Give a little, maybe get a little…

When I started this blog, I viewed it as an vehicle to share some of my old short stories. After viewing the work of my fellow bloggers, I realize it’s a lot to ask for someone to read through page after page of poorly formatted text. I also envisioned posting a good number of music reviews and stories devoted to my New York sports teams. Alas, the best laid plans…

Since my posts are already all over the map, why not mix up a few categories in the same post? Which brings us to my first installment of the Redheaded Record Review. I am/was actually the redhead, well at least auburn like my mom, but I do still have freckles, and the record reference exposes my age. Here’s the deal; tell me what you think.

I’ll profile the redhead of the day, and tie them into a record review. Following the review I’ll provide a snippet of one of my stories in a serial format. Maybe you’ll be kind enough to give it a read and let me know what you think?

Today’s featured redhead is Katie Leclerc, co-star of the Freeform series Switched At Birth. Katie plays a deaf character Daphne Vasquez, and in real life has sustained hearing loss as a result of Ménière’s disease. The featured album is March To Fuzz by Mudhoney, which could be a favorite of many deaf fans who like to crank up the volume to feel the music.

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I was turned on to grunge and the Seattle music scene very late, listening to all of the well known bands,  Nirvana, Foo Fighters, Alice in Chains and Pearl Jam, that are all now more mainstream than alternative. Bands changed and exchanged members and formed new groups. I had read about Melvins and Mudhoney and their influence on the Seattle sound; Kurt Cobain cited Mudhoney’s Superfuzz Bigmuff as being most influential on Nirvana’s sound. Since I’m a big Nirvana fan, I had to give them a listen. I was expecting something similar to Nirvana’s debut album, Bleach, on the Sub Pop label. March To Fuzz shares some of those seminal elements, but there is so much more.

March To Fuzz, by Seattle area based Mudhoney, is a two disc set of recordings from 1988-2000. The first is a “best of” compilation of 22 songs, and the second contains experimental tracks, b-sides and covers. With a grand total of 52 quality songs, this may be the greatest musical deal outside of the bargain bin. The music in this 2000 Sub Pop release contains seeds of everything, strewn across the Seattle music scene, and echoes of artists that came before.

With that, March To Fuzz is derivative of nothing. The ground breaking mix of primal beats, fuzz-infused distortion, screaming irony, and punk attitude would come to define grunge. Not to be underestimated, this band is laser-focused and tight, with a twisted sense of humor. In ‘n’ Out of Grace opens with a Peter Fonda audio clip from the 1966 movie, The Wild Angels. Then, five deliberate chords followed by drummer Dan Peters launching into a rolling train of drumming carrying feedback and distortion filled guitar riffs. Growling vocals from Mark Arm, and we’re off…After five and a half minutes of near perfection, you’re hungry for more.

Maybe it’s because I’m always looking for a point of reference, searching for similarities in appearance and sound, but several tracks reminded me of The Rolling Stones. Turns out, some of that was not such a coincidence as the band enlisted record producer Jim Dickinson who also worked with the Stones. Judgement, Rage, Retribution & Thyme is straight up blues-rock. I Have to Laugh opens with a twangy Keith Richards inspired guitar riff, and ends with screaming vocals that would later become a Kurt Cobain and Dave Grohl trademark, “I have to laugh, I have to LAUGH, I HAVE TO LAUGH!!!!” You Got It is the most Stones influenced song here, with lead guitarist Steve Turner again channeling Keith Richards, and Arm strutting all of his Jagger swagger and attitude. “You got it, yeah you got it, I don’t want it! Keep it outta my face!”

Sweet Young Thing Ain’t Sweet No More lurches forward like Melvins sludge metal, and would later become Nirvana’s, “Daddy’s little girl ain’t a girl no more.” Who You Driving Now? features a driving beat and an anthemic chant of “Hey, hey, hey, yeyeyeah…” Arm sounds like a crazed dolphin. Generation Genocide shares the mood of Nirvana’s Under the Bridge, while Into the Drink in a similar solemn tone utilizes doubling vocals a la Alice In Chains, and 60’s organ with Leslie speaker effects over the top. A Thousand Forms of Mind could be the end of Layla with Clapton’s and Allman’s birdlike riffs, or a frenetic jam trailing a Doors live performance.

This is but a small sampling of the many twists and surprises you’ll find on this album. My attempt to describe the unique sounds in words doesn’t do this masterpiece proper justice. Give it a listen.

Now, for what it’s worth, here’s the intro to my short story, Pops.

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“I shall create! If not a note, a hole.

If not an overture, a desecration.”

From, Boy Breaking Glass by Gwendolyn Brooks

His name was Nate, but everyone knew him as Pops; at least that’s all I ever heard anyone call him, except for Bobby, but Bobby had his own special way of addressing people. Pops had a small grocery store in a poor neighborhood. There was a faded and chipping sign in front that he had painted himself. The sign said, “Pops’ Community Store.” That community was nothing to advertise, but I never knew Pops to be ashamed of who he was or where he lived.

Flanked on both sides, by a storefront church called Faith in Christ Tabernacle on the right, and by Monk’s Bar on the left, Pops’ store was one of the few buildings on Lincoln Avenue that could make this claim, most of the street being made up of empty lots with the charred and crumbled remains of past buildings. Pops existed comfortably between these two extremes and had frequent visitors from both sides.

The store was Pops’ home. He slept on a cot in his office which was behind a wooden door in the right hand corner of the store. There were no windows in his office, and the only piece of furniture, besides the cot, was an old heavy wooden desk with large drawers that held Pops’ clothes and a few personal items. Two doors led to a closet and a small bathroom with a shower stall, a toilet, and a sink. Pops slept in his office because he couldn’t afford to rent both an apartment and the store. Having his own business had always been Pops’ dream, so he clung to it no matter what it took. He once told me that if he could do no more than support himself and keep his store open, that he would be satisfied.

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