Brent Raynor

Brent Raynor  |  Jan 01, 2009  |  0 comments

Sure, being a shy, self-conscious kid from a rural western town trying to come to terms with life in the big city who constantly yearns for the reciprocity of love to come to fruition, may make it all very easy to cast Jon- Rae Fletcher as the consummate underdog. He even looks the part- tall and sinewy in stature, with a disheveled mane, a goofy grin, and big, thick glasses that may have been popular in the 1950�s; Jon Rae practically begs you to root for him.

Brent Raynor  |  Jan 01, 2009  |  0 comments

There is two kinds of music, the good and the bad�

Brent Raynor  |  Feb 01, 2008  |  0 comments

Remember when music was fun? Like when you were in high school trying to get a band together so you could rock-out while pretending to be your favorite group, and maybe get a date or two out of it? For many of us that was long ago, but for Born Ruffians it was last week, and their debut EP is brimming with a cheeky exuberance that seems only to inhabit those still in teendom.

Here’s hoping they enjoy it, because being able to get away with completely copping every hook and every look from your favorite bands can only last so long and get you so far before people start calling you this decades Stone Temple Pilots. Not that that hasn’t already started to happen to Born Ruffians, who seem to be creating quite a backlash in certain circles. Give ‘em a Google and you’ll soon see a whole lot of words like “pretentious”, “contrived”, “derivative”, and “unoriginal” popping up. Best of all is that they’re saying it like it’s a bad thing.

Brent Raynor  |  Feb 01, 2006  |  0 comments

Maybe it's the fact that it's early Saturday morning and I've just woken up on the couch with an endless sea of empty beer bottles in front of me on the coffee table that's got me to thinking. I mean, it seemed like a perfectly good idea at the time: drink as many beers as I possibly could in one night while listening to Tanglewood Numbers repeatedly in an attempt to get into the notoriously alcohol-soaked mind space of leader David Berman. After all, I'm always up for a scientifically based experiment, and considering I was using one of the great thinkers of our time, Neil Young, as my model, I figured nothing could go wrong.

Brent Raynor  |  Dec 01, 2005  |  1 comments

Having a good music dealer is as important as having a great accountant who knows all the funky tax loopholes, because both can steer you down the right path and save you money. Lets get real here for a minute: even if you were to spend months on end reading all the music rags out there, there's bound to be a lot of albums that'll fly well below your well-heeled radar. Add to that the sheer volume of new music coming down the pipe, and you can be forgiven for not knowing what's the latest album that'll blow your mind.

Brent Raynor  |  Sep 01, 2005  |  1 comments

Record collectors are demented and sad-- obsessive- compulsive freaks that only have one thing on their minds; the next record they need. You see, "want" is only for the completely normal and well adjusted individual who went to the mall to pick up U2's latest but came home happily instead with a totally rippin' new shirt from Old Navy. Lucky shit- bet he even has a girlfriend and a cool car.

Brent Raynor  |  Sep 01, 2005  |  1 comments
When your wildly influential band dissolves after five albums and a decade of indie acclaim, separating yourself from your past is near impossible. If any band defined the old “critically adored, publicly dismissed” adage, it was Pavement. If you came of age in the sixties or seventies it’s probably hard to believe lines like “Lies and betrayals/ Fruit-covered nails/ Electricity or lust/ Won’t break the door” have had as much impact on a certain generation as anything by Dylan or The Beatles; but it’s true. Sure, it happened to be Generation X, but ask anyone who uses the words “indie”, “alternative”, or “college rock” more than once a month to name the best album of the nineties, and you’re bound to hear a whole lot of “Like, wow…that’d have to be, like, Slanted & Enchanted dude.”
Brent Raynor  |  Sep 01, 2005  |  2 comments

It seems strange that someone who doesn’t even want to be part of this generation has become the voice of it. Jack White could care less about reality TV, George Bush, or the Boston Red Sox. Jack lives in a bygone era where Orson Welles and Rita Heyworth are the new stars, and Robert Johnson, Blind Willie McTell, and Dolly Parton represent the avant-garde.

Brent Raynor  |  Jun 01, 2005  |  1 comments

1969 Velvet Underground Live (Mercury SRM 2-7504) starts off with Lou Reed talking up the crowd for a minute and a half before even starting “Waiting For My Man”.  He asks the crowd if they have a curfew, if they prefer one long set or two sets: “Whichever makes it easier for you”.  He encourages the handful of fans to “Settle back, pull up [their] cushions…and whatever else you have with you that makes life bearable in Texas,” and even mentions how the Cowboys killed the Eagles earlier in the day.  Pretty standard pre-show preamble—yet completely bereft of the ego-adrenaline fueled yawp of, say, “Hello Cleveland” that Spinal Tap made famous and that Van Halen apparently took as gospel.


I nearly lost my best friend in one of the worst taping accidents ever. Lending him my copy of 1969... to dupe for a much anticipated road trip, I was mortified when upon pushing it into the Blaupunkt that it went straight into song.  When I questioned (alright, interrogated) him, his response was: “I wanna hear tunes, not some schlep talk about football.” 


Suffice it to say, things were never the same between us again, and after losing him to the great Guns N’ Roses-Nirvana wars (he fought for the Axl of Evil) of the early nineties, we lost touch altogether.  However sad, and even true this story is, it proves that along with religion and politics, one should not discuss the Velvet Underground.


Bright Eyes, however, is a different story.  Conor Oberst is the petite protagonist of the piece in question, and for all intents, he is Bright Eyes.  What greets your ears when you drop the needle in the groove (or, ahem…push play) is not music at all, but the groggy voice of a young man who coolly sips at a glass of what I hope is water, and who proceeds to tell a story of a woman flying on a plane to see her fiancé.  After a futile attempt to converse with a fellow passenger, she reads an article about a third world country she can’t even pronounce to fight the boredom. Suddenly, an engine gives out and as the plane plummets towards the ocean, she asks the silent passenger where they are going.  His response is that they are going to a party: a birthday party—her birthday party, and that they all love her very, very, very much.


Just as with that Velvet Underground album, many a soul will be tempted to pass over the prose and get right into the lead song, “At The Bottom Of Everything.” A mistake really, as his rambling offers an important introduction to the piece you’re about to hear.  Indeed, it sets the tone and feel of the entire album, and is not some exercise in self-indulgent fulfillment, but an odd statement of purpose that makes the album wholly complete and understandable in such a way that you end up wishing it hadn’t.  Listening to I’m Wide Awake, It’s Morning is like stealing someone’s micro-tape recorder cassettes that have been filled up with disturbing thoughts and observations that are so personal you can’t help but to feel ashamed as you listen from the confines of a locked washroom stall.  Like our recent voyeuristic-fetish fascination with “Reality TV,”  I’m Wide Awake evokes the feeling of a guilty pleasure.


The album is as New York as anything by Paul Simon or Lou Reed, but from the perspective of a transplanted Nebraskan who’s young enough to feel he can change the world, but wise enough to know he can’t.  He’s lovelorn and fragile, melancholically sedated yet hopeful in his new land of child prostitutes, drugs, and neon signs that call to him in a language he vaguely understands.  Yet at the end of day “it all boils down to one quotable phrase: if you love something give it away.” That line, from “Landlocked Blues”, can almost be seen as a signifier for the entire album—that he is in the excruciatingly painful limbo of awaiting the second half of that quotable phrase: if it truly loves you, it will come back.


The songs are wonderfully recorded with spare, mostly acoustic accompaniment that features: mandolin, vibraphone, trumpet, and pedal steel to round out the guitar, drums, and bass that typify the alt. folk sound that Conor Oberst has come to represent.  So affecting is his voice (delicate and nasally soft yet with an ability to scream out lyrics like he just punctured a lung), that combined with his lilting arrangements, it took me a while to realize the woman harmonizing with him on three of the tracks was indeed Emmylou Harris.  No small feat considering the impact her voice can impart on a song, and doubly so considering I’m a die-hard Gram Parsons fan who after many years still sheds a tear every time I hear “A Song For You” and “Love Hurts.” It’s a refreshingly uncompressed sounding album that has a live-in-the-studio type feel to it, with cracked vocals and bum notes (however few and far between) left on for time to judge; and for audiophiles to drool over as they call up their friends to see if they too heard the cough on track three coming from the left speaker that is undoubtedly to be blamed on that damn pedal steel player.


Yet for all the audio-knobery (an affectation, I promise) and great melodies this album offers, it’s Conor Oberst’s ability to express dark feelings that every human at one point in their lives has felt that makes him so engagingly endearing.  It’s not some gloomfest, “my world is falling apart at the seams” type diatribe going on here, but rather a heart- felt outpouring of emotions that most of us are too self-conscious and ashamed to verbalize in any real way lest we be seen as abnormal and weak that sets this album apart from others; that more often than not come off as self-serving and contrived.  Oberst has had enough of, to quote Modest Mouse mainman Isaac Brock, "that Mad Max bullshit,” and has in the process served up a platter that almost approaches Van Morrison’s Astral Weeks in transcendental- soul scouring- scope and complexity.


Brent Raynor  |  May 01, 2005  |  0 comments

Imagine a world where The Electric Prunes sell-out large arenas with outrageous ticket prices and Don Henley and Glenn Frey are more than happy to honor your request for "Southern Man" at the Barstow Holiday Inn.  Imagine Dr. Byrds And Mr. Hyde selling more copies than Mr. Tambourine Man by a large margin.  Now, imagine hearing a direct and natural link between Black Flag and The Flying Burrito Brothers while defending Meat Puppets II as one of the best country albums ever to anyone who'll listen, and you may just be ready to enter the peculiar world of The Sadies.