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Root, Root, Rooting for the Home Team, Augmented

 

(from exitosanoticias.pe)

With rare raindrops wetting the Arizona desert outside, my Peruvian spouse of 30 years and I have just finished watching the Peru vs. Denmark World Cup soccer game on a Spanish-language cable network.  Our two “mixed” children, separately thousands of miles away in the eastern U.S., shared it with us via Spanglish text shout-outs in a WhatsApp “Family” group we’ve set up for the four of us.  It was a fun bit of family bonding, the likes of which we seldom get to enjoy now that our babies have matured into faraway, busy 20-somethings.

   A little bit of Peru in Arizona

Our daughter saw the game in a Peruvian restaurant owned by the parents of a friend in Washington D.C., shouting herself hoarse surrounded by fellow fans of the red and white.  She’s been sending us excited messages in support of the team for weeks.  Even our relatively less-communicative eldest was fully engaged, blasting emoji-filled rants after each action of note.  Intriguingly, just as the game was set to begin, he sent a picture of himself and an unidentified girl decked out in Peru jerseys over the caption “Ready for the game!”  Would this be the woman he has hinted about dating over the last couple months but has otherwise shared nothing of?   As I type, I hear my wife and daughter reassuring each other over the phone that, even in losing 1-0, the muchachos played well and still have the heart and the skill to make it out of their group, although that now likely requires a win over France and the three points that go with it this upcoming Thursday.

Even as they grew up sporting U.S. passports, we’ve always made an effort to ensure our kids also felt a connection to their more hot-blooded halves.  They each spoke Spanish before they spoke English – although really only by a few weeks thanks to Barney the purple dinosaur – and are fully bilingual, wonderfully able to converse fluently with monolingual grandparents, aunts, uncles, and extended kin on both sides.  While their mom and I have always mainly spoken Spanish to each other at home, by school age each of our pair had independently drawn a notional line in the sand, deeming it unbearably uncomfortable to either speak to Mami in English or to Dad in Spanish.

     Ours at left and right

Besides the occasional trip down to Peru to visit family when they were little, my work life also allowed them a three-year stint living in and experiencing their maternal homeland during an important chunk of their individual pre-teen ripenings.  Their mom, an incredible home-schooled cook, has always served us superb Peruvian fare, but living in Peru gave them the opportunity to expand their love for that globally-praised cuisine to include street food and lesser-known regional delicacies that they still seek out.  Between family vacations and school-sponsored trips, they gained robust familiarity with the country’s arid coast, lush jungles, and especially the fertile mountain valleys and towering Andean ranges whence spring the indigenous side of their greater American ancestral legacies.

   Abuelita Tani, ca. 2004

Happily, the legacy they inherited was not solely historical.  Each of them as infants had received the personal blessing of their maternal great-grandmother, Abuelita Tani, but living in Peru at an age when they could value it also permitted them to etch into their memories the joy of holding her soft hands and partaking of her mountain-grown wisdom and stories prior to her passing.  Someday, when they’re settled and maybe even raising offspring of their own, I’ll hope to reinforce those remembrances by passing along copies of the 1991 audio recordings I made of La Abuelita sharing some of her life story.

Our kids have been dipped in the culture of Peru as well, both as spectators and as participants.  They regularly heard Peruvian music at home and on the amateur stage, clapped as their kin danced huaynos at family gatherings, and heard both Happy Birthday and Cumpleaños Felices sung as they celebrated each birthday.  As seen in the videos embedded below, our boy surprised us one Father’s Day strumming some Andean guitar rhythms while his music teacher played the quena, or traditional Andean flute.  Likewise, our little girl melted our hearts in performances of traditional dances, such as the marinera norteña (seen below), and zamacueca.

 

 

 

 

 

From where I sit, there is great goodness in my kids’ ability to just as joyously hacer bulla for “their” Peruvian national team during this World Cup as they did when cheering on “their” championship U.S. national team in the Women’s World Cup in 2015.  At a time when division and insularity seem to have the momentum, I could not be happier for the divided allegiances, or better yet the augmented allegiances of my progeny.  Of course, it’s also nice that having two home teams gives us a better shot at being able to actually pull for our own against the world every four years…

¡¡Arriba Peru!!

Give them Lace Blooz hell!!

¡¡Sí se puede!!

Good Times! The Porpoise Is (Still) Laughing

Granted, the period between the ages of five and seven weren’t my most informed years, but I certainly believed at the time that I was watching a TV show made for me and my fellow youngsters.  I mean, it was broadcast Saturday mornings right alongside the cartoons and sugary cereal commercials my best buddy Brian and I loved back in 1969-71.  The flow from The Monkees and their wacky shenanigans into the adventures of shipwrecked Jimmy on Mayor H.R. Pufnstuf’s island seemed a seamless transition.  Brian and I spent many hours together either on the floor in front of the big console TV at my house at the end of Greenfield Avenue or sprawled out on under-stuffed beanbags transfixed by a slightly smaller screen down the adjoining block at his.  Sure, there was music, and singing along to the theme song was always a blast, but it was the slapstick and constant jokes about Davy — ha ha, he’s short!! — that kept us coming back to The Monkees TV show.

By the time Davy appeared sans bandmates — and with nary a mention of The Monkees — on an episode of The Brady Bunch in December 1971 however, two months had passed since my family had moved permanently away from Brian and Greenfield Avenue.  I sensed there was something amiss with my favorite Saturday morning rock band after co-learning with Marsha Brady an important life-lesson about the negative consequences of fibbing to seek popularity, but with my new neighbor kids and schoolmates into the edgier TV adventures of The Jackson 5ive and The Mod Squad, I opted against sharing my uncool concerns about Davy and company with them.  This decision and other essential “new-kid” defense mechanisms soon paved a path for the latest and the cool to efficiently appropriate the mental space previously staked by “Greenfield” vestiges.  Thus, The Monkees faded surprisingly quickly from my memory, as did Brian, both put way with other childish things.

Roughly eight Monkee-free years later, the advent of paid employment, a driver’s license, and a hyperbolic taste for music contributed to reintroduce the zany Saturday morning heroes of my childhood to me.  Leveraging funds earned from my job as an usher at the Orpheum movie theater, I had nurtured a weekly habit of hitting up the Deseret Industries thrift store prior to extended Saturday work shifts to search through the new LP donations.  At 25 cents a record, I probably bought a couple hundred secondhand albums at the “DI” over my high school years.  During one of these visits, I discovered there in the racks a copy each of The Monkees and More of The Monkees, the Saturday-morning TV band’s first two albums.  Apparently a sucker for the nostalgic even then as a teen, I grabbed the platters, handed over my four bits to the cashier, stashed the bag behind the seat of my truck, and reported to work.  After some ticket-tearing and high-handed wielding of my flashlight in the theater aisles, I finally headed home to listen to my new acquisitions.

Of course, I knew the Monkees’ many pop hits well as they were ubiquitous on radio and canned in-store sound systems.  But in spinning those newly-acquired records, I realized just how truly good those songs were.  It didn’t (and doesn’t) matter who wrote them; the well-known tunes grooved and begged for singalongs – and the deeper tracks were just as good, and sometimes even better.  The varying voices and personalities, contrived or not, depending on which Monkee was singing added to the joy and encouraged letting sides play all the way through.  I could soon sing every lyric to every song across both LPs, and would often be heard crooning selections in the shower.  However, despite the return of my Monkees fandom, albeit this time as a listener vice a viewer, I failed to explore any further.  Save for hits from other albums played on the radio and elsewhere, I would go another quarter century satisfied with just my two-album fix.

By the mid-00s, void-filling behaviors — both related and unrelated to my fast-growing CD collection — had me compulsively reading magazines and online forums specialized in ferreting out the lesser-known gems (Colgems, anybody?) of the classic rock era.  Somewhere in the haze of digital torrent explorations, voracious skimming, unboxing Amazon packages, and hemorrhaging money, I became aware of later Monkees output in which Michael, Micky, Peter, and Davy had supposedly exercised greater creative control, played many of their own instruments, and expanded their previous bubblegum pop-focused output to include occasional forays into psychedelia, country rock and other “serious” genres.  The awareness exposed a hole, which, in turn, demanded immediate plugging.  Third and fourth Monkees albums Headquarters and Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones Ltd were soon added to my jewel-case holdings and earned regular spins, both proving just as catchy and joy-inducing as the earlier records.

Fast forward to 2018 and a compulsive double-check of the http://www.phoenixconcerts.net website that I use to identify the undeniably extravagant number of concerts I am compelled to attend of late — likely in an attempt to make up for perceived lost opportunities during my 20+ years abroad –  and my discovery that The Monkees were kicking off a North American tour right here in the Phoenix area.  It didn’t matter when I learned that the actual tour was billed “The Monkees Present: The Mike & Micky Show,” I still knew I needed to be there.  After all, Davy Jones had sadly passed away following a heart attack in 2012, and, while not seeking to diminish in any way Peter Tork’s contributions as the band’s most “proficient” musician, it was the singing on those early hits that had most deeply moved me, and Peter wasn’t a singer.

On June 1st at the Chandler Center for the Arts in Chandler, Arizona, Michael Nesmith, Micky Dolenz, and their fantastic nine-piece band delighted a sold-out crowd of 1500 mainly 50-somethings and above, with me being one.  They joyously played the hits, as well as a selection of deep tracks, country-tinged Michael Nesmith solo songs, and even a pair of tunes from Good Times!, the Monkees’ generally positively-reviewed 2016 album.  Mike and especially Micky were in wonderful voice, with neither 70-something sounding especially worse for wear.  Whether due to nostalgia or by dint of abandoned prescriptions, I found myself watery-eyed and giddy repeatedly throughout the evening as glorious renditions of timeless gems were offered up again and again.  The 33-song setlist, including two encores, included personal favorites “You Just Might Be the One” and “The Porpoise Song (Theme from ‘Head’),” and even “Randy Scouse Git” with the full scat.  The audience singalong with Micky of “Daydream Believer,” originally sung by Davy, was another highlight.

 

 

In the week or so since the concert, I have purchased the Good Times! CD – it’ll probably grow on me – and grabbed a $4.99 “very good” condition used Headquarters LP from the stacks at my favorite local record store – a totally unnecessary purchase as I already have it on CD and seldom listen to vinyl.  While successfully fighting off the temptation to spend $200 on the full series Blu-ray collection of The Monkees TV show (plus the movie Head!), I also discovered much to my surprise that pre-pubescent me had not fallen for what I thought was a contemporary Saturday morning show made in 1969-71 expressly to entertain me and my childhood peers.  Instead, Brian and I had been won over by the syndicated reruns of a 1966-68 prime-time sit-com initially targeted at teens and young adults.  How could I not have realized that before?  I guess I had simply never done the math, never before focused on the now obvious disconnect between the early albums’ years of release and my memory timeline.  Oh well, this new knowledge does help dissipate my long-time confusion as to why The Monkees got the nod to take Jimi Hendrix out on the road to open a tour and H.R. Pufnstuf, who I now understand to have been non-contemporaneous, didn’t.

I unabashedly love The Monkees, and concerts, and unnecessary used LPs.  There is definitely something wonderful to be said for being too busy singing to put anybody down (especially when that anybody can include oneself).  Maybe it’s that realization that explains why the porpoise is laughing.  Goodbye Goodbye Goodbye

Stolen Victimhood: The Historical Record Bites

(from chaskelley.wordpress.com)

It was such a simple story:

I had tickets for the 22 August 1980 “Black & Blue” tour gig featuring co-headliners Black Sabbath and Blue Öyster Cult at Bonneville Raceway, just east of Salt Lake City, Utah.  Black Sabbath was a no-show due to the drug problems of drummer Bill Ward.  Recognizing the disappointment of the concert-goers, Blue Öyster Cult played a fantastic double set.

Results:

 

— In recognition of their going beyond the pale “for the fans,” Blue Öyster Cult are heroes forever.

— Bill Ward is a villain, having allowed his addictions and lack of self-control to hurt fans.

— I am a victim here.  As a result of Mr. Ward’s sudden departure from the tour, I lost what would be my one and only true opportunity to see Ronnie James Dio perform live.

Perfect!  Wrap it in a bow and put it on the mantle.  An anecdote for the ages!

 

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Then along came that instigator, that inserter of doubt, that offender, Mick Wall:

The “Historical Record” – Bah, humbug!

On page 188 of the hardback edition of his otherwise fantastic book Black Sabbath: Symptom of the Universe, Wall includes the below quote from Sabbath bassist extraordinaire Geezer Butler:

…’We got to Denver,’ Geezer recalled, ‘it was the night before we were playing the McNichols Arena, which is an 18,000-seater which had been sold out for weeks.  And Bill decided that’s when he was gonna leave.  He just got in his bus and he was gone.  And I was so used to Bill saying things that he didn’t mean, I thought oh, he’ll be back tomorrow, and he wasn’t.’

Wall then appends the following:

Forced to cancel the show, the promoter threatened to sue them for $100,000.  When it became clear that Bill really wasn’t coming back, though, the promotor took pity and the next four shows were all rescheduled for later in the year.

Reading the above in mid-2016, I was quite obviously outraged.  How could the miscarriage of justice carried out against me (and all my Utah comrades, of course) be so carelessly cast aside with solely a vague reference to “the next four shows” being rescheduled?  Did we, the suffering (black) masses who had gathered in our masses for naught at that oil-soaked desert track on 22 August 1980, not deserve at least to be listed, specified, named?  And what was this “rescheduling” of which Wall spoke? Bah!

Confronted with Wall’s two-paragraph sham of a treatment of my history, I knew instantly what had to be done.  I would write my own book (or article or blog post or email to my sisters) setting things straight.  The episode would not be so casually swept under the rug.  I immediately just under two years later set out to gather the raw, concrete facts in preparation for the truth-telling.  Unscrupulous historiologist wankers be damned!

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…And that’s where the tangible universe with all its law-abiding beauty and moral clarity came crashing down around me, catapulting me into a tilted neocubist world of multiple perspectives and nuanced conceptions, with reassuring truth traded in for emasculating perception.  I was cast from self-evident Heaven and Hell opened its misgiving arms wide to receive me.

Results:

 

— BÖC as heroes:  Via the absolutely amazing (and endlessly fun) website, http://www.hotrails.co.uk, I was able to confirm that the 22 August 1980 Bonneville Raceway show was a scheduled “Black and Blue” tour stop at which Sabbath was a no-show.  We were the second cancelled Sabbath appearance after Bill Ward bailed on the tour, with the 21 August McNichols Arena gig in Denver having been the first.  However, two accounts on the website – plus others I fearfully google-reaped elsewhere — indicated that BÖC had actually cut their Raceway set short due to strong winds blowing desert sands into the band’s faces, threatening to topple equipment, and carrying upon us a dark, lightening-packed storm that made the outdoor site too dangerous to continue.  As I researched, long-dormant fragmentary brain ripples asserted themselves, callously forcing me to accept the falsehood of my prior “extended set” Blue Öyster fawning. I still know with all my heart that Eric Bloom stated early on from the stage BÖC’s intent to make up for Black Sabbath’s absence by doing a double set.  Nonetheless, unrealized intent is likely insufficient testimony for heroism.

— Bill Ward as villain:  This much is true: I was robbed of my chance to see Black Sabbath on 22 August 1980 because Bill Ward abandoned the concert tour two days before.  In his book, however, Wall paints a picture of a sad Bill, missing and feeling disloyal to his touring buddy Ozzy, isolated from his bandmates, distressed by the death of his mother earlier in the year, and so deep in the abyss of hard-drugs addiction as to bring into question his ability to make considered choices.  The timing of Bill Ward’s departure affected me negatively, but it also gave Bill needed space that he eventually leveraged to get better, and it brought drummer Vinnie Appice into Dio’s orbit, an event which led to oodles of musical goodness over the subsequent decades that have directly and dazzlingly stoked my buzz.

— Missing my one chance to experience Ronnie James live:  Mick Wall’s insouciantly executed memory murder was accurate.  Sabbath’s cancelled show was, in fact, rescheduled and occurred at Salt Lake City’s Salt Palace just over two months later on 3 November 1980.  I have no recollection of that show.  I do not know why I would not have gone.  That I can recall, nothing major happened in that time frame that would have precluded my attendance.  Absent further context and/or uncovering of mitigating facts, I am forced to admit that I appear to have had another chance to see Dio fronting Sabbath, but I did not take advantage of it.  My wounds may be self-inflicted; my victimhood nothing more than a false memory carved to protect myself from blame.

Mainstream Media: who do they serve anyway? (from: http://www.dio.net)

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My anecdote doesn’t look as nice on the mantle as it used to.  I’d try discounting my April 2018 findings as obvious examples of “fake news,” but I am afraid the gleam on my story is permanently smudged.  I am victimized once again, this time by a conspiracy of truth.

Well, maybe truth can just bite me (and maybe I’ll still refuse to weep over Bill Ward’s absence at The End.)

The Top 6 KISS Posters (in my room)

 

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#6:  Paul Displays His Instrument (1977):

20180318_142758

I like to think I am comfortable in my own sexuality and generally relaxed with regard to the proclivities of others.  I suffer from no need to sew on and display any particular identifying patch and would describe myself, at this stage, as profoundly bored with the entire idea of even caring which way others’ winds blow.  And yet, I find myself unable to give this soft-lit masterpiece the wall space it deserves.  As much as I hate to admit it, Mr. Stanley is simply too pretty here.  He intimidates me.  I find him disquieting, a threat to the calmness of my seas.  As such, he is left to stare out at me from his cluttered corner, those searing eyes a constant reminder of my weakness.  He knows that he deserves better.

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#5:  U.S. Tour (1976):

20180318_142927

I wonder how visitors view this one. Is it a demonstration of patriotism or an indicator of disrespect for national symbols and narrative?  Is it rebellious rock and roll or kitschy bubblegum?  What it certainly is not is evocative of the music that induced my younger self to march proudly in the KISS Army; the cartoonish buffoons here were certainly not my ranking Gods of Thunder.  Is pursed-lip Paul meant to be stern or stoic?  Is Peter forlorn or just a lost kitty?  Gene’s expression seems less demonic than responsive to whatever Ace is doing with the butt end of that flagpole behind him.  And speaking of Ace, what the hell is he so happy about?  Does he already foresee just how much better his solo album will be than those of two-thirds of his band-mates?  I have no answers, and yet the poster remains up, albeit skeptically.

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#4:  Destroyer! (1976):

20180318_142902

Nothing cartoonish about this winner!  Our heroes have achieved transcendence.  They are beyond the need for rational footing or, as so epically revealed by Ace, any kind of physio-mechanical logic in their corporeal magnificence.  It is not they who lay waste; it is rather they who reign glorious above the existing wastelands.  They come to carry us with them, to lead us over the, err… jagged coal-brick peaks to the plains of sweet pain beyond.  (They know we want it: Yes we do, yes we do!)  We comply with their command to kneel, clutching our breasts and offering up our virgin souls to be robbed at their whim.

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#3:  The Alive II Stage (1977):

20180318_142841

Behold the true spectacle of KISS in their greatest glory.  It doesn’t matter what came later; not tanks, 3-D glasses, nor fire-ladder extensions floating Paul over rapt audiences.  This was the stage on which we dreamed of seeing KISS live.  What could be better than dual stairways to Peter and bat-wing Gene shadowed by his similarly-feathered Rod of Asclepius, unless it were the sparking gold-plated, sorta-sickly house-cat pair backgrounding for feathered-hair Ace and his sunburst Gibson as he did battle with soft-lit Paul and his all-over man’s mane for stage-left platform time.  This is what I expect my ascension to heaven to look like should the net of my works rate; it is too magnificent for simple grace.

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#2:  Love Gun (1977):

20180318_142918

Where Destroyer emphasized the lean, Love Gun accentuates the rippling bulk.  Soaring buoyancy is set aside in favor of rock-hard permanence.  Our stainless steel idols no longer simply reign from above, they now rule supreme right here in our midst.  We do not pretend to lustful fantasies of cavorting on the steps with our leaders’ painted sirens; our unworthy minds reject such nonsense outright.  We question not the division between what is given unto us, and what is forever beyond our station.  We see our Lords and we rejoice in their gifts.  (If only maybe they’d thought twice before gifting us “And Then She Kissed Me” and “Hooligan.”)

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#1:  The Epitome of All That Is Rock (1975):

20180318_142856_001

Words cannot suffice.  Here we have that which is felt, yet not touched.  The ephemeral essence and spiritual truth of our divine hard rock is magically encapsulated in this impossible-and-yet-here-extant image.  Paul asserts; Ace soars; Gene conjures; and Peter exalts.  We hear the truth and it sets us free: God gave Rock and Roll to us, putting it in the soul of everyone.  And whosoever would deny it, in fact denies only himself.  Yep, this is the best poster.

Traffic in My Mind

I don’t do change well.  I spend months, and sometimes years, pining for it and trying to passively will it into being, only to tense up and pretend that casting it from my thoughts can somehow hold it off when it presents itself.  With less than two weeks remaining here in Egypt, I am irresolutely in denial.  Pushing potato chips and diet sodas down my throat while focusing attention on to-do lists and personnel evaluations has proven only partially effective in keeping the fear-of-change demons at bay.  Maybe little surprise then that I find myself temporarily retreating into the comforting warmth of guns and religion nostalgia and reassuring truths:

Growing up in Ogden, Utah, in the early 1970s there wasn’t much of a sense of connection to the broader country, let alone the rest of the globe.  Television provided some window, as did my parents’ occasional liberal-minded commentary on events of the era, but truth be told, my adolescent friends and I would have been hard-pressed to identify any specific way in which the larger world touched us.  We certainly knew how we touched the world however.  For it was little Ogden that had gifted the celebrated Osmond Family in all its facets and wonders to our fellow planetary inhabitants.

This knowledge of my hometown’s contribution to humanity was especially meaningful to me personally as I had information of which many of my peers were ignorant; I knew the precise location of the house in which the Osmonds had grown up.  Even more exciting, it was within biking distance of my own home and was on a road we routinely traveled on the way to grocery store, haircuts, and spaghetti restaurants.  I understood the family had years before moved on to imagined mansions elsewhere in the state, but I still stared at that relatively small, two-story white house with awe every time we passed, fully expecting to catch a glimpse of something mysterious or extraordinary in or around it.

Young Jimmy

Neither pride in Ogden’s most famous exports nor reverence for their early dwelling translated into patience for their pabulum, of course.  I was way too cool for that at the time.  Sure, I stared agog at young Jimmy Osmond when our pre-teen paths crossed in a ski slope lift line, but that was just curiosity because he

Young VotF

was famous.  Otherwise, my youthful partaking of the Osmond offerings was limited to the occasional late-70s viewings of the Donny and Marie variety TV show, especially after it moved to Sunday nights in its final season and became weekly post-pot roast family viewing at Grandpa and Grandma’s house.  After all, Marie may have been a little bit country, but she was also a little bit hot, so no apologies.

Fast forward to the 2010s and I have developed a newfound appreciation for my illustrious hometown compatriots.  With most – albeit not all – of that silly “cool” baggage long cast off, I can grant the Osmonds’ “Yo-Yo” and “One Bad Apple” their rightful place as terrific, painless pop songs; and, Marie’s countrified take on “Paper Roses” delivers pleasant-enough empty-calorie sweetness.  Even so, I felt no need to add any Osmonds to my own music holdings until I discovered a few years back their 1973 concept album called The Plan, the existence of which I had been previously oblivious to.

Recorded at Los Angeles’ Kolob Studios – which could not be a more apropos branding, as can be confirmed by anyone willing to dive into a quick wiki hole — The Plan was the Osmond brothers’ attempt to narrate the Mormon cosmology via popular song.  Taking its name from the Plan of Salvation, a key tenet of the Mormon faith, the album plays as a series of musical vignettes and extrapolations that, while recognizable by Mormon cognoscenti as emanating from doctrinal wellsprings, burden the non-member listener with little weight of the sacred.  In fact, gleaning metaphysical meaning from the album is likely near impossible for anyone not steeped in Mormonism.  But, for those with the contextual backing, The Plan can thrill like a birthday party scavenger hunt.

The Plan is no lost classic and only a false prophet could suggest it would broadly appeal to most who read this.  That said, the album is no bubblegum throwaway either.  For all the blandness of their goody two-shoes image, the Osmond brothers were versatile, talented musicians whose ambitions stretched way beyond their barbershop and teen idol beginnings.  For me, the draw of this album is its unique insider connection to my peculiar clan, but I can also understand why it hit 58 on the Billboard 200 and was certified gold in the UK in 1973.  It was ambitious and heartfelt, and in some places even beautiful.  And I would vociferously bear witness against anyone so sinful as to deny Merill Osmond’s divine way with a vocal.

As for the songs, there are some gems to be found here.  “Traffic in My Mind” will surprise listeners who thought the Osmond’s “Crazy Horses” was a one-off excursion into hard rock.  Starting off with a greasy lead guitar riff that carries through the whole song, “Traffic” exudes toughness, with the raunchy vocal and six-string bends riding over the top of a meaty bass and drum-driven rhythm, before ending in a swirl of light psychedelia.  The carnivalesque “Movie Man” is another highlight with its weird synth and kazoo lines, made even better for me by its reference to a horrifying inducement to obedience impressed upon all Mormon youngsters in Sunday School.

I am fully comfortable making the claim that knee-slapping, harmonica, and mouth harp have never been combined with less of a southern backwoods hoedown feel than they are in “Mirror, Mirror.”  And “Let Me In” and “Darlin’” are the kind of big love ballads that bring the girls to the Osmonds’ yard, with the former leveraging bombastic horns and the latter opting instead for overwrought strings.

Traffic in My Mind:

Movie Man:

Mirror, Mirror:

Other listeners may have a hard time sussing out my most beloved and dearly-held Mormonisms – specifically, the ideas of eternal family and progression – but that doesn’t mean there’s not some wisdom closer to the surface to be had on the album.  For example, what say we end with the following lyrics from The Plan’s other hard rocker “The Last Days.”

Nations take up their battle stations

Patrons of zodiac revelations

Lustations breaking family relations

Litigation allowing shoot-up sensations

People living lives of confusion

Billions caught up in revolution

Cities lost in their own pollution

Question, what is the Constitution?

That’s what they said, someday it would be

Now just look around if that’s what we see

It’s gotta be the last days