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Classic Album Reviews: Let’s Go Scare Al — Gear Daddies (1988)

Besides having the coolest name ever for an album (well maybe one behind The Replacement’s Tim) and having the saddest, scariest looking clown to ever grace an album cover, Let’s Go Scare Al is a classic album full of countryish songs about loveable losers, drinking, small towns, heartbreak, drinking, and drinking. An album like this could only be performed by Minnesotans: Its unpretentious, simple, self-deprecating, and chock full of meaning behind its sparse vocabulary.

I almost included both Let’s Go Scare Al and Billy’s Live Bait as one review because they are similar albums covering similar stories. The music doesn’t change much between the two albums nor does the subject matter. But I landed squarely with Let’s Go Scare Al, because of the album name (especially as a debut album) and because it really introduced the Gear Daddies to a broader audience (they had been playing in local bars for a good year or so before this album came out and demo tapes were being passed around left and right). Now some 25 years after it’s been released we still look forward to the occasional reunion show by the band.

As I mentioned above, musically these songs are pretty simple. It’s basic country rock with no outstanding guitar or vocal work. Structurally the songs are pretty simple as well with the time-tested verse 1, chorus, verse 2, chorus, bridge, verse 3 (or repeat verse 1) and chorus organization. What makes the songs special is the songwriting. Even if you haven’t actually lived what’s being described in the song, you can identify with what the singer is saying. For instance Statue of Jesus opens with this verse:

I’m sittin’ downtown cryin’ ‘neath the statue of Jesus
Both of us so lonely and cold, hope no one can see us
I know I’m drunk here but I don’t think that he cares
Surely he must understand these crosses that I bear
So I’m sittin’ downtown cryin’ ‘neath the statue of Jesus

Now, I’ve never sat under a statue of Jesus crying, but if I ever did, I’m pretty sure that song would sum up pretty how I felt. Heavy Metal Boyz is another song that describes perfectly what it is like being a teenager living in a small town, whether it’s a rural area or a suburb. I’m sure there are many, many women who can identify with Boys Will Be Boys and tell me one person who hasn’t Drank so Much that They Just Feel Stupid?

After all these songs of too much drinking, lives gone astray, broken hearts, and shitty jobs the singer hasn’t given up. The last song, Strength, has the singer asking for strength to do what’s right, to “change this fucked up life of mine.” Surely if the singer can still want to change things, to make things better, so can we. We don’t know if he’ll get there but at least he’s trying.

What I Did On My Summer Vacation

I have never been away from the WGOM for a whole week.  Hopefully you all can point me to any awesome threads I missed.  And, this may be really pretentious, but I thought I'd recap some highlights and lowlights of my trip.  This was my first ever road trip, and aside from a flight to Yakima to see Spooky, I had never left the Midwest before.  So the last week I was awash with a whole lotta new.

Continue reading What I Did On My Summer Vacation

Classic Album Review: Gang of Four — Entertainment! (1979)


Considered one of the greatest albums to come out of the British post-punk period (1979-1984), Entertainment! is an album of grim politics, alienation, and loathsome sexuality. However it is also an album that musically breaks out from the typical 12…1234 cadence of most punk albums. Ambitious in scope, leftist in its politics, jarring in its music, Entertainment! is one of my favorite albums from the 1970’s and one that sounds just as vital today as it did over 30 years ago.

One of the first things one notices upon playing Entertainment! is that it is funky. The bass is deep and heavy throughout and the album is extremely danceable. In fact a popular Minneapolis band from the early 1980’s, The Phones, covered two songs from this album and would fill the dance floor singing Damaged Goods and I Found that Essence Rare (good thing we weren’t listening to the lyrics, as they are somewhat of a downer). Besides the bass, the guitar work also deserves mention. Always jarring, at times sounding like china busting up into shards in an all-tile bathroom, the guitars were played in a way that was never heard on a major label album and have been copied many times since.  Vocally, the lyrics are sung in that deadpan, affected British accent that was made popular by other British bands like Wire and Joy Division.  The album ends with Anthrax, with its feedback-heavy wailing guitars while two different lyrics are being sung-spoke in each ear (one is basically a treatise on why Gang of 4 doesn’t do love songs).  Amazingly enough, the original single has even harsher guitars (yes I have the single too).

Even if you don’t want to listen to the lyrics, the album is a great listen either alone or at a party. It really is the high water mark of those art-school educated British bands that came out in the late 1970’s and 80’s and as I said above, just as fresh today as it was in 1979 (You recently  heard the opening guitar riff from Nature’s Not In It in a Xbox Kinect commercial).  I’ve carried this album with me since 1981 and listen to it often whenever I need an uplift and want to listen to something that you don’t hear much anywhere else. For that reason, Entertainment! is a classic that deserves your attention.

EDIT:  BTW, when listening to this album, turn it up to 11!

WGOM Radio Recording

I don't know how many people here are free on Easter Monday, but it's a public holiday here. If you're available for a Monday pod recording, please say so in the comments and we'll see if we can get Episode 3 out to everyone.

Friday Fungoes: Hot Corner Hypothetical

When I first encountered this question, it was posited slightly different than how I'm ultimately going to present it to you. Here's the original question: As general manager of a hypothetical team, you are left to determine who your team will be better of with manning third base - Harmon Killebrew or Brooks Robinson. Thanks to hypothetical suspension of free agency, you get either player for his entire career. There's no question Killebrew was the better hitter, and likewise no question that Robinson was the superior defender. Who do you choose?

I wanted to update the players in this question a little bit, so my modification is this - would your team be better with Chipper Jones or Scott Rolen at third base? Continue reading Friday Fungoes: Hot Corner Hypothetical

Classic Album Reviews: Some Girls — Rolling Stones (1978)

As the last great Rolling Stones album, Some Girls came out at a time of enormous flux in popular music. In 1978, disco was still hugely popular and of course all the cool kids knew about punk.  A lot of the rock giants from the 60’s were either burnt out, gone, or easing into the nostalgia circuit. But not the Stones, they delivered one of their finest albums, one that covered disco, punk, and of course straight ahead rock and rock. There is/was only one band that could pull off such an effort and make it work, and for that reason deserves to be considered a classic album worthy of review at the WGOM.

One reason I really like Some Girls is that it not only reflects the times in which it was made but also reflects where the Rolling Stones were as a band and as individuals. By 1978 the Rolling Stones were nearly a decade into their “Greatest Rock and Roll Band” persona, with all the money, groupies, drugs, and adulation that goes with it. Jetting off to Rio, St. Moritz, or New York, was a monthly occurrence and the Stones obliged by having houses, girlfriends, and parties at all the world’s hot spots, always ready to hit the scene with other beautiful people.

Thankfully the Rolling Stones music didn’t suffer with all this jet setting, in fact, at the time of Some Girls’ recording, Keith Richards was cleaner – drug wise – than he had been for years. The recording sessions were in Paris and by all accounts were extremely productive. In fact the song Start Me Up was first recorded for Some Girls but Keith argued against its inclusion because he thought he stole the riff (turns out it was his own riff he stole). Just think how great this album would have been if it had also included Start Me Up?!! Wowza!

The album crosses many musical genres with the Stones putting their signature on Disco (Miss You), Country (Far Away Eyes), Motown (Imagination), and Punk (Shattered). The rest are straight ahead rock and rollers with the song Respectable an overlooked classic that should be dissected and taught in Rock School. The album ends with the song Shattered which perfectly described New York City circa 1978. The album got a lot of radio play and I purchased it shortly after it was released (with the Farrah Fawcett and Lucille Ball images on the cover -- since changed due to lawsuits) and hungrily lapped it up in all its rock and roll glory. Besides the songs listed above, Keith Richards’ Before They Make Me Run and Beast of Burden were favorites. It was the perfect Rolling Stones album with a solid rhythm section, Keith’s fantastic riffs, and Mick’s vocals unmatched before or since.

The album ended up being one of the Rolling Stones biggest selling albums and for better or worse resurrected their career and ensured that they would be recording and releasing albums of new material well into the next millennium. While not considered as strong as some Stones classics like Sticky Fingers, Beggars Banquet, or Exile on Main Street, I would argue that Some Girls is a fantastic rock album and somewhat slightly forgotten about over the years.  If you haven’t listened to it for a while, I strongly encourage you to give it a spin.

Friday Fungoes: The Other Walker

While I was looking around for information on Shane Mack for Will's post the other day, I found this tidbit from The Globe and Mail, published 25 September 1993:

Walker may land with the Twins; Expo star will seek $4-million, which makes him trade bait

Special to The Globe and Mail

The Montreal Expos' Larry Walker could be playing for the Minnesota Twins next season.

Rumours have Walker involved in a three-way trade between the Expos, Twins and another team. Outfielder Shane Mack would apparently leave the Twins but it's not known what other players are involved.

"From what I hear, Minnesota is going to get Larry," said Pat Rooney, Walker's agent. "There have been a lot of rumblings about that."

Larry Walker in a Twins uniform would have truly been awesome. But how would those mid-1990s teams have changed with him on the roster? What if, by acquiring Walker, the Twins committed themselves to reloading in the wake of 1993's disappointment, and not to rebuilding?

First, there's the question of who the Twins might have traded to acquire Walker. Beyond that, however, do the Twins keep Walker beyond 1994, when he became a free agent? Where do you play Kirby Puckett in 1994 (and 1995)? Absent the grind of managing awful teams, does Tom Kelly keep managing beyond 2001? What do your 1994-2001 Twins look like?

Friday Fungoes: Take Me Back to the Ballpark

This week's fungo comes to you via sean's link in the CoC:

Another year, another piece about Twins hitters complaining about Target Field's dimensions. Fine, guys, we get the point: you don't like the challenge of scoring runs in a ballpark which might actually allow you to field a competitive team. Mr. Pohlad, tear down this ballpark!

In its place, the Citizens of the WGOM will build you a new ballpark in which you can play a child's game for boo-coo bucks. The only hitch is, we get to pick a ballpark from baseball's past - whether it's a defunct major league park, a current or former minor league park, or a park from the Japanese league, it doesn't matter - and that will be your new home ballpark. We will magically insert it into the warehouse district (and magically make the Multifoods Tower/33 South Sixth invisible). After that, it's up to you and the front office to figure out how to win there (for the sake of things, we'll assume the Twins can figure out how leverage their "new" home to make enough money to win in an old ballpark like Fenway or Wrigley).

Gentlemen, your nominations, please.

Friday Fungoes: Most Similar Player

This week's question is pretty simple:

If your baseball skills had been good enough to get you to the majors, who would be your number one comparable player on your baseball-reference page? In other words, which actual major leaguer's style of play and skills most closely resemble the ideal version of your own when you played? And what number is on your jersey?

What does the WGOM's roster look like?

Friday Fungoes: Favorites

I suppose some may quibble with this statement, but I think the Twins have been fairly judicious when it comes to retiring player numbers. Four of the six are Hall of Famers who spent all or significant portions of their career in a Twins uniform, and the other two are franchise players who, while not Hall of Famers, had great careers and have tremendous resonance among fans.

If you ask most Twins fans who their favorite all-time Twins player is, you'd probably stand to receive more answers with a name represented by one of the numbers above than any other name. While that's all well and good, I think the more interesting answers are the unexpected players who get mentioned. With that in mind, who is your favorite Twin of all time who is not honored with a retired number? If your answer would be a recent player, who is your favorite Twin who hasn't played for the team in the last decade?

Mine is the guy in this photo.