Monday, November 29, 2004

Shambu News 11.28.04

The Dissertation
the official newsletter of Shambu

This past Thanksgiving weekend, we gave thanks for all of our brave soldiers- of the shopping mall- fighting for our right to sweet, sweet deals and the last parking spot. Some Shambu members dodged the draft. Says Pete, “Early bird specials, my ass! There is no way that I’m going to have my eyes ripped out for some dancing Elmo. That’s like Wilt Chamberlain offering to enter a room with all of his illegitimate children’s mothers. Imagine him: ‘Uh, you’re Betty, right?’ Slap. ‘I meant Susan.’ Slap slap.” For those of you who braved the plazas and gallerias, we salute you with the following gigs and a music review by Pete:


PETE BURAKOWSKI (Solo), with guests Mike Masucci, Chris Kalfas, and Brian Wheat
SPoT Coffee
Elmwood Ave., Buffalo (the smaller of the two locations, connected with New World Record)
9:00 p.m.-11:00 p.m.
All Ages!
This is the second in a series of songwriter showcases that Pete is presenting at the Elmwood SPoT on a monthly basis.

Friday, December 10
SPoT Coffee
227 Delaware Ave., Buffalo (Downtown, on the corner of Chippewa)
9:00 p.m.-12:00 a.m.
All Ages!

Hope to see you there!

Shambu Shambu Shambu Shambu Shambu Shambu Shambu Shambu Shambu Shambu

Sunday, November 28, 2004

Ray LaMontagne

New & Used
by Pete Burakowski

New: Ray LaMontagne, Trouble

Ray LaMontagne released his debut disc Trouble on RCA this fall, but, for a casual listener, it’s difficult to pinpoint the era that this album belongs in. There’s little that is trendy about LaMontagne’s classic, seemingly basic song structures or the tastefully sparse production of Ethan Johns (who has also done interesting work with Ben Kweller and Ryan Adams).

LaMontagne pens songs in the voice and vernacular of a common man, with a universal tone of sorrow, which he delivers with the patient, delicately weathered vocal presence of Van Morrison or his contemporary Damien Rice. Johns adds some strings and nice textures to the mix, but he wisely allows LaMontagne’s broad range of vocal dynamics, from a broken whisper to a full, bluesy growl, to be the focus of the album.

The only fault of Trouble is that it sometimes sounds a bit too familiar. There is a strong influence of The Band’s “The Weight” on “Hannah” and Joe Cocker’s “Feeling Alright” is practically ripped off on the following track, “How Come.” However, it’s hard to hold it against LaMontagne, since it’s rare that someone delivers a first album that is as emotionally convincing and mature.

Monday, November 15, 2004

Shambu News 11-15-04

The Dissertation
the official newsletter of Shambu

So many gigs! The Shambu lads are busier in November than those crafty Girl Scouts that are everywhere. Says Pete: “I once had this dream that the Girl Scouts made a giant Thin Mint, just for me, called the Sloppy Fat Mint. Then I ate it. Best dream ever.” Right. Anyhow, this edition of the Dissertation is packed with upcoming shows, including one that the band is billing as their BIGGEST SHOW EVER, which involves television and the triumphant one-show-only-this-semester return of Mikey D, so check it out! We are also honored to feature the totally tubular contributions of Mike Slagor (“The Red States vs. The Blue States”) and Melissa Marsherall (“Holiday Cheer Through Music”), so be sure to scroll all the way down!


From now on, you can also view all the freshest Dissertation content, as well as back issues, at the following website: .


PETE BURAKOWSKI (Solo), with guests Mike Masucci and Chris Kalfas
SPoT Coffee
Elmwood Ave., Buffalo (the smaller of the two locations, connected with New World Record)
9:00-11:00 p.m.
All Ages!
This is the first in a series of songwriter showcases that Pete will be presenting at the Elmwood SPoT on a monthly basis.

Friday, November 19
Exquisite Taste
4109 N. Buffalo Rd., Orchard Park
7:30-11:00 p.m.
All Ages!

Saturday, November 20
SPoT Coffee
227 Delaware Ave., Buffalo (Downtown, on the corner of Chippewa)
8:00-10:30 p.m.
All Ages!


SHAMBU (with the return of Mikey D!)
A taping of the late-night television show Offbeat Cinema!
Wednesday, November 24 (The day before Thanksgiving)
SPoT Coffee
227 Delaware Ave., Buffalo (Downtown, on the corner of Chippewa)
11:00 p.m.-1:00 a.m.
All Ages!
The Down-Low: SPoT is teaming up with Offbeat Cinema ( to be its official coffee. To kick off this promotion, the cast of the show will be filming an episode in SPoT on November 24, and Shambu has been selected to be the house band! So, come on down on one of the biggest party nights of the year and support the boys, as they welcome Mikey D back into the lineup for his only show this semester! We think that many of our loyal Shambu listeners will also get a kick out of the Offbeat folks, who present classic household films on their show, such as “The Manster”- a movie about a man that is half-man, half-monster, “Santa Claus Conquers the Martians” (self-explanitory), and “Ghidrah the Three-Headed Monster”. It’s going to be an awesome time!


“The Red States vs. The Blue States”
by Mike Slagor

Lately, when driving in my car, I've been working on harmony with some rock tunes. The albums that have not left my car for a while have been The Shins "Chutes Too Narrow," Coldplay "Parachutes," and Weezer's "Weezer [Blue Album]." I don't know what it is, but I'm obsessed with harmony for pop or rock tunes. Even if the songs don't have harmony per se, I'll try to sing it anyways. And if I screw up with a phrase, then I keep on singing it over and over until I get it, even while the song is continuing without me.I mostly appreciate Weezer's harmony, especially on their up-tempo, hard rockin' guitar songs. There's just something about Weezer's Blue Album I was addicted to when I had it in 6th grade. Every song was a gem. I recently figured out what it was that I loved so much about it. It was the fact that the first track, "My Name is Jonas," had the likes of distorted guitars and fingerpicking acoustics simultaneously--not to mention beautiful vocal melodies. In addition, fast forwarding a few years, these are the same things I like about Coldplay's albums--a synthesis of hard, soft, sexy vocals. And by sexy I mean tamed. Then, at the end of "Undone (Sweater Song)," the harsh tones of cymbals and what appeared to be random keys being hit on the piano. But, these last few seconds of the tune sound exactly like a song from The Bad Plus.
What's my point? I'm not sure. Is it because music is cyclical? Because The Shins do have a great Beach Boys sound sometimes. Also, there are probably dozens of bands that had Weezer's sound that I don't know about. I'm just waiting for somebody to tell me who those bands are.
Or is it that I'm simply a sap for some good pop/rock music, and I've rediscovered some artists that I will never stop listening to? I think what it boils down to is that I'm pissed off at people in my generation. I have so many friends who focus on the tunes that the radio plays, in order to stay "up to date" with what current, popular artists are putting out, even though most of it is shit. Why would someone want to bravely await Eminem's new album, or Britney's new Greatest Hits album? (Seriously, giving her a greatest hits title after five years of music is threatening to my sanity) Do people buy these albums because they are "new?" What about the hundreds of years of music that people my age have never been exposed to? People my age should take a look back instead of a look forward. But, it is important to remember that this "look forward" that I frown upon does
not pertain to Shambu.

“Holiday Cheer Through Music”
by Melissa Marsherall

With the holidays rapidly approaching, it is time to begin the laborious task of, you guessed it, channel surfing for radio stations that aren't playing 24 hour Christmas tunes starting on November 20th. This task is becoming increasingly difficult as rival radio stations race to become the first to offer non-stop holiday cheer.

Don't get me wrong. I love holiday music just as much as the next guy. But there comes a time in every day when "All I want for Christmas" and "Santa Baby" make you want to do more than just hang ornaments on the tree and settle in for a cozy night by the fire.

Let's face it. The holiday season can be a very stressful, depressing time for a lot of individuals who spend the rest of the year pointedly avoiding their "family" and "friends." There is a reason that American families do not live in units designed to house multiple generations of family under one roof, and it's that multiple generations and/or combinations of family just do not get along, especially when there's eggnog involved.

So this year I have devised a way of dealing with those uncomfortable family situations that drive you to drink heavily, and it's so subtle that you'll leave people thinking that you're really being "holiday-ish" and not mocking: incorporate Christmas lyrics into your conversation. Here are just a few examples of when this would be appropriate....

Example #1: You are at relative's house for one of the many family gatherings that occur between Thanksgiving and Christmas that do not actually involve Thanksgiving OR Christmas. You have put in your requisite appearance, and now you're just getting antsy to go because, let's face it, refolding all of your underwear sounds more appealing than listening to another story about how successful your cousin's boyfriend is. As you're putting your coat on, one family member is insisting that you stay, after all, what else do you have to do? Before anyone else can get in another word, quickly break out into, "There's no place like home for the holidays" and add at the end "Yes, there's no place like home. MY home." Break into laughter so everyone thinks you're only joking. Continue to chuckle as you get into your car and drive to the nearest bar, where you're meeting all of your friends from high school.

Example #2: You are at another such gathering and everyone is asking you why you're not dating anyone. For this occasion, it would be terribly appropriate to program your cell phone to the tune "Do you hear what I hear?" so that you can strategically signal your siblings to call your phone at the requisite time. As your phone is singing away, politely excuse yourself from the conversation, saying "Do you hear what I hear? That's my booty call. If you'll excuse me for a moment, I need to take this call so I know where the gang bang is tonight." Again, breaking into laughter and patting people on the back as you exit the room will enhance the jovial atmosphere.

I am confident that by subtly working Christmas lyrics into conversations with your family this holiday season, you can find a non-combative way to deal with a great majority of the stress that family and friends can bring. Let me know how it works out for you.

Sunday, November 14, 2004

Back Issue 3 (8.8.2004)

by Matt Testa

4)The Fugees, The Score, beef tacos.
This album sizzles with adventurous beats and deft rhymes. Accordingly, you should begin by sizzling your ground beef with some chopped onion and green pepper and the soulful beat of “How Many Mics.” While that’s browning, heat some black beans and garlic until it bubbles like the rhymes from “Ready or Not.” By the time you get to the flavorful hip-hop of “Fu-Gee-La,” you know it’s time to stir in your own flavor to the beef; a packet of McCormick does the trick just fine. Let Lauryn Hill testify through her sexy cover of “Killing Me Softly” while you salsa-fy your taco before wrapping it up.
Chow down and chill out to Wyclef’s “No Woman No Cry”—if you didn’t bother to make guacamole, you’ll be regretting it by the time the album reaches this tropical point. Open another Corona, drop in a lime wedge to defend yourself against scurvy, and nod through the additional Caribbean aroma of “Manifest/Outro.” Unfortunately, the Fugees went their separate ways after this album, but you can use any one of their solo albums while you heat your leftovers over subsequent nights.

5) The Dandy Warhols, Thirteen Tales from Urban Bohemia, peanut butter sandwich with pre-washed bagged salad. Even (especially?) urban hipsters have their nights when they’re not in the mood to fuss around in the kitchen. This album’s catchy hooks and ironic lyrics will get inside your head and make you smirk at your own existence. Be sure to stop by your neighborhood yuppie organic bakery for some overpriced whole grain bread on your way home from your job as a data entry temp. Ideally, the bread should cost as much as the one 12-ounce peanut butter jar you’ve been using for months, or about what you earned in half an hour at work. In the kitchen, let your serrated knife slice through the bread like the trumpets cut through the soundscape of the opening track, “Godless.” The low, snarling guitar noise of “Nietzsche” will make you tempted to use the same large knife to spread the peanut butter, but you’re better off with a conservative butterknife even though it will be one more thing for you to wash when you’re done. After that’s ready, pour your salad into a bowl when you’re not clapping your hands along with “Country Leaver” and wishing that you too were on your way to Amsterdam. Hold back your jealousy when you hear Courtney Taylor speak-singingly brag about his “beautiful new Asian girlfriend” on “Solid”; you’ll want to channel that energy to stirring in some olives, croutons, and low-fat vinaigrette. At this point, you’re ready to pour yourself a glass of seltzer, open up your local free alternative weekly, and nod your head through “Horse Pills” and “Get Off.” If you’re still hungry by the time you get to the radio-friendly and über-sardonic “Bohemian Like You,” spread some Nutella on what’s left of your bread or crack open a cup of yogurt—unless you’re vegan, of course. Even after the album ends, it’s important to remain as cynical and ironic as ever and deny yourself any sincere emotions (or health insurance). If you feel like you need emotional support, there’s a hotline you can call that connects to a semi-employed twentysomething blogger/aspiring writer in Williamsburg.

Honorable mention: John Coltrane, A Love Supreme, Sunday brunch.
If you can’t make it to church in the morning (either because you were too busy or just couldn’t wake up), this album is the next best thing. If you’re just coming back from church, it certainly doesn’t hurt to get some extra J.C. in your morning. There’s nothing wrong with fresh bagels and coffee and the newspaper, of course, but it’s worth doing some heartier cooking for an experience that’s extra fulfilling (and just plain filling). Nothing sets the mood better than the opening motive of “Acknowledgment.” If you’re cooking for yourself, you can have your potatoes washed, peeled, and sliced before McCoy Tyner even begins his solo. The repeated incantations and transpositions on “a LOVE su-PREME” will make your frying pan come alive and accept the glory of your vegetable oil and potatoes. Upon the ascending fourth that begins “Pursuance,” you should be ready to wash and slice your green pepper. For an extra challenge, try to chop in Elvin Jonesian polyrhythms. Be sure to stir your potatoes regularly to assure that they cook evenly. Coltrane’s solo, however, can cook as asymmetrically as it wants to. I mean, it’s John fucking Coltrane we’re talking about. Try not to get too awestruck by Elvin’s three-minute freestyling solo to open “Resolution/Psalm” and add some sliced sausage or wieners and a scrambled egg when the potatoes and pepper are almost fully cooked. This will complete your meal in time for you to start eating to the transcendent finale. Praise God, Coltrane, and your cast-iron frying pan.

(reprinted in its entirely at his blog:

Back Issue 4 (8.12.2004)

Five albums to listen to while preparing dinner: one bachelor’s arbitrary list, Part I (continued in next issue of The Dissertation, or available in it’s entirety at Matt’s blog:
by Matt Testa

1. OutKast, The Love Below, pepper stir-fry.
While this one dish won’t put you on PETA’s list of the Sexiest Vegetarians alongside Andre 3000, it is sexy in its own way. Pop in the disc and boil some water on the stove for your noodles or rice—or, if you're a real Italian paesano like me, with spaghetti or linguine. Wash and slice whatever vegetables suit your fancy to the funked-out jazz rhythms of “Love Hater.” Or, if you don’t have time to buy fresh, a bag of frozen stir-fry mix (Ice cold!!) will be fine. By the time it’s “Valentine’s Day,” your water should be boiling and your head should be bobbin’. Cook your starch and heat your frying pan with oil. When the oil starts to dance, that means that either “Hey Ya!” has come up on the stereo or it’s time to add the vegetables. Stir the contents regularly while shakin’ ya szechuan like a Polaroid picture. After your noodles have cooked and been strained to the beat of “Behold a Lady,” toss them in the fry pan with some hot and spicy oil. Not too much, though—you don’t want your breath to scare off the ladies. And in case you were wondering, Speakerboxxx makes a good soundtrack while you do the dishes.

2. Sloan, Action Pact, tuna noodle casserole.
Like most dinners, this one begins by chopping onions and boiling water. “Gimme That” is a great opener, one that energizes you to round up the utensils and ingredients you need. The energy and the pop hooks continue through “Live On” and “Backstabbin’” as your onions soften and your lips unconsciously form the shape of the words. One thing I know about “The Rest of My Life”: with its bouncy beat and sincere lyrics, it was made for bachelors to sing along to while they stir in milk and Campbell’s cream of mushroom. The only tricky thing about this meal is keeping an eye on the sauce while making sure that the noodles don’t overcook; the echoed refrains of “False Alarm” make a good reference point for when you should sample a noodle to see if they’re done. Most of the time, you can get everything in the oven by the time the syncopated riffs of “Ready for You” come on. For the twenty minutes that the dish is baking, you can start to clean up the kitchen over the choruses of “I Was Wrong” and “Fade Away.” Or, just sit back, open a beer, and rock out to the delicious smells and sounds.

3. Jacky Terrasson, Smile, pasta with tomato sauce.
The rhythmic verve and clever quotations in the opener, Bud Powell’s “Parisian Thoroughfare,” is enough to make my water want to boil (though it usually doesn’t literally do so until track three). The album’s title track contains a thousand sentiments; go with whatever one seems most dominant on that particular evening to choose which cut of pasta to cook. When I’m feeling pensive, it’s ziti; when I’m feeling bouncy, it’s elbows. Spaghetti is there for when I need comfort. The tomato sauce can also be as personal as you want it to be. I regrettably pour mine out of a jar while making empty promises to make some myself the next time; this hollow vow usually comes during “Sous le Ciel de Paris.” The dish comes together during the clipped phrasings of Terrasson’s solo on “Isn’t She Lovely?” (Aside: Should I really trust Stevie Wonder’s judgment on how attractive a girl is? I love Stevie and all, but if he were setting me up with someone, his endorsement is as useful as a quadriplegic’s trying to sell me a sportscar.) After you’ve finished dining, pour yourself and extra glass of red wine and brood your way through “Autumn Leaves” and “My Funny Valentine,” two standards in the songbook or wistfulness. Finally, warm your body (and your soul) with a hot cup of tea and hit the repeat button on the gorgeous “L’air de rien.”

New and Used
By Pete Burakowski

People from other countries singing well in English. Did you ever really stop to think about it? Coming up with a catchy tune is a trick in itself, and these guys appeal to our interests via a foreign tongue. Imagine yourself doing the same with what you remember from high school Spanish class: “Yo tengo un rabbit. Shit, rabbit isn’t Spanish.” Thus, today I would like to highlight several bands who have jumped linguistic hurdles en route to your radio.

Used: First Band on the Moon, The Cardigans (Sweden)
“Lovefool” (“Dear, I fear we’re facing a problem…”) was one of the greatest pop tunes of the 1990s, with its sharp disco guitarwork and the simple, yet infectious refrain. Alas, most people see the ghostly image of Leonard DiCaprio when they hear the song. Nina Persson also deserves serious props for her sultry reinterpretation of Black Sabbath’s “Iron Man”.

Used: Paradise in Me, K’s Choice (Belgium)
OK. This is a mediocre album with lyrics that I could have penned in middle school, which happened to be when this disc was released. However, Paradise includes the modest hit “Not An Addict” (“I’m not an addict, it’s cool, I feel alive…”), as well as the live crowd sing/clap-along “Something’s Wrong”, which starts off with the brilliant line “When your pubic hair’s on fire, something’s wrong.” Yes, that could be troublesome.

New: Franz Ferdinand, Franz Ferdinand (Scotland)
In theory, Scots speak English on a day-to-day basis, but have you ever actually tried to converse with one? An example of a line from a friend of mine from Glasgow (the hometown of this band): “I’dfiareintaerlikatrampintabagachips”, which translates to “I’d fire into her like a tramp into a bag of chips” and makes no sense anyway. Somehow, though, the lads in Franz Ferdinand manage to be somewhat coherent when they sing, as well as play some damn fine new wave rock. Many will point out that they’re not doing a single new thing on “Take Me Out” or “This Fire”, but isn’t that the point? Franz is a crisp, stylish album that bounces happily along with the fiery energy of a truly dance-minded rhythm section.

Top Five Summer Survival Tips
by Melissa Marsherall
5. Have a "theme" for each day. For example, Tuesdays can be "Nelly Furtado" day. On this day, everything you say must be sung to the tune of a Nelly Furtado song. This is especially amusing if you have to call, say, your credit card company to explain why you think they should waive the late fee for this month.

4. Try to incorporate at least one accessory from 1986 into your wardrobe every day. Don't have any accessories from 1986? Yes you do. You're just too embarassed to admit that you still have them hanging around. Care Bear brooches count. So do He-Man underoos.

3. Always ask for rainbow sprinkles with your custard at Anderson's. When the cashier brings you your cone, start singing "Somewhere Over the Rainbow." When you go to leave, pretend that you're talking to Toto and ask him if he wants a bite.

2. Tape the Democratic National Convention and watch it over and over again. Try and see how many times you can spot the following people, and score the appropriate number of points:
Janet Reno-- Two points
Hillary Clinton wearing anything but pink-- Seventeen Points
Any delegate from Kansas wearing a cowboy hat-- Four Points
Monica Lewinski-- You win

1. Approach random people at Thursday in the Square, and act like you know them. Don't use the usual "excuses" such as "we went to grade school together, remember?" Say things like "Remember when our parents took us to that nudist colony together? Boy was that fun!" or "Wow I haven't seen you since we left rehab. Have you been busted for kiddy porn again lately?"

Back Issue 2 (7.21.2004)

GIRISH PICKS- the man himself
by Girish Shambu

Nellie McKay’s a 19-year-old singer-songwriter who made her first album this year. As if to contrast with Norah Jones’s delicate debut CD Come Away With Me, Nellie’s debut is hilariously titled….Get Away From Me! And it’s a beaut.

Nellie is precocious, eccentric, and eclectic—she has been described (if you can imagine this) as a cross between Doris Day and Eminem. The sound on her album ranges from cabaret jazz and folk to hard-grooving rap.

Remember how I said she was eccentric? Well, to illustrate, here’s Nellie, transcribed from a recent interview, in all seriousness: “I'm doing a song on my next album about gay marriage, and, oh my God, I want the video to be full of every gay celebrity there is. I want to collaborate with Yoko Ono. I'd love to do a duet with Pink. There are so many people that do things better than I do: dancing, singing like a black girl, singing country. Or if, while they sing, they move their arms in and around their crotch; when I sing, I play the piano and look like a little choirgirl….” She goes on like that for a while, it’s quite funny.

But seriously, I like her CD--it's goofy and sweet and peppered with syncopated profanity. And do get the parental advisory version--it's funnier.

ISN’T IT INTERESTING?- wit and stuff
by Melissa Marsherall

Isn’t it interesting how we all joke about working at McDonalds for the rest of our lives after graduating college, then we graduate and get jobs that would make McDonalds look like paradise to a man in hell?

I blame it on Jan Van Eyck. For those of you not familiar with Jan, shame on you. He was a famous sitcom character who set the world on fire in the 1960’s with his humorous depiction of family life. Oh wait, excuse me. That was Dick Van Dyke. Jan Van Eyck was the most influential Flemish painter of the 1400’s. Jan is most famous for his use of disguised symbolism, which is when realistic objects in his paintings often have a deeper meaning (such as when he depicts a dog peeing on a tree he is not only trying to express the fact that the dog is peeing, but the fact that the dog is peeing ON the tree. Genius).

Anyway, I blame Jan for two reasons. One is that he has one of those names (like Pat) that is bi-gendered, meaning that when you are addressing a cover letter to Jan Van Eyck you never know if you should begin “Dear Mr. Van Eyck” or “Dear Ms. Van Eyck” so you give up all together and never send your resume to most companies at all.

The second reason I blame Jan is that he uses so much “symbolism” that we have entire college courses based on “symbolism” and pretty soon we’re studying so much “symbolism” that we never get to the good stuff, like common sense. It turns out that thanks to my liberal arts education I can turn anything into a metaphysical symbol for life, love, and religion, but I can’t count to twelve. It’s a mystery.

So I will dedicate the rest of my life to finding ways to be successful without having to do any major “counting” or even “working.” I am vaguely optimistic about this task, mostly because my friend and mentor Peter Burakowski is also a supporter of what my parents call “total bullshit” and “lack of a work ethic.” It’s not that we don’t have a work ethic people. We just want to conserve it for when it’s really necessary, such as when we’re on the beach in the Mediterranean and we need to awaken at a certain time in order to make the port call.

Pete and I have come up with a lot of nifty ideas for “self-starter” companies that will require little capital and yield large returns. Of course, I’m not going to share them with anyone, because then you would steal them and try to make what could be a very successful prostitution or baby factory monopolies into a competitive marketplace, and we wouldn’t want that, would we now?

So what can we do until our entrepreneurial spirits hit the big time? One of two things. We can wallow in misery and complain about how much we hate Corporate America until we get put on the FBI’s most wanted corporate terrorists list. Or we could spend our time doing something much more productive, such as trying to cram attendance at as many Shambu concerts this summer as is physically possible, then kicking back and enjoying a few adult beverages with our friends and family. We’ve earned it, right?

Stay tuned for the next installment of “Isn’t It Interesting: The Post-College Years” where I will expose the scandals surrounding the coffee creamer container of the Starbucks on Elmwood Avenue. Until then, stay warm and dry this winter, er, I mean, summer.

NEW & USED- albums that are fresh, regardless of their release date
by Peter Burakowski

New: The Avalanches, Since I Left You (Reissued)
I’m not a big fan of techno music. I like to get my groove on like every other Chuck or Stu, but I usually need a home base of lyrics to return to. And really, I don’t ask for that much when it comes to the words in dance tunes- the song could refer to ghetto bling that is painfully beyond my understanding and I’ll still pump my gangly arms and stork legs all over the place. But if the DJ sneaks in a techno tune, I’ll stand there stunned.

So, why is it that I love the recently reissued 2001 recording Since I Left You by The Avalanches? Well, the star of this Aussie outfit, DJ Dexter, understands that disco is king of the, um, disco. He bypasses the hyper, synthetic drumbeats of many of his peers and calls forth vintage dancefloor material that will have you slipping in the shower or nearly mowing down a runner with your car (ok, maybe I should have been paying better attention, but you try not to dance/drive during “Close to You,” when the band samples a group called Kid Creole and the Coconuts).

Even when not borrowing directly from existing material, The Avalanches embody the spirit of the 1970s, as evident in the delightful bounce of “Live at Dominoes” or the unashamed silkiness of “Summer Crane,” and there’s no question of the neo-authenticity within the ecstatic female hoot/screams of “Radio” or the P-Funk-worthy bass line of “Electricity.”

Since I left You’s most intriguing track is “Frontier Psychiatrist,” a delicious aural collage, constructed of bizarre and obscure sound bits. The brilliance of the song exists in its emotional complexity, as the band layers and arranges a hip-hop beat and fun, witty clips over the top of foreboding horns and a mournful choir. It’s kind of like being the last one to be caught in a game of outdoor nighttime hide-n-seek. You’re filled with the excitement that you haven’t been found, but then a feeling starts to creep in that you’ve been forgotten and left behind. The video for this tune is incredible (it won all sorts of awards in Europe and Australia) and you can find it in streaming format at:

Back Issue 1 (7.6.2004)

Independence Day is over. What a relief! It’s so overrated, with all its food, alcohol, fireworks, scantily clad gorgeous people, and enormous free concerts in Niagara Square. As IF anyone would be interested in that sort of stuff.

Not to worry. We have taken the liberty to create several new summer holidays, including the following:

Sloth Day: lay motionless on your back for a complete day, moving only to reach in vain for the bag of stale pretzels that are 1.5 feet away. Says Pete, who has been celebrating this holiday every day since graduation, “If only I could reach the pretzels.”

Beer Day: similar to Sloth Day, except add beer to the pretzels and make it closer. Pete says (after an exhausted reaching effort), “Thank God that I can reach the beer!”

Consider Changing the Blinking 12:00 on the DVD Player to the Actual Time, But Don’t Day: kind of self-explanatory. Pete: “It just seems so hard.”

Enjoy these exciting holidays.

Back Issues

Here are some back-issue Dissertation editions.

Back Issue 6 (11.10.2004)

Mikey D, our beloved and inspirational saxaphonista/vocalist/keyboardist, has become a crack addict, I mean “a medical student at UB.” He says that freebasing, I mean “studying for difficult exams,” has taken up a lot of his time, and that, at least for the rest of this semester, he won’t have enough time/energy for the other drugs that he likes, I mean “for playing gigs with Shambu.” When asked to comment about Mike’s addiction (“academic dedication”), Pete said, “Yeah, it’s really bad. He’s like Scott Weiland from Stone Temple Pilots. No, wait, that’s Brian. Mike’s more like Mr. Rogers…before he died.”

Back Issue 5 (10.15.2004)

Some very selective and incomplete thoughts about me and music
by Mel Schroeder

Music is so many things to me that I will settle here for two ends of a very large scale. On the upper end I put music that is so powerful that it is mysterious, and beyond complete explanation. Such music seems fitting for a statement from somewhere in Shakespeare: a character in one of the Bard's plays expresses his wonderment that "sheeps' guts" should have the power to lift men's souls out of their bodies. There is a line from Plato to the effect that music finds its way into the secret places of the soul. (I did not read that in the works of Plato: it is used in connection with a picture in that great photography collection entitled "The Family of Man.") I think of many works of music that are to me mysteriously powerful – that find their way into my soul – that move me beyond explanation. Beethoven's Symphony Nine and most of his string quartets qualify here – but there are many other examples I could give.

Some music has a very explainable effect on me. This sort of music evokes emotional and "rational" connections to my past life. Much of the music of the Beatles sends me back – I get a sense not of a particular time, place and happening – but instead a hazy sense of an era, a long period of time. Then there is music that does send me back to a particular time, place and happening. Often, these trips back are to unhappiness. For example, when I was seven years old, I had eye surgery on the muscles of both of my eyes, which was a very unhappy experience. A song that was in the air at that time was "You Are My Sunshine." Even now the memory of that tune brings me back to the hospital, the heavy homesickness, and lying on my back with both eyes bandaged and my hands tied down, to keep me from going after the bandages in my sleep.

Another such unhappy musical catalyst, but my fault. Just out of high school, I went one Saturday night to a "beer bar" – this was a place that served 3.2 beer, which one could legally consume at age eighteen. 3.2 beer is fairly weak stuff, but that night my friends and I consumed what the Saturday Night Live Coneheads would call "mass Quantities." The next morning, suffering my very first real hangover, I could not get out of my mind "The Tennessee Waltz," which had played endlessly on the jukebox in the bar the night before. I still prefer not to think of that tune, and it sort of gets to me now, even as I write about it.

Another hospital example, this time involving a pretty low grade of music: a musical advertising jingle on the radio. When I was twenty-five years old, I suffered third degree burns to my left arm and my right hand. My hospital bed of pain was one of four in a crowded, sweltering, room. A teenager in the next bed played his radio all day, and loud. Just as I was about to lose my cool and tell him to shut the damned thing off, he looked at me and asked with absolute sincerity: "Can you hear it OK?" No way could I yell at him, since he really thought he was doing me a favor by sharing his radio noise with me. And there was that advertising jingle that played again and again, and again. I can't do the melody here. I can't write in musical notation. But I remember the words – all too well.

If you're lookin' for a lumber store
To buy your building supplies,
Drive your car or truck right up to the door
Of Harris, Harris, Lumber
Harris – Harris
Harris, Harris, Lumber.

Even though I find the evoked thoughts and feelings unpleasant, I am willing to sing this for anyone, upon request. And I have it right. The melody is as solidly fixed in my brain as are the words. Solid and forever, I fear.

There is, of course, "program Music" – it refers to something very definable in the world outside the music. Beethoven's "Pastoral Symphony" has passages that are unquestionably evocative of rain, wind and thunder. In one of Richard Strauss's tone poems – "Till Eulenspiegels Merry Pranks," I think, there is a beheading. And the music then pretty clearly sounds like something, a head no doubt, rolling along the ground.

Somewhat related to music that evokes specific experiences, often unhappy in my case – there is my sense of how early exposure to music can color and complicate my later listening to that music. I remember being very young and playing with my building blocks while my mother did her weekly load of ironing. She played the radio – mostly soap operas. One such program had as its introductory music Claude Debussy's "Clair de Lune." It was many years before I could listen to that music free from the earlier listening – even though the associations were not unpleasant. The same holds for the "William Tell Overture," which was the theme music for "The Lone Ranger" radio show. When the great music critic Pauline Kael reviewed the movie "A Clockwork Orange," she lamented the fact that many people would never hear Beethoven's Ninth for what it was, because they had heard the Beethoven for the first time as part of the mayhem, violence, and visual brutality of the Stanley Kubrick movie. I was fortunate, because I knew the Beethoven pretty much by heart long before I saw the movie.

Well, I see that I have wandered around some while discussing a scale that ranges from the great Beethoven all the way over to a lumberyard jingle. Music is so many things to me, that I don't control my thought about it as nicely as I would like to. So I'll close for now. But there's a lot more I could say.

Friday, November 05, 2004

New U.S./Canada Border!

My Canadian friend hipped me to this hilarious editorial from today's Toronto Star:

But here's a modest proposal to heal U.S. rift:
Why not let America's Democratic `Blueland' join Canada?
By Gwynne Dyer

Looking at that extraordinary electoral map of the United States with all the liberal, quiche-eating, Kerry-supporting states of the north-east and the west coast coloured Democratic blue while the "heartland" and the south were solid Republican red, the solution to the problem suddenly occurred to me.
"Blueland" should join Canada.
It is getting harder and harder for the two tribes of Americans to understand or even tolerate each other. Once again, as in 2000, the country is divided with almost mathematical precision into two halves, one of which adores President George W. Bush while the other literally loathes him.
And it goes far deeper than mere personalities or even the old left-right split; the clash now is about social norms and fundamental values on which few are willing to compromise.
Opinions on the foreign issues that seemed to dominate the election — the war in Iraq and the "war on terror" — just mapped onto that existing cultural division.
People who go to church regularly and oppose abortion and gay marriage were also far more likely to believe that U.S. troops had found weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and that Saddam Hussein had somehow sponsored the terrorists of 9/11, so they voted for Bush. People who don't, didn't.
"Irreconcilable" is the word that springs to mind. Two separate populations have evolved in the United States, and they are increasingly unhappy even about living together.
One sub-species, homo canadiensis, thinks medicare is a good idea, would rather send peacekeepers than bombers, and longs for the wimpy, wispy liberalism enjoyed by their Canadian neighbours to the north. The other breed, homo iraniensis, prefers the full-blooded religious certainties and the militant political slogans — "Death to (fill in the blank)" — that play such a large and fulfilling part in Iranian public life.
It is sheer cruelty to force these two populations to go on living together, especially since U.S. political life has lost its centre and now pits these two irreconcilable opposites directly against each other in a winner-takes-all election every four years.
Since the pseudo-Iranians slightly outnumber the proto-Canadians, the obvious solution is for the latter group actually to go to Canada — and indeed, I have lost count of the number of American friends who have told me that if George W. wins again, they are going to move to Canada.
There are problems with this solution, however. A mass migration northward would leave large chunks of the United States virtually empty, and the parts of Canada where people can live in any comfort are pretty full already. Besides, the winters up there really are fairly severe, and I'm not sure that Californians would be up to it.
And then, looking at the two-colour map of the electoral outcome, the solution hit me. You don't have to move the people; just move the border.
It would all join up just fine: The parts of the U.S. inhabited by homo canadiensis all lie along the Canadian border or next to other states that do (although the blue bit dangles down a long, long way in the case of the Washington-Oregon-California strip fondly known as the Left Coast).
True, the United States would lose its whole Pacific coast, but we could probably arrange for an American free port in, say, Tijuana. And lots of Canadians could move to a warmer clime without actually having to leave their country.
At the global level, everybody else would be quite happy with a bigger Canada and a smaller United States. That smaller U.S. would have to pull in its horns a bit, as it would no longer have the resources to maintain military bases in every single country on the planet, but it would retain enough resources to invade a country every year or so, so it wouldn't suffer too badly from withdrawal symptoms.
And the new Canadians would be free to have abortions, enter into gay marriages, do stem-cell research and engage in all other wickedness that flourish in that bastion of corrupt and Godless liberalism.
They could even speak French, if they wanted to.
No solution is perfect: there would be limp-wristed liberals trapped in the United States and God-fearing rednecks who suddenly found themselves in Canada, so some degree of population exchange would be necessary. It's even possible that a few right-wing bits of Canada — parts of Alberta, for example — might prefer to join the United States.
But you can't make an omelette without breaking some eggs, and think how happy everybody will be when they are living exclusively among like-minded people.
Gwynne Dyer is a Canadian journalist based in London whose articles are published in 45

Thursday, November 04, 2004

What is The Dissertation?

The Dissertation is the official newsletter of Shambu, a wily band from Western New York. Here, we shall compile the musings of the band and their friends, as well as some tasty music downloads.

And thus it begins...

Shambu is the band name, playing rock and/or roll is the game.

hit counters