Friday, February 20, 2009

I'm Wide Awake, It's Morning

Happy Belated!

Connor Oberst, the singer/songwriter mastermind behind the band Bright Eyes celebrated his 29th birthday earlier this week. I took this not-so newsworthy information and used it as an excuse to blog about one of the best songwriters of our generation, so here we are!

A man that has been hailed as the "next Bob Dylan" (although I wouldn't go that far) has been writing some of the most unique and intriguing material for the past decade. The man who seems to eat, sleep, and breathe music has been in and out of bands since he was 13 years old. Acts that range from The Faint (Early years), Desparecidos, his solo projects, and his most notable musical vehicle, Bright Eyes, all bands have provided Oberst with the means of publishing his poetic lyrics and stories.

And where do I begin with Bright Eyes?

A band that functions as Oberst's respiratory system has made a name for itself chugging out some of the most thought out and lyrically dense songs that our generation has seen.

Often labeled as "emo," Oberst has made a reputation for himself showing his highest moments and then also his lowest throughout his career.

On 2002's LIFTED or The Story Is in the Soil, Keep Your Ear to the Ground, Oberst puts a smile on the listener's face with such uplifting lyrics such as:

"And I came upon a doctor, who appeared in quite poor health, I said, 'There's nothing I can do for you, you can't do for yourself.' He said, 'Oh, yes you can, just hold my hand, I think that that would help.' So I sat with him a while and I asked him how he felt, he said, 'I think I'm cured, No, in fact I'm sure of it, Thank you stranger, For your therapeutic smile.'

But at the same time, Bright Eye's Finest hour, I'm Wide Awake, It's Morning shows some of the most disturbing lyrics in "Poison Oak" when he confesses,

"The sound of loneliness, makes me happier."

Yes, the contrast in lyrics, moods, and emotions expressed in a Bright Eyes song have almost become synonymous with Oberst.

But is that necessarily a bad thing?

The music that Conor Oberst has made is not the bubble-gum pop you hear on the radio nor the catchy single you see on MTV. The lyrics might not always be pleasant and uplifting, but that's the way life is, and that's why Oberst has been so successful.

He ventures into a side of songwriting few artist's like to go, it's not the easiest route, but the emotional spectrum in a Bright Eyes album is what makes their music so meaningful and intriguing.

It almost sounds as an odd contradiction to say that in Oberst's deepest and darkest moments he puts together some of his best work, but that's just the way it is.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

The Legend of 182: A Blink to the Past

Zach Fraser

Published: Wednesday, February 18, 2009


For those who have been living under a rock for the past 15 years, you might not have heard the name “Blink-182”, but for the rest of us, the band’s name probably strikes a chord somewhere in the memories of our youth. So let’s take a journey down Nostalgia Lane and relive the wondrous years of “Blink-182” to better appreciate the future of the most talked about band of 2009.

“Cheshire Cat” (1994)
“Blink-182” had released a number of demos in years prior that would later be re-released, but technically speaking, “Cheshire Cat” is the band’s first studio album. An album that is punk to its core, the CD highlights the sounds that would define “Blink-182” for the rest of their career. Immature jokes, quick ballads and up-tempo songs are all common ground on their first release. Although the album is unpolished (as most first albums are), “Cheshire Cat” is an album that is overall a good first release that paved the way for the band’s future.

“Dude Ranch” (1997)
“Dude Ranch”, the second studio release from Blink, saw the band start to receive more attention with roughly 1.5 million copies sold. The album’s most popular single, “Dammit” gave Blink a touch of commercial success and showed the band’s promising future. Other key tracks on the album are “Pathetic” and “Josie,” which are entreatingly catchy. Even though the album wasn’t necessarily considered their breakout album, most die-hard Blink fans swear by “Dude Ranch’s” sound as it separates the early years of Blink from their more commercial years.

“Enema of the State” (1999)
After original drummer Scott Raynor was asked to leave the band, Travis Barker stepped in for his first album with “Blink-182”, “Enema of the State”. An album that most people will forever remember as the album that catapulted “Blink-182” into the mainstream, their third studio album resulted in huge commercial success for the band with singles like “What’s My Age Again?”, “All the Small Things” and “Adam’s Song.” All three songs resulted in extremely successful music videos that saw an enormous amount of airtime on MTV’s prominent TV show “Total Request Live”. “Enema of the State” further strayed away from the raw punk sounds of their earlier demo’s such as “Flyswatter” and “Buddha” and stepped in the direction of their signature pop-punk sound that defined a generation and paved the way for bands for years to come.

“Take Off Your Pants and Jacket” (2001)
A clever play on words, don’t you think? If the title didn’t give it away, this album followed in the footsteps of inappropriate and crude jokes that are just downright hilarious. Songs like “Happy Holidays You B******” are strikingly offensive and, yet, addicting and enjoyable. “Take Off Your Pants and Jacket” was yet another successful release for Blink with singles. “The Rock Show”, “First Date” and “Stay Together for the Kids” all received huge amounts of radio play.

“Blink-182” (2003)
Blink’s fifth studio album saw a departure from the pop-punk sound of their previous two releases and showed a more mature side to the group. Although different, the album was received well by critics and most fans. Songs on the self-titled “Blink-182” showed more meaning in the lyrics and experimentation with different instruments. “Feeling This”, “I Miss You”, “Down” and “Always” were the four singles chosen from the album, which scored a huge success on radio and TV station. “Blink-182” was the last studio release before the band announced their indefinite hiatus in early 2005.

“Sixth Studio Album” (Summer 2009)
As confirmed recently at the 51st annual Grammy’s, “Blink-182” has made their heavily anticipated return to the music scene and plans to record new material and tour in the summer of 2009. “It’s not really a reunion,” said singer/guitarist Tom DeLonge in a live video feed Sunday night. “It’s a continuation…we are picking up exactly where we left off.” The band, which took nearly a four-year hiatus, is currently working on their sixth studio album with a release date set for sometime later this year.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Blink 182 Reunion Confirmed

Zach Fraser

Published: Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Blink-182, arguably one of the most influential rock bands of the last ten years, confirmed Sunday night that they will be reuniting to record a new album and tour by summer 2009.

"We used to play music together and we decided we're going to play music together again," Blink-182 said at the 51st annual Grammy's. "Blink-182 is back."

The rock-trio that parted ways in late 2004 due to personal issues within the band released five albums to date and has affected a whole array of people, ranging from children to adults.

"I grew up listening to Blink 182," Junior Ashley Moore said. "Their music is so easy to relate to, especially the more personal songs like, 'Stay Together for the Kids' and 'I Miss You.' I'm really excited to see what they will produce next!"

Although the dates for new material or a tour have yet to be released, the band's website, has confirmed the future is near.

"Hi. We're Blink-182. This past week there've been a lot of questions about the current status of the band, and we wanted you to hear it straight from us. To put it simply, We're back. We mean, really back. Picking up where we left off and then some. In the studio writing and recording a new album. Preparing to tour the world again. Friendships reformed. Seventeen years deep into our legacy. Summer 2009. Thanks and get ready…"

Band Names

This post on Creative Loafing was brought to my attention earlier today. (Thanks Charles.)

I thought it would be interesting to mention some bands that the article forgot to mention.

1.) Death Cab for Cutie - Bonzo Dog D00-Dah Band (yes, real band name.), "Death Cab for Cutie"

2.) Deep Purple - Peter DeRose, "Deep Purple"

3.) Scary Kids Scaring Kids - Cap'n Jazz, "Scary Kids Scaring Kids" (The band searched on Napster for a strange name for the band. Well guys, you got one.)

4.) The Get Up Kids - From The Cure's "Suburban Get Up Kids"

5.) The Killers - Named after the fictional band's name in New Orders "Crystal" music video.

6.) Envy on the Coast - After an old song title lead singer Ryan Hunter developed for another band.

7.) Dashboard Confessional - Name from lyrics to the bands own song, "The Sharp Hint of New Tears." On the way home/This car hears my confession.

8.) A Day In The Life (Original Hawthorne Heights band) - The Beatles, "A Day in the Life"

9.) The Wall Flowers - Named after Bob Dylan's "Wall Flower." (Wallflowers lead singer is Bob Dylan's son.)

10.) Hellogoodbye - The Beatles, "Hello, Goodbye"

Here's a few more bands that took their name from literature and popular novels.

1.) The Doors - Lead singer Jim Morrison's obsession with English Poet, William Blake inspired the band's name. Blake said, "If the doors of perception are cleansed, everything would appear to man as it truly is, infinite."

2.) Genesis - The first book of the bible

3.) Our Lady Peace - 1943 poem from Mark Van Doren.

4.) Soft Machine - From the title of William Burroughs’s novel.

5.) Steely Dan - The nickname for the giant steam-powered dildo in William Burroughs’s "Naked Lunch." (No, I didn't make that up either.)

Sunday, February 8, 2009

"Isn't it great to see the Jonas Brothers and Stevie Wonder back together again."

You had to know that the first thing out of these guys mouths together since late 2004 would be a joke. Didn't everyone feel the same way? The Jonas Brothers were absolutely horrendous as usual, and who better to agree with me than Blink?

Welcome back boys. The waiting begins for summer 2009.

New music.
New tour.
Exactly what I asked for in my blog earlier this week.

Easily the best news story in years.

Houston Calls

Last Friday night I went and saw Houston Calls play the Orpheum with Artist vs. Poet and Valencia.

Now, I've loved Houston Calls for sometime now. Their catchy hooks and contagious chorus' are just a few reasons why the band has frequented my iTunes top 25 most played for quite some while.

As of recently, my good friend, Dan Diaz has stepped in on the tour to play lead guitar for the band. Between the free entrance, free cd's, or the numerous brewski's, my friend provided it all. Dan stepped in and helped the band play a nearly flawless set. The 8-song set moved the crowd all over and around. Songs like "Life Won't Wait" and "Exit, Emergency" had everyone humming along.

The concert was an experience in itself, drinking with the band, watching a great friend of mine play guitar, and of course, the music.

I'd like to give a big "thanks" to my good friend Dan Diaz for the festivities, it surely was greating seeing ya old buddy.

And for anyone who hasn't seen them live, or worse heard their music, I strongly encourage you to give them a listen. I know you'll be hooked.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Blink 182 - We're Getting Closeeeeeee

It seems that we keep getting closer and closer to a Blink 182 reunion.

I don't mean to get your hopes up, that is, at least no more than mine are today.

After Travis Barker's near fatal plane crash a few months back, the San Diego triplet reconciled as much as the needed to start talking again. All three members have stated that they are all speaking close to daily now, and rekindling the fire that they once had together as friends.

Now, let's not jump to conclusions. Blink went on indefinite hiatus in early 2005 as problems started to brew between band members: Tom DeLonge, Mark Hoppus, and Travis Barker.

But, the last 4-6 weeks have brought about hopeful statements from all three members of the pop-rock band. Mark Hoppus, vocalist and bassist has made numerous statements on his blog, speaking about Tom and their road back to becoming friends.

All this talk makes knots turn in my stomach with excitment and anticipation. Especially now more than ever.

Today, a PR statement released that the trio would be making an apperance as presenters to the 51st Grammy awards. This will be the bands first public apperance together since late 2004/early 2005.

Who knows what lies ahead for Blink. But, I'll tell you this much, one of the biggest influences and roles Blink had on everyone was the undisbutable friendship that the band stood for. Ballads and anthems about teen-angst, break ups, and the compainonship the three shared made Blink one of the easiest bands to connect with. Surely, if they were to reunite, friendship and comrodoity would have to ensue, but, I'm asking for more.

I don't want a reunion tour only. I want the band back, full-time, with new music. The band is young enough to keep chugging along making songs, they even stated that they felt the band dispersed in their prime. Let's be honest, we don't want a reunion show, we want a CD followed by a full fledged tour.

And finally we want to see that Blink 182's status no longer reads 1992-2005, but 1992-present.

Surely, that would make us all smile.


Sub-Par Super Bowl Commercials Anger Fans

Average advertising leaves viewers wanting more

Zach Fraser

Published: Wednesday, February 4, 2009


Photo Illustration by Max Roberts

Whether you watched for the game, the festivities or the downright social aspect of it, the Super Bowl this year seemed to fall a little stagnant and prove this year to have many ad flops.

Oddly enough, two brothers who entered in a Doritos advertising contest made the commercial that seemed to get the most positive feedback. Joe and Dave Herbert gave the Super Bowl audience a great laugh in their, “Snow Globe” commercial where two office mates asked their future to a snow globe, being rewarded with free Doritos. Not only do they have a great commercial to look back on, but also a not too shabby one million dollar reward for winning.

Another commercial that entertained audiences was the Coca-Cola “Picnic” advertisement. The minute long commercial featured all sorts of bugs and insects depriving some man napping in the pack of his beloved Coke. The computer animated commercial was ever so appealing to the eye which made it a success.

Pepsi’s advertisement used Bob Dylan’s song “Forever Young” as the backbone to their refresh everything slogan. Although the commercial meant well, I highly doubt that Bob Dylan’s counterpart in the ad, Will.I.Am will lead anything close to a revolution like Dylan’s musical career. All and all though, it was a fun commercial that is riding the coattails of Pepsi’s past success with their Jimi Hendrix Super Bowl advertisement. I get it. Sex sells, I’m a 20-year-old male in college; no one gets that better than me. But, believe it or not, most of us have younger siblings that we’d like to shelter for just a little bit longer.
Priceline continued with their awful advertisements featuring William Shatner. Shatner gives a struggling couple something to be excited about when he gives them a great deal on a vacation. The plot doesn’t sound too bad, but the over-the-top acting and hideous “Priceline Negotiator” jig makes nails on a chalkboard sound more appealing. And William Shatner, does anyone dislike him as much as I do?

Not necessarily bad, Budweiser followed in their own footsteps with making more commercials including their signature Clydesdales. The commercials which have had success in the past are starting to become a little bit to overdone and hopefully next Super Bowl we’ll have a different direction with Budweiser’s advertising.

To me, the most interesting thing about the Super Bowl commercials this year was not the awful ones nor the great ones, but the movie teasers, which seemed to stir up the most commotion.

Teaser trailers for the new “Fast and Furious movie, new Will Ferrell movie” and new Pixar movie seemed to make everyone excited. Not to mention, “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen,” surely to be one of the year’s biggest blockbusters.

Overall, the Super Bowl commercials were average this year, leaving room for much debate as to which was the worse and which was the best. Super Bowl XLIII did give us though is anticipation for next year’s commercials, in hoping that they improve, greatly.

Springsteen Bruces Up Tampa Super Bowl Halftime Show

Zach Fraser

Published: Wednesday, February 4, 2009


Photo by Oscar Algote/

This year’s Super Bowl has come and gone once again. The clash between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Arizona Cardinals was entertaining to say the least, but this year’s game will need to leave room in the books for an asterisk, reading only this: Bruce Springsteen and the E Street band.

The band Journey opened up the Super Bowl pre-game event with their new lead singer, Arnel Pineda, performing their hit “Don’t Stop Believing.”

Although it was a really good performance, the song choice couldn’t help but underline what every loyal Journey fan was thinking, “Don’t stop believing that Steve Perry, the original lead singer, will someday sing with the band again.”

Faith Hill sang “America the Beautiful” and Jennifer Hudson, in her first live performance since her family tragedies, sang the National Anthem.

According to, Super Bowl Producer Ricky Minor requested that Hill and Hudson lip-synch to pre-recorded tracks of the songs they were supposed to be singing.

“That’s the right way to do it,” Minor said. “There’s too many variables to go live. I would never recommend any artist go live, because the slightest glitch would devastate the performance.”

Although lip-synched, both performances were very good in their own right, and it was truly moving to see Hudson get back on her feet after a horrible year.

Springsteen performed the Super Bowl XLIII halftime show.
For the entirety of the set, the 59-year-old legend strutted around the stage only justifying why his persona name is simply the “boss.”

They started off the halftime show with, “Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out” followed with “Born to Run,” both of which are off his break-out and third studio album, “Born to Run.”

As the set progressed, the “Boss” ran right into his most recent single and the title track for his latest album, “Working on a Dream.”

And when fans thought it couldn’t get any better, they were all given shots of adrenaline when the intro to “Glory Days” was strummed so loud you couldn’t help but dance around.

Crowd interaction, knee-slides, jumps, smiles; everything was there during his performance.

The one thing that any aspiring musician should take away from Springsteen’s performance during the Super Bowl is this: enjoy what you do.

Today, stage performances can be described as overdone, redundant and trite. Springsteen and the E street band were neither of those on Sunday.

If there can be anything said about the “boss” and his performances, it is that he not only throws amazing performances, but you can actually tell he loves what he does.

Nearly every second of the halftime show was filled with contagious Springsteen emotion.

Running around, grinning from ear to ear, dancing, crashing into camera men, you name it, the “Boss” proved why his name has become synonymous with the best concerts around.

Of course, it is a given, when Super Bowl XLIII is brought up five years from now, people will rant and rave about a great game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Arizona Cardinals.

But, I believe that somewhere in that conversation, Springsteen’s name will be brought up, whether it is for his stage performance, the songs he played or the overall affect he had on the viewers watching, that can be contemplated.

But this is for certain: Bruce Springsteen and the E-street Band have officially etched their names in Super Bowl history.