Scott Andrew

Gnarled JavaScript warlock, musician, and cartoonist.


The Summer of Car Trouble

Me, in 2020:

This was gonna be the year I was gonna put together a live band for Car Trouble. Oh well! Better luck next year! Or maybe the year after that!

I had my second Covid jab in May 2021. And then, in August, I started a band! I began renting space in the warehouse district and dragged former Explone/Kirby Krackle drummer Nelson Estes back into action. Craig Marois of The Loveless Building joined us a few months later, making Car Trouble a properly-functioning loud three-piece rock outfit.

Smash cut to today, a year later: the Car Trouble record is finally, finally coming out in August 2022.

I've done the solo singer-songwriter thing, where the only person to disappoint is myself, and I've been the supporting player, where I could just show up, play, and get fired if I messed up too much.

Those safety nets are now gone. Can't just skip rehearsal because you're not feeling it! Can't waste time because it's not just your time anymore!

It also RULES. You guys. It is SO MUCH FUN. If you've been thinking about starting a band, do it. Don't overthink it for five years like I did.

Posted July 4, 2022

The Number Ones: Yes’ “Owner Of A Lonely Heart”

I've written about Yes' "Owner of a Lonely Heart" before. This Stereogum article by Tom Breihan is an amazing deep-dive into that song. There are too many great sentences to quote:

“Owner Of A Lonely Heart” is a craven pop-chart move from a band who’d previously specialized in exploratory, filigreed pomp-rock. It’s a total betrayal of everything that the band had done before. Not coincidentally, it also kicks ass. Sometimes, things work out like that.

The possibly-apocryphal story on “Owner Of A Lonely Heart” is that Trevor Rabin didn’t even think of it as a Yes song, but that he’d gotten up to go to the bathroom while playing a demo tape of his songs for the rest of the band. Trevor Horn heard “Lonely Heart” and decided that it could be a Yes song. I don’t know if this story is true, but I love the idea that all the most important moments in the song’s evolution happened because Trevor Rabin was taking a shit.

There's also a bit on how “Owner Of A Lonely Heart” used a sampled breakbeat from a Kool & The Gang song and basically invented the orchestra "stab" that was so popular in the 80s. The article concludes with a list of rap and R&B songs that sampled “Owner Of A Lonely Heart” in turn.

Some related emphemera I dug up:

Trevor Rabin, who wrote "Owner of a Lonely Heart," shows how to play the sci-fi guitar solo:

Producer Trevor Horn walks through some of the soloed instrument tracks and "whiz-bangs." Utterly charming:

Yes perform "Owner of a Lonely Heart" at their Rock & Roll Hall induction:

Posted April 11, 2021

Pocket Lint (links for 2021-04-04)

Posted April 4, 2021

Exit the warrior

Neil Peart

It's been roughly one year and one month since Neil Peart passed away, and at the time I didn't know what to make of it, so I didn't write about it here.

I do know exactly where I was when the news reached me. I was at my job, in one of those soundproofed one-person cubes meant for making phone calls or distraction-free work. I was preparing for a meeting, and was closing browser tabs when I saw the headline: Neil Peart, drummer for rock band Rush, dies at 67. I sat there, dumbstuck for a second, before my next thought: welp, I guess this is how I'll remember this moment: Neil Peart is gone, and I have a meeting.

The first rock show I ever attended was Hüsker Dü at the Syria Mosque in Pittsburgh, 1987. After that, my first arena rock show was Boston's Third Stage tour at the Richfield Coliseum in Ohio.

My second arena rock show was Rush. I'd made a handful of new friends at college and one of them had a ticket for the Hold Your Fire tour. Styx guitarist Tommy Shaw was the opener, touring his solo album Ambition.

I didn't really know Rush the band at all back then, although "Tom Sawyer" existed in the background radiation of my high school years, and I sorta-kinda recognized "The Temples of Syrinx" during the encore. I had a lot of "oh, so that's the band that does that song" moments.

Anyway, I mostly remember the laser light show and cool video backdrops. Later I would buy a cassette of their live album, A Show Of Hands, and was hooked.

Actually, my first memory of the band was hearing "New World Man" on the radio, likely in 1982 when it peaked at #21 on Casey Kasem's Weekly Top 40, when FM radio was the cultural kingmaker. I was 12 years old.

Also charting that same week: "Truly" by Lionel Richie, "Heartlight" by Neil Diamond, "Jack and Diane" by John Mellencamp, "Southern Cross" by Crosby, Stills, and Nash, "Rock This Town" by The Stray Cats. It was a different time.

Cleveland loved Rush. The song "Working Man" from their first album was embraced by a local station and that buzz helped them secure a record deal. But the Cleveland music scene hated Rush. Local music press wrote scathing reviews of their albums and concerts. The lyrics were too literate, they lacked passion, the playing was too proficient.

Blah blah blah blah blah.

This was when the scene was leaning hard into the authenticity demanded by the grunge and alt-rock era. Oh, you know more than three chords and have a decent relationship with your dad? Move along, poser.

Once, I played in a lengthy battle of the bands at my college. At the semi-finals, our set included "Subdivisions" from Signals. At the next week's semi-finals, our biggest rival also played "Subdivisons." Both bands advanced to the finals. We decided not to play "Subdivisions" again.

We lost. To express no hard feelings, we helped the other band load out their gear. I suspected they were feeling a bit righteous having defeated us: a few months earlier I had auditioned for their band, got the job, then backed out to form my own band. Feathers were ruffled. Because we played similar music, we competed for the same prog-loving audience — the audience that listened to Rush.

A few years later, at one of our last concerts, we invited their keyboardist onstage to play "Subdivisons" with us, splitting vocal duties. The crowd went bananas. Rift healed!

In hindsight, naming our band "Anagram" didn't make things easier on us.

My first "real" band was a six-piece playing covers. Standard early-90s college fare: R.E.M., The Cure, Pink Floyd, U2. And also, Rush. One night our lead vocalist decided to go on a date instead of coming to rehearsal. That night, without our singer, we ended up adding three more Rush songs to our set.

The next day our singer found out and was pissed off. He didn't hate Rush, but did we really need more Rush songs?

He ditched us for a date! What were we supposed to do?

I picked up some 70s-era Rush albums on cassette, blasting them in the car on my way to and from my summer job at the can factory.

I could not believe this was the same band I had seen my freshman year. Where were the synthesizers? Why do they sound like Led Zeppelin? Why does the drummer sound like Keith Moon on hyperdrive?

Wait, the drummer writes the lyrics?!

One late summer night I listened to the Hemispheres album for the first time, with headphones while laying in bed. The title track, formally named "Cygnus X-1 Book Two: Hemispheres" is an 18-minute long sci-fi rock opera. Because what else would it be?

When it ended, I sat up in bed and quietly applauded to no one.

Somewhere buried in a milk crate downstairs is a cassette with a boombox recording of my first band playing "La Villa Strangiato" at an outdoor house party during a humid summer night in Ohio. It was my first gig, ever. We called ourselves Fives and Sevens, after our favorite time signatures.

In all, I saw Rush live five times. Hold Your Fire was followed by Presto, then Roll The Bones. I camped out for tickets for both of those tours, back when camping out for concert tickets was a thing.

I wanted to like those albums, but I found myself not loving Rupert Hines' glassy production. Counterparts brought the band back to big guitar sounds and it was obvious that they'd been influenced by the return of guitar-driven rock to FM radio. The pre-concert stadium music included Soundgarden and Live. Primus was the opener.

I almost skipped the Test For Echo tour, but bought a floor ticket the day of the show. I hadn't bought the album so for the first time in awhile I was unfamiliar with some of the songs. I hadn't fallen off the bandwagon, but I had dropped the pace a bit.

How does an internationally-reknowned rock band with a career spanning 45 years not have a single noteworthy scandal? No outrageous womanizing, no exorbitant drug abuse, no "I'm a golden god!" moments to speak of.

I mean, that I know of.

From what I've seen — and mostly from the Beyond The Lighted Stage documentary — they were basically three goofballs who loved playing music together and made exactly the music they wanted to make and then made a career of that for almost five decades.

Just three friends who created something some people hated, but for which others would probably donate a pint of blood if asked.

When I was with Kirby Krackle, we had a running joke that Patrick and I had a not-so-secret mission to slip a Rush song into a set. Now that I think of it, we missed our chance.

At Kracklefest 2017, the band had to fill time while our leader Kyle changed into and then back out of granny drag for "Grandma's House." We ended up playing Led Zeppelin's "Rock and Roll," with Pat and I splitting lead vocals. What we should have played was "YYZ."

In the weeks after Peart's death, I listened to a lot of the band's catalog, including the last few studio albums I'd ignored, and rediscovering much of their music through the numerous live albums they'd released as the band wound down in the late 2000s.

Peart's passing meant the end of the band, and the end of something very personal to me. Yet the dominant feeling wasn't grief or sadness, but a strange, profound gratitude. Peart changed rock music, and I was grateful to have been there to witness it. I'm still grateful.

Much like David Bowie's passing in 2016, I took the news of Peart's death as an omen: 2020 was going to suck.

I had no idea. Neil Peart is gone, and I have a meeting.

Posted February 19, 2021

Pocket Lint, Get Back in Your Shell Edition (2021-02-08)

Posted February 8, 2021

Pocket Lint (links for 2020-09-24)

Posted September 24, 2020

HTMLOSPHERE concludes and thoughts on finishing things

LO, I HAVE FINISHED A THING. HTMLOSPHERE concludes today at Neat Hobby! and I find myself equal parts elated and morose. This not-particularly-original story idea precedes Neat Hobby! the webcomic by a few years, and I started drawing it in 2014. So, yeah, six years to complete 31 pages! But in also in those years a body of work I'm largely happy with along with some very-extended sabbaticals.

Ever since I was a kid I've struggled to finish things, always having more ideas than ambition. If I'm being honest, part of it is fear:

But I have Finished A Thing, and that itself should be enough for the moment!

Posted August 17, 2020

New at Neat Hobby! HTMLOSPHERE, Part 29 (hang in there, it's almost over)

HTMLOSPHERE Part 29 is now up over at Neat Hobby! Do I regret making the exclamation point at the end of "Neat Hobby!" part of the official name of my webcomic? Sometimes!

I fear my strategy of posting every comic update here on my personal blog might be backfiring. I'll probably shift to a weekly roundup once this story is finished.

Posted August 11, 2020

New at Neat Hobby! HTMLOSPHERE, Parts 27 and 28

Two updates at Neat Hobby! HTMLOSPHERE, Part 27 and Part 28

Only two more pages left in this story! Then there'll be a brief pause as Neat Hobby! resets for the next new thing.


Posted August 11, 2020

New at Neat Hobby! HTMLOSPHERE, Part 26

Let's goooooo mid-week update at Neat Hobby! HTMLOSPHERE, Part 26

Posted August 5, 2020

Random plague year thoughts

In no particular order:

Kyle asked Pat and I via text if we found ourselves more or less creative during COVID. I've been in lockdown since early March, when my day job directed all of us to work from home if possible. I got back two hours each day by not having a commute. Am I using it to write more songs, draw more comics? HELL no. I'm eating more ice cream and watching more Netflix because I'm worried we'll literally die. It's not free time, it's "trying to maintain sanity during a real crisis."

That said I have started drawing again.

Handling the pandemic like a PR crisis was always going to fail because eventually everyone is going to personally know someone who got sick or is out of work.

I'm really, really digging folklore. Hints of Kate Bush, Laura Veirs, Florence Welch. When I immediately want to listen again, that's a good sign. I think this album is going to help, like Awaken My Love! and the Hamilton cast recording got me through 2017.

Do people really not understand the difference between being sick and being infected?

It's been interesting watching musicians and comedians pivot to streaming video during lockdown. It's not easy to sustain. I think the novelty of Zoom chats has worn off as it dawns on people that this isn't as temporary as we'd like.

Hoping the whole Karen/Ken public meltdown thing is largely over because it doesn't feel good or righteous to watch these people throw their tantrums, except that they're literally putting lives in danger.

Musicians, especially bands, are gonna suffer. How do you even rehearse? An hour in a 12' x 12' soundproof room plus forced exhalations from singing and drumming sounds like a superspreader incubator.

It sounds super-entitled but I miss running errands, and I miss taking my time while grocery shopping.

I discovered this week that Someone I Admire was really shitty to Someone Else I Admire. The former is in obvious denial and the latter is likely beyond forgiveness, and it lowkey sucks.

I've said this before and I still believe it: finishing a thing in no way makes starting the next thing any easier. For me the only way to maintain velocity is to start the next thing immediately. This is strangely empowering.

Even if there is a vaccine I'm not sure when I'll feel comfortable going to an indoor concert again.

You really only need one and only one zucchini plant.

This was gonna be the year I was gonna put together a live band for Car Trouble. Oh well! Better luck next year! Or maybe the year after that!

Deeply understanding something about yourself does not make you immune to it.

Posted August 5, 2020