Random Video of the Week – Porcupine Tree – Arriving Somewhere, But Not Here

So, Steven Wilson is pretty much the indiputable heavy-weight champion of progressive music this century.  He’s fronted bands as lead singer, song-writer and guitarist (Porcupine Tree, No-Man, Bass Communion, Incredibly Expanding Mindfuck), produced bands as diverse as Opeth, Blackfield and Anathema, contributed to dozens of other bands and, oh yeah, launched an extremely successsful solo career.  He is a progressive music renasaince man.  His list of credits is absolutley mind-blowing.  

So when the following came on a random playlist the other day I knew I had to post it.  The song starts with a slow ambient soundscape, moves into a poppy lyrical section and evolves into a classic heavy-prog workout….it’s quintessential Porcupine Tree.   The only negative is the overly ambitious video editing:  stupid effects, out-of-focus shots, million-edits-a-second….you name the film school effect it’s found on this piece.  The fact is totally awesome despite the horrid editing speaks volumes to the strength of the band and the music.  It’s a perfect introduction to anyone unfamiliar with the the no-doubt-about-it King of Prog:

Random Video of the Week – Iron Maiden – The Phantom of the Opera

So, some of my favorite music videos are of big-name bands before they became super-duper stars.  Before they could sell out arenas and stadiums through sheer name recognition.  When they had to earn fan’s loyalty each and every night, performance-by-performance.

And that’s what we have here. Iron Maiden have been around for 35+ years and are rightly considered one of the titans of heavy metal.  But in this video they had exactly one album released and were happy to headline a London theater.  Admittedly, it was the legendary Rainbow Theater which was quite a gig back in 1981.  This is Iron Maiden as I was first exposed to them:  raw, young, agressive and, at the time, unlike any other band.  And because this is early in the band’s journey we have Paul Dianno on vocals in stead of Bruce Dickinson.

Now, a lot of people consider Dickinson the definitive voice of Iron Maiden, and I can’t really argue with them.  I will say, however, I like Dianno on vocals and the two albums he was involved with are classics in my opinion.  We also get Clive Burr on drums, rather than Nicko McBrain and while McBrain is a more sophisticated drummer I always preferred Burr’s raw energy and attack-style of drumming.

So what we get is a band just emerging from infancy, working their way to superstardom and at the height of their “new-band-breaking-out” awesomeness.  And there is perhaps no song that captures the essence of Iron Maiden better than The Phantom of the Opera.  Pretty much all their future epics employed some of the features of this song:

  • Reference dark, spooky, old literary classic:  check
  • Sinister / scary main character:  check
  • Lengthy, progressive arrangement:  check
  • Employ multiple time-changes and distinct sections:  check

What can be found here that’s missing from a lot of later material is a determined emphasis on HARD and FAST.  This focus on raw head-banging also displays the band’s profound musical chops.  Perhaps most compelling to me personally, however, is this captures a moment in time that was highly relevant to me.  I was 16 when this happened and had embraced music as a core sense of my identity.  This video speaks directly to the 16-year old me that still exists today.

Love this song; love this video.

Dallas Sports History in a Single Chart (and 2,500 words)

So, it’s a great time to be a fan of Dallas’ sports teams.  Consider:

  • The hockey Stars had their best season in years and currently lead their 1st round playoff series 3-1.  They have a young, exciting team with numerous prospects who should keep the team competitive in the near future.
  • The basketball Mavericks completed their 15th consecutive winning season, reached the playoffs for the 14th time in 15 seasons and somehow managed to win game 2 of their 1st round series against the much better OKCity Thunder.
  • The baseball Rangers currently lead the American League West division early in the season and are in the midst of the best long-term run in franchise history.  Like the Stars, they also have a bevy of youngsters ready to become household names to Dallas fans.
  • The football Cowboys aren’t playing and are coming off their worst season since 1989’s disastrous 1-15 campaign, but they were 12-4 the season before, have the 4th pick in the draft and hope a healthy Tony Romo can return the team to winning ways.

So, this got me thinking.  Have all four major Dallas franchises ever enjoyed real success simultaneously?  Have all four franchises had terrible seasons simultaneously?  What year was the best to be a Dallas fan?  What year the worst?

So I crunched the numbers and created a spreadsheet and made a chart (as I’m prone to do).  Before we look at it, a couple notes:

  1. “Years” are based upon when the championship was played for each sport, except football, when it is based upon when the vast majority of games were played.
  2. I’ve color-coded each team’s season into one of six categories:

Categories

You’ll notice I assigned “fan point” values to each category.  These are arbitrary and strictly my own creation.  Anyone else could come up with their own point system and I could easily be talked into revising this.  But for right now, this is what we’re working with.

Here then, is the history of the four major Dallas sports franchises captured in a single image (this chart crams 55 years into a single image so it’s hard to read.  Click it for a full-scale (easier-to-read) version):

History 4

There is a lot to digest here but I’m gonna do my best to make sense of it all.  First off, let me make clear that as long as a season isn’t under .500 I’m pretty fine with it.  All I really ask of my teams is they be competitive so that when I tune in or attend a game there’s a reasonable expectation of a good performance and a decent shot of a win.  Yeah, it’s a lot better when the team is really good but no team can be really good all the time.  Basically….don’t suck. Continue reading

The Dallas Stars Season in 9 Charts

So, tonight the Dallas Stars enter the NHL’s post-season for only the second time in the last 8 years. The team’s 109 regular season points is the highest since the ’05-06 season.  Fans are hoping this post-season run is a return to the Stanley-Cup winning ways of the late 90’s and not the underwhelming results from the early-to-mid aughts.

In fact, the team has had almost no post-season success since making the Cup finals in 2000.  Between 1998 and 2000 the team won 9 post-season series, including a Stanley Cup win in 1999.  The team has won exactly 3 since.  Most recently, in 2014, the upstart Stars had taken the heavily favored Anaheim Ducks to a 6th game and seemed to have that game in hand with a 2 goal lead and just over 2 minutes remaning.  Less than five minutes of ice-time later the team’s season – and fan’s hopes – were over.

All of which is a long-winded way of saying the franchise and its fans have endured their fair share of suffering.  Today, however, offers the promise of a brighter future.  Looking at how the team got here, there’s plenty of reason for optimism.

Most of the following charts use rolling-10 game results.  So any number represents what happened over the previous 10 games; sometimes it’s a total, sometimes an average.  Also, fans should be sure to check out the Defending Big D site.  It’s the best, most passionate, comprehensive and well-informed source of all things Stars.  Now, let’s take a look at the team’s season:

WINS – LOSSES

Win-Loss

Continue reading

Random Video – My Morning Jacket – Wordless Chorus

So, I honestly don’t know much about My Morning Jacket.  I had a friend who played them a lot and they sounded pretty cool.  This is a great song and I LOVE the title….because it does indeed have a wordless chorus.  The singer and primary force behind the band is one Jim James, and (on this song) his voice is the main attraction.  Enjoy!

The History of Red Hot Chili Peppers – In Chart Form

So, in 1987 I was attending Trinity University in San Antonio.  Lot of good Mexican joints in San Antonio and one of the craziest…and (for a suburban white boy from Dallas) scariest places was Taco Land.  But I was there one night…not real sure how or why….and with no introduction or warning four guys started jumping around acting crazy and playing “music”.  They looked like extras from an 80’s Mad Max movie:  skinny, bare-chested, tatooed, mohawked, pierced.  And they WOULD NOT STOP jumping around; they jumped on tables, kicked shit over, ran up the walls.  And the music was something I had never heard before….rapid fire raps over staccato funk riffs but all barked out at eardrum-piercing decibels.  Generously speaking…there were maybe six people in attendance.  And we were spellbound; not sure what to think.  But one thing was for sure; you couldn’t ignore these guys and no one who was there could have possibly forgotten what they witnessed that night.

That was my first exposure to the Red Hot Chili Peppers.  Honestly, I thought they were a bunch of crazy locals; had no idea they were from Southern California.  And when I found out they had actual albums I was astounded.  But then I listened to them and they were, as expected, terrible.  But six months later a friend said hey, those Chili Pepper guys have a new album and it’s great!  And I didn’t believe him but he played it at a party and he was right!  It was great!

So I became a Chili Peppers fan.  And they’ve been around ever since evolving from hyper-crazy funk wannabes to the most popular of the “punk-funk-rap-metal” movement of the late 80’s / early 90’s to mega-huge “alternative” radio stars to mellowed middle-aged pop-rocksters.  Throughout it all they’ve always been the Chili Peppers, never trying to be anything else.  They write tunes about love and peace and hippie dippie shit like that and get away with it because it comes from the right place.

Continue reading

Video of the Week – Marillion – Script For A Jester’s Tear

So here I am once more in the playground of the broken hearts

So, Marillion was a  my favorite band for a while in my youth.  And in my opinion their music has held up quite well over the years.

I act the role in classic style of a martyr carved with twisted smile
To bleed the lyric for this song to write the rites to right my wrongs
An epitaph to a broken dream to exorcise this silent scream
A scream that’s borne from sorrow

This video captures the band at a key juncture.  They were still proving themselves but had become a well-established band at the Marquee Club.  The Marquee Club was ground zero for the progressive rock revival of the early 80’s and it’s arguable that Marillion was the primary driving force behing that revival.

The fool escaped from paradise will look over his shoulder and cry
Sit and chew on daffodils and struggle to answer why?
As you grow up and leave the playground
Where you kissed your prince and found your frog
Remember the jester that showed you tears, the script for tears

So this show captures the band right before they break into mainstream consciousness but while enjoying a dedicated, adoring, hardcore fanship.  It also captures them as they introduce their amazingly compelling first album.  It’s like watching Led Zeppelin touring their first album.

So I’ll hold our peace forever when you wear your bridal gown
In the silence of my shame the mute that sang the sirens’ song
Has gone solo in the game, I’ve gone solo in the game
But the game is over
Can you still say you love me

And what strikes me…is what has always captivated me when it comes to Marillion:  the melodies.  The guitars, keyboards and vocals just drip with catchy, compelling melodies that immediately resonate and stick in your head from the first time you hear their songs.

Add the fact that lead singer Fish is young and vibrant and not fat and embarrassing (as he was in just a few short years) and the audience is young and adoring and everything is fresh and exciting and new and fun…..really a great historical capture of a terrific band right at the point of breaking into the big time.   An amazing video I hope you enjoy.