Category Archives: Opinion

Some (not so) bold predictions for 2014

Well, a new year is upon us and it’s time for me to gaze into my crystal ball for some musical predictions for the upcoming year. And yes, I will remind you of these predictions throughout the year.

  • Some one-named female pop singer will come out of nowhere and sell approximately 20 jillion albums. I will wonder what everyone else hears in the album that I don’t…just like with Adele and Lorde. OK, so I’ll grant that Adele has a good voice although her songs are about as uplifting as Morrissey’s. Lorde on the other hand…I just wish someone would explain to me what is so appealing about “Royals.” All I can say is that song bores the stuffing out of me.
What's so interesting?

What’s so interesting?

  • Along the same lines, a new media darling will come along. Seemingly every music writer in the world will tell you that you must listen to the record and the best reason those writers will give is that you have to listen to it because it’s the new album from (insert name here).
  • Someone will do something “outrageous” at the VMAs. It will have gossip sites buzzing for weeks…right until the time that the performer of the outrageous act releases a new single. (Just remember that I told you this on the second day of the year.) Oh, and after about one hour of the outrage that comes from every direction, you will hope that you never have to hear the name of the “shocking” artist again.



Like I said, these aren’t exactly bold predictions. What’s more interesting to me is the things I can’t predict for this year in music. Namely, what bands will I encounter for the first time? What genre will really grab my attention? A couple years ago, I explored a lot of garage punk. Last year, I found myself searching for a lot of fuzz (or stoner in the parlance of our times) rock. And then of course is the question of what will end up in my list of favorite albums of the year. Stay tuned, loyal reader, and ride along as I explore new music and present it to you.

My kid must think this constantly

Feel-Good Friday: my kid is freakin’ cool

I don’t ask you to indulge me very often, loyal reader, but I’m going to do it today. It is Feel-Good Friday, and this story is bound to make me feel better than anyone that reads it, but hey, it’s a good story.

A friend of mine plays in a blues band, and I received a notice that the band was playing last night at a small restaurant not far from where I live. I asked my son if he wanted to go (even though it sort of conflicted with his bedtime) and he said he would.

We arrived shortly after the band started at 7:30 and my son was immediately into it, asking me about the instruments and the music. That’s where the coolness began. Instead of saying that it was too loud or complaining about something, he sat there and listened (and enjoyed the music) while he asked me questions like how many strings are on a bass.

Now, let me flash back. A couple days ago, I went to YouTube and found “Messin’ with the Kid” by Junior Wells. I played it for my son and he seemed to enjoy it. Then before we went to see Black Cat Bone, I told my son that the band does a version of that song I played for him. At some point during the band’s first set, I asked my son if he wanted to hear “Messin’ with the Kid.” He said yes. so I told him to request it of the band. My little man walked up near the stage and requested the song. The singer said, “When someone who’s four and three-quarters asks you to play ‘Messin’ with the Kid,’ you play it.”

Now, the story could end there, but it doesn’t. After the band’s first set, the guys came out to mingle with the crowd. At some point, my son climbed down from his stool, walked over to the harmonica player and said, “What’s your name?”

“Roger,” he answered.

“You play pretty good harmonica.”

In the words of Dave Barry, “I swear I am not making this up.” My son not only requested a Junior Wells song, he also gave the harmonica player props for his abilities. I realize that this story means more to me than to you, but for a Feel-Good Friday, it makes me feel pretty freakin’ good.


An open letter to publicists (and DIY bands)

I’m not going to sit here and criticize publicists. After all, a lot of them contact me regularly and send me lots of good music I may not hear otherwise. Ultimately, what that means is I see enough press releases to know a good one from a not so good one. With that in mind, here are some tips for publicists (and bands who do everything themselves) to make their press releases as good as possible.

  • Lay off the cliches – This is true regardless of what you’re writing. If you overload your writing with cliches, then whatever you write tends to lose its meaning. Why? Because the reader spends so much time sifting through the cliches, that he loses the sense of the message.
  • Have someone proofread your stuff – Again, this is true no matter what you write. No matter how good a writer you are, you might have some spelling or grammatical errors in it. The last thing you want to do is leave some doubt about your abilities with something as basic as spelling and grammar.
  • Have someone read your stuff (part 2) – Maybe you are a really good creative writer, and there is a place for creativity in press releases. It can be part of what catches the attention of whomever is reading it. But here’s the thing. A press release is not a novel. Whoever is in your audience is not expecting to read the next great American novelist. Your audience wants to learn about the music you’re promoting. So that’s what your press release should be: a straightforward description of the music you’re promoting. To quote Arthur Schopenhauer, “One should use common words to say uncommon things.” Yes, you can mix some humor in there, but have someone else read your press release to see if it makes sense to someone other than you. Your initial audience will help you know what is effective and what misses.

Oh, and if you need help writing in a clear and straightforward way, contact me. I can help you write a press release that will not have the reader rolling his or her eyes, and my rates are very reasonable.



Sunday Confessional: Bowie? Boring!

Bless me, loyal reader (not that I’ve sinned). It’s been…well… far too long since my last confessional. In case you’re just joining us here, Sunday Confessional is a recurring post here at Incognito HQ in which I confess something about my musical tastes.

You see the title of this, and maybe you think to yourself, “He thinks David Bowie is boring? What is the matter with this dude?” Well, it’s true. I find David Bowie pretty boring. I realize that he has had a long career in the music business. Furthermore, I realize that he has built his career by being different than a lot of other artists. Frankly, Bowie’s music is downright weird compared to lots of his contemporaries.

I’m not saying that his career is undeserved or that he’s some talentless hack that ought to thank his lucky stars that he had any career in music. All I am saying is that he doesn’t reach me. An excellent example of this is “Let’s Dance.” Nothing about this song makes me want to dance…not even in that awkward 80s dance style. If you’re going to sing about dancing, then give us something to dance to.


That of course is just one very specific example. More generally, his music just escapes me. What I mean is that there is really nothing about his songs that draws me in. While I don’t find his voice offensive, there is really nothing about it that grabs my attention. I can say the same for his melodies. Perhaps the best argument I can think of is to say that I can’t imagine the setting where I would think to myself that David Bowie would be the perfect soundtrack. Seriously. I can’t do it. I can’t think of a situation in which David Bowie would be the perfect musical accompaniment.

I know there are people out there who could tell me all the reasons why I should like David Bowie And by all means, if you’d like to do so, leave a comment). The guy definitely should be commended for the length of his career if nothing else. It’s just that I guess I can’t find room for him in my collection.

You got that right, kid.

It’s not me, it’s you: bands I’ve burned out on

I know for a lot of people, music is a static thing. In fact, most people I encounter rarely go beyond the music they listened to in high school. To me, music is a very dynamic thing. And just music itself, but also music collections and musical tastes. Here are some bands that I enjoyed at one point but have grown stale for me.

  • The Black Keys – I still have Thickfreakness in my collection although at this point it is more because my son likes it. It didn’t help that The Black Keys sold out. (I got through about three and a half songs of Brothers, which sounded like some producer got a hold of the band.) But I don’t even like Thickfreakness anymore and I really enjoyed it for a while. Something in Dan Auerbach’s sort of droning delivery has worn me out.
  •  The Beatles – I loved The Beatles when I was in college. I remember finding the red and blue Greatest Hits records for $2 each. Somewhere along the way, I just lost my connection to the band.
  • Pavement - Remember when Pavement was the indie-darling band? I had Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain in my collection…until I realized I only liked about half the songs on the album. Listening to it now, Pavement sounds a lot like Weezer.
  • David Bowie – I can hear you gasp out there. A music writer that doesn’t like Bowie? It’s unthinkable! I know I’m supposed to like him, but I just don’t. I’m not crazy about his voice or his music. The Man Who Sold the World had a place – briefly – in my collection, but realized I would never listen to it enough to justify keeping it. So I didn’t.
  • U2 – This has nothing to do with Bono’s politics or grandstanding. It’s just that when I hear a new U2 song, it might be catchy the first couple times I hear it. Then I’m done with it. Just like that.
Quick! Someone tell her what that thing is in her right hand!

My response to Lady Gaga singing in space

The story came out earlier this week that Lady Gaga plans to sing in outer space in 2015. I could easily dismiss this by saying that this is a meaningless story by some pseudo-news outlet that was desperate for a story last week. I certainly wouldn’t be wrong to say that. Even for an entertainment “news” piece, this is fluff. I do, however, have a response to this. And it may surprise you.

My response is this: please let this story be true. No, not that it matters to me at all. I personally don’t care if any pop singer sings in space. No, I want this to be true because I want whoever is in charge to “forget” all about Lady Gaga. Oh, and Katy Perry, Justin Bieber, and Lance Bass have all signed up for this too. Perfect. Let’s set up some sort of pop star colony in space where their only audience will be each other. I would propose some sort of contest to determine who gets to come back to earth, but I don’t feel the need to be that overzealous.

Oh, I realize this proposed pop star colony would be a crushing blow to gossip magazines and websites. After all, if Lady Gaga is stuck in space (obviously without her entire wardrobe), how will those outlets come up with articles like “Did you see what Lady Gaga was wearing?” Granted, that story has probably been done to death anyway. (It is a lot easier than having to listen to her music.) Plus, as long as Miley Cyrus is still on earth, those “journalists” are not going to run out of stories.

So yeah, I’m all in favor of Lady Gaga singing in space as long as there’s no promise she’ll come back. Although can you imagine if she figured out a racket to get people to fly to space to see her? It might start a rush of pop stars going to space so fans have to pay more to see them. Say, that’s not a bad idea. Any way we can get Lady Gaga into space sooner than 2015?


Analyze This: Bicycle Race by Queen

It’s been a while since our last edition of Analyze This. If you haven’t caught it before, this is a recurring column in which I take the lyrics of a once-popular song and add parenthetical comments throughout.

Bicycle bicycle bicycle
I want to ride my bicycle bicycle bicycle (That’s nice. Good for your body and for the environment.)
I want to ride my bicycle (You mentioned that.)
I want to ride my bike (I get it.)
I want to ride my bicycle
I want to ride it where I like

You say black I say white (So…apparently you want to ride your bicycle and argue.)
You say bark I say bite (Wait. When did this become a word-association exercise?)
You say shark I say hey man
Jaws was never my scene (Nobody said anything about a shark, but OK.)
And I don’t like Star Wars (Ummmm, thanks for that Mr. Random.)
You say Rolls I say Royce (Was this song a free-writing exercise in a college classroom?)
You say God give me a choice (Like listening to this nonsense or not.)
You say Lord I say Christ
I don’t believe in Peter Pan (Well, believing in a jar of peanut butter would be pretty silly.)
Frankenstein or Superman
All I wanna do is

Bicycle bicycle bicycle (I gotta be honest. I kind of forgot this is where the whole thing started.)
I want to ride my bicycle bicycle bicycle
I want to ride my bicycle
I want to ride my bike
I want to ride my bicycle (Seriously, dude. I get it.)
I want to ride my
Bicycle races are coming your way
So forget all your duties oh yeah! (I can forget all my duties because bicycle races are coming my way? I’m sure my boss will love that.)
Fat bottomed girls they’ll be riding today (OK, so maybe there’s something to watching chicks with big bootys ride bicycles.)
So look out for those beauties oh yeah
On your marks get set go
Bicycle race bicycle race bicycle race
Bicycle bicycle bicy
I want to ride my bicycle
Bicycle bicycle bicycle
Bicycle race

You say coke I say caine (Ahhh, now this discussion is starting to make a little more sense.)
You say John I say Wayne (Well, who doesn’t like The Duke?)
Hot dog I say cool it man (Huh?)
I don’t wanna be the President of America (That’s the most sensible thing you’ve said so far.)
You say smile I say cheese
Cartier I say please (Cartier might be more affordable if you weren’t spending money on cocaine.)
Income tax I say Jesus (Jesus pays your income tax? Sweet! Can you give me his number?)
I don’t wanna be a candidate
For Vietnam or Watergate (Riding a bicycle is much more fun than war or political scandal.)
Cos all I want to do is

Bicycle bicycle bicycle
I want to ride my bicycle bicycle bicycle
I want to ride my bicycle
I want to ride my bike (I understood the first dozen times you told me.)
I want to ride my bicycle
I want to ride it where I like (Maybe you could ride it to rehab…or at least a writing seminar where you can learn to be coherent.)

Sunday Confessional: The Doors? More like The Bores

Ladies and gentlemen, The Bores...erm The Doors

Ladies and gentlemen, The Bores…erm The Doors

I know that The Doors is a band that has meant a lot to a lot of people. I am not one of those people. Now, I should qualify this by saying that I don’t hate The Doors. At best, I am neutral about the band. And that’s the problem. Whenever I hear The Doors, there is no reaction inside me telling me to crank up the volume. Neither is a reaction that it’s the worst thing I’ve ever heard (I have, after all been subjected to Robin Thicke, Daft Punk, etc.). I don’t know if I can even really explain my aversion to The Doors. At the time this band recorded, it really sounded like no other band. You could make the case that to this day no other band sounds like The Doors. The only thing I can say is that this band evokes no emotional response for me.

“But it’s The Doors!” is the argument made by fans of the band. Yeah, I know who it is. I’ve heard the band’s songs countless times. That doesn’t mean I enjoy them or want to hear them.

“But Jim Morrison was a true American poet!” is another argument you’re likely to get from fans. I just wonder if people would be so enamored with Jim Morrison if he had lived until 57 instead of dying at 27. Or let’s just say that he had lived another 10 years, but didn’t make the same kind of music as when The Doors started? It’s worth pondering.

So yeah, I know it’s The Doors. And I know the band’s place in the pantheon of American rock bands. But if you try to plead the case for the band, or if you play some of its songs for me, my response is the same. ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ.

Have we learned nothing about war from rock n roll?

Loyal reader, you know I never get political. It’s not my bag. If you ask me, everything about politics stinks. However, I am making an exception in this case with all the talk of an impending attack on Syria. But fear not. I’m not going to sit here ranting and raving about politics, and I am going to tie this into music. To me the most succinct statements about war come from music. Think about “War Pigs.” This song was recorded more than 40 years ago, but what Ozzy sang then still rings true. The only thing is that the guys about whom these songs are written keep doing the same thing that made them the subjects of these songs. And they will, as long as they keep making money  on the deal.

Politicians hide themselves away
They only started the war
Why should they go out to fight?
They leave that role to the poor.

The other song that comes to mind is from Steve Earle. Several years ago, I saw him perform in San Diego. He introduced this song by saying, “The thing about wars is that they’re always started by old guys that will never have to fight in them.” And yet, here we stand again. The old, rich guys are saying we need another war in which they themselves will not participate. It’s pretty small comfort that the best thing that might come out of another war is another song condemning money-grubbing warmongers. Mind you, I’ll never get tired of songs condemning money-grubbing warmongers. If only they took those lyrics to heart. Wait a minute? Did I just imply that politicians have a heart? Sorry about that.