My 2015 Yearbook (have a neat summer)


All of our new friends at the Foo Fighters show in Kansas City.

All of our new friends at the Foo Fighters show in Kansas City.


Yes, I’m back. WE’RE back. The MoSS? boys are all still alive and kicking. But life sometimes happens.

But thankfully, Chris’ 2015 yearbook lit my fuse, and Todd’s Cliff-Notes follow-up made it an actual necessity to respond myself. Woke up from an eight-month slumber to share my 2015 tour stories.

But unlike those guys, who continue to immerse themselves in the new stuff, my year on the road consisted of a tour through what I imagine is the stuff populating the used-CD bins at Record Collector these days.

I ain’t got no complaints …

Less Than Jake (Wooly’s in Des Moines, January)

The year started with this throwback of a show, which was really just a night for all my boys to reunite and celebrate 1997-98 all over again, when we were all just out of college and partying every night like you’re supposed to when you’re 23. There was a time when Losing Streak was the soundtrack to that party and it ranked among my very favorite albums. Well, those days are long in the past, but that album can still take me back to that moment in time. Of course, they only played one or two songs from it.

Oh, and Reel Big Fish opened the show … I felt like I was at a Milwaukee Beers BASEketball game.

Barry Manilow (CenturyLink Center in Omaha, February)

Hey, that's not a wax sculpture ... it's Barry manilow!

Hey, that’s not a wax sculpture … it’s Barry manilow!

“I’m just going because my mom wants to see him.”

That’s was my excuse if anyone asked. Truth be told, I just used that as an excuse because yes, I’m a closet Fanilow. “Weekend in New England” and “Could It Be Magic?” make me misty. Shut up! When I was 4, my mom bought my brother and me t-shirts at the mall with our names on the back and ANY iron-on patch we wanted on the front. Logan got a Star Wars patch (the “a” and the “n” from his name quickly rubbed off his shirt, leaving only Log … which I still call him 38 years later). What did I get? You guessed it … a Barry Manilow patch. Shut up! I guess it was all those times I was forced to sing “Can’t Smile Without You” in the car because it was “cute” (I’m lucky I didn’t get beaten up more).

Anyway … it was enchanting (yes, I said enchanting), and I got some quality time with Mom in the process. And sadly, I’d never had better seats to a show in my life. Ever … only for them to be trumped about four months later.

Spoiler alert: My favorite album of 2015 was No Cities to Love

Spoiler alert: My favorite album of 2015 was No Cities to Love


Sleater-Kinney (Omaha and St. Louis, Feb./April)

I’ve already covered this one sufficiently. And nothing has changed, except for the fact that I love this band more now than I did then. I’m praying they take another run through the Midwest soon.

Foxygen at the Mission Creek Festival (Blue Moose in Iowa City, April)

IMG_2719This was the only show of the week I went to differing from Chris’ itinerary. We both caught Real Estate and Father John Misty (with King Tuff … those dudes were bad-ass). But he chose Shovels and Rope on Friday, and I chose this one. Glad I did.

A super-energetic show. Sam France has that androgynous look like some ’70s British glam rocker and the band has this wall of backup singers, like they’re Ike and Tina Turner or something, including one that looked like a sex-kitten version of Abbi from Broad City. Yes, I was captivated. I remember saying to Michelle, friend of MoSS? and my partner in the evening’s festivities, that the whole thing was like some hyperactive psychedelic version of Meat Loaf.

After the show, we bumped into honorary MoSS?-Man Travis …

“That was awesome,” he said with his typical chuckle and grin. “They were like psycho Meat Loaf or something, right?”

Bastard stole my line. Case closed.

Diarrhea Planet (Gabe’s in Iowa City, April)

IMG_2766Great stuff. But if I took away anything about this show, it was the realization that from here on out, I will never NOT take earplugs to a show at Gabe’s. These guys play three-guitar punk rock with shredding solos. And as I stood and watched, I could SEE the guitarists’ fingers moving up and down the fret boards with Yngwie Malmsteen-like dexterity, but all I could HEAR was harsh, distorted fuzz. On a whim, I just stuck my fingers in my ears … then and only then could I hear the flurry of notes. I love me some Gabe’s – it’s been my home base for over 20 years now – but the sound needs improvement (it has for a while). I used to worry that the day I started wearing earplugs would be the day I was officially old. I still love it loud, but I just want to hear what’s actually happening. That ain’t old.






Mastodon (Five Flags Center
in Des Moines, May)
The Sword (Gabe’s in Iowa City, October)

Hail metal.

I love this doom metal shit, the sludgy stuff coming out of the south, especially – Mastodon, Baroness, Kylesa out of Georgia, and The Sword out of Austin, Texas. I never want to grow up, apparently, because for as cultured as I like to think I’ve become over the years, I still love heavy metal and slasher movies. I hope that never changes.


Royal Blood (Wooly’s in Des Moines, May)

In the era of two-man bands or even no-bass player bands (think White Stripes, Black Keys or Sleater-Kinney), those bands’ guitarists always find a way to replicate the bottom-end sound where the bass would be. Check out Corin Tucker on “A New Wave” or Jack White on “The Denial Twist” for good examples of this.

But I’ve never seen anyone replicate a screaming guitar lick on a bass before, while still playing bass at the same time. It’s a mindfuck when you see it. But that’s what Mike Kerr does in Royal Blood. Plus, it’s just good old-fashioned hard rock. I like these guys. Quite a bit, actually.

After the show, I asked their sound guy how Mike Kerr did it. “It’s gotta be just a series of effects pedals, right?” I asked. But he basically told me – in that very regal, polite way that only a Brit can – to go fuck myself.

IMG_3049Smashing Pumpkins (Hoyt Sherman Place in Des Moines, June)

I mean, look at these!

I mean, look at these!

The Barry Manilow show gave me the best seats I’ve ever had for any show ever. Until this one. Second row center and seated, with no buffer between Billy and me (the front row in the center was for handicapped seating, but there were no handicapped people at the show, so it was just as good as front row). This show had sold out immediately months earlier, but I just knew the ungodly-priced VIP tickets would end up on the market again. Checked the day before, at just the right time, and bam, got four at a discount.

But no one wanted to go with me. I, of course, asked the MoSS? boys first (we’ll always have the fantasy draft, after all). Too short of notice. Finally, I got some takers in old reliables Kat and Von.

I loved this show. A stripped-down acoustic set. Yes, it was largely devoid of many hits or deep cuts from the 1991-95 era (more on that later), but at the same time, it didn’t feel like a rock concert. Lots of stuff from Adore (which I was cool with – “For Martha” was excellent, and the arrangement on “To Sheila” was KILLER), a couple of new ones, some Zwan stuff, some solo stuff, all meticulously arranged and presented almost like a Broadway show, with a locked-in songbook. I knew what I was getting.

But this was Des Moines. Home of a ton of buttrock FM radio. A lot of the people who bought tickets, guaranteed, probably didn’t read the fine print about what this show was going to be and expected to hear the big, loud anthems. They didn’t get them. I mean, he did play “Tonight Tonight,” “Today,” “Mayonaise” and “1979,” but mostly? Yeah, they didn’t get them.

Needless to say, it got ugly. For the first hour or so of the show, he had the room in the palm of his hand. But when people started realizing that this show must be winding down and they still hadn’t heard “Cherub Rock” and “Bullet with Butterfly Wings,” they started getting antsy. During the end of the show, people started yelling out requests, which Billy actually took in stride, until some jackass yelled, “Play ‘1979’ again!” At that point, the famous Corgan petulance reared its ugly head. All tour long at that point, he had taken some requests for the final encore (including one stop when he played the entire Gish album in less than six minutes). But for us, he came out and played “Spaceboy” and got the fuck outta there.

Look, I’ve been very vocal over the years about how his refusal to play the old stuff is petty (basically, he feels like if he plays the stuff from Gish, Siamese Dream and Mellon Collie, he’s no better than Warrant playing “Cherry Pie” at the state fair. “I’m still making new music, dammit. You should want to hear that,” he thinks). There is a middle ground. People will listen to the new stuff if they know you’re gonna reward the years and years of loyalty with a few of the deep cuts. He needs to realize this.

But on that night, in that room, under those circumstances, I was on his side. We (I mean Iowans in general here) looked like hayseeds and it reinforced my fear that this was one of the reasons that Iowa is just the warm-up show for Chicago or Detroit.

I got into it pretty intensely with Chris about this afterward. A snippet of our correspondence:

“I can’t be on his side if he can’t entice me to attend. He can’t be bothered to include true fan rewards like Crush or Suffer or Obscured or Soma or Hummer. These are not hits. These are legacy-affirming songs but because they were written in the 20th century he won’t play them, even though he’ll play 1979 and Tonight and Today. If he wants an entire room of disciples without having to play the entire Greatest Hits tracklist, he would do this.”

I agreed with every word of this (my response: “I knew this was coming. And I know your stance. In fact, how many times have we had this discussion … and I AGREED with you? Because you know that I do”), but the contents of his acoustic tour were well-documented. It’s just that I bet no one was playing attention.

Well, I bet Todd would’ve loved it … I think.

All your base are belong to Rational Anthem

All your base are belong to Rational Anthem


80-35 Festival (Des Moines, July)

Miss Lewis in rock star pose

Miss Lewis in rock star pose

Jenny Lewis (she of Rilo Kiley, playing with the Watson Twins, and Jenny and Johnny) was awesome. Wilco was as good as they usually always are. Cloud Nothings sound better live than on their record. Run The Jewels were the balls. And Weezer played maybe the quintessential example of a perfect festival gig – every hit, a few deep cuts, a couple new ones, and the huge ones to shut it down.

In addition, on Friday night, I caught the Ataris play at the Gas Lamp … and the show was opened by Rational Anthem, my current favorite Iowa City band. Originally from Florida, they hooked up with fellow Iowa City punks Lipstick Homicide (also awesome) somewhere on the road and relocated to Iowa City when they realized that at any given moment, they were within a four- or five-hour drive of Minneapolis, Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Louis, Kansas City and Omaha. If you like fun pop punk, check them out.

Against Me! (Wooly’s in Des Moines, July)

Tom Gabel was the shit. Best voice in punk rock. That was always the draw with Against Me!. Laura Jane Grace? Now she has the best voice in punk rock. I love this band.

Cheap Trick (RAGBRAI stop at the Coralville Marriott, July)

“Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees I’ve seen live” list as of July 2015: The Rolling Stones, Van Halen, Metallica, Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley, B.B. King, Neil Young, Buddy Guy, the Pretenders, Fleetwood Mac, Lou Reed, Black Sabbath, Alice Cooper, U2, R.E.M., Beastie Boys, Guns N’ Roses, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Public Enemy, Kiss, Nirvana, Green Day, Parliament (well, George Clinton), Run-DMC (kinda) and Patti Smith (kinda).

Now, I can add these guys to the list. Getting inducted this year (as well as Steve Miller, who I saw in 1992 and is also getting inducted this year). So many awesome anthems. And I bought a great t-shirt to boot.

A sidenote: After drinking a few too many beers that night, my buddy and I headed over to the Lumberyard II for a little post-show entertainment. I just want to say this to the strippers of the world: Picking your music? Shouldn’t be that difficult. Hair metal or ’90s R&B. Just keep it simple, ladies. It ain’t hard.

IMG_3372Foo Fighters (Sprint Center in Kansas City, August)

Just one of the shows that you always imagine a rock concert will be like when you’re 12 and haven’t been to a rock concert before.

IMG_3434I have friends who rag and rag about Dave Grohl and his overexposure. It’s tiresome. And it makes my head spin so much that it’s impossible to gather and articulate my thoughts on the matter (check out this piece that Chris wrote almost over four years ago, then check my counterpoint in the comments. And Chris wrote this BEFORE he was just starting to truly usurp Bono’s roll as media-appointed rock ambassador… his roll has only gotten bigger since then).

But anyone who tries to say the Foo Fighters are not one of, if not THE best, arena-rock bands in the world is crazy. This night was a tour de force.

I went to this show with T-Dub and it was a classic T-Dub and Vodka Bob outing. More than a few frosty beverages. Screaming every lyric, including the end bridge of “Monkey
Wrench.” Making friends with total strangers. There was the
IMG_3461purple-t-shirt guy. There was the beautiful girl in the checkered dress. The dudes in the Cinderella t-shirts (by the way, we weren’t ripping on you … we actually do worship at the altar of Tom Keifer, guys!). We invited one woman who was partying hard and her sister from Idaho out for post-gig drinks … unfortunately, I really don’t remember a whole lot about this or anything after (I do remember asking Miss Idaho if she liked shopping malls, because I remembered a line in Adventures in Babysitting when the kids in the movie asked the guy who carjacked the car they were sitting in to please drop them off at the nearest mall and the carjacker said “where do y’all think we are – Boise, Idaho?”). I think I asked for her number and she did give it to me (I’ve never used it), but she didn’t tell me her last name. I think she made the right call.

Anyway, I woke up the next day and start checking the receipts in my pocket. It was all worth it.

X (Wooly’s in Des Moines, August)

IMG_3546One of my favorite movies of all time is The Decline of Western Civilization, Part II: The Metal Years (why Penelope Spheeris has never done a “Where Are They Now” follow-up on the London dudes, the Wet Cherri guy, the guy with the one-side-bleach-blonde/one-side-blue-black hair, and Randy O. from Odin, I’ll never know. I mean, I REALLY want to know, for real).

Anyway, The Metal Years came out when I was 15, and after that, I was obsessed with seeing Part 1. For 25 years, I tried seeing it. I tried renting it everywhere. Never had it. Out of print. I started checking every used video store. No luck. Any time the TV guide said it would be on, I set the timer and it ALWAYS ended up being The Metal Years. No dice.

Finally, this year, the red tape finally got cleared up and the entire Decline of Western Civilization trilogy got released on Blu-ray. Part 1, for the uninitiated, is a deep dive into the L.A. punk scene of the early ’80s – The Germs, Circle Jerks, Fear and Black Flag, most predominantly. But X, with that infusion of rockabilly, stood out to me.

Skeet and I loved it. Doe rocks. Exene Cervenka kinda looks like a crazy Muppet these days, but still had me in the palm of her hand.

Plus, I didn’t want to think of John Doe as just the guy that said, “that guy at the end of the bar is fuckin’ Dalton, man.” Glad I went.

Beach House (The Pageant in St. Louis, September)

IMG_3711Chris already covered the specifics of this show well. I was just disappointed that he left out the late-night driving playlists I utilized to keep myself occupied while he slumbered … an ‘80s New Wave that featured Erasure, Duran Duran, Bananarama, The Dream Academy (twice!), Berlin, Bow Wow Wow, Romeo Void, Kajagoogoo, Simple Minds … I could go on and on, but it wasn’t until “Perfect Way” by Scritti Politti came on that he finally said, “Can we listen to something else, please?”

Then, on the way home, it was Vol. 4 of my essential “Anson Thrash” series, with enough Slayer, Exodus, Testament, Motorhead, Venom, Death Angel, Coroner, Forbidden, Sacred Reich, Overkill and Death to satisfy any knuckle-dragging, wastoid, headbanging degenerate like myself.

He didn’t say it (he was dozing), but I know he was impressed.

Not even gonna attempt a Top 10 for 2015 list …

… but I will say goodbye to a couple of dudes that meant a whole hell of a lot to me.

It was a good year. See you in 2016 … I mean, I hope I don’t fall asleep for another eight months.

The great Smashing Pumpkins fantasy draft: The results

Look, these guys have had almost three years and several essays to talk about the Pumpkins. I went long. Way long. I hope you’ll indulge me a little catch-up. —Sam

As such, he has to go last. —Chris


Deep down, we’re all fantasy nerds of some sort. Some of us play fantasy football. Others are into fantasy baseball.

Smashing Pumpkins, 1993. World domination was right around the corner.

Smashing Pumpkins, 1993. World domination was right around the corner.


The three of us, we’re into the Smashing Pumpkins. So we got together the other night at Buffalo Wild Wings and took turns picking songs for our own personal Smashing Pumpkins playlist. The waitress was quite impressed with our coolness. (Srsly.)

A quick recap of the format:

The playlist would feature 15 songs. Nine of the songs had to fit within the following categories:

  • A “Track 1” song
  • An album-closing song
  • A song lasting at least 8 minutes
  • A cover song
  • A James Iha song
  • A song featuring a girl’s name
  • A song from Pisces Iscariot
  • A song from either Adore or MACHINA
  • A song released after 2000

The other six songs were wild cards–whatever the drafter wanted to round out his playlist.

A game of “Odd or Even” made Chris the odd man out, meaning he would pick third overall (but first in the even rounds). Sam and Todd engaged in one round of “Rock, Paper, Scissors,” which saw Todd’s scissors slice through Sam’s paper, giving him claim to the first overall pick.

The next hour was filled with tense stares, reactionary curses, and the occasional air guitar gesture. At draft’s end, three Pumpkin fans were quite happy with their playlists…


Todd (a.k.a. Team Siamese Dream)

What was my drafting strategy? I played it just like Fast Eddie Felson from the movie The Hustler… Fast and Loose. I did very little in preparation for this draft. OK, I did re-listen to a few B-sides and get reacquainted with some old favorites but I did not walk into the draft room (Buffalo Wild Wings) with binders, notepads, or laptops filled with cheat sheets, lists, and sub-lists. No, I walked in armed with only my iPhone music library and a desire to drink beer and talk about great music. Honestly, I was just hoping that, aside from a few key tracks, the diversity of our musical tastes would allow me to pick at will from my favorite SP songs. I think my “No Strategy” strategy worked out well.

After winning a cutthroat round of “Odd or Even” and an even more brutal game of “Rock, Paper, Scissors,” I won the rights to the 1st pick. This was the outcome I was hoping for. By having to fill mandatory categories I knew certain songs would be highly coveted. With that in mind, I chose “Cherub Rock” as my first pick and used it as my “album opener song.” It is without question the Pumpkins’ greatest opening track and I knew I couldn’t go wrong using it to set up my 15-song playlist.

To further underscore my feeling toward this song, I will lift a passage from a past post of mine naming Smashing Pumpkins, Siamese Dream, my favorite album of all time…

I really don’t have the words to properly describe the awesomeness of this record but I’ll try. The drum roll at the start of the opening track, “Cherub Rock”, gives you the feel of being at some boardwalk sideshow. You half expect a carnival barker to start yelling,

“Step right up folks! Get ready for the greatest thing you have or will ever hear!”

Then there’s the slow build until shit just fucking explodes. The guitars are thunderous and almost force your arms into the air guitar position “You will bow down to the awesome and air guitar or I will destroy you!”

cherubI also would have bet my life that “Cherub Rock” wouldn’t be available had I waited for the snake draft to get back around to me.

Which leads me to the one problem with starting 1st: You have to watch some positively amazing songs get selected while you not-so-patiently wait your turn. Take “Drown,” for instance. It’s the one song I truly wish I would have picked but didn’t get a chance. Sam took it as the second pick. I knew it was going to happen. And if he didn’t take it then, I guarantee Chris would have used pick #3 or #4 to select it. “Drown” is probably my “gun-to-the-head” choice as favorite Pumpkins song. It’s not just my favorite Pumpkins song; I would wager that 90% of us Pumpkins freaks would choose “Drown” as his or her favorite song. It’s the last song on the legendary soundtrack to the movie Singles. To help underscore my thoughts on “Drown” I will lift another passage. This time from Chris’ awesome post about the aforementioned Singles soundtrack…

And this was eight minutes of the Billy Fucking Corgan Experience. A nice groove, laid-back vocals, quiet-loud dynamics, killer drum fills, and then four minutes of feedback bliss, layered many times over.

So why didn’t I pick it when I had the chance? Maybe I’m a fool. I went with my head and chose a killer lead track to setup a killer playlist instead of going with my heart and choosing my sentimental favorite. I’ll stand by my decision. It only stings a little.

Back to the draft… One of the nice things about sitting at the start of a snake draft is that you pick 2 at a time after the 1st round. I used this to my advantage, usually taking a song to fill a mandatory category and then a personal “must-have” song.

My 2nd and 3rd picks, I used to select “Mayonaise,” a standout from Siamese Dream, and “Bury Me,” my favorite song from Gish.

Fourth and fifth, I selected the epic “Porcelina of the Vast Oceans” to fill my “8 minute song” selection and “Rocket” because I fucking love the guitars on it.

For my 6th and 7th picks, I chose Siamese Dream closing track “Luna” and my favorite song from Pisces Iscariot, “Obscured.” I was ecstatic that “Luna” was available. Now I had the opener and closer from my favorite album of all time. Getting “Obscured” was another victory because Sam voiced his disappointment in missing out on that one. It slightly made up for his “Drown” selection.

8th and 9th, I was pleased to select “Siva” and the Fleetwood Mac cover song “Landslide.” I was actually pretty surprised to see “Siva,” one of Gish’s standout tracks, still available. It’s another personal favorite and face-melting guitar rager. On the other hand, I wasn’t surprised to see “Landslide” available but I wanted to fill my cover song category and I do love me some Fleetwood Mac. It just seemed like a natural fit.

Quickly back to “Siva.” This song brings up a minor area of contention for me. Before the draft, we agreed that alternate versions of songs The+Smashing+Pumpkins+Gish+eracould be used as long as they were on a proper release. I didn’t really think it through before I agreed. I probably would have been outvoted anyway but… what a crock of shit! I was lucky enough to score “Siva” mid-round and 4 picks later Chris takes a Peel Sessions version? Sort of takes the thunder out of my pick. Guess next draft I’ll have to use some rarities album with alternate takes of songs I missed out on. “With my 10th pick I’ll take the Jack-off Sessions version of ‘Drown.’ You know, the one where D’Arcy farts the bassline into the microphone.” Again, Crock of Shit!

[ED: This was my suggestion … total strategy. I knew that if Todd or I took “Siva,” from past CD mix experience, Chris would absolutely take the Peel Sessions version. He couldn’t have resisted. I was trying to open up another slot for myself down the road. And I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t considering taking the Earphoria version of “Silverfuck,” solely for the “Jackboot” outro. – Sam]

For picks 10 and 11, I selected “Frail and Bedazzled” from Pisces Iscariot and “Here is No Why” from Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness. Neither of these filled a category but they were too good to pass up.

My last four picks I purposely held onto until the end betting that no one else would have chosen them. To fill the “Adore/MACHINA” category I selected my favorite song from Adore, “Once Upon a Time.”

My last wild card spot went to the oddly titled but totally kick-ass “Set the Ray to Jerry,” one of the more obscure little nuggets from The Aeroplane Flies High.

I selected “The Boy,” also from Aeroplane, for my “James Song.” Not much to say about this one. It’s a James song. It’s nice.

And finally, my post-2000 selection, “Owata,” a jaunty little number from the still in-progress project album Teargarden by Kaleidyscope.

Was it a perfect draft? No. Did I walk away happy? Hells yeah! I was only disappointed in missing out on 2 or 3 songs, and the songs I chose instead will more than suffice. If we had added 3-4 more people drafting, things would certainly have gotten ugly. All in all, the drafting process was not nearly as difficult as I thought it might be. The really grueling experience was creating the proper lineup for my selections. After hours of re-arranging and listening through several variations, I’m pretty happy with the finished product. Give it a spin and hear for yourself.


Chris (a.k.a. Team Pisces Iscariot)

When I was the odd man out in our Odd or Even game, I thought, “Well, there’s only one way I really lose here. And that’s if both ‘Cherub Rock’ and ‘Drown’ go off the board 1-2.”

Well, yeah, that sucked.

But otherwise, like the other two fellas, I’m happy with how things turned out. I’m not surprised. The Pumpkins’ catalog is quite deep and rather varied. The three of us have diverse tastes at a granular level, even though we are in lockstep on a macro scale. This project was tailor-made for us, and looking at the “snubs” playlist we created after the draft, we could have invited a fourth person and it would have been satisfying for the entire quartet.

Songs I really wanted that I got: “Silverfuck” (#2), “Starla” (#3), “Suffer” (#4), “Soma” (#6), “Siva (Peel Sessions) (#9).” I guess I like the letter S.

I do indeed love the Peel Sessions version of “Siva.” More raw. Longer pause after the “I just want to get there faster” line before crashing back in, so more tension. Billy’s scream of “YEEEEA-AAAHHHH!” after they come back is powerful. Love it.

“Soma” is the perfect crescendo song. They opened with it at Lollapalooza 1994 in St. Paul, which seemed like an odd choice but ended up being quite memorable. “Silverfuck” is primal. You should have seen me tear through the mosh pit at the Palmer Auditorium show in 1994 after the whole “Over the Rainbow” interlude played out and the band crashed back to life. Flannel dudes went flying like bowling pins as I flailed through the circle.

i am one back image“Starla” is one of my favorite grooves, and it lasts a satisfying 11 minutes. The guitar work over the second half of the song isn’t quite “Drown” levels of awesome, but close. And “Suffer” has more fans than just Sam. Heck, even Tricky used the song to form the foundation of his song “Pumpkin” on his debut album, Maxinquaye. If I were going to make things personal, I would have grabbed “Jackie Blue” for my cover song.

Songs I got that I like that I figured I’d get without a fight: “Whir” (#11), “Tarantula” (#12), “Hello Kitty Kat” (#14). “Whir” was my favorite song on Pisces Iscariot that hadn’t already appeared as a b-side. And “Tarantula” reminds me of songs like “Siva” and “Quiet,” and I instantly liked it better than anything on Adore or MACHINA. “Hello Kitty Kat” is a solid rocker that I was cool with at #14. It’s not as good as “Frail and Bedazzled,” but it’s as good as/better than “Plume” or “Pissant.”

Songs I picked above my personal valuation: “I Am One” (#1), “Blew Away” (#5), “A Night Like This” (#7). Well, if I can’t have “Cherub Rock,” this has to be my opener. First Pumpkins song I ever heard. Instantly hooked. “Blew Away” is classic James, so why not. And I had to have the Cure song for my cover. I overpaid for all three, but it’s like picking Joe Mauer early in a fantasy baseball draft. The talent pool isn’t deep at some spots.

Song I like better now than I did back then: “Tonight, Tonight” (#10). One of the songs I often skipped past when listening to Mellon Collie, now it’s the only Mellon Collie song on my playlist. Go figure. I do love some Mellon Collie stuff: “Porcelina,” “Zero,” “Thirty-Three,” “Bodies,” “Muzzle,” “1979,” “Galapogos,” “Thru the Eyes of Ruby,” even “We Only Come Out at Night.” But this album didn’t quite go in my wheelhouse like the earlier stuff did. Anyway, I like the grand scale of “Tonight, Tonight” a little more these days than I did when I used to air-guitar more often. (I still air-guitar at 40, but nothing like I did at 21.)

Two great songs without comment: “Daydream” (#8) and “Quiet” (#13).

One song because I had to pick from two albums I don’t really like: “Ava Adore” (#15). Adore isn’t as horrible as it sounded to me 16 years ago. MACHINA still sucks.

So I was able to close my playlist with “Starla,” “Silverfuck,” and “Daydream.” That was priority one. I also got a few b-sides that I love. More than anything, I really enjoyed what this fantasy draft yielded: three dudes who didn’t know each other during the heights of Pumpkindom (but I believe shared the floor at the Palmer Auditorium show in 1994?) reminiscing about when they first heard the Billy Corgan Experience and why certain songs spoke to them. I’m not sure there are many gangs of three in my social circle that could speak confidently and passionately about many other bands than the Pumpkins. I do wonder how this would have played out had our Iowa City friend Travis rounded out the draft…


Sam (a.k.a. Team Gish)

I retired from fantasy football in 2004, mainly because I had the annoying knack of ruining guys’ careers if I picked them. In 2002, I took Kurt Warner with the first overall pick, but apparently his deal with the devil ran out after emerging from relative obscurity for three consecutive league-wrecking seasons; he got his eggs scrambled and broke his thumb in Week 1. In 2003, for reasons I still cannot explain (I’m saying I had a temporary stroke; that’s my story and I’m sticking to it), instead of saying Peyton Manning, which my brain was thinking, I said Donovan McNabb, who was still an elite quarterback at that point in time. He had the worst year of his career. Manning? He threw 49 touchdowns. In 2004, I had Ahman Green, who got injured in the last preseason game. Fuck this shit.

But I know the Pumpkins. I could do this. No problem.

Yes, I put together a cheat sheet. It took all of about seven minutes. Three or four tunes in each category and all the album tracks that popped in my head. I know the catalog that well. There was no need for me to Mel Kiper the hell out this draft board.

But after arriving at the war room (in this case, Buffalo Wild Wings), as I got out of the car, I remember thinking, “I have to get ‘Drown.’ And ‘Hummer.’ And ‘Rhinoceros.’ And ‘Suffer.’ If I don’t get them, I’m gonna be fucking pissed.”

Ummm, I may have taken this waaaaayyyyyy more seriously than I care to admit.

I would be picking second, which I was secretly happy about (but only if I got my first choice). I’d rather take one song and sit out two picks, than get two picks and have to sit through four.

When it was all said and done, I thankfully got my first overall choice. I also got my first choice in seven of the nine specialty categories.

Pick 1: “Drown”

My whole draft hinged on this. With Track 1s at a premium (only two absolute slam dunks), I was banking on Todd taking one of them with the No. 1 pick. He didn’t disappoint, snapping up “Cherub Rock” before I could even think “I hope he takes ‘Cherub Rock’ and not ‘Drown.’”


I didn’t hesitate. I took “Drown” without allowing anyone else to blink (and filled my “8-plus minutes” slot at the same time).

Chris groaned loudly … those were his top two picks and they were gone. I personally think he took it out on me the rest of the night.

Look, I get why Todd did what he did – taking “Cherub Rock” was like taking Hakeem Olajuwon in the ’84 draft. Hard to pass that up, with athletic 7-footers (and dominating Track 1s) that can win you a couple of titles coming at a premium. But as far as I was concerned, he could have Hakeem – I wanted Michael Jordan.

Singles soundtrack cover imageOne of the defining songs of my youth. When it came out, I swear to God I listened to it at least once a day for six straight months. The soundtrack to some very memorable moments in my life. It made a time that I almost hooked up with a girl I had fantasized about (but ultimately didn’t) a memory that’s lasted since my sophomore year of college. If “Drown” wasn’t the song playing in the background, I’d have forgotten about it years ago, but because it was the angsty ’90s and you tended to romanticize even the painful missed opportunities … hey, it’s all good.

Happy to have you on my team, “Drown.”


With my next five picks, I alternated a couple wild-cards – I quickly grabbed “Rhinoceros” second and “Hummer” fourth (I got a thing for the quiet/LOUD builder-uppers) – while filling in some of mandatory slots (all first choices) with “Glynis” (girls’ name), “La Dolly Vita” (Pisces), and “Jackie Blue” (cover tune). I remember feeling lucky that “Glynis” was still there (that and “Drown” headline the two defining alt-rock compilation records of the ‘90s in No Alternative and Singles, respectively), but since I would have bet my life that Chris was gonna pick The Cure’s “A Night Like This” as his cover tune (which he did), I didn’t sweat that the Ozark Mountain Daredevils would still be there for me (I had Blondie’s “Dreaming” waiting in the wings, just in case). But with Todd lurking, I just wanted to be sure.

Pick 7: “Stand Inside Your Love”

I was stunned when I realized I didn’t take one single Adore song in the draft. I’ve always believed that while that album didn’t have the depth that the original trio of albums had, the four or five songs that I really liked on it, I actually loved. A lot. I would’ve loved to have found a spot for “For Martha,” “To Sheila,” and “Shame.”

On the flip side, I could never get into MACHINA. Maybe it was because of things I didn’t know at the time (such as the fact that it was supposed to be part of a double concept album that the label nixed), but the whole thing felt fragmented at the time (and now I know why). But “Stand Inside Your Love”? That song is the fuckin’ truth. It’s the last truly essential song by the original lineup, and I hold it in the same regard that I hold Gish and Siamese Dream. Easily topped my list in the “Adore or MACHINA” category.

Pick 9: “Thru the Eyes of Ruby”

I saw Jane’s Addiction during their original reunion tour on November 3, 1997, at the Aragon Ballroom in Chicago. The surprise unannounced opening act that night? The Pumpkins. I have three favorite songs on Mellon Collie (“Muzzle,” “Porcelina,” and “Ruby”). In a brief five-song set that night, they played all three of them. They opened with “Ruby.” That concert was one of the first “yes, I was there” bragging moments of my life up to that point.

Pick 10: “Panopticon”

The Smashing Pumpkins in 2012: Nicole Fiorentino, Billy Corgan, Mike Byrne, and Jeff Schroeder

The Smashing Pumpkins in 2012: Nicole Fiorentino, Billy Corgan, Mike Byrne, and Jeff Schroeder

Not only was this the song at the top of my board for the “Post-2000” slot, it’s the song that has me the most excited about the future of the band. Nicole Fiorentino creates the foundation, with a bassline that elegantly yet confidently cuts through the galloping, stuttering guitar riffs laid down by Corgan and Jeff Schroeder. But the true revelation here is young Mike Byrne, whose relentless pummeling of the drums makes it clear to any worry warts out there that there is indeed life in Pumpkinland after Jimmy Chamberlin. Once Tommy Lee is finished laying down the beats for the new album, I look forward to the opportunity to see Byrne anchoring the Pumpkins on tour somewhere down the line.


Things were humming at this point. I had snagged one of my favorite Gish album tracks (“Snail”) at 8, and it actually got to a point where it kinda felt like Todd and I were working in unison (we weren’t).

But that’s when Chris started working at Al Davis/Jerry Jones levels of terrorism in the war room.

With only two absolute slam dunks in the “Track 1” category (“Cherub Rock” and “I Am One”), before we started, I had lobbied that the opening piano-only title track on Mellon Collie could be combined with “Tonight, Tonight” (which is actually Track 2) as an album opener. I seem to remember Todd agreeing quickly and Chris fighting it. But he was outvoted. All three guys now could take a beloved epic opener. Everyone would be happy.

That is, until Chris, that dirty sonofabitch – already the owner of “I Am One” – took “Tonight, Tonight” as one of his wild cards.

As I dreamt of smacking Chris with a leather glove and demanding satisfaction, I moved on momentarily by filling my “James Iha” slot with Mellon Collie closer “Farewell and Goodnight” (my first choice). But that’s when I realized the other two slam dunks in the “album closer” category – “Daydream/I’m Going Crazy” and “Luna” – had both already been scooped up.

Was I really going to have to move “Farewell and Goodnight” to the “closer” slot and pick another James song? That would be like picking two kickers in lieu of two running backs. And besides the one I already had, there was only one other acceptable “James” choice in my book – “Blew Away” (that guitar solo … swoon).

But it was already off the board. Owned by who? The terrorist Chris, of course.

Thankfully, I found a loophole …

Pick 12: “Smiley”

One of my favorite b-sides. It’s the last song on the great Peel Sessions EP. Score.

Pick 14: “Doomsday Clock”

After snagging another wild card with “Window Paine” off Gish (so glad it was still there), it was time for my Track 1. It was gonna be “To Sheila” or this. It was at this moment that I almost gleefully remembered, “You know something? I never really liked ‘Tonight, Tonight’ all that much anyway.” And then I remembered that of all the songs on the uneven 2007 comeback album Zeitgeist, “Doomsday Clock” was my favorite. By far. And it Absolutely. Fucking. Shreds. Do I like “To Sheila” better as a song overall? Maybe. But I wanted to kick off my playlist with a nut crusher. Check. Mate.

Pick 15: “Crush”

For my final pick of the draft, there were still four songs on the board I really wanted. “Slunk” was there. “For Martha” was there. “Blue” was there. “Muzzle” was there. But I went with “Crush,” the ballad of Gish. Here’s why …

When I was in high school, my pack of girl friends, for some reason, called themselves the Galloping Weasles. I still have no idea why. I also have no idea why they spelled Weasels “Weasles.” Measles, maybe? They all had a pair of blue mesh shorts with “WEASLES” scrawled across their asses. Some of us guys took great pride in calling them the phonetically correct Weez-Less. It was a never-ending source of cheap laughs.

But the ladies debuted these shorts on the night that my pal Aaron Eads and I DJ’ed an after-game dance in the cafeteria our senior year. It was the annual National Honor Society dance and our sponsor – the assistant principal, Mr. Bell – tasked a couple of us with finding a DJ with reasonable rates. Eads and I, without putting too much thought into it, kind of impulsively said, “We’ll do it ourselves, and you don’t have to pay us.” He gave us a skeptical look but then foolishly agreed to let us take a shot.

One slight problem – we had no DJ equipment. Nothing. Just boatload of CDs. But we started a guerilla-style round of advertising, christening our big debut as “the alternative option to the regular school dance,” which had over the course of the previous couple years become more and more sparsely attended (I remember Eads, who went through a phase where he really thought he was Jim Morrison, scribbling on one of our ghetto ad posters, “Doors ’til You Drop!”). Basically, we had absolutely NO intention of playing anything resembling dance club music.

One night, Eads basically plugged his piece-of-shit Walmart stereo that he got in eighth grade into his guitar amp … and it worked. We put my CD player in one output and his into the other and practiced our cross-fading skills. We fancied ourselves Skrillex and Deadmau5 20 years ahead of the curve.

As we set up in the cavernous cafeteria, we were afraid it wasn’t gonna be loud enough. So we gave it a trial run when the room was still empty and it was just the two of us. Yep, seemed pretty loud.

An hour later, everyone started showing up, and whether it was because people wanted to actually hear our kind of music (doubtful), they were just bored on a Friday night (maybe), or (most likely) they wanted to see us fail spectacularly, we packed the house like we were Daft Punk at Perry’s.

Oh yeah … with a few hundred kids in the room? It wasn’t even close to be being loud enough.

I remember we played “No Sleep ‘Til Brooklyn.” We played “Can’t Truss It.” We played the Violent Femmes’ “Add It Up” (the bright side of having no volume? No teacher was going to be able to actually hear the words “Why can’t I get just one fuck?”). Achtung Baby had just come out, so we played “Mysterious Ways.” We even played “Raining Blood.” I remember our friend Rav, who was a Sikh, taking his turban off and headbanging with his magnificent mane of never-ever-been-cut hair. He looked like Cliff Burton. It was glorious.

At one point, a couple of freshman chicks came up to our table. “Are you guys going play ANY dance music?”

“No. Get the fuck outta here.”

Near the end of the night, our buddy Scott Macke (the other guy in charge of planning the dance with us) walked up to Mr. Bell, who was working the door.

“So how did we do tonight?”

Legend has it Mr. Bell just looked at Scotty with a sly shit-eating grin and basically flashed him the Johnny Manziel “time ta gets paid” hand gesture.

Mr. Bell in the form of Johnny Football

Mr. Football channeling Mr. Bell


Except it wasn’t “time ta gets paid.” Oh no. No matter how sucky our sound system was, there would be no refunds. Mr. Bell and the NHS had gotten paid more in full than Eric B. and Rakim. And with no overhead to cover on the backside, it was all profit.

At the end of the night, what was the DJs’ bounty? Mr. Bell gave us each five bucks to go to Taco John’s and an impressed “good job, men.” Our little endeavor had paid off for the school better than that time Newman and Kramer got the free postal truck to haul empty cans and bottles to Michigan.

Um, where was I?

Oh yeah … “Crush.” We totally played “Crush” that night. I remember that song used to make a couple of the Galloping Weez-Less a little weak in the knees. So, to the Weasles – Erin, Kara, Devon, Buda, Tomhave, JT, Liz, Kim, Kath, Stace, Mindy, J-Hud, Nikki, and Graw, this is for you. Love comes in colours I can’t deny, bitches.


In the end, Todd got a few songs I coveted – “Obscured.” “Mayonaise.” “Porcelina of the Vast Oceans.” Same with Chris – “Starla.” “Soma.” Oh yeah, and “Suffer.” Sweet fucking “Suffer.” He knew it was my favorite since I had once chosen it to be used on a CD mix he compiled where mutual friends and co-workers each picked a single song to fill out the mix. It’s the one big one I feel I missed out on.

Dude, I never kicked your dog or puked in your car. There’s no need to get personal!

In all seriousness, the best part of this night was how, after it was all done and we were sipping on beers, we ended up sharing our “where were you were Kennedy was shot”-style stories with each other, except it was about a band. That entered our lives at the right time. That we all loved. Good stuff.

On my own personal long-running series of CD mixes (lovingly titled “Roof Music” after my college years of sitting on my friend Erin’s roof with a 12-pack, some smokes, and speakers hanging out the window), I’ve used something like 16 Pumpkins songs (I honestly can’t believe the total is that low). By my count, I got nine of them in this draft.

So yeah, I pretty much love this playlist. You will, too.


What song would you have taken #1? What song(s) should have made our lists? And is there a clear winner among the three playlists? Sound off in the comments, or have your say on our Facebook page. Or yell at us on Twitter.

The great Smashing Pumpkins fantasy draft: An introduction


Look who’s back in the news! All over it, in fact.

billy corgan holding cats

In the last couple of weeks, Smashing Pumpkins frontman Billy Corgan has announced that he’s working on not one but two albums of new material, including one with Motley Crue’s Tommy Lee laying down the drum tracks.

He’s supervising the remastering and re-releases of deluxe versions of the Pumpkins’ Adore and MACHINA/The Machines of God, the latter in its original intended form – remixed and resequenced along with the internet-only release MACHINA II/The Friends and Enemies of Modern Music to finally realize its destiny as a conceptual double album.

He’s had his AMC reality show about professional wrestling greenlit. Hopefully it will be as entertaining as his wrestling-themed furniture store commercial:

And then, in case you’ve already forgotten, there was this:

billy corgan holding cats

Any self-respecting MoSS? reader knows that the Smashing Pumpkins breathe rarified air around these parts. In their respective lists of the undisputed greatest albums of all time, the Pumpkins were everywhere, so there’s no reason for Todd or Chris to explain that again when they already did it here. And here and here. And here. Oh yeah, and here.

For the record, since my only role back then was as a loyal reader, my top 5 undisputed albums of all time include the Beastie Boys’ Paul’s Boutique, My Bloody Valentine’s Loveless, Slayer’s Reign in Blood and I’d probably round out the top 5 with Led Zeppelin’s Houses of the Holy. OK, that’s four.

See, I can do that because my No. 1 album of all time is Gish AND Siamese Dream. I can’t separate them. One day it’s Gish, the next day it’s Dream. But they are interchangeable to the point I stopped interchanging them years ago and count them as a single entity. But if Chris and Todd would have forced me to choose at gunpoint, I would have put them at 1 and 2 and bumped Zeppelin. That’s right … I’d bump Zeppelin. That’s how much I love those Pumpkins records.

Now, in all honesty, all three of us, at one point or another, have fallen in and out of love with this band. I remember the day I bought Adore and loaned it to Chris before I even had a chance to hear it myself. An hour later, I asked him what he thought and he looked at me like I’d just cupped a fart in my hand and stuck it in his face. And I’m sure I probably made that face myself after I first heard MACHINA.

Years later, the strength of the post-breakup lineup (and their fine 2012 album Oceania) has me excited for what’s on the horizon. But no matter what the future brings us, the strength of the Smashing Pumpkins’ early catalog – starting with 1991’s Gish through their 1995 magnum-opus double album Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness – can always suck us back in.

Look at the finite catalog of, say, Zeppelin. Those first five records – I, II, III, IV and Houses of the Holy – are followed by a double album, Physical Graffiti. After Graffiti, the remaining catalog is really hit or miss. Some great tracks sprinkled around but the complete albums were not as strong. But those first albums and the double album? Near perfection (even with the liberal “borrowing” from the blues legends of the past).

Now … take Gish and Siamese Dream, the excellent rarities compilation Pisces Iscariot, the myriad remaining non-album tracks and B-sides from that era, and follow it with Mellon Collie … in the humble opinion of this Gen-X writer, you have a fair comparison. The later records have some excellent songs, for sure, but the complete albums don’t hold up like the first ones do.

Pumpkins 1993Let’s pretend the Pumpkins had died in a plane crash in mid-1995 (with Mellon Collie in the can but before it was released … hopefully, they’d have an Eddie Kramer-style overseer saying, “Hey, you know what? Let’s just release this as a kickass single disc instead,” which would have meant a second disc of material was still out there along with what would later become The Aeroplane Flies High box set of outtakes, ensuring years of Hendrix/Tupac-type posthumous releases). Leaving behind that above-mentioned songbook and recordings as their legacy, they might have been the greatest band of all time. At least in my book.


So, with the Pumpkins on the brain, the three of us decided to have a little fantasy draft, with each guy trying to compile the ultimate playlist.

Fifteen songs each. But certain criteria had to be met. Each guy had to pick nine songs fulfilling these requirements:

  • A “Track 1” song
  • An album-closing song
  • A song that is at least 8 minutes long
  • A cover song
  • A James Iha song
  • A song featuring a girls’ name in the title
  • A Pisces Iscariot song
  • At least one Adore or MACHINA song
  • At least one song released after the original lineup’s breakup in 2000

Then, after those requirements were met, there were six wild-card slots. Fill them however you like.

We all missed out on songs we coveted. Then again, there were a few songs that weren’t even on the other guys’ radars when they were picked. But even so, if I had gotten the five or so songs I missed out on, I don’t know what I would have bumped to fit them in.

In the end, it was astonishing that all three of us walked away thinking we’d won the draft. And when we looked at what was left on the board, we agreed that had there been a fourth person, it would have gotten a little dicier since, guaranteed, there was no way we would’ve have ended up with the picks that we did.

So once we were done, we did an impromptu pick’em with the remaining songs for a hypothetical fourth man at the table. Here’s how that ended up:

  1. “1979”
  2. “Today”
  3. “Slunk”
  4. “Disarm”
  5. “Galapagos”
  6. “Blue”
  7. “Muzzle”
  8. “Geek U.S.A.”
  9. “Zero”
  10. “Thirty-Three”
  11. “Bodies”
  12. “For Martha”
  13. “Plume”
  14. “Tristessa”
  15. “By Starlight”

Notice something? Almost every single big radio and MTV staple the band put out was NOT chosen in the draft. And a few – such as “Bullet with Butterfly Wings” and “Perfect” – didn’t even make this “best of the rest” top 15 list. A stronger, deeper catalog than one might remember, eh?

All three of our drafts are tip-top. You can’t lose.

But still, I don’t think there’s any question that when you get a chance to analyze the results, you’ll agree that I won. Handily. And I’ll take the fuckin’ Pepsi Challenge with either of these clowns to prove it. Bring it on.

Come back to Music or Space Shuttle? on Monday, June 2, for the playlists and self-analysis of the draft. What song would you have taken #1? What song(s) in the “best of the rest” list above should have made one of our playlists? Sound off in the comments, or have your say on our Facebook page. Or yell at us on Twitter.

Desert Island Music Poll: New Soundgarden Vs. New Smashing Pumpkins

Here at Music or Space Shuttle? we feel like we should be asking the tough, hard-hitting questions. This week we continue our series of polls where we force you, the thoughtful reader, to choose between two random artists. You may not always like either selection but you have to pick one.

It’s been getting pretty nostalgic around The MoSS? HQ lately. So with the reuniting of ’90s grunge band Soundgarden and yet another reformation of Billy Corgan’s Smashing Pumpkins, I thought this would be the perfect time for a poll. Which new version of an old band would people choose if forced to do so?

So why come back at all you ask? Both bands front men have recently come out with pretty strong ideas about the state of rock and music in general. To tell you the truth they both make a lot of sense. Unfortunately, they also come across as a bit full of themselves.  Billy Corgan has always liked the sound of his own voice but I was a surprised to see similar comments by Soundgardens’ Chris Cornell.

Just a few of Chris’ comments:

“The worst rock is made when everybody loves rock, like in the late Eighties. That’s the only time hard rock has been the biggest-selling genre of music — and it was mostly crap.”

“Contemporary pop music couldn’t be any worse than it is now. The one bright spot was Adele having the biggest-selling record of last year. They’re actually songs and she can really sing.”

“It’s the same thing now. You have a better chance of a very healthy and vital rock scene coming out today because there’s something to react against.”

“In terms of an overwhelming commercial acceptance, that hurts you. But in terms of longevity and having a lasting impact that’s legitimately culturally important, it helps you.”

Check out the new Soundgarden tune “Live to Rise” below.

Now a few of Billy’s’ comments:

“My point of having a problem with nostalgia acts for the artists that are from the Grunge generation is it basically subverts the original meaning of the Grunge generation’s music, which is rebellion. So basically, everybody in their 40′s are now all phoning in, let’s call it for what it is. And yeah maybe we’ll put out one new song on the greatest hits album but it’s not really getting back on the horse. We need those artists to step up and take on the social issues particularly that are going on right now. ”

“Rock and roll should be at the center of this culture and it’s not, it’s been marginalized because everyone’s afraid. Artists drive the narrative, they always have, that’s why governments are afraid of artists. Only rock and roll bands and radical artists, filmmakers/poets can change shit up from the outside in, because that’s the power of the word that’s the power of the song. ”

Check out “Inkless” from the new Smashing Pumpkins LP Oceania below.

Which new/old band will you choose? Will you live the rest of your life listening to Soundgarden’s new attempt at grunge glory?  Or would you choose The Smashing Pumpkins’ oddly similar yet totally different new line-up? At some point Billy’s going to run out of girl bassists right? Feel free to justify your choice in the comments section below. Also, feel free to check out this post from MoSS? scribe Chris about a simpler time when both of these bands were more relevant.