all of god’s money.

cover

Does that album cover look familiar?

Yep — it does.

By the first time I saw Wilco — that would be 2004, at the Three Rivers Arts Festival — Yankee Hotel Foxtrot was already a classic. Hearing the intro to “I Am Trying to Break Your Heart” live for the first time — Glenn Kotche’s dissonant bells chiming behind a feedback whine — that was the moment for me. I loved the song, I immediately found a copy of YHF — and I knew Wilco would be a big deal to me from that point on.

I’ve heard that song and others from YHF at every subsequent Wilco show I’ve attended, and I assume I’ll hear it again this fall, when the band plays Heinz Hall in November. I’ll be happy to hear the stuff from the new record, of course, and songs from everything else across Wilco’s history. But more than anything else they’ve recorded, YHF remains a touchstone for me.

So when I found all of god’s money, a tribute to YHF released over the summer, I was stoked, to put it mildly.

god’s money was assembled by Better Yet, a Chicago-based music podcast, to benefit the AIDS Foundation of Chicago. It features absolutely no one I have heard before, but several that I will track down — because they’re that good. Mother Evergreen’s “Radio Cure” is stark and then shimmering before a dark turn. Meat Wave adds angry energy to a sped-up “War on War.”

And then there is Bethlehem Steel’s version of “I Am Trying to Break Your Heart”: Fuzzy guitars drive the clean melody, with spare enhancement from electronic keys noise. Percussion is all in the guitars too. Drums are barely noticeable until the end, when the fuzznoise builds in a way that Wilco doesn’t — it’s not dissolution into dissonance, but instead a snarling crescendo that mostly exists within the structure of the song. It’s a perfect interpretation.

If you’re a Wilco fan, go get this, people. It’s available at Bandcamp for whatever you want to pay.

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hopeful cleveland sports.

Browns Jets Football

Waaaaaaay back in 2007, I said I was retiring the tag “Hopeless Cleveland Sports” from Uncle Crappy. I made the decision based on a sudden rash of tolerable performance by the Cavs and the Indians and a draft by the Browns that included now-certain Hall of Famer Joe Thomas. It got even better later that year, when the Browns actually finished with a winning record for the season.

But then? More of the same.

There have been peaks since then — the Cavs title that brought grown men to tears (and by “grown men,” I mean me) and the frustrating, maddening and ridiculous — and awesome — World Series run by the Indians later that same year. But that marvelous year coincided with a 1-15 season by the Browns and a winless season the following year. The Indians got stomped by the Yankees. And there was another inevitable departure — albeit a much less acrimonious one — by King James.

But then last year happened. And things truly felt different.

It’s not perfect, not even close. The Cavs are rebuilding without LeBron, and the Indians can’t quite catch the Twins, although they still have a shot at the AL wild card.

But last night, I sat in my living room and watched the Browns win their first MNF game since 2008. A friend in Cleveland remarked that we weren’t aware that Hank Williams Jr. was still coherent enough to sing the MNF intro … although it struck both of us that we hadn’t really had a reason to pay attention to MNF for a while.

But now we do. And that’s the point. The team that beat the Jets last night isn’t good enough to win the division, but when you recall that the Browns finished last year 5-3, you understand — It’s a long season. Things can improve.

And if they do — if Baker Mayfield understands that he doesn’t have to throw for 30 yards on every play; if Freddie Kitchens finds a running game; if Myles Garrett can maybe not try to actually end the life of the opposing quarterbacks he hits — they could get to the post season for the first time since 2002.

That’s a loooooong drought, boys and girls, and I’m ready for a drink.

good times roll.

In the late 70s, my musical world view was informed pretty much exclusively by Q-FM-96 in Columbus, and was therefore a bit limited. Rock ‘n’ roll — and the harder the better — was what I wanted to hear; anything else (but especially disco) sucked. I clung to those opinions into the early 80s, when a couple things happened.

First, I found the Grateful Dead, which eventually opened a ton of musical doors for me. And second — I heard, and loved, The Cars. They were a bit poppy, sure, but there was enough new wave edginess to keep me from dismissing them as Top 40 crap. And eventually they served as my stepping stone to Talking Heads, REM, The Pretenders and a bunch more.

Ric Ocasek was found dead today, in his apartment in NYC. And when I consider context — what he and his band meant to me at 15ish years old — this is a pretty big deal. I said previously that the Dead opened doors for me, to roots music and psychedelia; Ocasek and The Cars did the same, but for the stuff that was new and interesting right then … and for that, I couldn’t be more grateful.

chump? not so much.

uva

After watching Texas Tech absolutely lock down Michigan State in Saturday’s semifinal, Sports Chump — if he had been following the possible outcomes of the Thirteenth Practically Annual Uncle Crappy NCAA Final Four Challenge (Brought To You By Piper’s Pub) — was probably sweating.

Mr. Chump picked a high score in the final, so if it came down to the tiebreaker, his pick was looking a little rough.

The Chump and Scooter From The Land of  Suburban Shooting Guards both finished with six points, on the strength of UVA making it to the title game. Scooter’s tiebreaker total was 136 points — a feasible guess as it turned out, given Tech’s defensive strength. Chump’s tiebreaker total was 164 points, which, as previously mentioned, would require more offense than Tech generally allows.

And here’s the interesting thing. At the end of regulation, the score was tied at 68 — or a combined total of 136 points.

Scooter? I’m sorry. You were so close.

But the 26 points scored in overtime gave this year’s TPAUCNFFC (BTYBPP) title to Sports Chump. I know Mr. Chump is named Chris, and that he lives in the Tampa, Florida, area — Jackets in seven, by the way — but we’ve never met in person. Mr. Chump, the choice is yours — if you’re going to be in Pittsburgh anytime soon, I’ll be happy to offer you tips on spending $50 at Piper’s Pub; if you have a local pub or brewery where fifty bucks might come in handy, I can PayPal you or send you a check — if that’s the case,
email me the pertinent details.

I wasn’t going to do AUCNFFC this year. But once again, it made the tournament more fun than it would be if I were just watching my office brackets go down in flames. Will I do it again next year? Uh. Maybe?

(Will I post anything on Uncle Crappy between now and then? C’mon, guys — let’s not get too crazy here.)

Regardless of what happens here in March 2020, I appreciate your participation, your support, and your lousy basketball picks — I mean, I almost won this thing myself.

Thanks, yinz.

it’s blutarsky time.

b7de9c84c3648388cd12f2705a9345cb

I don’t think I’ve seen anything quite like the wreckage of Thirteenth Practically Annual Uncle Crappy NCAA Final Four Challenge (Brought To You By Piper’s Pub), in terms of how many people we’re going to honor with a Blutarsky Award here in just a sec.

Chalky picks only work if the higher seeds win, and the higher seeds failed to do that last weekend. Carolina. Duke. The Aforementioned Basketball School Up North. All dumped on their keisters before making the Final Four.

So who might win this thing? No one — not a single TPAUCNFFC (BTYBPP) contestants correctly picked the Final Four. But nevertheless, there are a few possibilities:

Four plus (Two correct Final Four picks and the possibility for more points):

  • Uncle Crappy (HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA)

Two plus (One correct Final Four pick and the possibility for more points):

  • Socialist Joe
  • Dr. Scooter
  • Breaking Brews
  • Sports Chump
  • Ethel
  • Kelsey
  • The Other Scooter

Four and done (Two correct Final Four picks but no more points possible):

  • Curl Girl Michelle

Two and done (Two correct Final Four picks but no more points possible):

  • Lorenzo
  • HP

Before we move on, boys and girls, I would ask that you recall The Crappy Rule, as outlined in the contest’s initial post a couple weeks back. It says, in part:

If I were to come out on top of my own contest (and believe me, boys and girls, there is very little chance of that happening), the Piper’s gift card would be awarded to the next runner up (although I retain full bragging rights, which I would exercise almost daily until next year’s contest).

So pay attention if you still have points coming — you’re still in this thing.

And then … we have the people who most definitely are not still in this thing. You have managed to achieve the ultimate in college basketball futility … and for that, you deserve an award.

animalhousebelushi

A Blutarsky Award.

Why does a college basketball pool have an award named for a fictional character from Animal House? For this one line, which perfectly describes your TPAUCNFFC (BTYBPP) performance:

Blutarsky Award winners (No correct Final Four picks and no points):

  • Otimemore
  • Expatpghgirl
  • Aunt Annoyed Angel
  • Kewyson
  • Redbuppy
  • PghRugbyRef
  • Sara Without An H
  • Lunchbox Birdshit
  • Juan

Thank you for playing, Blutarsky people. And good luck to the rest of you.