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Archive for December, 2009

SOUNDTRACK: RHEOSTATICS-The Nightline Sessions (1998).

This is a fascinating document for any Rheostatics fan.  I wound up buying it at the same time as Double Live, even though I couldn’t tell exactly what it was because it was really cheap.

And what it is is a night of the Rheostatics playing on the final night of the CBC Radio show Nightlines.  The notes state that the host of the show had been a huge fan for years and had tried to get the band on a few times.  He ultimately decided that they would be the prefect guest for the final show of the series.

It opens fairly seriously with some very simply orchestrated (guitars, bass, drums) versions of Rheos songs: “The Junction Foil Ball” would be recorded officially on Night of the Shooting Stars.  And “Stolen Car” only otherwise available on Double Live, absolutely kicks in this version.

The bulk of the disc is the Rheos fooling around in the studio. There’s some improv, there’s some tape manipulation, there’s a lengthy rap (“Trans Jam”), there’s Bidini being silly on the mike (“This is Nightlines”) and even a quaint little ditty, “Henry’s Musical Beard.”

I’m not sure if an album has ever been released that was so specifically just for fans of a band.  And not even casual fans, but die-hards who would enjoy hearing the band goofing off.  The “proper” tracks are definitely enjoyable, but there’s a lot of nonsense here (okay, yes, some of it is quite funny).

[READ: December 24, 2009] Love the Way You Love: Side A

I’ve always liked Jamie Rich’s stories.  He’s written some full-on fiction in addition to his comics.  And they’re both solid, romantic works.  Ellerby’s drawing style is rather cartoony (big eyes and often outlandish hair, but it works in context).  This is especially so since this story is about teens/post-teens and rock bands.

This book collects the first three (of six) volumes of this series.

The plot is fairly straightforward: Tristan is lead singer of the band Like a Dog.  The band is on the verge of breaking big and the labels guys are on the prowl. One particular label guy is drooling to get his hands on Like a Dog.

At about the same time, Tristan saw the woman of his dreams at the airport. She then showed up at that evening’s Like a Dog gig.  Tristan is blissed until he learns that Isobel, for that is her name, is engaged to the same awful label guy.  Boo.  (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: KISS-Dressed to Kill (1975).

I feel like I used to  give this disc short shrift because (horrors) its cover is in black and white.  But, unlike the first two discs which were heavy (poppy, but heavy), Dressed to Kill is very anthemic and, well, a little wimpy.  Despite these caveats, I still know every word to the disc, and I do rather enjoy it.

In fact, the first four songs on the disc are not featured on Alive!.  It starts out really poppy with “Room Service” which has a pretty wild guitar solo.  The next track, “Two Timer” is a Gene-sung slow track which even has Gene getting into a spoken word bit: “That’s the truth baby, you’re a two timer.”  “Ladies in Waiting” is one of those fun Kiss songs that starts out a little off-sounding but ends up being a really poppy singalong.  “Getaway” continues a trend of songs that Ace wrote but which Peter sings.  (Evidently Ace didn’t feel confident in his vocals yet).  The side ends with the cool “Rock Bottom,” a slow, pretty guitar intro opens into a rocking song.

This is the rare Kiss disc where Side Two has more hits than Side One.  “C’mon and Love Me” (an unusual request, frankly) is a fun rocker with a lot of baby baby’s.  “Anything for My Baby” is a really upbeat song which amuses me for all of the things that he swears he would do for her: steal, wheel and deal, crawl or kneel, etc.  Next is “She,” one of the all-time great Kiss songs.  It’s heavy, it’s menacing, it has an awesome guitar riff and a great guitar solo.  The fact that they tucked it away in the middle of side two is really weird.  “Love Her All I Can” is a fast rocker that’s followed by Kiss’ most popular song of all time, “Rock And Roll All Nite.”  At this point in my Kiss listening career I’m a little tired of this song.  It’s a very catchy anthem, no doubt, but it’s really not a very good song as far as Kiss songs go.

The recordings for the Kiss Alive! disc were taken on the Dressed to Kill tour and yet the live album has the fewest songs taken from this album.  It’s kind of funny that their most popular song comes at the end of this disc.

[READ: December 22, 2009] Wet Moon

This is a fantastic goth-inspired graphic novel with the absolutely worst title ever.  Wet Moon is the name of the town the book is set in, but it is never mentioned beyond the welcome sign, and I just can’t imagine what inspired the name.

Okay, actually, I just looked up wet moon on Wikipedia, and found out that it is an astronomical term for when the “horns” of a crescent moon point up, away from the earth (like devil horns).  And so I completely take back my complaint, as I now think the term is pretty cool and very appropriate.

And that is the only thing that I find disagreeable about this book.  (Well, actually I don’t like the lettering either, but more on that on a moment).

The town of Wet Moon is a college town where goths live and thrive (and no doubt many fans of the book wish the could live there).  Our heroine is Cleo, a young, slightly overweight goth with a pierced nose and bottom lip.  She has just moved out of her parents house and is living on campus.  (There is an implication that her house is a dorm, but if so, it is the single most beautiful dorm ever, anywhere, so I’ll pretend it’s an apartment–I mean, there’s a walk-out balcony for cripes sake). (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: KISS-Hotter Than Hell (1974).

Kiss’s second album came out just 7 months after their debut (which explains why it is less than half an hour long).

In my mind the album sounds different because it is somehow Japanese (I mean the cover is something of an indicator).  But it’s not Asian in any way.  Although, the album definitely sounds different than the debut and it’s clearly a recording style choice.

But this is one of the beloved early Kiss albums and I love every track, even the really crazy ones (“Goin’ Blind” is about a 93 year-old man lusting after a 16 year-old girl(!)).

The album starts with the crazily poppy “Got to Choose” complete with whoo hoo hoos in the chorus.  It’s followed by the blistering “Parasite” a fantastic fast riff with some cool vocal tricks at the end of each verse.  “Goin’ Blind” also features some cool slow riffs that are quite distinctive.  The title track & “Let Me Go, Rock n’ Roll” are pretty well known, and “Let Me Go” was played for many years live.

The second side is a bit more odd and seems to showcase Peter a lot more.  “All the Way” is a poppy Gene track and I’m not entirely sure what it’s all about (surprisingly not that “all the way” since “one of these days you’ll push me all the way”).  “Watchin’ You” is a great, dark song which has a really cool cowbell-fueled midsection, and gives Peter a great workout on drums.  “Mainline” is Peter’s poppy vocal track (like really poppy), while “Comin’ Home” is a Paul-sung song about (sort of like “100,000 Years”) returning home to his beloved.  “Strange Ways” is Peter’s other contribution.  This one is dark and really quite cool, with an awesomely wild, freaky guitar solo from Ace.

It’s something of an overlooked record, which is a shame as there’s some good stuff on it.

[READ: December 21, 2009] The Color of Earth

This is my first manhwa comic and I adore it.  Manhwa is (if I may be offensively simplistic) basically Korean manga (at least it is often marketed that way).  However, there are many many differences in style and tone.  And, if this manhwa is in any way representative of them all, (and of course it isn’t, but we can simplify) they are gorgeous!

Sarah received this trilogy of books by Kim Dong Hwa (The Color of Earth, The Color of Water, The Color of Heaven) and after reading this first one, I’m really excited about the rest.

The story is very simple: it follows the growth and development of Ehwa from age 7 to age 15 as she matures in a Korean village several generations ago.  The setting is extremely rural, and there are almost no amenities to be seen.  Ehwa’s father died when she was very young, so she lives with her mother in their tiny house.

Her mother owns an inn, and she must tolerate the crude comments and innuendos of her drunken customers.  Unfortunately for Ehwa, she learns a lot about the world from what she hears there.  She also gets an education from the village boys, who are foolish and impetus as little boys are (asking her why she doesn’t have a penis, and, later, to show them her persimmon seed). (more…)

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[cue music]:

I saw these stats come sailing in, on Christmas Day on Christmas Day.
I hit 60,000 views on Christmas Day in the mor-ning.

I hit 30,000 views back in March, and I was quite thrilled.  When I started the blog in May of 2007 I didn’t expect to get all that many views, it was more or less a blog to keep track of my books and maybe have other people comment too.  And so, it took nearly two years to get to 30,000.  Imagine how delightful it is to reach the next 30,000 views in the span of just nine months!

So thanks everyone for checking out what I had to say.  And thanks also for all the comments.  As with the first 30,000, I’ve included the stats that have brought me to this hallowed (but random) spot.  And I must add that Infinite Summer, which is underrepresented in my top ten posts, was absolutely essential for this huge spike in views (thanks DFW fans).  But, by far the biggest surprise was the surge that came from the first book(s) on the list below.  I posted about the Ulysses Moore series in April.  And it was by far the most frequently sought and (presumably) read post on the blog.  So, Scholastic Publishing, if you read this, please note the craving that my readers have for the rest of the series!  And please update your site!!

So, anyhow, thanks all.  Listed below are the Top Ten (and a few extra) viewed posts on my blog.  Happy New Year!

(more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: RHEOSTATICS-Melville (1991).

This fantastic Rheostatics album was one of the last ones I bought for some reason.  It came after their debut, Greatest Hits, and is quite a departure for that more simplistic disc.

It opens with the two minute “Record Body Count,” which sets the tone for the disc.  It’s quirky, with different pacings and loud/soft parts, and is quite affecting.  In fact, the entire rest of the disc is quirky and off beat, as befits a disc with a big whale on the cover.

Three great tracks on this disc are “Saskatchewan,” “Horses” and “Aliens (Christmas 1988).”  And the CD comes with a bonus track of their cover of “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald” which is rocking and swaying as a good nautical track should.

The CD ends with “You Are Very Star” a track that ended their live shows.  On the disc, the track is a series of hockey announcements with quiet whistles as the song fades away,

Rheostatics are definitely an unusual band.  Martin Tielli’s voice goes into high registers at unexpected times, he also sing-speaks (and you can hear the Canadian accent) at times.  Tim Vesely and Dave Bidini also have vocal duties, and their more mellow style adds for a nice contrast.  But basically, what you get is unpredictable rock.  And really, there’s nothing better than that.  Especially when, once you get comfortable with the songs, you realize just how catchy they are.

Melville, it’s in Saskatchewan, and it rocks.

[READ: December 21, 2009] Salt Water Taffy: The Legend of Old Salty

This is a delightful all ages comic set on the coast of Maine.  As the story opens we see brothers Jack and Benny (I did wonder if there is some connection to Jack Benny, but I’d have to say no) driving to their summer house in Maine.  Benny is younger and having fun playing the license plate game while Jack is absorbed in his gameboy. (more…)

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We had a huge amount of snow, so I made this snowdino.  Grrr.

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SOUNDTRACK: DARK WAS THE NIGHT: This Disc (2009).

This compilation was released to benefit the Red Hot organization, who raises money to fight AIDS.  I’ve gotten about a half dozen or so of their compilations over the years (and was surprised to see that they have released about 2o of them!).

This collection is a two disc set of contemporary cutting edge indie rock bands.  And, when it came out it was definitely billed as a who’s who of cool.  The first disc is more or less an acoustic/folky collection of songs.  While that’s not entirely true, the discs are more or less broken down that way.  The artists include David Byrne & The Dirty Projectors, Jose Gonzales, Feist (on two tracks), Bon Iver, The National (a band I don’t know but whose song I love) and Iron & Wine.

Probably the coolest song of the disc (although not my favorite) is Kronos Quartet’s take on Blind Willie Johnson’s “Dark was the Night.”  For years, Kronos has been interpreting rock and other genre songs to fit into their string quartet style.  And this song sounds amazing.  I’ve no idea what they’re doing, but they turn their standard quartet instruments: violin, cello, etc into really cool blues sounding strings (even a slide guitar at one point).  It’s really amazing.  As I said it’s not my favorite track, but it sounds great.

The Decembersists contribute a 7 minute song (that I believe is new as I don’t recognize it).  It’s very good, but it seems like the kind of song that normally would have had a lot of effects/orchestration on it.  And this is an acoustic rendition, so it sounds more sparse than I would think.  It’s still very good though.

Finally, the disc ends with the weirdest track, an 11 minute freak out by Sufjan Stevens.  Every time you think it’s going to end, it morphs into a new instrument which continues the track.  It works well as a soundscape, although it’s a bit tedious in comparison to the rest of the disc which is largely concise acoustic gems.

Disc one is a great collection of tracks, and the overall style works well together.  It’s a very worthy collection of songs and it’s for a good cause.

[READ: December 18, 2009] Love as a Foreign Language 1

This graphic novel is the kind of great romance story that I’ve come to expect from Oni.  It is clever, it is funny, it plays games with pop culture and, of course, the writing and art are fantastic.

Joel is a Canadian living in Korea teaching English to native Koreans.  The book opens with the 4 H’s of culture shock: The honeymoon (you love the place), the horror (you hate the place), the humor (you accept the place and its flaws) and the home (you see yourself living there).  Joel is clearly in the horror stage.  He hates everything about Korea, especially the food. Joel has a few months left on his contract but he wants to get out of it and just go home. (more…)

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