Chronicling the creative process for Pop Zeus, the forthcoming Guided By Voices/Bob Pollard tribute comic- including sketches, concepts, finished art and whatever else is in my brain at the moment.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Me's The Uncle!

Great news! I am officially an uncle! My niece Grace was born yesterday and I couldn't be prouder nor happier. So its been an exciting and busy week so far, needless to say. More later...

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Guided By Voices MP3 Smorgasbord- Part Uno

Work has been bringing me way down this week. Feeling listless, unmotivated, pissed off, cranky, hot and most of all bored. My theory is that after several long weekends of fun and a glimpse of a life not stuck in a rut, returning to the rut has been a major bummer (I remind myself of Solsbury Hill). And this week has been especially intense at work, atoning for the relatively free and easy previous week when one of the two directors, the production manager and producer were all out. This is all to say that work sucks. To quote Bob once more, I don't like work and I don't like school and I don't like when you have to do shit you don't wanna do!

Anyway, here are some hand-picked free and legal MP3's of my favorite band of all time, plus various splinter incarnations, for your listening and downloading pleasure. One good thing about music is that when it hits you, you feel no pain- so says another genius Bob and I couldn't agree more. The music is always there no matter what kinda crap-ass stuff you are dealing with, eh?..

(MP3s courtesy of

Everybody Thinks I'm A Raincoud (When I'm Not Looking)
- From Half Smiles of the Decomposed LP, which you should already own if you are reading this! Exactly the kind of song I need on a day like today- lovely and amazing song that gets better and better with each listen.

Matter Eater Lad
- From the EP Clown Prince of the Menthol Trailer, great rare track all about an obscure superhero from the Legion of Superheroes. Very lo-fi, punky and fun.

Total Exposure - Live at the Fillmore 6/24/01
- A show I was indeed present for, soon after I moved to San Francisco. I think I like the live version better than the Tonics and Twisted Chasers one. Good shit.

Drinker's Peace (full band version) - Live in Carboro NC 10/26/02
- This version makes me weep in my beer. Classic song, brilliant live performance.

Malamute Jute - From Doug Gillard's EP Malamute Jute
- Kickin' lead off track from Doug's 2000 solo release.

(MP3s courtesy of sashwap's MP3 page o' fun)

Titus And Strident Wet Nurse
- A little ditty you may remember from an earlier post. On the album, the song was split into two parts. Thankfully "Stoned Comedian Ringo" (whoever the hell that is) fused the two parts together with excellence!

Hiram Campbell on lo-fi trash (WYSO Around the Fringe 1996)
-Mysterious caller Bob... I mean Hiram Campbell calls into a radio show and harasses Mitch Mitchell and Kevin Fennell. Ha ha classic!

Watch Me Jumpstart (Sweden 2002)
- Mightiest live version of WMJ I've ever heard (with bonus amusing Swedish introduction)!

(MP3s courtesy of

Wings Of Thorn (demo)
-Digging this demo version way more than the Universal Truths And Cycles full band one. Lovely Bob guitar work on this.

You're Not The Queen Anymore
-Words can't describe how much I love this track off of Suitcase 2. It snuck up and bit me on the ass on day and never let go.

Death Of The Party
-Far and away, the best track off of the Keene Brothers album. And possibly one of Bob's all time best. Its a real grower, so give it some time and watch the magic unfold.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

I Got Nothin'

Feeling very lazy and unmotivated. So, here is a random video to tide you over (did I mention my fetish for old Bollywood film music yet?)...

Friday, July 14, 2006

The Robert Pollard Projects For Late 2006 And Beyond - Updated!

(studio photos courtesy of Matt Davis and

Wanted to update y'all and remind myself as to what the future holds in the realm of Robert Pollard recordings. This year has already seen the release of 4 albums that I can think of. And Bob willing, there should be at least 4 more before 2007! Ch-check it out...

Psycho and the Birds EP "Check Your Zoo"
(Fading Captain Series. Release date late July 21st!)
Follow up to "All That Is Holy", newly recorded in April 2006. Yet more scratchy Bob boombox demos with Todd Tobias instrumentals layered over top.

Robert Pollard "Normal Happiness" (formerly "Full Sun", "Gasoline Ragtime" and "You Were Saying?". Merge Records. Official release date- October 10th!)
Bob's second solo album with Merge is in the can and is supposedly a happier, poppier record than From A Compound Eye. It was of course another collaboration with the mighty Todd Tobias. And the details for a Normal Happiness tour are being worked out. Rumor has it 6 or 7 shows in a row in October and then 6 or 7 shows in a row in November and that's it, centering around the Midwest, Southeast and Northeast (no SF show for me this time, bummer). The official tracklisting is...

01 The Accidental Texas Who
02 Whispering Whip
03 Supernatural Car Lover (heard on the Bob tour)
04 Boxing About (heard on the Bob tour and as an instrumental track on the Music For Bubble EP)
05 Serious Birdwoman (You Turn Me On) (heard on the Bob tour)
06 Get a Faceful (heard on the Bob tour)
07 Towers and Landslides
08 I Feel Gone Again (heard on the Bob tour)
09 Gasoline Rag
10 Rhoda Rhoda
11 Give up the Grape
12 Pegasus Glue Factory
13 Top of My Game
14 Tomorrow Will Not Be Another Day
15 Join the Eagles
16 Full Sun (Dig the Slowness)

(fake cover created by Moonchief on DTS)

Circus Devils - Two as yet untitled albums
(Fading Captain Series. Tentative release dates late October 2006?)
The fifth in the Halloween-bound Circus Devils album cycle will be released later this year, according to Todd Tobias' page. And there will be another Circus Devils LP released in the UK- confirmed! Prolific is an understatement!

The Takeovers "Bad Football"
(Fading Captain Series? Tentative release date early 2007?)
Another pop collaboration with former GBV bassist Chris Slusarenko. Rumor has it that Stephen Malkmus, formerly of indie rock legends Pavement will appear. The last Takeovers album "Turn To Red" is my absolute favorite Pollard project these days. So I'm already chomping at the bit. Hoo-hah!

Robert Pollard "Hello Forever" (tentative title)
(Merge Records? Tentative release date- 2007?)
Studio sessions for this one were just completed in June! What this sounds like, only the future will tell (the Heed and RichT ain't budging). It has been described by Bob as "one of the more harder rocking albums" he's put out in a while. Plus it's been leaked that the Psycho And The Bird's track The Killers will be on "Hello Forever" as well (more fully fleshed out, one presumes)!

My Valuable Hunting Knife Video

It's Friday so let's rock, let's rock today! Here is the vintage 1995 video for My Valuable Hunting Knife which utilizes the kick-ass full band handclaps version of the song off of the amazing Tigerbomb EP. I distinctly remember taping this video on my ole 4-head VCR back in the day in its likely only appearance on Mtv's 120 Minutes program. The imagery is a bit cheesy at times but overall its a pretty cool video. Things to watch for include appearances by the entire 1995 lineup of the band including Jim Greer, Bob rummaging through the Snakepit (maybe?) for junk to put in his wagon, Bob's American flag Chuck Taylors (prompting college-age me to get a pair), and a 7" getting some serious loft as it sails over the Great Miami River...

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Killing Yourself To Live

Man, I didn't get enough sleep last night! In spite of my foggy head, I would really like to post my review for Chuck Klosterman's latest Killing Yourself To Live before I forget the details. Plus, it couldn't be a more appropriate subject with the passing of Syd Barrett last Friday. Read entirely during my flight back home for the Pearl Jam/Robert Pollard show, the book neatly paralleled the rock and roll journey I was embarking upon. And it's funny, I was totally unaware of that connection between Klosterman's travels and my own until well into the book.

Superficially, Killing Yourself To Live centers around a rental car roadtrip writing assignment for Spin magazine. Visiting not the grave sites of various dead rock stars, but their actual death sites (the location where Lynyrd Skynyrd's plane crashed, Sid Vicious murdered Nancy Spungen, Cobain blew his head off, etc.) Chuck hopes to grasp some sort of vague truth about how self-destruction, death, rock and fame are intertwined. It's a subject he touched on briefly in Fargo Rock City- a rant against the rising popularity of Nirvana in the wake of Kurt Cobain's suicide. But here, the idea is not only more fully explored but somehow along the way Klosterman's own personal life gets mixed up in it. And the journey becomes about much more than 'The Day The Music Died' for both reader and author.

A while back, I poured through Klosterman's first book Fargo Rock City and posted a review- partly just for shits and giggles and partly as another source of rawk inspiration for Pop Zeus. And I instantly found his writing both enjoyable and relatable. Granted, my youth on the suburban Jersey Shore was profoundly different from his North Dakota farm life. And I've never been a hair metal fan (Guns N' Roses was about as close as I got). But still, as a fellow pop-culturally saturated generic white Gen-Xer (haven't used that term to describe myself in a long time) born in the very same year, I felt a kinship with Klosterman's point of view. And that feeling is more pronounced after having read Killing Yourself To Live- a far weightier and more personal book than the previous.

Using the business trip as an covert excuse to reconnect with past and present girlfriends, the heart and soul of Killing Yourself To Live is revealed. Klosterman speaks very frankly and passionately about the women in his life- memorably likening them to the KISS lineup! It is in those candid glimpses that the book moves beyond the extended riffs on pop culture and into more meaningful territory. And the skillful counterbalance between those two elements is what fundamentally makes Klosterman's work so dynamic and gratifying.

Killing Yourself To Live is ultimately a very touching read- a thoughtful treatise on love and loss, what it means to be young and navigating through the ups and downs of life. It also begs the question of what it means to be a rock musician that didn't burn out and fade away, like Robert Pollard and the members of Guided By Voices. And for me, the book was a step far above and beyond the already quite wonderful Fargo Rock City. Consider me an official Chuck Klosterman fan- already picked up the one I missed "Sex, Drugs And Cocoa Puffs" and am totally looking forward to jumping in.

Take it easy everyone!

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Pink Floyd - Arnold Layne Video

I am bumping this post in tribute to Syd Barrett, who died on Friday (just reported today) at the age of 60. He was a musical genius that will not be forgotten. Shine on, Syd...

Cited as a major influence on Robert Pollard and Guided By Voices, the early psychedelic sounds of Pink Floyd and Syd Barrett continues to inspire and astound forty years later. Arnold Layne was the first single by the original 1967 lineup of the band including co-founder and original lead singer Barrett. In spite of its odd subject matter, the single cracked the UK top twenty and set the stage for the success of their debut album, Piper At The Gates Of Dawn. Arnold Layne was also produced by Joe Boyd who went onto produce the amazing folk singer Nick Drake and R.E.M.'s gloomy and strange Fables Of The Reconstruction.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Devo - Jocko Homo Video

Another Monday, another groggy work day with a video post! Had a tough kung fu weekend- feel like I've been beaten by a bag of bricks (perhaps I was). Other than that, it was same ole, same ole.

Here is a truly weird video from another legendary Ohio band Devo. It is the Jocko Homo bit from their award winning 1976 short film The Truth About De-Evolution. The film got the attention of David Bowie and Iggy Pop, leading to their record deal with Warner Brothers. And Jocko Homo eventually found its way onto 1978's Brian Eno produced "Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo!". And it was this very album which prompted Robert Pollard to cut his long hair and quit his 70's heavy metal band Anacrusis (also featuring Tony Conley) after Mitch Mitchell got canned. It also made Bob think differently about punk rock in general. But don't take my word for it...
"When punk came in, I was kind of turned off by it, but then a friend of mine played me this album, and it just scared the fuck out of me, to the point where I thought music was steering off into an evil direction. But I kept listening, and it just blew my mind how good it was. To me, it was progressive rock because it was taking music in a new direction."


Friday, July 07, 2006

Fab Faux Show Review

(photos courtesy of

Following the six and a half hour drive to Pittsburgh and the Pearl Jam/Robert Pollard show that same night, me and my brother crashed landed in our cushy Doubletree beds. It would have been lovely to take a dip in the pool or even just sleep in. But alas, we had tickets to go see another show the very next night in Red Bank, New Jersey! I was seriously questioning the logic of this plan. Ultimately, I decided to keep my mouth shut and get driving. But man, was the marathon drive back home ever worth it!

The show we were racing home for was the Fab Faux at the historic Count Basie Theater. Now I know what you are thinking- a Beatles cover band? You left the comfort of the Doubletree Inn to race seven hours for a Beatles cover band? But this is no ordinary cover band.

I had first heard of the Fab Faux sometime last year on Howard Stern. And my mind was totally blown. Here were a bunch of extremely talented New York-based musicians, several I was familiar with from Conan O'Brien's and David Letterman's bands, playing some of the most complicated late 60's Beatles music with passion and excellence. And their goal was not to imitate the Beatles but to perform the music as accurate to the albums as possible, while continuing to look and sing like themselves. And they were brilliant.

So I couldn't pass up this opportunity to see the Fab Faux, especially given their tours rarely extend beyond the "Tri-State Area". It was a typically hot and soupy New Jersey summer evening as we finally arrived in my old stomping grounds. And the old theater was jam packed full of... baby boomers? I guess I should have expected an older crowd, but it did feel quite weird being among the youngest people there (especially since going to most club rock shows makes me feel old anymore). I consider myself to be a total slobbering Beatlemaniac so I often forget that their core audience is pushing 50 (or 60!). Disappointing not to see more of my contemporaries there- I thought everyone loved the Beatles?

Anyway, my expectations were high and my back was sweaty (the air conditioning seemed broken at the Count Basie) as the curtain rose for the show. And wow, did the Fab Faux kick some serious arse! The power of their show works on several levels. First off, its just weird and magical to hear these incredible Beatle songs you've played a million times each being performed live- your ears say Beatles even if your eyes are confused. Secondly, its amazing to see the musicianship at work. The Fab Faux not only play all the instruments you hear on the records (two guitars playing at once for the double tracked guitar sound, Fab Faux members doing triple duty playing keyboards/synth sound effects, guitar and percussion!) including a horn section and strings and the sound effects from the records (think I Am The Walrus!) but they also simulate the double tracked vocals by singing simultaneously, switching off on lead vocals and harmony. They sing a pitch-perfect "Because" and "Oh, Darling!" for crying out loud! And lastly, the passion they feel for the music of Paul, John, George and Ringo oozes out of their pores and is totally infectious (no pun intended).

The Fab Faux specialize in the more complex later Beatles tracks. Their signature performances that night included mind-blowing album-perfect renditions of Back In The USSR, Penny Lane, I Am The Walrus, and While My Guitar Gently Weeps! Other highlights included Will Lee sitting on the edge of the stage for a lovely Mother Nature's Son, Dear Prudence (which always affects me deeply for some reason), a spirited Martha My Dear, my favorite early Beatles hit Please Please Me, and the odd rarity with the reggae break I Call Your Name.

But the kicker was how they closed out the show. It seemed early for the Fab Faux to be saying goodnight, but we were in for a surprise. When they launched into Because, followed quickly by You Never Give Me Your Money, I knew we were being treated to the entirety of Abbey Road Side 2! Holy Jesus! It was a truly magical performance. And the whole pacing and lead up to the end of Abbey Road always hits me with a lot of emotion (thinking about it being the last time they all played together, and its themes of death and celebration) so I was totally bowled over and choked up at the same time. Golden Slumbers and Carry That Weight especially fuck up my shit every time. And hearing them live was that much more powerful. But by the time we got to The End, the crowd were on their feet (awkwardly dancing in that middle aged white people way, but still loving it up). The famous final drum solo followed by three guitar solos by George, Paul and John were performed perfectly. And Her Majesty wrapped it up- wow!

The encore was an extended jam of Everybody's Got Something To Hide Except For Me And My Monkey- a fun way to close out the evening. I can't recommend going to see the Fab Faux enough. Hopefully, they will venture west and bless our shores with some Beatles rock done rightly! Have a fab weekend y'all!

Thursday, July 06, 2006

6 Months And Nothing To Show For It!

I'm just messing with myself with that post title but wow, is it already July? I am definitely trapped in the fast-forward time machine lately. Longing for the extremely drawn out and boring summer days of my youth when I had nothing to do and all the time in the world not to do it. Like they say, time flies... blah blah blah...

The real reason behind this post is not to complain about being busy, it's to get you up to date on the progress of Pop Zeus! Took some time this weekend for more research on the Illustrated History of Guided By Voices section of the comic. There were some gaps in the timeline that needed to be filled- particularly between the release of Propeller in 1992, which was to be GBV's swan song and their signing to Scat Records and the eventual CBGB's coming out party for the New Music Seminar in 1993. The details are very sketchy as to how and why GBV were discovered by the big city likes of Matt Sweeney, Thurston Moore and eventually Robert Griffin from Scat. Even Bob Pollard himself had difficulty explaining how GBV's records ended up in the hands of those influential people and the band's fortune started to turn around. But I did manage to piece together what I could and the additions are helping to bridge the gap.

As stated before, the band history section of the comic is quite ambitious and has required a lot more work than originally anticipated. There are still a couple more sources I would like to include, but I have already gone through one edit of the section, chopping away a lot of the fat. So it is really winding down quickly and should be locked and ready to draw before too long (he said hopefully).

Also spent some time on designs this weekend. Thought about bringing in my sketchbook to work and scanning some designs to post. But some things I don't want to spoil just yet. The stuff I've been working on is pretty specific and would give away too many plot points just in the viewing. What I can say is that I did some cool designs for an evil dude dubbed "The Enemy" for the 3rd Illustrated Song. 'Nuff said!

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Superman Returns

Hey, I'm back! Had a quite lovely four day weekend, 4th of July and all that. Feels weird to be back at work after two long weekends in a row- getting spoiled. The studio where I work was technically open on Monday. But only 2 of the 20 person crew were here. Kinda ridiculous to expect anyone to come in on a Monday between a weekend and a holiday. Squandered a floating holiday to get the day off too... rats.

I also wanted to let the ole Bob Pollard/Pearl Jam show review sit for a few days before posting again. Getting all the videos and photos together for the post was a much bigger and more complicated task than I had anticipated. And I figured it would take time for everyone to savor the review and video goodness.

Got a chance to check out Superman Returns at the multiplex Monday night with my bud in Berkeley, Alvin and his woman Jen. And it was pretty darn great to see the Man of Steel on the big screen after too long of an absence! As the opening credits rolled and John Williams unforgettable theme blared out, I was completely transported back to New Jersey in the early 80's, a 10 year old kid once again.

Director Bryan Singer (of X-Men and The Usual Suspects fame) acquitted himself very well, thoughtfully and believably transposing the Superman mythos onto the present day. And the story skillfully avoided TV's Smallville soap opera leanings, instead exploring what it means to be a hero and how tragic a character Superman truly is. I had heard some complaints about the pacing of the film. But I loved that it took its time setting up the plot points. Not only was it reflective of the original Richard Donner film but it also gave the amazing action sequences more punch.

The cast was great, especially Brandon Routh as Supes. He struck the perfect balance between riffing off of what Christopher Reeve had created 25 years ago and making the character his own. Kevin Spacey also filled the shoes of Lex Luthor with ease, bringing more sadism and menace than Gene Hackman's more comic turn on the character.

The only minor reservations I had with Superman Returns were plot related. The film started to lose focus at one point, a sequence where Superman is rescued from drowning that felt tacked on. And it seemed odd that there was no resolution for Luthor's personal vendetta against Superman. Other than that, the film completely met my lofty expectations.

Me and Superman go way back. Without a doubt, he was my favorite superhero when I was a kid. Being quite the goody-two-shoes myself, I tended to side with the good hearted characters- Luke Skywalker over Han Solo, Superman over Batman, Betty over Veronica, etc. And I could totally empathize with Superman's alter ego, Clark Kent. Like him, I was stuck hiding behind a pair of glasses, having humiliatingly gotten my first pair in 3rd grade. And I also felt socially inept, stumbling and bumbling like a lil' Clark Kent. But underneath it all, I believed that I might be powerful and cool like Superman. Powerful, yet always an outsider.

And so, my parents lovingly crafted a hand sewn Superman costume for me one Halloween and it was great. And one day, long after the holiday, I took one of my grade school chums aside and told him I was Superman but not to tell anyone. Of course, he didn't believe it. But I reassured him that I was indeed Superman. So I unbuttoned my polyester shirt and showed him my Halloween costume that I had craftily worn under my school clothes! Eyes as big as saucers, my schoolmate totally bought it. And I basked in the glow of believing that I was Superman too (and had pulled off a pretty neat trick!).

Take care everyone. I will be back with more news from my long weekend and other stuff soon!