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dk SOUNDTRACK: DEAD KENNEDYS-Demos (1978).

demosI didn’t know these demos existed until I saw them mentioned in this book.  They are obviously not meant for public consumption (Jello sounds like he’s straining on a few songs, like “Kill the Poor). But it’s impressive just how good the band sounds and how fully formed the ideas are.

I also enjoy how some of the songs are played a wee bit slower which changes the vibe of the lyrics somewhat (especially “California Uber Alles” and “Holiday in Cambodia”).

“Kepone Kid”s is a slightly different version of “Kepone Factory” (same basic music but different lyrics.)  “Forward to Death” is pretty much the same.  “California Uber Alles” is much slower and perhaps a a bt more menacing.  “Your Emotions” is pretty similar to the version I’m familiar with.  “Kill the Poor” is also pretty much the same

“Holiday in Cambodia” is the most drastically different.  In addition to being slower, Jello sings the first verses in a flat monotone.  At first I thought that perhaps he wasn’t giving his all, but then it seemed like a deliberate choice–which makes it seems somewhat more sinister a the end–where he goes nuts in the Pol Pot section (even crooning it at one point).

“Kidnap” is new to me–a kind of football chant about kidnapping someone (hard to get the actual lyrics from this demo).  “The Man with the Dogs” has that great creepy echoed guitar opening and sounds a lot like the final product (with Ray having some awesome fun with feedback and noise at the end).  “I Kill Children” is even more disturbing without the “God” quote at the beginning.

“Dreadlocks in the Suburbs” is a reggae song (!).  I can’t really make out the lyrics, but I’ll bet it’s funny.  “Rawhide” is a little sloppier than I’m used to, but it really gets to what they are trying to do with the cover.  “Mutations of Today” has a very strange guitar set up–intertwining guitar riffs (I assume the second is by 6025) and a very long intro before Jello sings (really oddly even for him) about Mexican monster babies.  It’s not a favorite and seems more improvised than anything.  “Cold Fish” is simple punk song.  I’m not quite sure what its’ about although it seems to be about killing someone (and seems more like a goof than a song).

“Forward to Death” appears again.  This later version is a bit more loud and full sounding.   And “Viva Las Vegas” ends this set with a fun romp of a cover–it sounds great and raw in this demo.

So it’s interesting to hear these early versions of their songs.  There’s a few insights (and I understand that the drummer Ted likes the slower versions of those two big hits) and a few surprises.

[READ: November 16, 2014] Dead Kennedys

When I was a young punk I loved the Dead Kennedys. Jello Biafra was THE MAN! And he still is, although I am less politically motivated as I used to be. I have a bunch of his spoken word albums and all of the DK’s output. I distinctly remember buying Frankenchrist on vinyl at the Flea Market in Elmwood Park and feeling nervous as he slowly put the album in a bag while my parents waited for me to be done.

I haven’t really thought about the DKs that much for a few years. I knew there was some kind of litigation about something, but I didn’t care all that much. Then I saw this book and I thought it would be a fun read. And it was.

I have no idea who Alex Ogg is, although he seems to have some kind of insider information about the band. And this book is comprised of quotes from the band members, recollections from others who were there and all kinds of photos.

As the subtitle says, this is the early years. So it really only covers the band’s formation to the recording and release of Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables.

Because Jello was the frontman and was very very outspoken, he was always the main focus of the band for me.  Although I knew the names of the other guys, I never really thought about East Bay Ray or Klaus Flouride or Ted or 6025 or D.H. Peligro.  And honestly I never really thought about the DKs as musicians—I knew I liked the music and that some of it was pretty weird, but I never really thought about it like I did with other bands that I wanted to play. Continue Reading »

ladySOUNDTRACK: NEKO CASE-The Worse Things Get, the Harder I Fight, the Harder I Fight, the More I Love You (2013).

nekoSarah got this disc for me for Christmas last year.  Amusingly, she wrapped it and then we couldn’t find it  So I got to listen to the auto download on amazon and to wonder who threw it out.  When we took down the tree several weeks later, we found it on one of the branches.  Belated Christmas gift!

I have enjoyed most of Case’s output since I first heard he several years ago withe New Pornographers.  And this album is no exception.  There are 12 songs and most of them are quite short (no guitar solos for Case–well, okay a couple). And I love how great her voice sounds.  Although, perhaps surprisingly I do not like her voice in the few a capella moments she does.

“Wild Creatures” showcases her great songwriting.  “Night Still Comes” has some amazing harmonies in the chorus (I didn’t realize this but vocals are by Jim James).  I love the way the song builds and retracts as she criticizes “you” for not holding a falling star “at the right angle.”

“Man” is one of my favorite songs ever.  It’s so punchy and rocking.  And lyrically it is both subversive and really funny.  In addition to the whole premise “I’m a man, that’s what you raised me to be/ I’m not your identity crisis” it features the great verse: “and if I’m dipshit drunk on pink perfume, then I am the man on the fucking moon, coz you didn’t know what a man was until I showed you.”  There’s also a great simple guitar riff from M. Ward.  And at 3 and a half minutes I could listen to it over and over.

But Case plays with all differs style soft music on this record, so “I’m from Nowhere” is just her and an acoustic guitar (and her voice is gorgeous in this stripped down setting).  “Bracing for Sunday” is just over 2 minutes, but it’s not a fast punk song it’s just a speedy shuffling rocker (with horns!).

Then comes “Nearly Midnight, Honolulu.”  I don’t think I have hated a song as much as I hate this one.  It is more emotionally fraught that “Suzanne Vega’s “Luka” (which I like) with none of the subtlety.  I’ve only listened to it once or twice and don’t even want to listen to it again to say what else I hate about it.  Maybe if it was spoken instead of sung it would be more palatable, but ugh it is awful, and really seems to ruin the mood of the record for a couple of songs (even if I skip it).

“Calling Cards” is a countryish song, mellow and pretty, but after the bad taste of “Honolulu” I feel lit just kind of falls flat.  “City Swans” brings back the thumping drums and rocking guitars.  “Afraid” is a more successful a capella ish song (with vibes and autoharp accents).

Of course, I prefer when the album perks up again.  “Local Girl” has a simple but cool bassline and great backing vocals.  After a slow weird intro, “Where did I Leave that Fire” turns into a cool jazzy number.”  Although I don’t have a clue what she’s singing about at the end.  The final song, “Ragtime” has a kind of dreamy “Blue Moon” quality until the big horns kick in at the and it really swings and makes me want to listen to the album again

Despite how much I like Case’s voice I just don’t like the slow a capella moments on the album.  There’s so much I do, but I feel like those moments really mar the disc for me.  And yet after the final song, I’m always game to listen again (especially when “Man” comes on).

[READ: November 16, 2014] Lady Cycling

I saw this book at work and thought that with that title and that cover that it would be a very funny tome about how women shouldn’t really ride bikes (I mean “what to wear” comes first, right?). But to my surprise and delight, this book is actually very pro women riding (Miss Erskine herself is a rider) and while she does warn women not to overdo it (no more than 40 miles a day!), it is actually quite a practical and, dare I say still, useful book for female and male riders.

The funny, out-of-date parts are mostly about dress—she encourages all women to wear wool all the time because cotton chafes and wool keeps you warm when you get wet (and you will sweat a lot).  Now I’m not going to overstate the practicality of it in modern society, really, but there are some things in it which are terribly useful and which many contemporary riders do not observe.

But from the get go, Erskine is adamant that women do and should ride bikes.  She says it is much cheaper than owning a pony (true) and is more than just recreation it can also be a means to an end.  She addresses the then controversy by saying that if women “ride fifty miles when ten ought to be their limit—in short, if in cycling they cast reason and common-sense to the four winds of heaven—then, beyond all doubt, cycling is harmful.” (2). The one really out of date aspect here is that she says women ought not to race (it is bound to end in disaster), although I’m unclear if she disapproves of women racing or of racing in general.

In chapter three she answers the question about what kind of bike women should buy. And while she doesn’t exactly name brands she does sensibly say that a cheap bike will wear out and be less well constructed, so it is worth spending more up front.  More practically, she also talks about the location and adjustment of the seat and handlebars. She even talks about the proper way to pedal (using rat-trap pedals—which are apparently the ones we still use today with the metal grippers). Continue Reading »

[LISTENED TO: November 16, 2014] The Clue of the Linoleum Lederhosen

linoWe enjoyed Whales on Stilts so much that we were really excited to listen to this second book in the series.  However, this book, while featuring the same main trio, was actually quite different.

The gang has decided that they are going on vacation.  They’re a little bored (Katie’s mom has been doing things like cutting off her own hand just to freak out Jasper), so they take Jasper’s latest gadget and head up to the mountains for a little r n r (and a free dinner with the coupon that Jasper received).

When they get to the hotel (the Moose Tongue Lodge and Resort), they realize that they can’t afford a room, so Jasper’s gadget attaches to the side of the hotel and looks just like it is supposed to be a part of it (apparently).  Of course, when they leave their invasive bubble, they have to go out through someone else’s bathroom and he is terrified by the calamitous sound that Jasper’s gadget made while attaching to the building).  They also learn that the coupon for a free dinner was fake.

When Jasper reveals to the hotel clerk that he is indeed Jasper Dash, boy technonaut, the clerk reveals that he is but one of many literary super sleuths in residence that night.  The Manley Boys and the Hooper Quints are there, and so is Eddie Wax and the Cutesy Dell Twins.

Who?  Continue Reading »

lemocello[LISTENED TO: November 5, 2014] Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library

We were looking for an audiobook for a recent trip and I decided to get Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library.  I didn’t know anything about it, but the title sounded fun, especially for two librarians.

Well, I had no idea how much fun it would be for two librarians (and for others, too, I assure you).

So Mr Lemoncello is a game maker.  He has hundreds and hundreds of board games and in this universe, everyone loves playing them.  In the very first scene, Kyle Keeley and his brothers are playing Mr Lemoncello’s Indoor-Outdoor Scavenger Hunt (which is just what it sounds like).  In an attempt to finally beat his brothers, Kyle tries to sneak back into his house through a basement window (thereby saving the time of going down the stairs.  He inadvertently breaks the window and is grounded or a week (although he did win, so that’s something–and it shows just how intensely they play games in that family).

The next chapter opens up on the finishing touches of the brand new library in Kyle’s town.  Alexandriaville, Ohio has not had a library for 12 years and Mr Lemoncello’s gift to the town is the coolest most state of the art library ever built.  (Seriously, it is practically every librarian’s fantasy library with books and books and books (rooms coded by dewy number) and all kinds of high tech gadgetry to go with it.  I would love to see this place built).

Kyle is bummed about being grounded.  And to make matters worse, he forgot about the extra credit essay contest “Why I am excited about the new public Library.” At the last minute he throws together a lousy essay (which consists of “Balloons. There might be balloons,” and he is laughed at by just about everyone.  But when the essay winners are announced (12 of them), he is the final winner–how could that be? Continue Reading »

abe[TRAVELED: November 1-November 8, 2014] Airlines & Chain food

Our Florida trip ended a week ago, so it seemed time to mention a few things  that were pretty great which were not related to theme parks at all.

The first was our flight.

I use to love flying.  I remember flying on Eastern as a kid and getting free wing pins.  I even got invited to see the cockpit of the plane (but I thought I would have to fly up there without my parents so I turned them down–my parents were probably bummed that they didn’t get to check out the cockpit themselves).  I even have a few good memories of flying.  My best memory was flying on Dec 31, 1999 to Vancouver and, because it was the eve of Y2K, getting nearly an entire airplane to myself (chickens!) and being served champagne as a toast to the new year (in coach, mind you).

Since 9/11, flying has been an ordeal and I swore I’d never do it again.  We usually fly out of Newark, which I always assumed was a normal, busy airport, not the best but certainly not the worst.  But after flying out of ABE, I hope to never et foot in Newark again. Continue Reading »

gwynSOUNDTRACK: STARS-No One is Lost Tour EP (2014).

stars epStars are back with a new album and this downloadable 5 song EP.  There’s something about Stars’ aggressive pop sensibilities that I just love.  It’s the dual vocals, the big choruses and I’m sure to a certain degree it’s the darkness in the lyrics that compliment the poppy music so much.

The EP has five songs, “No One is Lost” and “From The Night” are from their new album.  “Hold On When You Get Love And Let Go When You Give It” is from their previous album The North.  There’s also two exclusive tracks: “Blue Is The Colour” and “From The Night” (A Tribe Called Red Remix).

“From the Night” has simple, keyboard note-driven verses which are obliterated by the dancey and even discoey chorus.  Surprisingly at the 4 minute point, it adds a third fast part which segues back into the catchy chorus.  “No One is Lost” opens with Amy Milan speaking French before the keyboards wash in.  It has a slightly faster pace than their usual fare.  But despite the bouncy music in the chorus, we get the twisted lyric: “put your hands up coz everybody dies” (that’s Stars in a nutshell).

“Hold On When You Get Love And Let Go When You Give It” is less dancey (perhaps less discoey sounding is more accurate).  It’s got a real Stars feel to it (when Milan comes in at the chorus it is really angelic), and showcases Stars’ previous album very well.

The two new songs include the Tribe Called Red remix of “From the Night.”  I’m not that big a fan of remixes, but this one is pretty good.  I like the way they stripped the big chorus of the music and left it spare–which makes their catchy vocals seem kind of sinister.  I actually expected a bit more of Tribe’s signature sound put into the song, but that’s not really what remixes are all about, so I guess it’s no real surprise they didn’t.

“Blue is the Colour” is a dark sounding song as well, until the chorus comes in with some poppy keyboards and slinky guitars.  It’s very electronic sounding which I love in contrast to Torquil’s mellow vocals.  But at 6 minutes long, this song has many sections up its sleeve, and the twist at 4 minutes really turns the song into something else, with an almost epic feel.

It’s a great sample of Stars more recent work.  This link takes you to WXPN from which you can download the EP from NoiseTrade.

[READ: November 5, 2014] Mr. Gwyn

I loved this book.  It has been one of my absolute favorite books in years.

The premise is fairly simple.  A successful writer (Mr. Gwyn) has had three books published to much acclaim and financial success.  But one day he wakes up and decides that he is done writing. He crafts a list of 50 things he will never do again, and one of them is write a book which he publishes in the newspaper.  His agent thinks it is a great marketing scheme, but Gwyn is quite serious.

Gwyn then disappears from society for a while.  Only his agent is able to fin him (Gwyn and the agent are very close).

After a series of small incidents, Gwyn’s agent tracks him down at the laundromat.  He has sent his new employee, a young woman named Rebecca, to give him a phone through which they can talk.  Rebecca is respectful and Gwyn is fascinated by her.  Over the next few months, he and his agent only communicate via Rebecca.

One day, in order to avoid a rain storm, Gwyn ducks into an art gallery.  He has never really understood art.  But he becomes fascinated with the portraits there.  And he decides that his new “job” is that he is going to create portraits with words.  He calls his new occupation, “copyist.”  Obviously his agent freaks out about his–no one even knows what “copyist” means.  But Gwyn is determined.

He spends the next few months getting ready–he rents a studio, buys furniture and specially ordered light bulbs.  And then he is ready to work.  But who will he his first portrait be? He finally settles on Rebecca–someone he knows a little and feels comfortable enough to ask to pose for him.  And this is where the story became fantastic. Continue Reading »

irl  SOUNDTRACK: THE DUCKWORTH LEWIS METHOD-Sticky Wickets (2013).

stickyThe cricket-loving songwriters are back with their second disc.  Although I bought their first disc because I love Neil Hannon, I found myself enjoying the songs by Pugwash’s Thomas Walsh even more.  (Which led me to get some discs by Pugwash, a great, sadly unknown band).

I’m inclined to say I like Walsh’s songs better on this disc as well–his title track has a groovy classic ELO-inspired guitar riff and Walsh’s great falsetto vocals.  But I also love the bouncy fun of “Boom Boom Afridi” (written by Neil Hannon). So maybe I just like the two of them together.

These are followed by the amusing “It’s Just Not Cricket” which features a group of rowdy indignant cricket fans singing along. See the awesome accompanying picture below which shows the kind of sort of naughty but not really way the sport is portrayed on the disc.  cricket“The Umpire” gives some real sympathy to the Cricket umpire (who eats his eggs and soldiers) as his position is taken over by machines.

I don’t know much about cricket, so I don’t claim understand what most of these songs are about, but the awesomely bouncy and catchy “Third Man” is a total mystery to me.  But that doesn’t stop me from singing along. It’s like a classic lost Pugwash song.  It even has a (weird) narration from Daniel Radcliffe.  “Chin Music” is a pretty, carnivalesque instrumental.

“Out in the Middle” is a slower Walsh song which is also very pretty.  “Line and Length” is a silly song which (in spoken word) explains how line and length are used in cricket. It has a very discoey chorus which differs nicely from the formality of the verse. “The Laughing Cavaliers” is a march with a big choral vocal line. “Judd’s Paradox” has a lengthy spoken section by Stephen Fry (at his most formal). It’s a very enjoyable song with an interesting perspective on cricket and history.

“Mystery Man” is a pretty, sixties-sounding song with bouncy jaunty keyboards and a catchy chorus–except that the verses are all about how he’s a tough bowler.  It’s also got a hilarious spoken word section read by Matt Berry “trod on wicket.”

“Nudging and Nurdling” ends the disc and is more or less 5 minutes of people saying the words “Nudging and Nurdling” set to a boppy silly melody.  The list of contributors is extensive, although I’ve only heard of Daniel Radcliffe, Neil Finn, Joe Elliott, Matt Berry, Graham Linehan, an Michael Penn (!) who sounds so American. I love they way they build something so simple (and kinda dumb) into such a big song by the end.

Hannon and Walsh know how to write gorgeous songs (even if they can be rather silly).  This is a great collection–even if you don’t know anything about cricket.  You too will soon be shouting along with the Laughing Cavaliers.

[READ: November 9, 2014] In Real Life

I was pretty excited when I saw this book.  I really like Cory Doctorow and here was a comic of his published by First Second, one of my favorite graphic novel publishers (I need to make a category for them…there, done).  I didn’t know Jen Wang’s artwork, but that hardly mattered as the cover was gorgeous.

So the story is an interesting one.  It begins simply enough with Anda, a young girl who has moved from San Diego to Flagstaff (of course, we don’t learn that she moved to Flagstaff for a few pages, so the fact that we are introduced to Flagstaff by a snowfall was confusing to me–I assumed she was on the East Coast).  However, this was not as confusing to me as the other character in the book who doesn’t know where Flagstaff is.  What high school aged person doesn’t know that Flagstaff is in Arizona?

Anyhow, we see Anda in school and her class is given a presentation by Liza the Organiza, a woman who is introducing the class to an online virtual game called Coarsegold (I’m also confused as to why this woman would be allowed to give this presentation in school, but maybe I’m too nitpicky here?).  Incidentally, I really enjoyed most of the art in the book, but the picture of Liza the Organiza on this same page is quite disturbing to me.  In fact, a few pictures in “real life” seem a little “off” to me, and I was worried that I wouldn’t enjoy the visual aspect of the book.  But when we get into the game, the pictures are simply fantastic, so I don’t know what that’s all about. Continue Reading »

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