Thursday, January 31, 2013

First Listen: Tegan and Sara, Heartthrob

So, I guess Tegan and Sara Quin want to be pop stars now.

That is literally the only motivation I can come up with for this dismal, desperate-for-radio departure. Those who have taken umbrage at Heartthrob have done so because the Quin sisters traded in their guitars for synthesizers. I can't say I like this change in direction very much - at its best moments, this album sounds like Robyn, and at its worst like Katy Perry. But the plastic sounds themselves, created largely by Greg Kurstin (the Bee of The Bird and the Bee) aren't the real problem.

The issue is the songs. Tegan and Sara used to write great songs, and now they write bland radio hits. The songs are simplistic, full of banal sentiments, completely devoid of depth. One of the songs is actually built around this line: "You put the brakes on, and it drove me wild." Another finds the sisters repeating "I was a fool for love" over the most lukewarm synths you've ever heard. There are high points - "Goodbye, Goodbye," "Love They Say" - but the highs are so much lower than they've ever been.

This is the kind of album, the kind of cynical move toward the middle, that makes me feel stupid for ever having once been a fan. Or it would, if the older material weren't so good. Seriously, listen to The Con, and then listen to this. Holy. Shit. Holy shit. There's just nothing more to say.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

New Column: The Year's First Great Record

Well, that didn't take long at all.

This week over at, the first great record of 2013: Wolf's Law, by the Joy Formidable. It's a stranger, more elaborate record than the band's wonderful debut, The Big Roar, but I think it's also a better one. I also take a listen to a couple other pretty good new releases from Camper Van Beethoven and Mountains.

As always, head on over to the main site to read the column, and head back here to leave me a comment. Let me know what you think.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Frank Zappa Buyer's Guide #2: Absolutely Free

The Mothers’ first album, Freak Out, was actually fairly accessible, despite its satirical leanings. But by any reasonable measure, their second, Absolutely Free, was completely insane.

Released in May 1967, about a week before Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, Absolutely Free marked an enormous leap in ambition and confidence for Zappa, not just as a composer but also as a bandleader. The group who recorded this album was a very different beast: with the addition of saxophonist Bunk Gardner, keyboardist Don Preston and drummer Billy Mundi (as well as second guitarist Jim Fielder, who left after the sessions), the Mothers were becoming a true rock and roll orchestra.

They needed to be, to play Zappa’s new music. While Freak Out was the first Zappa album, Absolutely Free is the one on which he came into his own. It’s the first one on which he successfully brought his compositional skill to bear on this sneering rock outfit he’d been leading, the first one he assembled into its final form through tape edits, and the first one on which he truly kicked at the boundaries of good taste.

The first time you listen to Absolutely Free, it will sound like chaos. The two sides are woven into seamless “oratorios,” through painstaking tape edits. The band is loose throughout – this is possibly the most unrefined-sounding album Zappa ever let out of the gate. On top of that (literally), Zappa and the band refuse to take any of the vocals seriously, peppering this album with fake operatic voices, off-key falsettos and meta commentary. (“This is the exciting part, this is like the Supremes,” Zappa says at one point. “See the way it builds up?”)

But listen further, and it becomes clear that Absolutely Free is Zappa’s mission statement. These songs are intricate and beautifully composed – Zappa would go on to create sweeping orchestral versions of “Duke of Prunes” – but the way they are presented, as pointed comedy routines, makes their classical influence more palatable to a rock audience. It’s a technique he would return to throughout his career, and indicative of his philosophy that all music flows from one source. (He went on to present that philosophy in allegorical form on his next album.) 

Absolutely Free veers between sharp social criticism and outright nonsense, further establishing the Zappa style. The first oratorio, which shares the album’s title, begins with “Plastic People,” a sharp critique of the masses: “Take the day and walk around, watch the Nazis run your town, then go home and check yourself, you think we’re singing ‘bout someone else…” It opens with the riff from “Louie Louie,” Zappa’s favorite low-art touchstone, and a general broadside to his rock audience.

“The Duke of Prunes” is a lovely song, and may once have had lovely (or smutty) lyrics. But the nouns have been replaced, Mad Libs style, with the words “prune,” “cheese” and “beans.” “Prune, if it is a real prune, knows no cheese,” Zappa sings with enough faux passion to make you think he means it. “And so my love, I offer you, a love that is strong, a prune that is true…”

This leads into the centerpiece of side one, “Call Any Vegetable.” Yes, it’s really about vegetables, and how we should communicate with them. The song is a convincing guitar and flute blues, but Zappa continually interrupts the proceedings, first with a ramble about prunes, then to splice in Ray Collins yodeling “rutabaga” (seriously), and finally to insert an otherwise unrelated seven-minute full-band jam session, Zappa and Gardner launching into dueling solos. (This is the first hint on record of Zappa’s prowess with the guitar.) It’s an absolutely ridiculous 11 minutes, down to the heavy breathing of the pumpkin at the end, but it all works.

The second side is more straightforward, including twisted lounge music (“America Drinks”), a catchy rock song about high school politics (“Status Back Baby”) and an intricately arranged number about even more plastic people (“Uncle Bernie’s Farm”). “Son of Suzy Creamcheese” brings back the hypothetical groupie from Freak Out, asking her the same question (“What’s got into you?”) over a hyperactive, tricky riff that shifts time signatures with nearly every line.

In a way, though, everything here is prelude to “Brown Shoes Don’t Make It,” Zappa’s first tape-splice symphony. Musically, it’s the most complex piece Zappa had yet unveiled, comprised of more than a dozen different sections, fully orchestrated with strings, trumpets and clarinets. It bounds from eerie dissonance to tap-dance barrelhouse to low-budget pomp, every moment stitched together in the editing booth to form a seven-minute suite of unprecedented cohesiveness. (Remember, this was two years before Abbey Road.)

It’s the lyrics of “Brown Shoes” that usually command attention, however. A stinging expose of the ugliness that festers within picket-fence suburbia, the song is about what’s really going on in the minds of the men who control our plastic little world. Zappa’s central image here is of “City Hall Fred,” who lusts after a 13-year-old “teenage queen” who is “rocking and rolling and acting obscene.”

And here begins one of Zappa’s most frustrating traits: he blunts his satire with salaciousness. Zappa is a provocateur, always seeking new ways to push whatever boundaries he feels have been imposed on him. His lyrics, though often sung first-person, depict and espouse behavior Zappa himself did not believe or engage in. His constant defense for songs like “Honey, Don’t You Want a Man Like Me” or “Jewish Princess” was that they were indictments of the songs’ narrators.

This would hold more weight if Zappa did not describe these behaviors in such detail, and with such glee. In the case of “Brown Shoes,” he spends about half the song on Fred’s teen-lust dream, culminating in the line “Smother my daughter in chocolate syrup and strap her on again.” The tittering joy with which Zappa sings these lines makes it harder to accept them as a condemnation.

This is not prudishness. “Brown Shoes Don’t Make It” remains a monumental achievement, sexual content and all. It simply doesn’t make its point as effectively as it might, a malady that will follow Zappa until the end of his days. It’s also telling that after the torrent of underage sexual fantasies in “Brown Shoes,” the album ends with “America Drinks and Goes Home,” in which the audience pays no attention to the seedy underbelly Zappa has just exposed. That is trademark Zappa cynicism, and it works perfectly.

The more modern CD version of Absolutely Free includes a non-album single, recorded at the same time: “Why Don’tcha Do Me Right” and its b-side, “Big Leg Emma.” These are fun, dumb little blues-rock numbers, and indicative of what Zappa believed the public would want to hear on a radio-ready single.

It’s hard to imagine the same public appreciating the intricacy of Absolutely Free – the album contains three different references to the work of Igor Stravinsky, according to this researcher. In May of 1967, there had never been an album quite like it. If Freak Out provided the foundation, Absolutely Free finds Zappa sketching the full blueprint, and preparing to build his world. 

Rating: Essential. 

Which version to buy: The 2012 remaster on Zappa/Universal, without question. Unlike the 1995 Ryko CD, the new version reverts to the original analog mix, untouched by digital reverb. The sound is excellent, vintage without slipping into muddiness. It’s the definitive version. 

Next Week: Lumpy Gravy

Thursday, January 24, 2013

First Listen: Bad Religion, True North

For more than 30 years, Bad Religion has been plying the same trade. True North is the band's 16th album, and fans should know better at this point than to expect any surprises. Bad Religion delivers fast, sharp, political punk rock with a decidedly melodic edge, and just as every song sounds the same, so does every new album.

In case I'm not being clear, I have no problem with this. Bad Religion occupies a unique space in the continuum, halfway between punk and power pop, and it's a sound I never tire of. The 16 songs on True North fly by - most of them hover between one and two minutes. (The mid-tempo "Hello Cruel World" stretches to 3:50, an eternity in Bad Religion time.) Drums pound in double time, guitars charge forward like flaming horses, and harmonies swirl around Greg Graffin's inimitable voice. My favorite this time is "Popular Consensus," nestled at track 13, but they're all equally great. Bad Religion. May they never change.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

New Column: Three Swings, Three Misses

This week over at, I lament the fact that I still haven't received my copies of the new Joy Formidable, Bad Religion and Camper Van Beethoven albums. It's a long, long story, but suffice it to say that I'll be getting all three today. In the meantime, I wrapped up my trifecta of Green Day reviews, taking a listen to Tre, the final installment in their trilogy of shame. This one's not as bad as Uno and Dos, but it's still dispiriting. Read the whole review on the main site, then head back here to leave me a comment.

And if you'd like to get the full Tuesday Morning 3 A.M. experience, like my page on Facebook, and follow me on Twitter. Thanks for reading!

Monday, January 21, 2013

The Frank Zappa Buyer's Guide #1: Freak Out

Freak Out was the first Mothers of Invention album, released in July 1966. While it may be cliché to say so, in this case it’s true – the roots of nearly everything Zappa did later are here.

While Freak Out was Zappa’s first album, he was already a seasoned composer (having written scores for films) and a fixture in the San Bernadino, California music scene at the time. He was all of 25 when Ray Collins asked him to play guitar in the Soul Giants, a local R&B band. Within a year, Zappa had taken over the band, renamed it the Mothers, and begun using it as a vehicle for his own songs.

This is actually an important point – the original Mothers were the only one of his bands Zappa did not form to his own specifications. The 1960s Mothers were, in terms of musical skill, the least impressive folks Zappa would ever play with. That’s not to say they were poor players, but they got by more on attitude than anything else. It’s clear from listening to it that Freak Out is the work of an R&B group transitioning into something else, under the direction of a mad genius.

(As an aside, Verve Records demanded that Zappa append “of Invention” to his band’s name, since “Mothers” was obviously short for “Motherfuckers.” This is one of the few cases of beneficial executive interference, as far as I’m concerned. The Mothers of Invention is an awesome band name.)

I’m not sure even the Mothers knew the depth of Zappa’s well of influences. The liner notes of Freak Out contain a list of more than 150 people who “have contributed materially in many ways to make our music what it is,” and that list includes musicians like Roland Kirk, Maurice Ravel and Eric Dolphy, all of whom would find their way into Zappa’s sound in later years.

But perhaps the most important musical influence referenced in the Freak Out liner notes is composer Edgard Varese – his quote “The present-day composer refuses to die” remains a Zappa rallying cry. Hearing Varese’s work at an early age, Zappa has said, shaped his conception of music, and made him want to be a composer.

In case you’ve never heard Varese, here’s his percussion piece “Ionisation,” conducted by Pierre Boulez, a name we’ll see in this guide again. Varese’s work (along with Stravinsky and the tape manipulation of Musique Concrete) informed nearly every “serious” piece Zappa produced.

So what we have with Freak Out is a composer steeped in complex and dissonant orchestral music heading a group used to covering “Louie Louie” and Motown tracks. Singer Ray Collins has a voice you’d expect from a band called the Soul Giants, and bassist and backing vocalist Roy Estrada does a fine Frankie Valli. Zappa’s relatively restrained guitar work here fits in nicely, and the quintet – with drummer Jimmy Carl Black and second guitarist Elliot Ingber – is a fine rock combo.

But it’s obvious from the start that Zappa had other, greater things on his mind, and he was easing his band in. The poppier half of Freak Out – only the second double album in rock history, and the first double-album debut – is sharp and satirical, Zappa making fun of the very music he’s celebrating. These aren’t your typical ‘50s love songs. In fact, they’re anti-love songs: “Go Cry on Somebody Else’s Shoulder,” “I Ain’t Got No Heart,” “How Could I Be Such a Fool.” The titles say it all.

While the music is largely straightforward, complete with horns and tambourines, the lyrics and arrangements betray the composer’s true intentions. “You’re Probably Wondering Why I’m Here” is a highly melodic piece of work – it could have been a hit, if Collins were not singing about the stupidity of his audience, and the band were not backing him up on kazoos. Listen to Zappa’s hilarious commentary at the end of “You Didn’t Try to Call Me.” His sympathies do not lie with the poor sap waiting for the phone to ring.

Amidst these sly digs are a few slices of genuine social criticism, starting with the opener, “Hungry Freaks, Daddy.” “Mr. America walk on by your schools that do not teach,” Zappa spits. “Mr. America walk on by the minds that won’t be reached.” “Who Are the Brain Police” is the creepiest thing here, Roy Estrada’s bass distorted beyond belief as he and Collins sing unnerving lyrics about government censorship. (This topic will come up again.)

And then there’s “Trouble Every Day,” the song that got the Mothers signed. It’s a Dylan-esque blues rant, written after the Watts riots of 1965, and contains some of the sharpest words Zappa ever penned: “’Cause the fire in the street ain’t like the fire in the heart, and in the eyes of all these people, don’t you know that this could start on any street in any town, in any state if any clown decides that now’s the time to fight for some ideal he thinks is right, and if a million more agree, there ain’t no great society…” Zappa wouldn’t write another song like it until “Dumb All Over” in 1981.

So that’s one half of the album. The other half finds the present-day composer stretching his wings. The 12-minute “Return of the Son of Monster Magnet,” which occupied all of side four of the original vinyl, is particularly inspired by Varese. At first, it sounds like a cacophony, like 40 people banging on 40 drums with wild abandon. But it’s a meticulously thought-out piece, conducted by Zappa, and completed in the editing booth.

There’s nothing random about it, nor about “It Can’t Happen Here,” for which Zappa overdubbed and tape-spliced his band into an alien barbershop quartet. It’s all painstakingly arranged, and creates a climactic arc to the record. The first half is about using the music of the time to give voice to the freaks, the ones not normally immortalized in ‘50s love songs. The second half is about letting those freaks loose, and listening to the wondrous sounds they make. 

The roots of everything are here. Freak Out presents us with a bandleader who loves old pop music, even as he lambastes it; who is not afraid to call things as he sees them and take people to task; who can arrange a beautiful song like “Anywhere the Wind Blows” and also create something as explosive and bizarre as “Monster Magnet.” For many musicians, something like Freak Out would be the apex, the crowning achievement. For Zappa, this shot across the bow of the cultural establishment was just the warm-up.

Rating: Essential.

Which version to buy: If you want to hear what Freak Out sounded like in 1966, you need to buy the MOFO Project/Object from the Zappa Family Trust. It’s an audio documentary of the making of Freak Out, with the original vinyl mix included. The version of Freak Out widely available on CD is the 1987 FZ remix, which contains an unfortunate slathering of digital reverb. But it doesn’t sound too bad, and in some cases, the tone is actually improved from the analog mix. If this doesn’t bother you, I’d pick up the 2012 re-release from Zappa/Universal.

Next week: Absolutely Free.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

First Listen: Christopher Owens, Lysandre

Former Girls frontman Christopher Owens has a fascinating life story. He spent his formative years in Asia and Europe before returning to the United States as a young adult, and falling in with a religious cult, which he only escaped years later. You would think this would translate into interesting music, but so far, it hasn't.

Lysandre is the first album Owens has released under his own name, and it's a conceptual piece - its 11 tracks tell the story of the first Girls tour, and of a French woman he met while on the road. It's meant to be listened to as a single 28-minute piece of music, but it's obvious that this is Owens' first stab at this kind of thing. He bases it around a charming little flute melody, which first appears as "Lysandre's Theme," but instead of finding thematically relevant ways of working that theme into the rest of the piece, he just restates it over and over. The first six songs all contain this theme, often just pasted on at the end, and track 10 is another repetition of it. I get what he was going for, but the execution needs work.

As for the songs themselves, they're in the same mediocre '50s-pop mold as all of Owens' Girls material. The lyrics are frustratingly banal - the song in which Owens' heart is broken is called "A Broken Heart," for example - and the tunes stick to basic chords and lackluster melodies. I give Owens credit for ambition. He really does try to present a cohesive work, and the instrumentation, including flutes and saxophones, is interesting. Given time and practice, I think he'll get better at this sort of thing. For now, Lysandre can only be called a noble failure.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

The new Phoenix album... called Bankrupt, and it's out in April. Our first (extremely minor) taste of it is here, but if you're epileptic or prone to seizures, I wouldn't click on that link. You've been warned.

New Column: Chapter Next

Apologies to everyone who is sick of me praising Kickstarter, because I've done it again in this week's column.

The fan-funded model is simply the most important thing to happen to independent music in years, and if you need further proof, check out the two albums I have on tap this week. Jason and Ronnie Martin turned to Kickstarter last year for help recording and distributing their first independent albums as Starflyer 59 and Joy Electric, respectively, and the results are superb. If you've never heard the brothers Martin, well, you really should, and this week, I explain why.

Check out the new column on the main site, then head back here (or head to Facebook) to leave me a comment.

Monday, January 14, 2013

The Frank Zappa Buyer's Guide: Prelude

I have never heard another musician like Frank Zappa, and I don’t expect I ever will.

Frank’s catalog is one of the most extensive in popular music – 94 “official releases,” as counted by the Zappa Family Trust, which has carried on his legacy since his death in 1993. Sixty-two of those releases came out while Frank was alive, and you pretty much need all of them to understand the myriad sides of his musical personality. The man was revealing new facets of his work right up until his final days.

To start with, Frank Zappa was a musical genius. I don’t mean that in the same way I’d say someone like John Lennon was a genius. Zappa was working on musical levels far beyond anyone else releasing mass-market material during his life. He was a composer, someone equally at home with a five-piece rock band and an 80-piece orchestra. The number one rule for anyone wishing to play with Zappa: you had to keep up with him. Anyone who tried will tell you it was a herculean task.

But Zappa was also a mass of complimentary contradictions, if that makes sense. He was equally obsessed with precision and improvisation – players in his band had to be able to read and play maddeningly complex music with exactitude, but they also had to know how to jam with ferocity. A song like “King Kong” on stage would begin with an intensive, impressive recitation of its complicated melody, and then would unfold into a 30-minute free-form explosion.

Frank always took his music seriously, but his lyrics and persona were another story, and that’s the reason his work is so controversial and underappreciated. Zappa was perhaps the most musically talented peddler of dick jokes who ever lived. His lyrics consistently pushed the boundaries of good taste, as if he were a merry prankster, waiting to see if anyone would hear the sheer volume of his musical skill underneath all the smuttiness. Zappa was a sneering, sarcastic, scatological jackass, and his personality is sometimes difficult to take.

Zappa would always say that his lyrics were satirical and observational, and that works up to a point. For my money, he only crossed the line a few times. (“Magdalena” and “Jumbo Go Away,” for example, are pretty much indefensible.) But even when storming the gates of civility, his musical genius shone through. Albums like Joe’s Garage and Zappa in New York and Thing-Fish are filled with sexually obsessed lyrics and rampant perversity, but are brilliant pieces of work. 

When Zappa did take his output seriously (or as seriously as he ever did), he created some of the most stunning pieces I’ve ever encountered. “The Adventures of Greggery Peccary,” for example, or “N-Lite,” or “Bogus Pomp” are unfiltered tours of a mind racing at the speed of light.

And I haven’t even mentioned the fact that he was a guitar player almost without peer. Zappa released entire albums devoted to his guitar solos, and they’re works of art in and of themselves.

Zappa’s catalog is beyond immense, and thanks to his phenomenal work ethic, it continues to grow, as new works are uncovered from his vault. It’s also incredibly confusing and daunting for newbies. To Frank, there was no distinction between live albums, studio concoctions and rearrangements of existing material. He often talked of his body of work as a single entity, and musical themes crop up again and again, in different forms. Solos from live performances of one song would be grafted onto studio versions of other songs, and a piece played on guitar, bass and drums on one album would appear on another played by horns and strings.

My first trip through the Zappa catalog was a difficult one. Zappa’s work takes on new dimensions with perspective, and it takes some time to see the road map. I’ve been a fan for more than 15 years now, and I’m still working through my impressions of his work. This guide will be a good chance for me to get those thoughts out and organize them. I’m especially excited about the chance to revisit the newly remastered versions of the early albums, released last year on the Zappa family’s own label.

So here’s the (one-shot) deal. Once a week, I’ll update this guide with a review of one of Zappa’s albums, starting with Freak Out next week. That means it’ll probably take nearly two years to get through it all, but in the end, it’ll be worth it. I’ll talk about the significance of each album to the overall oeuvre, the evolution of Zappa’s styles and lyrical concerns, and just how damn difficult this stuff is to play. I’ll also let you know if an album is essential or merely a curiosity, and which version you should buy.

Along the way, I hope to explore my own complex feelings about Zappa as an evolving artist. But mainly, I want to provide a resource for those hoping to explore Zappa’s music, because above all, it should be explored, and studied, and revered. As Gail Zappa is fond of saying, I feel it is my duty. I hope it helps.

Next week, the first Mothers of Invention album, Freak Out.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

First Listen: Yo La Tengo, Fade.

Yo La Tengo's 13th album is my first new release of 2013. It's a curious, hushed, peaceful way to start the year.

It's been nearly three decades since the first YLT album, and in that time, the New York band has quietly carved out a unique space in the landscape. They've explored all kinds of terrain, from acid-rock freakouts to jazz to electro-pop. Their records regularly blow past an hour in length, and songs can stretch up to 18 minutes. They're an unrestrained and powerful band, but they've always had a tender streak to go with their stylistic game of leapfrog.

So what to make of an album that spans only 45 minutes, with the longest song clocking in at 6:47, and with most of those songs given over to quiet, almost reverent, atmospheric folk? This is the shortest YLT album since Fakebook in 1990 (which makes it the shortest ever with the current trio lineup), and the most sedate. Ira Kaplan cranks up the amps on opener "Ohm," with its Krautrock beat, and skips through rocker "Is That Enough," but even those sound reserved.

And from there, the album barely rises above a whisper. Ironically, I could listen to some of these sweet little songs - "I'll Be Around," "Two Trains," delightful closer "Before We Run" - for 10-plus minutes without an issue. Nothing here is very memorable, and Kaplan's voice is still an acquired taste, but it turns out that when Yo La Tengo aims for pretty, they often end up with gorgeous. Fade sounds like an album made by a 20-plus-year-old band - confident, contemplative, graceful and elegant.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Reasons to be Cheerful: 2013

So in this week's column, I made a big deal about curtailing my breathless enthusiasm for upcoming records in the early part of this year. But I can't resist mentioning a few that I'm excited about.

The Joy Formidable, Wolf's Law. One of my favorite new bands returns with their second record, and what I've heard of it - the singles "Cholla" and "This Ladder is Ours" - is tremendous. Imagine if Billy Corgan let D'Arcy sing on Siamese Dream, and you kind of have the idea. Only this is better.

Camper Van Beethoven, La Costa Perdida. Every time this band gets together, it's an event. Granted, that last event, 2004's New Roman Times, was a confused and meandering thing, but I still have high hopes for this new one. Apparently there's a heavy Beach Boys influence, which in my house can only be a good thing. More here.

Eels, Wonderful, Glorious. This will be the first Eels album since their mammoth trilogy from 2009 and 2010. I really don't need to know anything more - I'll buy anything E puts his name (well, his initial) to. You just know it's going to be great. More on Eels, including a new song, "New Alphabet," here.

THREE Quiet Company releases. The band behind my number one album of 2011 plans a huge return this year, with two full-length albums and an EP. Hopefully the plan comes to fruition. Three CDs of QuietCo songs? Sign me up. Get all your Quiet Company needs here.

More to come. Get excited! 

Wednesday, January 9, 2013


Hello, hello again.

I'm not sure if anyone is still reading this blog. I expect not - that's what an 18-month silence will get you. Starting now, I aim to change that. Starting now, I plan to make this blog an integral part of the TM3AM experience once again.

I know, I wouldn't believe me either. You've heard it before. All I can do is try. I feel recommitted to this labor of love I call Tuesday Morning 3 A.M., and I'm hopeful that I can make it stick. You can read all about my ambitious plans for the new year - my 13th writing this thing - in this week's column. But let me take a moment to explain the relationship between the blog and the column. Call it a statement of purpose.

Every Wednesday, I will post a new column to That's the centerpiece, the fulcrum, the Big Damn Opinion of the week. I'll tell you about it here, but I'll make you go there to read it, because I'm a bastard like that. In between columns, though, I will post stuff here. What stuff? First-listen reviews of new records, music news, topics of interest - basically, anything timely or unlikely to fit in the main column. And of course, this is the place for comments and discussion, which I hope will happen regularly,

You can follow Tuesday Morning 3 A.M. on Facebook and on Twitter as well. Pretty soon, I want to start up my first-listen Twitter reviews again, and hopefully by the middle of the year, I'll be podcasting as well. As I always say, without you I'm nothing, so if you have ideas and suggestions for TM3AM, I'd love to hear them. Feel free to email me anytime.

So, fresh start. Thanks to everyone who has read this far. And thanks in advance for all the reading I'm gonna ask you to do this year. Buckle up, here we go.