Speaker Fruit

Anxiously awaiting a couple of new releases so i can put my proverbial thought pennies online, i thought i’d bide web time by piggy backing on last week’s Music Monday.

The Apples In Stereo

Playful Power Pop! That’s what i’ve termed the styled musings of The Apples In Stereo. The exuberant bliss of bright head-bobbing rhythms, founded in lo-fi guitars and propelled by bouncy sing-along melodies transform a grimace to a grin. i first discovered The Apples In Stereo in 1997 with “Seems So”(from their second release Tone Soul Evolution) that i received on an industry artist sampler. With inspiration primarily rooted in The Beach Boys, Syd Barrett era Pink Floyd, and The Beatles “Revolver” through “The Beatles (White Album)” pop epoch, TAIS were formed in 1992. Robert Schneider (not to be confused with the actor/comedian Rob Schneider), primary songwriter/lyricist, singer and guitar player formed The Apples with friends he’d met in his relocation from Louisiana to Colorado.

Despite the fuzzed out grooves of “Tidal Waves,” on their full-length 1995 debut Fun Trick Noisemaker reflecting a pop-soaked version of Sonic Youth, The Apples In Stereo found it complicated to find a place on radio in the early and mid ‘90s. It was difficult to gain notoriety as Pacific Northwest grunge artists and their imitators wrestled air control to build their musical kingdoms. The happiest music that you’ve never heard sometimes brings to mind saccharine tunes of The Partridge Family or The Starland Vocal Band, throwing in the occasional horn arrangement and vocal harmonies that would make Jeff Lynne proud. See why that really doesn’t work with the grunge movement?.

Though not a huge commercial success, The Apples In Stereo’s songs have appeared sporadically in television advertisements (“Energy” from New Magnetic Wonder (2007), was used in a world -wide Pepsi campaign); and Schneider has written special songs such as “Signal In The Sky (Let’s Go!),” (Let’s Go! , 2001), the Will Vinton (remember those dancing California Raisins?) directed video for the Cartoon Network’s glorious Powerpuff Girls inspired music; or the hilarious “Stephen, Stephen” contributed to The Green Screen Challenge on an episode of The Colbert Report.

Nowhere is The Beatles’ influence more prevalent than on the “Strawberry Fields” homage “Strawberryfire,” from Her Wallpaper Reverie (1999). The Zombies inspired psychedelic pop of “Stream Running Over” and the danceable hand-clapper “The Bird That You Can’t See,” both from The Discovery Of A World Inside The Moone (2000), are always fun songs. Speaking of fun, i dare you to frown and keep your head from bobbing while listening to the somber titled “Same Old Drag.”

Also try picking these from their tree: “Please,” The Velocity of Sound (2002); “Skyway,” New Magnetic Wonder (2007); “Dance Floor,” Travellers In Space And Time (2010).

Let me know what you think.

~End pome~

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What i Forgot (about Memorial Day)

With roots shortly following the Civil War, with over 600,000 lives lost, a day was later formally recognized to honor those who had given all in that great conflict, both blue and gray. Since the establishment of Memorial Day, it has come to be recognized to honor all that have fallen in service to protect the interests of freedoms and liberties of the United States of America.

As one who follows and believes in the God of the Bible, both Old and New Testaments, i also like to remember those who have lost their lives through the ages for their spiritual beliefs and faith that Jesus is the Son of God. May we remember and honor the fallen as we enjoy or mini-cations, impromptu barbeques and weekend gatherings. More importantly, may we remember to carry on standing, representing, and preserving everything for which they sacrificed their lives.

~End observance~

…For Whom The Bell Tolls? (a retraction of sorts)

Last Friday i threw my proverbial pennies out there on the whole Harold Camping “End of the World: don’t bother packing ‘cuz Jesus is coming” parade. In so doing i took a not-so-subtle parenthetical jab at Rob Bell (at the end of the second paragraph, if you really must know). It’s typically not like me to stomp on someone who’s already had enough gut kicking. Especially an issue that’s had more than its fair share of media attention and has put Christians in flood light of irrational thinking.

Rob Bell has done a great deal of good for many years. He has tens of thousands of people who attend his church and follow him online, and hundreds of thousands that read his books and use his video material. i’ve been aware of Bell for many years. Enjoyed his book “Velvet Elvis” (i much preferred Donald Miller’s “Blue Like Jazz” which came out years earlier and made the same general point). Nothing revelatory between its covers, yet Bell has a great way of communicating to people. His unique Nooma video study series is very good at opening up discussion about faith and spirituality as it relates to our daily struggle.

Several weeks before his newest book, Love Wins, was released, many Christian leaders made flippant derogatory remarks toward Bell. i actually became angry at many of these responses, because of arrogant remarks from men whom i respected. Especially in light that the book had not yet been released and i was sure that most of these commentaries were done without examining the evidence. i tend to take a “wait and see” approach. Yet such a stir was occurring that the book’s release date was pushed up several weeks. Then a web-streamed live forum with R.B. in New York City was scheduled the night before the release, potentially to quell the onslaught of criticism.

Wanting to give the man the benefit of the doubt, i tuned in to the live stream seeking resolution to the controversy. Nothing of such occurred. Mr. Bell actually side-stepped questions in which he could have directly given an answer to. Was he apprehensive to reveal his real and controversial thoughts or a marketing genius intriguing viewers to snatch up the first copies of Love Wins? As the book released it was evident that his thoughts on H-E-double-hockey-sticks and afterlife were indeed contrary to orthodox Christian teaching and Theology, with a pluralistic universal approach.

In the ensuing flurry of talk show appearances Bell typically skirted answering questions directly. In so doing, on more than one occurrence, i witnessed Bell respond that he was a Pastor not a Theologian. More than his vague stand on Hell and the afterlife, it was these comments of Bell’s that made my brow furrow and my fists clench. It is this type of defensive justification which is deplorable and inexcusable.

A Theologian may not be a Pastor, however, it is imperative that every Pastor is a Theologian. By a definition a Pastor is a Shepherd: to guide, lead, protect, nurture, feed, and instruct his flock. To fulfill each aspect of shepherding people a pastor must have an understanding of Theology and what he or she believes. How else can one be fed correct information, guided to understanding, instructed in correct Doctrine, protected from deceptive aberrance and heresy, and nurtured to spiritual maturity if not for the theologically minded Pastor? Each person who calls themselves Christian should likewise be a student of Theology.

It’s a great tragedy that many pastors do not heed the great responsibility they have. i know i’ve made my share of dumb remarks as a pastor (therefore, the bell does indeed toll for me). i’m not one to throw the baby out with the bath, however Mr. Bell’s slip in the tub may have kicked the infant out the window altogether as far as his potential influence to continue to serve a generation. No matter. i know God has been dealing with these things for millenniums… and He’s not done yet. Redemption is around the corner. i know He’s covered my faulty backside more than once. i am such a fan of grace.

~End clanging ~

Into the “O”pen Void

Momentarily safe, having received a temporary reprieve from the pending apocalypse, the vast populace of a great nation turn their hearts of attention towards the truly immense tragedy of the day: No, not the recent devastation of flooding in Memphis, or tornado havoc in Joplin, or even the deadly tornadoes that have just swept through Oklahoma, Kansas, and Arkansas. Today the focus is on a true misfortune as we bid farewell to the one who has lifted our hopes in times of fear; held our hand through uncertainty; swelled our hearts with laughter; dried our tears; exposed liars and cheats; brought monkey-like couch-jumping celebs into our living rooms; has become a friend who sticks closer than a sister.

Today Oprah Winfrey broadcasts the last episode of her long running talk show. From humble beginnings Oprah has risen to become one of the most powerful, influential, and wealthiest people in the world. I’m not sure how this happened. But you know you’ve arrived when you can drop your last name and just go by Oprah. Like Cher, Madonna, or … Jesus. You must really be special if you can then drop the suffix of you first name and be known as simply your first initial, “O.” Seriously, God doesn’t even get that type of notoriety. If i said i was reading about “J” having dinner with his twelve closest pals, who would be sure to whom i was referring? But if i say that “O” did such and such… you know who it is.

To be fair, i’ve never actually seen a full episode of O’s show. But i did see “The Color Purple.” Let’s not dismiss all the good O has accomplished. She has done incredible philanthropic work in Africa and Chicago. She has put authors on top of the New York Times Best Seller list. She has made the most invulnerable celebrity feel as though they were closest kin. She put Dr. Phil on TV. Oh the wonders of O, she has indeed done many amazing things. It is undeniably a sad day for most of America …nay… the world. Who will ever take O’s place, to be our comforter, our hope, fill us with joy, wipe our tears, fill our hearts and our homes? …J?!

~End O~

Higher Math… sometimes things just don’t add up.

i’m actually pretty good at math, working out percentages and factors in my head. However, i never really had a mind for higher math: Geometry, Trigonometry and the like. You’d think i’d be great at Algebra, considering i took it four times. But, no. However, when it comes to true “Higher” math Harold Camping seriously needs to get schooled.

Twice now Camping has gotten the equation wrong. If Mr. Camping espoused his false predictions a few millennium back we would each be slinging rocks his way. Instead, Camping and his followers become media pariahs and laughing stock of Christianity.

Time for a new abacus, protractor or whatever it is Camping is using. Pythagoreans aside, let it suffice that any Bible reading and studying person would know that such predication is always counterfeit. No breathe holding here, until October 21. At this point the issue is not worth wasting anymore cyber ink. Maybe Jesus really does need new PR.

You’re welcome to “add” your thoughts.

~End calculation~

Not Just For The Lactose Tolerant

Over the years i have done everything from be a musician, concert promoter, freelance music journalist, review editor, industry marketing consultant, etc. Most of all i’m an audiophile, a self described music geek. Monday’s at lifeVertical will be devoted to music.

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Neutral Milk Hotel, circa 1998. Jeff Mangum is holding the angel.

The other day my son and i watching the final season episodes of my favorite sitcoms and one of the characters mentions Neutral Milk Hotel. It’s been ages since i’ve listened to them. So i dug out my NMH discs, ripped them to MP3 so i can strap them to myPod (when will someone come out with a descent portable flac player?).

Listening to long forgotten songs like Holland, 1945; Song Against Sex; Ghost; and In The Aeroplane Over The Sea bring to mind the instrument variation of Sufjan Stevens, the enthusiasm of Arcade Fire, and The Decemberists’ general song craft. What?! You’ve never heard of NMH? If you’re even a casual fan of the a fore mentioned artists you should at least give a seek to NMH on Youtube to see where they glean influence.

Neutral Milk Hotel is truly a lost treasure: ahead of their time, and whose time should now surely come. The brainchild of Jeff Mangum, their first full –length On Avery Island was released in 1996 and consists of simply Jeff on vocals and instrumentation with the aid of his pal Robert Schneider (who went on to form and front the Beatles-esque pop band The Apples In Stereo… one of my favorites) on production and various instruments.

On Avery Island was followed up in 1998 by the Anne Frank inspired concept album In The Aeroplane Over The Sea. After which, Mangum crawled under a rock and has barely been heard from since.

Any other NMH admirers out there or am i a stranger in a strange land? Otherwise, go check them out and leave feedback on your thoughts.

~End neutrality~