Archive for October, 2012

SOUNDTRACK: HELLOWEEN-“Halloween” (1987).

Back in the late 80s, I loved Helloween–they played speed metal, they had intricate solos, and they were German–what’s not to love?  Oh, and also, they were quite funny, with their little pumpkin mascot.

In 1987, they released The Keeper of the Seven Keys Part 1, a concept album (hooray), with this song as the 13 minute centerpiece.  They also released a “radio friendly” version that’s about 3 minutes long.  How do you eliminate ten minutes of a song?  Take out some verses, some riffs, a whole middle section of vocals, a cool section that sounds like Queensrÿche, a little spoken word section and a whole lotta solos.  Surprisingly you do get the essence of the song, just none of the theatricality.

So Helloween are still around, although I gave up on them after the sequel to this album (Part Two) which really didn’t live up to the majesty of Part One.

But this song is fun and whether you choose the 13 minute or the 3 minute version, Happy Halloween.

[READ: November 7, 2012] The Simpsons Treehouse of Horror #18

Yes, that’s right, I read this after Halloween!  Hurricane Sandy means I can throw convention to the wind until I catch up.  Sarah bought this for me before Halloween, but I didn’t really feel like reading it on Halloween, so here it is.

Unlike in the TV show, this Treehouse of Horror has four stories!  The first thing you have to get used to in Simpsons comics is that the characters don’t look like the ones on TV.  This is deliberate–they get different artists to draw the pages, so the artist’s own style comes in.  The characters are obviously The Simpsons; it’s amazing how many liberties can be taken with icons and have them still be recognizable.

The first story is a parody of Evil Dead.  Homer takes the family to a cabin in the woods where Henry K. Duff created the secret recipe for Duff beer.  But when the recipe is read aloud…the spirit of the beer possesses the family.  This story is actually kind of gruesome, although my five-year old enjoyed flipping through the pages.  The twist at the end is completely unexpected and wonderful. (more…)


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SOUNDTRACK: JACKYL-“The Lumberjack” (1992).

Does anyone remember this band?  Their gimmick was that the lead singer performed a chainsaw solo.  As I cut down trees that fell in my yard I kept thinking about this band, although I couldn’t remember any of their songs (which is just as well).  I had to Google this one.

It’s a stupid gimmick, but a hard one to forget.  My favorite coincidence to this song was when my friend Garry and I went to a party on a New Year’s Eve in like 1999 or so and the party house had a framed gold album of the debut album on the wall.  I never found out why.

Oh, and holy cow, they are STILL putting albums out!

Here’s the song in all of its nonsensicality:

Incidentally, if you don’t wear ear coverings when using a chainsaw, your ears will ring for about an hour after cutting down trees.

[EXPERIENCED: October 29, 2012] Hurricane Sandy

I considered live blogging the hurricane.  It would have gone like this:

October 29: 1-7PM: Wind picking up, not too much rain.

October 29: 8:15PM: Lights flickered and went out.

November 2: power restored.

November 5: Internet restored.

Gripping, eh? (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: YEASAYER–Live at KEXP, October 18, 2007 (2007).

This concert from Gibson’s is great.  It took place in 2007 and showcased songs from Yeasayer’s first album. I don’t know this album but their description of the music as tribal gospel is apt.  The music is noisy and almost chaotic, but the melodies and harmonies are wonderful.  There’s a comment that they used to be in a barbershop quartet (ironically).  And you can hear that they really know their harmonies well.

I have their two later albums which  like very much and which are slightly different from the sound of this one–but this set is really great, and it’s a good introduction to their earlier sound.

I mentioned Up All Night the other day because Silversun Pickups were on.  On this past week’s show, Yeasayer got a mention at a hipster coffee bar.  Guess that means Yeasayer are a trendy band, too.  Check out the show here.

[READ: October 17, 2012] “The Last Few Kilometres”

This is another very short story–two pages total.  It is translated from Russian by Jamey Gambrell.

In this story, a man visits his mistress, has sex with her, eats some food (after dropping a chicken leg on the floor) and then heads home.  Despite the brevity and simplicity of the story, I had to read it twice before I could really get it.  The story is told in flashback as he’s on his way home (on the train).

But the story is less about the plot than the details. I loved that he normally doesn’t like to eat first because having sex when you’re full is no fun.  But she made a nice dinner so they eat first.  Also, he left his dentures home, so he was happy the meal was soft (quite the romantic!).  Meanwhile, “She received him the way mistresses generally do in the movies,” dressed to the nines, and running around serving him.  Later, the lovemaking was indifferent, and a comment that he casually threw out had offended her. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: !!!-Live at KEXP, May 3, 2007 (2007).

!!! play a funky dance party music.  It’s certainly not Top 40 dance, as it throws all kinds of elements into the mix.  I have one of their early EPS but I haven’t listened to much more from them.  This show is from 2007, so I don’t know how much their sound has changed these last five years, but this is a cool and interesting set.

“Myth Takes” has a great bass line while “Heart of Hearts” has a steady beat with 70’s retro keyboards and cool guitar sections.  The jam at the end of the song is great.  “Yadnus” has a slinky feel until the screamed chorus (and there’s one member with a great scream) makes the song rock hard.

The entire set feels like a rollicking party.  I’ll bet they are a lot of fun to see live.

This band is especially hard to search for (search engines don’t know what to do with “!!!”) so the link is here.

[READ: October 26, 2012] “Ox Mountain Death Song”

This was a very brief story set in Ireland.

It was constructed as two parallel narratives: one about a policeman Sergeant Brown, and one about a criminal, Canavan.  Canavan  comes from a long line of criminals–thieves, sexual abusers, violent thugs, and he is no exception   And as soon as the community learns that he has a deadly cancer, they prepare for the worst from him, because what has he got to lose?

Sergeant Brown has dealt with his family for years.  He’s old now–fat and tired and soon to retire, but he wants this guy before he does anything worse.

Brown speaks to an older woman who was recently beaten up by him.  She protects him for a while until she finally reveals his hiding place–in the Ox Mountains.   (more…)

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[ATTENDED: October 21, 2012] Trout Fishing in America

Trout Fishing in America is (primarily) a children’s band.  They are a duo comprised of Ezra Idlet (who plays the guitar and is six-foot nine inches tall) and Keith Grimwood (who plays bass and is five foot five inches tall).  When I first encountered them, Ezra had very long hair–although he no longer does.  They are quite a sight onstage (and they play up this height difference a lot).

Trout Fishing is, I assume, a rather successful band.  They have been around since 1979!  Their first big family friendly record came out in 1991.  Amazingly, given their longevity, they are not opposed to playing small venues.  Two years ago, they played my son’s elementary school.  Which was a hoot.

They came back through the area again and this time they played RVCC.  I’ve said before that RVCC gets some pretty major acts, but I’m not sure exactly what went on with this show.  They played at 1PM and 3:30PM and rather than perform to the audience in the normal theater seats, they let the (much smaller) audience sit on stage with them.

They erected a small stage–big enough for  the two of them and their minimal gear.  The audience chairs were arranged around them in three section and my family got front row seats, approximately ten feet from the mini stage.  It was wonderful.   Since it was the day after Tabitha’s birthday  when Keith asked if it was anyone’s birthday  Tabby was right up front to get singled out (they said it was okay that her birthday was yesterday).

They played about a dozen songs.  And in between songs, their banter was wonderful.  They told jokes (Keith juggles), they did left brain/right brain challenges (draw a square with one hand and a triangle with other) and they explained to the kids about the instruments they use (they also do musical instruction at schools).   (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: FANFARLO-Live at SXSW, March 19, 2010 (2010).

I only know of this band at all from Bob Boilen on NPR, who really liked one of their more recent songs.  This set is from Gisbson’s Showroom in Austin during SXSW.  They play six songs from their debut, Reservoir.

Fanfarlo use all kind of instrumentation to create a very full sound–horns, strings, male and female vocals and of course, bass and drums.  This set makes them seem like they were ahead of the game on bands like Mumford and Sons–there’s a kind of orchestral/folkie pop feel (of course the trumpet is very different from the banjo).  Indeed, they remind me a bit of Beirut.

I rather enjoy this set.  I really like “The Walls are Coming Down” and “Harold T. Wilikins.”  It’s a fun dose of folkie indie rock.  Although I don’t see myself getting their album or anything.  This may be just the dose of Fanfarlo that I need.  You can get the set from NPR here.

[READ: October 19, 2012] “Means of Suppressing Demonstrations”

I’ve been putting this story off for a long time (it came out in June).  The image that accompanied the story, three youths approaching a military barricade just didn’t appeal to me. But the story proved to be really interesting.

It is broken into four sections: Shock, Tear Gas, Rubber, Live Fire.  Each of these is a progressively more dangerous means to suppress demonstration.

But here’s the strange thing–the three youths in the drawing are asking to be suppressed.  They want to get in the paper, they want to be heroes.  So these three Palestinians approach a barricade manned by the Israeli army.  The barricade is at Route 799, which, for the soldiers is a low-traffic, fairly cushy assignment.

The main army guard is Lea, a woman who is soon to be done with her time.  She is looking forward to the end of her time, although she has rather enjoyed the company of Tomer who calls her Lea during the day and Officer at night when they are in bed together.  Route 799 is typically a very quite post until these three come up and politely say that they are demonstrators and wish to be suppressed. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: EARTH-All Tomorrows Parties, October 5, 2011 (2011).

Anyone who likes Black Sabbath a lot knows that they were originally called Earth.  About mid way through this concert, the lead singer/guitarist of Earth says that he grew up listening to Black Sabbath and reading HP Lovecraft, so Earth is clearly something of a tribute.   Incidentally, he grew up in Manalapan, NJ which is just down the road from us.

All of these bona fides means that I should love Earth.  But I have to say that although I didn’t dislike this show at all, it’s really not my thing.  Earth creates long droney songs.  I tried to measure a couple of BPM of songs and came out with 60 for one song and 42 for another (by contrast Judas Priest’s “Breaking the Law” is 180 BPM).

The songs are all instrumental and range from 8 to 12 minutes.  Again, nothing objectionable about that.  Indeed most of the songs are cinematic and cool sounding.  My problem with them is that there wasn’t a lot of dynamism in the songs.  The bass wasn’t crazy heavy or loud or chest rattling (as I had been led to believe Earth’s bass was).  The melodies were pretty, but it came across as soundtrack music–for a very very slow zombie chase, perhaps.

According to some basic history, Earth used to be a heavier, noisier band, but have morphed away from that, and I suspect I would have liked their earlier stuff a bit more (although the one older that they played, “Ouroboros is Broken” wasn’t that much different from the rest.

NPR broadcast most of the All Tomorrow’s Parties concerts, and I enjoyed listening to them all.  But Earth is just not my thing.  You can check it out here.

[READ: October 20, 2012] “A Farewell to Yarns”

I mentioned the other day that I read one complete piece in the three Outside magazines since I subscribed.  It was this one.  The thing that I have enjoyed about the Outside articles that I have cherry picked is that unexpected writers pop up to write an essay.  So here’s Ian Frazier, comedian and essayist, writing for Outside.  Weird.  (Or maybe not so weird, he’s an Editor).

And, unlike many of the other things I’ve read in Outside, Frazier is not, repeat not going to do anything brave or daring or stupid, he’s just going to muse about a topic.  I like it.

Basically, this whole piece is a compliant about how with everything documented and digitalized it’s impossible to tell fibs about the one that got away or as he calls it, “an outdoorsman’s sacred right to exaggerate.”  What I like is that he takes us all the way back to ye olde mapmakers who wrote Here be Monsters which leads to this wonderful idea that I have never considered “the pictures of the monsters must have been accurate; how would the mapmakers have known what to draw unless eyewitnesses had told them?”

And he moves on through those who spied the Loch Ness Monster and Bigfoot.  He even talks about one I had ever heard of, a hidden city in Siberia called Gorod Koka-Kola, built during the cold war as a reproduction of an American city, they speak English and live and behave like Americans–perfect for spymasters to practice   Genius–and how would anyone ever know if it existed in remotest Siberia?

But Fraizer’s greater point is that “Lies make the wild scary and alluring.”  He grew up in Rural Illinois afraid of the Argyle Monster who haunted Argyle State Park–and, boy, how many adventures he had or dreamed of having back then. (more…)

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