Ultraviolet (Songs for Amanda #2)

There is a silence that comes to a house
Where no one can sleep
I guess it’s the price of love
I know it’s not cheap

~ U2, “Ultraviolet (Light My Way)”, 1991

Fourteen days, fifteen hours, eleven minutes, three seconds.

A pile of moments without a cigarette.

Moments I am now even more grateful for, having just read Amanda’s latest post.

I had planned to come here and write about how this week’s selection in the Songs for Amanda series has seen me through some very long, dark nights of the soul. How when one takes the leap and sees, even if only in the recesses of the imagination, what the naked eye cannot, then that thing becomes more real than anything we may ever experience. It is a mysterious and slippery thing that has many faces, and speaks in myriad voices, but is intensionally one.

But I will spare you my ramblings. Instead, I ask that you go, hear her bleed, and love on her.

Please . . .

Sometimes I feel like I don’t know
Sometimes I feel like checkin’ out
I wanna get it wrong
Can’t always be strong
And love it won’t be long

Oh, Sugar, don’t you cry
Oh, Child, wipe the tears from your eyes
You know I need you to be strong
And the day is as dark as the night is long
Feel like trash, you make me feel clean
I’m in the black, can’t see or be seen

Baby, baby, baby…light my way

You bury your treasure
Where it can’t be found
But your love is like a secret
That’s been passed around
There is a silence that comes to a house
Where no one can sleep
I guess it’s the price of love
I know it’s not cheap

I remember
When we could sleep on stones
Now we lie together
In whispers and moans
When I was all messed up
And I had opera in my head
Your love was a light bulb
Hanging over my bed

[Flickr photo is by NASA Goddard Photo and Video and is protected]

Darcy’s Ass!

From the Teachable Moment file:

My nine-year-old son came home today with an assignment – to find out why tomorrow is a special day.

He knew it was Veteran’s Day.


She Who Must Be Obeyed: “And what is a veteran?”

Beefcake: “Duh. That’s the person who takes care of animals!”

Since no one in our family, immediate or distant, is currently serving in the military, we chalked that one up to unintentional ignorance. A dictionary search and a pleasant conversation later, and he’s good to go.

From the Don’t Dance! I Dare You! File:

Ever go into a music store and just browse? I do this on occasion. I’ll have a few discretionary dollars burning a hole in my pocket and inevitably find myself driving to Best Buy to find something totally new. Some of the best stuff I’ve ever purchased made it into my CD player this way. And this past week’s gem is the album What’s the Rumpus? by the Irish Celtic band Gaelic Storm. The title and the cover art intrigued me, so I plopped down $15.00 and set to peeling all that annoying shrink wrap off.

I haven’t had this much fun doing the jig since the last time I tried to pull on my long underwear. (Note to self: If you’ve just taken a shower, it helps to dry off completely.) Of course, you’ve seen these guys before . . . they were the steerage band in Titanic. That was their big break, and they haven’t slowed down since.

So, for your listening pleasure, please turn your speakers WAY up and give the song “Darcy’s Donkey” a listen . . .

Twas up the Bluestack mountains, D’arcy kept a bit of a still.
We were sneaking home a bottle, when the guards came up the hill.
“Lose the booze” cried D’arcy! And before we could reply,
he’d dumped it in the nosebag of his donkey standing by.
The donkey had a ganky leg, and only one good eye.
When he got a lick of the whiskey, well you’d swear that he could fly.
He rocketed through the roundabout, and down by Jamesie’s bar,
then he vaulted through the hedges at the track at Ballintra

Here’s to you, to me and one and all
To the garda, and the gargle, and the trophy on the wall
Here’s to you, to me and one and all
The day that D’arcy’s drunken donkey won the race at Donegal

The garda chased the donkey, and we followed in pursuit.
For fear they’d spill the whiskey, we begged them not to shoot.
We barreled through the turnstiles we got there just in time,
to place our bets before the lot of ’em reached the starting line.
The flag was up the race was on, the donkey looked behind.
He saw the guards were after him but sure he didn’t mind.
He had himself another sip and a second one as well,
then he bucked and kicked and knocked the competition all to hell.

Here’s to you, to me and one and all
To the garda, and the gargle, and the trophy on the wall
Here’s to you, to me and one and all
The day that D’arcy’s drunken donkey won the race at Donegal

The donkey passed the post about a lap or two ahead.
He finished off the whiskey and then toppled over dead.
We went to check the bets and found when everything was done,
the garda came in second and paid 35 to one!
So we dragged the donkey’s carcass down to Jamesie’s for a pint,
to drink up all our winnings, and to celebrate the night.
We missed the poor old Donkey, but still we had to laugh,
when Jamesie made a trophy of the Donkey’s better half.

So raise a beer in the air, to that famous derriere!
Everybody raise a glass to D’arcy’s ass! D’arcy’s ass!

I bet you danced . . . or at least smiled. If not, well, call the coroner ’cause you’re as dead as Darcy’s Ass!

So, do tell . . . what’s the best musical gem you’ve ever discovered?

Road Trippin’

I love driving.

It doesn’t matter much where my wheels hit the road. I’ve done winding, graveled two-lanes through pine tree forests in the middle of Minnesota. Meandered along hilly stretches of I-94 through little tourist-trap Wisconsin towns like Mauston and Black River Falls. Mile after mile of I-70 between Indianapolis and Terre Haute, thick with cicadas and road kill. And I love skipping the toll road bypasses and bulleting clean through the skyscrapered hearts of big cities like Chicago or Minneapolis. Bumper-to-bumper at 80mph and I’m in heaven.

And I love music.

While books on CD are fun for those quiet times after the kids are asleep and my wife has kicked off her flip flops and tilted her seat back to catch a few well deserved Zs, there’s nothing quite like the joy to be had by popping in a favorite album and letting it play all the way through. You know the ones . . . the CDs that don’t have a track you usually skip past. Albums that just don’t work on your Ipod’s shuffle mode.

Driving CDs.

Here are my five favorite driving CDs:

Dave Matthews Band – Live at Folsom Field – Boulder, Colorado

This collection of live tunes was my first true introduction to DMB and remains a favorite for many reasons. There’s the spirited cover of Jimi Hendrix’s “All Along the Watchtower.” The “lovely ladies” sauced-up stylings on “Angel.” The contemplative “If I Had It All.” And the pounding, foot-on-the-gas aggression of “Don’t Drink the Water.” I’ve got a lot of Dave that I listen to frequently, but nothing beats this one if you have a couple hours of concrete to traverse.

Tool – 10,000 Days

Maynard and the gang’s most passionate project. “Vicarious” has one of the best ending riffs ever recorded, and the lyrics get me singing along every time. The thunderclaps throughout the title track never fail to get my heart going, especially during the early morning stretch of a long, overnight drive. And the foolish, manic ramblings of “Roseta Stoned” always leave me laughing out loud. I usually wake up the dog, which inevitably leads to a piddle pit stop. Then there’s the surreal digital wheezing of “Viginti Tres.” If I play this one loud enough, the kids have nightmares. Squirm in their seatbelts and then beg for mercy. Dad’s crazy that way . . .

Queensryche – Operation Mindcrime

No road trip is complete without a concept album. My list has two. The first is from Seattle’s masters of cerebral rock. No album has been spun more times during the course of my life than this masterpiece from 1988. The story of Nikki, “a man becoming disillusioned with American society, and joining in a conspiratorial plot to assassinate its corrupt leaders,” draws me in and always entertains. On a two-day Greyhound trip from Bemidji, MN to Dallas during my college days, I listened to this cassette probably twenty times. In a row. “Why am I here / and for how long?” Indeed.

Dream Theater – Metropolis Part 2: Scenes from a Memory

This one is a non-stop aural feast. It tells “the story of Nicholas and the discovery of his past life, which involves love, murder, and infidelity as Victoria Page.” The ending has a killer twist! And musically . . . well, long-time Tweakers know how I love this band. It’s the first album with Jordan on keyboards and his contributions are immediate and massive. DT hit their stride with this one, and at 70+ minutes it’s perfect for any long trip.

Porcupine Tree – Deadwing

Yet another progressive rock album. This one’s a bit on the mellower side of life, however, and sets the perfect “settle down” tone, right about the time the sun goes down and we’ve stopped for supper at some roadside diner. Steve Wilson’s voice is hypnotically smooth, especially on tracks like “Arriving Somewhere But Not Here” and “The Start of Something Beautiful.” And the strangeness of “Glass Arm Shattering” wraps things up nicely.

So there you have ’em. I expect each and every one of you to go and get these and drive to NE Indiana. We’ll have a picnic . . .

No wait. Gas prices being what they are, maybe that’s not a plausible plan.

Instead, feel free to tweak The Cheek and share your favorite road trippin’ tunes. I’m always shopping for new CDs to spin. I look forward to hearing what keeps your eyes on the road and your hunk of steel between the lines . . .

Summer Sparkle

So I’m standing in the dentist’s office a few days ago chatting with the receptionist, working out a “convenient payment plan,” and I steal a glance at the big screen HD TV mounted in the otherwise drab waiting room. I see the words “Def Leppard w/ Tim McGraw” on the screen and the CMT logo in the corner. Surely I’m hallucinating . . . my mind getting things all mixed up as it tries to wrap its way around the four-figure number the lady with the 80s hairdo just quoted me. And sure enough there’s Tim McGraw doing his thing and the world returns to normal.

And then there’s Joe Elliot. And Phil Collen. Older. Rockin’. Country Music Television, if I recall correctly. Bon Jovi made sense. But this?! The heavy metal gods of my youth are on CMT. I’ve entered another dimension. The lady keeps talking but I’m not listening to her anymore. I need to wake up . . .

Or crawl out from under my oppressive pet rock.

Flashback to 1983. Joe Elliot, sweaty and pompous, draped in a Union Jack and hanging on my bedroom door, conveniently superimposed on a centerfold of Dorothy Stratten just in case the folks wander in. Pyromania, the song titles faded but memorized anyway, ensconced in the dime store cassette player with the wiry headphones that keep losing their oily, grey ear cushions. Gunter glieben glauchen globen. All right! For a kid looking to stray off the fast track to Christian maturity, nothing spelled rebellion better than The Lep.

New Year’s Eve – 1984. Rick Allen loses his arm in a drunk-driving accident. I’m in my bedroom hangin’ with John, his boombox crankin’ the hits as we ring in so many new things. New town. New school. New friends. And now this. Surely the end is near.

Summer of ’87. Hysteria hit both physically and metaphorically. Rick Allen is doing the one-armed electric drum thing but who cares! The Lep is back! Seven hit singles over the course of my first year in college. My future wife and I dance at a mixer at Itza Pizza as “Hysteria” blasts from the sound system, cementing our relationship with its harmonic super glue. We crank “Love Bites” in the KBSB studio just to hear the freaky ending: “Jesus of Nazareth . . . Go to Hell!” My InterVarsity friends find that disturbing, so I do to. I lose interest. Petra, White Heart, Mylon LeFevre and Vengeance CDs slowly replace the secular stuff as I genuinely try to grow up and get real with God.

[Insert years and years of spiritually ambiguous stuff here, all fodder for future blog posts.]

I’m in Wal Mart after leaving the dentist’s office. Still a bit flummoxed. And there’s Song from The Sparkle Lounge on the New Releases rack. I think once, not twice. And then the wife and I are in the minivan jamming to Def Leppard. Summertime, and the livin’ is easy.

Aside from the country-fried “Nine Lives” and the unnecessary ballad “Love,” this disc is a welcome mix of all things nostalgic and new. As the product description on Amazon says, it’s the glitz and glam of Hysteria meets the raw power of High ‘n’ Dry. I can buy that. “Hallucinate,” “C’mon C’mon” and “Go” could be outtakes from some lost 80s session, while “Cruise Control” and “Gotta Let It Go” have a distinctive “now” sound reminiscent of . . . is it Seether? Only without the heavy doses of barely-post-teen angst? Joe Elliot is still a fine singer, and Phil Collen and Vivian Campbell compliment each other nicely. After numerous spins, the standout song for me is “Tomorrow.” The vocal fills nod in Bono’s direction, the harmony is infectious and it sounds great loud. And there are guitar solos aplenty. Remember guitar solos? I do. And I missed them during the drought that was the 90s.

So it’s 2008. And I get to spend another summer with Def Leppard. I’m either really sick or just getting more sentimental as I age. But you know what that’s like, don’t you?

Motley Crew

My parents visited from southern Indiana this past week. It’s always interesting having the folks in town. We end up watching a lot of movies, eating things that don’t normally grace our table, and driving around a lot. This time things were much more relaxed. We did watch a few movies, including Juno (very funny and charmingly sweet) and No Country for Old Men (about the fifth time for me, and it hasn’t gotten old yet). We also spent an evening watching my son’s middle school theater department stage the musical Hee Haw Hayride. He played Dwight Culver, a driven publishing executive with a sharp tongue and a penchant for antacid tablets and napkins. He made us all very proud indeed.

But the highlight of their entire visit involved a cheesy set of drums, off-key vocals, and a couple of wireless faux Fender Stratocasters. Yes, we dug out Rock Band and started our own Motley Crew. I played bass, as usual. My kids rotated through the rest of the instruments, and mom and dad took mic in hand and sang along to songs they’ve never heard before. What a hoot! There’s nothing quite like the revenge one can take upon their parents by making them sing songs they would have scorned during my youth.

Rock Band: $170.

Batteries for wireless controllers: $12.00

Munchies for between songs: $20.00.

Hearing dad sing “Enter Sandman”: Priceless!

I tell you, nothing beats the joy of hearing your dad haltingly belt out the Beastie Boys:

‘Cause What You See You Might Not Get
And We Can Bet So Don’t You Get Souped Yet
You’re Scheming On A Thing That’s A Mirage
I’m Trying To Tell You Now It’s Sabotage!

And the cool part is that he aced it! 100%!! We snorted out our soda we laughed so hard!

The Cruë ain’t got nothing on our Crew . . .