Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Journals From a Bender, Day 6

It's not that I'm an alcoholic. It's not even that I feel a desire to drink every night. I don't. I fully believe it's due to my nomadic existence which forces me to hang out with different groups of friends throughout the week. Unfortunately, all of these friends are so dear, they insist on drinking and having fun with me the few times they get to see me. I love my friends. You will all kill me.

Josh Roush,
Embedded journalist in my own life.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

A Longwinded and Personal Review of Nirvana's 20th Anniversary Release of Nevermind

Occasionally an outside influence dramatically alters your world perspective. In my life, this was the case with Nirvana. My friend Nick introduced me to Nirvana in 1998, long after the group had already supernova’d into the pages of rock and roll history. I was roughly 12 at the time and had just begun my fascination with rock music after hearing the “Beavis and Butt-Head Do America” soundtrack. Nirvana’s punk-rock attitude and aesthetic grabbed me by vicious force, and quite honestly I have not been the same since.

It didn’t take a full year before Nick and I owned and memorized their entire studio album collection. During this time of collecting, our mutual aquantaince Jamie informed us that his brother had purchased an illegal album of Nirvana’s unreleased material, and that he actually owned VHS recordings taken from Mtv the day Kurt died. We borrowed these tapes, rigged together a series of VCR’s, and made our 2nd generation tapes of an already staticy cable broadcast (of which I still own).

After replaying these tapes an uncountable multitude of times, we began to search out these “illegal albums” of unreleased material. We stumbled upon a company selling Nirvana bootlegs called the “Outcesticide Collection” out of the back of a Guitar World magazine for $30 a piece. So we decided to take the risk. So we blindly sent them the cash, and nearly a month later, they mailed back a Xeroxed album cover and a CD-R…. and we couldn’t have been happier.

Since those days, I have completed my collection of rare/unreleased Nirvana material as there is only so much they recorded in those days. The only thing I have to look forward to is releases like this, Nirvana’s “Nevermind 20th Anniversary edition”. Yes, I already owned the album, yes I already owned the Smart studio sessions and live album contained on this set, but the difference is, now they don’t sound nearly as shitty. In essence, that 13 year old boy who was happy spending what was a huge amount of money on a shitty CD-R is still content to rebuy material he already owns, so long as it is by Nirvana.

So what do we get with this set? A remastered album finally complete with B-sides, a CD of rehearsals and outtakes, a version of the album mixed entirely by Butch Vig, and the long bootlegged “Halloween” show from Seattle. So, for shits and giggles, here is my review of the album which will be much more precisely written that the introduction piece.

Disc 1: Nevermind (Essentially a Remastered Directors Cut)-
The album’s remastering treatment sounds great, but honestly, who wouldn’t expect it to? Not much more to say other than the album sounds more crisp and clean than ever, however, with a box this size and for this price, I wish that it had came with uncompressed audio by way of a Bluray format, perhaps even a 5.1 mix of the album would have been a happy addition. However, it is great to finally hear this album without the giant negative space between “Something In the Way” and “Endless, Nameless”. The B-sides are a welcome addition to the album that I feel is LONG overdue. These songs sound better than ever thanks to the remaster. Hearing the aggression in these songs when in comparison to the final album, you see that they clearly chose to leave them out and go in a much more radio-friendly direction for the majority of the album.

Final Thought: All in all, I would love 5.1 mixes and completely uncompressed sound, but I’ll take what I can get and purchase the vinyl version for my uncompressed needs.

Disc 2: Live, rehearsals, and outtakes:
First let me say that this is the best these songs have ever sounded, I’m glad that we finally got clear, crisp versions of the entire Smart Studio sessions. Unfortunately I’ve been hearing these songs for decades and it is nothing new to me, but I’m glad they are freely available to up and coming Nirvana fans that will not have to search out the earliest generation of these recordings possible (which I might add is fucking hard to do with the advent of the modern MP3 and peoples habit of ripping an already ripped CD effectively murdering the quality). I love hearing the “Boombox Rehersals”, I had a copy of them before, and as bad as they sound on this release, the ones I had heard before were utterly unlistenable in comparison. Glad to hear these early versions with alternative, if not hard to understand, lyrics. The BBC songs are also a nice addition to new fans.

Final Thought: I already owned these, but I am incredibly happy to finally hear the best versions of these possible, and I’m happy that the band can finally make a profit off of these songs.

Disc 3: The Devonshire mixes
This has been billed as a “Butch Vig only” version of the album, this implies that he wasn’t happy with the original mixes of which he took part in, and I think that’s a misnomer. With that said, these remixes are very interesting, he seems to have taken the songs that were previously and purposefully radio friendly and muddied them up a bit, making them more aggressive, which is intriguing. Much more intriguing to me here is that he seems to have taken the “uglier” songs, and cleaned them up a bit. The best example of this is “Territorial Pissings” in which he removes the off key intro, has seemed to actually used a guitar track that was plugged into an amp (the original version had the guitar’s distortion pedal plugged directly into the input of the mixer).

Final thought: I used the adjective “intriguing” several times as it is thought provoking to hear how else this album could have turned out. However the result is too close to the original for most to care, a more original concept would have been to let Steve Albini (who got kicked off of working on “In Utero” because it was turning into a “anti-commercial noise fest”). This would have been a much more ballsy move by the creators of this box, and one of which would have greatly interested the listener.

Disc 4: Live at the Paramount Theater
This show has what is in my opinion the best version of “Jesus doesn’t want me for a sunbeam”. I find the electric version much more stimulating than the unplugged simply because the song no longer feels melancholy, and instead feels angry in the lyrics. Past that, this is an excellent example of Nirvana live, but my absolute favorite concert is the Reading Festival that was released earlier this year. It finds Nirvana much more playful with the audience and Kurt seems to be enjoying himself…. A true rarity.

Final Thought: The CD version of this is great, but the Bluray version is SO much better. This is the ONLY Nirvana concert shot in film (even if it is only 16mm) and looks brilliant on bluray. I like that they give you the option to watch it cropped or not, and usually I am a fan of uncropped, but it seems throughout this version that the filmmakers shot it with the intention of formatting it to widescreen, so I have not problem with the lost area of the footage as it largely had no information anyway.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Laughlin Nevada is Fucking Strange....

The names in this have been changed to protect the guilty, as well as my own ass.

I will start this piece out by again restating the title: Laughlin Nevada is Fucking Strange. I bought my first bike a few months back, a Harley Davidson Iron 883 (which can be read about in my last blog). I should note, that this particular bike is a Sportster, and throughout the Harley community.... the Sportster is widely regarded as a girl's bike.

As I was asking my friend information about it, he told me about one of the largest bike runs in North America. Seeing as how I have no sense about me, I agreed to go with him on this adventure. Thursday, after a night of drinking and three hours sleep, I rode with him, his coworker, and his coworker's friend 280 miles through the desert to the annual Laughlin, NV River Run.

Thursday: There is nothing in the desert. The desert is boring. Hence the definition of a desert. However, when you add a few thousand mean looking bikers on Harley's into the mix all traveling about 90 miles per hour, and you are in a staggered formation with only a few feet to play with, and there is wind hitting you from the side at about 60 miles per hour, suddenly the desert is not only exciting, its scary as fuck. These events are only amplified when you pull into the loan gas-station on the highway and see 60+ members of one of the top motorcycle gangs in America (very near the top I might add) staring at you because not only do you not fit into what a typical biker is comprised of.... you're also riding a girl's bike. It was.... an experience to say the least.

Upon arrival to the our destination, The Colorado Belle (and having seen my life pass before my eyes several times) we quickly commenced to drinking.

AUTHORS NOTE: From this point on in my story, the reader should go ahead and assume for the remainder of this that I was completely, mind-bogglingly, shit-faced as it will save much repetitive writing on my part, and reading on theirs.

After a quick shower, we met up with a few friends of one of my riding companions. They informed us of their buddy of whom I will refer to as Eddie. It was said the Eddie is an cool old dude (their term, not mine) who has some plush estate not to far away, and that he loves to throw parties for the bikers every year. They also mentioned that he had a keg. Needless to say, an hour later I found myself in Eddie's backyard.

Eddie's backyard is a hell of a site. Best described as a cabana on crack, this man had it made. Cascading water-falls dumping into his custom shaped color changing pool, LCD TV's burning sports into your eyes, a soundsystem to rival a theater, in short: the works. The place was sparsely populated by loosely dressed couples well into their 50's, but with all the attitude and drinking aggression of someone in their early 30's. I came to quickly realize that Eddie was not, shall we say, a fan of minorities when his black dog attacked me and he began to yell "Someone make that Nigger-dog shut the hell up".

I began to have a long talk with Eddie as he was behind the bar dishing out stiffly made cocktails to anyone who would stick their hand out. Without diving into too much detail as it could cause Eddie issues with powerful people, Eddie was a schemer of the highest caliber. I have no doubt this is why Eddie finds himself in the amazing financial situation that he is in. His latest scheme however.... is nothing short of a maniacally deviant vision of the American Dream in action.

Eddie pays mentally handicapped people 10 cents a roll to take toilet paper that he has made in China, box it in containers that are marked "Made in the USA", and sells it to the unassuming consumer. This however is not quite as colorful of a description for it as Eddie has. As he stated to me: "I pay retards a dime a roll to box up Chinese shit-paper and put in USA boxes". What can I say, the man has a talent for language.

After a feast made for a king (but provided for by the handicapped and the unsuspecting US consumer), and a wobbly ride back home, we left Eddie's house.

FRIDAY: Vendor's are a huge part of the Laughlin experience. So are incredibly drunk, aging, overweight, loose women. Unfortunately these two area's collided with me as I was trying to buy parts for my bike. Two drunken women we're walking on either side of our group and were yelling for each other, seeing as how they were apparently too hammered to realize they were both walking on either side of our group, someone I was walking with shouted to them the whereabouts of the other. They took this as an invitation to pester us.... namely me.

As I would walk away from the group to get a drink, or to check out a part, these aging skin-bags with lust in their eyes would aggressively accompany me. I tried ignoring them. Didn't work. I tried being rude. Didn't work. I tried being cruel. Didn't work. AS soon as I was convinced we had lost them or that they had given up, they would reappear. This continued at random throughout the next few hours.

At night my buddy and I wondered off and wanted to see what Laughlin had to offer. We were ready for anything, to see fights, to see naked women, to see roving gangs of bikers, anything. We were however not prepared for Ses Carny & Professor Chumley's Freak Show. These guys were great. They were laying in glass while people jumped on them, lighting cigarettes with grinders, and lifting cans of paint attached to chains, with their nipple rings. It was insanity of the highest caliber, but the highlight was their end act. While the performance was winding down, Professor Chumley jumped off stage and for $1 you could staple said $1 to his arms, $5 bill for the cheek, $20 bill for his forehead, and for a $50 bill.... you could staple it to his balls. After briefly considering the mental ramifications of having to go exploring down there, I decided to play it safe, and stapled a $5 to his cheek.

SATURDAY: As we were driving on our way from the highway Thursday, I noticed a little town in the desert by the name of Needles, NV. It reminded me of a town that had gotten stuck in some episode of the Twilight Zone and never managed to escape. I decided that this town warranted further exploration, so I left the pack, and went on a solo quest bound for Needles , NV.

There's not much to say about Needles unfortunately, other than it's a bit scary, and it's inhabitants match that description just as well. The townspeople really weren't sure what to make of a biker wearing a punkrock vest and camo shorts who was stopping and occasionally taking pictures of their odd neighborhoods (I'll attach some of these). Also, it should be noted that a turf-war once happened there between a Christian Church and a Jehovah's Witnesses sect where in a hands down victory, the Christians got their asses handed to them and they were stuck forever in a parking-lot.
However, on the more negative side of this venture, I got off on a rocky dirt road, got twisted around, and although I didn't "lay down my bike" I twisted my ankle something fierce, causing it to swell, and me to favor it the remainder of the trip.

Saturday night was something else all together. One of the people I was traveling with is a relative to some of the biker gang I also previously mentioned. Long story short, he met up with his relatives Saturday night, and we spent the entirety of the night hanging out with that gang. I apologize if that statement is vague, I'll clarify a bit, but I am, for the record, not going on the record about a damned thing. I stood toe to toe with some of the most dangerous motherfuckers in America, and was shaking hands with them all, as they were sporting their colors, and as they were buying me drinks all night. They were great guys, perhaps multiple felons, perhaps murderers, perhaps drug traffickers, or perhaps they just have a terrible reputation, but in any case they greeted me as a friendly, and treated me as such. All the same, intensity is an appropriate word for the feeling of the night.

SUNDAY: Sunday was boring. At this point people were winding down from their weekend of riding and drinking, I however was not ready to go gentle into that good night. I spent the day wondering around, drink in hand, exploring Laughlin's seedy casinos. Not much to report however, but dinner that night was quite awkward.

Our group, comprised of friends of friends of friends decided to go an have a nice sit down dinner that night. So we picked a Steak joint, reserved our place in line for it, and continued to drink at the bar. At some point during these proceedings I aquired the nickname of "Rambo" due to all the "shit you have in your vest". After becoming better acquainted with some of these friends three times removed, it became time for dinner.

The first sign that this dinner was to be incredibly awkward came as I ordered a Merlot to accompany my food, only to have the decision greeted with a chorus of "You drink wine boy" and "Guess a guy that drives that bike would order wine". "Great" I thought to myself, "Attack the intelligent guy with taste, I think Bush Jr. won on that platform".

Regardless, the older lady next to me had been dating her boyfriend at the table for nearly three months. I know this fact because she told it to me four times throughout the evening, just as she had repeated everything she had said about as many times. Her boyfriend was a greasy, white haired, jersey shore wannabe whom by the end of dinner, I unaffectionately came to call "Miami Vice". "Miami Vice" had a thick gold chain, penny loafers, and continued on and on about his BMW and his bank account.

As our steak arrived, his girlfriend cut a chunk of her prime rib and put it on my plate explaining as how she could not possibly eat it all. "If you put that goddamned meat on his plate he better damn well be buying the food for you", "Miami" bellowed. The whole table turned in unison to me. I explained to him "Hey man, I didn't ask for it, if you want it sir it's all yours and it comes with my apologies". I was being as nice as I could. For the next 5 insanely excruciating minutes of my life, she kept insisting that I eat it, and he continued to tell her and I how he was not paying for it. In good spirit, at one point I even got a to-go box and attempted to give it to him. He did not give one shit, I know this, because that is what he told me. This eventually led to "Miami" having a hissy-fit and going to his bedroom, leaving myself with the bill. After being forced to endure all of that, I was at that moment, over Laughlin Nevada, and I spent the rest of the night fending off old women at the hotel bar.

MONDAY: My buddy and I woke up early and got the hell outta Laughlin. I spent that grueling 280 mile ride home with a throbbing ankle, a terrible case of the DT's, and even more stories than I could fit in this post. At it's best, Laughlin is a seedy, run-down version of Las Vegas, at it's worst? Well, I'll be honest with you, its quite frightening and fucking strange as all hell.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Finished the Blacked-out Stage One Iron 883, Laughlin Here I Come...

This is an unusual sort of blog post for me, but on the off-chance it helps someone out with customizing their bike, I suppose I'll go into some detail about what it is I have done to my 2011 Harley Davidson Iron 883. I've included links to the specific parts themselves, do not make the mistake of buying directly from the link, shop around.

I bought the bike about 4 months ago, not only is it my first Harley, its also my first motorcycle. Hell, to be honest I bought the damned thing before I even knew how to ride or had my license (I've been told I jump into things head first). I hadn't been riding it a week before I knew I was ready to customize it. Here's what I've done so far:

AIR INTAKE: The first thing I did was install a Screamin Eagle Stage One Air Cleaner. This was simple enough, pull of the backplate, throw on some Locktite, and bolt back together. There was a noticeable improvement, but it wasn't really much. Disappointed with how little power I got from that I started collecting information on the internet and seeing what others were doing to their 883's. I gathered that I was going to need a new exhaust system, and fuel manager at the very least.

EXHAUST: After exhaustive research (see what I did there... huh? Huh?) I settled on Black Rush Performance slip-on mufflers. I really would have preferred the Vance and Hines model, but they don't come in black, and my overall goal was to rid the bike of chrome. So I wrapped the pipes in black and installed the slip-ons. The first thing I noticed is that the term "slip-on" is a little misleading, I had to beat the shit outta the existing mufflers to get them to detach, but once they did the new ones slipped on like a glove. I gotta say, the Rush mufflers sound badass, I really can't say enough positive about them.

FUEL MANAGEMENT: After reading reviews I settled on the Dobeck TFI 1251 This is what made all the difference. Some people say you HAVE to change your fuel system if you change your exhaust and intake, some say you don't. I have NO idea which is correct, but I will say, for about $200, don't find out if it will damage your bike. This is THE upgrade that took my performance from stock to balls out.

HANDLEBARS: I wasn't a fan of the way the stock drag bars had me bent over, and I wanted a little more height. Enter Harley Davidson Mini-apes. Mini-apes give a nice rise so that you're sitting upright, but not too much to where you are uncomfortably reaching. In order to perform this install, you have to make sure that you have a brake-line, clutch-cable, and the wiring to reach about another 6 inches. The clutch-cable was fine, however... nothing else was. Installing a new brake-line is a bitch, but was an absolute necessity (however there are no shortage of sites to help you with that so I won't tackle it here).

As for the wiring, I read that if you lift your gas tank on Iron 883's that there is an excess of wire that you can unravel to make the stock wire-harness work. WRONG. This was NOT the case on my 2011 Iron 883. So I was faced with a dilemma: either buy the wire harness extender that Harley sells which is literally a plug-and-play extension, or hand wire about a dozen wire extensions by hand, tape them, and wrap them. This sounds like an easy call, but it was going to take a week to deliver the harness and I'm impatient as all hell, so I took the latter road and hand wired that mother. Honestly, if you've done wiring before, and you write a good wire diagram, its time consuming, but easy as hell, crack a few beers and dedicate 2 1/2 hours.

Also, while this is all disassembled is an excellent opportunity to put on new handlebar grips. I chose the Black Diamond Grips, but to each there own.

BLACKING OUT: As I said before, my intention is to remove all chrome from the bike. Unfortunately, the forks are chrome, so I was faced with either painting them (and painting chrome is a bitch of a chore at the very least), buying new forks (way too much $$$), or blacking them out myself. I've read that they make leather wrap around covers for them pretty cheap, but as I have a windshield that mounts to my forks, this was not an option. Enter hose-tape. Hose tape is weather resistant, cleans up with chemicals, and is built to last quite a while with even gas pumping around it. It also adds an aggressive "rat-rod" look to the already stripped down 883.

Many people opt to "smoke out" the lights with the Harley kit, but honestly, the bikes already black as night, I really don't mind people seeing a few bright red and yellow lights at while I'm riding around town after midnight.

SMALL BITS: With the handle bars now raised, you can't see a thing out of your mirrors. But don't fret. I simply loosened my turning signal, re-tightened it in a position closer to the forks, unbolt the mirrors, and flip them. It makes the bike look sleeker, and you can actually see things behind you. I also added some saddlebags my buddy gave me, a add-on Harley backseat, and am in the process of painting a sissy-bar I bought on Ebay.

This is all just stuff I've done, but I have had COMPLETE success with it, and love the aggressive look, sound, and performance that has came from it. Eventually I will make the upgrade to the Stage Two. The Stage Two is when you strip the engine, bore out the cylinders, install new pistons, and it upgrades your engine from 883cc to a 1200cc. These kits can run you anywhere from $400-700 on Ebay, and from my research, is the BEST upgrade option available.

Here is a link to a Ultra-mega size HD pic.

Laughlin, here I come.