previously departed members that have exited before her in recent weeks. (Ai Takahashi’s recent announcement of requiring surgery to remove nodules on her vocal cords coupled with the fact that she hasn’t made any music since leaving the band makes for a rather odd disconnect… it’s just as shame that her and fellow departed 5th-gen MoMusu Risa Niigaki have been taking non-musical career paths, despite their vocal talents.) Meanwhile, I’m looking forward to see how the band itself will be after Reina’s departure. Reina’s penultimate single and new member Sakura Oda’s first, “Help Me!”, have already started to dissipate any concerns… Sakura already has a hell of a voice as far as I’m concerned, and given that ten years ago, Reina was already showing some mad vocal skills on her first single with Morning Musume (“Shabondama”), that’s a good sign.

Anyway, I apologize for the semi-casual and somewhat rambly nature of this first “return” blog post. I intend to be on here a lot more often in the coming days, weeks, months… being in a band that went in a direction that it wasn’t supposed to go in took up a good deal of my free time, and my musical evangelization was being focused through my radio show almost exclusively over the past several months. The radio show will continue, and I’ll still continue to purse music, only in a different manner than I had in 2012 and early 2013. As of now, things are going to be the way I want them to go. Life is short, and I’ve been dormant in some aspects long enough.

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