Posted in All Songs Considered, Consumerism, Glacé apricots, Harper's, Mary Ruefle, Sharon Van Etten, Shearwater, Short Story, Stevie Nicks, Tom Petty on May 30, 2013 |
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SOUNDTRACK: SHEARWATER & SHARON VAN ETTEN-“Stop Dragging My Heart Around” (2013).
Everybody knows this song. It was way overplayed (overplayed enough that Weird Al parodied it in 1983). So I can’t say I was all that excited to hear this cover.
What’s nice about it though is that if you’ve heard a song a million times, hearing a slightly (not radically) different version can reintroduce it to you in a new way.
It’s noisy and clunky in the music–giving a more folkie vibe. And while Sharon sounds a bit like Stevie Nicks—she gives that same raspy quality to it–she’s definitely not trying to be Stevie. The Shearwater vocalist does moderate mimic of Petty—enough to show that he knows what the original sounds like without duplicating it. The whole feel has a kind of tossed off, less polished vibe that really works with the lyrics.
It turns out that this version is live and it was released on a 7″ single (but NPR gives it to us for free). I like this version quite a bit although I do miss the “Ah ha has” and “Hey hey heys” in the bridge.
[READ: May 29, 2013] “The Gift”
This was a very strange little story.
In it, a woman wakes up after her house has flooded. Not entirely, but there was certainly a few feet of water (she can see the residue marks). What’s also strange is that she had not left her apartment for five days and she had just spent nearly $90 (the bulk of her grocery money) ordering a box of glacé apricots from Australia–in gold foil at extra cost–no less!
She feels guilty… but they just looked so good in the catalog. Of course, so did the mosquito netting–but really what use had she for that?
She spent some time thinking about the Australians working in the glacé apricot factory–did they ever steal an apricot? Were they hungry? Somehow she imagined them enshrouded in the mosquito netting.
She was awoken from her reverie by the water rushing around her living room–and the piglets grunting around in the mud. (more…)
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Posted in Anachronisms, Consumerism, David Byrne, Demons, Funny (strange), Gods, Greed, McSweeney's, Religion, Short Books, Supernatural, Talking Heads, War on May 26, 2013 |
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SOUNDTRACK: DAVID BYRNE-uh oh (1992).
I received this CD free when it came out (radio station perk), and I listened to it a few times, but not really all that much. I never really thought that much about it because I didn’t really like the cover–it looked too babyish. It’s been a while since I listened to it and I am delighted at what a good, solid, Talking Heads-ish album this is (with David Byrne, you never know exactly what you’ll get from a record, but this is poppy).
“Now I’m Your Mom” opens with an early 90s funky electronic bass and some crazy guitar sounds. But as soon as the bridge kicks in, the song is pure Byrne/Talking Heads. And that world music style chorus means that this song could have been huge (even if it is about a transvestite or transgendered person–I didn’t listen that carefully). However, the extended section at the end makes the song feel a little long. “Girls on My Mind” is a strange (but good) song from start to finish—a weird cheesy synth sound pervades the song, and yet once again, it’s very Byrne—especially the crazy singing of the chorus.
“Something Ain’t Right” opens with an odd chant but then turns very conventional—with choral voices giving big oohs. “She’s Mad” opens as a kind of sinister song. And yet, after some verses about her being mad, the chorus is as bright as anything else on the record—a very schizophrenic song. “Hanging Upside Down” has a very commercial Talking Heads Feel, like “Stay Up Late.”
“Twistin’ in the Wind” has more of those big choruses of voices to “well well well” up the song. “The Cowboy Mambo” has another weird sound that circulates through the song, but it’s got a good beat and a great chorus and it would be fun to dance to. “Monkey man” is a horn-heavy track that opens in a sinister vein once again. “A Million Miles Away” just gets stuck with you and makes you want to sing along. “Somebody” ends the disc with more Latin horns and rhythms. It’s a fun song, and a good ending.
Overall, this is a surprisingly good record. All of the songs are a little long–Byrne songs should really max out around 4 minutes. For that extra time, he either tends to repeat himself or add superfluous codas that drag out the end. But aside from that, this is a real treat, especially for Talking Heads fans.
[READ: May 20 2013] Arboretum
The back of the book describes this as a collection of enigmatic, enchanting mental maps.
And that is kind of what the book is. It is a collection of drawings–tree and branch-style drawings mostly–that endeavor to map relationships. But the subject matter is crazily diverse–oftentimes nonsensical or at the very least unparseable. The good news is that many of the drawings have an explanatory text in the back of the book. I acknowledge that ideally the drawings should make sense without needing an explanation, but the explanations were really useful–they really give you the frame of mind that Byrne was trying to explain through the pictures. (more…)
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Posted in Angela Goethals, Audio Book, Boredom, Children's Books, Clark Debraski, Consumerism, Dan Gutman, Funny (ha ha), Hoax, Tabitha Debraski, UFOs on March 15, 2013 |
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[LISTENED TO: March 11, 2013] The Get Rich Quick Club
I grabbed this audio book because I knew we were taking a longish trip and I wanted something for the kids to listen to. It’s hard to find a book that both a 7-year-old boy and 5-year-old girl will enjoy (although truth be told, Tabitha and Clark are up for just about any story as long as the language isn’t too hard–nevertheless, I try to find stuff that’s age appropriate. (Which means that the stories I’m excited for them to enjoy are about two years off yet) . The library has a great online resource (Listen NJ) but the search features are awful–it’s really hard to search by age and it’s also hard to find stories that are a good length (2 hours or so). There’s so many that are 8 hours or 8 minutes.
But anyhow, I knew that Dan Gutman was a fun author (Clark loves the whole My Weird School series) but I didn’t know this story. And it turned out to be great.
The story is set in Maine. It’s about five kids. Gina Tumolois the leader. She says right out that she always wanted to be rich. Her hero is Bill Gates and she wants to be a millionaire before she is a teenager (she’s 11). She is unabashed about her love of money. And she is very bummed that she has none.
The summer starts and she is bored. Because she has no money. So she and her friend Robert , who hang out in the branches of the tree in the park behind their house start talking about what to do for the summer. Then their friend Quincy comes over. Quincy is my favorite character because she is from Australia and she speaks in Australian slang (which is very helpfully translated every time she speaks–you can learn a lot of great funny slang including some very finny words for “idiot” from this book). There’s also the Boggle twins, 8 year old boys who are a pain–and unstoppable liars. (more…)
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Posted in Graphic Novel, Funny (ha ha), Gay/Lesbian, Memoirs, Funny (strange), Essays, Alison Bechdel, Canadian Content, McSweeney's, Books about writers, Marriage Trouble, Short Story, Supernatural, Corporate skewering, Consumerism, Sonic Youth, Books about music, War, Military, Collecting, History, Dreams, Virginity (Loss of), Comic Strips, Drinking, Oddities, Boredom, Violence, Chris Ware, Death, Michael Chabon, R. Crumb, Drugs, Charles Burns, Sex, Culture Shock, Adrian Tomine, Chip Kidd, Ghosts, Huh?, Anarchy, William Faulkner, Depression, Masturbation, All Songs Considered, Charles Schulz, World Cafe Live, Louis Reil, Africa, Excerpt, Joel Priddy, Kim Deitch, Ander Nilson, Lili Carré, David Lasky, Ben Katchor, Joe Sacco, Justin Hall, Rebecca Dart, Ivan Brunetti, Jonathan Bennett, Jaime Hernandez, Esther Pearl Watson, John Porcellino, David Heatley, Lloyd Dangle, HOB, Gilbert Shelton, Olivia Schanzer, Alex Robinson, Seth Tobocman, Rick Geary, Tom Hart, Kurt Wolfgang, Jesse Reklaw, Lynda Barry, Bust, John Updike, Julie Doucet, Parts & Labor, Surreal, Glen David Gold, Ira Glass, John McLenan, Bud Fischer, Milt Gross, Kaz, Mark Newgarden, John Woodring, Archer Prewitt, Chris Ware, Tim Samuelson, Philip Guston, Mark Beyer, Gary Panter, Malachi B. Cohen, Art Spiegelman, David Collier, Chester Brown, Richard McGuire, Jeffrey Brown, Debbie Dreschler, Joe Matt. Seth, Gilbert Hernandez, Ron Rege, Richard Sala, Daniel Clowes, Rodolphe Töpffer, S. Kierkegaard on January 29, 2013 |
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SOUNDTRACK: PARTS & LABOR-Stay Afraid (2006).
Parts & Labor have changed t heir style over the years going from noisemakers who have a melody to being melodious noisemakers. This album is one of their earlier releases when noise dominated. Right from the opening you know the album is going to be a challenge. The first song has pounding drums (electronics that sound like bagpipes) and heavy distorted shouty vocals. By the end of the songs there is squealing feedback, punk speed drums and screaming distorted vocals (complete with space sound effects). It’s an aggressive opening for sure. Song two opens with a long low rumbling and then ”Drastic Measures” proves to be another fast-paced song.
“A Pleasant Stay” is 5 minutes long (most of the rest of the album’s songs are about 3 minutes). It continues in this fast framework, although it has a bit more open moments of just drums or just vocals. The way the band plays with feedback in the last minute or so of the song very cool.
“New Buildings” has a hardcore beat with a guitar part that sounds sped up. ”Death” is a thumping song (the drums are very loud on this disc), while “Timeline” is two minutes of squealing guitars. ”Stay Afraid” has a false start (although who knows why–how do these guys know if the feedback sounds are what they wanted anyhow?). The song ends with 30 seconds of sheer noise). The album ends with the 5 minute “Changing of the Guard” a song not unlike the rest of the album–noisy with loud drumming and more noise.
The album is certainly challenging, it’s abrasive and off putting, but there;s surprising pleasures and melodies amidst the chaos. Indeed, after a listen or two you start to really look forward to the hooks. If you like this sort of thing, this album s a joy. It’s also quite brief, so it never overstays its welcome.
[READ: April 15, 2011] McSweeney’s #13
I have been looking forward to reading this issue for quite some time. Indeed, as soon as I received it I wanted to put aside time for it. It only took eight years. For this is the fabled comics issue. Or as the cover puts it: Included with this paper: a free 264 page hardcover. Because the cover is a fold-out poster–a gorgeous broadside done by Chris Ware called “God.” And as with all Chris Ware stories, this is about life, the universe and everything. On the flip side of the (seriously, really beautiful with gold foil and everything) Ware comic are the contributors’ list and a large drawing that is credited to LHOOQ which is the name of Marcel Duchamp’s art piece in which he put a mustache on the Mona Lisa. It’s a kind of composite of the history of famous faces in art all done in a series of concentric squares. It’s quite cool.
So, yes, this issue is all about comics. There are a couple of essays, a couple of biographical sketches by Ware of artists that I assume many people don’t know and there’s a few unpublished pieces by famous mainstream artists. But the bulk of the book is comprised of underground (and some who are not so underground anymore) artists showing of their goods. It’s amazing how divergent the styles are for subject matter that is (for the most part) pretty similar: woe is me! Angst fills these pages. Whether it is the biographical angst of famous artists by Brunetti or the angst of not getting the girl (most of the others) or the angst of life (the remaining ones), there’s not a lot of joy here. Although there is a lot of humor. A couple of these comics made it into the Best American Comics 2006.
There’s no letters this issue, which makes sense as the whole thing is Chris Ware’s baby. But there are two special tiny books that fit nearly into the fold that the oversized cover makes. There’s also two introductions. One by Ira Glass (and yes I’d rather hear him say it but what can you do). And the other by Ware. Ware has advocated for underground comics forever and it’s cool that he has a forum for his ideas here. I’m not sure I’ve ever read prose from him before. (more…)
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Posted in Advice, Consumerism, Culture Shock, David Schickler, David Sedaris, Funny (ha ha), Gay/Lesbian, Holidays, Language, Set in New Jersey!, Sex, Yuck! on December 25, 2012 |
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[ATTENDED: December 9, 2012] A John Waters Christmas
Sarah and I were pretty excited to go see John Waters: gay icon, movie provocateur and all around oddball. We had no idea what to expect from this show (his Christmas shows have apparently been around a long time although I have no idea how much it changes per year), but we knew it would be peculiar (and damned funny).
What we got was John Waters in a beautiful sparkly suit talking about seemingly whatever came into his mind (although I know from others that the routine has the same elements in every show, so I it is not extemporaneous). He had a podium and a bottle of water, but he used neither. Instead, he walked around the stage, telling stories, telling jokes and being as filthy as he could.
Since this is a Christmas show, he talks a lot about the holiday (he really likes it, mostly because people give him presents), he talks a lot about sex (the more deviant the better), and he talks about himself.
We were surprised by the age range in the audience Aside from a few young people (in punk garb), we were the youngest by far. And while that certainly makes it seem like the older folks of the Branchburg area are much hipper (and dirtier) than I realized, it also makes some sense. Waters definitely reached his most prolific peak quite some time ago. And those earlier film were much raunchier than his more recently releases. By now, Waters has settled in as kind of an outre celebrity but one who is more than happy taking part in pop culture (The Simpsons for instance–quite a long way from Divine eating poop). We wondered if half of them knew what they were in for–but I didn’t hear any gasps, so I guess they did. The older attendees could no doubt also appreciate a number of cultural references that were just too old for me. (more…)
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Posted in Annie Hall, Biography, Books about writers, Canadian Content, Canadian Music, CBC Radio 3, Consumerism, Death, Depression, Douglas Coupland, Extraordinary Canadians, KEXP 90.3 FM--Seattle, WA, Marshall McLuhan, Short Books, Silversun Pickups, Smashing Pumpkins, Technology, The Future on October 20, 2012 |
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SOUNDTRACK: SILVERSUN PICKUPS-Live on KEXP, May 11, 2012 (2012).
Following the other day’s review of Silversun Pickups, I have this more recent show. In this one, only two members of the band are here–singer/guitarist Brian Aubert and bassist Nikki Monninger for a stripped down acoustic show.
This set is much more enjoyable than the older set. The songs are certainly stronger, especially “Bloody Mary” and “The Pit.” But there’s also something refreshing about hearing this band who is usually so fuzzed out sounding clean and simple. I wouldn’t want an entire acoustic album from these guys, but it’s so dynamic in this version. You can really hear the construction of the songs in this simple setting.
And the rapport between Brian and DJ Cheryl Waters is relaxed (they are very funny) and engaging–I really want to like these guys.
It’s interesting that in the five years from the previous set the Billy Corganisms have not gone away at all, but I guess one can’t help what one’s voice sounds like. It’s kind of hard to get past that, but it’s not impossible, and the songs are so good, you can overlook it. This makes me want to check out their latest album. You can hear it here.
And for those who watch TV, Silversun Pickups were on Up All Night this week (in a very weird mash up of pop culture). Is that how lesser known bands get publicity, or was that meant to be a draw for the show (I don’t know how popular they are–Sarah had never heard of them).
[READ: October 18, 2012] Marshall McLuhan: You Know Nothing of My Work!
I had not heard of this book until I saw it in my local library. I wasn’t prepared to read another biography of Marshall McLuhan, and indeed, this isn’t one. This is the American edition of Extraordinary Canadians: Marshall McLuhan with a spiffy new title. And it is virtually identical.
There are several things that were in the Canadian edition that were left out of the American edition (although they did leave in all of the “u”s in words like “colour”).
The things that were left out are: (more…)
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Posted in Adventure, All Songs Considered, Art, Big Black, Charles Perrault, Consumerism, Corporate skewering, Culture Shock, Death, Funny (ha ha), Futility, Jackson Pollack, Japandroids, Kurt Vonnegut, Marriage Trouble, Morality, Violence on September 27, 2012 |
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SOUNDTRACK: JAPANDROIDS-Live on KEXP, June 16, 2009 (2009).
Back in 2009, one of the guys from Japandroids had surgery and they had to cancel some dates. That’s only relevant to this because when this set is over, the guitarist is bleeding from his scar.
Japandroids are two guys and they make a lot of noise. I can recall jamming on guitar with my friend on drums and even when we were totally in synch, we never sounded this good. It really sounds like there are four or five people playing. This set has three songs from their debut album and an amazing cover of Big Black’s “Racer X.”
The three songs are very good and the guys pay hard and fast and, as I said, they sound amazing. It’s a great set. You can hear the whole thing here. There’s also video of the performance. It’s broken into two parts. This is part two, with the blistering cover of “Racer X.”
[READ: September 17, 2012] Bluebeard
I’ve mentioned this book a few times in the last couple of days as something that I’d been struggling with. And, indeed, I found it to be a little slow going. I was excited to start reading it because, as the subtitle says, this is an autobiography of Rabo Karabekian, an artist who appeared in Breakfast of Champions–I love that Vonnegut keeps working within his own universe. But there was something about the early pages of the story that were just not that compelling.
Rabo is having a hard time getting his book going, and while that is a dramatic effect, I had a hard time getting into the book too. It’s not that complicated of a story. There are really only about a half dozen characters in the book:
Rabo–he is an American Abstract Expressionist painter (contemporary of Jackson Pollack, Jasper Johns, et al).
Circe Berman–she is an author who writes under the pseudonym Polly Madison (ha). Madison’s books look at the real life of American young people and are staggeringly popular.
Paul Slazinger–Rabo’s next door neighbor who spends most of his time in Rabo’s house, although he and Rabo mostly ignore each other. Slazinger is a writer with a decades long writer’s block.
Dan Gregory–a famous artist for whom Rabo apprenticed. Gregory was such a good detailist that he once created a perfect forgery of a bill (on a dare). Gregory was also a terrible racist and philanderer and treated Rabo with contempt at best.
Marilee Kemp–Gregory’s mistress and sometime muse. She inadvertently sends Rabo an encouraging letter on behalf of Gregory and then she and Rabo begin a writing relationship which blossoms when they eventually meet. (more…)
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Posted in Short Books, Funny (ha ha), Essays, Books about writers, Consumerism, NPR/PRI/PBS, War, Kurt Vonnegut, Marriage (Happy), Suicide, Violence, Death, Holocaust, William Shakespeare, KEXP 90.3 FM--Seattle, WA, Advice, Isaac Newton, Sexism, Hitler, Bombs, Cymbals Eat Guitars, Isaac Asimov, WNYC--93.9 New York NY, Dr Jack Kevorkian on September 26, 2012 |
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SOUNDTRACK: CYMBALS EAT GUITARS-Live on KEXP June 18, 2009 (2009).
Cymbals Eat Guitars are from Staten Island (with members from New Jersey). They have released two albums, although this recording is from after the release of their first album. They play four songs: ”And the Hazy Sea,” “Cold Spring,” “Tunguska,” and “Wind Phoenix.” They are noisy songs (mostly) with squalls of guitars (squalls is a good word since two of the guys are from Manahawkin, New Jersey.
The band has true progenitors in the indie rock scene–there’s sounds of Pavement, The Replacements, even more melodic Sonic Youth . They play noisy guitars and the vocals veer from softly sung to loudly screamed (often within the same line). ”Cold Spring” starts like a kind of shoegazery song and then after almost three minutes it turns into a blast of pummeling rock with a noisy guitar section, before moving into a third more melodic section.
There’s a lengthy interview with the band, where they give a shout out to New Jersey and seem genuinely surprised by the success they’ve had. It’s a good show, and you can hear it here
[READ: September 25, 2012] God Bless You, Dr. Kevorkian
Again, against my better judgment I brought this Vonnegut book home too because it was on the shelf (and it was very short). I still haven’t finished Bluebeard yet, but I have been curious about this book for some time. It references Vonnegut’s early novel God Bless You, Mr Rosewater, but it also name checks Dr Jack Kevorkian. So just what is it?
Well, it is collection of radio spots that Vonnegut did for WNYC radio in New York back in 1998. Vonnegut claimed that he went to Kevorkian’s facility, was strapped in and almost killed multiple times, but Kevorkian brought him back each time creating a near-death experience. And each time Vonnegut travelled through that “blue tunnel,” he would interview a dead person.
The people he interviews vary quite a lot in fame and stature: (more…)
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