the smiths

When I Say Shotgun, You Say Wedding

I’m always surprised when I hear about bands that I liked in high school still being relevant in the music world. I know most of those bands are still out there making music. Just because I don’t listen to their music or follow them anymore doesn’t mean they cease to exist. What really surprises me though is when those bands reach a level of success greater than the level I knew them at. For instance, take Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness. Sure, I guess I can argue that the band is new, but Andrew McMahon is no stranger to music. He was the front man for indie punk band Something Corporate and then for Jack’s Mannequin. He even sang about his SoCo life (“been around the world in a punk rock band”) in the Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness hit “Cecilia and the Satellite”. Despite ventures with two different bands who were well-known in their respective scenes, he never bridged the mainstream gap until Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness. Now another band from my high school years has my attention.

I first heard about this band, by the name of Panic! at the Disco when I was a junior in high school. I got their debut album A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out, which was released in September 2005, around the time I got my driver’s license. Their debut was the soundtrack to my early driving days where I gained and maintained the independence a driver’s license offers. It played as I drove to pick up friends, grab some Burger King, or take drives on a long strip of road in a nearby town known as The Ave.The first song of theirs that caught my attention was “Time to Dance”. I downloaded a demo version of the song that was different from the album version and received some attention from friends who recognized the distinction. I listened to both versions anyway and loved the rest of the songs too.

Panic! at the Disco was founded in 2004 by childhood friends, Ryan Ross and Spencer Smith, while they were still in high school in a suburb of Las Vegas, Nevada. They recruited friend, Brent Wilson to join and Wilson encouraged his classmate, Brendon Urie to join the band as well. Initially the group started out as a blink-182 cover band, but then they recorded three original songs. They decided to send Fall Out Boy bassist Pete Wentz a link to their Purevolume account just for the hell of it, but the tables turned in their favor. Wentz liked what he heard. He met the band and asked them to sign with his very own Decaydence Records (now known as DCD2), an imprint of Fueled By Ramen, which Fall Out Boy was signed with. They signed with Wentz before even playing a live show, which came a few month before their first album was released.

Their debut album had a slow rise to the top, but in a way Panic! at the Disco needed that. They needed to learn how to be a band. They all recently graduated high school (aside from Ross who dropped out of college to focus on music) and were still young kids. In March of 2006, the band announced a headlining tour and by August of that year the album was certified platinum and their single “I Write Sins Not Tragedies” won Video of the Year at the 2006 MTV Video Music Awards. Pretty amazing for a bunch of teenagers right? However the Panic! at the Disco who had that crazy rise to fame isn’t the same Panic! at the Disco that exists today.

Over the past 11 years the band has had plenty of turnover. Lead vocalist, Brendon Urie is the only founding member still in the band. There’s various reasons for that though. Creative differences was one of the reasons. I totally understand this because the band’s sound has changed drastically from its debut album.

Their first record has an electronic dance punk sound. Their second record Pretty Odd, released on March 21, 2008, sounds like something you’d hear from the Beatles. It was a drastic change in sound. It was one that I, as a huge fan of their first album, wasn’t happy about. I remember looking forward to their sophomore album, but while listening to it for the first time I was confused as to who I was actually listening to because it didn’t sound like them at all. It resulted in my disinterest in the band from then on.

The band released 3 more albums since Pretty. Odd.: Vices & Virtues (2011), Too Weird to Live, Too Rare to Die! (2013), and most recently Death of a Bachelor, which came out in January of 2016. Now Panic! at the Disco’s sound falls into the pop rock genre. I have to admit as a fan of early Panic! at the Disco, their most recent album sounds more like their debut than the second album did. The only consistent thing throughout their five albums is Urie’s signature vocals.

Now back to the first paragraph of this blog when I was saying how it surprises me when bands I used to listen to in high school reach a level of success greater than the one I knew them at. Yesterday I was looking at upcoming concerts on the Bandsintown app, my go-to app for upcoming concerts and music events. I was looking into Saint Motel’s future shows as an idea for a Christmas present for my mom who happens to be a Saint Motel fan. I saw they were playing a few shows next year nearby, but the shows were in arenas. For a band like Saint Motel, that’s not the norm. I figured they must be opening for someone so I did some research to see who they were opening for. Turns out they’re opening for Panic! at the Disco on their Death of a Bachelor Tour. I couldn’t believe it. Only a few of the shows are sold out (who knows if they’re true sell outs or not) as of right now, but it still floored me that this band is currently able to play arena sized venues especially since I haven’t heard of Panic! at the Disco making much noise since “I Write Sins Not Tragedies”. Actually, the last time Brendon Urie came into my life was over the past year at Coachella 2016 when he joined Halsey on stage as part of her set. Panic! at the Disco must be doing something right though, even if I haven’t noticed it.

If you’re interested in listening to this band, here are some of my favorite songs and a few other good ones by the band who got their name from The Smiths’ song “Panic”:

  1. Time to Dance
  2. The Only Difference Between Martydom and Suicide is Press Coverage
  3. I Write Sins Not Tragedies
  4. Lying is the Most Fun a Girl Can Have Without Taking Her Clothes Off
  5. Victorious
  6. But It’s Better If You Do
  7. Nine in the Afternoon

We are infinite.

A few days ago the trailer for Disney’s 2017 live-action film, Beauty and the Beast premiered. The new film will star Emma Watson as Belle. Her brief appearance in the trailer made me yearn to watch an Emma Watson movie. Of course, I could have easily picked any of the eight Harry Potter films, but I was particularly in the mood for the movie adapted from my favorite book of all time, The Perks of Being A Wallflower. I first read the book as a high school junior. It was my favorite book before I even finished it. To this day, it is the only book to ever make me both laugh and cry. I related to it. I quoted it. I talked about it and I loved it.

While I was in college, it was announced that the book would be made into a movie. Despite the standard book to movie criticism, I was amped. I would check for updates on the film from time to time. I remember being intrigued when I found out Emma Watson was cast as Sam. Until that point, I only knew her as Hermione Granger. I found out when it would be filmed and that it was going to be filmed in Pittsburgh, the location where the story takes place. I even went to some filming locations in Pittsburgh while visiting to attend a hockey game about a year before the film was released (Doing this lead to the discovery of my favorite breakfast place in the Burgh. They make the best pancakes ever!).

The release was another thing. I’ve never been more excited for a movie release in my life and the release date happened to get pushed back. It was supposed to come out in the Spring of 2012 but was pushed to the fall of that year. In the time period between when it was filmed and when it was released, I would look up pre-screenings of the movie just to see if I would be able to attend (I didn’t though). When the movie came out in September 2012, it was limited. I wasn’t sure when it would be in theaters near me so I ended up driving to King of Prussia one Sunday to see it. I remember shaking with anticipation as the title sequence started. I was worried it wouldn’t live up to the greatness of the book, but it did. It really did. Then I saw it three more times when it came into theaters close by.

The Perks of Being A Wallflower was written and directed by Stephen Chbosky. Chbosky is also the author of the book. Having the book’s author as the writer of the adapted screenplay and director of the film was key in having it live up to expectations. The film stars Logan Lerman, Emma Watson, Ezra Miller, Mae Whitman, Nina Dobrev (Candace, Charlie’s sister), Johnny Simmons, Paul Rudd, Kate Walsh (Charlie’s Mom), and Dylan McDermott (Charlie’s Dad). Joan Cusack (Dr. Burton) even has a minor role in the film. Perks was also a box office success, more than doubling it’s budget.

As the film begins, Charlie (Lerman), a teenage boy, is seen typing a letter to an anonymous friend about starting high school the following day, something he is not anticipating. As a shy, quiet kid, he finds it difficult to fit in and make friends. He ends up connecting with his English teacher (Rudd) on the first day of school instead.

It isn’t until a school football game when he is invited to sit with a senior in his woodshop class named Patrick (Miller) and Patrick’s stepsister, Sam (Watson), that any spark of friendship begins. Upon meeting Sam at the game, Charlie finds her to be very attractive despite the fact that she is older and is starting to see someone. This also sets the tone for Charlie’s love interest throughout the movie. After homecoming, Charlie’s new friends bring him to one of their parties where he meets the rest of their crew, Mary Elizabeth (Whitman), Alice, and Bob, engages in drug related activity for the first time by eating a pot brownie, tells Sam about his best friend’s suicide the previous year, and catches Patrick hooking up with the football team’s star quarterback, Brad (Simmons), which he is asked to keep quiet about by Patrick so that Brad’s father wouldn’t find out. By the end of the party, the entire group accepts him as a wallflower and their newest friend. The rest of the film continues to take the audience through Charlie’s first year of high school and through his experiences of life, love, friendship, and growing up.

My description of the film makes it sound basic and simple, but it’s not. The film touches on so many relevant teen issues and also issues related to life in general such as drugs and alcohol, sex, domestic violence, child sexual abuse, mental illness, and suicide. There’s first loves, kisses and relationships, fights, lessons in friendship, music, and of course the Rocky Horror Picture Show. It’s in every way a coming of age drama/comedy.

Despite the fact that The Perks of Being A Wallflower is indeed my favorite book ever (I’ve actually kept my copy beside my bed ever since I read it back in 2005), the movie isn’t my favorite movie of all time. It represents the book in the best way, but as any book to movie adaptation goes, it’s not exactly the same. The book has more detail and more back story (as most books often do). I also feel like the book version is more adult than the film version even though the story is about high school kids (let’s face it though, high school isn’t the media’s definition of teen). Perks was never a “teen” book so to speak. It was always found in the adult fiction section of every book store. However, a lot of teenagers were the ones reading the book. When making the film, Chbosky knew his audience would be teenagers so he made the film more teen friendly and view-able, opting for a PG-13 rating, rather than an R rated version (which would’ve been a better representation of the book I think). As a PG-13 movie lacking a large chunk of story detail, it is still the best book adaption I’ve ever seen.

If you haven’t seen this movie yet, I recommend that you see it some time in your life, but I also recommend that you read the book first. Sure it’s not necessary, but it gives you a greater understanding of the film. Honestly, I could go on about this story. There’s so much I want to say like the fact that driving through the Fort Pitt Tunnel at night and coming out to witness the grandeur of Pittsburgh is everything the story makes it out to be or that even though this film/story doesn’t surround music, it features some of the best music and mix tape references (“Asleep” by The Smiths, “Landslide” by Fleetwood Mac (in the book only), or “Heroes” by David Bowie anyone?) or that I still relate quotes from the story to my life on a monthly basis. The truth is that it holds a special place in my heart and it’s relevant beyond my teenage years. It provides a message of hope and positivity even with referencing some dark topics. As an adult, I’ve known people who have accepted the love they thought they deserved because they each dated someone who wasn’t good enough for them. I’ve had enough experiences to know that things change, friends leave, and life doesn’t stop for anybody. As I chase my dreams, I try to remember that even if I don’t have the power to choose where I come from, I can still choose where I go from there. And of course, even as an adult, there are still times that in certain moments, I feel infinite.

 

 

Fall Playlist

So this week I was pretty stuck on what I should write about. I could have easily made a post about the USWNT and the CONCACAF qualifying tournament, but I feel like I’ve written too much about sports so far (I’ll probably still write about it at some point in the next 2 weeks though). There’s been nothing in TV or movies currently that has really peaked my interest. I didn’t feel like writing about one of the shows I’ve been watching for a while or a favorite movie. I wanted music, but no new bands struck me recently. Plus, I already have something planned to write in 2 weeks about a band I’ve loved for 10 years. Then yesterday as I was driving on what turned out to be a gloomy fall afternoon, just as most of the leaves on the trees have hit their peak to turn colors, I heard a song that fit this time of year so well.

It hit me at that moment. There are tons of songs that remind me of specific seasons including fall so why not make a playlist? Some songs may be totally irrelevant to fall. I most likely associate them with the season because I probably heard them for the first time during the fall and listened to them repetitively. Other songs just sound right to me for this time of year because they either have an eerie tone (that Halloween vibe) or they’re my ideal fall indie folk style music.

So here’s my playlist for you. It’s almost like I made you a mix tape without the whole giving you the actual music thing.

1. Asleep   -The Smiths

2. Coney Island   -Good Old War

3. Come As You Are   -Nirvana

4. So Much Trouble   -Matt Pond PA

5. Blackbird   -The Beatles

6. Mad World   -Gary Jules

7. Ships   -Lady Danville

8. Pretty Girl at the Airport   -The Avett Brothers

9. New Slang   -The Shins

10. Pale Blue Eyes   -The Velvet Underground

11. Follow Suit   -Trent Dabbs

12. The Cave   -Mumford & Sons

13. Freaks   -The Hawk in Paris

14. That’s Some Dream   -Good Old War

15. Gypsy   -Suzanne Vega

16. World Spins Madly On   -The Weepies

17. Skinny Love   -Bon Iver

18. Landslide   -Fleetwood Mac

If you’ve ever heard or know all or some of these songs, you can probably tell that this playlist doesn’t seem very upbeat. It’s not. Musically, to me, that’s how fall is represented. It’s always seemed like a sad time of the year to me because where I’m from, the days get colder, the night’s grow longer, and all the life that was once flourishing seems to be sucked out. The fall also reminds me of long drives to Pittsburgh. I’ve listened to a handful of songs on the playlist on those drives while passing elegant fall landscapes. The fall is Halloween and all things creepy. The fall is my favorite book which I read for the first time in early October as a high school junior. This is what fall is and what my fall playlist represents. So enjoy it. I highly encourage you to listen to these songs. Even more so, listen to them while taking a drive and being immersed in the season.