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Archive for June, 2009

mojoBack oh, fifteen years ago, I subscribed to Mother Jones.  I also subscribed to an unvaried assortment of political mags: The Nation, The Progressive, and In These Times.  But as I grew less politically motivated, I slacked off on the subscriptions.  I just didn’t have time to read all of that.

Recently, I added Mother Jones to my Google Home page.  I started seeing some good headlines, so I thought I’d look into resubscribing.  And for $10, I got a year.

At first I was a bit disappointed in it.  The first issue I received had the cover story: Who Ran Away With Your 401K?  And frankly, it’s gone, I don’t really need to see the trail of footprints leading to a culprit that will never be punished.  And that is the general focus of MoJo: Follow stories that no one is covering; muckrake, if you will.  And they’re very good at it.  And yet, most of the time I feel like nothing really comes of it.  Knowing that someone is at fault doesn’t make them pay for it (most of the time).

The other problem I had was with what we can call liberal guilt.  I’ve got better things to worry about, frankly.  So, when I get an article like this in the current issue: What’s Your Water Footprint? And the subtitle is If you thought calculating your carbon impact made you feel guilty, just wait….  Well, I’m not going to read that.

So the magazine starts like most magazines: the Out Front section is full of short articles that are usually depressing.

I do enjoy Conspiracy Watch, a small box that delves into a current conspiracy (by any side of the political spectrum) and sees if there’s any merit to it (with a rating in tinfoil hats).

There’s usually a look at someone in the administration and then some heavy-hitting articles.  This particular issue is all about the Drug War.  So there’s an article about drug violence in Mexico.  But then a more light-hearted, I suppose, article about drugs in the U.S., including a timeline for drug issues, was more interesting.  This particular one was a first-person account of the war on drugs.

The muckraking article was about the car dealers who steal from military families. (more…)

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walrus juneSOUNDTRACK: MOXY FRÜVOUS-Thornhill (1999).

thornhillThe final “proper” Moxy Früvous disc is something of a return to the days of Wood (see, the cover art isn’t silly at all, and it’s a photo not a drawing). It’s not as dire and claustrophobic as Wood but it also doesn’t really have too many silly moments.

Unlike Wood,this disc feels very full, very robust.  My initial response was minor disappointment that it didn’t have many silly moments (except, perhaps “Splatter Splatter”).  And yet, after many listens I’ve concluded that it’s is one of their richest, most complex discs, and it’s very rewarding.

The opening song “Half as Much” is very full and sounds not unlike Canada’s own Sloan.  In fact, the whole disc sounds a bit more like Sloan than any other previous comparisons.  “You Can’t Be too Careful” has great full harmonies (and actually sounds a bit like Weezer (!)).  “I Will Hold On” is another great acoustic power song where they harmonize wonderfully.

“Earthquakes” is a silly rollicking song, (at least as rollicking as this disc can do).  “When She Talks” is almost too delicate for its own good, but the melody is really strong.

Then you get to the crazy song “Splatter Splatter.”  This song rocks. And it’s quite funny, with the noir guitar lines and the horror movie conceit. I want to hear it again and again and again.

“Independence Day” spins out a wonderful chorus after a somewhat uninspiring start.  And the ending track “My Poor Generation” is a great, winning song.  It’s a bit somber, but again, the full chorus redeems it.

Their albums tend to suffer from late-album mellowness.  And even if their songs are strong, the song placement tends to make you ignore those latter tracks.  But the albums are still really good.

Moxy Früvous are often described as a silly band, but their overall output belies that designation.  Rather, they were just a great band.

[READ: June 25, 2009] “Water Everywhere, 1982”

This story was a tough one for me.  It references a real event in Canadian history that I never heard of: the sinking of the Ocean Ranger, in 1982 (this Wikipedia article will fill you in on the history of the ship).

Helens’ husband was aboard the Ocean Ranger.  The story deals with her (in)ability to cope with the news. Not much “happens” in the story but it pays very great attention to grief and how a whole community is affected by tragedy.

The story is available here.

For easier searching I’m also adding this spelling: Moxy Fruvous.

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walrusjuly SOUNDTRACK: MOXY FRÜVOUS-You Will Go to The Moon (1997).

moonMoxy Früvous’ fourth disc is their most well-rounded. It runs a full gamut of styles from pop to silly to ragga and a capella.

“Michigan Militia” begins the disc with a banjo-fueled rap about well, the Michigan Militia. It is topical, (meaning dated, although I suppose they are still around) and takes a pointed look at right-wingers. “Get in the Car” is upbeat and poppy, an R.E.M.-type alterna-rock song. “Ive Gotta Get a Message to You” is a Bee Gees cover! And it is as catchy as the Bee Gees can be (although far less disco-y).

“Lazlo’s Career” is a smooth folksy acoustic track with fun interstitial bits.
There’s some mellow tracks in the middle, until “No No Raja” breaks out some cool middle eastern sounds. “The Incredible Medicine Show” is a great psychedelic-Beastlesesque song about plastic surgery and other quick fixes. Catchy and pointed.

Meanwhile, “Your New Boyfriend” is fast paced and great (“Your new boyfriends a bit…of a right wing shit”). “Kick in the Ass” is hilarious barbershop (with drums) song about people who deserve a kick in the ass (telemarketers calling during supper, that guy who wrote the book about the bell curve). “Boo Time” is a jazzy fast paced bit of nonsense.

“Love Set Fire” would be the closest to “The Drinking Song” or “Gulf War Song” (from Bargainville), but doesn’t quite reach the majesty of those masterpieces. And finally, the title track is a full a capella treat about futuristic life on the moon.

There’s a funny thread on Amazon reviews about this disc being anti-American.  Yet really the only people who should be offended by “Michigan Militia” is the Michigan Militia.  It’s not anti-USA it’s anti-creepy-right-wing-separatists.  Plus, listen to all of the US fans singing along to it on Live Noise.

[READ: June 24, 2009] “The True Sorrows of Calamity Jane”

This story is the final of the four stories in The Walrus‘ Summer Fiction Issue.  This one is described as a Western, although it’s only a Western in that it is set in the West and concerns Calamity Jane and Wild Bill Hickok.  Now, I don’t know a single thing about these two characters, historically.

Did they date?  Beats me.  But in this story they did. And the narrator is the offspring of Calamity Jane (but not Wild Bill).  (more…)

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walrusjuly SOUNDTRACK: MOXY FRÜVOUS–The “b” album (1996).

bAfter the somberness of Wood, Moxy Früvous no doubt had to get some nonsense out of their system.  And this collection of “b” sides is full of nonsense.  It is funny and silly and smart and sassy and I think it winds up being many people’s favorite discs, despite being only about 20 minutes long.

It’s a bit silly and possibly dated (allmusic chides the Rush Limbaugh song (“The Greatest Man in America”) for being dated, although scarily here we are 12 years later and he’s back.  And the song is still spot on.

So we have ten songs, and they’re all great.  “I Love My Boss” is an a capella ditty about well, loving your boss.  I mentioned “Johnny Saucep’n” as the reason I got into MF in the first place. Man what a great song, a near-acapella beauty with an unreasonable list of foodstuffs (try this as fast as you can:

Basil endive parmesan shrimp live
Lobster hamster worchester muenster
Caviar radiccio snow pea scampi
Roquefort meat squirt blue beef red alert
Pork hocs side flank cantaloupe/sheep shanks Provolone flatbread goat’s head soup
Gruyere cheese angelhair please
And a vichyssoise and a cabbage and a crawfish claw.

How anyone can keep it straight, sing it fast and make it sound so good is beyond me. “Ash Hash” is a humorous look at smoking a bit too much hash. “Gord’s Gold” was the one song I didn’t like on this disc, until I got the Gordon Lightfoot album and realized that this is a kind of twisted tribute to GL.

“Big Fish ” is a fantastic song (and more or less the only “real” song on the disc, although the childlike voices singing the chorus are a bit silly); a pointed song about growing up conservative. “Jenny Washington” is a silly song about outrageous talk shows. “The Kids Song” has a lot of fun with rhymes and the idea that kids can help with our problems (since they are the future):

Is there something you like? (squirt-gunning my dog!)
Is there something you hate? (when my turtle ate my gerbil)
Is it fun to take a bath (no…sometimes…yes)
Should Quebec separate?

This is Moxy’s silliest side. Not for all, but certainly for me.

[READ: June 24, 2009] “Real Estate”

The third story in The Walrus’ Summer Fiction Issue is listed as the haunting genre (as opposed to a horror story) and that makes a lot of sense.  The story is not scary; it is about a woman who lives with ghosts.

She moves into an apartment that is owned by a relative but is going to be sold.  It is largely empty and she is staying there to keep an eye on it and show it when it needs showing.

She soon realizes that there is someone else in the building.  She hears him walking around but never sees him.  She also has the bizarre sensation of thinking she has food in the fridge but when she looks it is invariably something else.  This seems to happen most often with string cheese. (more…)

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walrusjuly SOUNDTRACK: MOXY FRÜVOUS-Wood (1995).

wood

Moxy Früvous is a band that can totally be judged by their covers.  Their first album had a cartoon animal dog thingy, and the disc was whimsical and fun.  Wood, their second disc shows the quartet in an autumnal scene covered in sweaters.  And the content is autumnal and snug.  There’s very little whimsy on the disc. It’s as if they fully matured in two short years.

I would say that this is my least favorite of the MF discs.  However, it also contains my all-time favorite MF song: “Fly” so I can’t dismiss it entirely.

In fact, the first 5 or so songs are all really enjoyable.  I find myself singing “horseshoes have got to be tossed” (from “Horsehoes”) all the time for some reason.  And then we get “Fly.”  It starts out simply enough with an acoustic guitar, but as it builds and the harmonies come in, “we’ll take a last flight you and I….Hold on tight” it’s amazing every time.

“Present Tense Tureen” is similar to the Bargainville style of wit, although it is banjo infused folk rather than pop.  And “Poor Mary Lane” has a Beatlesque stomp going on.

From there the album sort of drifts into pretty, fairly undistinguished folk songs. “Nuits in Rêve” is a 6 minute folk ballad in French.  It’s very pretty, although I don’t know what it’s about.  Finally, the last song “Sad Today” wakes the disc up somewhat, as it feels likes something of a drunken shanty.  There’s also a bonus track called “Organ Grinder” (I suppose) that is the funnest, craziest thing on the disc and feels like pure insanity compared to the rest.  It’s a big shit-stompin’ song.

So as I say, the disc is quite different from the first.  It even feels a little claustrophobic in the production which is something I don’t really notice.  I’m not sure why the band left out their fun songs, maybe so they wouldn’t be pegged a novelty act, but they are sorely missed.

(It’s also likely why they release b shortly afterward).

[READ: June 24, 2009] “The Nerve”

This is the second short story in The Walrus‘  Short Story issue.  This one is labeled as Romance genre, and yet it also transcends the genre and is more  about a man falling in love than any of the other romance tropes. (more…)

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jestSOUNDTRACK: HÜSKER DÜ-Land Speed Record (1982).

landspeedMentioning Hüsker Dü during the Replacements reviews made me bust out their records too.  Land Speed Record was their first release, and it always amazed me that their first record was a live record.

It is an amazing blast of hardcore punk.

It is poorly recorded, stupidly fast and impossible to follow.  The CD is divided into two track (sides one and two) despite the 17 songs.  Most of the songs are simple, balls-out screaming punk.  In fact, it’s surprising how much you can tell it is Hüsker Dü given how shouty Bob Mould sounds.

In truth, it’s not entirely impossible to follow one song to the next (there are times when you can hear the choruses (“Guns at My School” and “Do the Bee” stand out).  But really it’s a pretty shocking discovery for anyone familiar with their alterna-pop that would come later.

The one real highlight is the final song, “Data Control.” It slows the pace and adds some mood (although it’s not that easy to discern).  But it contains a great deal of depth (for this album) and suggests that maybe the Hüskers were going to be more than a simple hardcore band.

The funniest part is that after the 25 minutes or so of noise, Bob Mould says, “we’ll be back for another set.”

[READ: Week of June 22, 2009] Infinite Jest [78 pages + endnotes]

So as I said, I’m going to be doing this Infinite Summer thing, reading 75 or so pages every week.  I haven’t figured out what I’m going to say each week, just some observations and characters to help keep things straight.  But there will be spoilers, so be warned.

Having read this before certainly helps put some context on things, even if I don’t remember a lot of the book.  But, for instance, it helps to know ahead of time that the “Year” chapter headings have been subsidized.  However, I don’t remember the chronology of them at this point.  See below, footnote endnote for more on the chronology.

The characters:   (as of page 78): (more…)

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walrusjulySOUNDTRACK: MOXY FRÜVOUS-Bargainville (1993).

moxyI first heard Moxy Früvous on an NPR weekend morning show. They performed “Johnny Saucep’n” (a tongue twisting a capella marvel) live and it blew my mind.  And, lest I forget, these 4 guys do AMAZING a capella. Amazing. Their harmonies are simply magnificent. I immediately went out and got whatever their latest album was (Live Noise, I expect). And I worked my way back from there.

Bargainville
is the band’s first disc. It is youthful and silly and is a good mix of their folky sound and their silly songs. Comparisons to Barenaked Ladies abound as they are both Canadian and “funny”. The Früvous funny is more witty than silly, although silliness definitively crops up.

I think of Früvous as one of my favorite bands because, without question, they have written some of my favorite songs. And yet, not every song is a favorite.  But even the ones that don’t blow you away are solid and good.

I don’t have anything bad to say about this disc. In fact, it’s a great disc to put on with friends, and pick out the occasional great couplet. But I’m not certain that the disc will blow you away.

There are some outstanding tracks on here. “River Valley” is a beautiful acoustic track about saving the river alley and its drinking water. “Stuck in the 90s” is catchy as all get out” “Fell in Love” is a great song full of sweeping vocal moments. “The Lazy Boy” is another one of those great a capella moments that amazes. Its also a very silly song with references to Charlie’s Angels (the blonde one, the third one).  In fact this whole section of the disc is fantastic. “My Baby Loves a Bunch of Authors” is an amazing track about, well, books and authors. What’s not to like. See how many authors you recognize! It’s also amazing how catchy one can be with literary rhymes (Who’s pounding the ouzo? Mario Puzo).

“The Drinking Song” is one of their more serious songs and it is terrific. Substance, sadness, superb  And, amazingly moving. “King of Spain” is silliness beyond belief. And yet, seeing this song live is a treat and a half. Plus how many songs get to rhyme “zamboni?” The disc ends with “Gulf War Song” an a capella song that is quite serious and very passionate.  A fantastic ending to this disc.

Future discs would be a bit more serious, but this is a great start.

Oh and if anyone has a copy of the Indie Tape they’d like to copy for me, I’d love to get “Green Eggs N’ Ham,” which I hear on the radio from time to time but have never seen anywhere.  Thanks Kids Corner for playing this track on WXPN in Philadelphia!

[READ: June 23, 2009] “The Crow Procedure”

This issue of The Walrus is the Summer Fiction Issue.  It seems to be dedicated to “genres” specifically.  Each story is devoted to a genre (and there’s even a genre fiction contest this issue).  This first one is science fiction.

The twist seems to be that although the stories are in genres, they move beyond what we normally consider genre fiction. (more…)

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