Sunday, February 28, 2010

Open Letter To Thrift Stores

Alright folks, I'm taking a slight break from the music reviews for this blog. But don't worry I will return with the third album review in my sophomore success series. I know you're waiting with bated breath for it. Here's a hint: It's from a Scottish twee-pop band named after a French novel. You don't know who it is? Some hipster you are. Which brings me to today's blog.
Anyone that knows me, knows that one of my biggest obsessions other than collecting records is going to thrift stores. I love the thrill of the hunt and finding crazy stuff. It is also my "job" to find it, as currently I make my living selling neat pop culture stuff on Ebay and Amazon. However, in recent years I've had to deal with hipsters snagging neat vintage clothes before I do and don't get me started on the book re-sellers with their fancy bar code scanners. But this blog is not about them, nor is it intended for them. This is my open letter to thrift stores for some changes I think it would be best for them to implement. Here we go:

Dear Thrift stores/Second Hand Shops,

I love you. I love you so much it hurts. I've been shopping at your locations since I had to wear "Husky" sized pants. It hasn't been until recently that a few things have started to bother me. Rant begins now:

1- NEVER put out any clothes with holes or stains! The fact that I should even address this is mind boggling. I don't care if it's a Polo shirt or a Milli Vanilli tour shirt, if it's ruined it shouldn't be put out. I don't know how many times I've thought I've found a gem only for it to have damage. Clothes like this are still wearable unless they're totally wrecked, but don't try to sell them. Donate them straight to the less fortunate.

2-NEVER put out any family reunion, running event, donate blood,sorority/frat or charity t-shirts. Unless it's Madea's Family Reunion on Donate Blood, play Hockey t-shirts these items are just taking up valuable space on the rack. I guarantee you over 75% of these type of shirts end up being donated after they don't sell anyway. So cut out the middle man and donate them right when you get them. If you don't like that idea, why don't you just throw them in a big bin and sell them for .25 each or 5 for a dollar. I'm pretty sure most people are just buying these shirts to sleep in or do work around the house and feel gouged by having to pay full price for them.

3-In your media section NEVER put out any items that are missing something. I am sick and tired of seeing records without sleeves, sleeves with no records, videos with no boxes, CDs without artwork, books without covers. If I found any of these items in a dumpster or on the curbside I might take a chance on them if only to make collage art out of them. But putting up them out and charging full price is just disgraceful and cluttering up your shelves.

4- NEVER put out in personal items. I don't know how many times I've seen stores trying to sell video tapes or audio tapes of stuff taped off the TV or radio. Not only is it illegal it's just weird and I don't mean weird like "that's awesome weird" I mean like "um, dude that's a bit creepy that you actually think other people would want this." This also applies to picture frames. Many times you can find some wonderful picture frames. But for the love of Pete please remove the family photos before putting them on the shelf. I'm not talking about the pictures that came in the frame when it was brand new, those are fine. I'm talking about the frames that have the family portrait of the Boozensteins from 1982.

5-Have some competitive pricing. Do you really think someone is going to pay twice as much for some used item that they can buy brand new at the dollar store down the street? I've overheard some employees complain about how much stuff they get in and it just sits there. Here's a concept (even with your weekly sales) most stuff is overpriced. Why don't you lower your prices or offer bulk discounts? I don't know if you've noticed but we're in tough economic times. Everyone needs a break. Even though you guys are the "cheapest" in town when it comes to most stuff. It's still not "cheap" enough for those that are only a few steps away from being the people you might have to donate directly to next year.

6-Never put out any broken stuff unless you properly market it. Putting out dishes and glasses with chips and cracks for individual sale is just bad. But put all your broken stuff in one box and sell it as a lot marketed as something for mosaic work=genius. For broken electronic stuff, find some employees that know how to scrap it and you'll make more selling off the precious metals to recyclers than you would trying to sell it in your shop where it is just taking up space.

7- Clean up your place once in awhile!!! Look, I'm not expecting the place to look like Ikea, but my God would it hurt to vacuum, dust or clean your bathrooms more than once a week? McDonalds' food may taste like Alpo, but they're a billion dollar a year industry because they make sure the bathroom is always clean.

So that's it or at least that's all I can think of for now. I'm sure there are many other little pet peeves I have about about thrift stores, but I think I've complained for long enough. There is much more good about a thrift store than bad. I mean I can't bite the hand that feeds to hard, because Kharma is a bitch.

Enjoy or don't.

Darren Menendez

Saturday, February 27, 2010


Part 2 of the Sophomore Success series:

I know the masses (OK my three other friends that love this band as much as me) have been waiting for a blog about Rush. For years we had to hide our fan/nerd love for this Canadian prog-rock trio's massive output of amazing work. Sure the masses love Tom Sawyer but that's about all anyone know by them. Then not to long ago something amazing happened. Six different movies all coming out with in about two years of each other had music by Rush in the soundtrack, references to Rush, and several even had Rush cameos. Rush's music was even featured in the video game Rock Band. For a band that was virtually "unknown" and very private this was quite bizarre. But I digress, we are here to discuss Fly By Night, Rush's second LP.

For my fellow Rush-heads (is that what we're called?)it is painfully obvious why Fly By Night is better than their s/t debut. For those not in the know it was the first Rush LP to feature Neil Peart. On the first LP the drummer was John Rutsey and although he was a fine drummer he was no Neil Peart. Neil is considered a "god" among drummers in the rock industry. Not only did he become the backbone of the band but he became the lyricist as well. Granted his lyrics at this time weren't the greatest, but there are some memorable cuts on the release. The lyrics for most of the songs though did give us a hint at the greatness that would continue on their future releases.
Several of the songs took their cues from literary works, labeling them as a "brainy" band. The first track Anthem is based on the short story by Ayn Rand of the same name. The other literary track is Rivendell, based on Bilbo Baggins journey in the Tolkien novels. Other songs were just about having fun and there was one epic track that showed they were about to enter into prog-rock teritory. Which is a label they haven't been able to shake. This is a bit mistelling and recalls a scene from the movie Fanboys. The one Rush obsessed fan tells his friends they can only listen to Rush when they are in his van. His other friend says come on man, how about some variety? To which he replies "RUSH IS VARIETY!"
Oh how true this statement is. They've gone from hard rock to prog rock to ska influenced to synth rock to dark metal and at one point they even had a rap breakdown in one of their songs. They like Bowie and Zappa are true artists and musical chameleons. The chameleons are at their hard rock best on Fly By Night.
Those that listen to the CD for the first time might think "ho hum it sounds a bit like watered down Led Zep". I'm the first to admit that there is a chord progression in their song Beneath, Between, Behind that sounds exactly like a Led Zep song. Zep was also the first to have a song reference Tolkien's writings, so the Led Zep comparison is not far off. This in itself is odd because it's usually Led Zep that is ripping off other peoples work (ooooh, burn!!!) At any rate it's a fun rocking album that although may not be the best Rush LP (that distinction is a tie between 2112 and Moving Pictures)it is a good starting point for anyone wanting to jump on the Rush bandwagon.

Enjoy or don't.

Darren Menendez

Friday, February 26, 2010

They Might Be Giants-Lincoln

As I mentioned in my intro blog I was going to have a series based on music releases (lps, cds,etc) called Sophomore Success. Basically what this entails is me reviewing (read gushing) over a band's second release, instead of their debut album. There's a term in entertainment industry known as the "sophomore slump". This is basically when critics and the general public feel that a performer's first outing was awesome and the second effort doesn't live up the grandness of the original. I myself have found that the opposite is true. Some debut music releases or movies are good but feel a bit uneven. It's only on the band's second release that they've found their footing. With that being said I'm going to discuss They Might Be Giants second CD Lincoln.

If you don't know who TMBG are then you need to get from under a rock and go by Lincoln right now. Released as a follow up to their self titled 1986 release, Lincoln is an amazing album that although was released in 1988 still holds up because it was ahead of it's time.
Where to begin? Let's try MTV for starters. Yes, believe it or not a long time ago Music Television used to actually play things called music videos. It must have been jarring to the target audience that was used to consuming Guns N Roses, Beastie Boys and other rock/pop/ and metal videos to see They Might Be Giants for the first time. Here were two guys who looked more like teachers than rock stars playing music that although poppy was different than what was normally shown during this era. Yet, for some reason the video for the first song of the CD "Ana NG" was in heavy rotation. It caused a nerdy 13 year old to rush right out and purchase a cassette.
What's a cassette grandpa? Oh yeah, I owned this bad boy on cassette not a CD and not a vinyl record. I played it till the chrome fell off. But I digress lets get to the music. As I mentioned earlier TMBG had a s/t release in 1986 and it had some good tunes but it was only a hint at what was to come. Lincoln is one of those rare records where every track is amazing. There are those that don't like a few of the tracks but given the average length of the songs is less than two minutes I'm not sure what they're complaining about.

Track 1 Ana Ng- A super catchy song about a guy who thinks that his soul mate must be on the opposite side of the world from where he is. So since he's in Australia, his soul mate would be in Peru. Confusing? Yes! Ultra cool? Yes! Bonus coolness for having a break in the song where a lady speaks through a phone and says "I don't want the world. I just want your half."

Track 2- Cowtown- How often did you hear a sea shanty on a pop record? Not too often. You also have to remember this was years before Ween released The Mollusk and Spongebob Squarepants was popular. Heavy accordion lead with play on word lyrics about manatees/sea life and non-sea creatures.

Track 3- Lie Still Little Bottle - A jazzy little beatnik tune with an awesome bassline talking about different forms of addiction.

Track 4-Purple Toupee- Another "hit" song/video of this album. The video was shown on MTV but not as much as Ana Ng. I feel this is the stand out track on the CD. Some say the lyrics make no sense. They are just aren't using their noodles. The song is about a man that jumbles up all the events of the 60s in a very funny way. If you know your history, this song is a gem.

Track 5-Cage & Aquarium- An odd little tune that recalls almost Residents style music. The lyrics are weird play on words of the term "dawning of the age of Aquarius"

Track 6-Where Your Eyes Don't Go- A song about paranoia with a great melody. Stand out lyric "everybody has a thinking part that wonder's what the part that isn't thinking, isn't thinking of. "

Track 7-Piece of Dirt- A tune about hanging on to something when you're lonely

Track 8-Mr Me.- Another sea shanty tune with the wonderful tongue twister "take the hand of Mr me and mister make him glad to swim the misty sea and cease the Mr mystery that mister made him sad"

Track 9-Pencil Rain- A battle song of sorts with heavy play on words. Also the only song I can think of to feature a Morse code solo.

Track 10- The Worlds Address- A fun dance tune with more word play.

Track 11-I've Got a Match- A break up tune. Every album needs at least one.

Track 12-Santa's Beard- A depressing yet catchy tune about infidelity during the holidays

Track 13-You'll Miss Me- Odd vocal effects and wailing saxes make you scratch your head

Track 14- They'll Need a Crane- Another awesome song that had a video as well. Catchiest song about divorce since Tammy Wynette's Divorce.

Track 15 -Shoehorn With Teeth- Weird and catchy and only 30 seconds.

Track 16-Stand On Your Own Head- A great song about putting your money where your mouth is

Track 17-Snowball in Hell- Happy accordion track. One of the few pop songs I know of to feature a sample from a How To Make Better Sales LP from the 60s.

Track 18-Kiss Me Son Of God- A delightful send up of cults/cult leaders. Those were big in the 80s

So there you have it. Lincoln by They Might Be Giants. You really have to hear the thing for yourself. Because my review is not giving it the justice it deserves. All of TMBG's albums are really unique and offer the listener an opportunity to think, because it's not standard pop. Believe it or not TMBG are still going strong releasing both records for adults and children's records. Their newer stuff for adults is good, but more rock oriented. Pick up some of their kids CDs and it's almost like listening to the goodness of Lincoln.

Enjoy it or not.

Darren Menendez

What I'm About

Hi. My name is Darren Menendez and I'm a pop culture junkie. I'm obsessed with anything related to music, movies, and junk. I use the word junk in a loving way as most of pop culture(celeb worship, trends,fads, etc) is wonderfully trashy or tacky. The reason my blog is named Pop Culture Snobbery is because in it I will be discussing what I find interesting, not necessarily what is cool or hip at the moment. Most of the blogs will focus on bands I love, weird clothing, whacked out records and other items I find on my thrift store hunts. Movies will also be discussed, but they'll probably be really bad (think MST3K type stuff) rather than what's number one at the box office.
With the preface I've given you, I'm sure most have given up on me by now, but that's cool, fan bases aren't built with one blog. If you know me, you know that I'm a fountain of useless knowledge and if you don't know me you'll soon learn by reading, just what it is I'm all about. Thanks for reading my intro and prepare yourself for my first series of writings about music entitled Sophmore Success.

Enjoy or don't.

darren menendez