SOUNDTRACK: MONTY PYTHON-“Rock Notes” (1980).
This skit (more of a monologue) comes from Monty Python’s Contractual Obligation Album, the first Python album I ever bought. It’s not my favorite bit from them, but it’s short and wedged in the middle of the rest of the album which means that I know it by heart. Now, the skit is most famous for naming Toad the Wet Sprocket (Eric Idle says he tried to come up with the most absurd name he could think of and there it was). The band featured Flamboyant Ambidextrous Rex who fell off the back of a motorcycle.
What I tend to forget is that the rest of the joke is all about one band Dead Monkeys who have just broken up again. They were together for ten years, but for nine of those years the band had other names. Primarily, the names are fishy: Dead Salmon, Trout, Poached Trout in a White Wine Sauce, Dead Herring. Then they ditched the fishy references for Dead Loss, Heads Together, Dead Together and ultimately Helen Shapiro.
This extended riff is rather silly and I’m not even sure it’s appropriate for a joke on bands. I can’t think of many bands who have broken up and reformed under new names (I mean, yes, there’s a couple, but not enough to warrant this extended joke).
And yet, I still remember the joke, so it must be something, right?
What do I think of Dead Duck? or Lobster?
[READ: September 16, 2014] “Liner Notes”
This Shouts & Murmurs piece begins so strongly that I was super excited to read it. Saunders riffs on liner notes in albums, specifically failed albums. His liner notes are for the album 2776: A Musical Journey Through America’s Past, Present & Future which is just another attempt to “engage with the vast sweep of American history” via the musical epic.
The best joke is citing Meat Load’s “Ben Franklin Makes Love in a Foggy Grove of Trees” (which failed to translate to live performance). [I would totally listen to that song]. He then talks about a Tim Rice-Andrew Lloyd Webber production of “Johnny Tremain” which was too intellectual for a nineteen-seventies audience. But I feel like Saunders goes off track when, instead of staying with the slightly absurd realism, he jumps the shark by saying that the songs were too risqué “for a staid culture that, at that time, still believed that babies came when you left a pastel turtleneck rolled up in a wad overnight.” It broke me right out of the exaggerated realism into the realm of outrageous farce.
Which is a shame because returning to real artists like Tom Waits making a biography of Jesse James called “A White-Trash Rambling Christ Figure Just Shot Your Brother, Amigo” is pretty darn funny. Continue Reading »
Posted in Andrew Lloyd Webber, Beyonce, Bono, Bruce Springsteen. The Allman Brothers, Funny (ha ha), George Saunders, Led Zeppelin, Meat Loaf, Monty Python, New Yorker, Tim Rice, Toad the Wet Sprocket, Tom Waits, Uncategorized, Word usage | Leave a Comment »
[ATTENDED: September 13, 2014] King Crimson
When I saw that King Crimson was touring I asked some friends if I should go see them. I’ve been a fan more in theory than in practice. I like a lot of their stuff, always planned to listen to them more, but I barely scratched the surface of their output (they’re the kind of band who has released dozens and dozens of things with varying project names and incarnations and since they’ve been recording since 1969, it’s daunting to say the least).
So when two friends basically said they’d give their eye teeth to see the show, it was a quick decision to get my tickets.
It was time to brush up on my back catalog. I had no idea what they’d be playing, so it was something of a crap shoot what discs to look into. As it turned out between the two old CDs and the one live CD that I bought, I covered nearly everything that they played. And that was pretty awesome. I had grown to really enjoy the CDs over the last few months and to see it done in front of me was… well, it was amazing.
King Crimson haven’t toured since 2008, and I have never seen them before. This line up was new for the touring band as well. It was the first time that Adrian Belew hadn’t toured with them in decades. But there were some old favorites playing: Tony Levin, frequent KC contributor and amazing bassist (bass and more); Mel Collins, played with KC in the 70s but hasn’t since, and here he is (Sax, flute); Jakko Jakszyk, recent contributor to Fripp’s projects and the real unknown for me (guitar, vocals). And then the three, yes, three drummers: Gavin Harrison has played with KC before (drums), Bill Rieflin, mostly known for playing with Ministry (!) (drums), Pat Mastelotto has played with KC before, including with Bill Bruford (drums). And of course Robert Fripp (guitar).
So, do you need three drummers? Isn’t that overkill?
Yes and yes.
The three drummers were utterly amazing and they were the focus of the show. As you can see from the photo, the drums were out front so you could watch everything.
Before I get into the show, The Kimmel Center is beautiful and the sound was amazing. I had first row balcony seats. My one seating gripe: I was in front of Fripp, but he basically sat sideways facing the stage (and his wall of gadgets) so I never really got to see him do anything. He was in profile most of the night, and I saw his hands moving, but that was it. So, next time, pick stage left to sit. Also, bring binoculars, because why not.
Back to the three drummers up front. Mastelotto on the left (I could see him perfectly), Rieflin in the center and Harrison on the right (profile, but he was very visible). Behind, l-r Collins, Levin, Jakko and Fripp.
As I said, though, it was all about the drums. Continue Reading »
Posted in King Crimson, Ministry, Porcupine Tree | Leave a Comment »
SOUNDTRACK: DIARRHEA PLANET-“Lite Dream” Live on KEXP (2014).
How to pass up a band with a name like this? Well, it’s pretty easy, actually. Who would even want to say their name?
The name conjures images, no, let’s not go there. The name conjures music that is just abrasive and rude–ten second punks songs. But in reality, their music is pretty traditional old school heavy metal. They have 4 lead guitarists after all! (There’s 6 guys in the band altogether, surprisingly, there’s no women). One of the lead guitarists even plays with his teeth (for a few seconds).
This song is about heavy metal, although I’m not sure what about it. There’s some big riffs, solos galore. There’s even a classic 80s style dual lead guitar solo. There’s big loud drums. There’s feedback. It’s everything you think of as heavy metal, with a seeming wink and nod thrown in.
This is basically a goofy feel good band, playing fast heavy metal. Shame about the band name, though, really.
Watch it all here.
[READ: spring and summer 2014] This is How You Die
It is quite disconcerting to open a Christmas present from your wife and have the first thing you see be the words “This is How You Die.” To then look at her confusedly and try to interpret the look of excited delight on her face as she wonders why you’re not excited. Then she explains that it is a sequel to the interesting collection Machine of Death that you both had read several years ago (but which I evidently never posted about). Sighs of relief and then Christmas can proceed with more merriment.
So over the course of the new year I read these stories and I enjoyed most of them quite a lot.
The premise of the book is that there is a Machine of Death. This machine states how you will die, but it does not give you a time, place or real definition of what it means by hope you will die. Statements seem obvious but may in fact be different in some twisted way. As it says on the back of the book, OLD AGE could mean either dying of natural causes or being shot by an elderly bedridden man in a botched home invasion. The book revels in the irony that you can know how it’s going to happen , but you’ll still be surprised when it does.
The way the machine works is that you insert your finger, it takes a blood sample and gives you a card with the way you die printed on it. No matter how many times you do it you will get the same result. These are the guidelines, and each author made a story with just that set up.
Pretty cool right? The first collection was really great. And so is this collection, done by writers and cartoonists that I had never heard of before. There are 34 stories and 12 comic strips (it’s a hefty collection). Because each story is basically about how a person dies, I had to think about how best to review the book–without giving away any twists. So I think the title and a very brief plot will have to suffice.
There’s even a funny promo video for the book (at the end of the post). Continue Reading »
Posted in Aaron Diaz, Ada Hoffmann, Alexandra Douglass, Alice Duke, Anthony Clark, Becky Dreistadt, Ben McSweeney, Bill Chernega, Braden Lamb, Brigita Orel, c.billadeau, Cancer as plot device, Carla Speed McNeil, Carly Monardo, Chandler Kaiden, Chris Schweizer, Claire Hummel, D.L.E. Roger, Daliso Chaponda, Dana Wulfekotte, Danica Novgorodoff, David Malki, Death, Demons, Diarrhea Planet, Disease, Drinking, Drugs, Dustin Harbin, Ed Turner, Emily Partridge, Erika Hammerschmidt, George Page III, Gord Sellar, Grace Seybold, Graham Annable, Greg Ruth, Hollan Lane, Horror, Humiliation, Indigo Kelleigh, John Chernega, John Takis, Karen Stay Ahlstrom, KC Green, KEXP 90.3 FM--Seattle, WA, Kris Straub, Kyle Shoenfeld, Law, Leela Wagner, Les McClaine, Lissa Treiman, Liz Argall, M. Bennardo, M.J. Leitch, Mad Scientists, Magic, Marleigh Norton, Marriage (Happy), Marriage Trouble, Martin Livings, Meredith Gran, Mike Dawson, Mike Peterson, Nathan Burgoin, Nick Abadzis, Ramón Pérez, Rebecca Black, Ren Warom, Rhiannon Kelly, Richard Salter, Ryan Estrad, Ryan North, Ryan Pequin, Sam Bosma, Sarah Pavis, Shari Chankhamma, Short Story, Threats, Toby W. Rus, Tom Francis, Tony Cliff, Trudy Cooper, Tyson Hesse, Violence, Yuck! | Leave a Comment »
SOUNDTRACK: THE REPLACEMENTS-“Alex Chilton” (live on the Tonight Show) (2014).
I was pretty surprised to hear that the Replacements were going to be on the Tonight Show (and even more surprised to hear that they were going to play “Alex Chilton.” I didn’t realize they were touring (or reunited or whatever they are), and I knew that at least one of the former members had died. So, really this version of The Replacements is just Paul Westerberg singing and Tommy Stinson on bass. The other two guys Dave Minehan on guitars and Josh Freese on drums are new as of 2012 (but have a history of working with Westerberg).
It was great to hear this song. I never saw them in their heyday, when I understand the odds of them being drunk were 100% and the odds of a great show or a disastrous show were 50/50.
I’ve no idea how sober the guys were, but this version of the song was super sloppy (in a good way) and made it seem like they were channeling the ‘Mats of old. Guitarist Minehan has played on Westerberg’s solo albums, so there is a connection, and he seemed to get that “can’t be bothered to hit every note” vibe. Even Westerberg was skimpy with all of the words (was he having fun or annoyed at being there? who knows). But they weren’t sloppy bad, especially when the song ended and they added on a coda–they were all super tight and right on tempo.
It was good to hear, but I have to admit I like the album version better.
[READ: June 26, 2014] “The Late Novels of Gene Hackman”
Rivka Galchen had two short stories in the New Yorker in 2013, one in January and now one in December.
The story is about J, a young woman who makes presentations to older people, in this case in Key West, Florida. She had accepted the invitation to the writers conference because it was going to be in February in Florida, and that seemed like a good time to be warm. J was allowed to bring a guest, and she decided to invite her stepmother, Q, rather than her husband. She felt a little sorry for Q, whose latest business venture had failed and whose hair was turning gray. J is under the impression that Q is having financial troubles, she keeps talking about things that make it seem like she does, but J can never get a straight answer out of her.
They were picked up by M (this initial thing was a little confusing but ultimately more comical, I decided) who had organized the convention. M had married a much younger woman, but she had recently died. “Of something.” M also had an eye patch, and J told Q not to stare at it, “‘I would never stare at an eye patch,’ Q said.” Continue Reading »
Posted in Books about writers, Etiquette, Gene Hackman, New Yorker, Replacements, Rivka Galchen, Short Story, The Tonight Show | Leave a Comment »
SOUNDTRACK: XERXES-“Collision Blonde” (3 tracks) (2104).
Xerxes has a very cool early 80s gothy sound–a sort of Joy Division/early Cure vibe. Their twist is that their singer is a kind of screamy punk (like early 80s hardcore bands). I admit I’m old and I don’t love the screamy vocals as much as I used to (but as a throwback, it’s pretty cool). And yet, I find the juxtaposition of that sort of mopey goth music coupled with an aggressive punk singing style.
You can hear the title track to their forthcoming release, “Collision Blonde’ on NPR at Viking’s Choice. This song is a bit longer than the other two. It has more ringing guitars and really brings out those Cure influences. The longer song allows them a little more freedom to explore, too.
There are two songs on their Soundcloud page. Chestnut Street” has a much faster tempo, but it keeps that great ringing guitar sound. It also offers some interesting tempo changes and a great bass section. I also love the bass sound in “Exit 123.” It’s got a great buzzy guitar attached to it as well.
This band also fills in that oft-lacking “X” category on your iPod.
[READ: June 13, 2014] “The Largesse of the Sea Maiden”
This is a story in several parts (with titles for each section) but which all work together to tell a complete story.
It opens very strangely with a dinner party in which an amputee tries to get a woman to kiss his stump. She can’t bring herself to do it, although several days after the party they begin dating. But the story is not about them, it’s about the host of the party and his wife, Elaine. For in the next scene, we see them at a party at a wealthy man’s house. When the narrator tells the wealthy man who his beautiful expensive painting shouldn’t be over the fireplace, (it might get warped from the heat), he threatens to burn it–rumor has it he has threatened this before. And yet what if no one stops him this time?
The narrator works as an ad man. It’s likely we’ve seen his ad–it was quite famous and won an award. Well he is getting the award now, even though the ad ran many years ago. He is traveling to New York for the award. But he is stressed about the whole thing, so he goes to the doctor where the entire staff is dressed for Halloween. Continue Reading »
Posted in All Songs Considered, Art, Denis Johnson, Huh?, Joy Division, New Yorker, Short Story, The Cure, Xerxes | Leave a Comment »