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Archive for July, 2007

secret.jpgSOUNDTRACK: BLUE ÖYSTER CULT-Spectres (1977).

spectres.jpgLet’s face it, Blue Öyster Cult are silly. If I didn’t know better I would swear that Spinal Tap is a takeoff on them. And yet, they have such well regarded people associated with them: Patti Smith; Michael Moorcock! I first got into BOC because of MTV. Back when MTV first came out they played videos by basically anyone who had a video. And it seemed that at the time it was mostly new wave and metal bands. And naturally, we metal heads embraced all of the metal videos and scoffed at the new wave ones. But it was through MTV that I found out about some of the best metal bands around: Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, Blue Öyster Cult to name just a couple. And it was through MTV that I got Fire of Unknown Origin, my favorite BOC record. Several years later when I got to college my roommate was a huge Rush and BOC fan. He got me into BOC in a big way, and even though I know they’re silly, I still love ’em. And this album is a pretty strong classic.

It has the great silly song, “Godzilla.” The hilariously Spinal Tapesque “R U Ready 2 Rock” (with the great chorus answer: Yes, I am.) And of course, “The Golden Age of Metal.” It also contains possibly the worst BOC song I can think of “Going Through the Motions”: A tinkly keyboardy song that belies BOC’s metal roots, and the apparently unironic chorus that they are just “Going Through the Motions.” Weird. Anyhow, I’ve been enjoying the reissues of the BOC CDs, and am looking forward to the special treatment that Fire of Unknown Origin ultimately gets.

[READ: July 28, 2007] The Secret Language of Sleep: A Couple’s Guide to the Thirty-Nine Positions.

I bought this book through the McSweeney’s sale. It looked really funny. And it is. Funny enough that I can’t decide if it’s all a joke, or an actual guide tarted up like a joke. The premise is fairly simple: there are 39 different sleeping positions, grouped by one of the four “elements:” Sun, Wind, Sea and Wood. And these positions range from the common Spoon Position to the rather ludicrous Springloader. What is so very intriguing and simultaneously disconcerting about the book is the way claims to realism are balanced with great absurdity. Suggesting that the way you sleep can determine your personality seems reasonable, and further, that changing the way you sleep can similarly have an impact on your personality also seems plausible. (more…)

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horseradish.jpg SOUNDTRACK: THE WHO-A Quick One (1966) & Sell Out (1967) & Tommy (1969) & The Kids Are Alright (1979) & Quadrophenia (1973).

When I was in grammar school I loved The Who. I’d say Rush and The Who were the two cornerstones that I built my music appreciation on. Then as I got into more alternative music, I turned my back on classic rock. And, really that was a good thing. Moving away from it allowed my to gain an appreciation for it again now that it is classic to me as well.

Not too long ago, Petra Hayden recorded an all acappella version of The Who Sell Out. It was a pretty outrageous album to make, and I haven’t heard all of it. But I heard some when I was in a store way back when, and it was pretty cool. But what it did was make me want to buy the original Who Sell Out again. And so I did. And then recently, my wife was asking about some Who songs and I realized we only had the big hits on vinyl. So, rather than getting one of their 4,000 greatest hits packages, I invested in the entire reissued back catalog. And I felt like I was 12 all over again. It was amazing to see that I knew these records backwards and forwards, and I hadn’t listened to some of them in nearly 25 years! (more…)

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nyorker.jpgSOUNDTRACK: NADA SURF-Let Go (2002) & The Weight is a Gift (2005).

letgo.jpgLet Go. Something happened between Nada Surf’s 2nd and third album, I don’t know what, exactly, but they really made some great material with these two albums. Let Go introduces a new jangly guitar style that makes the band softer and catchier, but which really accentuates the singer’s voice and melodies. Usually, when a band “matures” like this, the results are never good. But in this case, the mellower sound and slower songs really bring out the quality of the work. The first five tracks really shine, with “Fruit Fly” and “Blonde on Blonde” really standing out. The lyrics of “Fruit Fly” seems so simple and yet in context, and with the great melody, they work wonders. (more…)

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hp.jpgSOUNDTRACK: THE DECEMBERISTS-Castaways and Cutouts (2002) & Her Majesty (2003) & Picaresque (2005) & 5 Songs (2003) & Billy Liar [single] (2004) & The Tain (2004).

The Decemberists were, in fact, the soundtrack for this book. The last 250 pages were accompanied by the entire Decemberists catalog [excepting The Crane Wife, which was out in the car]. Whether or not it was a good choice, I feel that it certainly set a mood for the book.

I feel that the Decemberists have been part of my cultural landscape for many years. Their name seemed to pop up from time to time in a way that said I should check them out. And yet I resisted. No real reason why; I just did. And then when Picaresque came out and was so widely applauded, I thought I would need to hear for myself what this band was about. I was immediately smitten: by the tunes, by his voice, by the subject matter. Everything. Such an odd band, yet so smart, so literate, so edifying. They are truly one of the great storytelling bands.

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onbeauty.jpgSOUNDTRACK: STEELY DAN-Can’t Buy a Thrill (1972) & Countdown to Ecstasy (1973) & Pretzel Logic (1974) & Katy Lied (1975) & The Royal Scam (1976) & Aja (1977) & Gaucho (1980).

cantbuy.jpgMy theory about Steely Dan is that they are the definition of Adult music. No one under the age of 25 should listen to them. I hated Steely Dan all through high school and college, and then sometime around the age of 30, I suddenly liked them. So, it’s something about the style, and the sound, and Donald Fagan’s voice, and Walter Becker’s whatever, that should be utterly anathema to anyone under 25. (more…)

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I have learned that there is no way I am going to finish Zadie Smith’s On Beauty before Harry Potter comes out Saturday.  I don’t want to make it sound like I am a crazed HP fan, because although I do really enjoy the books, I’m not dressing up or going to release parties or anything.  However,  I think the series is really tremendous, and I love that it has gotten so many young people (who are now not so young) into reading.  Plus, I just read somewhere that the release of the last HP book is really one of the defining cultural moments of our age.  Not since “Who Shot JR?” has a media storm brewed about fictional characters.  And, certainly I can think of nothing in literature that has caused such excitement.  The article went on to say that as of right now, we can go into the final HP book not knowing how it will end, and in a few days, no other readers will have that blank slate.  No doubt within hours of the release of the new HP we will know who died and how, and it will truly ruin one of the few surprises we get to be excited about, culturally and fictionally.  Sure, if we know who dies in the book before we finish, it won’t be the end of the world; however, just knowing that you could read the book without knowing the result is pretty darn cool.  So, Zadie, I am enjoying your book immensely, but you have to go on a HP hiatus, because, although I don’t know how your book ends either, no one is likely to spoil it for me within the next few days.  So, I am imposing media blackout and book blackout….what a bad time to work in a library!  I’ll have to wear a button that says, “I haven’t finished Harry Potter yet, Don’t Give It Away.”  Hey, that’s not a bad idea…

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fourth.jpgSOUNDTRACK: GUSTER-Lost and Gone Forever (1999) & Keep It Together (2003).

These two records are a one-two punch of absolute greatness. If there were musical justice, we’d be sick of both of these records from being overplayed so much. There’s not a bad song, and at least three killer singles, on each one.

lostgone.jpgLost and Gone Forever: Guster’s third album is an unreasonably good one. The songs are all tight and catchy, the production is really warm and inviting, and the choruses just make you want to sing along to every one. Major highlights include: “Barrel of a Gun,” “Fa Fa,” “All the Way Up to Heaven,” and “Two Points for Honesty.” And the rest of the record is just as strong. (more…)

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