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Archive for August, 2017

SOUNDTRACK: RHEOSTATICS-The Quilted Bear, Banff, Alberta (February 11, 1997).

I am quite surprised that the Rheostatics Live site doesn’t make a bigger deal about this show, given its unique nature.  This is an acoustic show that sounds like it was played in front of ten people and a lot of beer.

The shows seems to have started with the second song (at least the way Dave introduces it).  But the first track is a romping acoustic “Record Body Count” (sound check? or maybe just put out of place?).  Whatever, it sounds great with some electric guitar squeals but mostly just folk style with lots of backing singers).

The show proper starts with Dave introducing “an Ontario drinking song.”  There’s lots of shushing as people keep talking over him (although those people might be Tim an Martin).  Dave says, “a drinking song, there’s got to be some drunks talking.”.  Dave tells the story behind the sons and then they launch into a spirited rendition of Stompin’ Tom Connor’s “Midnight Ride of Red Dog Ray.”

Next comes “Christopher.”  It’s hard to believe they used this version for Double Live because it is so imperfect.  Martin coughs in the beginning and his voice cracks a bit.  But it sounds great and is a wonderfully unique version, especially for the live record.

It’s followed by a folksy rendition of “Chanson les Ruelles.”  Although Tim is too quiet.  mid song, you can hear someone in the crowd says “is it in French?  Yea!”  The version of “Wendell Clark” that comes next is only the second part.  But it is stompin and rompin (with someone yelling “yeeeha”).  At the end someone shouts Wendell broke his back.  “He didn’t really break it.”  “Well, he hurt it.”

Someone shouts for “Palomar” (or “Alomar” that seems less likely).  But they play “Take Me in Your Hand” instead.  It is also a folkie version and the end features a percussion addition of wood blocks.

Dave shouts “Hey, Mike, you wanna do Noah’s Cage?”  I have to assume this is Mike O’Neill from The Inbreds (the song is an Inbreds song).  They play the song although Mike forgets the second verse so he repeats the first.   He says its been a while since he played it.

Martin introduces “Introducing Happiness: as “this is a song about being happy.”  Dave says, “I hope so.”  It’s followed by a surprising acoustic version of “P.R.O.D.”  Surprising only because the song tends to get noisy and out of control, but it’s not in this version.  Towards the end, Dave shouts “all percussion solo–whatever you got.”

Martin busts into the melody of “Dope Fiends” but instead they play a long funny version of “Desert Island Discs.”

Dave: AC/DC-Back in Black; Ramones-Rocket to Russia; Martha and the Muffins-Danseparc.
Tim: The Inbreds-Hilario; The Inbreds-Kombinator ; The Inbreds-It’s Sydney or the Bush.
Donny: Randy Newman-Creates Something New Under the Sun; Grace Jones-Nightclubbing; Herbet von Karajan conducts Beethoven’s… “Last Waltz?” (Dave: could you believe he said the classical one?)
An audience member: Kiss-Dressed to Kill;  The Beatles White Album, and… someone says Billy Idol-White Wedding.  Dave: Billy idol?  Gigs over.  And a later line: I’m going to get me to an island not with that guy though, he wants to bring Billy Idol. I don’t even think White Wedding’s the name of the album (it’s not)–although the fans argue the point).
One last guy: Pink Floyd-The Wall; Led Zeppelin-IV… how many picks? How many picks!?)  ZZ Top-Degüello.

“The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald” is sung my Tim, Dave sings “I wish I was back home in Derry” at the appropriate moments.

They end with a piano-based version of “Jesus was Once a Teenager Too.”  He has to start again (“it’s just that that thing fell over”), but when he does it sounds really good–very different.

What a fun show to have been at.  There’s a lot of interaction with the band and fans–I really wonder how many people were there.

[READ: April 3, 2017] “Girlfriend on Mars” 

This story is probably my favorite Lucky Peach story (even if it had nothing to do with food).  Although the end seemed to maybe spiral out of control a little bit–with a finale that was, possibly, a little trite (although, not exactly).

This plot is simple.  Amber Kevinn, the narrator’s girlfriend is going to Mars.  Well, maybe.  She has (unbeknownst to Kevin) entered a reality show contest in which two winners will be selected to travel to Mars on MarsNow.  They will live on Mars until they die–no hope for returning.  This story intersperses the contest with just how Amber’s boyfriend feels about the whole thing.

Amber and Kevin are drug dealers.  Well, not exactly–they sell drugs, but only to family and friends.  They grow them hydroponically–this skill with plants was one of the reasons she was accepted for Mars in the first place.  But why didn’t she say anything to her boyfriend (of twelve years!) until it got to this point?

She made a video, she sent in an essay she even met with the TV people–all without him knowing.  Of course, Kevin’s a pretty heavy stoner at this point so he doesn’t notice much. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: THE BEATLES-Let It Be (1970).

letI wrote about this album back in 2015.

Of all the fascinating details about Beatles releases, I don’t think any are more fascinating than the details about Let It Be.  I’m not even close to understanding everything that went on here.  But in a nutshell, it seems that they went into the studio to record an album called Get Back. They were even going to film the whole things.  It got scrapped.  Some members quit the band then rejoined.  And then they recorded Abbey Road.

And then the band did a concert on a rooftop (almost exactly 46 years ago!).  And soon after they broke up. Then some producers decided to release Let It Be as a soundtrack to the documentary made about their recording.  They used some of the material from Get Back and some from the rooftop concert and then Phil Spector got involved and put all kinds of strings on everything and then the album was released in the UK on my first birthday.

There’s lots of snippets of dialogue which seem designed to make it feel like a soundtrack (which it doesn’t).  There’s really short snippets of songs, there’s raw live songs, there’s overproduced string laden songs.  It’s kind of a mess.  But in there are some good songs too.

“Two of Us” is a pretty folkie number that I like quite a lot although I first became familiar with it from a Guster cover (which is pretty fine).  I never quite understood the title of “Dig a Pony,” but it’s a big weird sloppy song. It’s kind of fun to sing along to—especially the falsetto “Beeeecause.”  This song was recorded from their rooftop concert and it feels rawer than some of the other songs.

“Across the Universe” is a lovely song.  Evidently Lennon didn’t contribute much to Let It Be, so they threw this on to give him more content.  I actually know this more from the Fiona Apple version (which I think is actually better than this processed version). I don’t really care for the strings and echoes feel on this version. “Dig It” is a short piece of nonsense. It was exerted from a lengthy jam but for some reason only this little snippet was included on the record–it sounds odd here.

“Let it Be” is quite a lovely song. I don’t really care for the Phil Spectorisms that were done to it—the strings and choruses seem a bit cheesy.  At the same time, the guitar solo (which is quite good) sounds too raw and harsh for the song.  “Maggie Mae” is a traditional song, another bit of fun nonsense.  I like “I Me Mine,” it’s rather dark and the chorus just rocks out.  “I’ve Got a Feeling”, was also recorded on the roof, so it feels raw.  There’s some great guitars sounds on it. Evidently it was initially two songs, and Lennon’s part (the repeated “everybody” section) was added to it.

“One After 909” sounds so much like an early Beatles song–very traditional rock and roll (which means I don’t really like it).  Although the version is raw sounding (it was also recorded from the rooftop) so that’s kind of cool. Huh, Wikipedia says “the song was written no later than spring 1960 and perhaps as early as 1957, and is one of the first Lennon–McCartney compositions.”   “The Long and Winding Road” is where all the controversy comes from.  McCartney hated what Phil Spector did to his song.  He HATED it.  And I have to agree.  It sounds nothing like the Beatles–it sounds very treacly and almost muzaky.  It feels endless.  At the same time, I’m not even sure if the song is that good–it’s so hard to tell after all these years. I think it kind of rips off the transition in “Hey Jude” which was used to much better effect.

“For You Blue” is a simple blues. I like it better than most of the Beatles’ blues, perhaps because of John’s slide guitar (and the funny comments through the song–which makes it seem like the band actually liked each other).  “Get Back” ends the disc as a fun rollicking romp.  I really like this song, although I’m surprised at how short it seems–I thought there was a lengthy outro.  The end of the song (and the disc) has John asking if they passed the audition–lots of fun going on in this contentious recording session.

So it’s not the best career ending disc, although I guess as a soundtrack it’s pretty good.  I’ve never seen the film, and I’m kind of curious to after having walked through all of these Beatles albums.

[READ: September 1, 2016] Let It Be

After reading Colin Meloy’s take on The Replacements’ Let It Be, Steve Matteo’s take on The Beatles’ Let It Be is really different.

Matteo did a ton of research into the recording of this record.  Indeed, this book feels really long (and it drags occasionally).  I have to assume that anyone who is a big fan of The Beatles will know much of what he covers here.  I didn’t, so this works as a pretty thorough introduction for me.  And, as my review of the record above notes: I didn’t know much about the recording in the first place.  So this filled in some gaps (more gaps than I cared about actually).

The book begins with the earth shattering announcement that in 2003 police had recovered more than 500 hours of stolen tapes from the Let It Be sessions (I hadn’t heard about that, so I guess it didn’t shatter the earth all that much).

Rather than talking about this record itself, Matteo talks all about what went into the creation of the record.  And, admittedly, it is a fascinating mix of ego, talent, angst, friendship, overworked-ness and nearly everything else. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: THE REPLACEMENTS-Let It Be (1984).

letitbeI had posted about this record back in 2009.  This is what I write nearly ten years ago, and I’m pretty okay with it.

This is the final album the Replacements made before they moved to the majors.  This disc represents the culmination of their pre-major label sound and is one of my favorite “college albums” of the era.

The disc retains a lot of their sloppy/punk sound of the time, but the songwriting moves forward a little further.  Westerberg wrote some timeless anthems for this disc (“I Will Dare,” “Unsatisfied”).   But, they also sprinkle the disc with silly tracks…not filler exactly…more like balance.  This keeps the disc from being too ponderous.

“I Will Dare” opens the disc. It is bouncy and poppy with an irresistible chorus.   But the bulk of the album is faster and more rocking.  Unlike on their their first two discs, however, the songs run a little bit longer, and they don’t attempt the hardcore feel quite as much.

In fact, there are a few songs that are quite clearly ballads.  “Androgynous” is a piano ballad (!) that could have easily been written by Tom Waits.  “Unsatisfied” is another ballad, although this one has more instrumentation.  Nevertheless, the feeling of yearning is palpable in Westerberg’s voice.  Finally, “Answering Machine” is another flanged-guitar filled song about romance in the age of modern technology (circa 1984).

These relatively light (musically, not emotionally) songs are balanced out quite nicely by the pair of punk/nonsense songs: “Tommy Gets His Tonsils Out” and “Gary’s Got a Boner.”  They add some (more) levity to the disc.  As well as some rocking guitars.

But perhaps the most surprising song is the cover of Kiss’ “Black Diamond.”  It is surprisingly faithful to the original, (at a time when Kiss was not even ironically cool) and it rocks just as hard.

This album showcases the diverse aspects of The Replacements perfectly.  While some people say their next album Tim is their masterpiece, I am more inclined to go with Let It Be.  And, for some reason, I really like the cover.

[READ: July 1, 2016] Let It Be

I have often thought I should read this series.  Of course, the last time I thought about it, there were 50-some books in the series and that seemed like way too many.  Well as of June 2017, there are 120 books in the series, which is an insane series to jump into.

But at work, four of the books came across my desk and if that’s not an invitation to read something, I don’t now what is.  So I’ve decided to read these four and we’ll see if that leads to more.

This was an interesting book to start with because it really set the tone for the series, by which I mean, as far as I can tell, anything goes.

Colin Meloy (this was written when The Decemberists were just starting to get a buzz around them.  In fact he references his girlfriend who is now his wife) makes this a very personal account about his childhood and his exposure to this album (and others) from his uncle.  So this book is a lot more about (young) Colin and his friend than the ‘Mats, but it’s obvious that the ‘Mats made Meloy who he is.   There’s very little in the way of production information or “research” (until the end).  Rather, it’s just a good story–from a future storyteller. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: RHEOSTATICS-Copps Coliseum, Hamilton, ON (December 11 1996).

This is the final show on Rheostatics Live in which the band is opening for The Tragically Hip.

For this show, the intro music is also from The Wizard of Oz, but this time it’s Judy singing “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.”  It’s just one verse before fading out and then guitars fading in for Martin to play “A Mid Winter Night’s Dream.”

Turns out that this setlist is similar to the one from Buffalo with a lot of new songs.  Although there are a few older/more popular songs in places.

The new songs include “Fat” which sounds great of course.  I gather they are maybe sharing a microphone because at the end Dave says “See you in the next song, Martin.”  “Okay, Dave.”  This leads into a perfect version of “All the Same Eyes.”

Martin says “We are the Rheostatics.”  Dave says “We are the Rheostatics, not to be confused with The Howell Brothers (?).  They couldn’t make it but we got their jackets.  It’s nice of you to come out early.  We’re playing selections from our new record. Get it before it’s reduced to clear.”  (You can hear someone laugh on tape).

This is a segue into the single “Bad Time to Be Poor.”  It’s followed by another Tim song, “Claire” with the acoustic guitar opening in place.  There’s another lengthy guitar solo, although it’s not quiet as exciting as some of the other ones.  But Martin was saving up for a spirited version of “California Dreamline.”

They end their set with a rough rocking “Feed Yourself.”  During the spoken part, they slow things down to just a bass and washes of guitar.  It’s a pretty intense ending and a good preparation for The Tragically Hip.

[READ: June 25, 2017] The Story of Canada in 150 Objects

In celebration of Canada’s 150th year, Canadian Geographic and The Walrus created this special issue–a fun way to describe many elements of Canadian culture through “objects.”

The objects are grouped in vague categories.  Some have just a few words written about them while others get a few pages.  Some are humorous, some are more serious.  Most are happy or amusing, some not so much.  And all of it together paints a diverse and complex portrait of the country–as well as teaching this person from South of the border a number of things I did not know.

It’s with comic pride and humility that the first object is politeness (which is not an object at all, of course).  The amusing thing about this article about “politeness” is that while the author of it is very pleased to be so polite, he also can’t wait for his fellow Canucks to forget to be polite so he can rub it in with a extra smarmy “You’re Welcome.” (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: RHEOSTATICS-Molson Centre, Montreal, QC (December 9, 1996).

This is the second and final Quebec show on Rheostatics live.  Once again they are opening for The Tragically Hip and although it still has that stadium feel, this one is a little muffled.

They open the show with a French language clip and once again I have no idea what it is from.

Before the first song starts either the guys are talking to each other or there’s a recording of Martin & Dave talking to each other about dreams.  “I had this weird dream we were in a giant rock stadium.  We were opening for Ringo’s All Stars  All these people were there speaking a  different language.”  “Ringo’s really been giving it all this tour.”

Eventually they start the riff and play a great version of Fat.  I love how the song builds and builds to a cacophonous racket and then quiets down into the slinky riff.

They play “Aliens” and Martin modifies the lyric from “they took you up and put you under” to “they took you up and gave you drugs.”  It’s followed by “All the Same Eyes” which is such a good conventional rocking song.  “Michael Jackson” sounds great with some wailing guitars.  At the end, Martin states, “It feels good to be alive.”  Dave retorts: “Sometimes.”

Then Dave says thanks for CFRG and CFLY (which seems unlikely to play them now) for “coming down here and talking to us today we appreciate it.  This [“Bad Time to Be Poor”] is the song that’s getting played on the radio and in all the finer dentist offices around the land.”

Martin makes some interesting guitar noises before starting a really great “California Dreamline.”  Before Claire, Dave says “Happy birthday, Gary Stokes” (their sound man).  They’ve been adding some great guitar solos into “Claire” and this one is no exception–Martin really stretches.

“Horses” is, as always, really strong.  The version rocks and then during the moody middle section Dave starts chanting about power in the darkness.  Near the end as Martin starts making his horse sounds, Dave chants “we don’t need no education, we don’t need no thought control.”

It’s a dark but effective ending.  I assume the Canadian audiences know the band already, but I wonder what they think of them as an opening act.

[READ: June 20, 2017] “The Love Nest”

This is The Walrus‘ Summer Fiction Issue with new fiction & poetry from 6 writers in total.  I won’t be reviewing the poetry, but I’ll be talking about the three short stories.

This story was delightful.  I enjoyed everything about it.

It consists of a series of log book entries at a B&B from October 10, 2013 through August 5, 2015 with a sort of addenda at the end.

It begins with a Russian couple complementing their hosts for their charming B&B in Vermont.  They learned a lot about Vermont in their stay and are happy to share their information.

The next couple mentions how once they had kids they lost all of their single friends.  Another talks about how the B&B’s mason jar cups reminds her of a college “naked party” where she and her now husband met.  Another has a small gripe (no spoilers) that he wants to write in the book–but not on Trip Advisor. (more…)

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[ATTENDED: August 26, 2017] Sheer Mag

A few months ago I had tickets to see Sheer Mag at the Unitarian Church.  I bought the tickets to see the band Marge who was opening–I had only seen one song of theirs in an earlier show and wanted to see more. Well, I wound up not going to that show.  Since then I’ve come to appreciate Sheer Mag a lot more.

So when I saw they were having a record release party at Union Transfer, I thought it was time to fix my missed opportunity.

My college aged self would have loved that I had gone to 3 album release parties in one season.  And my current self thinks it’s pretty cool, too.  But honestly there’s not much going on at these “parties.”  For this one, Sheer Mag didn’t even have CDs of the new record (vinyl only).  But I did get a cool poster, so that’s okay.

So while the “party” part of the night was a bit of a let down, the show certainly wasn’t.

Sheer Mag are unsigned (which I didn’t realize) but have huge buzz around them. They self released their new album (technically a debut since their previous release combined their three EPs).  They play a terrific swagger-filled hard rock (comparisons to many riff rock bands of the 70s abound).  And they are fronted by bad-ass singer Tina Halladay whose gritty voice sounds quite a bit like some of high-pitched male singers of the era. (more…)

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[ATTENDED: August 26, 2017] Purling Hiss

I know Purling Hiss from NPR’s All Songs Considered.  Last year they played the band’s “3000 AD” which I instantly fell in love with.  There was a cool shoegaze feel to it with a bunch of noisy elements that I really enjoyed.

I knew that the bulk of the band’s catalog was basically Mike Polizze making music for himself.  It was pretty noisy and abstract with lots of jam moments.  They are now a band–I’m not sure who the other two guys in the band were (based on the latest album, I’m assuming Ben Hart on drums and Dan Provenzano on bass)–and they have gotten more musical since then.  But thy are still noisy.  So I expected a lot of squalling feedback and pummeling sounds.

I was quite pleased with how melodic the band’s songs were (no idea what songs they played, but I assume most of it came from their newest album).  (more…)

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