Friday, July 31, 2009

Album of the Week: The Low Anthem "Oh My God, Charlie Darwin"

One of the benefits of crafting these weekly album reviews is that I have become much more conscious of the waxing and waning of my musical tastes. When the year began, I was deeply into pop, the more confection, the better. I still am, and this year's Camera Obscura album, the Suckers EP, and the Afternoon Naps Sunbeamed disc are among the handful of CDs that have stayed in my vehicle for months, as other personal fads come and go. As the winter thawed, I found myself getting more into challenging stuff, particularly work by Sholi, Yeasayer, Menomena, Akron/Family, and Abe Vigoda. Eventually, I went through a lo-fi period, listening almost daily to bands like Crocodiles and Wavves, though by the time I finally snagged a copy of the Japandroids album, I could tell that phase was over.

Lately, though, all I've wanted is subtle beauty, with maybe some interesting new sounds or particularly bright lyrics. I've loved albums by The Horse's Ha and Cheval Sombre, and have been salivating over advance copies of forthcoming releases by Ramona Falls, Mount Eerie, and Jessie Torrisi. Each and every one of these last few is wonderful and I'll definitely post reviews of each of them within the next several weeks. (You can already read my review of The Horse's Ha album here.) Currently, however, atop this heap of lovely has been The Low Anthem's Oh My God, Charlie Darwin release.

A relatively young band, The Low Anthem formed in Providence, Rhode Island, in 2006 through Brown University college radio. The Ivy League influence is present in their sound, if only through the earnestness and lyrical heft that characterizes the band's output. The band currently works as a trio, with all three members sharing instrumental duties on just about every instrument you can imagine being involved in a serious indie folk outfit.

The tracks on the album - or rather, some of the tracks on the album and the general sequencing of the whole thing - however, are not what you'd imagine. Indeed, the album begins with its most widely circulated track, "Charlie Darwin," which while beautiful and harrowing and fragile is also a very poor introduction to the rest of the record. Not because it is a poor song - absolutely not, it is tremendous - but because it is so different than the bulk of what will follow.

"Charlie Darwin" caught fire after being plugged earlier in the spring by NPR's Bob Boilen. In fact, that's how I first heard it, listening to his All Songs Considered podcast from my iphone as I drift off to sleep. Every so often (or, actually, just about every week), Boilen comes up with a track that stops my fade into slumber in its tracks and forces me to backtrack to see what precocious artist created this new thing of joy. "Charlie Darwin" was just such a track and it immediately went in my mental reservoir. I wasn't sure I would like an entire album of the song's approach, however, with its falsetto vocals and sad seriousness, and didn't pursue investigation into the rest of The Low Anthem's catalog any further.

Let me tell you - that was a mistake. It was only when I saw the band was coming through town (August 5 at the Grog Shop) that I decided to give the LP an entire listen. Immediately following album-opener "Charlie Darwin" the band goes straight to more traditional folk territory in "To Ohio," but keeps with it the loveliness imbued in the opener. (For the record, the loveliness is there all the while.)

"To Ohio" is followed by one of my two favorite tracks on the album, "Ticket Taker," which strikes me as what one would get if you mixed Sunken Treasures era Jeff Tweedy with Tom Waits. The song carries what is to me a relentlessly pragmatic romantic pitch ("Mary Anne, I know I'm a long shot/But Mary Anne, what else have you got?/I am a ticket taker, many tickets have I torn/And I will be your arc, we will float above the storm"). The simplicity of the song combined with the self-assured economics of love crooned by the narrator just slays me.

By the next track, "The Horizon is a Beltway," the Tweedy influence has been dropped and the listener finds himself confronted with a straight-up Tom Waits hoe-down sing along with some deeper Nick Cave narrative visuals (i.e., jawbones, fires, abandoned homes, etc.) and energizing choral belts ("The skyline is on fire, the skyline is on fire/The horizon is a beltway and the skyline is on fire"). Anyone who would be tempted with considering The Low Anthem simply fine masters of copying another artist's (namely Waits) style is immediately stymied, as the group don't hesitate to salute directly their inspiration. In fact, the very next track is a cover of Waits's "Home I'll Never Be," with the ageless bar jam (originally penned by New Yorker cum Californian Jack Kerouac) played with a mid-south stomp, stolen by the ever-present harmonica.

Just as the grit has you almost forgetting about the restrained falsetto prelude that greeted you at the outset, the upper register returns in "Cage the Songbird," along with some musical refrains reminiscent of "Charlie Darwin." (Really, there are parts in just about every song where you hear feints and cues resembling the initial track.) The song is followed by my personal favorite selection on the album, "(Don't Tremble)." An old-fashioned song of love and reassurance, this song makes me well up. If I were the type of guy that, upon the altar of marriage, were to craft his own vows, I'd be tempted to steal the lyrics of this song and hope against hope I never burned this album as a gift to my betrothed whilst we were a-courting.

The next tune is an extended melodic interlude, which gives you time to catch your breath, and about the time you realize that the track is titled "Music Box" because much of the melody on it comes from an actual music box, you are greeted by the growling guitar licks that begin "Champion Angel." This song might be the one tune that feels to me like it just doesn't fit on this album. It is all indie rock take on Springsteen, a far cry from the alternating between plaintive and Waits that you are, by this point, accustomed to on Oh My God, Charlie Darwin.

The ill fit disappears as soon as the song ends, replaced by a much more consistent "To The Ghosts Who Write History Books." This song features some of the more noteworthy lyrics of the album ("To them ghosts in the train yard/All them ghosts in my drink/Your money's no good here/Just write one about me"). Nothing here is too precious or smart, but just clear and concise - the best way to evoke the spirit The Low Anthem seems intent on achieving. Just as the harmonica stole the track on the Waits cover earlier, the organ on this tune makes the song, and possibly the album.

Not content to leave things on a melancholy note, the band brings us "omgcd" (hint: it is an acronym), a sing along complete with handclaps and banjo (or is it ukulele?). Close your eyes as you listen and you might think you are at the final evening campfire of some twenty and thirty-somethings indie rock summer camp, watching the embers twist as you reflect on the week of conversations about Neutral Milk Hotel and 19th Century evolutionary theory and hold hands with the damaged girl with colorful sleeve tattoos. Despite the nomenclatural similarities, "omgcd" is entirely distinct in sound and spirit from "Charlie Darwin," just as the album's closing track, a reprise of "To Ohio," is distinct from the initial version of that song. The closing track possesses a chuggier, less ethereal reality to it, a sense of accomplishment perhaps, and just as that idea begins to make sense to you, the song, and with it the album, fades nicely and quickly out.

As I stated at the outset, this album is beautiful. That's an overused word in our culture, almost to the point of meaningless, but when you think about what the word means and then you listen to this album, you'll see why there isn't one better. There aren't many bands that can pull together so comfortably Waits and grace (or, for that matter, make me say pleasant things about Jeff Tweedy), but The Low Anthem does it, and for that I am, as a music fan, grateful. Check out the album, but more importantly, check out the band as they make an appearance on Wednesday, August 5th, at the Grog Shop. Also on the bill are April Smith & the Great Picture Show AND Chicagoan Joe Pug, who my pal Roger tells me was pretty awesome last time he came through town. Sounds like a great night out all the way around!

CB Q/A #9: The Horse's Ha

This weekend is another wonderful storm of live music, with some really interesting just-breaking indie acts gracing the Beachland stage. On Saturday night, after soaking up rays all day at Compound Fest, check out Zee Avi and definitely make plans to wind down your weekend on Sunday evening with the soothing strains of The Horse's Ha. The Horse's Ha's debut album, Of the Cathmawr Yards, is among the most beautiful releases I've had the pleasure of listening to this year (check out my review here) and I can't wait to see duo James Elkington and Janet Bean performing songs for the record up close and personal.

Recently, Elkington took time out to answer my questions about the band, the new album, and other aspects of his career as a musician. As always, the answers are pretty interesting, especially the last one about his most memorable Cleveland experience. I think we'll all be able to empathize and share a sorrowful smile at that one.

1) What are your influences on "Of the Cathmawr Yards"? In particular, I'm interested in sources of inspiration other than other bands/musicians? I mean, is there a certain type of art or artist, idea, spirit, etc.

I think that the band really started with Janet and I finding out what interests we had in common and how that could be reflected in what we were doing. I think that both of us share a love of spiky, descriptive language and almost theatrical darkness in music and art, and that seems to come out in the music. It feels like the lyrics are informed by that and the sort of earthy quality of being in an all acoustic band. Janet and I are also interested in sitting around doing nothing, which is why it took us so long to get this band off the ground.

2) Indie rock bands don't often rise out of urban jazz scenes, but when they do, they seem to be far more inventive and difficult to classify. In what ways do you think the interaction between the experimental jazz and rock scenes has influenced your work as a group?

I agree - I do think that when conventional songwriters chose to work with jazz musicians, they're inviting random elements into the proceedings that push the music to unusual places. When we started out, we made a point of playing with people that we knew would bring they're own personalities to it because we like a lot of music that was made that way. Janet is a huge fan of Astral Weeks by Van Morrison and I think that's a great example. What I love about jazz is that the person who's writing the music is only half responsible for how it comes out - its the choices you make in performers and what they themselves decide to do with it in the moment that makes it what it is, and that 's why Nick Macri, Fred Lonberg-Holm and Charles Rumback are such an important part of it.

3) If you were asked by a younger musician about to embark on his/her first tour, what advice would you give him/her?

Get a good sleeping bag and make an effort to commune with the people who are coming out to see you (if anyone does come out to see you). Unfortunately, most touring consists of sleeping and driving, with a 90 minute window for playing every night, so if you're not going to be seeing much of the places you're going to, at least try and make some friends when you're there.

4) Any pre- or post-show rituals you have found yourselves following over the years?

My vocal exercises consist of my walking round the block singing the highest notes I can to stretch in my voice. I sound like Minnie Ripperton when I'm doing this and have to avoid loitering gangs of youths, but it works OK. Everyone else in the band seems to be fine without having to do anything.

5) Your band got its start by playing other people's music before branching out to your own originals. Any favorite artists/songs out there you'd still love to cover, but just haven't done it yet?

I had a plan to do 'Here He Comes' by Brian Eno but there are a lot of words to learn and that's my Achilles heel when it comes to covers. I can remember the words to my songs becasue I wrote them, but I'm borderline useless with other poeple's. We have a new song of Janet's that has about 12 verses and observant members of the audience at the show will notice that I still have the words taped to the side of my guitar even though we've been playing the song for six months.

6) Regarding your album name - what brought you to the short story that was the inspiration for it (and the band name, for that matter)? Was it the Dylan Thomas factor or just the zombies? Either answer is cool.

I'm a big Dylan Thomas fan and have been since I read Under Milk Wood at school, but it was only about 10 years ago that I started to read some of his less well known short stories and The Horse's Ha was just about the weirdest of the lot. Time will tell as to whether its really a good name for a band because poeple rarely have a clue what the hell you're trying to say when you tell them you're in a band called The Horse's Ha. I like zombies too but I'm more of Frankenstein kind of guy, truth be told.

7) Last but not least, any memorable Cleveland experiences?

Last time I was there it was so goddamn cold that I was forced to by a strange green hat from the local Walgreens that I still have. My wife is not into it.

Be sure to check out The Horse's Ha at the Beachland Tavern this Sunday (8/2) night. Doors open at 8 and the show starts around 8:30, with opening duties going to a pair of local alt-folk acts, Golden Ox (check out their tune "Legend of Jesse James") and Lowly, the Tree Ghost.

Tonight in Cleveland - July 31st edition

August Live Music Radness

Here we are, at the ass end of the middle month of summer. It is all downhill from here, and before you know it blizzards will keep us from hot dates and seasonal colds will knock us out for weeks at a time.

Until then, however, we rock. And the schedule for next month allows us to do so in style (as does an early look at the fall months). Here are the CB endorsed shows, in all their glory. And if you aren't good with clues, the bolded ones are the shows I am really looking forward to.


1 - Compound Fest (25 bands!) @ E 63 & St Clair.
1 - Zee Avi @ Beachland OR Compound Fest
2 - The Horse's Ha @ Beachland

5 - Chairlift/JJ Magazine @ Rock Hall (FREE) OR The Low Anthem @ Grog Shop
6 - Los Campesinos! @ Grog Shop
7 - Silversun Pickups @ Lakewood Civic Center OR Portugal. The Man @ Grog Shop
8 - Unsparing Sea/Joshua Jesty @ the Winchester
11 - Trouble Books @ Beachland
13 - The Lawton Brothers at Blue Arrow Records (FREE) OR This Moment in Black History @ Beachland
14 - Blue Oyster Cult @ House of Blues
16 - The Beach Boys (?!?) at Cain Park
19 - These United States @ Beachland
20 - Two Cow Garage @ Beachland
21 - Gin Blossoms/Tonic @ Cain Park OR Drug Rug/Afternoon Naps @ Beachland
23 - Cale Parks @ B-side
24 - Gringo Star/The Modern Electric @ Beachland
25 - de la soul @ House of Blues
26 - The Rural Alberta Advantage @ Beachland
28 - Cracker @ Beachland


6 - Dead Meadow @ Beachland OR Tony Furtado @ Waterloo Cafe
12 - Ramona Falls (Brent Knopf from Menomena) @ Beachland
13 - Ra Ra Riot/Maps & Atlases @ Grog Shop
17 - Autolux @ Beachland
14 - A Hawk & A Hacksaw @ Beachland
16 - Alice in Chains @ House of Blues
18 - Sondre Lerche @ Beachland
22- The Dynamites feat. Charles Walker @ Beachland
27 - Death @ Beachland
29 - Chain & the Gang @ Now That's Class
30 - Amazing Baby @ Beachland (Tavern side) OR Os Mutantes @ the Beachland (Ballroom side)


2 - Woven Hand @ Akron Musica
4 - Built to Spill @ Grog Shop
5 - Yo La Tengo @ Beachland

8 - Japandroids @ Now That's Class
11 - Asobi Seksu/Loney Dear @ Grog Shop OR The Black Angels/Disappears @ Beachland
15 - They Might Be Giants (special Flood show) @ Beachland
16 - Dr Dog @ Beachland
20 - St Vincent @ Beachland
23 - Captured! By Robots @ Grog Shop
24 - Drummer/Royal Bangs/Other Girls @ Beachland


20 - Dinosaur Jr (w/ Pink Mountaintops?) @ Grog Shop

That's it for now - feel free to add any others in the comments section!

Thursday, July 30, 2009

CB Q/A #8: The Presidents of the United States of America

Here we are back with CB Q/A issue #8, which rhymes with great, and it is certainly so that this time we feature my patented "interview" with The Presidents of the United States of America (PUSA). PUSA were a mainstay of my high school years, especially their eponymous debut album, and when the movie of my life is scored, there will most certainly be a montage set to the tune of "Lump."

Andrew McKeag, the band's guitbass player since the full reformation in 2004, was awesome enough (see video below) to take the time to answer my handful of questions, and provided some pretty cool insight on everything from the band's personal scores playing their own song on Rock Band 2 to previous Clevo gig experiences (or, rather, nightmares). I'll go ahead and admit total stupidity for forgetting to include a question about the "Cleveland Rocks" song the band provided for the Drew Carey Show intro when I first sent the questions, but if you are wise, you'll hit up the show this Friday at the ask them yourself. Dollars to donuts they play the tune anyway.

1) What was it like having "Lump" included in the Rock Band 2 game? Did it bring a whole new generation of fans to your early work?

I dunno if we've really noticed whether its had any impact yet... but I hope it does! All I know is that I totally suck at that game. Chris and Jason are pretty good at it though- we played it at a Microsoft party and both of them scored really well... I got like 30%.

2) What is your favorite tune to play live?

Body... 'cause its real groovy and it rocks too!

3) If you were asked by a younger musician about to embark on his/her first tour or recording session, what advice would you give him/her?

Touring and recording are so different, but I suppose the advice could be the same- keep an open mind and get lots of sleep! The best advice I think I can give a young musician is to be willing to play ANYWHERE, ANYTIME, for ANYONE and with anyone. Every weird gig teaches you something, every strange player or recording session does the same. The more you play, the better you get. So go get better... the world does NOT need more mediocrity!

4) Any pre- or post-show rituals you have found yourselves following over the years?

I don't really... try to drink some water, maybe have a beer. Then I change into my gig clothes... sometimes a matching outfit w/the other fellas, but mostly just a different version of what I'm already wearing so I don't wear sweaty clothes all the time. PUSA does have a collective nervous habit of pacing around the dressing room for the last 1/2 hour before we play... doesn't matter how small the space is, we all just kinda pace around & make dumb jokes... Chris has a vocal warm-up... and tends to draw funny pictures with a black Sharpie... you know, adding letters to signs, changing random stickers and other graffiti to his liking- usually involving some sort of animal or goofy face of his creation.

5) Any favorite artists/songs out there you'd love to cover, but just haven't done it yet?

I've never recorded a Hendrix song and yet he's totally my favorite all-time rock guy... PUSA has been known to attempt "Manic Depression" at soundcheck... but we've never made it all the way through. Could be high time!

6) Last but not least, any memorable Cleveland experiences?

My old band played at the Euclid Tavern once back in '94 on a Monday for $6... total! And we had to beg for a place to stay... wound up on the promoters apartment floor- his girlfriend was less than thrilled.

Be sure to check out The Presidents of the United States of America at the Grog Shop on Friday, July 31. Doors open at 8 and the show starts around 9, with opening duties going to puppet master extraordinaire and CB friend, Leia Alligator. Check out the recent interview we did with Miss Alligator here!

Tonight in Cleveland - July 30th edition

There are plenty of places to have fun in this town, plenty of places to eat, plenty of places to drink, plenty of places to hear great live music.

Hell, there are plenty of places to do all of these at the same time.

However, tonight there is only one place where you get all of the above for FREE. Check out the flyer below ... see you at Blue Arrow Records! I'll be the guy trying to inconspicuously sneak bbq into my tupperware containers for home.

Smell of the Week

My newest feature and definitely the cutest - a weekly pictorial of the joy of CB HQ: Smelly Ellie Mae.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Best Pancakes in Cleveland?

Help! I owe someone pancakes and they refuse to accept my suggestion of IHOP. (Probably for the best.)

Anyone have the scoop on the best pancakes in Cleveland?

Proper Noun of the Week #5: Leia Alligator

I can't tell you how happy I am that these Q&As with local folks keep getting better and better. If there is one thing I've learned, Cleveland has a lot of talent, and very little of it is hidden. Everyone I've "interviewed" so far has great love for the city and incredibly reasonable yet wise ideas for helping it out. I hope someone at the mayor's office is reading this blog.

This week is no exception. There is only one person I know of that is able to wrap in falafel breath, a world-record burrito, riding an elephant in downtown Cleveland, and some serious (and hilarious) puppetry chops ... Leia Alligator. I'm happy and proud to call Miss Alligator a friend and even more excited about the upcoming opportunities we Clevelanders have to catch her in action in the coming days and weeks!

1) How long have you been in Cleveland? And if you didn't grow up in Cleveland, where'd you relocate here from?

Leia: I grew up in Valley City, OH- the frog jumping capital of the state. I currently reside in Cleveland.

2) What is your favorite Cleveland memory?

Leia: One time, when I was a kid- I got to take a bite out of a world-record holding burrito. It stretched all the way down Euclid during the Cleveland Kids Fest. Also- I got to wear a suit made of velcro and get thrown into a wall and STICK TO IT! AND I got to ride an elephant down Public Square.

3) How does (if at all) Cleveland influence your work and/or art?

Leia: I think that one can "sense" the Cleveland-basement vibe coming out of my recordings. There's this place down the street from my practice space that sells falafel sandwiches until 3am. Most of the recordings are made between 1 and 6 in the morning- definitely with falafel breath (not that you'd notice it in the vocoder).

4) What would be your ideal Cleveland day? Or, to put it another way, if it was your birthday and your nearest and dearest were all willing to do what you wanted, what would your day be like?

Leia: My ideal Cleveland day starts with a walk to Edgewater Park. Then brunch at the Beachland Ballroom, a stroll down Waterloo, dinner at El Tango or Thai Hut in Lakewood... ending with a dingy noise show at Now That's Class or the Tower.

5) Say you had a friend coming in for 24 hours and had never been to Cleveland before. What would you make sure they saw and did?

Leia: Usually Tommy's and Big Fun on coventry and then the Beachland. Maybe the Rock Hall, too.

6) What is something from another city you wish you could import to Cleveland?

Leia: VEGAN CUISINE! I wish we had Tofu as an option at all restaurants and Vegan cheese/dressings/desserts. How 'bout it, budding food entrepreneurs? IF YOU BUILD IT, WE WILL COME.

7) If you had the undivided attention of the mayor, city council, and county commisioners, what would be the one thing you'd ask for or tell them?

Leia: Please save the Beachland Ballroom. It's my home away from home. There are legendary artists all over the world who consider it their home away from home. I don't have a solution; merely a plea to save a cultural landmark in our fair city. Thank you.


To meet Leia and check out her unique brand of awesomeness, go see her Picklefight! puppet show as she opens for The Presidents of the United States of America this Friday at the Grog Shop. Better yet, check that out and catch a show by one of the bands she plays in. My particular advice is to catch the indie pop all-stars Afternoon Naps. They will be having a listening party for their new album at Music Saves on August 7 and playing live at the Beachland Tavern on August 21. Check them out!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

CB's Browns Watch - 92 Hours till Training Camp

Here we are folks, mere days away from the start of the 2009 season. I feel excited. Not yet good, but excited.

As expected, much of the hard news this week was personnel-related. Alex Mack and David Veikune were signed, bringing the tally of front-office inking to six (of eight draftees); still remaining to be signed are both second-round wideout selections, Brian Robiskie and Mohamed Massaquoi. Josh Cribbs and D'Qwell Jackson announced their intentions to arrive at camp on time, despite ongoing contract negotiations. (Cribbs says he will only practice, though. No games for the phenom till he gets paid. More, that is.)

Perhaps most importantly, however, is the following item: The Browns might be bringing back the brown britches this season, possibly as part of their road uniform.

For the record, I dig this. We are the fucking Browns, right? Let's wear brown pants. I'll do it, too. On away game days, I'll totally bust out brown pants. If the team wants to send me a pair of what the players where, I'll even where those suckers. No pads, though. The couch is cushion enough, thank you.

Before we get to camp topics, though, we still need to finish up the pre-season positional previews. Today we start with the running game and finish with the special teams units.

The running game has a chance to be anywhere between solid and disastrous this year, but my gut is that it'll be average. I think Jamal is going to finally start losing a step, but I also think we'll see Jerome Harrison gain a step, so while my expectations aren't high, I think it'll all be a wash. Fullback is going to be equally average, with nothing outstanding, but enough experience between Vickers and Ali to hold down their responsibilities.

Special Teams is obviously more complicated, given all the different dimensions inherent in that category. For our kicking game, we probably should stand pat (which is mediocre) with last year, unless Dawson's contract demands get him shipped out of town. No matter what, Zastudil will be punting, and he'll perform his job well enough to keep it.

The other two most important individuals to think about are both question marks: Josh Cribbs and Brad Seely. Cribbs, obviously, is an excellent football athlete, and no where is he better than in his dual role as both returner and gunner. However, it remains to be seen how this contract situation works out, which will affect not only whether he plays but how well. Seely is, of course, the new special teams coordinator, and so far all indications are that he plans to work his fellas and get the most out of the unit.

The most exciting developments might shake out as some positional battles during camp are settled, with the special team spoils going to the losers. We have plenty of new talent at both linebacker and wideout and as the status quo gets unsettled, some of the dudes at those two positions that find themselves near the bottom of the depth chart might find themselves in key coverage slots.

Which provides a nice segue to ...

Five Things To Watch For During Training Camp:

1) DA vs Right Wing Quinn (obviously)

Everyone is going to be watching for this. It seems like the general consensus is that Right Wing Brady has the advantage here, but if he sucks and DA rocks it, I think things will go the good guy's way. If things are a toss up, expect RWB to get the nod, which will suck, but it'll also mean DA didn't bring the noise when he had the chance. Hopefully, we won't have to worry about it, and DA will earn the nod outright over the next few weeks.

2) Battle of the back-up linebackers

You can't knock writers and fans from thinking primarily about starting gigs and especially Wimbley and Jackson, but I'm really looking to the second wave of players to see what emerges. In particular, I'd like to see how things shake out between players like Beau Bell, David Veikune, and Kaluka Maiava. These guys are the future, either at LB or on a special teams unit.

3) Wideout Depth Charge

Similarly, how are things going to shake out at wideout? Perhaps more than any other position on the field, success at WR is the wild wild west. Where you come from, how fast you are, all your physical specs - these things end up not mattering compared to execution and your relationship with your quarterback. With things up in the air at QB and no one in the receiver corps able to really lay claim to a significant working relationship with either DA or RWB, it is going to come down to execution. With possible holdouts from draftees Robiskie and Massaquoi, this means that some other relative unknowns have a solid chance to break their way into the bottom of the rotation. Moreover, if you start the season at the bottom of the rotation, depending on injuries and performance of the starters, you might wind up somewhere completely different. This is a major opportunity for players like youngsters Paul Hubbard and Lance Leggett as well as veterans like Mike Furrey and David Patten.

4) What kind of camp? Prison or summer?

How hard will Mangini work these fellas. Is he going to run a resort like his predecessor or will he beat the crap out of these guys like famed Jaguars/Giants drill instructor Tom Coughlin. Personally, I favor the Coughlin mode, but really I want these guys in the classroom learning as much as possible about the new systems they have to work with (and re-learning everything that is staying the same).

5) Is Our OL Learning Good?

Nowhere will the learning factor prove more important than on the offensive line. We are poised to have one of the best offensive lines in the league, which ought to make life easier for whichever player emerges successfully from the QB derby. The single most important player to develop is recently-signed center Alex Mack. Last year, his predecessor (Hank Fraley) lost a significant step and did so in a way that paralyzed a big chunk of the offense. The more Mack can learn and integrate into the unit, the better life will be for all of us.

Well, that's it for pre-camp nonsense. Next week I'll check back in with my thoughts on the first few days of training camp and any of the developments that have occurred between now and then.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Call for nominations

Hello dear readers,

As you know, I've been doing these Q&As with local folks the last few weeks. I've really enjoyed them and have been impressed and intrigued with the answers I've received to some of my questions. I still have a handful in the can to go up over the coming weeks, but it is getting to the time where I need to send out another batch of interview request emails.

I have some ideas about people I'd like to ask, but I thought that some of you might have some good ones, too. So, let's hear it - who are creative folks in the Cleveland area that are doing interesting things? It can be art, business, community leadership, or something completely different - it only matters that they are cool and interesting and doing something worth writing about.

Feel free to leave suggestions in the comments section below or, if you feel shy about it, send me an email at clevelandbachelor at


Welcoming myself to Citizen Dick

Since Kevin over at Citizen Dick was kind enough to introduce me to their readers, I figured I'd do the same. If any of you folks are into indie rock, I strongly encourage you to check these guys out. Or, rather, check us out, now that I'm on the team.

In all sincerity, I'm really proud about being asked to write for this blog. I first came across it when the band sponsored a Cotton Jones in-store at Music Saves and have been a loyal reader of their lengthy, literate, and loving reviews.

They have a great ethos - that there are so many albums coming out each week there is no reason to slag anything. Instead of assigning points or ripping new releases by bands just getting their start, Citizen Dick only publishes posts on new music they love and think you might love, too. If an album gets a review on the site, that alone means it is great - the point of the review is to communicate why it is great in a why that is smart and engrossing.

Today is my first day over there and I have a couple of posts up already. The first is a review of the new album by Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, a band out of LA that defies description (despite the fact that I gave a 1200 word effort at doing just that). Check the review out here, and definitely check the band out here.

The second post is a combo interview/album review/show review post concerning The Octopus Project, who totally rocked the Grog last night and who have their new EP (Golden Beds) schedule for release tomorrow. Check that post out here and that band out here.

Please keep checking out both blogs, as I'll still be posting my own weekly Album of the Week on Cleveland Bachelor, along with my 1-2 weekly posts at Citizen Dick. I also plan to keep doing all the things I've been doing here, from the Q&As with interesting local folks and exciting visitors to the Browns updates to the "what you should do next week" digests.

I'm excited at some of the new opportunities this blog has afforded me, both online and here at home in Cleveland, and hope you all stick around to see how things continue to take off!

See ya,


Saturday, July 25, 2009

If you write it, they will come.

Apparently the word about my bloggerific brilliance is out. Matt from Addicted to Vinyl recently commissioned me to write a new weekly post for him, highlighting and putting a little context behind my weekly "pick to click" for the best show in Clevo.

Today the first installment went up, with my take on next Friday's Presidents of the United States of America show at the Grog, with opening duties falling to our very own Leia Alligator.

Check out the link to the Addicted to Vinyl story here. And while you're at it, you might as well start reading Matt's blog. I mean, he's a decent enough guy, and obviously he has excellent taste, as evidenced by his decision to bring me aboard.

The week ahead, 7/26-8/1

This has been one of those weeks, the kind you just need to survive. But survive we did, thrive even. And next week holds the opportunity for even more, uh, thriving. So, in the interest of that whole brevity thing, I'll get right to it.

Sunday, 7/26 - Check out the quite amazing Cleveland Food Rocks event, the Rock n Roll BBQ Throwdown, at the Beachland Ballroom. From 1-5 PM, munch on grilled delicacies prepared by chefs from over two dozen local restaurants, including CB fave Momocho and other happening joints like Luxe, Crop Bistro, Moxie, and Flying Fig. Best of all, Bootsy Collins (yes, that Bootsy Collins) will be around to make sure everyone has a dip in their hip and a glide in their stride.

Afterwards, head over to the Grog Shop to catch Austin's Octopus Project, a pretty stellar experimental project that has been getting good buzz for their live sets and their previous LP, Hello, Avalanche. I've also listened to some advance tracks from their forthcoming EP, Golden Beds, and give you my word that they are continuing to bring the heat.

Monday, 7/27 - The return of Anarchy Comedy Night at the Grog Shop. This has been getting rave reviews, so check it out before the crowd gets too thick or the talent gets scooped up by troupes based in bigger cities.

Tuesday, 7/28
- The triumphant return of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs to Cleveland, courtesy of the talent buyers at the House of Blues. Tix are still available, and Karen O and co are doing mighty well on this tour. Do yourself a favor and have dinner there first - as always, the rosemary cornbread gets the CB HQ seal of approval.

Wednesday, 7/29 - If you work downtown, check out the lunch-time WCPN Around Noon Open Air live concert. Seating at the Idea Center's Smith Studio begins at 11:45 AM. Bring a lunch and enjoy the entertainment. (If you can't make it this week, three other dates remain: August 19, September 9, and September 17.)

Thursday, 7/30 - Check out the BBQ party at Blue Arrow Records! This has gotta be the event I'm looking forward to the most this week, not only because it is free, but because of the featured in-stores by a pair of new and exciting bands, Founding Fathers and Casual Encounters. The party starts at 6 and the music kicks off around 8.

Friday, 7/31 - As always, lots of options for this Friday night. Local rockers Mystery of Two have an album release show at the Beachland, with support coming from Cleveland's 21st Century version of Courtney Love and Hole, Hot Cha Cha. Down the block is the latest Steve Brown Gallery curated event, "Thrown: The Art of Yo-Yo," at the Shoparooni Annex.

Alternatively, stick around University Circle and catch a double feature at the CIA Cinematheque, with Roman Polanski's Oliver Twist showing at 7 and Alex Rivera's astonishing cross-border, sci-fi epic, The Sleep Dealer, screening at 9:30.

Finally, if Coventry seems more your speed, you can't go wrong with catching the reunion Presidents of the United States of America tour. The fellas that brought you tunes like "Lump" and "Peaches" and even "Cleveland Rocks" (at least the Drew Carey Show version) are coming to town one more time. This time, another CB fave has the opening duties, Leia Alligator and her Picklefight Puppet Party. For those who didn't discover Ms. Alligator at the Waterloo Arts Fest last month or in her other random appearances, this is something to cherish.

Saturday, 8/1 - Yet another tough choice for the Cleveland crew this Saturday, too. Catch new indie phenom Zee Avi on her Borneo to USA rise as she plays a gig at the Beachland Tavern or dig an all-day Compound fest at the corner of St Clair & E 63rd. More than twenty bands will take the stage during the day, from art-pop to sluggish metal, and CB highlights include Founding Fathers, Coffinberry, This Moment In Black History, and Arte Povera.

Other stuff to keep your eye on the following week:

- 8/2 - The Horse's Ha @ Beachland
- 8/5 - The Low Anthem @ Grog Shop
- 8/5 - Chairlift/JJ Magazine (FREE) @ Rock Hall
- 8/6 - Los Campesinos! @ Grog Shop
- 8/7 - Silversun Pickups @ Lakewood Civic Auditorium
- 8/8 - Pink Eye Party @ Now That's Class
- 8/8 - Unsparing Sea/Joshua Jesty @ the Winchester
- 8/8 - Vintage Ohio Wine Festival @ Lake Metropark's Farm Park in Kirtland
- 8/9 - Cedar-Fairmont Fest

Scenes from a birthday party

As most of you know (and more of you should know), Cleveland indie rock landmark Music Saves recently turned 5. As is our cultural tendency to do, the proud parents - Kevin Neudecker and Melanie Hershberger - threw a bash to celebrate their happy offspring's matriculation from toddler to full-on kid.

Actually, they threw a series of bashes, from a DJ party at the Grog Shop last week (with Yeasayer at the helm) and another one last night at the Beachland (with The Veils picking the tunes), and in between found time to fly Brent Knopf from Menomena into town to play a one-off in-store for the store's customers and fans. For Free. Over beer. And donuts. How cool is that?

Better yet, this was Knopf's first public performance as Ramona Falls ... ever. That's right - we at CB HQ bring you not only the news you need, but also history. Here's a little photojournalism (aka iphone-snapped fuzzy pics) to feast your eyes upon.

If you feel bad that you missed it, well, you should. But don't sulk for long, as an album is due out soon and Brent will be back in Cleveland (with three dudes backing him this time) on September 12th with a gig at the Beachland Tavern.

Show Review: 8/24 @ bela dubby - Afternoon Naps/Iji/Watercolor Paintings

If ever there was a lineup for under-discovered indie pop goodness, this was it. After catching the brief in-store performance by Menomena/Ramona Falls Brent, I hit up the west side's funkiest child-friendly cafe/beer bar, bela dubby, to catch local favorites Afternoon Naps and the two bands opening for them - Seattle's Iji and Santa Barbara's Watercolor Paintings - both of whom I'd been digging on myspace since checking them out when I first learned of the show.

(Whew - how's that for a long, poorly written introductory sentence?)

I knew the show would be good, but I had no idea just how much I would enjoy it. All three bands were truly wonderful, each similar enough that there was no problem flowing from set to set, but each distinct enough that they were all worth paying attention to in their own right.

Santa Barbara brother-sister duo Watercolor Paintings started the night off with an audience-interactive chant, then broke it down as best you can on a small harp and baritone ukulele for the rest of the set. That's right - this was a twee pop ukulele/harp duo, and they were magnificent. The sister in the sibling pair, Rebecca Redman, had a cute voice that always hopped back and forth over the line between singing and shouting, but in a way that was pretty darling. The songs themselves were very Kimya Dawson-esque in both structure and lyrical style - not a knock, just a description.

Following them up were Seattle's Iji, a band whose more complete sound and volume plays great on the album but thanks (or not) to poor sound equipment and leveling, the best parts of the band's sound (especially lead vocalist Zach Burba's mini-Wayne Coyne/sometimes Daniel Johnston voice) were lost. When the band tried to speak between songs you could barely understand what was being said, the sound was so poor.

Fortunately, the band brought their best, especially multi-instrumentalist Jon Manning (who also runs a fantastic little record label) who kept bringing out the best instrumental toys, from a small Casio keyboard to a melodica to an Asian market omnichord (my favorite of his grab bag). The bass player was solid and the drummer was just bangin' and as the band closed with two audience participation tunes, all was right in that little enclosed patch of land on Madison Avenue. Burba, when entreating the audience to sing along, promised that doing so would feel good. Chanting "da da da da da da da da da" and "love lingers on ... it lingers on" while the band boogied on, it was quite clear he was right.

The happy mood perfectly set the stage for headlining locals, Afternoon Naps. The band started off with three tracks from their forthcoming album, including their new "dance" song, and followed that up with my three favorite tracks from their Sunbeamed EP, "Orange Paw," "Clean Bill of Health," and "Postcard."

After that, it was "Plum City Fight Song," then one I don't know the name of (I call it "the tune I think is Tom's best vocal track"), then another dance tune I also don't know the name of (this one I refer to as "the one where Leia does her asteroid effect tomfoolery"), and finally the closer, "The Sun Ain't the Same" off Sunbeamed. Well, not really the closer, as the band decided to run out an immediate encore, which I also don't know the name of.

As expected, the Naps set was fantastic, as were all the sets, and though the promised Survivor cover never materialized (despite my offer to buy a $1 can of Black Label), it was well worth the westward trek. I came away a bigger fan than I already was, with newfound appreciation for the role the band's bass player, Mike Allan, has in the band and the realization that Leia can do no wrong on xylophone.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Album of the Week: The Horse's Ha "Of the Cathmawr Yards"

After the combative ambivalence of my last review (of the Dirty Projectors Bitte Orca album), I'm pleased to come to you with a solid endorsement. In this review, and from now on, I'm dropping the arbitrary rating scale I'd initially devised. Based on conversations with Kevin at Citizen Dick, an awesome site I'm incredibly pleased and proud to announce I will start contributing weekly reviews to, I've decided I like there way best: write up only the stuff you love. In that sense, the review itself is the ranking. If an album gets a review, that means it is great - the text just tells you why. And if it doesn't get one, well, then maybe it wasn't. But who cares about that - life is too short and money too scarce to worry about listening to and writing about albums you don't want to recommend. So from here on, you only get the good stuff from me, both here and there.

Chicago outfit The Horse's Ha is as good a band as any with which to start this newfound string of positive listening out. This band brings almost everything I ask for in a band; namely, intellect and a discernible approach. Anyone who caught the Dylan Thomas references in both the band name and album title already got the intellect part, but for those of you that slept through the Welsh poets section of your British Literature class in undergrad, here's the zombie-ridden scoop (that's right, zombies!).

Dylan Thomas wrote (and lived, for that matter) extensively, and while most of is instinctively recite "rage, rage against the dying of the light" it turns out that Horse's Ha co-founder James Elkington was taken with a considerably more obscure bit of the Welshman's work. In particular, Elkington was moved by a short story titled "The Horse's Ha" (thus explaining the band name), in which the narrative revolved around zombies in a fictitious Welsh graveyard, called "The Cathmawr Yards" (thus explaining the album title). To my ear, that basically ends the zombie references on the album, but it is hardly the end of the intellect. Rather, the album is filled with literate lyrics and stories, the kind that make you want to sit back and take it in. In fact, I don't think I have another album in my record collection, other than perhaps The Flaming Lips' The Soft Bulletin, that is a better one to put on when you just want the day to be done and you've physically closed up shop for the day though that link between your ears and your brain is still open for business.

The band itself is a tricked-out duo, with the heavy lifting done primarily by British ex-pat cum Chicagoan Elkington and his partner in crime, former Dixie-dweller Janet Beveridge. Really, once you hear this album and think about it, it will dawn on you that it could have only been made in Chicago, with its rich avant garde jazz scene) by a pair of talented folks hailing from, respectively, the American southland and Great Britain. The pair each possess an impressive pedigree filled with names of bands you haven't heard of but probably wish you had (i.e., Eleventh Dream Day, Freakwater, The Zincs), and when they combine with the instrumental chops of other Chicago musicians like cellist Fred Lonberg-Holm, bass player Nick Macri, and drummer Charles Rumback, you have the indie dream album for grown-ups and younger folks with cautious and catchful ears. Albums as ambitious as this are rare. Rarer still is when the ambition is fulfilled.

At first listen, though, you won't think Chicago when you spin Of The Cathmawr Yards - anything but, really. Instead, the album strikes me as something that sprung from the soul of talented and patient hipsters living in some rural county in a land-locked southern state. As a whole, it is plaintive and pastoral and pretty. Throughout the record, the harmonies work well between the two, and while Elkington's sonorous baritone borders on a drone at point, Beveridge's alto is lovely and rich, though far from heavy. On track after track, the vocals are joined by strings, to the stylized point that you could be forgiven for thinking they were a third vocalist making beautiful non-lyrical sounds, rather than a separately recorded, non-human instrument.

Indeed, the second track of the album ("Asleep in a Waterfall") is completely made by the female vocals and the strings, while on the third track ("Wilds Empty Bedroom") the strings continue to evoke a relaxed affection, especially with the bass and a twanged guitar. (Side note: "Asleep in a Waterfall" also somehow defies my usual default hatred of drummers using brushes on the snare.) In all, the song brings to mind a chamber version of Dean & Britta - lovely and sophisticated, a switch from NYC to London.

"Left Hand" is one of the more notable songs from the album, where the jazz influence of the band is most obvious. On this track, Elkington's vocals are at their most expressive, rich, and clear, and the Spanish, maybe bossa nova vibe make these guys sound like the coolest motherfuckers ever to play Lawrence Welk's show.

The middle of the record is a bit mealy, with tracks like "Liberation," which sounds exactly as the band's name and album title might lead you to expect it to sound, and "The Piss Choir," which is vaguely rocking, but only that. On "Heiress," however, the band picks things up, presenting the song most likely to be classified as pop, with its whimsical chorus and major chord strings. The album closes with "Map of Stars," which provides the perfect closing to the record with its gentle strumming and building, undulating direction. If this song were a film, it would be a love story with an escape, as the hero and his future bride glide down a river in the dark toward a happier future than their past ever was.

For those of you intrigued, I obviously recommend the album. Better yet, the duo will grace the Beachland Tavern stage next weekend, playing a Sunday night gig on August 2nd with openers Golden Ox. I'm not usually a fan of shows on Sunday nights, but I couldn't think of a better time for this pair to perform, tuckered out yet stimulated from the weekend's events, tiredly transitioning from days off to days on while you brain still beeps faster than your pulse. Check them out.

Cleveland+ Plain Dealer

Seem like a typo up there in the title of this post? Nope, it isn't. Apparently the PD is using its collective genius to sell out the city of Cleveland. The scoop can be found here, but the gist is that they recently started an ad pitch (and allegedly suspended, but who really knows about that) geared toward getting suburban cities to recruit Cleveland public servants that are no longer bound by residency requirements to relocate to the burbs.

Sure, some of this is going to happen naturally, but did the PD really need to try to speed it up AND make a buck on it?

Ugh. The PD is the Detroit of newspapers. I wish it would hurry up and go down the tubes. We wouldn't lose anything by way of reportage and then the moron commenters would lose one more place to spread their buffoonery.

Tonight in Cleveland - July 24th edition

Tonight is like a city-wide battle of the bands contest, but instead of competing for $50 and the right to take home the chick in white jeans with the hairsprayed bangs, the competition is over which show you are gonna see. Here are your choices, in order of the official CB ranking, with my favorite choice first ... the Afternoon Naps at bela dubby.

Option 1) Afternoon Naps with openers Iji (Seattle) and Watercolor Paintings (Santa Barbara)

Sure, the Naps are locals, but that doesn't mean they aren't the awesomest indie pop this side of Camera Obscura and the Pains of Being Pure at Heart. Plus, I've been just digging Iji since I checked out their myspace page once I saw they were opening. Watercolor Paintings is also super tight, so you have a full night of fun with this one. Plus, when was the last time you went to bela dubby?

Option 2) The Veils with Foreign Born and Faces on Film

Waterloo Road might just have the biggest bang for your buck tonight, the above indie pop goodness notwithstanding. Between the FREE birthday in-store featuring Brent from Menomena playing tracks from his upcoming Ramona Falls release beforehand at Music Saves and the also FREE post-show DJ party (DJ'd by The Veils) also in honor of Music Saves, the actual Veils/Foreign Born show itself might be somewhat of an afterthought. However, it shouldn't be, as both bands are on top of their respective games right now, with both bands recent releases (The Veils have Sun Gang off Rough Trade and Foreign Born has Person to Person off Secretly Canadian - BOTH are available at Music Saves for purchase before/during/after the show) getting rave reviews from smart critics all over the country.

Option 3) The Very Knees with The Library is On Fire and My Device

If you don't want to go twee and you don't want to kick it in Waterloo, your next best bet is to hit up everyone's favorite Clevo dive venue, Now That's Class. Local heroes The Very Knees are set to release a ripping new record soon, and everything I've been hearing about Brooklyn visitors The Library is on Fire is positive.

Point is - you have at least three solid options tonight, so before you finish that sentence when you whine about nothing to do in Cleveland, slap yourself in the face, shut up, and pick one of these shows to go to.

CB Q/A #7: Tommy Wiseau

For quite a while now I've been hearing about The Room, a burgeoning cult classic out of the bowels of the LA film community directed by and starring Tommy Wiseau, a mysterious and hilarious gentleman as purposefully confident as he is accidentally hilarious (though Wiseau contends the humor is purposeful, even though fellow cast members contend the film was supposed to be a drama and ended up a case in filmic schadenfreude).

The CIA Cinematheque has show The Room a few times already, but that has nothing on the frequency with which the film is shown in LA, where regular midnight screenings have begun to attract the kind of choreographed fandom usually reserved for films like Rocky Horror Picture Show. And, it being Hollywood, the film collected its celebrity backers, most notably Jonah Hill, Paul Rudd, and Kristen Bell.

When the dynamic duo running the show at the Cinematheque decided to bring the audience favorite back one more time, I knew I had to contact Wiseau and see if he'd do a Q&A. To my surprise, he readily agreed, and participated ... sort of ... in his own cryptic, combative way.

1) Other than other films/filmmakers, where do you find your influences? I mean, is there a certain type of art or artist, idea, spirit, etc.

In response to your first question no one influence me in my creation. I inspired myself. However, I like the work to name a few, James Dean, Elisabeth Taylor, Tennessee Williams, Marlon Brando, and others.

2) If you were asked by a younger filmmaker about to make his/her first serious and hopefully commercially viable film, what advice would you give him/her? Or is there a better (earlier?) time to give sage advice?

First don't think about 100% of your project but first complete 20% then 40% and so forth.

3) What's your favorite scene in The Room?

My favorite scene is the Chris-R scene.

4) What has the experience of having your film become a cult sensation been like? Has it opened more doors for you in Hollywood?

If you work hard you will always have work in the entertainment industry. The originality of any work eventually will be appreciated by the public as long as it's related to human behavior or the environment.

5) The city of Cleveland has made some noise recently about wanting to make this a more film-friendly city. In your opinion, what are the most important things a city can do to encourage that kind of industry attention?

This question, as your readers know, it's a purely political question. If the city of Cleveland decide to invite me for a meeting related to becoming a film-friendly city I would be glad to present ideas how the city can attract filmmakers and production companies to accomplish this goal.

6) Last but not least, any previous Cleveland experiences worth sharing?

Everyone in Cleveland should see The Room. You can laugh you can cry you can express yourself but please don't hurt each other.

Be sure to check out The Room at the CIA Cinematheque (11141 East Boulevard) on Saturday at 9:10 PM. If you can read the interview above and watch the trailer below and still not be tempted to check out this cinematic awesomeness, well, I just don't know who you are anymore. Go see it!

CB's Browns Watch - 8 Days till Training Camp

Greetings Browns fans. I'm a little late, as per usual, with this week's post, but what counts is that I got it up before the weekend started. Not a ton to report concerning the week prior - most of the news outlets have done the usual pre-camp speculation writing along with the also usual hand-wringing. Perhaps the most interesting of these look-ahead articles are Cory Felegy's assessment of the ownership's record ten years in - check it out here - and Christ Steuber's piece on the Brown's top young talent (which you can read here).

Since we last met up here on the internets to discuss the Browns, the team has released the details concerning training camp. Practice begins at 8:45 AM on Saturday, August 1st, with public sessions conducted throughout the next 3+ weeks. Browns Backers Weekend is August 7-9, the Brown & White scrimmage is on August 9th, the first home pre-season game is on August 22nd (versus the Lions), and camp closes to the public after August 24 with the final home pre-season game coming against the Titans on August 29th. For more info on all things training camp related, check out the team's official site on the camp here.

In other news, the status of the Browns top four draftees. Apparently, the team is very close to an agreement with top choice Alex Mack (Center, California), but little progress has been made with the next three (e.g., receivers Robiskie and Massaquoi and linebacker Veikune). Given that rookies are slated to report TODAY, this seems like a sorta big deal, but as long as Mack is in by Monday and Veikune gets himself in there not much later, I'm cool. Receivers are receivers and they can do what they do, but offensive linemen and linebackers have a lot more learning to do before they can fit into the system, so every day they are out they put the whole team behind. I guess this conclusion is for the best, since according to all reliable press reports, the Browns are absolutely nowhere with Brian Robiskie. Progress with Veikune seems to be better, and I'm pretty clueless about where things stand with Massaquoi.

Finally, it looks like fan favorite Josh Cribbs might get a little happier, with reports that he and management are meeting about contract renegotiations. Personally, I'm torn about this. You sign a contract for x number of years, you ought to play it out, I think. But the NFL is weird, and the players association doesn't really help younger non-star players out, so if you prove awesomeness beyond expectation, you might as well throw out the possibility of a new guarantee. We'll see how things go, I suppose, though it'd be a shame to lose such an obvious talent if we can get it done for a reasonable amount of money. And if anyone is in need of suggestions for which sofa to check for change in, I vote we trade Right Wing Quinn for a bag of kicking tees and use the salary savings to make Cribbs happy and bring in another running back.

Before we get to today's subject du jour, one last bit of non-news: there is still absolutely no resolution regarding the starting quarterback derby. Surprise, surprise. At least my heart is mildly warmed by recent positive reports about D.A.s health and preparation, and particularly by this report endorsing the benching of Right Wing Quinn.

OK, now to the meat of the day: a look at the linebackers and secondary. If, as I said last week, the offensive line is the most solid of all position categories for the team, today's areas are the ones where things are the most vulnerable. Let's start with the linebackers.

There is a ton of athletic talent at this position, but my central concern is whether it is the right talent for the way the Browns want to play. On the outside, we have players like Kamerion Wimbley and Alex Hall - both with a ton of physical skill. Time will tell if they get the game down tight. This is especially the case with Wimbley as the pressure is mounting for him to prove he has more in his toolkit than the old out-race the OT move. As Chris Pokorny notes, other teams long ago figured this one out, which is why Wimbley's last two years haven't equaled his rookie numbers. Veikune and Bowens also look to be solid (assuming Veikune makes it to camp, that is), but without significant upgrade to the skills we know already exist, the best I think this unit can hope for is adequate.

Unfortunately, the inside is more problematic. Mangini seems to be in love with D'Qwell Jackson, but I'm not really sure why. I mean, dude isn't terrible, but neither is he great. We should be looking to bring in someone next year, whether through free agency or the draft, to hold down the middle in a monstrous way for the long term. For now, Jackson at his best is good enough for now. I don't see Eric Barton as any type of solution at the other inside position, and by end of season I expect Beau Bell or rookie Kaluka Maiava to replace him. Indeed, the Bell-Maiava contest might be one of the best and under-covered stories in training camp.

As a unit, the linebackers are decent when all pistons are firing, but that is not nearly good enough with the importance the team's chosen defensive coverage places on the middle rung of the ladder. Even if those that need to step up do (Wimbley, Bell, Jackson), we'll be in deep need for a major acquisition in 2010 at the position.

In the defensive secondary, we have three of four starters back - for better or for worse, with Abram Elam poised to fill about on par the void left by Sean Jones. Like the linebacker corps, there are some guys who need to step up and prove they are worth national-level attention. In particular, I'm thinking of Brodney Pool at safety and Eric Wright at corner. I think both these fellas have good years ahead in them, but they gotta put it on the field now. Brandon McDonald at corner is the biggest question mark I have for the team, though I'm a little nervous at how that question will be resolved. Rod Hood and his Super Bowl experience leads a trio of new veteran acquisitions, and the re-signing of CB Favorite Mike Adams for his bone-crunching hits and versatility makes me feel a little better, but at the end of the day, if the linebacker spot looks to be adequate at best, these guys are going to face challenges all season long, and give up big plays game after game. Hopefully, there won't be all that many and the offense can do its part to keep the team in the game. Look for a lot of changes to be made throughout the year and plenty of call-in show lines burning up with bitching about this subject.

Once again, that's where things stand. Sorry today wasn't quite so positive, but no reason to bullshit a bullshitter, right? Next week I'll check back in with the scoop on the running game, special teams, and some pre-camp speculation of my own.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Silly Bachelor - stop messing with chicks!

Lately, Cleveland Bachelor's postings have been almost all business. Don't get me wrong, I am STOKED about the great interviews I've been doing with locals and visitors alike, and really dig the regularity of my Browns posts, Albums of the Week, and Saturday looks ahead. However, every so often I feel required to remind you just how screwed up things can (and always seem to) get here on the domestic side of CB HQ, so here's the latest update.

Yesterday, I had what I thought was a really shitty day, and was well into another one when I got a call from my best friend and we exchanged what we'd been up to the last couple of days. I soon realized, as I was telling him about my allegedly shitty day, that things weren't so bad. After all, I slept in, recorded a radio interview about my area of expertise, met up with a new pal about a very exciting new venture I'm getting down with (more to be announced on that very soon), killed an hour in one of my favorite indie bookstores in the country, and then had an absolutely fabulous drink with another friend at the Velvet Tango Room before heading home for a dinner of cold pizza and snuggles with my pup.

Shitty day? No way. Today my phone kept ringing with friends telling jokes and others offering even more great opportunities. Yet I stayed dour throughout.

Then I decided, in true Obama fashion (maybe it was because he was so close today), "Enough!"

I said to myself, you want to be gangster, you gotta act gangster, right? Doesn't matter what gangster, whether we are talking Suge Knight or Steve Miller Band, the principle holds.

So I'm back, and more committed to the chickless lifestyle I'd temporarily and unwisely abandoned these last couple weeks that led to the mood downturn in the first place. (Not to mention the small hole in my pocket. Between my screw-up siblings and dating, the gas company is never gonna get paid!)

And now, off to have beers with a pal in a place with no liquor license (cause I don't give anything remotely resembling a fuck - see? Gangster. Told you so) and get ready for a weekend of work and rock.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

CB Q/A #6: Lions

If you thought last week was it for the live music insanity in Cleveland, I have some news for you ... it goes on. Tomorrow has Akron/Family at the Rock Hall (for FREE), Thursday sees The Walkmen at the Beachland, Friday sees great shows just about everywhere in town, and Saturday brings us the hardest rocking line-up of the week: Austin's Lions with openers The Hot Rails.

Most folks here in town know Lions because of the inclusion of one of their tracks ("Metal Heavy Lady") on Guitar Hero 3, and a few more might recollect some previous appearances that have gone down in local rock lore. For those that don't yet know the band, think of a continuum from Alice Cooper to Black Mountain, with Lions clearly more similar to the former. Lead vocalist Matt Drenik recently took a few moments to answer my now-familiar questionnaire, which I've posted below. Check them out - Matt's got some of the best answers to these questions I've seen yet!

1) What are your influences on the forthcoming album, and how is it different from No Generation? In particular, I'm interested in sources of inspiration other than other bands/musicians? I mean, is there a certain type of art or artist, idea, spirit, etc.

When No Generation was being made and came out, we are a band without a real identity. I think we felt as if we came from some underground generation that had been lost. All of a sudden the world changed. Everything became power and money (maybe it always was) and young bands rose up and frankly we thought that nobody was saying anything relevant to us. Nobody was speaking to us or for us. MTV died. Real World and reality TV owned. Indie rock (whatever that means) was dialed in and nobody was really listening to anything that had power or real spirit. And so we wrote about that. We wanted soul. We thought that people deserved that out of the bands that they go to see. We wanted to define something, but in the end, there was nothing to be defined.

The new record takes shape in a much more defined place. The spirit of the band is more open and free. We spent 8 months together in a small rehearsal room in South Austin writing song after song. We're no longer concerned with the lack of spirit or depth in modern rock n roll. It is what it is. We're an undefined band that feels like we can do whatever we want to do. We're self-sustained. We're blood to each other. When you tour so much you start to lose things back home. Friends disappear, jobs disappear, and eventually your old reality disappears. You're left with the guys in the van, the sweat and soul of a band, and the idea of something bigger and better. You start to believe in that because there is nothing else to believe in. I feel that this new record expresses that feeling.

2) How has your inclusion on Guitar Hero changed things for the band?

It's a video game. Kids love it and of course it turned them on to the band. But eventually the buzz wears off and you have to continue to prove yourself to a generation of people that so quickly forget. They debate how easy our song is online. It rules. I love how opinionated people are of a song that we recorded above a bar in South Austin with a budget of $100. Metal Heavy Lady. I have to post the lyrics because kids keep fucking them up when they post them.

3) If you were asked by a younger musician about to embark on his/her first tour, what advice would you give him/her?

Patience. It takes years to truly matter. And forget Ego. You can be better. No matter what anyone says. There's always a band better than you. There's always going to be a better song than yours. Get some soul, get in the van, and get your audience. The world doesn't need another quick shot band like Panic at the Disco. You probably won't make a lot of money at first. Just enjoy being away, seeing the country, meeting people, getting drunk and not having to stick around the next day (you've got a show somewhere else!) .. All those kids you went to high school with have real jobs and real problems. Your biggest problem that day might be figuring out how to get to the van by noon for call. Learn how to fix your van. Lower your expectations. Play like a motherfucker.

4) Any pre- or post-show rituals you have found yourselves following over the years?

It's a place of art, can do no wrong, crank it up, fuck my song. nice and easy.

5) Any favorite artists/songs out there you'd love to cover, but just haven't done it yet?

Joy Division. There's been some brief discussion of covering something off synchronicity.

6) Last but not least, any memorable Cleveland experiences?

Um, hotel party at Holiday Inn after a beachland show. Hot Rails were there. Ken threw beer on everyone. Madness ensued. Do the math.

Be sure to check out Lions at the Beachland Tavern on Saturday, July 25. The show starts around 9, with opening duties going to local heroes The Hot Rails.