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Archive for September, 2015

kickassSOUNDTRACK: BUILT TO SPILL CAUSTIC RESIN (1995).

caustic This is one of those CDs that I used to see all the time back when I shopped at Tower Records in Boston.  Either they had a lot of copies of it or it was always at the front, or something.  But I never forgot the title of this EP, which I only purchased a few years ago.

The title is funny because it is indeed a merging of Built to Spill and Caustic Resin.  But it’s not a split single with the two bands playing.  Rather, it is Doug Martsch from Built to Spill playing with the three guys from Caustic Resin James Dillion on drums, Tom Romich on bass and Brett Netson on guitar and vocals on “Shit Brown Eyes.”  (Remember how Doug was planning to have different musicians on each album?).

The EP has four songs totaling about 25 minutes.

“When Not Being Stupid Is Not Enough” is over 9 minutes long.  It opens with a lot of instrumental stuff until about 3 and half minutes when the title lyrics come in as does the organ.  By 5 and half minutes the song doubles in speed and builds with some great soloing.

“One Thing” has loud and screamed vocals from Martsch (probably the only BtS song like that). There’s a lot of wild psychedelic keyboard work in the middle of the song which alternates with a lengthy guitar solo.  They pack a lot of jamming into five minutes.

“Shit Brown Eyes” was written by Caustic Resin.  It’s a fairly conventional sounding song.  There’s lots of guitar work and dual vocals.  It’s a little chaotic, but there’s more beautiful soloing toward the end.

The final song is a cover of Kicking Giant’s “She’s Real.” The song is also fairly conventional (I don’t know the original) but they stretch it out to 8 minutes.  It has a slow and mellow opening.  There’s a lengthy fairly quiet guitar soloing section and then the end has a rocking section repeating “be my, be my baby” (but not a cover of the original).

This is an interesting EP, and might serve as an introduction to Caustic Resin (who I don’t really know) more that Built to Spill.  It’s certainly not their best album, but “When Not Being Stupid Is Not Enough” is really fantastic.

[READ: July 20, 2015] Kick-Ass

I really enjoyed the movie of Kick-Ass.  I knew it was from a comic book but I’d never seen the book before.  And then I walked right past it in the library and had to check it out.  This book collects issues 1-8 of the first series.

The movie is changed in different ways (made more “upbeat” mostly) but the story line is pretty consistent.  Dave Lizewski is a fairly  normal kid.  He’s not a jock, but he’s not picked on either.  He likes comic books but isn’t a major geek.  He crushes on a hot girl and she won’t give him the time of day–pretty standard fare.  But he wants something more.  And he wonders why no one has ever tried to become a super hero for real.  Obviously there’s no magic or superpowers involved, just a costumed avenger helping people?  Why not?

So he decides to do it.  He puts on a scuba suit an and a mask and heads out. Now, unlike every superhero, he has no major back story.  His mother is dead, but from an aneurysm, so there’s no revenge.  And his dad is pretty cool, so there’s no struggle there.  He just wants some excitement.  And he finds it.  He runs into some kids spray painting on a wall.  He has no fighting skills, and he gets the crap beat out of him.  And as he flees, he is hit by a car.   He winds up in the hospital, barely alive. (more…)

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woyzeckSOUNDTRACK: BUILT TO SPILL-There’s Nothing Wrong with Love (1994).

Theres_Nothing_Wrong_With_LoveThis is the second Built to Spill album.  They moved to a new indie label (Up Records) for this one.  For this album the line up changed to Brett Nelson, on bass and Andy Capps on drums.

For this album there aren’t too many long songs.  In fact many are 3 minutes or less.  And overall, the feel is more lo-fi, less experimental.  And yet it still sounds very much like Built to Spill.

“In the Morning” is pretty and catchy with some interesting guitar work that is downplayed in the mix. I like the rather surprising ending.  “Big Dipper” is insanely catchy with two separate styles of guitar solo at the same time.

“Car” is even catchier–one of their great early songs.  It’s got a great riff and verse.  And the strings add a lot to the song.  “Fling” opens with acoustic guitar and strings.  It’s a pretty song and only 2 and a half minutes.  “Cleo” is another slow song with some bursts of guitar greatness.

“The Source” has loud and quiet elements—big acoustic guitars and some crazy jamming moments towards the end.

“Twin Falls” is a stripped down and honest song.  It’s just him and his acoustic guitar (with some electric guitar soloing over the top) singing an honest, sweet ballad.

“Some” has slow and heavy elements as it tells a story about a guy. It’s the longest song on the dis and one of the few where Martsch just lets loose on guitar and wails (for a long time).  “Distopian Dream Girl” has a kind of sloppy feel to it (with the lead guitar being especially sloppy).  The lyrics about his stepfather looking like David’ Bowie are very funny. I love the way the mildly catchy verse turns into a big catchy chorus.

“Israel’s Song” has a groovy bass line unlike anything else on the disc.  And the disc proper ends with “Stab.”  The song opens slowly with some quiet electric guitar but it builds for 5 and a half minutes (the second longest song on the disc). By 2 minutes, the song has become a heavy guitar song getting faster and faster until it breaks into a slow guitar picked section with strings. As the song returns to that heavy fast section, it adds a long guitar solo–combing all of the elements of Built to Spill in one song.

Although this album isn’t as “experimental” as the first and doesn’t have too many weird sounds on it, they haven’t lost their sense of humor.  There is an unlisted track which is a “preview” of the next Built to Spill record.  It contains several snippets of “songs” that will appear next (a decent variety of styles, too).  Of course, none of these songs appear on the record and the date that they give for when it will come out is also false.  It’s pretty darn funny.  This album tends to get overlooked because their next full length was on a major label, but it’s still really solid.

[READ: September 26, 2015] Woyzeck

Karl Georg Büchner died in 1837 at the age of 24. In his short life he wrote 4 plays and all kinds of nonfiction.  Woyzeck was unfinished and has been adapted many times for the stage and film.  And now it is LaBute’s turn.

Neil LaBute is one of the most misanthropic filmmakers I know of.  His films are super dark, (occasionally funny–but always dark) and he’s not afraid to address controversial issues.  So he seems like the perfect person to adapt (and add to) this play.

In the lengthy introduction, LaBute comments that if you didn’t spend time looking for buried treasure as a kid “your childhood may have been even worse than mine and therefore I want to spend no time imagining it.”  He says that Woyzeck is such a treasure. (more…)

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dfwSOUNDTRACK: BUILT TO SPILL-Ultimate Alternative Wavers (1993).

Bts I am going to see Built to Spill this Friday.  I was supposed to see them back in 2001, but then some bad things happened in New York City and their show was cancelled (or I opted not to go–I see on Setlist that they did play that night).  Since then, I have enjoyed each new album more than the previous one, so I am really excited to see them.

I thought it would be interesting to revisit their earlier records.  In reading about the band I learned that Doug Martsch was in Treepeople (which I didn’t know and who I don’t really know at all).  I also learned that his plan for BtS was to have just him with a different line up for each album.  That didn’t quite work out, but there has been a bit of change over the years.

Their debut album is surprisingly cohesive and right in line with their newer material.  It’s not to say that they haven’t changed or grown, but there’s a few songs on here that with a little better production could easily appear on a newer album.  Martsch’s voice sounds more or less the same, and the catchiness is already present (even if it sometimes buried under all kinds of things).  And of course, Marstch’s guitar skill is apparent throughout.  The album (released on the tiny C/Z label) also plays around a lot with experimental sounds and multitracking.  When listening closely, it gives the album a kind of lurching quality, with backing vocals and guitars at different levels of volume throughout the disc.

But “The First Song” sounds like a fully formed BtS song–the voice and guitar and catchy chorus are all there..  The only real difference is the presence of the organ in the background.  “Three Years Ago Today” feels a bit more slackery–it sounds very 90s (like the irony of the cover), which isn’t a bad thing.  The song switches between slow and fast and a completely new section later in the song.  “Revolution” opens with acoustic guitars and then an occasional really heavy electric guitar riff that seems to come from nowhere.  The end of the song is experimental with weird sounds and doubled voices and even a cough used as a kind of percussion.

“Shameful Dread” is an 8 minute song.   There’s a slow section, a fast section, a big noisy section and a coda that features the guys singing “la la la la la”.  Of course the most fun is that the song ends and then Nelson from The Simpsons says “ha ha” and a distorted kind of acoustic outro completes the last two minutes.

“Nowhere Nuthin’ Fuckup” is one of my favorite songs on the record.  There’s a sound in the background that is probably guitar but sounds like harbor seals barking.  I recently learned that the lyrics are an interpretation of the Velvet Underground’s “Oh! Sweet Nuthin.”  They aren’t exactly the same but are very close for some verses.  The rest of the music is not VU at all.  In fact the chorus gets really loud and angular.  I love the way the guitars build and then stop dramatically.

“Get a Life” opens with a wild riff that reminds me of Modest Mouse (who cite BtS as an influence), but the song quickly settles down (with more multitracked voices).  I love how at around 4 minutes a big swath of noise takes over and it is resolved with a really catchy noisy end section.  “Built to Spill” starts out slow and quiet, and grows louder with a catchy chorus.  In the background there’s all kinds of noisy guitars and superfuzzed bass.

“Lie for a Lie” is pretty much a simple song with s constant riff running throughout.  The verses are catchy, but the middle section is just crazy–with snippets of guitars, out of tune piano, a cowbell and random guitar squawking and even shouts and screams throughout the “solo” section.  “Hazy” is a slow song with many a lot of soloing.  The disc ends with the nine minute “Built Too Long, Pts 1,2 and 3”  Part 1 is a slow rumbling take on a riff (with slide guitar and piano).  It last about 90 seconds before Part 2 comes in.  It has a big fuzzy bass (with a similar if not identical riff) and wailing guitar solos.  Over the course of its five or so minutes it get twisted and morphed in various bizarre ways.  With about 30 seconds left, Chuck D shouts “Bring that beat back” and the song returns, sort of, to the opening acoustic section.

While the album definitely has a lot of “immature” moments (and why shouldn’t the band have fun?) there’s a lot of really great stuff here.

btstix

[READ: September 26, 2015] Critical Insights: David Foster Wallace

It’s unlikely that a non-academic would read a book of critical insights about an author.  Of course, if you really like an author you might be persuaded to read some dry academic prose about that author’s work.  But as it turns out, this book is not dry at all.  In fact, I found it really enjoyable (well, all but one or two articles).

One of the things that makes a book like this enjoyable (and perhaps questionable in terms of honest scholarship) is that everyone who writes essays for this collection is basically a fan of DFW’s work.  (Who wants to spend years thoroughly researching an author only to say means things about him or her anyway?).  So while there are certainly criticisms, it’s not going to be a book that bashes the author.  This is of course good for the fan of DFW and brings a pleasant tone to the book overall.

For the most part the authors of this collection were good writers who avoided a lot of jargon and made compelling arguments about either the book in question or about how it connected to something else.  I didn’t realize until after I looked at the biographies of the authors that nearly everyone writing in this book was from England or Ireland.  I don’t think that makes any difference to anything but it was unexpected to have such an Anglocentric collection about such an American writer (although one of the essays in this book is about how DFW writes globally).

Philip Coleman is the editor and he write three more or less introductory pieces.  Then there are two primary sections: Critical Insights and Critical Essays. (more…)

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 loverboysSOUNDTRACK: FOO FIGHTERS-Sonic Highways (2014).

sonicThree years after Wasting Light, Foo Fighters gathered to make Sonic Highways. It only has 8 songs on it (3 are five minutes one is 6 and 1 is one is seven).

There is a lot of back story about this album.  And I’ll use the Wikipedia summary because it is so tidy

In writing the album’s eight songs, singer and guitarist Dave Grohl traveled to eight cities across the United States to conduct interviews with musicians, recording engineers, record producers, and other individuals discussing each city’s musical history, which he used as inspiration for the songs’ lyrics. The band and producer Butch Vig then traveled to a different recording location in each city to record the songs. Each track features contributions from one or more musicians with ties to that city’s musical history.

They made a documentary about it which I have not seen, but which I feel I ought to.

I can’t say I recognize the sound or any signs of whatever city is supposed to be represented ion each song.  I was initially concerned that it meant that the Foos were going try to make a “Chicago song” or, gasp, a “Nashville” song, but that isn’t the case.  So perhaps in that regard the traveling part was unsuccessful, although perhaps it was good for inspiration.  Plus the album is really quite good.

“Something for Nothing” [Chicago (featuring Rick Nielsen)] There’s a nice riff on this song and an interesting guitar sound (Neilsen I assume).  The first 90 seconds feel like an intro to the more chugging riff that is yet another interesting part to the song.  I love that the second repeat of that section includes a clavinet.  And with all of those parts, I love that the song turns into a hugely metal section (“fuck it all I came from nothing”) by the end.

“Feast and the Famine” [Virginia (featuring Peter Stahl and Skeeter Thompson)] has a quick and tidy introductory riff and quickly jumps into a loud chorus.  Stahl and Thompson are in Scream, the hardcore band Grohl was in before he moved to Nirvana.  You can hear their influence in the cool backing vocals during the “Is there anybody there” part.

“Congregation” [Nashville featuring Zac Brown] This song does not feel Nashville at all.  It has a simple but very catchy riff.  There’s a nice chorus which doesn’t get too heavy.   Zac Brown does “devil pickin'” and backing vocals on “Congregation.”  It has a lengthy middle section which is quite different (and angry) before returning to the big chorus.

“What Did I Do? / God As My Witness” [Austin, featuring Gary Clark, Jr.]  This song starts out with a big rumble of chords and then a nearly a capella vocal turn.  I like the way the chords build and then stop for each line.  The “What Did I Do” section feels very classic rock (the way that guitar lick is played–knowing that Joe Walsh is on the record I would have assumed he was on this song).  Gary Clark plays the solos on this song.  The middle of the song is just like the opening.  And then it segues into “God as My Witness” which seems to elevate the song in an interesting way (this is where the much longer guitar solo kicks in.

“Outside” [Joshua Tree, featuring Joe Walsh].  This song has a great fast riff (kind of like a Pearl Jam riff, actually).  The song is fast all the way through with no major distinction between verse and chorus.  Walsh plays lead guitar during the lengthy jam section–mostly just quiet bass and drums while the guitar natters away.  It’s a very different style of song for the Foo Fighters.  And while it’s a little dull at 5 minutes, it’s not bad by any means.

“In the Clear” [New Orleans featuring the Preservation Hall Jazz Band].  Despite the location and the guests, I never would have guessed the location of the song.  It has a big riff to open with but it quickly settles down to a verse that ends “god damn I swear.”  It’s a simple song but it has big catchy chorus with horns playing along with the guitars.  Although I wouldn’t have wanted to have a big jazz influence on the song (and they have done jazzy things before) it’s a little wasted to have the ensemble only add horns to the song.  I like it nevertheless, but it feels like they could have done more.

“Subterranean” [Seattle, featuring Ben Gibbard] is a slow build of a song (with two people playing eerie e-bow).  It lasts six minutes and has several stages as more musicians enter the song.  Even at 6 minutes it is still quite a subdued song with no really big chorus, the chorus is actually kind of understated and very moody.  And yet I can’t hear Gibbard at all.

“I Am a River” [New York, featuring Tony Visconti and Kristeen Young] The song is over 7 minutes and has a very slow introduction, with overlapping guitars and the vocals not coming in until about 90 seconds in.  It seems like it’s going to take off about 2 minutes in, but there’s a delay at work and the slow verses continue.  The song builds slowly to a big chorus (although it’s not a dramatic change from the verse either).  I love Kristeen Young but I can’t hear her anywhere on this song (she has a unique voice too).

This is certainly not my favorite Foos’ album but it’s very solid and despite a few songs being too long,  it’s a pretty tidy album (at 42 minutes) and could have been way overblown (the strings at the end of the album are almost too much but they are actually quite restrained for this concept album).

[READ: May 25, 2015] Loverboys

I know Hernandez’ brother Jaime’s work a little better than Gilbert’s.  And I have to say that I like Jaime’s better as well. There’s something I find lightly offputting about Gilbert’s drawing style.  It seems very boxy and childlike–despite the fact that he clearly has a great grasp of anatomy. There’s something especially odd about the faces that I just find… odd (to say nothing of the breasts on Mrs Paz and the waists on every woman in the book).

So, having gotten past that concern, what about the content of the story.

Well, I found the story a little confusing as well.  I mean, the basic premise is obvious, but there were some side issues that I thought were really weird.

So the premise is that in the small city of Lagrimas (“tears”), there are a number of characters. There are some young girls who are sill in grade school, there are some mid 20s men who are out of school and working and there are some older women–successful workers. (more…)

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secondsSOUNDTRACK: FOO FIGHTERS-Wasting Light (2011).

Foo_Fighters_Wasting_Light_Album_CoverThis summer I began writing about Foo Fighters’ albums.  Somehow I stopped before the final two.  Even though I had talked about Wasting Light before, in respect of a sense of continuity here’s more words about it.

It took four years for the Foo Fighters to release this album (I guess Grohl was doing one of his many side projects?).  The big story about this record was that Grohl wanted it all recorded with analogue equipment (in Grohl’s garage).  And he chose Butch Vig, who recorded Nevermind to do the work. Pat Smear was also included as a member of the band for this album (he even plays a baritone guitar)

Although to my ear it doesn’t sound any different from the digital recordings, there is a warmth and bigness to the album that their recent records seemed to lack

“Bridge Burning” opens with a bunch of muffled notes that give way to a big screamed opening verse.  This song grows more adventurous with some guitar harmonics at the end of the verses. The bridge leads to a classic Foo Fighters chorus (with more vocal harmonies in the background, that just seems to make it feel bigger)).  I love the descending chords in the (what, sixth?) part of the song.  Before the simple but great closing riffs.  It was released as the fifth (!) single from the album.

“Rope” was the first single.  It opens with some echoed guitar chords and then what sounds like a big old Rush riff and intro.  The riff is a little unusual but really cool (guitarist Chris Shiflett to comment that “What my guitar is doing over the bass makes no sense in a way. It does, but you don’t know how.” ) The verses have that riff in between them and a big “ow!” in the bridge.  Unsurprisingly, despite all of the oddness of the verses, the chorus is big and friendly with some great sing along parts.  There’s even a section for a (brief) drum solo.

Bob Mould (clearly an influence on Grohl) came into sing and play guitar on “Dear Rosemary.”  You can’t really hear him all that much, but when he pops up (especially near the end) it sounds great.   “White Limo” is a punky blast, with Grohl’s vocal shredding (lyrics are pretty much inaudible) right from the get go.  There’s some interesting riffs and chord changes (the music is so much cleaner than the distorted vocals).  “Arlandria” sounds like the Foo Fighters, but there’s something unusual about the feel of the song (the bridge especially).  The chorus is pure Foos, but the verse has an interesting style that’s not like anything Grohl has done before.

“One of These Days” opens with some rather unusual guitar notes (Grohl has clearly been experimenting with his guitar skills over the years).  It progresses into a smooth verse and then shifts to a big (but short) chorus with stadium chords and then another sing a long part after it.  It’s a very cool song (and Grohl has said it’s his favorite song that he’s written).

“Back & Forth” has a strange backwards kind of riff that opens the song and a kind of chugga chugga heavy metal guitar verse.  The song is one of the simplest ones on the record–almost completely poppy (if not for being so heavy).  It also seems weird that it ends with the riff too.  “A Matter of Time” starts out as mostly drums and vocals with some guitar riffs. It moves to a kind of unusual staccato riff around one minute and then turns into yes, a huge chorus.  The verses after the chorus seem bright and sweet with a newly added guitar line.

“Miss the Misery” features Fee Waybill, lead singer from The Tubes (and a friend of Grohl’s).  The opening riffage actually reminds me a song by Aldo Nova (who?).  I like the chorus (and backing vocals, although I never would have guessed it was Fee Waybill).

And Krist Novoselic plays bass (and accordion!) on “I Should Have Known.”   It has a slow echoey intro (complete with mellotron and strings).  It has an aching vocal delivery in the chorus.  The bass doesn’t really kick in until about 3 minutes (when the song really fills out)

“Walk” ends the album.  It is pretty classic Foo Fighters at this point, a slow opening and then big choruses (and was written about helping his daughter to walk).  This one even has a radio friendly pause in one of the choruses.   (I love that the final song was released as the second single, and am so glad they didn’t front load the album!).  And that the song and album end with a fast chord .

This is a solid album from start to finish.  I think when they keep their albums under 50 minutes, they keep the music tight and don’t throw in any filler.

[READ: January 13, 2015] Seconds

Wow I loved this book.

I had been reading a lot of graphic novels and I was a little burnt on them, but this one rose above everything else I’d read in a while.

O’Malley did the Scott Pilgrim series, one of my favorite series and a darn good movie too.  While this has similar sensibility to Pilgrim (including the punchline of the same joke, ha) I think this being a a single book made it more impactful.

The story is about Katie.  She is a chef.  She also looks a lot like the style of O’Malley’s characters–sort of short roundish features, bordering on anime but with his own style thrown on top.  Katie’s most recognizable feature is her awesome flame of red hair on top of her head.

Katie co-owns Seconds, a very popular restaurant.  People come for her food because she is a very good cook.  Even if she doesn’t actually do much cooking anymore–she’s more a manager than a chef (having read a lot about chefs in Lucky Peach, I understand what this whole scene is like more than I might have otherwise).  She is really interested in opening up her own place (called Katie’s) across the river.  Since she is only co-owner of Seconds, she wants to be out of it and into her very own restaurant (even if she still likes the other co-owner).

We meet the others who work at Seconds.  The new head chef Andrew (with whom there’s a bit of a romance) and the waitresses, especially Hazel, a very tall mousy kind of woman whom everyone else thinks is very strange.  Hazel is quiet, she’s really hot, and she always wants to close the restaurant at night (others have seen her doing strange things before she leaves). (more…)

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1953SOUNDTRACK:CŒUR DE PIRATE-Cœur de pirate (2008).

Coeur-de-pirate-albumCœur de Pirate is the band name of Béatrice Martin, a Québécois singer and piano prodigy.  She was 19 when she released this album (and was accepted into conservatory school in Montreal when she was nine).

Given her musical background, one might expect more elaborately created music–more chamber pop, perhaps.  But this debut album is delightfully sweet and spare indie pop.  It is primarily simple piano songs with occasional extra accompaniment.

Most of the songs are simple, with unfussy arrangements and Martin’s beautiful voice.  The songs verge from charming piano melody to simple waltz to piano instrumental and a few upbeat almost dancey songs.  There’s even a guitar based song that adds a folk feel to the album.

There are 12 songs and the album runs only to 30 minutes.  It is charming and delightful.  The only thing I didn’t like so much was when Jimmy Hunt duets with her on “Pour un infidèle.” It’s not that I disliked his voice (which I did grow to appreciate after a few listens) it’s that his voice removes you from the insular little world that Martin has created.  When I am in it I don’t want any distractions.

The album definitely has a Francophone feel to it (her songs were described as “bringing la chanson française to a whole new generation of Quebec youth”) although she does remind me a bit of Regina Spektor’s later songs, too.

She also had a fluke hit with “Ensemble” when it was used with a funny baby based YouTube video that went viral (I’ve posted that at the bottom of the page).

You can listen to the whole album below

[READ: September 17, 2015] The Complete Peanuts 1953-1954

Moving on to volume 2 of the Complete Peanuts.  As 1953 opened, the characters remained in that older style–Snoopy still looks a lot like a dog, and Charlie’s head is still much bigger (or actually I guess his face is still smaller).  By the end of the book, they have morphed a little closer to the Peanuts most of us are familiar with, but they still look “different.”

I enjoy the way the Schulz celebrates the holidays with a simple but nice sentiment (Schroeder playing his piano with the music staff reading “Happy New Year”).  Indeed, Schulz celebrates most holidays.  Valentine’s Day, Income Tax Day (!) and of course, he has lots of fun with Hallowen (no great pumpkin yet though).

This volume seems to be a lot about Lucy (which may be why she is on the cover).  In the first few strips she gets expelled from nursery school.  Later on she quits nursery school because they didn’t teach how to be a nurse.  Lucy also tends to have a regular punchline, with regard to Schroeder of “I’ll probably never get married.”  Lucy also begins in earnest her counting career–trying to count all the stars (and getting exhausted) or all the raindrops, or the amount she jumps rope.  And she is still a fussbudget, with a joke at the end of 1954 having Schroeder compose the “Fuddbudget Sonata” for her.

Linus, who is still a baby, has taken to “shooting” people with his finger  (he struggles to crawl for a ball only to have Snoopy walk up and take it away, so he looks at Snoopy and says “bang”).  He is still crawling and toddling for much of the year, although by the end he seems to be growing up.  Nevertheless, Lucy is still giving him a hard time–constantly shouting at him when he is not looking and then commenting that “he’s awfully nervous.”

There’s a lot of baseball jokes as they move into spring (how did he keep coming up with original baseball jokes after all those years?) inducing jokes about sponsorship.  And then Lucy starts taking up golf (and is very good at it).

Schroeder continues to play beautifully (and to get upset by everyone who bothers him, especially Lucy and Snoopy.  He has a crisis of conscience when he says “sometimes I thin I like Brahms even better than Beethoven.”

Schulz included some occasionally topical material.  So there’s a joke about the popularity of “Doggie in the Window”  (It went to number 1 in April of 1953 and stayed there for 8 weeks).  Snoopy has been listening to it all day.

And of course there is a ton about Snoopy too.  he still looks like a dog and still does a lot of doggie things (and Schulz is always spot on with them).  I really like the joke where Snoopy eats a moth and then coughs up the dryness.  Or when he falls asleep under a tree and wakes up covered in leaves.  There are even a few jokes in which Snoopy hates being patted on the head.  And of course, Snoopy just loves zooming around (especially through croquet hoops).  This is mostly like Snoopy giving everyone a hard time, especially Charlie Brown (with the constant refrain of “You drive me crazy”).

One thing that I like about these early strips is that even though Charlie Brown has a lot of angst, he also has a great deal of self-confidence.  Like when he is mad at Violet and the punch line is “but I know you don’t think I’m Perfect)  There’s even a funny joke (or series of jokes) about graffiti on a fence (!).  In one, it says “Charlie Brown loves all the girls” (in another it says “Charlie Brown loves Charlie Brown”).

The TV jokes continue (I especially like the one with Shermy watching and the screen clears up to say Why Aren’t You in School?).  Most of them are variations on people sitting on front of each other. and blocking the view.

In June of 1954, Schulz uses the word security to refer to Linus’ blanket (evidently coining the phrase “security blanket”), which continues in one form or another throughout the book.  Linus starts to become really smart–outwitting Charlie Brown at houses of cards and magic tricks and the wonderful punchline of him blowing up a square balloon.

The biggest change comes in July 1954 with the addition of Pig Pen or ‘Pig Pen’ as he was first called. He doesn’t do a lot but it leads to a lot of jokes about being dirty.

And in December 1954, a new short-lived character named Charlotte Braun (or Good Ol’ Charlotte Braun) enters the strip.  She has wild curly hair and talks very loudly.  She is something of a foil to Charlie, but she is never really developed.

The book has a Foreword by Walter Cronkite.  He says that he was supposed to interview Schulz, but on the day they were scheduled, he took ill.  So Cronkite never got to meet with Schulz.  This is shame although I have to say that Schulz and Cronkite were such huge figures that they certainly should have met many times over the years.

Cronkite reveals a bit more about the Schulz’ Sparky nickname–that he was given the nickname by an uncle who was referencing the horse Spark Plug in the Barney Google strip.  I like Cronkite’ summary:

Now here you have a confluence of coincidences that would never be accepted even by the producers of a Hollywood pot-boiler.  A baby nicknamed after a cartoon characters growing up to be one of the greatest and most popular cartoonist of all time!

Cronkite also praises Schulz’ economy of dialogue and illustration and likewise keeps his own foreword brief as well.

I’m really excited about continuing through the years with these books.

For ease of searching I include Coeur de Pirate, Beatrice Martin, Quebecois, francaise

And here’s that (very funny) viral video that used the Cœur de pirate song:

[youtube-https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8vNxjwt2AqY]

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shackSOUNDTRACK: THE VIOLET ARCHERS-The Anza Club Vancouver, BC (October 22, 2005).

anzaThis is the final show on RheostaticsLive by The Violet Archers.  Tim says this was their first tour and first album.  Ida Nilsen is playing keys throughout the show (and adding backing vocals).  This is the first time she has played live with them for these online shows.

Tim opens the show by saying “We’re the Violet Archers from more or less Toronto, Canada.” He continues, “We have a new album out and the second song [“Coordinates”] goes exactly like this” (although it has kind of a rough start).  In the previous show, Tim sang “All the Good” solo, but it sounds much better with the full band.  Yawd takes a really blistering solo.  Even the drums sound great–he’s really smacking the heck out of them. Tim says it is a “true story with some muscular guitar from Yawd.” Having all of those voices complete this minor chord masterpiece is great.

We learn that Yawd is also in a band called Wayne Omaha.  And that the Archers drove through Beautyland (which I can’t find out anything about!) on their way from Nelson–before then Beautyland was only a picture on a cheap paper place mat.  By the way, Dave and Michele organized the show and are selling beer–the more beer you buy, the more money we make.

“Time to Kill” sounds great–upbeat and catchy.  After the song Tim says, “it’s about waiting for the next Steve Malkmus album to come out.”

In introducing Ida Nilson he says she is from Great Aunt Ida.  You might remember them from oh 15 minutes ago.  Then another member says (and J.P., Scott and Barry.  Tim says “they put the Great in Aunt Ida”).

“The End of Part One” (the title track of their latest album, Tim jokes) really uses the keyboards.  It has lots of backing vocals, including Ida’s which really fleshes out the song (although it sounds slower here than in other shows).

They dedicate a song to someone because it’s her birthday.  “We take requests, do bar mitvahs, corporate functions (bring us some of your corporate dollars–big dollars!).  We don’t do weddings (we don’t believe in the institution of marriage).  Ah hell, we’ll play at weddings (Ida asks, how much?).  This is the intro to a lovely version of “Simple” which is nearly a duet with Tim and Ida.

We also learn that when they were playing in Nelson, Tim taught Spirit Dancing Lessons (another market they cornered–Tim’s giving lessons after the show).  The next song is “Another one for lovers,” which Yawd says is called “Come the Night” although on record it is actually called “A Rising Tide.”  I love the loud chorus, with kind of darker chords.

Interestingly, they play some new songs (from the next album).  They are looking for a title for this song which is now called “new song.” It will eventually be called “Listening.”  It’s quiet and sweet.  Cam Giroux is playing drums tonight (not quite the newest member of the band).

They play their “most political number” called “First the Wheel.”  Then the band starts clapping slowly for Ida to start “Fools Gold Rope” and she asks them to stop–this is a quiet song–she is the singer. It’s mostly just her on the keyboard.  At the end she says I hope you don’t mind if I miss a few chords now and then.

Another song for the new record is the super catchy “Insecure.”  It’s a great duet with Ida and Tim.  On record there’s a horn solo, but the guitars do just as well here.

Scott Remilla on bass is the newest band member, from the band Raising the Fawn.  And coincidentally “Path of Least Resistance” opens with a bass solo.  He takes a long time to start and Tim asks, you want more of an introduction?”  Then they play the upbeat “Life and Then” (which Tim says is sort of about making maple syrup from the blood of trees).

Last call, last song, it’s all coming together.  “Track Display” is about his car stereo.  After a super long intro, Tim sings flat and coughs and laughs and says I need a minute, we could all use a minute.

For the encore, they play another new one called the “Violet Archers Theme Song” (just Tim on guitar and vocals).  And they end the show with “Here Come the Feelings,” a great rocking song to end the set with (they don’t screw up the 5 count this time).

I wish there were more live shows from them, as they are a fun rocking band.  But at least they did get to record a second album.

[READ: June 3, 2015] Shackleton

One of the cool things about reading all of the First Second graphic novels is that I find stuff that I wouldn’t choose to read because of the subject matter.  This book is about an antarctic expedition.  And while it was very good, I never would have picked it up based on that premise alone.  But I really enjoyed the book and was delighted by what I learned from it.

This is the story of Ernest Shackleton, a real explorer (I’d never heard of him) who was determined to explore Antarctica.

He had made two expeditions before this book is set.  The first, the Discovery Expedition 1901-1904, was meant to discover the South Pole.  They got to 78 degrees (the pole is at 90).  Then he crewed the Second Expedition, the Nimrod Expedition 1907-1909, when they got to 88 degrees (about 97 miles from the pole).  Shackleton was knighted but unsatisfied. Especially when Roald Amundsen reached the South Pole in 1910-1912 and then Robert Falcon Scott completed the Terra Nova Expedition 1910-1913 (Amundsen beat them by a month).  Shackleton was furious about losing out to these men so he determined to cross Antarctica on foot.  He set out in 1914.
(more…)

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