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Archive for September, 2014

jun9SOUNDTRACK: THE PEANUT BUTTER CONSPIRACY-“It’s a Happening Thing” (1967).

pncWho would have guessed that a band from 1967 would come up with a name that seems relevant in 2014 (what with all the peanut allergies).  But they didn’t have that on their minds when they named the band.

I’m not sure that I knew of this band (they are mentioned in this story–although I had heard of the Flamin’ Groovies, also mentioned), although by now they seem like an obvious touchstone.  Because this is a major hippie band.  Indeed, this song seems almost quintessentially hippie.  The title, obviously.  But also the (sixties) fuzzy guitar, the super funky bass, the group vocals (very Jefferson Airplane).  The wild solo with even more fuzz on the guitar.  I especially enjoy the descending vocal line at the end of the chorus.

It’s a fun song, although kind of forgettable (possibly because of the lyrics).  After the chorus, the most repeated line is “Love is the grooviest thing up til now in the world.”  Up til now?

A little research says that the production on their second album is less obviously hippie, but this seems to be their most notable song.

Peace Man.

[READ: September 17, 2014] “Here’s the Story”

This year’s Summer Fiction issue of the New Yorker was subtitled Love Stories.  In addition to all of the shorter pieces that were included in this issue, there were also four fiction contributions.

This story takes a look at an already extant story and finds a story beneath it.  I didn’t realize this until about two paragraphs from the end of the story when it all came clear.  And then in retrospect I realized that there were a lot of hints thrown into the story and either I should have figured that out or, more likely, Gilbert made the hints minor and casual so that, like me, a reader might realize what he or she missed at the end of the story.

I’m not going to give anything away about the story; however, at the end of this post I’m going to put some of the hints that made me tilt my head at the story which proved to pay off in the end).

But without that information, the story was compelling but also frustrating.  Gilbert starts out the story so that you know there will be a sad ending: “It ends with his right hand griping her left…the plane is on final approach.”  The two people, both married meet and think about having an affair.  Both of them are pretty unhappily married with children and living in California.  But the story is told as an impartial report: “we also know that seven weeks earlier the Los Angeles Dodgers played their final game of the season.” (more…)

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jun9SOUNDTRACK: JOHN GRANT-“GMF” (live on The Late Show with David Letterman) (2014).

grantI was introduced to John Grant with this song.  And since the G stands for Greatest and the MF stands for what you think it does, I was really surprised to hear that he played this live on Letterman (Grant’s network TV debut, no less).

He sounds great live (his voice is rather gentle for such a song title).  He has a full band but the song is primarily acoustic guitar with swells of keys.  The backing vocals on the later verses really flesh out the song.  And it is immensely catchy.  I’ve been singing it to myself for days.

But the best part of course are the lyrics.

In the first chorus of this version he dares to sing the dreaded MF words, which get silenced (sophisticated recording keeps the music playing though).  The rest of the choruses he changes it to “I am the greatest living creature” which I find funny and possibly even better.  I also love the way the percentage of laughing you could be doing decreasing as the song ends.

They edited down the song (the original over 5 minutes), removing a middle section that adds dimension to the song, but is not missed in this version.

Even Letterman enjoyed it, saying those same bleeped words at the end of the song.  It’s a great live performance

[READ: September 17, 2014] “You Can Find Love Now”

This year’s Summer Fiction issue of the New Yorker was subtitled Love Stories.  In addition to all of the shorter pieces that were included in this issue, there were also four fiction contributions.

Interestingly, this one was very short as well (possibly shorter than some of the essays).

This story actually reads like a Shouts & Murmurs piece.  It is a funny conceit dragged to its logical ends.  In this case, the story pokes fun at online dating.

The story opens with a pitch from the dating company saying that after creating a profile, within 24 hours “you’ll be on your way to eternal happiness.”  The first joke comes when the profile creator writes, “Find me at cyclops15.  Cyclops 1-14 were taken.”  Then in his second typed section we learn that, indeed, he is really a cyclops: “I am eight feel tall and I have one giant eye.” (more…)

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30SOUNDTRACK: PLACEBO-B3EP (2012).

b3Placebo went away for a time and now (well, 2012) they’re back with an EP and an album.  This EP has 5 songs and it returns their sound to days of old (although their sound hasn’t changed all that much, honestly, but their last album seemed less…something).  This returns to noisy days of yore.  “B3” has a sleazy kind of synth, big rocking guitars and drums, and of course Brian Molko’s voice (they wouldn’t be Placebo without his voice).

The second track is a cover of a Minux song “I Know You Want to Stop” and it falls right in with the placebo sound.  I actually thought it was one of their own.

“The Extra” slows down the craziness of the EP, but it sounds very much like a Placebo ballad.  Rather than a love ballad it is a creepy ballad.   The theme is summed up”If I am an extra in the film of my own life, will someone please turn off the camera.”  There’s great guitar sound on “I.K.W.Y.L.” with Molko’s keening voice adding tension.

And the final song, “Time is Money” is one of Molko’s aching slow song.  “Time is Money bastard, so like Jesus, give it all away.”  Somehow he turns that sentiment into a love song.  And I love Molko for that.

For an EP, this is a really solid collection of songs–no throwaway tracks here.  Let’s hope the full length is as good.

 [READ: September 18, 2014] “Stepping Out”

In this piece, I can’t decide if Sedaris is messing with us or not.  This essay is all about his love affair with the Fitbit.

In my head, Sedaris is a pampered homebody who only goes out when he has to.  While I would never say he was unfit, I just can’t picture him exercising, even if that exercise is walking. On the other hand, I know that he is rather obsessive, so I can see him taking to something like this and really running (or walking) with it.

Sedaris’ friend Lesley explained the pedometer to him.  “The goal is to take ten thousand steps per day and, once you do, it vibrates.”  He asks, “Hard?”  She says “No, it’s just a tingle.”  So he bought one.  And he quickly learns that 10,000 steps is a little more than 4 miles for him.

He says he can achieve that easily in a day, especially since he has people coming to his door all the time, “wanting you to accept a package or give them directions or just listen patiently as they talk about birds, which happens from time to time when I’m home in West Sussex….” (more…)

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10SOUNDTRACK: FATHER JOHN MISTY-Fear Fun (2012).

fjmI can’t get over how much I’ve been enjoying this album for the last two years.  Father John Misty is J Tillman from Fleet Foxes.

This disc is a gentle folk album with vaguely country leanings.  The arrangements are spare and yet the verses and choruses are so great to sing along to. “Funtimes in Babylon” has this infectious chorus: “I would like to abuse my lungs, smoke everything in sight with every girl I’ve ever loved.  Ride around the wreckage on a horse knee deep in mud.  Look out, Hollywood, here I come.”  “Nancy from Now On” has a great propulsive chorus with oohs and tinkling bells and pianos and Misty’s engaging falsetto.

I was introduced to this album by “Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings” which opens with the super catchy line, “Jeeeeesus Christ, girl.”  I love the big crashing drum sound he has here.  “I’m Writing a Novel” is a fun romp, with the great line “I’m writing a novel because it’s never been done before.”  “O I Long to Feel Your Arms Around Me” introduces a great organ sound.  It’s a full song at only 2 and a half minutes.

“Misty’s Nightmares 1 & 2” opens with a slide guitar and turns into a stomping song with more Ooohs and a great chorus.  “Only Son of the Ladiesman” has a great chorus with the fun couple: “I’m a steady hand, I’m a Dodgers fan.”  “This is Sally Hatchet” has cool guitar blasts and a great bridge.

“Well You Can Do It Without Me” is a countrified 2 minute stomper.  “Tee Pees 1-12” is a big stompin’ honkey tonk song with fiddles and slide guitar.  The disc ends with “Everyman Needs a Companion” a slow ballad with a great piano melody and a fun to sing along with verse and chorus.

I love the lyrics on this album, especially the song “Now I’m Learning to Love the War” a slow ballad with a great story:

Try not to think so much about
The truly staggering amount of oil that it takes to make a record
All the shipping, the vinyl, the cellophane lining, the high gloss
The tape and the gear

Try not to become too consumed
With what’s a criminal volume of oil that it takes to paint a portrait
The acrylic, the varnish, aluminum tubes filled with latex
The solvents and dye

Lets just call this what it is
The gentler side of mankind’s death wish
When it’s my time to go
Gonna leave behind things that won’t decompose

In addition to all of the great music on here, the CD packaging is fantastic with that great cover, done in a cardboard gatefold sleeve including two huge books full of words and drawings and lyrics and everything.  I’m really looking forward to his next release.

[READ: September 14, 2014] Grantland #10

Despite my being in the middle of reading several other things, I was looking for a short article to read the other night and grabbed my Grantland 10.  And, of course, once I started, I couldn’t stop. I put everything else on hold and blasted through this issue.

And so all of my loves and hates are the same with this issue.  I never know how anything they talk about nearly a year ago turned out, which stinks.  And yet I get so wrapped up in the writing that I don’t care.  I’m not sure what it is about the writing for Grantland that i enjoy so much.  It is casual but knowledgeable.  Often funny but not obnoxiously silly. And I suppose that now I feel like I’m in on all of the secret stuff they talk about so I’m part of the club.  I fear that if I were to ever go to the website I would get sucked into a black hole and never emerge.

I often wonder how they choose what goes into the book.  This issue has some new writers and the surprising absence of some regulars.  I wonder what went on there.  And as always, the book could use some editing and maybe actually listing the urls of the links that were once in the online version.  But I think I’m talking to deaf ears on that one.

This issue covers October-December 2013 (that’s ten-twelve months ago!  Some of this stuff feels ancient!)

(more…)

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jun9SOUNDTRACK: DESTROY TOMORROW 666-“Distortasaur” (2005?).

6666Destroy Tomorrow 666 is a DJ project from Sloan’s Patrick Pentland.  I had never heard of it until reading about him recently (Sloan has a new album out).  It is Pentland’s Alternative / Electro / Punk outlet that he’s been doing since 2005.

Pentland is known for writing gorgeous pop songs with wonderful harmonies.  But he grew up listening to hardcore punk, so his musical tastes are all over the place.  This track (I love the name) is, like the others here, a distorted fuzzy “dance” song that is all instrumental and not poppy at all.

While I’ll stick with Sloan, I imagine this was a lot of fun to whip together.  And yes, I think it’s very good dark dance music.  Although surely if he was going to use 666 he could have turned Pentland into Pentagram.

You can check it out at ReverbNation.

[READ: June 17, 2014] “Stories”

This year’s Summer Fiction issue of the New Yorker was subtitled Love Stories.  In addition to the two graphic stories, we have a series of five personal essays which fall under the heading of “My Old Flame.”  I liked that all five writers have slight variations in how they deal with this topic.

Colm Tóibín is a prolific writer whom I know very little about.

In this essay, Tóibín flashes back to 1978 when he was 23 and living in Barcelona.  He had been there for a few months when he heard about a cheap charter flight back to Ireland.  So he packed up and got out of Barcelona and returned to his home.

He often wonders what would have happened had he stayed in Spain.  He most likely would have stayed with the guy he was seeing, spending days on the beach and nights in the boy’s apartment in the city.  He even thinks he might never have gone home.

After he left, they kept in touch for a time, then inevitably, they lost touch.  (more…)

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jun9SOUNDTRACK: BUDGIE-“Breadfan” (1973).

budgieI am pretty much wholly ignorant of Budgie. I know this song “Breadfan” because Metallica covered it back on one of their covers EPs. I really Metallica’s version, but since that was pre-internet, I was never able to explore Budgie more.  And then I forgot about them.

Well, just the other night, WXPN played “Breadfan” (as part of a 70s power trio segment) and I was shocked at how high-pitched Burke Shelley’s voice was (the comparisons to Rush are apt).  And I was also surprised at how heavy this song was.  While Black Sabbath had certainly been releasing heavy albums up until this time, this song introduced a much faster element.  And there were only three members in the band!

What’s also interesting is the prog rock leanings in some of their songs, like the middle of this one.  The fact that Roger Dean did this album cover and that they have a 10 minute song on this album seems to lean towards prog rock as well).

Time to dig deep in to the Welsh band’s catalog, I think.

[READ: June 17, 2014] “Beautiful Girl”

This year’s Summer Fiction issue of the New Yorker was subtitled Love Stories.  In addition to the two graphic stories, we have a series of five personal essays which fall under the heading of “My Old Flame.”  I like that all five writers have slight variations in how they deal with this topic.

Wolff surprises (me anyhow) by saying that when he was fifteen, he cut off the last joint of his left ring finger.  This piece of information just sort of lingers there until the end of the story.

Because he then talks about how he never really had a girlfriend.  In sixth grade he and his friend Terry would meet Terry’s cousin Patty and another girl in the movie theater and they would pair up and make out (clearly Terry did not make out with his cousin).   But they pairings were never seen in public and never went on a further date.

But later that winter his family moved to the Cascades, where the elementary school had all of four rooms.  There were ten kids in his class and nine were boys.  The one girl, Nevy, drove them all crazy. She favored one then the other but her real love was horses not boys. (more…)

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jun9SOUNDTRACK: BIKINI KILL-Revolution Girl Style Now (1991).

rvolBikini Kill was one of the most memorable bands from the Riot Grrrl movement.  And frankly, twenty years on, these song still sound incendiary–no one has picked up the torch that bands like this lit in the 90s.

Bikini Kill were confrontational–Kathleen Hannah took no shit, and sang however she felt–sometimes screaming, sometime howling, sometimes singing right on key.   But the most important thing about Bikini Kill was their lyrics–they addressed women’s issues in ways that few bands dared to before (or even since).  As in the title “Suck My Left One.”  Or the premise of “Carnival,” a song about 16 year old girls giving carnies head to go on rides.

While it’s not always clear what the lyrics are, occasional lines are crystal clear. “Daddy’s l’il girl don’t wanna be his whore no more.”  “As a woman I was taught to always be hungry / Now women are well acquainted with thirst”  Or the addressed-to-all-girlfriends, “Double Dare Ya”

Hey girlfriend
I got a proposition goes something like this:
Dare ya to do what you want
Dare ya to be who you will
Dare ya to cry right outloud

Their music, especially on this early self released tape was raw and edgy, abrasive and confrontational.  And yet at the same time they didn’t completely shy away from melody, as this album’s “Feels Blind” has a simple but catchy melody.

[READ: June 17, 2014] “TV”

This year’s Summer Fiction issue of the New Yorker was subtitled Love Stories.  In addition to the two graphic stories, we have a series of five personal essays which fall under the heading of “My Old Flame.”  I liked that all five writers have slight variations in how they deal with this topic.

Miranda July’s take on My Old Flame is set back when she was living in Portland. While her story isn’t exactly happy (how many stories about old flames ever are?), this particular old flame had a major impact on her life.

July noticed that there were two women who were always walking together and who loved together.  She was intrigued by them and their cool house and eventually made friends with them.  She was especially interested in the person called TV.  “She, if she was a she, was every boy from every childhood book.”  July had tried to date boys like that but they often turned out to be assholes. But TV had those boyish qualities and a girl’s point of view. (more…)

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