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Archive for November, 2007

making.jpgSOUNDTRACK: NIRVANA-Sliver: The Best of the Box (2005).

sliver.jpgSo, my $1.50 copy of this came in today and I listened to the three unavailable tracks. The first was a track called “Spank Thru,” which was totally new to me. The other two were demos of: “Sappy” (also known as “Verse Chorus Verse” on the NoAlternative compilation) and “Come as You Are” from Nevermind.

“Sappy” is one of my favorite Nirvana songs. I tend to forget about it because it’s on the compilation and not one of their records. This version is a little slower, and was one of the original studio recordings of it.

“Come As You Are” is a great song from Nevermind. This is a boom box demo. Not the most insightful recording, but interesting for completists.

“Spank Thru” is a very early recording from when Nirvana was called Fecal Matter. It’s one of the few recordings (aside from Cobain’s solo recordings) that doesn’t have Krist Novoselic on bass (Dale Crover plays bass). I’m not sure why they didn’t release any other tracks from the demo, as it is by far the most “interesting” thing of note on the collection. It’s interesting to see a young Kurt writing a song like this which starts out mellow, but in a very different style than the Nirvana mellow ™. Hearing it many years after the fact, it almost sounds like a joke with Kurt “crooning” the opening verses. I gather there’s a live version on From the Muddy Banks… I guess I don’t listen to that record very much.

It was certainly worth paying $1.50 to hear this song. As for the rest, I guess if you’d like to hear Nirvana demos, but not a box set worth, then this is the way to go. There are some highlights from all the phases of Nirvana’s career, with none of those excessive jams that make the box set a little tedious.

One final Nirvana thought: this collection made me realize just how long most Nirvana songs are. Even though Nevermind sold billions of copies, it wasn’t really radio friendly. Even the hits approach the five minute mark. Hmm, maybe the world was once ready for non-commercial radio. American Idol has certainly nailed the coffin lid shut once again though.

[READ: October 20, 2007] Making Money.

I finished the last chapter of this book about ten hours after my daughter was born. I was still pretty wired from the whole experience, and only had about 30 pages to go, so I stayed up while everyone else was asleep and finished just as I was starting to crash. (more…)

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145.jpgSOUNDTRACK: MOTHERHEAD BUG-Zambodia (1993).

zam.jpgMotherhead Bug is the creation of David Ouimet. David was my boss at Tower Records way back when. He has been in some other influential NYC bands like Swans and Cop Shoot Cop, and he’s worked with Foetus as well. He has since moved on to bigger and better things, including doing wonderfully creepy illustrations for YA books (like Cat in Glass and Double-Dare to Be Scared).

David was a founding member of Cop Shoot Cop, and then left to do other things. What I find most interesting about Zambodia is that it sounds fairly comparable to the band Firewater, a band that was created by Tod A, one of the other founders of Cop Shoot Cop. No idea if there was something in their collective water but it’s interetsing that they both pursued this bizarre hybrid of punk/industrial/klezmer/gypsy/circus rock.

If you know Firewater (and you should, they’re very good), Motherhead Bug would be something like a slightly more indie version of them (if you can imagine that). The unconventional aspects of the songs are more to the fore, and the instrumentataion is a little more peculiar. This is probably due to the fact that Ouimet is a trombonist and samplist (is that what you call a sampler player?). It is clear that his love of the horn section and freedom of samples allowed his creativity to run amock.

Ouimet’s vocals work in a gravelley context similar to Tom Waits, but less drunken-bluesman and more gothic spooky storyteller. The whole shebang sounds something like a Kurt Weillian nightmare. And yet, there is a great deal of humor involved. Having said all that, for all of its unconventiality, the songs are pretty standard verse chorus verse, 4 minutes long. It’s just what he does within those limits is pretty outlandish!

For a genre that has so many tentacles, Motherhead Bug fills a fun niche of industrial carnival music. If you like a chaotic noisy band, and you’re interested in unconventional instrumentation, then check out Motherhead Bug.

Hi David.

[READ: November 20, 2007] One Hundred and Forty-five Stories in a Small Box.

The format of these books is three books in a small box. Each book is a volume of short short stories or flash fiction. The books themselves are also small in size: slightly smaller than a mass paperback. So, when I say that a story is a page long, it is in fact, about a typical paragraph length. One of the tropes of the flash fiction movement is that you try and write a fully realized story in as short a space as possible. It is amazing how complete many of these stories turn out to be. Even though they are devoid of most of the trappings of a conventional story, they often convey a full range of emotion, and even some details. According to the Wikipedia entry, most flash-fiction pieces are between 250 and 1,000 words long. This should all give a sense for what’s in the box. (more…)

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bosch.jpg SOUNDTRACK: FLIGHT OF THE CONCHORDS-The Distant Future EP (2007).

conchords.jpgWe really enjoyed the Flight of the Conchords series on HBO. Although the stories weren’t always great, the music and music videos were hilarious. Probably better than the show itself was the live special that they showed on HBO before they aired the series. Their comedy/music performance is simply great. What works best about the songs is that they can be funny repeatedly, but that they are also great songs too.

This EP is a good taste of their music, and I understand they have a full length coming out soon too. The only disappointing thing about the EP is that the song “Business Time” does not contain all of the lines from the show and the live rendition (where he trips getting out of his pants, which is the funniest thing ever). So I may have to look for the older live CD they have out.

Although they have some information on their official site, http://www.conchords.co.nz/, you’re better off going to What the Folk!, where you can hear a lot of great downloads. There are some great tracks available here like “Business Time” (several versions) and “Hiphopapotamus v Rhymenocerous.”  I suppose your tolerance for this depends on your tolerance for “novelty” music, but I think they’re pretty great.

Oh, and Mel, from the show was featured in this month’s Radar magazine.

[READ: November 21, 2007] The Name of This Book is Secret

Sarah received a copy of this book, and it was sitting on top of a pile in our office. I was very intrigued by, well, everything about it, and it was the author’s name Pseduonymous Bosch, that really caught my attention. Actually, the entire design of the book is eye catching and interesting. (more…)

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I am probably the only person in America to see this book: elton1.jpg

and get excited because I thought it was about Ben Elton. bene.jpg It didn’t even cross my mind that it would be about Elton John (nevermind that it doesn’t LOOK like Ben Elton, I only saw the title…plus he has sunglasses on and everyone knows that once you put on sunglasses no one ever recognizes you!). Now, clearly this is my own bias, but OH, what a disappointment.

This reminds me of days long ago (the early 90s) when I saw books by Steve Martini martini.jpgand thought they were by Steve Martin. stevem.jpg Just as I began to convince myself that I would never see a book by Steve Martin, he started writing books… (even though they don’t look like Martini’s books).

Does anyone else recall hearing the opening riff to the Smiths “How Soon Is Now?” (more…)

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um1.jpgSOUNDTRACK: DUNGEN-Tio Bitar (2007).

tio.jpgThis record, released in 2007, was uncovered in a vault dating back to 1970. Or so it sounds. In fact, this is a fascinating release from a Scandinavian band, or more precisely, guy, Gustav Ejstes. He has meticulously worked to make this record sound as if it was recorded in the early 1970s.

And not just with the recording techniques, but the sound and style of the songs is very psychedelic 70s. It is frankly astonishing and even more astonishing, is that it is really really good.

The album starts out with a screaming rock and roll instrumental jam that seems like it’s about 7 minutes long but is really only 3 and change (not to make it sound like it’s too long, it just compresses so much into it that it seems longer than it is).

All kinds of instrumentation appear on this record, from wailing guitar solos to flutes and mellotrons. There are folkie ballads, and beautiful melodies. It’s like compressing all of psychedelia and folk into a brilliant sampler. I can’t say enough about this album. It is truly fascinating.

Oh, and here’s the thing, when there are lyrics, they are sung in Swedish. I have no idea what any of the songs are about, and I don’t care. It makes me feel like those Japanese kids from the 80’s who loved American heavy metal and probably got 1/2 of the words.

The crazy thing is that you can’t even pretend to sing along because the Swedish words don’t really even sound like they might be English words (the way you can fake your way through some foreign bands song). But none of that matters when the music is this good. I fully intend to put a track or two on future compilation mixes for unsuspecting xenophobes out there!

[READ: November 2007] Um.

As I mentioned previously, I was really excited about this book. It sounded terrifically geeky, and for a geek like myself, terrifically fun. I am fascinated by language, and, having suffered through Public Speaking classes, and now actually teaching classes to library patrons, I feel like I have progressed very far in my speaking prowess. Therefore, discovering the keys to why we make “disfluencies” like um, and uh in our speech sounded like a wonderfully fun topic. (more…)

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bizarre.jpgSOUNDTRACK: NIRVANA-Sliver: The Best of the Box (2005).

sliver.jpgAfter reviewing the box set With the Lights Out, I saw that the greedheads at Geffen released Sliver, The Best of the Box, which included stuff that was, inexplicably, NOT in the box. I think 4 tracks not available elsewhere are included. So, I’ve just discovered that I can order a used copy for $1 from Amazon.com. So, no money to Geffen, and I’ll be able to review the tracks when it comes in.

[READ: November 12, 2007] Bizarre Books.

This is a great companion book to Scouts in Bondage. Like that book (see below) it compiles a list of books with bizarre titles, bizarre covers, bizarre author, and bizarre concepts. It is presented in list form, which can be daunting if you try to read start to finish, but if you dip in from time to time it is quite a treat. (more…)

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scouts.jpgSOUNDTRACK: NIRVANA: With the Lights Out (2004).

withthe.jpgIt probably sounds like an urban myth to say that Nirvana was a catalyst for new music way back then. But I can recall when “Smells Like Teen Spirit” was first on the radio, and I was living in a region of the country (hey Office fans, it was Scranton, PA) that was devoid of anything interesting on the radio; it was like a flash of light: there is interesting music out there, somewhere. So, yup, Nirvana was a great moment for me.

Now, I’ll backtrack by saying that I had just graduated college, where I had been music director of our college’s radio station. We specialized in good indie music, so I was no stranger to Sonic Youth or They Might Be Giants, or anything that would soon be played on 120 Minutes, or labeled “alternative”; but as our station had a range of about 50 feet, I couldn’t even hear it from my apartment. So, I was left with Rock 107–not a bad station, just a typical classic rock outlet–and Marywood College’s very hip, very cool radio station, that came in if the weather agreed.

And suddenly there was Nirvana.

I wasn’t that bummed when Cobain killed himself, as I’d enjoyed their releases, but they were no longer the huge band in my life. So I got some of the posthumous releases, but held off on the box set because, who needs an expensive collection of outtakes? Well, for Christmas, Amazon was selling With the Lights Out for super cheap (sometimes it pays to wait), so I figured I’d grab it.

The best thing I can say about it is that it really rekindled my appreciation for Nirvana. It also made me realize that they only released three albums (not including all of the comps and live releases), which is a teeny output for such a huge band). And, finally, and most shockingly it made me realize that “Smells Like Teen Spirit” is over 5 minutes long…WHAT? How did a 5 minute song become a hit??

Anyhow, I’ve enjoyed listening to this collection. It was cool to hear some of the early demos of songs, and see how they morphed into the ones I know. There’s a few 8 minute jams that aren’t worth hearing more than once, but overall, it’s good for those who like Nirvana and would like a little more of their story. Especially if you can get it cheap!

[READ: November 12, 2007] Scouts in Bondage

This is a fantastically funny book. It is a collection of book covers from antique and rare books that are now shockingly inappropriate. I feel that the UK subtitle is more apt for the book, because when these books were written, they weren’t meant to be risque, but as times and language has changed, they are now full of double entendre.

(more…)

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