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Archive for August, 2013

xmasSOUNDTRACK: BARENAKED LADIES-Live from Mountain Stage (Jan 19, 1995).

barenakedladiesThis is wonderful show from 1995 (it was recorded on Super Bowl Sunday, which explains the football jokes…including the Baltimore football team that played in the CFL for literally one year). Having seen BNL recently (and enjoyed them), I forgot how much more bouncey and fun their earlier shows were (as their earlier songs were in general more bouncey and fun).  This show is also interesting because Andy Creeggan is still in the band.  Andy is Tim (bass) Creeggan’s brother.  And I have to wonder if he is doing some of the great harmonies (especially on “Alternative Girlfriend,” which I’ve never heard anywhere else).

I love each of the four songs they play here: “Life in a Nutshell,” “Jane” (a song where their harmonies are absolutely wonderful).  “Great Provider” slows things down but allows for Tim’s great bass work.  The set ends with one of my favorite songs “Alternative Girlfriend.”  They disingenuously announce that they will be playing the Mountain Stage theme song and I think everyone is a little bummed that they didn’t.  But I was just as happy to hear “Alternative Girlfriend and this is where those great unexpected harmonies come in.  They even throw in a smidgen of “My Sharona” for fun.

I’ll be seeing BNL again in a month.  After seeing them this summer, I wanted to tell them to dig deep into their catalog for some of their middle albums tracks (like the ones here).  Since most people who see them are die hards, we’d all love some of these older tracks!

Enjoy the set here.  Sadly, you only get to see Steven Page’s glorious mustache in this photo.

[READ: August 24, 2013] Not Just for Christmas

In addition to writing a lot of novels, Roddy Doyle has written a number of smaller books.  Like this one.  This was actually written for The Open Door series which is a series of six books by different authors that are designed to help adult readers who have trouble reading.  The stories are meant to be short, engaging and relatively easy to read.

I wasn’t conscious of this story being easy to read, but it is certainly simple.  It is 77 pages with big print and probably counts more like a short story, although I think it gets classified as a novella.

Simplicity aside, the story is a very good one.  Danny and Jimmy Murphy are brothers.  But they haven’t seen each other in twenty years.    When they were younger, they were inseparable and, although they were a year apart, people assumed they were twins.  We see a few instances from their childhood where they finished each others’ sentences and had a kind of psychic connection. (more…)

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grantldnSOUNDTRACK: VOIVOD-Killing Technology (1987).

killingAs I said, this album’s art looks much better.  And you can hear from the first notes that this album is better produced and is going to be a lot more interesting than the previous two.  It’s hard to know just how much of a leap this is from Rrröööaaarrr because that album was so muddy–maybe there were gems of guitar chords under all that noise.  Like the previous openings, there’s a sort of prologue to the album.  But unlike the previous album’s swirls, this one is beeping with a computer voice announcing “we are connected”

The opening chords are heavy, but man they sound clear—like they weren’t recorded underground.  You can also hear all of Piggy’s weird higher notes—he’s playing complicated chords, not just solo notes.  And when the chorus of “Killing Technology” rolls around, it offers stop and start rhythms and Snake’s voice even goes up an octave at the end.  But the first real indication that Piggy is on to something new comes in the bridge. Underneath the robotic voice, Piggy is playing some really strange-sounding chords.  The story is that he had been admiring Robert Fripp’s guitar work and so he added some of those King Crimson-y angular weird chords to his repertoire.  And he melds them perfectly with the heavy thrash that the band had been playing.

Lyrically also, this album has moved away from killing and headaches.  “Killing Technology” while having “killing” in the title is a very different subject:

The star wars have started up
The new invention is coming out
Making a spider web over the atmosphere
To make them sure that we can’t get out of here

Computers controlling your functions
Seems like we got electronic alienation
Trading children for a new kind of robot
Waiting for the old people to disappear

Quite a departure from Rrröööaaarr’s “Fuck Off and Die”

Stand up, right now, kill

No pleasure, the pain comes down here
No return, don’t look back, there’s no tomorrow
And if you’re a fucker and don’t believe it
I’d say fuck off and die, fuck off and die

“Overreaction” leans more towards the heavier side—Snake screams a bit more—but the subject (nuclear disaster) is thoughtful.  Then comes their first truly amazing song: “Tornado.”  Not only building like a tornado, this song allows them to talk about violent imagery without resorting to bloodshed. It’s even scientific:

Cumulonimbus storms arrive
Lightning flashes a hundred miles around
Electrical collision course
Creates the elephant trunk

But the best part is the chorus—it’s simple enough (just the word Tornado repeated) but it’s completely catchy and sing-alongable with bright major key chords.

“Forgotten in Space” features some great drumming from Away—he’s really quite underrated both in speed and technique—which explands even more on later albums.  “Ravenous Medicine” is another highlight—an interesting series of uncomfortable chords opens this track about scientific research.  It’s a pretty fast, heavy song.  Although not too complicated except for the occasional breaks as the story progresses.

“Order of the Blackguards” is another fast song, but this one has so many parts that if you don’t like one, just wait a few seconds for the next one.  “This is Not an Exercise” ends the disc proper.  The middle section has a great heavy riff.  But it’s the beginning of the ending sequence which is so perfectly sci-fi that really sets the tone of the album and looks towards the next one.  It’s cool to think of Piggy playing these spacey chords on his guitar.  And when Blacky’s bass rumbles in to resume the song, it’s quintessential Voivod.

By th way, this disc is a concept album as well.  There’s a “Killing Side” (the first three songs) and a “Ravenous Side.”  The strange thing about the CD though is that they have added two tracks from their Cockroaches EP which is nicockroachesce.  But they put one song at track 4 (the end of side one).  How odd to put a bonus track in the middle of a sequenced album.

The EP came out before the album and it has a slightly different feel from the album proper.  Although as a step towards Killing Technology it’s perfectly in sync.  “Too Scared to Scream” is heavy and has some interesting time changes—I love the way the song feels like it is crashing to a halt around 3:30.   “Cockroaches” feels like more traditional metal.  It opens with drums and Piggy playing a typical sounding metal solo.  Then the riffing starts and it’s very heavy indeed. Even the staggered section near the end sounds like a mosh section more than the prog time changes that Voivod uses on the album proper.  The song ends with Snake screaming as the cockroaches are coming.  A good ending to the EP and a pretty good ending to the disc.

The whole album has a very mechanical and robotic feel—the chords that Piggy plays just sound like mechanical failure, it’s very well constructed and foreshadows the music of their future.

[READ: July 9, 2013] Grantland #6

Grantland #6 covers from Sept 2012-Dec 2012.  Despite the short time frame, this is the largest issue yet.  And it maintains all the quality that I’ve come to expect from the book/magazine thing.  Which means, I love the writing (especially about people/sports I’m not that interested in).  And it also means that the editing is typically crap.  In this issue the editing was crap more because they simply forgot to remove mention of hyperlinks.  At least I assume that’s why sentences like “See here for ____” are included in any given article.  But yes, there are some very simple typos that Word would correct pretty easily.

But beyond that, I really enjoyed this issue.  And I’m finding it amusing how much certain people and shows crop up in a given time frame.  So this is a four month period and Kobe Bryant still dominates (there will never be an issue without at least one Kobe article).  But this time Homeland is the big show (since Breaking Bad has been on hiatus I gather).  Basketball remains the favorite sport here (even though they speak of football as being the most popular sport).

Chuck Klosertman and Charlie Pierce continue to write thoughtful (sometimes funny) articles.  And I like how there is still talk of Jeremy Lin even if Linsanity has gone away somewhat. (more…)

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conchitaSOUNDTRACK: VOIVOD: Rrröööaaarrr (1986).

roarI have always loved this album because of its name (preposterous and complete with umlauts).  It also has the classic Voivod song “Fuck Off and Die.”  Interestingly, a band that Voivod liked, Venom, released a song “F.O.A.D.” the previous year.

But man, is this album hard to listen to.  The production seems even worse than on their debut.  And the songs seem faster and a bit harder to understand.  Perhaps it was my mood when I re-listened, but songs like “Ripping Headaches” seemed more portentous than fun.  And “Slaughter in the Grave” is just light years behind the kind of songs they would write as soon as the next album.

I like to think of these first two Voivod albums as part of a pair.  The cover art is kind of similar.  But starting with the next album, the cover art would jump ahead in detail and quality.  All of Voivod’s art (and apparently the entire concept of The Voivod (you’ll have to look that up) was by Away.  He has released a coffee table book (which you can’t get anymore) but a lot of his art is online at his website.

Not many people think too highly of Rrröööaaarrr, and it is safe to say that compared to their next several albums, this one might be best ignored.

[READ: August 29, 2013] Hi, This is Conchita

This is another book that crossed my desk.  I recognized…the translator of all people (Hi, Edith Grossman) but not the author.  I couldn’t remember why I recognized her name and then I realized she had translated Don Quixote, which is supposed to be an excellent version.

I also liked the cover and the packaging of the book (sometimes that’s all it takes) and since I left the book I was reading back at home, I brought this with me to lunch.

Imagine my surprise when the first story opens with a man calling a phone sex line (in graphic detail).  I flipped through the story (which I thought was a bunch of short stories) but is actually a very long story called “Hi, this is Conchita.”  In this story, each “chapter” is a phone call and each chapter title is the phone number and time of the call. (more…)

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lostcatwarandSOUNDTRACK: VOIVOD-War and Pain (bonus stuff) (2004).

The War and Pain reissue was packed with goodies for Voivod fans.

You get “Anachronism” which is 3 songs from their very first live show in June 1983.  (“Condemned to the Gallows,” “Blower,” “Voivod”). They had (it sounds like) a surprisingly large audience for the show.  You also get “To The Death” which is 3 songs from the Metal Massacre V sessions (“Condemned to the Gallows,” “Voivod,” “Iron Gang”) of which “Condemned to the Gallows” was used on that compilation.  I think this is one of their better early songs, and it’s a shame it never got a proper release (although it’s all over this package).

If the sound quality on their proper album was bad, you can imagine how bad this sounds.  Their first show may have been recorded on a microcassette it is so low-fidelity.  And somehow the Metal Massacre tracks sound like they were left in a puddle of mud since 1984.  I have the Metal Massacre albums and I don’t think they sounded that bad.

That leaves Disc 2: “Morgoth Invasion.”  This is a live show from December 1984.  It has 16 songs (surprisingly no “Voivod” and two covers:  Venom’s “Witching Hour” and Slayer’s “Chemical Warfare”).  Like the previous live tracks, this one sounds pretty dreadful–but not quite as bad.  It is fun for the historic value–hearing the band play fast and tight hearing Snake’s guttural French (he did most of the between song banter in French).  Also hearing how well they play the covers shows how seriously they took their metal.

The third disc is a CD-ROM.  You get lyrics to the album, biographies of the band and comments on the 20th anniversary release.  There’s also band photos and art by Away.  There’s even the old  video for “Voivod.”

But for fans the most exciting part is the “Sounds” section.  In addition to including all of the above audio (in case you wanted it all on CD-ROM?), there’s also seven songs from a 1984 concert.  I am fairly certain that these tracks would eventually be released on the To the Death 84 album (it’s the same order and I don’t have that record).  Again, the sound quality is not great, but it’s interesting to hear these songs played live–to hear just how fast these guys can play.

So the anniversary package is worth investing in if you like your Voivod.  If not, wait a couple more albums when they become amazing.

[READ: August 26, 2013] Lost Cat

I had not heard of Jason before this book passed across my desk.  Jason is a Norwegian graphic artist and comic book maker whose real name is John Arne Sæterøy.  Many of his books have been published in English by Fantagraphics.  This one was translated (from the Norwegian I assume, although Jason now lives in France, so maybe it was written in French) by Kim Thompson.  The interesting thing about the translation is that I didn’t realize it was one at first…I just thought the characters were deliberately speaking in a weird sort of way.  I wonder if this is intentional on the translator’s part.

The striking thing about Jason’s art is that his characters do not have eyeballs (as you can see from the cover art).  This seems to convey an overall sadness to the characters.  And yet he is also incredible at creating mood and tone from these animal people (even without eyeballs!).

This story has a few threads that tie it together.  As the story opens we meet Dan Delon, a private detective.  As he walks home for the night he sees a lost cat sign.  A few panels later he see the cat.  He calls the number and returns the lost kitty.  The kitty’s owner, Charlotte, is very nice.  She invites him in and gives him a drink.  She owns a local bookstore which he was recently in (although they did not meet).  They seem to have a lot in common.  Charlotte is fascinated that he’s a private detective.  But he quickly dismisses the excitement saying that it is mostly just taking pictures of people having affairs–and then upsetting both parties when all is said and done.  He seems to realize the loneliness of his life as he says this (again, conveyed wonderfully with the art). (more…)

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laraSOUNDTRACK: VOIVOD-War and Pain (1984).

warandIt was easy to know that Voivod were going to be an unusual band.  Their name is crazy.  All the members had nicknames like Piggy, Blacky, Snake, and, confusingly, Away.  And they were French Canadian, which meant that their singer’s first language wasn’t English–I love the way he stresses things in his vocals especially on later albums, and he had the guttural French that sounds like a cookie monster vocalist even when he is just speaking.

Later on, their prog and psychedelic leanings would come out more, but on their debut, they were just a noisy, screamy pounding metal band.  And this debut has typically bad mid 80s metal production to top it off.

In 2004 the album was remastered with bonus tracks, a full live concert and a CD ROM with all kinds of goodies.  I originally thought the remaster didn’t sound that good, but there is definitely some clarity that the remaster brings.  It allows you to hear a lot of the subtleties (and there are some) that were lost in the original.

There are hints at the kind of weird sounding noises the band would make on future albums, but this is mostly just fast, pounding music.  I’d have liked them to re-record this stuff before Piggy died, just to see what a proper recording studio could do with these earlier songs.

Of course, now that I have listenedto it again with better equipment, I’m changing my assessment somewhat.  Despite the very heavy nature of the songs there are some very cool sequences in here.  They are nothing compared to the complexities that the band would undertake in just a few short years, but there are some really interesting things underway and the remaster definitely highlights them a little better. It still sounds pretty bad 9especially compared to their later records), but hey, they only spent $2,000 and recorded it in a studio where the engineer had never heard a metal band before.

[READ: August 23, 2013] Lara’s Book

I have known of this book since it came out in 1998.  I was a huge fan of Douglas Coupland and yet I had zero interest in Lara Croft or Tomb Raider. So I simply ignored this book.  But because I’m being all completist with this blog, it was time to bite the bullet and see what this piece of nonsense was all about.

And it is just as weird and creepy as I feared.

There are several sections to the book, most of which are written by Coupland.  I will admit right up front that I did not read the strategies and secrets from Kip Ward–sorry Kip, it seemed like fun but between the crazy fonts and layout and the fact that I will never play the game it just seemed like too much. (more…)

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[ATTENDED: August 25, 2013] The Smithereens

smither

Photo credit: Maryanne Mistretta (see below for link to her blog)

I’ve liked a number of Smithereens songs for many years.  I even bought their greatest hits.  But I never really think about them.  And yet, the opening bass line to “Blood and Roses” is one of the best opening bass lines in rock music.  It’s so deep and groovy.

But so imagine my surprise to see that The Smithereens were playing a free concert at Duke Island Park, about ten minutes from my house.  What was especially weird is that most of the free concerts are oldies singers (The Duprees) and cover bands (Tusk, THE B STREET BAND).  But here was the honest to God Smithereens.  Now, I realize they’re not remotely as popular as they were, but it was really them.  They’re from Carteret and Scotch Plains, NJ, so they were playing to a happy local crowd.  They also told some very funny stories about growing up in Somerset County (and going to the Blue Star).

They sounded amazing and Pat DiNizio’s voice hasn’t changed a bit in thirty some years.  (more…)

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[WATCHED: August 19, 2013] New Boy

new boyWikipedia leads me to find things about authors that I don’t know.  Some things lead you to unfindable items (see yesterday’s Douglas Coupland post).  But this time, the post about Roddy Doyle has led me to a number of things I wouldn’t have otherwise known about,

Like this short film.

New Boy is based on his short story “New Boy.”  I read the story a while ago.  I remembered the basic premise, but not the details.  And I was delighted by this short film.  It is about 11 minutes long and it really captures the story very well.

The story is about Joseph, an African refugee, who is starting school in Ireland.  He is not the only black student, but he really does stand out.  And when the mean boy behind his calls him “Live Aid” you know that things aren’t going to go all that well.

But then we flash back to the boy’s past (in an unnamed African country).  We see him in school there and then we see why he is a refugee (there’s nothing explicit either visually or narratively, but a lot is hinted at). (more…)

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