Archive for July, 2013

[ATTENDED: July 20, 2013] Last Summer on Earth

lsoeWhen I heard that three bands who I like very much were playing, it was an obvious decision to get tickets.  And thanks to Sarah’s cousin, Kate who lives nearby, we were able to avoid the assholian $9/ticket fee from Ticketmaster.  $9 a ticket??  Assholes.  Interestingly, we got very good seats (thanks again, Kate), but for one reason or another, they were upgrading lawn seat tickets for an extra $10.  I read online that for the price of a lawn seat and $10, they got sixth row.  SIXTH ROW!  Damn.

We arrived at the show just in time to hear Ed Robertson introducing the opening act (an opening act when there are three bands!).  The opening act was a guy named Boothby Graffoe.  What?  Well, Graffoe is an English comedian and singer/songwriter.  Most of his songs are funny.  And so were these in the five song set: (more…)


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goliathSOUNDTRACK: UNKNOWN MORTAL ORCHESTRA-“No Need for a Leader” (live at the Rock and Roll Hotel in Washington, D.C, May 23, 2013) (2013).

umoI have been hearing about the Unknown Mortal Orchestra for a little while now  The name is intriguing and really could indicate so many different styles of music.  With the internet, it’s very easy to hear a sample of a band, but I like to happen upon them a bit more organically.  So, here was a track from a recent live show that NPR was sampling for us.

UMO is from New Zealand and they have a kind of psychedelic-meets-Black Sabbath feel.  The song isn’t really heavy so much as just riff-based and speedy.  The song has an appropriate Sabbathesque quick riff at the end of each verse and a boatload of flange and vibrato tossed on, too.

But I don’t really care for the vocalist, who seems kind of pinched and tight–almost exactly the opposite of what this expansive song is crying out for.

So this song is ultimately a mixed bag–I like the vibe of the band, but I don’t feel compelled to hear any more from them.

You can watch the video (and groove on the singer’s shirt) here.

[READ: July 5, 2013] Goliath

I enjoyed Gauld’s You’re All Just Jealous of My Jetpack enough to track down Goliath, his previous book.

Although Jetpack is a collection of strips, Goliath is a telling of the story of David and Goliath (which everyone knows is the great underdog story).  The big difference here is that we see the story from Goliath’s point of view (which I believe we do not ever see in the Bible–it’s been years since I’ve actually read it).

In this version, Goliath is a simple man.  Despite his size, he would rather do office work than fight.  Indeed, when given the opportunity, he jumps at the chance to do administrative paper work rather than practice with weapons.  But the Philistines are at war and everyone needs to help.

That’s when one of the soldiers gets an idea.  Goliath is to go into the valley and proclaim to all who can hear: “I am Goliath of Gath, Champion of the Philistines.  I Challenge you: Choose a Man.  Let him come to me that we may fight.  If he be able to kill me then we shall be your servants.  But if I kill him then you shall be our servants.” (more…)

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awesomemanSOUNDTRACK: RALPH’S WORLD-Green Gorilla, Monster & Me (2005).

gorilaI remember being pretty excited about this album because it was Ralph’s newest album after Clark was born.  And it was fun to have a “new” children’s album (they were of course all new to us since we hadn’t bought any children’s music before but the fact that Ralph was still putting new stuff out was good news).

And so it will always be cool (and has a couple of my favorite Ralph songs).  And yet, overall it’s not quite as exciting as some of the other ones.

“Dance Around” is a fun upbeat song that should get everyone moving as each verse gets progressively more energetic.  This would certainly be a favorite.  “Hideaway” sounds like any jangly pop song on the radio—even lyrically it’s not really geared to kids exclusively.  This could have had crossover appeal.  “Red Banana” is a fun song full of absurdities—catchy and wonderful.  “Guitarzan” is a song I never much liked, although this version is a bit more fun than the original.  Nevertheless, it’s so much longer than the better songs, that I get tired of it pretty quickly!  “Me & My Invisible Friend” is  sweet song about having an invisible friend, but I find that I clearly like the more upbeat songs like “Old Red #7” a cool song about making and racing a car.

“River Flow” is a fun travel song, but “Liesl Echo” is our favorite Ralph’s World song of all time! We even named our cat Liesl Echo. in honor of the song.  Ahhh.  “Monster” is a wonderfully funny song about a “scary” puppy.  It’s on a song like that this Ralph’s details shine.  “Tim the Boy” is actually about a series of kids who are contrary and refuse to change their minds.  The end shows how being so stubborn never works out quite as they wanted.  “I Don’t Wanna” is a great punk song (gentle punk of course, but in the spirit of The Ramones).  It’s all about saying you don’t want things because you have to do some work to get them (I don’t want dessert, I don’t want to watch TV).  It’s very fun to sing along to.

“Tower of Blocks” is about the man on the moon, but it pales in comparison to “Yum! Yuk!” which is just fun to sing a long to and gets very silly by the end.  “Swingset” ends the album in a rather generic way—which reminds me more of the kind of music that Ralph’s adult band plays.   So the highs on this disc are pretty great, but there’s a bunch of songs that don’t really grab me.  This was actually Ralph’s last disc on beloved indie label Minty Fresh before he made the jump to Disney.

[READ: July 21, 2013] The Astonishing Secret of Awesome Man

Since I’m a fan of Michael Chabon, I’m including this children’s book since we read it this past week.

I’ve enjoyed most of everything I’ve read by Chabon, and I know he has a connection to the comics world.  So a children’s superhero book seems like an obvious hit.

And it is a clever idea.  Awesome Man talks about all of the things he can do (fights bad guys has cool powers), but also talks about the frustrations of being a super hero.  Awesome man gets mad and wants to break things, and sometimes he needs to sit on his bed and relax to calm down.  So the secret identity is not too hard to figure out.  Indeed, the idea of the narrator imaging a super hero identity is cool and fun.

But if the secret identity is pretty easy to figure out, I guess it is therefore not really astonishing?  And that’s just one thing that’s a little unsatisfying about this story. (more…)

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squish5SOUNDTRACK: RALPH’S WORLD-At the Bottom of the Sea [Second Half] (2002).

ralph seaI split this disc into two because there were so many songs on it.  But the second half is just as fun as the first half.

“Baseball Dreams” is all about dreaming to be a pro baseball player (specifically a Chicago Cub, which is endearing).  “Sunny Day Rainy Day Anytime Band” is one of my favorite Ralph songs.  It’s a rocking rollicking song.  Super catchy and I find it in my head a lot.  “Fly Me to the Moon” is a charming take on the classic song (with mandolin).  And “Baa Baa Black Sheep” is the children’s song, slowed down and very mellow.

“Malcolm McGillikitty” is a fun original which is all about the psychic cat (he knows when we’re going to the vet, and when you’re coming home).  It’s a very funny original.  “The highlight of the second half of the disc has got to be “What Can You Do with Your Baby Brother” It is a great kid-friendly rendition of “What Can You Do with a Drunken Sailor.”  And it offers great advice about things you can do to torment your little siblings when your parents aren’t looking.  Very funny.  “Bean Soup and Rice” is a fun sing along because of the Buh Buh Buh Buh Buh Buh Beans line and for the nonsense about what you might eat.  “Many Things to Know” is a mellow album closer, which I actually didn’t even remember. I guess I tend to tune out the mellow Ralph songs, because I feel like a kid’s album should be all up or all mellow.

So there it is, a great children’s album–fun for kids and adults with a wonderful variety of styles for kids to delve into.

[READ: July 20, 2013] Squish #5

Why was this book better than #4? Because this one has a video game in it!  Well, that’s not exactly why, but as a parent who is struggling with a child who really like a video game a lot, it was comforting to see a story in which the video game doesn’t triumph (no matter how much fun it actually is).  And, as I mentioned in #4, there was a lot more dialogue here, which is always a lot of fun.

All of Squish’ friends are playing a game called Mitosis!  (Who says video games can’t be educational? Or comic books?).  There are  few wonderfully drawn screen shots of this 8-bit game (the kitten bonus is hilarious).  It’s not really relevant how you play the gamer (I’m not sure I could tell), but suffice it to say that levels must be defeated.  And once Squish sees Pod plying his game, Squish spends the money he was saving for some Super Amoeba comics (say it ain’t so!) to buy his own Mitosis game.  The scene where Squish sets foot in the video game store for the first time was just like the first time we took our kids to Game Stop. (more…)

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squish4SOUNDTRACK: RALPH’S WORLD-At the Bottom of the Sea [First Half] (2002).

ralph seaI’m splitting this disc in two parts because there are seventeen tracks on it.  This is one of my favorite Ralph’s World records.  There’s something about the collection of originals and covers that is always varied, always interesting and lots of fun.  (Most Ralph’s World records meet the same criteria, but this one seems to have overall a better collection of songs).  Which is kind of interesting as it is his second kids album.

“At the Bottom of the Sea” is a fun bopping song (with fast lyrics and a slide guitar!).  “Honey for the Bears” is a countryish song that is very fun to sing along to (even if it seems factually questionable).  “The Coffee Song” is also fun to sing along to (what is it about spelling songs that make you want to spell along?).  Even though none of us drink coffee in the house.  “Surfin’ in My Imagination” is, yes, a surf rock song (this album is a nice introduction to different styles of music).

I had the theme from “Harry’s Haunted Halloween Circus” in my head for days before I could remember what it was—it’s a kind of clarinet and tuba riff, slightly off but also mesmerizing like circus music.  I really like it.  I don’t think I ever really listened to the lyrics which are quite “spooky.”  “The Banana Splits Song” is always super fun, whether it’s by Ralph’s World or The Dickies (who are goofy but not really for kids).  “18 Wheels on the Big Rig” was introduced to me by Trout Fishing in America, so I always think their version is best (even if they do it live exactly the same every time). Ralph’s version is good, but just not quite as good as TFiA.  “Clean My Room” is a blues, which I don’t particularly like (I’m nt a fan of the blues, although this one is funny).  The first half ends with “The Itsy Bitsy Spider.”  Ralph’s version has some extra verses and a whole new scenario as well as a very amusing (to adults) punchline.

The second half will come tomorrow.

[READ: July 20, 2013] Squish #4

Somehow I didn’t even know that there were two new Squish books out.  Hoorah!

Although this particular volume felt a little slim to me.  Not in the size, but in the content.  In this book, Squish joins a soccer team.  His team is terrible, compiled from a mishmash of players, many of whom are simply, terrible.  The coach tries to get everyone excited (blah blah blah) and then Squish is promoted to Captain of the team (because someone volunteered him).

The problem here is that in the book, it is the captain who makes all the decisions regarding the plays and players.  Which is nonsense at that age.  I realize of course that this is fiction and a children’s book and a comic book and that the story wouldn’t coalesce if he wasn’t captain, but it puts a crazy amount of pressure on poor Squish.

The other problem is that it’s a story about sports.  Sports stories always stink because you either win or you lose.  And, in an underdog sports story you lose a lot and then you win. It’s pretty unavoidable.  Although the Holms do a nice twist on it at the end.  But really, most of the book is just scenes of them losing–which sells short the usual snappy dialogue. (more…)

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CV1_TNY_07_08_13Hunter.inddSOUNDTRACK: AGAINST ME!-True Trans EP (2013).

trueThis EP (free for a limited time) contains two acoustic songs from punks Against Me!  (The gentleness of the acoustic songs is belied by this stark cover).  I have an older Against Me! album which I like and which is quite punky.  But since that album the lead singer Tom Gabel has gone through gender reassignment surgery (and his fans mostly stayed with her, which is pretty awesome).  Their newest full length Transgender Dysphoria Blues is due out in the future and this is a little acoustic taste of what’s to come.  Both songs appear to be about his transition.

The first one, with the interesting title of “FuckMyLife666”, is an upbeat song (musically), while lyrically it is a song to someone—possibly himself?  It’s about avoiding regrets and embracing a new life.

The second song is a big darker (musically) although it does have a big bright chorus with the final line of: “Does God bless your transsexual heart?”  It’s very very catchy and I find myself singing that rather awkward line to myself during the day.

I’m not sure exactly what the future has in store for Against Me!, but it seems like Laura Jane Grace is planning on keeping the music coming.

[READ: July 15, 2013] “All Ahead of Them”

This story opens with a misunderstanding—at least that’s what we hear Bud saying into the phone.  He quickly looks for an excuse to get off the phone and then starts playing with the cigarettes that he found in the hotel drawer.  (He promised he’d quit smoking after the wedding which was just six days ago).  We also quickly learn that the misunderstanding has to do with his new wife and that it proves that she is a liar.

Of course, his wife, Arden, has a history of changing the truth (as many of us do).  Even her name, which he thought was so artistic-sounding, is fake.  Well, it is real now, but she was originally call Nedra (after her father’s mother) and she reversed the letters.  This of, course hurt her father, who loved his dear mother, and who refused to call her Arden—even during his wedding toast.  She hadn’t even told Bud that she had changed her name until moments before he met Arden’s father—and only as a preparation that her father wouldn’t call her Arden.

The original Nedra’s story is pretty interesting in and of itself.  She was a beautiful and talented singer, although her day job was as a music teacher in a Buffalo high school.  She was arrested for selling marijuana (during the brutal Rockefeller laws of the 1970s) to other teachers.  She was given 25 years in jail.  After three of those 25 years, she hanged herself.  Arden’s father was very young when this happened and he never really got over it (as can be expected). (more…)

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june 2013SOUNDTRACK: VAMPIRE WEEKEND-“Blurred Lines” (2013).

vampblurRobin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines” is a huge hit (with a NSFW video).  And I gotta say that I find it insanely catchy, too.  It’s pretty irresistible.  So why not cover it?

Vampire Weekend’s new album is less formal than their first two–relaxing styles and adding a bunch more humor to their sound.  And they make a surprisingly good cover of this song.  Their version is quite faithful to the original (even mimicking the sound a lot).  But at the same time, the band is having a lot of fun with the song as you can tell primarily from the backing vocals.

You can tell hear it’s Vampire Weekend, but it also doesn’t quite sound like them–a neat trick.

Check out their cover (which is not a live concert track, but was recorded for BBC’s Live Lounge (so it sounds good)) at Stereogum.

[READ: July 15, 2013] “Firebugs”

This was, I think, the longest story I’ve seen published in The Walrus.

It begins with several paragraphs describing fire–physical, psychological, intense descriptions.  Since I didn’t realize the story was so long, I actually wondered if the whole story would be like that–if there were going to be no characters in it.  But there are, and quite a few.  And the story is focused on two of them.

Blake Kennedy Jr was a firebug as a kid.  Then he became a fireman (seems this is not so uncommon of a history for firemen and may stem from the desire to control fire).  After many good years, he was injured during training and had to get a desk job. Now he investigates suspicious fires.  Perhaps coincidentally, there was a rash of arson during the year he was born.  Those fires were technologically set–the arsonist used the spark from a telephone to ignite a can of gasoline. Of course, the killer would place the call when he was far enough away.  And he was never found.

This year’s arsonist’s is much more simple–a milk jug of gasoline with a homemade wick left on the front porch.  It is a slow burn, with the gasoline not exploding.  It’s actually the fumes that catch fire, not the liquid.  So, when the wick burns down, the whole thing doesn’t ignite until the milk jug melts and the gas spills out.

Blake is investigating the death of Detta, an older woman who tried to run out during the fire (the state of her feet must have been incredible, he determined). (more…)

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