Better to Burn Out: A Farewell



Apparently, this is my 600th post on Now This Sound Is Brave; it’s also my last post as owner. As the song goes, it’s better to burn out than to fade away, but I think I did both. I don’t have the fortitude to recount the whole thing in new words, so I’ll steal from a personal post I made yesterday:

“My music blog is set to turn four years old around the end of this month… but I’m thinking about shutting it down. I took an official hiatus from posting when I started my current day job in early 2013, but I’d slowed way down on writing before that. I thought the seasonal layoff from the day job would give me time to get back into the spirit, but the spirit seems not to be there for me anymore. I haven’t even listened to much music in the last few months. And very little in the way of new music (I listened to an old A-ha album a few days ago, and those songs are still bouncing around my head because there’s been nothing in the meantime to replace them).

I did go much longer with the blog than I expected. And I loved the shit out of it. It was rewarding on so many levels, and I’ve made some great friends because of it, seen some great shows, gained favorite new bands, met people who’ve contributed to my musical identity since I was a teenager… It’s been an amazing, singular thing that has helped me reveal some of my ability and worth to myself.”

It’s like breaking up with a long-term lover, leaving NTSIB – it wrenches my heart. But I’ve decided not to shut the blog down. Instead, I’ll be handing the reins over to my brilliant, rock-steady, strong and capable co-blogger Jennifer, and it is a salve on my broken heart to know that it will go on.

And I may be back with the occasional post. There are upcoming albums from the Wind-up Birds and the Payroll Union, after all.

My gratitude and love to every musician who has allowed me to hawk their wares, to every PR person who has pushed the right thing at the right time, to every fellow blogger who has offered their support and friendship, to Jennifer, to our beneficent benefactor, and to every reader who has stopped by even for a few seconds. As patron saint Joe Strummer said, without people, you’re nothing.

So I’ll take my leave of you now and hope everyone will join me in wishing Jennifer the best, eager to see where she will steer this craft next. Mutts are going to play me out with a song that seems appropriate.


A Good Read, a Good Listen, and a Good Drink: Mutts

Instagram Mutts


It’s a simple yet sublime pleasure, and just thinking about it can make you feel a little calmer, a little more content. Imagine: You bring out one of the good rocks glasses (or your favorite mug or a special occasion tea cup) and pour a couple fingers of amber liquid (or something dark and strong or just some whole milk). You drop the needle on the jazz platter (or pull up a blues album on your mp3 player or dig out that mixtape from college). Ensconcing yourself in the coziest seat in the house, you crack the spine on a classic (or find your place in that sci-fi paperback or pull up a biography on your e-book reader). And then, you go away for a while. Ah, bliss.

In this series, some of NTSIB’s friends share beloved albums, books and drinks to recommend or inspire.


Earlier this month, I extolled the multi-flavored virtues of Chicago’s Mutts and their latest album Separation Anxiety. It’s a wily, skittering creature of an album, difficult to capture in one of those pigeonholing boxes that music press and label execs seem so fond of – and I like that! Many a rich and long-lasted musical love affair has begun with the question “What the hell is that?”

(And, at the time of that previous post, I didn’t know that singer/keys man Mike Maimone is from Cleveland, so I have to give a little O-hi-o salute for that.)

Mutts covering Tom Waits’ “New Coat of Paint” at 90.3 WRST in Oshkosh, Wisconsin


Now these fine gentlemen are joining us to give us their recommendations to aid us in our favorite activities of reading, listening, and drinking, and, oh, it’s a good one they’ve put together for us. Sit back and give it your full attention.


MIKE MAIMONE (Keyboard & Vocals)

Good Read: Super Sad True Love Story by Gary Shteyngart
If you’ve ever felt embarrassed to be at a table where more people are on their phones than not (even if you were in the majority yourself), this novel is your best friend and your worst nightmare. Set in the not-too-distant future, it uses a middle-aged man’s obsessions with “analog” books and a modern young woman to cast a bleak projection of where our instantly-gratified, plugged-in, debt-laden, class-divided, age-defying nation is heading. And to a degree, it anticipated the Occupy movements in New York.

Good Listen: “Jon Three Sixteen” by The Field Auxiliary
This track from their recent EP is where I would recommend starting on your journey with one the best bands Chicago has to offer. “When in doubt, put records out.” But don’t stop here; the new LP, Nomenclature Fever, is incredible.

“Jon Three Sixteen/When Yer Twenty Two” – The Field Auxiliary (for Audiotree Live)


Good Drink: Woodford Reserve, neat.



Good Read: 1984 by George Orwell
Although not what I would consider to be “light reading,” this would probably count as one of the most important books I’ve ever read. I taught high school English for five years before joining Mutts, and this book was one that I taught the last few years I was working. When I’d introduce it to my students, I’d tell them, “I’m not concerned that you like this book. I care much more about you actually getting something out of reading it and looking a little more critically at your surroundings because of this experience.” Every time I read the ending, I’m surprised at how tragic yet also beautiful it is.

Good Listen: All Ages by Bad Religion
When I was in middle school back in the late nineties, my idea of a punk rock band was Blink-182. This was around the time some friends and I first picked up instruments with the intention of creating music together as a “band.” My buddy, Jason, turned me onto this record, actually a compilation of songs from previous releases, and I don’t think I’ve been the same since. The songs here changed both my taste in music and my world view. I spent hours looking at all the show fliers the band used to decorate the liner notes, and the artwork on the back cover still scares and moves me at the same time. After all these years, I still come back to this record at least once a year and am surprised by how fresh and angry the songs still sound and the way the lyrical content remains relevant.

“21st Century (Digital Boy)” – Bad Religion


Good Drink: I love IPAs, so the hoppier the better. The Big Sky IPA is probably my favorite, but I just tried Three Floyds’ Zombie Dust and thought that was pretty tasty as well.


BOB BUCKSTAFF (Bass & Guitar)

Take Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy’s The Letting Go from the top and crack open David Berman’s poetry collection Actual Air. (Both of these fine releases hail from Chicago’s very own Drag City.) By the time the needle lifts from the final track, you’ll be nose deep at war with Berman’s Mirrornauts. An experience unparalleled. It will make sweet molasses of the mind.

“Cursed Sleep” – Bonnie “Prince” Billy


Let’s not forget the secret ingredient, a twelve pack of Olys from the corner store. Throw that sugar on top and you’ll be writing in Bukowski and speaking in a slurred sort of iambic pentameter for days to come. That’s some trippy stuff, Bill Shakespeare.


Shew, right? A good one.

If you’re in the Chicago area, you can catch Mike and a kick drum playing out live.

11/28, LiveWire Lounge, Chicago
12/5, Mike N Molly’s, Champaign
12/6, The Bridge, Columbia

“So Many, So Many” – Mutts


Mutts Official Website

Mutts @ Twitter

Mutts @ Facebook

Mutts: Separation Anxiety

Mutts, Now That's Class, Cleveland, Ohio


Your teeth are diamond studded
You’re always smilin’ at me
When I ain’t got any teeth



Happy Voting Day, friends! This lyric from the Mutts song “Washington (Still) Owns People”, from their album Separation Anxiety, seemed like an appropriate way to start this Election Day post.

I’ve been putting this post off for a while because I’ve had a difficult time getting a handle on exactly how to talk about their music. I was intrigued by the album from the start – it’s hard not to be when an album starts with a rhythmic, imaginative gem like “So Many, So Many” that makes you want to find a bucket and a wooden spoon so you can beat along.



But then they bring in the amped instruments, and things get complicated. Elements of rock, hardcore, progressive, thrash, funk, blues all throw in together for a meaty stew in songs that lyrically explore subjects from politics to religion to maintaining a romantic relationship as a touring musician.



It’s a compelling mess (and I mean that in the best way) Mutts are making here, never falling into cookie cutter parameters or imitation. Many of the elements used are familiar, but the direction these elements are taken is not, and that keeps your attention, wondering where Mutts will go next.

My favorite song on the album is the title/closing track that leads in like a raise-the-rafters gospel stomper, but then devolves into a drunken, shambling barroom sing-a-long.



The digital version of Separation Anxiety is available on a name-your-price basis, and CD and vinyl version are available for just a little scratch, including the beautiful “Mending Wall” LP.

Now here’s the part that really excites me: Separation Anxiety was funded in a Kickstarter campaign as part of a double-album deal. The second album, Object Permanence, will be an acoustic album and a sampler listen shows the album running in a vein similar to “So Many, So Many” and “Separation Anxiety”, so keep your ear to the ground for that one.


Mutts Official Website

Mutts @ Twitter

Mutts @ Facebook