Dec 21, 2011

Wendesday Photo By Dale: Greasy Santa

      There's this greasy spoon restaurant that has been downtown since the 50's (as all greasy spoon grill joints should be). It's located between the two watering holes I usually frequent. Every Christmas season they put this plastic Santa up by the glasses and cups by the grill. It's been the same Santa that has been put up there since I was a little kid and would eat there with my grandma. In the day time he doesn't look so ragged and greasy but at night he really turns on the charm.

Dec 14, 2011

Atwater Lager

     Lager. Because of all the bastardized and bland rice/cornwater that brewing monoliths have pushed on the people for so many years now-trying to convince your usual beer geek to try one out is the same as trying to convince a serious foodie that a drive though restaurant chain that advertising every at least every 20 minutes on every TV and radio station is making a top of the line gourmet burger.
     It's totally understandable too. I wear my beer geek badge proudly and as a somewhat foodie too-every time I've tried some new meat sandwich a burger chain is trotting out to the buying public always has me saying "It's like a weak processed version of the one I had at (fill in blank of a locally owned place that makes a far stellar burger...and makes them with care and one at time). So, when a new lager is introduced, even it's by a little guy brewer, it may get overlooked or purchased as a novelty or gag gift.
      Personally, I have never been impressed with anything from Detroit's based Atwater Brewing Company before. Drinking a few at their brewpub is decent but anytime I've tried anything they've made out of a bottle something is serious awry be it the taste or some ridiculous carbonation where each and every bottle fizzed like mad and half the beer is wasted even before it is even tasted. The latter happened every time I gave an Atwater "another chance" over five or six times over a year so it just wasn't a one time occurrence.
     A few weeks ago though I was getting together some friends to see what kind of noise we could make together on our instruments in a basement. The three of us are beer snobs but being on a very tight budget personally and slamming & quaffing brews straight from it's vessel is always more conducive in jam session situations than pouring it into a glass and sipping. Besides, we're playing at loud volume, and though breaking glass is punk rock, it was figured there would be less clean up mess if any cans rattled off the top of the amps from vibration and crashed to the floor than glass. The store, which is one of the main places I go in town for both selection AND price, had some 12 packs of cans of Atwater's Lager on the shelf. I liked the way the designed looked in it's white, gold, black and red colors. Reminded me of the old Stroh's design (back when it was still brewed in Detroit) or one of the other "old guys" beers me and friends of mine would sneak out of our grandparent's garage fridges back when we were teenagers. It's price point was nice too as it was cheaper than Bud and what have you. Seemed like though even if wasn't the most awesome, ultimate choice it would at least serve the purpose and had to at least have some more flavor than Busch or some other cheap swag.
     It ended up being a hit. Enough so where we went and bought more of it because the first 12 went down really fast. I ended up hiding one can in my guitar case so I could take it home to pour on into a glass and give it a little more thorough of an investigation.
     Translucent and gold in color as always expected from any lager but a bit more shiny and bright in it's color than most macro's of the same sort. A strong two fingered snow white head holds on tight with a good bit of retention before it finally melts away leaving a faint bit of lace behind. Sweet malts come to forefront on the nose followed by a touch of fresh baked bread and a little bit of honey too. Not one touch of boiled corn or rice either like almost every other lager that some one hands me usually has. Nice.
      On the tongue and in the mouth the first thing that is noticed is a crisp, bubbly thing that is light and effervescent but not all thin and watery. A strong but not bulky caramel like backbone carries the weight for the tinges of lemon, pepper and grassy hop nuances to make their appearances giving the beer an overall pilsner thing to it. It finishes clean and refreshing leaving just a slight tang behind.
     Needless to say, it has slightly changed my opinion of, at least of a couple things, Atwater beers. A person could session on these all day. 
     The store I got them on has been put on notice to now keep these in stock regularly as now they are not the go-to beer for band practice but something I like to have on hand for those mood where I just want a beer while cooking dinner, sit down to do a bit of writing or when some friends come over and will just knock back whatever is on hand (as long as it's mine most of the time it seems).

Dec 8, 2011

the CHOCOLATE ROBOTS "Pizza Face" LP

     "Wiggly Indie-Rock that is quite astute to the craft of constructing a great pop song."
     It's not uncommon to see something of the same effect as above in the blogosphere describing a myriad of bands out there. They release a clever and catchy debut that ear worms many and has them anticipating future sounds by the band in question. Problem is though a lot of those bands put their eggs all in one basket or shoot their entire load the first time around to as where their follow up seem just a revisiting of everything that they've already done with no expansion or they change their idea/approach so much that they lose what charmed listeners in the first place.
     Sarnia, Ontario based trio of the brothers Giresi (Mike, Matt and Marcus), The Chocolate Robots, recently released their second full length, Pizza Face, and with it have cast any worried of the dreaded sophomore slump aside. Their first album, Purr Quality, seemed geared for both the head as well as the dancefloor (the mechanical rock of Brainiac, Girls Against Boys and Servotron rubbing up against those late period T. Rex albums and 60's bubblegum came to mind at moments). This new one aims an brightly colored arrow straight for the heart and lands a direct bullseye.
     Recorded in their basement on (mostly) analog equipment that was left over from their dad's days of recording Canadian-Italiano pop music in the 70's-Pizza Face, an homage/dedication to their straight gig of working at their family's pizzeria (and because, well, we all know how pizza and rock music go hand in hand not to mention the only pizza place I know who uses songs by Personal and the Pizzas for their on hold music), is like ordering like a pie with the supreme toppings. Where the results could be overwhelming in some other hands though all the little nuances from sweet to spicy and textures from crispy to gooey come out and enthuse the flavor receptors here.
     The warm, fuzzy and, thankfully. lacking too much pro-tooled post production tricks that turns a lot of like-minded projects into a piece of plastic coated mush recording cradles sleepy eyed but smiling singing, rubbery and twinkling guitars, door knock and disco beat drums, thick bass and more squiggly & elastic keyboard sounds that should sound very out of place but somehow work since the last time Devo made a really good record.  
     The heyday of AM radio sunshine sound and Brian Eno's pop star phase (Y'know Here Comes The Warm Jets, Taking Tiger Mountain (By Strategy) and so on) meld into the modern post whatever they call in now melodicism of bands such as the Pixies and the Strokes shine brightly not only on the should be an international sensation (which technically it is if you're take in the Port Huron and Sarnia are international neighbors) "Young Love" but also on songs such as the robots are playing slide whistle squiggliness of "Impossible Princess", "Line" with it's "I can't dance all that good but I sure try" feeling, the sugarbuzz pusher at the small town summer parade "Cotton Candy" and the long walk to think about stuff because it's a nice day mood of "Soul Shoes".
     A childlike whimsy runs though the record and like children they aren't afraid to get all noisy as the Creation frolic with Phil Spector's tape machine "Funny Feeling" and "Ratical Power" which sounds like Hawkwind if they were picked to do an episode of Yo Gabba Gabba prove.  
     Round out the album with a couple of citrus soda neo-psychedelia tracks like the Brian Wilson if he was asked to produce Roxy Music (they we go again with that Eno thing I guess) mood that is going on with "Dumb Angel" and you have a POP album your much cooler than thou pals won't scoff if they see it sitting out in the front of the record stack.
http://www.chocolaterobots.com/

Dec 7, 2011

Wednesday Photo by Dale: Bell's Brewery

Mmmmm. Beer. Here's a few shots from inside the Bell's Brewery in Comstock, Michigan.

     And there ya go. Some behind the scene's look of one of Michigan's most well known craft brewers. Beer! Beer! Glorious Beer! http://www.bellsbeer.com/

Dec 2, 2011

VACATION CLUB "Gettin' Man" 7inch EP

     Another High School year was coming to an end. I had plans of going to away for the summer as a Counselor In Training at a Y-Camp up north but plans fell through.
     I just wanted to get out of town. I had my lifeguard certificate but didn't want to work at any of the local beaches or pools because all the female lifeguards in town were all stuck up and seemed kinda dumb and the guy ones all looked like Ted  McGinley and fancied themselves as being David Lee Roth types (but without the charm or jokes).
     A girl that I fancied suggest I apply to this "vacation club" her family frequented a couple counties up the coastline.
     "They've got a pool, an in-land lake, tennis courts, horses and a place to live all summer. I know they need a lifeguard this summer. My dad's on the board of directors. Let me talk to him."
      Seemed like a deal to me. A week later there I was. Little did I know until the second day there that it's was some kind of Jesus Vacation Club. Not just any regular Jesus vacation either. It was one of those weird and creepy Baptist Jesus Vacation Clubs!      
     Glossolalia abounds (and this outside of it going on at the three church service we were expected to attend everyday) and guys in the bunk house trying to initiate circle jerks. 
     I decided I was no longer smitten with that girl and maybe working in my town for the summer wasn't such a bad idea so I snuck out the third night and started to hitchhike my way back down home. It was only around 100 miles. Took my just a day to get back home. My parents friends rang for weeks after with messages for me saying Jesus loves me.
     Whenever I hear any reference to a vacation club ever since it, needless to say, doesn't bring up the best of memories. My hands were sorta trembling when I put this platter on the turntable. I mean, what if it was those crazy Jesus and they found me after all these years and this was just some clever trap?
     "Gettin' Man" is a suburban teen jangle blowout/hillbilly footstomper with squeaky/nasally soul shouting vocals that lands the song somewhere between the Black Lips at their flowery punkest and/or the Strange Boys smoking weed and getting lost in a cornfield. The flip kicks it out with the hyperactive "Feeling Bad" oiled all up in blasty treble and blown out low end. It is followed by the drink in my hand/toes in the sand/lemonade spiked with something glass in my hand/Nothing to do but daydream all day long, man feeling of "Beach Flowers".

     I sure hope this isn't some creepy trap put together by those creepy Jesus vacation camp freaks of you're cuz if they keep doing records they may find me wanting to find out how well the once smitten with girl has aged.
http://vacationclubforboys.tumblr.com/