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Archive for September, 2010

SOUNDTRACK: RAPEMAN-Two Nuns an a Pack Mule (1989).

One of Steve Albini’s many groups, Rapeman made one album and an EP (both are included on the CD).  Probably the most striking thing about this CD is Albini’s guitar which is so sharp it practically hurts (and when your guitar is more notable than the lyrics from a band named Rapeman, you know that sound is pretty striking).  [You can hear hints of this sound on Nirvana’s In Utero (which Albini produced), particularly the screamy parts of “Scentless Apprentice”.  The template is the same, although Nirvana’s drums are much much bigger. And, of course, Albini leaves the sonic edge really sharp for himself].

Although the guitar is what really stands out on this disc, the album would be far less interesting if the rhythm section wasn’t so strong.  The bass is mixed really well, running lines that are never in concert with the guitar lines but which blend nicely and provide some needed low end.  And the drums are sharp and punctuate the noise perfectly.

The opening of “Monobrow” is squeaks and feedback (I wonder if you could even write the music for it).  When the rhythm kick in, it gives a herky jerky momentum.  There’s an interesting twist on a song like “Trouser Minnow” which is written from a woman’s perspective (and yet she’s not an exemplary woman either) so you can read it a couple of ways.  Of course, the opener, “Steak and Black Onions” is unequivocal: “Why don’t you snuff it man, you plant-eating pussy.”

But there’s definitely a sense of humor to all of this.  In “Up beat” Albini gets angry and suggests that he’d beat a guy up.  It ends, “I suppose I’m not too threatening presently.  But wait till I start Nautilus.”  There’s also something funny (I think) about them covering ZZ Top’s “Just Got Paid.”  Funny or not, this version rocks like no one’s business, and it shows that Albini can actually play the guitar, not just make noise.

The Budd EP was recorded live.  I love the description of the review here.  It sounds less screechy (and more bass heavy), but no less menacing.

[READ: September, 16, 2010] The Wasp Factory

I bought this book many many years ago (I found a card in the pages from when I used to live in Brighton, MA (circa 1992) as a “bookmark.”  But I think that the bookmark must have been not a real placeholder as nothing in the book was familiar, I just knew that it was supposed to be a dark, disturbing book.

And so it is.

The story concerns Frank, a 16-year-old who lives on an island outside of Scotland (my knowledge of Scottish geography is awful, so I don’t know exactly what he meant by an island, but suffice it to say that Frank’s family is isolated where they live).  Frank is a disturbed individual.  As the story opens, we learn that death and carnage follow Frank everywhere.  In fact, Frank admits responsibility for three of these deaths. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: BARENAKED LADIES-The Yellow Tape (1991).

The Yellow Tape is legendary in terms of demos.  It was an indie cassette-only release and it went platinum in Canada.

Before the internet, it was really hard to come across this cassette (again, even though it went platinum in Canada, I don’t know that it ever even made it south of the border).  Of course, now with the web, you can hear all 5 tracks on the cassette (thanks YouTube).

Four of the 5 songs appeared on their first album anyhow, and they don’t sound dramatically different from the “Yellow” versions (“Brian Wilson” still has that awesome bass from Jim Creeggan for instance). It basically sounds like an early live recording.  (The harmonies are spot on, the only difference is Steven Page’s vamping, which is a bit more than on the release).  Although I think “Blame It on Me” sounds a little less exciting than the Gordon version.

And of course, the final track is their original cover of “Fight the Power.”

It’s interesting that the band chose these 5 songs, two of which talk about famous people and are sort of funny. (And then a cover of a Public Enemy song!)  It really sets them up as a goofy band (which they are, although they are much more than that), but it kind of put them in a novelty niche right off the bat.   A niche which they never really outgrew, even if their later discs were much more serious.

[READ: August 17, 2010] “Second Lives”

Daniel Alarcón is another New Yorker 20 Under 40.

I love the way this story begins.  It informs us that the narrator’s parents had the foresight to have their first child in the United States.  His parents were in Baltimore on a visa.  His father enrolled in school and his mother worked in the health care profession.  They were comfortable enough in their lives to have their son Francisco there.  But then a coup broke out back home, their visas are not renewed and they were forced to return home.  Their second son, the narrator, with whom his mother was pregnant at the time wound up being born not in America.

And so, when your brother has American citizenship and can freely roam the American countryside, what exactly are you supposed to think when you are denied this freedom? (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: ODDS-Neopolitan (1991).

This was the first Odds album.  For such a quirky name, Odds played some pretty standard music. I’m not even sure if the first song qualifies as “alternative” as it sounds not unlike an early Phish song, only less quirky (and much shorter).

The disc offers a pretty nice range of poppy tracks, from acoustic based songs like “Are You Listening?” to louder guitar rockers liked “Evolution Time” (probably the most interesting track here).

Another notable song is “Wendy Under the Stars” a surprisingly explicit song about the day Elvis died.  The other track that stands out is “Love is the Subject” which has a harder more abrupt sound that is actually a bit premature for that style and sounds quite funky for this album.

Lyrically, the cleverest song (and one that seems to foreshadow their future songs is “Domesticated Blind” “Making babies, buying houses.  A French guy’s name is on our trousers.  We used to be such rabble rousers.  Before the world revolved around us; I’ve been domesticated blind”

I like this album, but I admit that it’s not the kind of disc that makes people go, “Ooh, who is this?  I want to get it!”

[READ: September 12, 2010] “Vogalooooonga”

This is the last of the Outside pieces that Tower wrote (not chronologically, just for my reading schedule).  And I’m really pleased that I saved it for last.

It does what Tower does best: tell a story while relating an event.  In fact, if he just changed a few details, this would make a great short story.

Wells and his brother have apparently been on many “assignments” together, and it transpires that when they travel together they often end up at each others throats.  So the piece opens with them agreeing to never do another story together again.  Then they get a call to go to Venice together to ride in the Vogalonga, “a 19-mile noncompetitive rowing regatta, held in late May, that promises a breathtaking tour of the old republic’s lagoon and outer islands” and that is traversed only in vehicles that can be paddled.  Wells’ brother says that they can’t pass up a trip to Venice, so he agrees to go along.

Based on the other stories that Wells has written, he is an athletic guy (and his brother is evidently bigger and stronger than he is).  Nevertheless, a 19 mile canoe trip in the canals of Venice can only lead to trouble.

And so this piece reads a bit like a David Sedaris story of familial in-fighting (although it’s a lot more manly than any of Sedaris’ pieces).  They fight from the get go (including his brother’s suggestion that they assemble their 17-foot canoe in their 10-foot hotel room.  And aggressive hilarity ensues. (more…)

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[LISTENED TO: Week of September 20, 2010] Ulysses 17-18

The final two Episodes of the Ulysses audio book were a mix of nothing new and massive revelations.

Episode 17, the catechism, doesn’t reveal all that much in the reading.  It’s a fairly straightforward Episode, so there’s not very much in the actual reading that would impact it.  One or two things do become somewhat clearer with the audible emphases but questions like this one are still a beast to unpack:

What counterproposals were alternately advanced, accepted, modified, declined, restated in other terms, reaccepted, ratified, reconfirmed?

Although in Episode 18, Molly says:

he says hes an author and going to be a university professor of Italian and Im to take lessons what is he driving at now

So I guess the Italian lessons plan is settled?  Which gives us some account of Stephen’s future.

But back in 17, this time through I became more aware of the

interment of Mrs Mary Dedalus, born Goulding, 26 June 1903.

So Stephen has been “in mourning” for almost a year.  Is that standard for Ireland at the time?  And how interesting it is that

Rudolph Bloom (Rudolf Virag) died on the evening of the 27 June 1886.

Their parents died on almost the exact same date (different years, obviously).  This is another interesting similarity that is not directly mentioned in the Q&A. (more…)

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Beloved Canadians The Kids in the Hall who were hilarious for five years on their skit show (and who ended their reign while still being very funny) have returned to TV after a sixteen year hiatus (not including their underrated movie Brain Candy and their awesome live tours, naturally).

I was beside myself with excitement when I found out about this show (and I’m rather vexed that I didn’t hear about it until it showed up on IFC recently.  Although I suppose if I had known about it sooner, there’s no way I could have watched it anyhow).   I was also kind of surprised at how little I knew about the show before it started.  How many episodes were there for instance?

So, the details (now that the show has finished its run on IFC, with repeats to come, no doubt): It is an 8 episode mini-series.  All of the Kids are in the show, and they each play multiple roles (although the opening credits and promo stuff suggest that they each play one character).  They play:

Bruce:  Mayor Bowman, “Big City” Lawyer (one of my favorites on the show), and Ricky (an obese man).
Dave: Mrs Bowman, Levon Blanchard (news producer), Dr Porterhouse (The town abortionist), and a wonderfully ambiguously accented, where-the-hell-is-she-from? nurse (my favorite minor character by far).
Kevin: Marnie (a forgetful, middle aged woman), Shaye (the news teams’ sound guy and hipster) and Sam Murray (depressed cat loving DA).
Scott: Crim Hollingsworth (1/16th Native and a great performance by Scott), Heather Weather (the TV weather woman), and Dusty Diamond (town coroner).
Mark: Corrinda Gablechuck (anchorwoman), The Judge, and the titular Death.
Bruce & Mark also play cops, like in the old series.

There are also other actors in the series, and (according to post show interviews) a lot of the locals from Shuckton, Ontario (which is really North Bay) were used as extras.

I admit that I was a little disappointed in the first episode. After the non-stop hilarity of the skit show, this one took some time to get going.  Exposition is a bitch.  But there’s enough humor (the opening with Bruce’s CGI bid for the 2028 Olympics, Death’s arrival on a kids’ bicycle (with a motor), and Dave as the drunken mayor’s wife) to keep the show interesting.

Once the exposition is out of the way though, the story is just fantastic and very funny. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: BARENAKED LADIES-“Fight the Power” (1993).

Public Enemy’s “Fight the Power” is one of the greatest anthems of the late 80s and 90s.  It’s got everything: noise, strength, rebellion great lyrics and Chuck D.  So, what can five white Canadians do with it?

Well, they keep the intensity of the song very strong–even in an acoustic setting–by overloading their version with a whole mess of music.  Between the noisy piano, the occasional sound effects and the fantastic noisy drumming, they manage to really capture what a great “song” this is (as opposed to being a powerful anthem and protest).  Divorced from the awesome cacophony of the original, you realize that it’s really catchy, too.

BNL are usually goofy, and they do put a bit of nonsense in the song (during the Elvis was a hero to most section).  And they clean up one of the words, with a great twist (changing “motherfuck” to David Duke” in “David Duke him and John Wayne).

BNL has been performing this song for years.  Their first version appeared on The Yellow Tape [1991] (a much simpler version with drums, bass and two vocals).  But this version (which as far as I can tell only appears on the Coneheads soundtrack, ugh) is really solid and (aside from the fact that nobody’s voice could ever compare to Chuck D’s) sounds like an good Unplugged version of the track.

[READ: September 14, 2010] “An Arranged Marriage”

Freudenberger is one of the New Yorker‘s 20 Under 40.  I have to say I was (unfairly) surprised that a story written by a woman named Freudenberger was about a woman named Amina who lived in Bangladesh.

Nevertheless, the story was a good one and was an interesting twist on the concept of the titular arranged marriage.  Amina meets George online at AsianEuro.com (after having met several men who were not what they said they were).  Amina (and her parents) had always planned for her to move to America.  Somehow.   She had considered applying for a college degree, but found that even that was prohibitively expensive.  So why not, as the Voice of America radio suggested, find a mate? (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: CITY AND COLOUR-Live @ The Orange Lounge EP (2010).

City and Colour is Dallas Green from Alexisonfire (he’s the one with the good singing voice as opposed to the screamy guy).

This EP contains 6 songs, 4 from his last album Bring me Your Love and the 2 hits from his first album Sometimes.

As with his previous live release [Live CD/DVD], he sings these songs solo.  Each song is done on acoustic guitar.  But unlike that Live album, this disc does not appear to have been recorded in front of an audience.  There is no cheering, no banter, just him and his guitar.

If you’re a fan of Green (and you really like his voice) this is a great release.  There are several spots where he sings in if not acapella, then with very quiet musical accompaniment so his voice is pretty naked.  This is a limited edition EP (apparently) but it’s a really good introduction to the man and his music.

I must say though that I never noticed just how obsessed with death he is!  This recording style really highlights all the times he says death or dead.  Huh.

[READ: September 12, 2010] “Love in the Ruins”

This was the darkest of all of Wells Tower’s Outside magazine pieces.  And although it has some humor, for the most part it was a sad lost-love letter to a city that he once knew.

One year after Hurricane Katrina, Tower went back to New Orlenas to ride his bike.  He had lived in New Orleans for a short time before Katrina hit and he used to ride his bike for long stretches across the Mississippi River levee.  He decided to revisit it to see what it was like after the disaster. (more…)

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