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Archive for September, 2012

SOUNDTRACK: OUT WITH THIS KIDS MUSIC MONTHLY PODCAST (2012).

I am bummed to have literally just discovered this cool podcast.  Each month Out with the Kids plays some ten songs that are kid-friendly.  They’re not all “kids songs” but they are kid friendly.  And it’s a fun way to learn about new music that kids may like.

The blog was started by Jeff Bogle, and he does proper DJ intros and outros (fortunately no “Morning Zoo zaniness”).  The songs are often connected thematically, and he plays a diverse collection of music (for his October podcast, I’d heard of none of the artists before, which is great if all of your kids music awareness comes via Dan Zanes and They Might Be Giants (nothing nothing nothing wrong with them, I love them both) or, heaven forbid Kidz Bop.

So, check him out, and subscribe via iTunes.  What have you got to lose?

[READ: August 2012] Beast Quest 7-12

I wasn’t all that excited to continue this series.  I liked some of the things in the first books, but I was on the fence about whether to continue.  But Clark enjoyed the series, so I figured I’d continue (but hopefully not do all 72 books).  Well, I was pleasantly surprised by this next series.  Although the formula is still in place, Adam Blade played around with the ideas a little bit and made them much more interesting.  Rather than having to rescue beasts who were turned evil, this time, Tom, the 12 (!) year old hero, must go in search of pieces of the golden armor.

But a step back first.  After competing the first 6 quests, Wizard Aduro shows Tom and Elenna the beautiful golden armor that resides in a special room in King Hugo’s castle.  But when they get there they discovered  that the armor has been stolen (in the prologue we see how the  armor was stolen and we know it was Malvel’s doing).  As Book 7 takes off we learn of Tom’s new quest–to find all of the stolen pieces of the armor which are now being guarded by beasts that Malvel has created.  It was kind of fun wondering what the six pieces of armor would be.  They turn out to be a helmet, chain mail, a breast plate, leg armor, boots and gloves and each one gives Tom a special power. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: JOHN DOE AND EXENE CERVENKA at KEXP December 31, 2010 (2010).

X toured the Los Angeles album back in 2010–the 30th anniversary of the album.  John Doe and Exene Cervenka came to KEXP to do an acoustic set and to talk…a lot.  The DJ tells them of when he saw them at age 16.  He had his camera and wanted to be a rock photographer.  He was getting pushed around in the pit and Exene pulled him onstage (he got great photos which I’d love to see).  Surprisingly, Exene does not seem as moved as one might expect by that story.

This is a simple, acoustic set–John with his guitar and he and Exene singing.  They play a few songs from across their career: “Because I Do,” “In This House That I Call Home” (a personal favorite), “True Love” (another favorite) and “See How We Are.”  John still sounds great, although Exene’s voice sounds a little worn on “Because I Do” and is actually hard to listen to on “True Love.”

There’s some really long interviews–talking about drugs and The Germs and the heyday and how Exene can’t wait for 2011 to start.

[READ: August 27, 2012] The Emily Dickinson Reader

This book is “an English-to-English translation of Emily Dickinson’s Complete Poems.”  What?  Well, basically Paul Legualt has taken all of the “poetry” out of Dickinson’s poems and has left us with what the poems might mean to contemporary readers.  But he also reduced them to basically one line summaries as well–or as McSweeney’s says: “ingenious and madcap one-line renderings.”

So you get “translations” like: #314

“Hope” is the thing with feathers –
That perches in the soul –
And sings the tune without the words –
And never stops – at all –

And sweetest – in the Gale – is heard –
And sore must be the storm –
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm –

I’ve heard it in the chillest land –
And on the strangest Sea –
Yet – never – in Extremity, It asked a crumb – of me.

Which Legault translates as: “Hope is kind of like birds. In that I don’t have any.” (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: DEERHOOF-Live at CMJ Gibson Showroom (2008).

I don’t know much about Deerhoof (I certainly didn’t know they’d been around over a decade).  I heard them on Pitchfork TV (they had two videos on it about two years ago which I rather liked).  This set was recorded live at CMJ by KEXP.

The DJ is very familiar with the band, and the repertoire is casual and funny (although the Gibson joke falls flat).  They play four songs and each one is virtually an instrumental.  The voice is mixed so low on “Blue Cash,” I didn’t even realize she was singing until the third time I listened, so I don’t know which songs have words.  “Tears of Music and Love” is a bit wilder (with some great crazy drumming in the middle).  “Fresh Born” has a bit more of a sinister edge what with the intense riff and the scratchy feedbacky bridge.  It’s my favorite song of the set.  “Basketball Get Your Groove Back” sounds a bit like “Roadrunner” so it’s less than thrilling end to the set.

I expected the band to be a lot weirder than this, I admit, but it’s still a good set.  You can listen here.

[READ: September 20, 2012] How to Be Black

Karen at A Just Recompense posted about this book a little while ago and after just a few lines, I had to stop reading her post so I could get the book.  I had no idea who Thurston was before I read the book, but it sounded so good.  And it was.  Although it wasn’t exactly what I was expecting.

This book is a combination autobiography of Thurston and “how to” book.  Thurston went to a Quaker School and a black militant program at the same time and also went to Harvard before becoming a stand up comedian; he’s co-creator of Jack & Jill Politics and director of digital at The Onion (that’s some serious cred for a geek like me).  As I said, in addition to being his autobiography, this is also something of a how-to manual for being black.  It’s funny, but not cheesy-over-the-top funny (stereotypes are played with but also deconstructed), it’s “serious” funny, and it’s very enjoyable.  And it covers topics that one might not expect, like talking about the Nigerians he has met who are offended at his name.  Baratunde is a twist on a Nigerian name, although his family is not Nigerian, his mother wanted him to have a traditional African name.  And he is quite annoyed at the Nigerians who assume he doesn’t know what his named means.  He does (and the example he gives is very funny). (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: JAPANDROIDS-Live on KEXP, June 16, 2009 (2009).

Back in 2009,  one of the guys from Japandroids had surgery and they had to cancel some dates.  That’s only relevant to this because when this set is over, the guitarist is bleeding from his scar.

Japandroids are two guys and they make a lot of noise.  I can recall jamming on guitar with my friend on drums and even when we were totally in synch, we never sounded this good.  It really sounds like there are four or five people playing.  This set has three songs from their debut album and an amazing cover of Big Black’s “Racer X.”

The three  songs are very good and the guys pay hard and fast and, as I said, they sound amazing.  It’s a great set.  You can hear the whole thing here.  There’s also video of the performance.  It’s broken  into two parts.  This is part two, with the blistering cover of “Racer X.”

[READ: September 17, 2012] Bluebeard

I’ve mentioned this book a few times in the last couple of days as something that I’d been struggling with.  And, indeed, I found it to be a little slow going.  I was excited to start reading it because, as the subtitle says, this is an autobiography of Rabo Karabekian, an artist who appeared in Breakfast of Champions–I love that Vonnegut keeps working within his own universe.  But there was something about the early pages of the story that were just not that compelling.

Rabo is having a hard time getting his book going, and while that is a dramatic effect, I had a hard time getting into the book too.  It’s not that complicated of a story.  There are really only about a half dozen characters in the book:

Rabo–he is an American Abstract Expressionist painter (contemporary of Jackson Pollack, Jasper Johns, et al).
Circe Berman–she is an author who writes under the pseudonym Polly Madison (ha).  Madison’s books look at the real life of American young people and are staggeringly popular.
Paul Slazinger–Rabo’s next door neighbor who spends most of his time in Rabo’s house, although he and Rabo mostly ignore each other.  Slazinger is a writer with a decades long writer’s block.
Dan Gregory–a famous artist for whom Rabo apprenticed.  Gregory was such a good detailist that he once created a perfect forgery of a bill (on a dare).  Gregory was also a terrible racist and philanderer and treated Rabo with contempt at best.
Marilee Kemp–Gregory’s mistress and sometime muse.  She inadvertently sends Rabo an encouraging letter on behalf of Gregory and then she and Rabo begin a writing relationship which blossoms when they eventually meet. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: CYMBALS EAT GUITARS-Live on KEXP June 18, 2009 (2009).

Cymbals Eat Guitars are from Staten Island (with members from New Jersey).  They have released two albums, although this recording is from after the release of their first album.    They play four songs:  “And the Hazy Sea,” “Cold Spring,” “Tunguska,” and “Wind Phoenix.”   They are noisy songs (mostly) with squalls of guitars (squalls is a good word since two of the guys are from Manahawkin, New Jersey.

The band has true progenitors in the indie rock scene–there’s sounds of Pavement, The Replacements,  even more melodic Sonic Youth .  They play noisy guitars and the vocals veer from softly sung to loudly screamed (often within the same line).    “Cold Spring” starts like a kind of shoegazery song and then after almost three minutes it turns into a  blast of pummeling rock with a noisy guitar section, before moving into a third more melodic section.

There’s   a lengthy interview with the band, where they give a shout out to New Jersey and seem genuinely surprised by the success they’ve had.  It’s a good show, and you can hear it here

[READ: September 25, 2012] God Bless You, Dr. Kevorkian

Again, against my better judgment I brought this Vonnegut book home too because it was on the shelf (and it was very short).  I still haven’t finished Bluebeard yet, but I have been curious about this book for some time.  It references Vonnegut’s early novel God Bless You, Mr Rosewater, but it also name checks Dr Jack Kevorkian.  So just what is it?

Well, it is collection of radio spots that Vonnegut did for WNYC radio in New York back in 1998.  Vonnegut claimed that he went to Kevorkian’s facility, was strapped in and almost killed multiple times, but Kevorkian brought him back each time creating a near-death experience. And each time Vonnegut travelled through that “blue tunnel,” he would interview a dead person.

The people he interviews vary quite a lot in fame and stature: (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: THE FLAMING LIPS-Dark Side of the Moon live at Hangout Music Festival, May 2012 (2012).

Recently, the Flaming Lips and friends released a version of Dark Side of the Moon that was noisy and chaotic and resembled the original in some  ways but departed from it radically in others.  When Palladia aired this concert of the band performing the album in its entirety I wasn’t sure what to expect.

I was pleasantly surprised that their rendition of the album is quite faithful to the original.  There’s plenty of Flaming Lips-isms in it, but it sounds a lot closer to the Pink Floyd version than The Flaming Lips and Stardeath and White Dwarfs with Henry Rollins and Peaches version.  And that’s a good thing.

I have to admit the audio wasn’t as clear as I would have expected (which is surprising for the Lips)–it was very hard to hear Wayne when he was talking.  That may have worked well for the singing though as he sounded almost exactly like David Gilmour on most of the songs.  The stage was also filled with people.  In addition to the four band members, there was a cast of dancers dressed like Swiss maids, there were some extra musicians  and two women.  One, dressed in a gold lame body suit (with wings) sang all of the wailing vocals on the album (and did a very good job) and the other I’m not sure what she did–neither woman was introduced during the aired set so I don’t know who they were.

Many bands throw things out into the crowd during a set, well, during “Money,” Wayne Coyne tossed out giant confetti balloons that were filled with actual money, allegedly $10,000 donated by none other than Dave Matthews.  That’s pretty intense and hopefully didn’t cause any damage.

Check Palladia for when they’re going to air it again.  I just learned that there is a You Tube video of the whole concert (more than just Dark Side of the Moon) and you can watch it here:

It’s a good fun set and shows just how much Stephen Drodz does on stage (I mean, seriously, check out the guitar he plays in “The Yeah Yeah Yeah Song”) and that Wayne’s hands must be either very cold or have no sensation.

[READ: September 24, 2012] Between Time and Timbuktu

I have been reading a lot of Vonnegut lately. I had it in my head that I would just blow through all of his books.  But I admit I’m getting a little burnt out.  Deadeye Dick and Galàpagos were kind of numbing and Bluebeard which I’m working through now is fun, but a little exhausting.  There’s no reason I should be ordering new Vonnegut books to read now, but I saw that the library had a copy of Between Time and Timbuktu (which is hard to find) and since I won’t be using that library for much longer, I decided to order it.

And I’m glad I did.  Between Time and Timbuktu was a TV movie made by compiling a bunch of scenes from Vonnegut’s first few books.  The basic script was by David O’Dell and Vonnegut himself had a hand in working on it (like “grafting the head of a box turtle onto the neck of a giraffe”).  And as the story progresses you can see some of the best set pieces from his novels.

But the framing device is new.  A man, Stony Stephenson has won a jingle contest for Blast-Off Space Food.  The TV crew appear at his house (and meet his mother in a dressing gown (she’s a funny character)) to break the news.  He gets dragged away and a few months later we see the blast off of the rocket.  When he gets into space, Stony will launch into the Chrono-Synclastic Infundibulum (the Infundibulum comes from Sirens of Titan). (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: KISS-Destroyer {Resurrected} (2012).

Bob Ezrin, überproducer, decided he wanted to remaster Kiss’ Destroyer album (for its 35 year anniversary).  If his notes are to believed, this was all Ezrin’s doing with little input from the band.  The notes are interesting and explain Bob’s rational at the time and his rationale for remastering it now.

The remastering isn’t major–the guitars sound more vibrant (there seems to be extra flourishes on “King of the Night Time World”, the vocals sound a little fuller (with some extra echo).  I actually think I’d like the drums to be a little louder–Peter does some great drumming here and it should be emphasized more.  Ezrin explains that do to the limitations of the originals there wasn’t a lot he could do to  re-mix the album.

The most exciting find of the remaster is the new guitar solo for “Sweet Pain.”  It’s not a huge deal, it’s only a few notes, but it is  fun to hear a new take (even if the “real: solo is better).

He adds a “Get Up/Get Down” at the end of the solo in “Detroit Rock City” (which I do not like).  He also repeats an “ahhh” in “Beth” in the middle which just makes me think the song should end.  In the liner notes, he says they added new car crashes at the end of “Detroit Rock City” although  I can’t really hear it. There seems to be more of the little kid’s voice in “God of Thunder” (I always wish they’d provided transcript of what he says).  And overall I think that song sounds the best with the new mix–more intense, more scary, more bombastic.  As for the mellower songs (“Great Expectations,” “Do You Love Me?”) there’s a bit more oomph in the backing vocals.

In the notes he says he fixed something that has been bugging him for 35 years.  The internet boards suggest that it is this: In “Detroit Rock City,” Paul sang “Moving fast down 95,” but 95 goes nowhere near Detroit, so he mixed Paul’s voice to say “moving fast doin’ 95.”  I never really understood which one he was saying to begin with, so I can’t be sure of this.  Overall, is it worth getting this remaster?  Well, probably not. It sounds better and fuller, but not radically different.

The only other  Kiss albums he produced were Revenge and The Elder–Bob, I’d love a remaster of The Elder!

[READ: September 23, 2012] “The Casserole”

This really short story (less than two pages) has a title that’s not terribly exciting.  It also prepares you very little for what will happen and just how the casserole will come into play.

The story is of a trip that a long-married husband and wife take to her family’s ancestral home–a large farm with tons of acres, tons of livestock and worth tons of money.  But he and his wife don’t want the farm (which her parents want to give them), they’re happy in the city, being school teachers who live frugally, saving for a rainy day.

The story is almost all flashback as the couple waits to board the ferry that crosses the river to the house.  He thinks about how they don’t have kids (and never wanted them) and how this drives her parents crazy (they desperately want an heir to their property).  He thinks about how they spend very little money on anything–keeping it squirreled away for their retirement.  Even if his wife might like to go to Belize to show off her still hot body.  He thinks about how the only thing he would spend money on is a beautiful room to house his record collection and maybe to buy an awesome stereo–and how his wife is unimpressed by this. (more…)

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