Saturday, June 28, 2008

Shot Baker 'Takes Control' on new album

In July of 1946, shot Baker was a shallow-water nuclear test conducted by the United States Navy to determine the effects of atomic detonations on ships. The test sunk eight ships. And because shot Baker kicked so much ass, the deep water test was canceled. Little did anyone know, the Baker blast would be reincarnated in the 21st century and its energy distributed among four musicians hailing from Chicago, who would keep the name and the effect alive.
Shot Baker was born from the ashes of lead singer, Tony Kovacs’s former band, The Poonanies and drummer, Chris Gach’s former band, The Dorks.
“Chris was the main promotion guy in his band and I was the main promotion guy in my band,” Kovacs said. “When our respective bands broke up, Chris and I decided to get together and start a band and the goal was to be a real working band, not to completely half-ass it and try to take the music thing as far as we could.”
Since then, Shot Baker has released an EP titled “Time To Panic” and two full-lengths. The most recent of which, “Take Control,” was just released on Tuesday, June 24.
“It’s a lot like everything else we’ve put out in a sense that it’s a lot of harder-type punk rock with kind of a mix between faster songs and mid-tempo type songs,” Kovacs said. “I’m pretty happy as far as lyrics, because that’s what I do. And not to sound totally boring, but it’s a lot of the same stuff, I mean it’s a similar style. We don’t experiment that much. We know what we like and go with it.”
Gach thinks the lyrics in the album are a lot more personal than in “Awake” and “Time To Panic.”
While the new music has stayed true to its roots, “Take Control” shows growth for the individual musicians as well as their interaction with each other.
We went to the studio to record “Awake” and Tony didn’t have final lyrics for some of the songs and so we were doing backups and not even knowing the lyrics for the songs, Gach said.
But for “Take Control,” Shot Baker has a few years worth of shows under its tough, worn belt and the band members have gotten to know each other a lot better.
They figured out the hard way that they can be stuck in a van for 32 hours together and not want to kill each other. They drove from Phoenix to Chicago in one drive, taking shifts. Right outside of St. Louis, their van broke down, a mere six hours from Chicago.
“We were on the road for 24 hours straight and then the van breaks down. With all the touring so far, we’ve all gotten along really well, which is a really good thing,” Gach said.
Just as they fit nicely together outside and on the road, they work well with each other inside the studio.
“We’ve really become a lot more comfortable with each other as far as writing goes and we have a better idea of what works and what doesn’t. We bounce off of each other better than in the past and I think it shows in the music,” Kovacs said. “Well, hopefully it does.”
But when making “Take Control,” the band focused on quality and not just getting the record out. When they had enough material and were ready, they went in and recorded it.
The themes in the songs off "Awake" and "Time To Panic" range from confusion, anger and frustration to sincerely introspective lyrics concerning life and even love.
“The album title is kind of the general undertone of the whole album,” Gach said. “That’s my take. If you listen to every song, it’s more about live in the now. Take control. Do what you want to do and don’t just settle and let shit fly by (because) when you look back, shit’s gone.”
“Awake” was a bit more scattered and some of the songs weren’t so personal, he said.
“Take Control” features 11 songs, short and sweet.
Shot Baker has a philosophy based on that “short and sweet” feel. It applies to their albums and live shows.
It’s definitely better to see to a band for about 30 minutes or less and find yourself wanting more than to sit through them for longer than you’d like and never want to see or hear them again, Gach explained.
“We figure that less is more in a sense,” he said.
Shot Baker is signed to Riot Fest Records, an up and coming Chicago label. “Take Control” will be the label’s second release. “What Poor Gods We Do Make: The Story and Music Behind Naked Raygun” was its first.
They like the fact that their band is the only one signed thus far because Riot Fest puts all its effort into them and what they want to do.
“Us and Riot Fest, we’ve actually grown to have a really strong personal work relationship with them,” Gach said. “It’s not just business. They really believe in what we’re doing. They believe in us and we believe in their label as well, so it’s on a really cool level like that.”
The “Take Control” record release show will be held at 9 p.m. on Saturday, July 26 at the Beat Kitchen (2100 W. Belmont) in Chicago. Admission will be $8 and the show is 17+. This will be the last show on a string of tour dates and will act as a sort of “homecoming” for the band.
“Normally at the end of a tour, you’re like a machine, so we wanted to be as good as we possibly can,” Kovacs said.
Shot Baker will kick off its tour Monday.
Check them out at here and be sure to catch them live if they pull through your neck of the woods.

Friday, June 20, 2008

June 19, 2008: Chinese Telephones, Potential Johns, Birthday Suits at SubT

It's been a while since I've gone to a show on a Thursday night. But I'm glad I went, it really broke up the week and tricked my mind into a sort of early weekend mindset. Then I remembered that I work all fucking weekend.
Anyways, my first time at the Subterranean in Chicago was a good one. I went to see the Chinese Telephones and to check out the Potential Johns (who the Telephones did a split 12'' with) and Birthday Suits, who I've only heard of.
The Chinese Telephones were great. They played a decent set with a good amount of songs from their self-titled album as well as off their 7 inches. They played "I Can't Be Right," "Back To You Again," "It's Starting Again," and many more.
Their bassist, Andy Junk, was either very energetic or very drunk. The band has an interesting stage presence. Justin Telephone, the band's lead singer, takes a pretty serious approach to the stage, but it's nicely balanced by Andy as well as guitarist, Daniel James, who reminds me of someone just plain goofy. Not to make any jabs at all, but in a world where pretty much everyone in punk rock does the same sort of thing with the chucks, tight pants, short hair, etc etc, Daniel James is reverse that. He looks a bit older than the rest of the guys with his receding hairline and strikes me as a joker. The guy knows how to play though. He is not only fun to watch, but adds a catchy and energetic kick to the music via his guitar playing (does VIA strike you as a yuppie trendy word?).
More or less, at a glance, the Chinese Telephones appear to be a conglomerate of all sorts of different tastes, and their music kinda reflects that. I can't exactly say, "Oh yeah, the Chinese Telephones sound like (insert catchy pop punk band here)." I know this much, though: They're damn good. And every time I see them, it's a great show.
Next in line were the Potential Johns from Denton, TX. They were interesting. The vocals are reminiscent of very early punk, distorted, hard to make out and fast. I almost want to say garage-style, but without the indie and grunge implication attached. They sound like someone...ah, it'll come to me.
The lead singer of the Potential Johns played the last couple of songs with the Telephones because for some reason, Andy left the stage. He was taking pictures of his band, shirtless, with the lead singer/guitarist of the Potential Johns. Maybe he was too drunk to play? Maybe the band needed more pictures? Maybe both? Maybe neither. I will never know, and in the last 10 seconds, stopped caring.
Anyway, I learned the Potential Johns are more or less of a side project of The Marked Men, also from Denton, TX. I looked 'em up and they sound the same to me. It's my first time hearing both bands, so I'll have to listen to more of each to note the distinctions, but for the sake of somewhat of a review here, I'm just gonna make a note of that. Oh! You know what they sound like? The Kinks on speed and maybe a little bit of Toys That Kill. Yeah. That's what I'm gonna leave it at. Very good, by the way. I ended up getting their split with the Fones. I'm excited to become a little more familiar with their music.
Last up of the three bands was Birthday Suits from Minneapolis, MN. They weren't like anything I'd seen before. Actually, that's not true. They were a two-piece and it immediately reminded me of Local H. However, they don't sound quite like Local H. Birthday Suits' drummer is really into drumming. Like, a lot. The guy seriously went ape shit on his skins. The vocalist/guitarist was crazy in his own way in that he would jump around, lay down and play, etc...etc...
His vocals were high-pitched and fast, along with the drumming, making for a pretty entertaining show. I can't say I got into their music, but watching them perform was very entertaining. I was surprised there wasn't much of an audience even by the end of the show. All of about 30 people showed up and were more or less lounging around, nothing too crazy. Don't get me wrong, it was nice! It was great being able to stand up in the middle of the place and enjoy a beer without sweating my balls off or having it knocked out of my hand. I like being able to focus on the music and not on who's going to kick me in the back of the head next.
I can't really compare Birthday Suits to any bands in particular for ya's. The two of them are so intense and quick with their instruments and all-around so sporadic, that it's really difficult to place them anywhere. The best I can do is say they are like one of those indie bands that just bangs on shit real fast and randomly and yells into the microphone in an off-beat way. I didn't hear a lot of what he was saying, but that's something all three bands had in common last night. All the vocalists have a way of making it so you have to look up the lyrics somewhere to translate the mass of sound and what you think they say into factual lyrics.
It was a good night, with the $8 well-spent. The beer was a hell of a lot more than that all together, but that was good too. I haven't seen a place that carries Dead Guy Ale on tap in all my 11 months of going to bars, but drinking that is always a treat.
Before the show, something cool happened. A semi truck was driving under a bridge outside of the Subterranean, and the truck was a few inches too tall, made a horrible thundering noise as it passed under the bridge, and a big, flat chunk of truck roof fell into the street with an assortment of twisted metal bars from either side. The truck did not stop to assess the damage, as it landed on the front corner of someone's car.
It somehow fit the persona of the show I was about to witness. A loud, fast mass of stuff going at a steady speed, tearing shit up and not turning around or even stopping to see what it had done. That's kind of how the bands played. Thumbs up.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Never trust your pit bull to babysit your child

Every so often, there's a story in the news that catches your eye. Never mind the war casualties and all that repetitive nonsense.

But when you see an article about a pit pull sodomizing a two-year-old, you're going to read it. I know I did!
In July, a New York family's pit bull full-on raped their two-year-old boy. Now I know dogs like humping legs, cushions, etc...but never once have I ever had a dog try to stick his schlong in my brown eye. Even after considering the fact that I'm too tall for anything of the sort to even happen, I got to thinking, why and how the hell did this happen to that boy?

Well, the toddler was at home when it happened, and it was the family dog who did the raping. Now, in order for this dog to be able to sodomize the kid, the kid would have to be presumably naked, no? He probably didn't want it THAT BAD that he went ahead and penetrated through the diaper.
And surely, no parent in their right mind would even allow something like this to happen, so I'm going to assume the two-year-old was naked and unsupervised.

"Eggert said the boy’s family members and neighbors had to beat the dog to get it off the boy." This sentence is worded VERY wrong, but in an oh-so-right way, and I'm deeming it the best sentence in the article. Anyway, unless this kid's neighbors were in the house with his shitty, neglectful parents, I'm also going to assume the kid was outside, naked and alone, crawling around near a pit bull, which are known to be not-so-friendly anyway.

Now, the article completely makes it seem like, "Whoops! This is the first case of baby-raping by a DOG that's ever came up! WEIIIRDDDDD!" Yeah!!! You wanna know why!!?? Because other parents watch their fucking toddlers when they're crawling around outside naked and around animals/people!!!
It's pretty bad when the neighbors see YOUR dog raping YOUR baby before you. There's a reason why this is the first incident of the sort reported. Because on a list of responsible parents and irresponsible parents, these ones rank dead last.

But, hey. The dog was also two years old. However, in human years, the dog is 14, making the dog a homosexual, interspecies-curious pedophile. What are they doing letting their dog have sex at such a young age? And outside of it's species and age-group? Come on. (Not literally, though!)

I am placing two accounts of blame on the parents. One, for allowing the dog to sodomize their baby with his weiner, and two, for letting their underage dog go gay with their kid at the tender age of 14.

A dog professional says that the pit bulls are aggressive by nature, but not all of them are like that. He went on to say, "The problem is not with the breed itself...but rather the manner in which the dog is raised. A pit bull raised in a loving atmosphere 'could be a fine dog,' he said."
What the hell kind of people own this dog? I can only come to one conclusion on this case, if I may play CSI for one minute.

The kid was coming onto the dog and pissing it off, possibly trying to rape it himself.

After a history of being dolled up and made to look like a pussy, the pit bull sought revenge on the shitty parents and their shithead child.

After not being able to take it anymore, the pit bull did this. Case closed.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

June 7, 2008: Smoking Popes at Metro

A hot and muggy outdoor Chicago night made for a cool indoor show at the Metro on Saturday, June 7, 2008, where the Smoking Popes got together and played its record release gig for "Stay Down" last night. Opening acts were Chris McCaughan's (guitarist/vocalist of the Lawrence Arms) solo project, Sundowner, and Mannequin Men.
Chris is always a treat to see. I never know when it'll be just his words and a guitar, with Jenny Choi or with a full band backing his tunes. Last night, Jenny Choi joined him on cello, keys and vocals. They are truly a great musical duet. Jenny compliments Chris so well and vice versa. Like Sonny and Cher...only good.
After Sundowner was Mannequin Men. They have a really strong indie sound, which I know is broad. But think Interpol's instrumentals crossed with the Goo Goo Dolls' vocalist. Their bastard spawn would be Mannequin Men. I was so hungry and tired of standing by that point, I was considering going across the street to Wrigleyville Dogs, but upon trying to leave, the Metro staff made a point that we can't come back in if we leave. I guess I can't blame them for wanting all the people in attendance to buy their crappy, warm expensive beer. It's just frustrating knowing that at the Gingerman, next door, I can get a tall, cold pint of PBR for $3 and SIT in a cool area with good company, rather than a shitty plastic cup of Miller Lite for $5 at the Metro and have to stand in fear of some big asshole's sweat droplets falling into my cup.
Anyways, after what seemed like forever, the Smoking Popes took the stage. When I say the Smoking Popes, I mean Neil Hennessy from the Lawrence Arms on drums (man, did he rip last night!) with the three Caterer brothers; Eli on guitar/ backing vocals, Josh on guitar/vocals and Matt on bass/jumping around.
They opened with a new song titled, "If You Don't Care," which is a great tune, familiar, thanks to their MySpace profile. Very appropriate, being a record release shindig and all.
Afterwards, they cut into old ones like "Rubella" and "Gotta Know Right Now." After the crowd was reassured by hearing some old gems, the Popes tried out a couple more new ones, "Stay Down"'s opening track, "Welcome To Janesville," and title track, "Stay Down."
Afterwards, they played "Megan" (which apparently, there are a shitload of YouTube videos of people singing and playing that song, to which Josh proposed a contest, prize unknown), "Just Broke Up," "Do Something," and my favorite, "Need You Around." I like the newer ending to "Need You Around," where they jam it out. It can be heard on the 2005 Metro reunion album.
Another new one, "Grab Your Heart and Run" was played next. That song is hands down my favorite off "Stay Down." All of their new tracks are catchy in that traditional pop sense, and Josh's signature croon ties it all together, making one kick ass song. "Stefanie" is really slow, but it serves as a nice break on the new album, placed as the third track, so that when the generally-faster songs pick up, it comes as more of a surprise than just one flowing into the other, which is awesome too. Riverdales, anyone?
They played "Writing a Letter" after that, which is one of my personal favorites for being just an all around fun song. Afterwards, they played "Sweet Pea," which is Neil's favorite track off the new album to play, as they established on stage.
"Let's Hear It For Love" was played, followed by a short acoustic set by Josh, in which he played the newly renovated acoustic version of "The First Time" and an older gem, but more upbeat, "My Lucky Day."
Matt came back out a little too early, eager to grab his bass after Josh finished playing "The First Time," but quickly turned around to join the rest of the band hanging out on the side of stage right.
After the band reclaimed their instruments, they played "Brand New Hairstyle" and Josh played "Pretty Pathetic" with Eli, both playing their electric guitars. Towards the end of the song, the full band backed the guitars and vocals with some support and finished it out nicely. They did that on the Metro album as well.
Their encore consisted of an elongated "I Know You Love Me," "Ramblin' Rose" and "Off My Mind."
Being my first time seeing the Smoking Popes, I was impressed. It was a great hearing the tracks I've loved for a long time now being performed live at the Metro with some present-day, in the now recordings. Unfortunately, I missed the 2005 reunion, so it was nice to catch up three years down the road with the release of a new album.
With 11 years between the Popes' last studio release, "Destination Failure" and "Stay Down," Josh's vocals don't seem to have aged a bit. The element of time is nonexistent between the gap, which, lucky for us fans, is bridged by a handful of live shows and a reunion album. It was a real treat getting to see the Smoking Popes for the first time. Even Neil was saying before the show how stoked he was to be playing with them, because they were a band he grew up listening to. Brandon from Rise Against told me the same thing after the show at Wrigleyville Dogs, how he grew up listening to the Popes, and now he's seeing them as an adult.
It's really nice hearing guys older than me and way more influential and all-around cool admit how the Popes had an influence on them growing up and how important and meaningful it is to see them now. Although I missed out on the Popes' "prime" (which is subject to debate, because this new album is awesome), I think the feeling is mutual. Being able to talk to musicians about something together, both as fans, is intriguing. It showed me that regardless of age difference and fame (or semi-fame), we are all fans of something on the inside, putting us all in the same boat on any given sticky, muggy Chicago summer night.