Tuesday, February 15, 2011

In Your Ear-Favorite Sloan Songs

What can I say about this band? Could start with Sloan being the greatest export Canada has ever produced. Discuss. I have seen this band more times that I can remember, and so long ago, high school kids could go across the border with no paperwork and no problem. I actually wrote a letter (remember letters?) to the band and they actually wrote me back. How great is that? And they are the only band I have ever bought a shirt from, which I still have, even though it’s been through the wars.

So I took some time to review their catalog, focusing on studio albums, so apologies to Palais Royale, and A and B sides win. Here we go . . .

Peppermint EP

This bad boy I have on cassette. Chronologically it comes before Smeared but I think I bought this album third, probably after a concert. It has a garagey, raw vibe that is refined on Smeared. Marcus Said and Sugartune don’t change that much and listening to the stripped down version of Underwhelmed is a highlight of the album for me.


From the opening track to the last, this album gets it done, with scattered lyrics backed by yearning vocals and energetic instruments. This album, along with Definitely Maybe from Oasis, Day for Night from Tragically Hip and Superstar Carwash by Goo Goo Dolls, were very influential in my high school and early college years. My favorite tracks on the album are Underwhelmed, Take It In and Sugartune, (with a shout to the last song What’s There To Decide, which is dreamy, ethereal, and hypnotic), with all the tracks setting a foundation for the ground they were to cover over the years.

Twice Removed

The moment I heard Pen Pals, I knew I was going to love this album. As much as I loved Smeared, this album went one better. Initially I was drawn to this album for the tracks Pen Pals and Deeper Than Beauty and Snowsuit Song, but the more I listened to it, the more I found the whole record to be one continuous soundtrack of awesomeness. On previous posts, I have complained about the lack of complete albums; not the case here. The guitar sound continues to grow (I could listen to the guitar riff at the end of Before I Do forever) and the drumming provides a constant, driving backdrop. Eventually my favorite of the song on the album became People Of the Sky, which encapsulates everything I love the band.

One Chord to Another

This is my second least favorite album. (English major, right?) The record starts off great with The Good in Everyone, and there are moments of quality in almost every song, but the songs themselves are not awesome. Example, Autobiography borrows from what sounds like old Aerosmith but the song tends to wander and finally just ends. Another example, the choruses of A Side Wins and Anyone Who’s Anyone are pretty catchy but the verses are just ok. Junior Panthers might be in the bottom five songs from the group for me. The experimentation is ok (piano, minimal production), but it really doesn’t do it for me. G Turns to D is a highlight for me, and I love the trumpets on Everything You’ve Done Wrong. Jay takes center stage on Lines you Amend, and you can’t help but sing along on the chorus from Take the Bench. Again, not saying it’s terrible but if I had to lose one Sloan album in a fire, this might be the one.

Navy Blues

As with the previous album, this songs kicks ass right from the start with She Says What She Means (this song is great live), and Iggy and Angus (favorite of mine), with a bridge of C'mon C'mon (We're Gonna Get It Started). Sinking Ships, Seems So Heavy, and I Wanna Thank You follow the path started on One Chord, with some piano sprinkled in and definitive sounds for the verses and chorus. Keep on Thinkin’ is pure pop; two and a half minutes, in and out, with an audience clapping sequence, which, again, is AWESOME live. All of this leads to Money City Maniacs, a Sloan anthem that has to be experienced. If you don’t like this song, you don’t like rock. I really enjoy Stand By Me, Yeah. Not heavy rock like some of the tracks, the song just moves along and is a great fusion of instruments and vocals from the band. On the Horizon is good as well. If you haven’t gotten the theme, the show I saw for this tour was killer.

Between the Bridges

This album has a special place in my heart, because this is one of the CD’s I gave to my future wife on her year long trip to Taiwan. When I was able to visit her about halfway through, this album played in the background when we would sit her apartment talking and “hang out”. N.S starts the album, a slow, ponderous song, which is a different vibe from the previous opening tracks and is followed by a harder track in Beyond Me. Don’t Believe a Word and A Long Time Coming are not overpowering but great to savor. Friendship and Sensory Deprivation rock out. Losing California is by far my favorite song on the album and the band made a great video to go with it. Imagine if Multiplicity was made in black and white. The album finishes very strong with great tracks in Take Good Care of the Poor Boy and Delivering Maybes. The album is solid and a decent listen from start to finish.

Pretty Together

This is my least favorite album, for while there are some good tracks, the album does not grab me from start to finish, lacking the punch of previous works. The first two tracks, If It Feels Good Do It and In the Movies really jam, but then the album trends towards the slower, more melodic tracks, and this vibe works for The Other Man, which has a great video, and Dreaming of You, instead of the power pop, punch you in the mouth tracks usually present. My favorite track is It’s In Your Eyes and is definitely in my Top 10, which again synthesizes the band’s qualities—solid drumming, catchy hooks and wonderful vocals. Listening to it again, I realized how unfamiliar I was with it. I gave it several tries but was less than convinced. You can’t win them all.

Action Pact

Action Pact has to be 1a for favorite albums. There are so many great tracks and the album really hits all the notes—pop, hard rock, ballad. Gimme That gets things started with straight ahead power pop and is followed in the same vein by Live On, which has MORE COWBELL, and Backstabbin’. The band takes it down a notch with The Rest of My Life. The opening tracks are decent but the rest of the album is almost pure gold, highlighted by False Alarm, Hollow Head, I Was Wrong, Reach Out and Fade Away (killer guitar solo halfway through the song). Honestly these songs could be my top 5 and crystallize the band’s sound. If you are new to the band, I highly recommend starting with this album.

Never Hear the End of It

With 30 tracks of varying length and sounds and qualities, it’s hard to zero in on this. I would love to hear a full length cut of the opening track, Flying High Again, which lasts only 1:25 and leads into Who Taught You to Live Like That. I first heard the song at a show at St. Andrew’s and loved it. Other highlights on the record are I’ve Gotta Try (another song with a great video), Listen to the Radio (less aggressive but wonderful vocals), Right or Wrong (with the great lyric—10 years ahead of our time or 1 year behind), Ana Lucia (which grew me on over time), Blackout (could use another 90 seconds on this one), Ill Placed Trust (rockin the house and probably my favorite track on the album), and Another Way I Could Do It (great guitar parts and great way to end the album). I usually skip through to the tracks I like, but if I really take the time to listen to it from start to finish, the experience is worth it for all of the different textures present.

Parallel Play

To be honest, I have not listened to this album all that much. For whatever reason, it slipped through the cracks, but here we go. Believe in Me opens up the album, getting things started with pure power pop. Wrenching guitars, solid drum, and the vocal polish of Patrick. Cheap Champagne comes next and the edge is taken off, but the song moves along and is quite catchy. All I Am is All You’re Not reminds me of a track from One Chord to Another. The chorus has a great hook but the verses are just so so. Burn For It is solid, starting slowly and building towards a pounding finish. Witch’s Wand is pleasant and provides a nice background while driving on a summer day. The Other Side and I’m Not a Kid Anymore are decent. Down in the Basement, has a cool Bob Dylan vibe to it and is worth a listen.

Hit and Run EP

I heard this album for the first time while doing some research for this post and have to say I didn’t really enjoy these couple of songs. Overall, there is a much more subdued vibe for the tracks. The opening track Take It Upon Yourself isn’t too bad, but the next track Midnight Mass is kinda forgettable. It Is Never combines some distorted guitar with melodic piano to create a decent track. Where Are You Now? grabs the sound from Navy Blues and has some fun. Doesn’t hit the heights but is ok. Oh Dear Diary feels like an Eels cover. The lyrics are great with the line “it took me 20 pages to tell” and this song has to be on indie movie soon. Chances are I will not pony up for this album. Might buy It Is Never on iTunes or another source for posterity.

So here they are. My Top 8 Sloan songs (I just couldn’t get it down to 5) . . .


People of the Sky

Iggy and Angus

Losing California

It’s In Your Eyes

I Was Wrong

False Alarm

Ill Placed Trust

I don’t listen to commercial radio anymore, but thank god for 89X in Windsor for introducing me to Sloan and other Canadian bands, and I give me highest possible recommendation for this band. You must give them a try. Over 20 years they have produced some great music that holds up. With the four band members sharing everything, instruments, vocals and writing, you WILL find tracks that you will like. You can listen to their entire catalog for free at: http://www.sloanmusic.com/music

Year Album

1992 Peppermint EP

1992 Smeared

1994 Twice Removed

1996 One Chord to Another

1998 Navy Blues

1999 Between the Bridges

2001 Pretty Together

2003 Action Pact

2006 Never Hear the End of It

2008 Parallel Play

2009 Hit & Run EP

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Feature Presentation--Snowbound and Sick

Thanks to a sick day and a snow day, I was able to catch up on some shows and movies. Hooray for illness and a foot of snow!!

Social Network


So I finally saw what all the hubbub was about. Is this the Best Picture of the year? I don’t think so (not having seen most of them). It was a fine movie, Sorkin creating a fascinating story about something that happened in the recent past, but it wasn’t mind blowing. As for the story itself, read The Facebook Effect for a counter point to this movie.

See it.

For Your Consideration


I found this walking around the library. While it’s not as good as Best in Show, it does have some funny moments. The movie does a great job at poking fun at the Hollywood celebrity shows, the hype surrounding the Oscars, and the meddling of the studios. Gervais’ cameo is priceless.

Take it or leave it.

Thank You For Smoking


This movie has been in my list forever, and I finally got around to seeing it. Loved it. Great dialogue/narration, despicable characters, and cutting satire. Eckhart nailed the role and Katie Holmes was surprisingly good as the ethically impaired reporter. Remember, if you argue well enough, you’re always right.

Must See.

Justified Season 1


Great show so far. Felt that the set up was a little contrived, but it led to so many interesting stories, that feeling quickly faded. I didn’t know anything about Olyphant (because I am one of the five people who has not seen Deadwood) and was interested to see what Goggins would do after The Shield. They created a synergy that evolved and built towards the finale. The second season starts soon and I would give it a try. Not sure if the show can continue as is, but the opening salvo was quite good.

See it.

Arrested Development Season 2


An oldie but a goodie. What can you say about this show? Perfection. Sarcastic, well acted, tight, gloriously self-effacing. I don’t care if they make a movie or not. Don’t see how it can be as good as the three seasons that came before it. This is a must have on a deserted island for me.

Buy, borrow, or steal tonight.

Monday, February 7, 2011

La Liga Lowdown - Round 22

Boring, Boring Barcelona edition

How great is it that 20 years ago, you couldn’t see a soccer game on TV, and now you can’t keep up. Between ESPN3.com, golTV and FSC, plus all of the internet streams legal or otherwise, there are games on all the time. I am constantly figuring out which games I can watch live or on replay, trying to hit my biggies (FCB, Manchester United, and Juventus) while getting a smattering of other teams and leagues. Focusing on FCB, here are the results of the last couple of matches I’ve been able to watch live or on replay since November’s El Clasico:

Espanyol 5-1 2-0 at HT

Athletic Bilbao 0-0 0-0 at HT

Athletic Bilbao 1-1 0-0 at HT

Malaga 4-1 3-0 at HT

Almeria 5-0 4-0 at HT

Atletico Madrid 3-0 2-0 at HT

If you take away the cup tie against Bilbao, which was tense and physical, FCB have taken several opponents out to the woodshed. I actually turned the Almeria Copa del Rey game off at halftime because I had to get back to work. Well let's be honest here. I was bored. Can I say that? FCB are so good right now that watching them has become tedious. Yes, an effort. The Blaugrana possess the ball anywhere from 65 to 75 percent of the time, poking at and stretching out the opponent until they finally carve them up to create a scoring opportunity. Then they score and do it again and again. During Satruday’s game against Atletico Madrid, I found myself constantly checking the Juventus/Caligari game, and, when that was over, checking email and Facebook and twitter, all the while lamenting the fact that I missed the greatest day in EPL history.

How can I witness one of the great club sides in recent memory, quite possibly ever, and yet be more concerned with my Facebook status and twitter timeline? Several reasons. Xavi to Iniesta to Xavi to Alves to Messi to Xavi and so on is mesmerizing but, once the result is secured, can be a little repetitive. I have some form of ADD and need to be constantly entertained. The opponents. Most teams park the proverbial bus right away. BORING. Some teams are great on the counter so that can be exciting. Still others try to out Barcelona Barcelona with high pressure and these tend to be the best encounters. The last two categories account for about five clubs, so there are 14 barricades or white flags thrown up. Yawn. Finally, let's face it, barring injury, the league is all but over already. Real Madrid have gone seven points down, which is essentially eight due to head to head goal difference. Barcelona have now won 16 league games in a row which means the league is over in February. It's not even a two horse race anymore.

However, all is not lost. Here are the upcoming fixtures:

Sporting Gijon v Barcelona

Arsenal v Barcelona

Barcelona v Athletic Bilbao

Mallorca v Barcelona

Valencia v Barcelona

Barcelona v Real Zaragoza

Barcelona v Arsenal

Sevilla FC v Barcelona

My guess is that once the Champions League starts up again, the thrill of watching the Blaugrana will return. Playing Arsenal in games that mean something should install a spark of intensity that will get the fire going again. Plus Bilbao and Valencia usually give FCB a tough game. More games means more rotation, so different players will be used in the league fixtures, which means the gap between Barcelona and their opponents will close, providing a more competitive environment. All of this leads to mid-April and two Clasicos in four days. First at the Bernabeu in the league (4/17) and then the Copa del Rey final on 4/20 as FCB will go for their second domestic double in three years.

I should continue to broaden my horizons in La Liga anyway. I think I've seen every team at least once, but I need to focus more on the bottom end of the table, as there is very compelling relegation battle forming.

R Zaragoza































































Malaga may go down despite their Qatari money; Hercules may go down despite their great start; Deportivo was a big name just 5 years ago and will be fighting for their spot to the bitter end this season. A nine team Battle Royale is on the cards and should provide some wonderful entertainment, while, at the top, FCB tries to win everything again.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Strip Club—RIL Edition

See here for definition: http://www.tuscl.net/b.php?AID=67

It has been said that you don’t find a football club, a football club finds you, and Manchester United found me via my best friend Erik. When we were in high school and college, he would share stories of this great club called the Red Devils from England, and he had all this swag—jerseys, scarves, articles, magazines, trinkets. He would talk about the amazing achievements of Hughes and Kanchelskis and Sharpe and Schmeichel and Ince, and he won me over, taking me to this hole in the wall bar in Detroit to watch live games.

By the time USA ’94 rolled around I was excited but not caught up in World Cup fever. I watched several matches on TV, but this was only a prelude to my viewing dedication for the following tournaments. Soccer on TV in the US was rare in the early 90’s, and in 1995 life changed forever for me. We watched the 1995 UEFA Cup Winners Cup between Arsenal and Real Zaragoza, and I still remember Seaman backpedaling and falling into his own net, unable to stop a ridiculous shot from Nayim: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fiYt3iNWau0 From there it was on to the 1995 Champions League Final, which Patrick Kluivert won for Ajax against AC Milan: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Oi8MMBHSgS8

All of this set up the 1995-96 season, which, thanks to a slow internet connection at college and ESPN’s coverage of the Champions League, I was able to follow. What a year that was. Juventus won the Champions League Final. Euro 96 was epic, with Poborsky’s chip, Gazza’s goal against Scotland, and Bierhoff scoring the first Golden Goal. But all of this paled in comparison to the Domestic Double won by Manchester United.

Here is a synopsis of the season from aboutmanutd.com:

1995-1996 brought a second Premiership and FA Cup double in just three seasons. Newcastle United squandered a ten-point lead in the Premiership and Liverpool were beaten in the final of the FA Cup.

There was controversy before the season began. Three established players left over the summer. Mark Hughes signed for Chelsea, Andrei Kanchelskis for Everton and Paul Ince for Inter Milan. The first two wanted to leave, but it appeared to be the manager’s decision to sell Ince. With Cantona suspended until the beginning of October, it was assumed that experienced replacements would arrive, but they didn’t. Gary Neville, Nicky Butt, Phil Neville and Paul Scholes all began the opening game of the season and David Beckham came on as a substitute. The game at Aston Villa was lost 3-1, leading TV pundit Alan Hansen to famously declare that you win nothing with kids. Ferguson continued with the ‘kids’, they won their next five consecutive league games and remained undefeated until November. They were strengthened by Cantona’s return. His first game after suspension was against Liverpool. The game ended 2-2, with Cantona making Manchester United’s first goal and scoring the second (a penalty). He was on his best behavior for the rest of the season, ending it as the club’s top scorer and the Football Writers’ Player of the Year.

Newcastle United should really have won the league. In December they led Manchester United by ten points. Gradually the gap was closed. Great saves by Schmeichel and a goal from Cantona won a crucial game in Newcastle in March. Alex Ferguson employed all his psychological ploys to successfully get under the skin of Newcastle manager, Kevin Keegan. Newcastle imploded and Manchester United won the Premiership by four points. Another Cantona goal won the FA Cup Final. After a fairly dull game, Cantona scored the only goal with just a few minutes remaining.

During 1995-1996 there was embarrassment as well as success. Rotor Volgograd knocked Manchester United out of the UEFA cup. York City knocked them out of the League Cup, winning the first leg at Old Trafford 3-0. Then, towards the end of the season, the club lost at Southampton after being 3-0 down at half-time. Ferguson blamed the grey shirts they were wearing, had them changed at half-time and then determined that they would never be worn again!

A marvelous blend of youth and experience brought success in 1995-1996 and Alan Hansen - a former Liverpool player - had to eat his words.

I still remember watching the replay of FA Cup on Fox Sports South, and after Cantona’s winning goal, running around my parents’ house, screaming in celebration. The goal (about 2:40 in): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mCrtCRm8_kg

This was the away jersey from that season:

A big fad in the 90’s was sublimation, whether it be the club crest or an iconic image or the home ground. For that year, barely visible all over the jersey, United used the names of the legends of the club, plus a sublimated reminder of the 1968 victory in the European Cup at Wembley. Not only recent players, but legends like Charlton, Best, McIlroy, Robson, Law, and Whiteside. I knew some of them and as I’ve learned more and more about the club, I’ve found out why some of the names are on there. Recently I got a DVD of 1001 Manchester United Greatest Goals and it’s cool to see the names on the shirt actually playing.

This United kit is not my favorite, but when I finally I found it on eBay in my size, I snapped it up. As for the shirt itself, it’s not the greatest, it doesn’t breathe well and doesn’t fit all that great, but for the year it represents and the history it represents, it’s a true collector’s item.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

EPL Dream Team Challenge

A couple of months ago @MarrsioFootball posted on his website, Left Back In The Changing Room, a challenge in which you had to pick a complete side, using one player from each country or club. For instance, if you used Clint Dempsey, you could not use any other American player or player from Fulham. Here is the post in full: http://leftbackinthechangingroom.blogspot.com/2010/12/challenge.html

Click on the link to see what I came up with: http://austinlong1974.blogspot.com/2010/12/soccer-dream-team-challenge.html

Over the holidays, to pass the 7 hour car drive from my brother’s to my parents, we came up with a similar challenge: pick a 20 man squad using only one player from each team in the Premier League for 2010-11 season. The Big Four are easy to come up with selections, but hard to narrow it down to one player. However I had to actually do some research on WBA, Wigan, Stoke and some of the “smaller clubs”.

Here is what I came up with:




















West Ham


















Manchester City























So let me know what you come up with.

Note: I did not get this up before the opening and closing of the transfer window, so Carroll doesn’t work. Would probably have to replace him with Ben Arfa or God forbid, Joey Barton. Also Tuncay is on his way out so I would have to replace him, but I don’t know any other players on Stoke.