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Fancy Plans Guide to Rock and Roll Vol. 11 – All Requests Version

October 24, 2009

After a slight delay, the Fancy Plans Guide to Rock and Roll has returned (slightly) with a handful of bands hot off the request line, which is located in your comment threads and ignored for long periods of time right here on this blog.

They say “All good things come to those who wait.” I really wish “they” would stop saying that. Enjoy.

CALEXICO

Calexico spy an under-tipping diner.

Calexico
As Americans channeling Mexicans and distributed by Germans, Calexico are the “domestic” auto of indie rock. While probably (perhaps even fiercely) American, Calexico are the sum of their foreign-made “domestic” parts, often raising the ire of Lou Dobbs, who normally shows no interest in recorded music, domestic or otherwise.

Following a twisted path through Giant Sand and Friends of Dean Martinez (neé Martin), Calexico gathered up its mariachi leanings and headed for the welcoming climes of Germany, where they recorded their debut album. Due to a translation error and general German good-natured obtuseness, they were listed as “Spoke.”

Having had enough of this foreign bullshit (except for the mariachi stuff), Calexico returned home and re-issued their debut under the correct name. They continued to build their reputation as an “unavoidable” live band by annoying diners throughout Arizona with their flashmob mariachi-ing, often in support of other confrontational groups like Pavement and Lambchop (the latter of which often broke building capacity codes as soon as they entered the restaurant).

They further cemented their pristine indie rep (and swelled their tip jars) by performing with such alt.rock luminaries as Lisa Germano(!), Naim Amor(?) and Nancy Sinatra(!)(indie?).

Having conquered the all-important “street cafe” scene, Calexico went on to conquer NPR’s tastemakers with their multi-cultural blend of interstitial music, which meshed well with the give-and-take of various left-wing pundits. While definitely critical successes in the US, their popularity grows exponentially overseas, which would seem to indicate it is time for Calexico to haul their big-brimmed and sequined asses across the drink and return to the glory of being “big in Germany,” which has worked for so many “fringe” artists over the years.

3rd Place - Donnie Darko Lookalike Contest

3rd Place - Donnie Darko Lookalike Contest

Bright Eyes
The brainchild of indie wünderkind Conor Oberst (whose parents mysteriously shorted him an “n”), Bright Eyes burst out of the Omaha scene much the way that anyone bursts out of Omaha: by stumbling badly right out of the gates.

Critics responded to his debut album (the redundantly titled A Collection of Songs Written, Recorded and then Burned onto Round “Compact Discs” and Perhaps Recorded to the Occasional Cassette to be Listened to By Listeners with Stereos and Walkmans and Whatnot, Maybe in Their Car, But This is 1998 So Possibly a Cassette: 1995-1997) with everything from abuse (allmusic.com: “…unintelligible babblings of a child”) to confusion (Omaha Star: “Supposedly music, but I’ll take the remaining members of Journey at the State Fair any day of the week, even without their original singer…”).

Two years down the road Bright Eyes release Fever and Mirrors which is heralded by Pitchfork as “an instant classic, which nobody but us have ever heard of.” Metacritic hails them as “Pending. Still waiting on 5 reviews.” Their “improved” sound is chalked up to a more mature sound due to the addition of instruments such as flute, accordion, clavichord, sousaphone and Ouija board.

Pretension now safely on board and loaded with multi-instrumentalists, Bright Eyes break into the mainstream as a much-heralded “new” artist, despite being in existence for nearly seven years (sort of like adopting a “starter” child). With this celebrated status (and sudden change in tense two paragraphs ago), Oberst and co. begin to reap the perkiest fruit of their labor. Called upon to provide support for a Springsteen tour, Bright Eyes were afforded the opportunity to play to a much larger indifferent crowd when not carrying luggage for the “Boss.”

Soldiering on, periodically releasing an EP or actual album every six weeks or so, Bright Eyes continued to refine their twin powers: bedroom electronica (as displayed on Digital Stems and Seeds on an Electric Ladyland Dust Jacket) and their slightly creepier bedroom acoustical work, which features Oberst sitting on the edge of your bed for hours at a time, alternating between chugging PBR, strumming softly on his guitar and quietly watching you sleep.

Hull's mobsters ranged from "pasty" to "nerdy."

Hull's mobsters ranged from "pasty" to "nerdy."

Housemartins
Straight outta Hull, the Housemartins were an English pop group with an infectious sound and a cheery outlook that combined Christianity with Karl Marx, thus ensuring complete rejection by both of their target audiences.

Formed by Paul Heaton and Stan Cullimore who originally performed as a busking duo, (Ed. – Oh. My. God.) the two friends went on to add a few more members in an effort to attract an audience that preferred its musical ambushes came from the hi-fi rather than Tube platforms or duck ponds. Their most notable addition was superstar DJ Fatboy Slim, who agreed to put down the records and cocaine and play some unobtrusive bass under his given name, Beats Int’l Mighy Dub Katz Pizzaman Freakpower Quentin Cook the BPA Norman Cook.

Having ensured their place in history with the addition of their most famous member (added bonus: free remixes for life!), the Housemartins released their biggest (and only) single to date: Happy Hour. The single shot to the top of the charts, aided by a popular claymation promo video featuring the British counterpart to the California Raisins: the Hull Prunes, who spent the entirety of the video doing very British things like “trainspotting” and “bitching about the dole.”

Their next single, Caravan of Love, enjoyed exactly one week at the number 1 spot before being shoved rudely aside by Jackie Wilson’s Reet Petite, which shows exactly what is both very right and very wrong with British musical tastes.

The single’s a cappella styling drew the ire of their biggest fans, prompting shouts of “Judas” during their completely unplugged gig at the Newport Folk Festival. Heaton was in turn prompted to stop the show and say, “Oh, so you’ve heard of him? Let me just take a moment of your time to give you the good news about Jesus H. Marx, who will free us from the twin oppressions of capitalism and rational thought. I would also like to address our growing trade deficit.”

The band split in 1988 but the members have remained friendly, often joining each other’s bowling/busking teams and dropping by while on holiday.

Axl often announced band firings through cleverly trimmed photos.

Axl often announced band firings through cleverly trimmed photos.

Guns N Roses
Formed by the common-law marriage of W. Axl Rose (born W. Oral Sex) and Tracii Guns (born Tracy Gunns), Guns N Roses tore apart the hard rock scene with their hard-charging riffs and dangerous behavior, the likes of which hadn’t been seen since the Rolling Stones still had their original guitarists and hips.

Perhaps one of the most important bands of ever (and your can drop “perhaps” if you throw “self” in front of “important”), GNR hit the fucking ground running with their debut full-length Appetite for Destruction. While the album itself was a hard-rock revelation, the album cover itself was much more memorable.

The original controversial cover, which featured the band members hanging around a stream in some sharp suits was met with complaints from record store owners, who refused to stock the “weak-ass nature bullshit” in the appropriate “Hard Rock” section.

After a hasty redesign, GNR presented Plan B, an album cover featuring them holding various doll parts whilst standing around in a butcher’s shoppe. Again resistance from record shop (or shoppe) owners was high, leading to threats of “brown bagging” the album due to its general “WTF-ness.” Various iterations were tried and rejected (naked prepubescent girl playing with a model, Slash surrounded by naked electric chicks, a naked 15-year-old hanging out at the park, someone smelling a glove, a robot rapist) before settling on the cover we all ended up with: a heavily stylized depiction of the band as a tattoo template.

As Appetite for Destruction took off, GNR toured tirelessly, inciting riots, destroying hotel rooms and, very occasionally, playing an entire set without storming off. As the band headed back into the studio for their followup, Axl decided GNR needed a new look. He issued a kilt to himself, a top hat to Slash and whiskey bottles and pink slips to the rest of the band. (Thus began the revolving door of GNR musicians, each of which Rose would herald as the band’s savior, until finally refining the group down to its only essential member: W. Axl Rose.)

In 1991, GNR released Use Your Illusion I and II, which was described as “bloated” (as double albums often are) and “mercenary” (as double albums packaged and sold as two distinct single albums often are). Both albums were chart toppers and featured several outstanding tracks, none of which I can think of off the top of my head other than November Rain, which clocked in a 8 hours and 56 seconds, often being the only video MTV had time to play between The Real World, Real World retrospectives and The Grind.

A rare shot from Rose's ill-fated foray into "faith healing."

A rare shot from Rose's ill-fated foray into "faith healing."

After the release of the now-prerequisite covers album The Spaghetti Incident?, which featured a rundown of their purported influences, none of which they sounded like, W. Axl Rose headed back into the studio with the remaining band member(s) for the next 15 years.

Although Rose appeared sporadically to announce that the album was “just around the corner” and “fucking awesome,” the LP was not released until November of 2008. Problems began when it became apparent that there were few musicians willing to work with Rose, whom the press had affectionately dubbed “an egotistical maniac.” Holing up in L.A.’s Up My Own Ass studios, Rose issued the honorable threat that he would not release any more music until there was “democracy in China.”

After a decade or so of dicking around, Chinese officials (in conjunction with the independent bottlers of Dr. Pepper) began to call his bluff, beginning with a series of trade embargoes targeted at various takeout joints and dry cleaners in the Hollywood area. As the lack of pepper steak and freshly pressed shirts began to erode Rose’s willpower, China stepped up the pressure, stating that while W. Axl Rose had a “proven track record in the music industry,” they had the “willpower of over a billion oppressed people, most of whom have been forbidden to listen to your music,” adding “not to mention a fuckload of tanks.”

To save face (and the independent bottlers of Dr. Pepper), Rose released the poorly titled Chinese Democracy to rave reviews such as “That’s hard rock, alright…” (Spin, Nov. 2008), “Sounds like Rose’s trademark vocal stylings…” (Bill’s Record Blawg, Dec. 2008) and “We’ve had this album for years…” (thepiratebay.org).

Rose announced through personal assistant Sebastian Bach that Chinese Democracy was the first in a planned trilogy, with the follow ups due to be released in 2023 (“weather permitting”) and 2038 (“…at which point I will likely be dead”).

The Pirate Bay (piratebay.org) invites you to “beat the rush” and check out these two fine albums today.

-CLT

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16 comments

  1. I can’t wait until my sister gets here. She was a huge Guns N Roses fan when she was little. I have a photo of her holding their poster. I’m going to see if I can find it so I can torment her. I was kinda hoping for a video of Calexico…


    • It’s all Claire’s fault. I was eleven and she came home with long-haired friends in G-N-R t-shirts. One was cute…ha I can blame her for my long hair fetish too.
      OH and btw. Lies, Lies, Lies was actually the debut. And yes I know too much but that included Patience which is still one of my fav’s. And I still have my t-shirt in a box in my attic.


    • More than one of them was cute. I wonder where Sean is nowadays? It’s not my fault you were yet again following me like a lost puppy.


    • Claire – let’s see if I can remedy the video problem…

      Suzanne – nice to see you and your long hair fetish. Yes, Lies… was their debut but they were running long anyway, so I had to head with the more interesting Appetite… to kick-start the rundown…

      Claire – you and your long-haired friends… is there anyone they won’t lead astray with their frayed GNR shirts and devil-may-care attitudes? I submit to you that there is not. Anyone. Maybe not the goth chicks but you never know. GNR was kind of cross-platform.


    • Alright dear, I understand the need to start on Appetite.


  2. Holy shit MHBCLT that was epic hilarity!! It’s not often when I honestly laugh out loud, which is fortunate because I sound a lot like a donkey being raped with an elephant tusk.

    All these years that I thought Axl was always isolating himself because he was tripping his tiny Irish/Scottish/German balls off, when he was really just suffering from a MSG overdose. I know how bad I feel after too much General Tso’s. Poor bastard.

    Thanks for doing the Bright Eyes review. I was curious to know what a knowledgeable music connoisseur such as you thought of them. I had a girlfriend a couple years ago that insisted that they were the only true artists in the music industry. I heard that she became addicted to OC’s and then heroin, and is now living as a straight up junkie. Coincidence? I think not. I feel so blessed to have escaped Pittsburgh before I ended up nodding out in an abandoned building listening to Haligh on an endless loop. If the VMA’s ever put out an award for best self-pity/teenage angst in a twenty something, Coner will have that shit locked up though.

    -“Not to mention a fuckload of tanks.” The whole thing was fucking hilarious!


    • Scott, thanks for the kind words and rapacious laughter. I’m sure the neighbors are on the horn (nautical term) with the local PD right now.

      Bright Eyes has led many an ex-girlfriend down the shady path to junkietown. They are best enjoyed in small doses, much like Omaha itself.

      Thanks again for stopping by, Scott.


  3. It’s true! All good things do come to those who wait (sorry, I’ll stop saying that now).

    Tremendous work, CLT. You always have a way of getting right into the thicket of the behind-the-scenes workings of these inspirational (or not, depending on your personal taste and/or whether or not you “get out much”) musicians.

    When I was younger, I took a short hiatus from “prep” and dabbled in “head banger” for a while (I felt like Tiffany and Debbie Gibson were no longer “pushing the creative envelope” so to speak).

    I remember spending hours and hours hitting play and rewind on my ghetto blaster, trying to memorize the words to “Welcome to the Jungle,” just so I could prove to the other head bangers at school that I was committed to the label. But no matter how hard I tried, I just couldn’t understand what the hell Oral Sex was screeching.

    One night we were all at a party, and my friend decided to crank the song up on the stereo. So out of sheer desperation, I started mouthing the words “marshmallow-banana” over and over, and nobody was any the wiser.

    What was the point of this story, you ask?

    That’s a good question, CLT. One that I wish I could answer.

    (*redundant comment fades out to some kick-ass mariachi stuff)

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    • Dang!


    • Bschooled,

      Unfortunately I was unable to focus much on your comment as the surviving members of Calexico (possibly featuring members of the Violent Femmes) were assaulting my table with their rendition of MJ’s greatest hits.

      From what I gather, beat it.

      We all have had our moments of head-bangering (it’s in the CLTionary – look it up) during our formative years, which could last until death depending on the rate of formation. GNR really had the world by the tail with their marshmallow banana, which picked up where Donovan left off and sailed right into a Warhol party.

      What is the point of this highbrow and nonsensical anecdote?

      Good question, but I suspect it has to do with my apparently endless supply of bullshit.

      Thanks for the visit and astute personal observation, bschooled.


    • By the way, welcome Overconfident. It’s been awhile but you more than make up for your infrequent visits with your impressive one word comments.


  4. “Axl often announced band firings through cleverly trimmed photos.”

    That a great one too…


    • Thanks, RR.

      Great to see you out for your usual Sunday stroll.


  5. Thanks for not correcting my grammar…


    • No sweat, RR. I can’t even be bothered to correct my own.


  6. […] about the whole experience, possibly collaborating with Diamanda Galas or Brian Eno or fucking Bright Eyes for that matter. Anything to confound the expectations of his […]



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