Author Archives: Toi Brownstone

Album of week 42: BEAUTY & RUIN

Can’t believe it’s been almost a month since my last post. Not very happy, honestly, but it’s been a weird period with lots of events which have kept me from writing, among them my birthday celebration, a good bunch of shows, and why not? I couldn’t find the proper moment or subject to talk about. Writer’s block again? Maybe, dear friends, since I do this for pleasure, and I got plenty of responsibilities in the real world, I rather write whenever I feel like than feeling I’m obliged to, posting not very interesting shit. Not that what I tell here is gonna change the world, by all means, but at least I wanna feel comfortable with the stuff I pour here. Hope you understand my point.

This been said, I’ve been listening to lots of good stuff lately, new and old, but I reckon I’ve discovered my top album of the year: Beauty & Ruin.

bob mould

I’ve never been into Hüsker Dü, in fact I got my first copy of one of their albums, Candy Apple Grey, a couple of months ago, and it was ok, but not as brilliant as Bob Mould’s last work. There isn’t any specific reason for that, I just didn’t get acquainted with the band back in the day, and to be honest I thought their stuff was more prog or hippier. You know, the same old shit, you can never judge a book by its cover, or at least you shouldn’t.

I always pay attention to inspiring musical heroes and their comments on other artists’ work, and this time Ryan Adams  seemed to be very enthusiastic about this album, and Off! Last release, Wasted Years. I tried both and didn’t get disappointed but the opposite. Likely I’d write about OFF! Later. Moreover, Adams appears on the video of Mould’s song ‘The War’, and there’s a very symbolic scene in which Mould seems to release the baton (two medals) of this alternative punk rock movement, as his direct inheritor. I did like the concept, especially after listening to Adams’ punk ep 1984 and his last album, and made me feel that something good is gonna take place, musically speaking.

Beauty & Ruin is basically a compilation of vitality and energy. Straight punk rock, solid guitars, songs with catchy chorus, wonderful melodies, and quite revealing lyrics. Seems that Mould had a bad time struggling with his homosexuality on one hand, and has been trying hard to overcome the legacy of his former band  Hüsker Dü aiming to show the world his talent as one individual. It must be hard to live under the shadow of a legendary band which split up almost 30 years ago, don’t you think?

Anyway, since the moment you put the needle on the vinyl and the hypnotic and atmospheric ‘Low Season’ starts, you enter into a world of pleasure, simple, easy and beautiful, and you fall deep into it. Curiously what happened to me the first time I listened to Beauty & Ruin was that I was invaded by some warm familiar feeling, not as if it was a copy of something, but a summary of the sounds I’m currently looking for nowadays. Energy and melody, easy to listen, easy to like, and easy to memorize.  I love walking on the streets on my way to the office singing these songs. They give me enough strength and good vibes to face one of those days.

Some say his previous album Silver Age is even better. I haven’t had the chance to check it out yet but since I’m so enthusiastic with this last release, of course I will dig. If only it’s a good as this one I might start considering to dedicate some time to this prolific and talented artist.

My first Roller Coaster

September 2014 is being weird. Trying to get back to my routines, fortunately gigs are back and at this point heat is weakening and days are getting shorter. However my office is a mess, and we haven’t yet overcome the fucking summer peak season, so I’m doing lots of overtime and I’m working frenetically, so I feel tired and frustrated quite often lately, and it’s hard to keep this thing updated, which annoys me even more. Really, can’t wait to see the day everything goes back to normality, at least temporarily.

Few weeks ago I said I felt like going to an amusement park to spend any random day. I was thinking of the typical shabby local park in my hometown, or perhaps Tibidabo in Barcelona. You know, beers, carousels, boats, candy floss, the labyrinth and the fun house… as if I was 10 years old again. In my mind it was a very simple plan. I only needed the right company.

Partners in crime

Partners in crime

There are some times I think people don’t pay me attention, but when my friend Jack reminded me of this wish I expressed out loud, I realized how wrong I was. He told me he wanted to visit this huge amusement theme park in Salou, Port Aventura, the most popular in Spain after almost 20 years since its opening, and one of the most established in Europe. I was so surprised I confessed him that I had never had a ride on a rollercoaster, and that I felt like trying at least once in my life, but of course I was thinking of some humble and harmless ride. It didn’t him much to convince me to go to this hue park with him, and he even set the day, September 24th, as our target. Being local holiday in Barcelona on the second half of September would grant less visitors and nice and warm weather. Everything sounded perfect, so we went ahead.

The last week before the event was a bit distressing due to tons of work and a very changeable weather, which might ruin our plan. We couldn’t decide whether going or not until 12 hours before catching the train. Everything done at the very last minute.

We got really lucky. It was a magnificent day in all senses, too damn perfect.

It’s hard to choose the first attraction to start with, especially when I was a virgin on the subject. Many people was stuck in the first tough one, and there was a 90min queue, so we decided to move forward, and start in the typical water ride which gets you  completely soaked (thank Universe for not wearing a white tee!), especially when you are sit in the first row. It was sunny and warm so to be honest, the shower was even a reward., but my hair was a mess for the rest of the day (I couldn’t care less).

shambala2

We decided to go towards Shambala, aka the expedition to the Himalayas, and wait for half an hour. In brief, this is Europe’s highest (78m) and fastest (134 km/h) hyper coaster, and that was to be my christening in roller coaster. Cool, huh? Not for me, really. I was observing the fall and it seemed that the angle was so vertical (actually 86º) I started to shit on my pants and get nervous, so I had a beer. Jack adores roller coasters, but he hadn’t tried this one either and seemed to be excited yet relaxed. So the ride started and the wagon went upwards. It seemed like an eternity, and I took a watch around and saw how beautiful Tarragona port was, but at the same time I was very concerned about the height, till we reached the top, and all of a sudden

Zzzzzzzzzzzzuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuummmmmmmmmmmm!

Holy shit!!! that fall was endless (apparently it has also the longest drop in Europe) and I had this funny feeling in my lungs, and then it went up, and down, up and down, quite violently and I couldn’t do anything but cursing yelling. My feeling was that the action was quite long (3 minutes ride), I never felt I was going to die or end up smashed against the floor. The fear was what if I couldn’t handle that overwhelming body feeling. When we to left the wagon I was shaking, my legs were weak and I was laughing and crying hysterically. I know my friend didn’t expect such reaction and got frightened not knowing if I was ok. My inner self was questioning if I could spend the whole day having these feelings, and then I went for another beer, to calm down. It worked. As usual.

dragon khan

I’m not gonna recall all the roller coasters I rode, but believe me I had a great time and even though I was yelling all the time. I had a crush on Dragon Khan’s loops, rolls and its 8 inversions. In fact it was so dynamic I flipped. It was fuckin’ awesome. And Furious Baco, an intamine accelerator coaster, was absolutely insane. That feeling of being propelled from 0 to 135km/h in just 3.5 seconds was one of the most exciting ones ever.

furious baco

Thus it took me almost 38 years to realize that I like roller coasters. Never too late they say. It’s similar to my taste for horror movies. I got scared, I shit on my pants easily, but when the tension ends the relief invading my body is one of the greatest pleasures I can enjoy, and the final conclusion is that I’ve had a great time. The difference is that with roller coasters I can’t stop yelling and laughing with every ride.

It was one of the most perfect days of 2014, with the best company.

There’ll be a next time, I swear.

Ryan Adams is finally here.

The drought and the break have finally come to an end. After 3 years without entering a studio for recording a new album, even though the word says that he actually had a record in hands but it was so sad and devastating Adams didn’t endure the idea of publishing it, the king of the pinballs is releasing his 14th album today.

ryan adams ryan adams

With a simple noisy shot of his face with long messy hair on the cover (a selfie, perhaps?) and his name as the title of the album, Ryan Adams hit the street, and after listening to it compulsively in streaming, everybody knows he’s made it again. Can we call him genius and give him the credit he’s been working on all these years? I think it’s time to accept him as one of the most prolific and talented artists in the century, recalling his past, not as a curse anymore, but  as a step necessary for him to find his right path, not only in the artistic sense but also in the personal field.

Adams has always made us aware of his age. ‘1974’, the album 29, and constant references, as something he takes very serious. In 2 months he’ll be 40, the starting point for the middle-age in mankind, being the artist fully aware of that. He’s trying to keep his stability under control, and to manage to balance his personal life with his work and passions.

The creation of Pax-Am goes beyond his own analogical recording studio. It’s the accomplishment of a lifetime dream, and the sheltering space where he can develop everything’s inside his head, keeping things under control, and feeling safe.

Ryan Adams recovers the pain of the heartbroken, but this time leaves the gloomy and emotional sounds we were so used to when he was playing with The Cardinals aside, to feature rough and constricted guitars, and a toughened sound, which constantly makes you think of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers in their first years. the greatness here is that he’s truly inspired by this band, together with Bruce Springsteen or even The Replacements, but he manages to go through this successfully without the listener thinking he might be copying.

ryan adams 2014

The more I’m listening to this album the more I’m having a crush on it, no doubt you’ll read about this album by the end of this year because at this moment I can’t get out of my head songs like ‘Gimme Something Good’, ‘Trouble’, ‘Shadows’ or ‘Tired of Giving Up’. Catchy chorus, simple structures, and a straight and harder sound. Adams has finally made a classic rock album without pretending to be something he’s not, nor trying to amuse or impress but his fans and himself. And he’s succeeded.

Is this the beginning of a new era? Will he keep working on this style? At least it seems that he’s very proactive and in the mood for doing stuff and releasing singles. We’ll see…

If you got time and mood for reading about this workaholic nowadays I strongly recommend you to read At home, kinda , with Ryan Adams, an article written by Bob Mehr  for Buzzfeed music I’ve read today. It gets you a good picture of what Adams has gone through in the last 20 years, helps you to get closer to both the person and the artist, and encourages you to forget his messy and rebellious past. I’m positive it’s one of the best pieces I’ve read on this musician.

Aaah! Can’t wait for my vinyl <3

Here today…

Today I’ve received another reminder on how short life is in the shape of bad news related to a close friend’s health. These reminders come unexpectedly and usually in an awkward moment, and usually leave you in a state of shock.

Yep. Definitely ‘shock’ is the word to define how I’m feeling right now. After receiving the news and swearing a couple of times, I haven’t been managed to express nor develop the mix of feelings and impressions struggling inside my head. I’ve been about to cry, or experience a violent physical outburst, but I haven’t reacted yet to an uncertain future caused by a radical change of scenario.

I’ve been on the phone with different people. Some very close, others just acquainted. Basically I’ve spent my evening on the phone, and up to this moment when I’ve decided to try doing something more productive or at least more relieving I haven’t been able to focus on any task as simple as playing an album. My head is a rollercoaster.

The expression here today, gone tomorrow is one of these universal facts that hurt for being so brutally straight and honest. I’d like to change it for here today, fucked up tomorrow, because at least it’d mean you still wake up every morning. In any case, this bitchy reminder confirms what should be my/our life philosophy: enjoy while you can and don’t get stuck in shit.

tomorrow may be too late

I know I’ll learn something from this, but it’s sad sometimes certain sad events work as a starting engine to see life from a different perspective and strengthen and improve yourself against adversity.

Remembering My So-Called Life

On August 25th 20 years ago My So-Called Life pilot episode was aired for the first time in the US. I never knew the impact of the series in its country as it was broadcast here 2 years later by Canal +, the first private pay TV channel  in Spain, in free-air hours. The reception was quite poor because it was August, and being scheduled at 8pm wasn’t very appropriate either to catch the teenagers attention. Too many distractions and activities  better than spending the evening in front of a T. For no reason I was THAT freak. I was home alone for the month so I could watch TV, listen to music or do whatever anytime I wanted. Same as nowadays except for working.

my so called life

Up to that moment I had never been very interested in teenage “drama” series. If I had to enjoy an empty-headed series I’d choose Melrose Place over Beverly Hills 90210, with more adult characters, but If I had to get deep in shit, I’d choose classic Dynasty and Falcon Crest over any. Getting back to these teenage oriented series, none of them could catch my attention. However the impact of Angela Chase’s view of life was huge.

The story was happening in my time, we were in the same range of age, and being Claire Danes super gorgeous, we share that slob dressing style, with plaid shirts, XL tees… There were some moments I wanted to be her, and express myself as clear as she did in her thoughts or to her friends. I had never felt so close to some fictional character, with so much reality and deep thinking.

Hatred can become like food, it gives you this energy that you can like, live off of.

The coolest thing was that teenage drama was dealt in a teenage way. I mean, when you are 16 and your one-month boyfriend dumps you for another girl you reckon is hotter but never as cut as you, the world falls apart, and you feel like that’s the worst thing that can ever happen to you. When you are to date that guy you like so much and a damn huge spot sprouts in your chin and you even consider calling off the meeting.  Or when there’s no communication between you and your parents and they just don’t understand you. All things considered, becoming an adult is not as easy and irrelevant as many people reckon. It’s pretty fucked up actually, so in My So-Called Life you could see yourself reflected as in a mirror. And it worked as  some sort of painkiller, showing you weren’t the only one having complexes and insecurities and  low self-esteem.

jordan and angela

And then there was Jordan Catalano. Thinking of Jared Leto nowadays makes really hard to believe I had a crush on him, but yeah, I had it, because this handsome but not very smart guy was a symbol. Thus I sighed for Catalano, my ex was in love with Angela and secretly wanted me to be her, and I also wanted to be Angela because she was cool.

Unfortunately the series was suddenly cancelled, and apparently it had to do with the decision of Claire Danes to quit, leaving lots of open plots. Would the relationship between Jordan and Angela have worked? I don’t think so. At the end of the day he was a prick and she seemed to be more into experiencing and discovering.

Truth is that My So-Called Life marked a starting point for teenage drama series, with Dawson’s Creek as one of the most remarkable examples, but I was never into any similar story anymore. Perhaps I had already grown up, or just because the first time is the experience which will prevail in memory throughout the years. I don’t know.

rayanne and angela

Right now I’m speaking out of my memory, but I really want to recover the story of Angela, Jordan and Rayanne, and see how it feels being now an adult. I might learn something I didn’t notice back in the day. Who knows?

Album of week 34: Born a Lion

Except at the office, where I’m not allowed to, I love playing music most of my spare time. perhaps it’s to exhausting for many, but I love performing activities with a little support from an album. When I have guests at the Hellhouse I usually pass the choice of the soundtrack to them, of course if I trust their taste in music, feeling very curious about what they will select. Sometimes it can be very predictable, but in many cases I feel really amused and pleased when they removed the dust from one of my old CDs or records I haven’t listened to in years, and all of a sudden lots of memories, melodies and lyrics come back to my head and I recover some sort of excitement remembering how great that album and that certain band was back in the day.

Last Saturday, Tani, Jaume and I were recovering from the funny night before, and I was in the mood for cooking if Jaume to be in charge of music. He accepted the challenge and also bough beer. His first choice was Kick of INXS and it was great to listen to so many hits at once. Eventually I’ll talk about that album, because it’s pretty good. He completely changed the style with his second choice, which was Born a Lion.

born a lion

I’ve been so pissed off lately with Danko Jones due to his terrible and boring shows, with too much talking and quite few music, I had forgotten how great he used to be. Well, not that his late albums are crap, because you can always find a bunch of great songs, but the groove, power and sexuality in his early stuff was unbeatable.

I had vaguely heard of this trio from Canada formed by Danko, John Calabrese and Damon Richardson, the former drummer who played on the best albums of the band, until I saw them opening for Backyard Babies in 2001 I think. Basically they ate the Swedish band with a steamroller act which turned the audience crazy. The recipient for the success of their act was powerful and sticky rock n’roll songs, mixed with blues and garage, sexual lyrics and Danko’s speeches to heat people. The magnetism of the frontman was irresistible and everybody ended surrendered to his knees. He was a sort of preacher of rock.

The Mango Kid used to be the king on stage when performing sets of 45 minutes, but at some point, when the band became more popular and started headlining 85 minute shows, his speeches became repetitive, the rhythm of the performance was losing tempo all the time because between songs there was too much spoken word, and of course, the albums weren’t as brilliant and fresh as the first ones. It is a pity because the band has its own identity regardless of their influences, but Danko squeezed the lemon too much, and the band is a bit stuck in its old formula.

Thus recovering Born a Lion the other day was as exciting as to time travel 12-13 years back, remember all the funny lyrics, Danko’s tongue and mean attitude on stage, and we getting crazy with their songs. ‘Love is Unkind’, ‘Lovercall’, ‘Sound of Love’, ‘Papa’, ‘Play the Blues’…one hit after another. I used to love this album, and for me, the concept of power trio was expressed in these 3 guys to its maximum level.

I still hope The Mango Kid forgets about horchata and comes back to the right path to give us a lesson.

Hamilton Ventura

Hamilton Ventura, what a sexy name! It could work for an adventurer, a super hero or an actor. One of those names that, I don’t know, they just imply something classy, far from the standard.

hamilton ventura

Ventura is actually a wristwatch, and it was one of the first electric models in the world designed by the American industrial designer Richard Arbib in 1957 for the Hamilton Watch Company. Not only It was quite revolutionary for the mechanism but also for its non-traditional assimetrical design.

The first celebrity wearing one of these Ventura models was Elvis Presley, known for being a passionate for wristwatches, including Longines, Omega and Rolex. You can see his Blue Hawaii film poster with him wearing this watch. After him, the creator of one of  the most amazing tv series ever, The Twilight Zone, Rod Serling, was introducing the audience to the 5th dimension every week with his Hamilton Ventura. Stray Cats leader, Brian Setzer had one too, and it was part of the outfit of the Men in Black, Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones.

hve

You realize when a design of an object is a work of art when it’s not affected by the passing of time, this is, it never gets old nor outdated. This is the case of Hamilton Ventura. It’s elegant, classy and timeless. In fact, the company has been releasing updated editions of the watch, but also recovering the classic models in limited adition, for the 50th anniversary of the first electric watch, and the 75th birthday anniversary of Elvis in 2009.

Most of my life I’ve been using wristwatches, since I was 6 and wanted to assimilate the concept of passing time. it’s been few years, since I got my right forearm tattooed with the lighthouse since I don’t wear watch, but I’ve been thinking of recovering that habit because as soon as the battery of the phone runs out, I’m totally confused not knowing what the time is.

So, if you have approx. spare USD 700-1000, and feel like making me a present, one of these wonderful toys would be terrific. :-)