Sunday, March 8, 2015

Haiku-nnihilate This Week

Written by: Sean Austin

Date: March 8th, 2015

Beau Monde Guitars is proud (full disclosure: author’s words, not theirs) to present a new semi-weekly column, Haiku-nnihilate This Week. Each week (or so), writer, musician and local sex symbol Sean Austin will be choosing a batch of new music releases to review in the traditional Japanese form of haiku. The haiku as we know it today (a 17 syllable poem split into 3 lines consisting of 5-7-5 respectively) was initially known as ‘hokku’, merely the opening stanza of a collaborative linked poem, or ‘renga’. Around the 17th century hokku began to appear a standalone poem; yet it is not until the late 19th century that legendary Japanese poet Masaoka Shiki, widely regarded as a master of the form, renamed hokku independent of further metrically structured writing ‘haiku’. For those unfamiliar with the form, following is a sample unknowingly recited by famed 20th century hesher, Garth Algar:

“I mean, we’re looking
down on Wayne’s basement. Only,
that’s not Wayne’s basement.”

Now, in the 21st century, revered critic and all around awesome guy Sean Austin will further propel this historically significant style of poetry into the modern consciousness by reviewing current pieces of auditory pop-culture, applying the ancient form to do so. I hope you’re all sitting down as you read this because this combination of tradition, innovation and sheer truth is guaranteed to knock even the most hardened music and poetry aficionados flat on their asses…

All That Remains – The Order of Things
Riffs are off the chain.
I don’t like the clean vocals,
but that’s just me though…

Torche – Restarter
Crushing guitar tone.
I like the clean vocals here.
I’m inconsistent.

Screaming Females – Rose Mountain
Huge leap for this band.
Best album production yet.
Melissa can shred.

Scorpions – Return to Forever
50 years a band.
Don’t break up > become “legends”,
like RHCP.

BADBADNOTGOOD and Ghostface Killah – Sour Soul
Ghostface still got it.
Hard rhymes over some fresh jazz.
Exit the trap house.

Kid Rock – First Kiss
Strong Mellencamp vibes.
At least he isn’t rapping.
NASCAR fans will like.

Dan Deacon – Gliss Riffer
Less schizophrenic.
Reminds me of Talking Heads
if they were Daft Punk.

The King Khan & BBQ Show – Bad News Boys
Garage rock doo-wop.
I thought they had broken up?
Welcome back, this rocks.

THEESatisfaction – EarthEE
Sub-Pop: great label.
THEESatisfaction: Sub-Par
Stick to the rock, guys.

Pelican – The Cliff EP
Cliff Burton was cool.
“The Cliff” here is not Burton.
‘Nuff said, skip this one.

…and just like that, this week in recorded music has been summed up in 170 syllables. If this piece was half as informative as it was fun to write then I have done my job. Be sure and check back next week for more of the good stuff. All 10 of these releases are available for purchase in stores, on iTunes, and in bootleg form out of the back of Thor’s van in the Newbridge Commons parking lot. I hope I have adequately helped educate you in your consumerist tendencies for the week. Until then, drink your milk, eat your veggies and keep on rockin’ in the free world!

ESP Marks 40 Year Anniversary

Written by: Sean Austin

Date: February 23rd, 2015

40 years is a long time for a company to stay in business, especially in the current economy. The best way to ensure longevity in any industry is to find a niche, get your brand’s product in the hands of those who use it most, and keep your customer happy. ESP has been known as the premier heavy metal guitar manufacturer for nearly their entire run, finding their way into the legacies of such legendary acts as Metallica, Slayer and the Deftones among countless others. By matching quality woods and designs with killer electronics by EMG Pickups ESP has maximized the quality of their axes and delivered a product that does what it supposed to and has consistently thrilled the callous-handed cult worldwide.

This year marks ESP’s 40th anniversary and to commemorate the event the company has put out a limited run of gorgeous pieces including two from the Eclipse series, an EC, an MH and its 7-string brother, the H7. While all of them are beautiful, high quality shred machines, I’m going to concentrate on my favorite in the series: the EC-2015.

I will be completely truthful, the first time I saw an ESP Eclipse I absolutely hated it. Since the time I was young, anytime I see a Les Paul-shaped guitar (with the exception of the Heritage models, I’ve been lusting over those for years) I get a severe case of the fantods. It always seemed like a cheap and desperate attempt to capitalize on the respectable legacy of the Gibson guitar company. However, after seeing what my good friend Zakk Mild, one of the most tasteful and talented metal guitarists in New Jersey, does with his LTD EC-1000QM, my mind was swiftly changed. Be sure to check out his band,Huldra, for a taste of what I’m talking about, you shan’t regret it.

Since being converted by my good friend I have definitely warmed up to the series. The line’s features include super fast, playable necks, locking tuners, a Tune-o-matic style bridge, and top notch EMG pickup configurations. However, if I’m being honest, the finishes offered always turned me off. The satin black finish always looked corny to me, their version of the sunburst finish comes off as gaudy and cheap, and I feel like they ruined their beautiful selection of quilted maple with a black cherry finish that while isn’t completely hideous, just doesn’t suit my personal tastes.

Well, I feel like they finally nailed it with the EC-2015. They did us right by covering that gorgeous maple with a see-thru satin finish in a color all of us metalheads can get with: black. Looks, which are on point, aside, this thing is stacked. Specs are listed at the bottom of this article, so I am just going to touch on the features that I like the most.

First off, ESP changed up the pickup configuration on this one, opting for the EMG 57/66 array, which are PAF-style and feature Alinco-V magnets complimented by steel pole pieces. A little change from your typical 81/85 setup, they get more of a classic, warmer sound than their more metallic, sharp sounding counterparts. Fans of Gibson’s Burstbuckers and ’57 Classic Humbuckers take note.

The guitar also comes with a certificate of authenticity from ESP and a special 40th Anniversary hardshell case. Both the front and back of the headstock are imprinted with ESP’s 40th Anniversary logo, which further makes these beauties stand out from the pack. Limited to 300 pieces worldwide and with a relatively modest street price of $1,099, I would recommend you jump on this one if you like what you see.

All in all, this guitar has the potential to make a believer out of even the most hardened Les Paul purist. It really has it all, ESP’s widely beloved thin U-shaped neck, a gorgeous finish, a fresh set of pickups atypical to the brand that help distinguish it from previous models, and most importantly, a consumer friendly price tag. The only thing missing for me is the binding they put on the neck of the EC-1000QM, but hey, there’s a 50th Anniversary coming up in 2025, right?


• Construction: Set-Neck
• Scale: 24.75″
• Body: Mahogany
• Top: Quilted Maple
• Neck: Mahogany
• Fingerboard: Ebony
• Fingerboard Radius: 350mm
• Finish: See Thru Black Satin
• Nut Width: 42mm
• Nut Type: Molded
• Neck Contour: Thin U
• Frets/Type: 24 XJ
• Hardware Color: Black
• Strap Button: Standard
• Tuners: LTD Locking
• Bridge: Tonepros Locking TOM Bridge & Tailpiece
• Neck PU: EMG 66 Brushed Black Chrome
• Bridge PU: EMG 57 Brushed Black Chrome
• Electronics: Active
• Electronics Layout: Vol/Vol/Tone/Toggle Switch
• Case: CECFF40
• Case Included: Y

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Pedaltrain Debuts New 2015 Models

Written by: Sean Austin

Date: February 14th, 2015

In this writer’s humble opinion, Pedaltrain remains the leading producer of widely available pedalboards. Sure, you can get a board with ebony back and sides, a cooling fan and onboard USB support built by one of the many custom shops that have sprung up in the last few years, but it’ll cost you an arm and a leg and to be perfectly frank, few of us truly need those options. For the average musician a sturdy, ergonomic board with power supply mounting options will do just fine. Gator, RoadRunner and SKB all make fine products, but in my personal experience as both a salesman and an active live performer, Pedaltrain blows them all out of the water. They have always blended practicality, a sleek look and a strong frame in perfect harmony with one another without following trends or betraying their no-frills reputation.

At this year’s NAMM convention Pedaltrain showed us that they are still completely in touch with their customer base by making a few minor tweaks that yield major improvement without straying from the basic nature of the boards which many of us have come to love. By making the mounting rails thinner across the entire line, Pedaltrain have also shrunk the gaps between them which allows for even cleaner power and signal routing possibilities. Also for the Classic, Nova and Terra series is that a full gap, like those between the rails on the face of the boards, will be replacing the port holes on the back of the boards designed to grant cable access to your power supply. Now instead of having to line up your power supply (or multiple supplies in some cases) with the previously designated holes, you can place them anywhere you please or even add more supplies! This small modification is by far my favorite feature of the new line; it is simple but completely brilliant.

Further testaments to Pedaltrain’s attention to small details that make big differences are the changes they have made to their gig bags. The most important of these changes would be the replacement of the nylon zipper with an all new steel tooth design. Customers have reportedly complained that the nylon zippers were wearing out and ceasing to function after years of repeated use. While this has yet to happen to me, I can fully appreciate the fact that Pedaltrain keeps the consumer in mind by designing a sturdier zipper that will last longer instead of forcing customers to purchase a new bag from them if and when their original one fails. Now that’s class, people! The bags will also feature more padding to keep your precious pedals safe and sound in transport; now who can’t get behind that? The only change that is coming this year that I’m not wild about is the fact that Pedaltrain bags will no longer have a storage pocket on the front of the bag. Apparently owners of the bags have let the fine folks over at Pedaltrain know that few of them used the storage pocket and that they found it unnecessary and bulky. I always personally liked the pocket a lot. As someone who changes their pedal array frequently for different projects and applications I enjoyed the fact that I could throw a couple extra pedals and cables in there in case I wanted to add something into my line or switch something out. I personally like to bring as few bags to a gig as possible, so throwing tools, batteries, and other emergency supplies in there has become second nature to me over time, so I have to say I am sad to see the front pocket go.

Sticking with theme of enclosures for these great boards, let’s talk cases. Pedaltrain previously only offered hard cases for their larger format pedalboards, leaving the smaller ones with only the gig bag option. Well good news for all the players out there that are only using 2 or 3 boutique pedals that they want the extra protection for; Pedaltrain is now offering the hard case option on the Metro series and the tour case for the Novo, Classic and Terra series. Unfortunately the Nano series is still gig bag only, but I doubt that many Nano users will mind as the whole point of the board is to save space and a case would only add to the dimensions of their rig. I have always been a bag guy, I personally like to keep things as light as possible weight-wise, but there have certainly been times that I’ve had to slam the brakes in the van and cringed as I watched my gig bag get crushed by a massive Marshall cabinet and swore that I was going to buy a hard case the next day. I’ve yet to make the switch but it’s good to know that Pedaltrain will be able to provide a solid and relatively light weight case if and when I do take the plunge.

Let’s get to the heart of the matter, the boards themselves. We’ve got a few updates of current models and a few entirely new additions to the line. First off we have a nice little upgrade to a nice little board and fairly recent addition to the Pedaltrain family, the Nano! The new Nano+ comes with all of the upgrades listed above as well as now being sized up a few inches in order to hold 5 pedals instead of 4. The board is still compact enough to be one of the least intrusive and most convenient boards on the market but has been enlarged just enough to add another effect or to give your current setup a little more breathing room.

Next up we have the all new Metro. The metro is another compact board for those of us who only use a few pedals and aren’t staring down at our feet when we play and just want to rock out with a nice little meat and potatoes array. The Metro will be replacing the Mini series, introducing a sleek 3 rail design and an even more sleek design. No unnecessary bells or whistles here, just a nice, small, clean board for the player only using a few pedals. They are all 8-inches deep and range from 16 to 24-inches wide, so they are deeper than the Nano+ (which comes in at 5”x18”) but start out at 2-inches less width.

Lovers of the Classic series (such as me) will be very pleased with this year’s updates and additions to the line. In addition to the previously mentioned full gap feature, the height of these boards has been increased. The increased angle helps with accuracy when stomping your favorite boxes. I anticipate this being received warmly as most classic users do have quite a few switches on their board and hitting your Fuzz Factory instead of your Maxon Phaser when trying to bust out a smooth, clean creamy solo can result in disaster. The Classic Jr. and Classic Pro, mainstays of the brand, are now joined by the Classic 2 which dimension-wise falls right between the two.

Now we’re getting into shoegaze territory, the Novo and Terra series. The Novo boards are nearly 15-inches deep and range from 18 to 32-inches wide. These boards have 5 rails on them and the gap under the top rail is wider than the other 3 spacings. It would be easy to get 3 rows of pedals running on any one of these, and as they get wider they allow for even more inventive configurations. If all that space isn’t enough for your outer space sonic explorations, then you might want to check out the Terra, the big daddy of them all. Replacing the Grande series, the Terra is the same depth as the Novo but measures out to a whopping 42-inches. If you can’t fit it on there, you may have a pedal problem and should consider seeking counseling.

All in all, I think Pedaltrain is going to have a good year in 2015, as are the pedal-obsessed public at large. The biggest advantage that they have is that they truly take into account the practicality of their products and value their customers opinions enough to take them into account when designing a new product or redesigning a staple of their brand. The 2015 line is expected to hit shelves around April/May of this year, so keep your eyes peeled and your pedals close by, they may have a new home on a Pedaltrain board.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Greil Marcus’s New History of Rock ’n’ Roll

Written by: Jimmy McQuade

Date: December 14th, 2014

In departure from my stream of album reviews and product updates, I want to try my hand at a book review (of sorts) for today’s post. It’s a book on rock ’n’ roll; so, don’t worry, I won’t be diverging too much from my usual subject matter here.

The book in question is called “The History of Rock ’n’ Roll in Ten Songs,” and it’s important to pick up on the obvious irony of this pompously authoritative title. (I doubt anyone could take seriously an author who affects such a foul posture of critical objectivity.) The essential joke of the title would probably be in bad taste if it was made by any writer other than Greil Marcus, one of the first cultural critics to treat rock ’n’ roll as a serious American art form, holding the likes of Elvis Presley up along with the likes of Herman Melville, tracing the promises and betrayals of the American ideal from the pen of John Winthrop to the mouths of John Lennon (who, despite being a Liverpudlian by birth, was no doubt an American artist) and beyond.

The book starts from a simple premise; namely, that the story of rock music has been told so exhaustively since its inception that everyone (more or less) recognizes at the very least a loose outline of the events that have shaped its history – i.e. Elvis Presley, The Beatles’ appearance on Ed Sullivan, Dylan going electric, “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” etc. But as Marcus writes in the introductory section, “A New Language”: “That basically familiar way [of telling the story of rock ’n’ roll] can be summed up by scrolling through the inductees to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, letting the names compose the history of the music.” And so the telling of this story another time would be unnecessary, even torturous, a celebration of redundancy. Luckily, Greil Marcus did not set out to reiterate what now seems old, threadbare and lifeless.

In fact, Marcus’s mission in “The History of Rock ’n’ Roll in Ten Songs” was to select ten often overlooked, or just plain forgotten, songs (one of which is not so much a song as performance art piece called Guitar Drag) which nonetheless embody the essence of rock ’n’ roll. And the list Marcus puts together is by no means definitive or, for that matter, even comprised, in sheer aesthetic terms, of the greatest songs; rather, the ten songs serve as alternate if not original approach to understanding what we as listeners, as participants even, are promised by this music, and how these promises are fulfilled, betrayed or both.

So, instead of making an argument for the general awesomeness of Greil Marcus’s new book, I’ll just list the ten songs myself (with YouTube links) and let you decide for yourself whether “The History of Rock ’n’ Roll in Ten Songs” is worth checking out:

01) “Shake Some Action”; The Flamin’ Groovies
02) “Transmission”; Joy Division
03) “In the Still of the Nite”; The Five Satins
04) “All I Could Do Was Cry”; Etta James
05) “Crying, Waiting, Hoping”; Buddy Holly
06) “Money (That’s What I Want)”; Barrett Strong
07) “Money Changes Everything”; The Brains
08) “This Magic Moment”; Ben E. King & The Drifters/Lou Reed
09) “Guitar Drag”; Christian Marclay
10) “To Know Him Is to Love Him”; The Teddy Bears/Amy Winehouse

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

New Gibson 2015 Lineup

Written by: Jimmy McQuade

Date: December 2nd, 2014

Gibson USA has launched its 2015 lineup, and the guitars come in some new finishes with some new playing improvements that you should know about. 2015 also marks the 100th anniversary of the birth of Les Paul, the guitarist, luthier, and, among many other titles, inventor, after whom Gibson’s most famous guitar model was named, and who had helped design what is probably the most recognizable instrument ever manufactured. This may be why Gibson’s 2015 line is being branded as ‘The Celebration of Innovation,’ and according to the company’s website: “It is in this spirit that Gibson USA has established the business practice of introducing a new model line every year in the fall. Every new Model Year is the culmination of research on how we can make the most advanced guitars.” So let’s check out what’s on offer for 2015.

The big improvement, or amenity, to Gibson’s new line is the G-Force™ automatic tuning system, which asPremier Guitar boasts is “the best and simplest experience yet in an automatic tuning system” and “a significant improvement on the Min-ETune system – easier to use, with enhanced features and increased speed.” What’s interesting about the new system is that it offers a choice between a quick and dirty tune and a precision one. For tuning on the fly, one only need to turn the G-Force™ on and simply strum once; the automatic tuning system does the rest. Otherwise, for a more precise tune, the player pretty much follows the same steps, but instead of giving the strings a strum, he plucks each individual string once and the system tunes each string more accurately. In addition to this, the player has a number of alternate tuning options to choose from; the G-Force™ can tune to Standard (obviously); DADGAD; E-Flat; Open E, A, D, & G; Dobro; and All Fourths, among others. This system only may be worth your considering a Gibson 2015 model as your next axe of choice.

The other improvements for Gibson 2015 are, as Premier Guitar lists, “the new zero fret nut which is a patented applied for nut that has adjustable action capabilities. The new Tune-O-Matic bridge features a hex wrench adjustment on thumbscrews for easy action adjustments. All guitars receive a professional set up with accurate intonation, and a new PLEK program with 27% lower fret wire.”

For more specific details of what’s new with Gibson, go ahead and visit their website here.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Jam Shop Open House & Autism Awareness Benefit

Written by: Chelsea Broughton

Date: November 14th, 2014

If a kid friendly day of fun filled with activities, prizes and a chance to donate to a good cause sounds like something you and your family would enjoy, make sure to keep your calendars open on Saturday November 22nd for Beau Monde Guitars’ Jam Shop Open House! We are teaming up with St. Thomas Aquinas College PR students to put on an event that raises awareness for children with autism, while also introducing families to our awesome Jam Shop program.

Jam Shop is a fun and interactive way for children to learn about music, while also expressing themselves in a creative way. Kids love Mike and Dan, our instructors, and we would love to use this event to show parents just how much fun kids have when experiencing a Jam Shop session. The program’s mission is to keep a child’s focus and creativity at their highest potential, allowing them to learn by association.

We have noticed that children with special needs have really taken to our Jam Shop sessions and how much it has helped many of our students when it comes to interaction and expression. Children with special needs are very close to our hearts so we wanted to use this opportunity to do as much as we can for the special needs community. Autism awareness is something that is so important and personal to us here at Beau Monde Guitars, and with the help of these college students, we have come up with an amazing event for the whole family that is also for a great cause.

The Jam Shop Open House will be filled with tons of things to do, especially for kids. There will be crafts, music, free food and a raffle with some great prizes, such as a month of free Jam Shop sessions or a free guitar! Admission to the event is free, but all attendees will be given the option to donate money to Autism Speaks. This fun-filled day will be held at our storefront at 285 Livingston Street in Northvale, New Jersey, and will run from 1:00 pm until 4:00 pm.

So come join us in raising awareness for a great cause, while also learning about what we have to at Beau Monde Guitars. We hope to see you and your families there!

Interested in coming? Follow us on our Twitter, Instagram and Facebook pages for more details and make sure you use the hashtag #JamShopOpenHouse!

Friday, November 7, 2014

A Brief History of Crunch: The Tube Screamer (Part II)

Written by: Jimmy McQuade

Date: November 7th, 2014

In 1982, the TS808 (revered at this point as sort of the Unholy Grail of overdrives) was succeeded by the TS9; and much to Ibanez’s disbelief, presumably, the TS9 went on to out-shine the original TS808 in the stomp-box overdrive market.

Oddly enough, internally, the TS9 is almost identical to the TS808; the only real alterations made in development of the second iteration of the Tube Screamer are 1) the on/off switch, which now took up about a third of the effect’s face and, one could safely assume, was an attempt to mimic the stomp-friendly design of Boss effects pedals, and 2) an expanded output, which “caused the tube screamer to be a bit brighter and less ‘smooth’,” according to a wonderfully detailed article on the Analog Man site. If the TS9 varies only slightly from the TS808 in design, the two couldn’t be more distinct in the component used to manufacture the pedals, which is important to note since component choice has an unquestionable affect on sound. As the Premier Guitar article, referenced in the first installment of this here post, has it: “one drawback of the new Tube Screamer…was that TS9s were built with a somewhat random sourcing of parts-basically whatever was readily available at the time of manufacture.” This resulted in considerable tonal variation between each batch produced; weighing in on the issue, Mike Piera, the “Analog Man,” writes that “the TS-9s were put together with seemingly random op-amp chips, instead of the JRC-4558 which is called for in the schematics. Some of these sound BAD, especially the JRC 2043DD chips.”

Ironically enough, Ibanez and parent company, Hoshino, made a name for itself in the late 60s and early 70s for producing Fender, Gibson and Rickenbacker knockoffs. Nisshin, the Japanese outfit that supplied pickups for some of Ibanez’s ersatz instruments, was in fact the company that manufactured the first Tube Screamer, and other effects, for Ibanez, but as result of an interesting if somewhat vague arrangement between Nisshin and Ibanez/Hoshino, “Nisshin was allowed to market its own line of effects, which were identical to those it made for Ibanez,” as Tucker writes. In 1979, the fist Tube Screamer, TS808, debuted and was quickly picked up by the likes of Stevie Ray Vaughan and other guitar greats.

But upon its release, the TS9 was not necessarily received with arms open. As John Lomas, the former product manager at Ibanez, puts it to Premier Guitar’s Lindsey Tucker, the unveiling of the TS9 “was not a magical moment by any stretch of the imagination…. The public didn’t give a rat’s ass-not for the longest time. It caught on much later. I would say guys really started talking about it in the late ’80s, and by 1990 it was really starting to roll along.” Because the TS9 failed to really take off on its debut, Ibanez discontinued the pedal in 1985, after only about three years on the market. But the Tube Screamer wasn’t gone for long; after putting out Super Tube STL, which wasn’t branded as a Tube Screamer but a part of the Master Series and contained the same circuitry as the Tube Screamer and an additional two-band EQ, Ibanez released the TS10. Which, unfortunately, was a complete flop. As Lindsey Tucker writes, the TS10 was developed with “with quieter circuitry that eliminated the vexatious chirp that older Tube Screamers sometimes emitted when all the controls were turned up. However, these alterations affected the burgeoning star’s signature tone, and the TS10 wasn’t as well received as Hoshino hoped.” Even Piera has a particular distaste for the TS10, complaining to Tucker, “I still hate [the TS10]…. They used cheap, proprietary parts-jacks, switches, and pots that often break and can’t be replaced, because the sturdy parts used in handmade, handwired pedals like the TS9 won’t fit. They have circuit boards that have all these parts mounted on them that break off, just so they could make pedals cheaply with machine soldering.”

But despite Ibanez’s failure with the TS10, the classic sounds of the TS808 and TS9 began rearing their heads in the music and guitar work of beloved artists like Stevie Ray Vaughn and U2’s The Edge. In the early 1990s, the Tube Screamer’s distinctive sonic crunch became once more a sought-after commodity, prompting Ibanez to return to its roots.

(To be continued…)