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Archive for December, 2008

walrusnov07SOUNDTRACK: FISHBONE-Fishbone EP (1985)

fishboneAfter listening to “It’s a Wonderful Life (Gonna Have a Good Time)” at Christmas, I had to bust out the old Fishbone discs, which I haven’t done in quite some time.  So I’m beginning with the EP that started it all.

This EP will always have a special place for me. It is fast, funny, energetic and is an awesome mix of ska, punk and just plain old offensive silliness.  There’s 6 songs.  “Ugly” has the chorus “U-G-L-Y, you ain’t got no alibi, you’re just ugly.”  They are surely not the first bunch of people to say that (I seem to recall saying it as a kid myself), but they certainly do it in the most catchy fashion.  It also sets the tone for the EP: fast ska, silly lyrics and totally fun.  “Another Generation” is more serious, but as a good sign for things to come, it is no less catchy, and it highlights the various singers in the band.  “? (Modern Industry)” is a favorite.  It’s just a list of radio stations, but it’s set to an awesome skanking rhythm.  And it’s fun to pick out the stations near where you live (if any are still around 22 years later).  “Party at Ground Zero” will always be an amazingly fun song.  The horns are great, the tune is great.  Everything: great.  “V.T.T.L.O.T.F.D.G.F.” Twenty-two years later I finally learned that this title stands for Voyage to the Land of the Freeze Dried Godzilla Fart. Thanks internet.  And of course, the last track “Lyin’ Ass Bitch” always made us laugh in college.  It is silly and rude.  As a sensible grown up, of course, I disapprove of the lyrics, but really it’s very funny.

Fishbone was headed for greatness in just a few short years.

[READ: December 26, 2008] “Show Me Yours…”

This story comes from the special Arctic issue of the Walrus.  When the story began I was concerned that it was a story steeped in Inuit tradition as I was pretty lost for the first couple paragraphs. (more…)

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Eartha Kitt died yesterday.  And, yes, I trashed her song “Santa Baby” just days ago.  Andrew pointed out in a comment to that post that, no doubt, it was the last thing she read, and it was the end for her.  And for that I am truly sorry.  It also explains why I have had the song stuck in my head for two days.  It seems that everywhere I go for the last two days…even though I have listened to about a dozen different Christmas CDs without that song on it…it keeps coming back.  To haunt me.  Eartha, I meant no offense.  Please rest easily, and allow me to as well.

Oh geez, and Harold Pinter died, too.  I wasn’t plagued by Pinter, but he was influential to a lot of the authors I enjoyed.  And he was an amusing punchline in Red Dwarf.

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beedleSOUNDTRACK: CITY AND COLOUR-Live (2007).

ccliveCity and Colour is the solo project of Alexisonfire singer Dallas Green (get it?).  I was really impressed by Dallas’ voice within the noisy metalcore of AOF.  And I wondered what his solo stuff would sound like without the dissonance of the rest of the band.  I saw this disc was available from Maplemusic and it was considerably cheaper than on Amazon.  A live record isn’t always the best venue to check out an artist but in this case, I figured his solo stuff probably translated fine live as well.  (Still haven’t actually heard a solo record so I can’t say).  The set is also not entirely solo, as he calls out an accompanist for a few tracks (the DVD gives more information about who he is).

In AOF, Dallas’s voice is strong and powerful and yet totally catchy.  His voice is the reason that I like AOF so much.  So I was a  little disappointed in the live release because he seems to be holding back.  As I said, I haven’t heard the original discs, so I don’t know how it compares.  But on some of the songs, he seems too restrained.

The songs are all very catchy, and the between-song banter is fun (it was excised from the CD but is available on the DVD) .  But as I said for some of the songs it’s almost as if he’s inhaling rather than exhaling when he sings.  I guess I find it weird for a punk rocker to be so restrained.  Despite that, several songs do stand out as excellent.  “Comin’ Home” (there are two versions on the disc), “Save Your Scissors” (the second version on the disc is especially fun because the crowd sings along).  And lyrically Green is very interesting.  “Comin’ Home” has some nice name-checking of cities around North America (poor fans in Lincoln, Nebraska, though).

Despite my reservations about his singing, his voice still sounds great.  I’m interested in checking out a studio release to see how it compares.

[READ: December 18, 2008] The Tales of Beedle the Bard

There’s two funny stories about this book:

1) At my library, we received a notice from Scholastic Books that this book COULD NOT be put out before the release date of December 4.  We had to sign a release form promising it would not go out any sooner.  We all laughed about that because, while we knew that Book 7 of the Harry Potter series was going to be HUGE (and we had the same release form to sign for that book) we also knew that this was, at best, an esoteric addendum to the series for die-hard fans only.  (As of this writing our copies haven’t even arrived yet, and there are only eleven holds in our entire system). (more…)

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After getting the dislikes out of my system, it’s time to bring in the positivity.  Now that I have a lot of different Christmas discs to choose from, I don’t get inundated with the same songs over and over.  This has really allowed me to appreciate the old songs for what they are.

So, here’s 12 things I like about the holiday tune season (in no particular order)

1. “O Holy Night”
oholyI feel like I never really knew this song until I heard Cartman getting cattle-prodded for not knowing the words.   I listened to that version all the time (but I can’t tell if I like that version or the one on Mr. Hankey’s Christmas Classics better [“Fall on your knees, and hear the angels… something” “VOICES!”]), and what it did was give me a real appreciation for what a cool song this is.  The chord changes are very satisfying without being really obvious.  And, it’s not an easy song to sing.  But I have liked every tooversion I’ve heard: from Cartman to Avril Lavigne (whose first two verses on Maybe This Christmas, Too are the most vibrato-free singing I have ever heard.  I’m quite certain she’s flat all the way through, and yet her voice is so unaffected it’s totally disconcerting.  Tell me what you think…it’s available here).

Sarah: This truly is a beautiful song and I love all its versions as well, from Cartman to Tracy Chapman. I’m not a religious person but I always feel a little holy when I sing this. (more…)

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Last year I listed my 12 favorite Christmas discs.  This year I figured I’d do 12 gripes and 12 raves about Christmas music in general.  Of course, I’ll start with my gripes.

Note: This list only includes songs that we personally own (mostly on compilations we’ve bought over the years).   This is why “Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer” and Paul McCartney’s “A Wonderful Christmas Time” are not included here, because I don’t own them, so I don’t have to hear them.

This is Sarah here, chiming in as the co-owner of all this Christmas music and lover of Christmas music and person who makes us listen to it all December long.  I felt compelled to butt in, so you’ll see my comments below.

In no particular order…

1. “Santa Baby”
earthaBoy I can’t stand this song.  I know it’s supposed to be cute and racy and risque or whatever, but I simply can’t stand how crassly materialistic it is.  And I’m not one who thinks Christmas is all about, like, Jesus’ birth or being good or anything.  I know it’s all about the presents; however, this song is just….so…wrong.  And if the Eartha Kitt version (the one you hear most of the time) veryspecialweren’t bad enough, the Madonna version (on A Very Special Christmas) is just abysmal.  She sounds like a sexually deranged Betty Boop (which I suppose is not unusual for her circa this release, but still).  Stop trying to seduce Santa!  Make it go away!

Sarah: I concur. (more…)

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onenightSOUNDTRACKFLAMING LIPS-Christmas on Mars (film & soundtrack) (2008).

marsI’ve been a fan of the Flaming Lips for a pretty long time.  I first heard them with “She Don’t Use Jelly” (a novelty hit from 1993…who would have thought they’d have become so amazing) but I really got into them from the time of The Soft Bulletin (and Zaireeka).  Since around this time, Wayne Coyne and the Lips have been working on Christmas on Mars.  It is a “home movie” of sorts that the Lips and some special friends made in their home town (and their backyard).  They recently released the film on CD/DVD.

The film, based on the snippets I saw and everything I’d heard about it was nothing like what I expected.  wayneChristmas on Mars sounds like a cheesy/funny movie about, well, what Martians do for Christmas.  And seeing Wayne as a Martian seemed to confirm my suspicion.  But rather, what you get is a much less joyful celebration.

The movie is structured around a space station on Mars. There are only a half a dozen or so humans on board, and they are all going slowly crazy from a lack of oxygen.  Also on board is a “virgin” mother who is incubating a baby that was born on Mars.  One of the crew believes that the fate of the baby will determine the fate of the entire mission.

It is Christmastime on Mars, and there’s going to be a Christmas party.  But the Santa freaks out and runs outside just as a Martian walks up to the station.  The Martian is “captured” but he serenely walks around the ship, observing, mending and just being there.

There is very little dialogue.  There are really far out-trippy images.  There are lots of really creepy images (the people who let their baby be in the film were VERY trusting).  And there’s lots of vaginal imagery (in whacked out dream sequences) which makes me wonder what kind of MPAA rating this would get.

The film is a little dull at times (especially in the beginning)–although it could have just been that since I didn’t know what I was getting into, I wasn’t in the right mind frame for it…kind of like Eraserhead.  But it definitely picks up, and gets rather suspenseful.  It’s also nice that some “real” actors are in it, like SNL’s Fred Armisen,  AdamGoldberg (!) and Blue’s Clue’s Steve Burns (!!).

What’s most impressive though is the look of the film.  From interviews I read, I learned that Wayne was constructing most of the set himself (and that he got to use an abandoned processing plant for many of the scenes).  He very wisely films in low light and black and white, (with occasional splashes of supervibrant color) but the sets look really amazing.

The Flaming Lips are usually pretty upbeat and positive.  This film is overall pretty dark and negative, although there is always a ray of light shining through it.  I’m not going to give away the ending, though.

The CD is the soundtrack to the film.  It is not for the casual listener, or even necessarily for the Flaming Lips fan.  There’s no lyrics at all.  And the score is very befitting of a “lost in space at Christmastime” movie.  Unlike the typical Lips’ mood, the soundtrack is quite dark (and short at about half an hour).  The overall feel is ambient, but restless ambient.  And there’s very little in the way of tunes.  That’s not a criticism, as it is a soundtrack to the film, it’s just a warning for those expecting another “Waitin’ for a Superman.”  Although I admit it won’t be getting a lot of play in my house.

[READ: December 16, 2008] One Night @ the Call Center

A patron asked me to order Chetan Bhagat’s newest novel for her.  In the process, she told me that this novel, One Night @ the Call Center was very funny, and had finally gotten released over here.  I don’t always listen to patron suggestions, but for some reason this one stuck with me, so I inter-library loaned it.

As the title suggests, this story is set in a call center, and all the action takes place in one night (with some flashbacks).  The characters are six twenty-something Indians living in Delhi.  They work for Connections, a call center for an American appliance manufacturer. And their shift is from 10PM-2AM. (more…)

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yousuckSOUNDTRACK: FOXBORO HOT TUBS-Stop Drop & Roll!!! (2008)

fhtThis is the least cleverly concealed “side-project” in rock history.  At this point Billie-Joe Armstrong’s voice is so recognizable, that it’s impossible for him to hide.  But Foxboro Hot Tubs were a way for Green Day to release something different after their mega-successful American Idiot album.

I mean, how do you follow up a number-one reaching concept album?  Answer: drop all pretense, drop all complexity, and churn out a dozen songs that sound like they were written and recorded in your garage.

At first listen I didn’t like the album very much. Well, that’s not true.  I liked the first song, “Stop Drop and Roll” quite a bit, but the rest of the record got a little repetitive for me.  And, worst offense: they TOTALLY ripped off “You Really Got Me” by the Kinks for their song “Alligator.”  I mean, chord riffs, chord changes, even the chorus are so close as to be actually irritating.

It was only after listening more carefully that I realized that FHT rip off a lot more than the Kinks.  And, although not quite a pastiche like The Rutles, the ripping off is more of an homage/twist, rather than just cheesy thievery (because honestly, who thinks that Green Day could get away with ripping off the Kinks’ most popular song?)

On my last listen through I heard “I’m Not Your Stepping Stone” in “Sally,” “Roadrunner” in “She’s a Saint Not a Celebrity,” some earlier Green Day songs (like “When I Come Around” ) in “Pedestrian” and “Run Run Run” by the Who in “27th Ave. Shuffle”

After getting past those “influences” the album is mostly fun (especially the flute (!) solo in “Dark Side of the Night.”  They’re clearly not trying to write the next epic, they’re just cleansing their palette before their real follow up.  And, heck, the fact that it actually did quite well in radioland didn’t hurt either.  Foxboro Hot Tubs make some fun garage rock.

[READ: Winter 2008] You Suck

Christopher Moore’s book covers are very striking.  That’s not a good reason to read his books, though.  The titles are also pretty funny.  Which is also not a good reason to read his books.  It’s the content inside that is the reason to read him.  A little while ago I had read Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal and it was very fun indeed.  So, I picked up You Suck, which was his most current one at the time.

I didn’t realize it was a sequel to Bloodsucking Fiends until after I started reading it, but I didn’t find that to be a problem.  (more…)

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