Archive for the ‘19th Century’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: ‘TIS THE SEASON: Praise and Worship Christmas: A Collection of Inspirational Holiday Classics (2001).

s-l500This Christmas Collection came from Sarah.  As you can tell from the title and subtitle and sub-subtitle, this is a religious disc.  And as you can tell from the title and subtitles, they have gone way over the top.

The group consists of a bunch of performers and a choir from something called The Evergreen Community Church/The Rock.  Presumably not the actor The Rock, although that would be pretty cool.

As with a lot of contempo-Christian music, they’ve decided to add a rock flair to it.  So these are 13 songs sung very passionately and with little restraint.  Because if you can have an echo pedal, you should use it.  And for some reason, nothing says Christmas like alto saxophone.

“O Come All Ye Faithful” features that sax prominently.  Up next, I was pretty surprised to hear a rocking harmonica solo on “Joy to the World.”  For the most part the folkiness was okay until the choir at the end.

“Do You Hear What I Hear” has a solid drum machine and an excess of R&B vocals.  Up next, the music for “What Child is This?” is understated and pleasant.  Shame that the singer is shooting for the rafters.  Their version of “Go Tell It On the Mountain” is not gospel-tinged and, stranger yet, they changes the stress of the chorus to the “ow” of mountain.

“Angels We Have Heard on High” brings that saxophone back and back and back.   “O, Little Town of Bethlehem” has a quiet piano motif, but once again, it is oversung.

“We Wish You A Merry Christmas” makes excessive use of that echo pedal on the vocals.  “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” was pretty good.  No complaints.

But try to imagine just how over the top and ponderous you could make an a capella (plus echo) version of “O Come, O Come Emmanuel.”

“Silent Night” loses all of its power in this folkie rendition.  I’m noticing the fretless bass and cheesey sax rather that the echoed vocals.  Amazingly, “Amazing Grace” is understated musically with just an acoustic guitar but the singer overcompensates.

The disc ends on a high note (not literally).  On “Joy to the World” the folkie harmonica and guitar work nicely.

[READ: December 22, 2017] “The Christmas Banquet”

Once again, I have ordered The Short Story Advent Calendar.  This year, there are brief interviews with each author posted on the date of their story.

Hello. Welcome. It’s finally here: Short Story Advent Calendar time.

If you’re reading along at home, now’s the time to start cracking those seals, one by one, and discover some truly brilliant writing inside. Then check back here each morning for an exclusive interview with the author of that day’s story.

(Want to join in? It’s not too late. Order your copy here.)

This year I’m pairing each story with a holiday disc from our personal collection. (more…)


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klosetrSOUNDTRACK: RHEOSTATICSFall Nationals The Horseshoe Tavern Toronto, ON. Night 1 of 13 (November 10, 2003).

This was the 1st night of their 13 night Fall Nationals run at the Horseshoe.  Rheostatics Live has recordings of nights 1, 3, 4, 5 and 7.

 The sound quality of this show is great, although it’s quite disconcerting how quiet it is between songs—must be soundboard with no audience pick up at all.

Dave chats with the crowd of course: “Always exciting on opening night—a tingle in the air.  We’re basking in the glow of David Miller’s victory tonight even if he doesn’t know the words to “Born to Run.”

David Raymond Miller is the president and CEO of WWF-Canada, the Canadian division of the international World Wildlife Fund. A former politician, Miller was the 63rd Mayor of Toronto from 2003 to 2010. He entered politics as a member of the New Democratic Party, although his mayoral campaign and terms in office were without any formal party affiliation. He did not renew his party membership in 2007.  After declining poll numbers, Miller announced on September 25, 2009, that he would not seek a third term as mayor in the 2010 election, citing family reasons.  He was replaced by Rob frickin Ford.

They play a lot of songs from their not yet released album (not until 2004, in fact) 2067.

They open with “The Tarleks” which is follows by 2001’s “Song of the Garden” and then back to 2067 with “I Dig Music.”  The new songs sound similar to the release but perhaps the words might not be solidified yet—there’s also no “too fucking bad” in “I Dig Music.”

Tim’s “In It Now” comes next with that cool opening riff.   It segues into one of my favorite Tim-sung songs “Marginalized” also from 2067.  I love the drums, the guitar riff, everything about it—although they are off-key as they start.

Dave says, “We’re surprising ourselves a little by playing new stuff.   But when Martin asks for requests and people say “Saskatchewan” Martin starts playing it (see, the squeaky wheel…).

“Fan letter for Ozzy Osbourne” (also from 2067)  it sounds a bit more spare and sad (with no wailing vocal at the end).  It’s followed by “a very old song we wrote in 1989, I think, but it still applies on this special occasion.”  He says it’s called “You can’t go back to Woodstock baby you were just 2 years old you, you weren’t even born.”

There’s a quiet “In This Town” that’s followed by a lengthy “When Winter Comes.”  This song features a remarkably pedestrian guitar solo (sloppy and very un-Martin like).

Dave says they were recording audio commentary from a show two years ago (for what?  is this available somewhere?).  He says that night wasn’t a very good patter night.  Good music night, though.

Tim says, “So we overdubbed good stage banter. … Till I sparked up a fattie and giggled like a moron.”
Martin: “till you sparked up a fattie and the ridiculousness of the situation became glaringly apparent.”
Dave: “Martin I can’t believe you just said ‘sparked up a fattie.'”
Martin: “The times they are a-changing.”

Martin introduces “Aliens” by saying “This would be a b-minor chord.  The whole thing seems a little weird–Martin does some odd voices and weird guitar noises—it almost sounds out of tune or like it’s just the wrong guitar.

Back to a new song with “Polar Bears and Trees” and they have fun chanting the “hey hey ho ho” section.

Dave calms things down with some details: We got some stuff planned over the next 13 days. Lucky 13.  Thursday there’s going to be 25 guest vocalists.  We’re gonna mail it in, basically.  And then on Saturday we have “Tim Vebron and the Rheostars.”  According to a review, this “band” is a goof: “Martin was wearing a lei and suspenders, MPW looked like an extra from THX1138.”   You can also get a pass to all 13 shows for $75.  For some good old live live Canadian shield rock.

Dave asks, “Tim did you get a contact high during aliens?  Some wise acre lit a marijuana cigarette.”  Tim:  “It’s just kicking in now.  I’m hungry.”

“PIN” sound great although in “Legal Age Life,” the sound drops out at 58 seconds and comes back on at 1:35.  During the song, Dave shouts G and they shift to “Crocodile Rock.”  It kind of clunkily falls back in to “LAL,” but it’s fun to see them jamming and exploring a bit.

Dave says “Crocodile Rock” was a very complicate dance, but it didn’t catch on.  I think the dance involved implements didn’t it. Tongs?”

“Stolen Car” starts quietly but builds and builds to a noisy climactic guitar solo.  Its pretty exciting.

During the encore break there’s repeated chants for “Horses.  Horses.”

You can hear Dave say, “‘Soul Glue?’ We’re not going to do that tonight, we’re going to say it for a special occasion.”  The audience member shouts, “the hell with you.” Dave: “Ok, bye. Yes I am going to hell.”

What song do you think cleans the palate for the song to come after it—A sherbet?

There’s some amusing commentary between Dace and the audience.  And then a little more local politics: “Did you think that was good speech by David Miller?  I didn’t. I don’t want to be a bad guy coz it’s his night but…”  Then Dave imagines a “David Miller ascension-to-power film starring Ed Begley Jr.”

The encore includes a rollicking “Satan is the Whistler” followed by a solid cover of The Clash’s “London Calling.”  Tim’s a little sloppy on the bass, but the guitar sound is perfect and Dave’s got the vocal sound just right.  As they leave you can still here that guy calling for “Horses.”

[READ: July 1, 2016] What If We’re Wrong?

I have enjoyed a lot of the essays I’ve read by Klosterman.  But I’ve never read one of his books before.  I saw him on Seth Meyers one night and this book sounded cool.  And then I saw it at work, so I grabbed it .

Klosterman is clever and funny and this book is clever and funny.  Although I found it a little long–every section of the book felt like it could have been shorter and it wouldn’t have lost any impact.  However, I loved the premise and I loved all of the examples.  I just got a little tired of each section before it ended.

So what is this book (with the upside down cover) about?  Well, as the blurb says, our cultural is pretty causally certain about things.  No matter how many times we are wrong, we know exactly how things are going to go. Until they do not go that way any more.  “What once seemed inevitable eventually becomes absurd.”  So what will people think of 2015/16 in 100 years?  And while some things seem like they may be obvious about how tastes change, he also wonders if our ideas about gravity will change.

This came out before the horrors of the 2016 election and I read it before them, so the whole premise of the book is even more magnified. (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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storiesSOUNDTRACKPOLYPHONIC SPREE-Tiny Desk Concert #259 (December 21, 2012).

The Polyphonic Spree performs a Tiny Desk Concert.I really enjoyed Polyphonic Spree’s first album (and their strange robes and cult-like following (apparently even within the band).

They put out a Christmas album some time ago, and since we have a big pile of Christmas albums, I grabbed that one.  I didn’t love it, but it was a fun addition to our collection.

This Tiny Desk Concert is notable for just how many members of the band are behind (and on the side of) the Tiny Desk (perhaps 18?).

And the band is suitably musical–trombone, trumpet, keys, drums, bass, cello, violin and a ten (or so) piece choir.

Interestingly, I find that the weak link in this whole thing is leader Chris DeLaughter.  It’s just that his voice is really not that interesting. It’s especially notable on “The Christmas Song” where he sings some high notes unaccompanied.  When the choir comes in (and they change the melody) it sounds really cool.  I especially love the way they make “reindeer really know how to fly” into a high note.

The first song is “Happy Xmas (War Is Over)” which I feel is the Christmas song they might be best known for.  It’s pretty traditional to the original, with the choir filling in for the kids.  The addition of horns really adds a lot to it.

“Silver Bells” gets a pretty rocking treatment–the buildup at the beginning is pretty cool.  They change the main melody to an almost circus-like waltz. I love the way it sounds when everyone joins in–and when the choir is singing along to the rocking end (with a very different melody) it sounds great.  But once again DeLaughter’s voice doesn’t seem up to the task of leading this larger group.

But it’s festive and fun, especially with everyone in red robes (and DeLaughters green one).

[READ: December 2016] Christmas Stories (1854-1864)

Last year, I started reading some Charles Dickens Christmas Stories in December.  I imagined that I’d finish the whole book this season (all 750 pages of it), but I didn’t come close.  I enjoy these stories but they are not quick reads by any standard.

The fascinating thing with a lot of these stories is that they appeared in All the Year Round, a Victorian periodical founded and owned by Dickens and published between 1859 and 1895 throughout the United Kingdom.  But just because these stories came out for the Christmas issue doesn’t mean they have anything to do with Christmas directly.

I thought I’d be reading a whole chunk of the book in a row, but I wound up skipping around a bit.  Maybe next year I’ll finish the remaining stories. (more…)

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black-daimons SOUNDTRACK: LAST EX-Last Ex [CST107] (2014).

last-exOne of the things I love about Constellation Records is that you often never know what you’re getting.  They used to very specifically release a certain kind of music, but they’re now just releasing interesting and exciting music.  But also, a band name can’t really tell you what to expect from this label.

So who knows what a band like Last Ex will sound like.  And how cool that their first few songs on this are so good.

The disc’s sides are split into Side X and Side XX.

“Hotel Blues” opens with some scattered drums and chords.  It has  vaguely early-Pink Floyd feel to it.  But around a minute in, the synths pick up a repetitive melody and the bass and drums kick in to give it a very Can or Kraftwerk vibe.  The song is fairly straightforward, but there are sprinklings of notes—sometimes slightly off and vibrated that add some very cool textures to this pulsing track. It’s really groovy and fun.  But it’s “Girl Seizure” that I find so strangely compelling.  Again, over simple repetitive drum and bass, the guitar (or keyboards) play warbling notes that are unsettling and yet enticing.  The song quiets to almost nothing and then resumes in much the same way—and you welcome that weird warble and its of Moog feeling.  At just under 3 minutes its just the right length.

“Flûte magique” slows things down with some simple arpeggios.  There’s not a lot to the song, but it is wonderfully soothing as the bass notes tick away and then the guitar notes rise higher and higher.  The song picks up speed as it goes along and leads to a middle section that’s almost stiffly funky, if that’s possible.  The ending gets a little louder as it thuds to a conclusion.

“It’s Not Chris” opens with some static and strange noises and some soaring keyboards.  About a minute and a half in a strange staccato organ melody comes in with a violin sound doing a kind of solo over the top.  It’s all a little strange but it drops out in the middle to a kind of sinister pulsing, and when the melody resumes, it seems strangely comfortable again.  The end of the song has some high-pitched violin notes that sound almost like a theremin.

“Resurrection Drive” is mostly drums and echoed surf guitar chords. After a minute or so some strings are added to the mix.  It’s only 2 minutes long but it introduces some interesting tension.

Side XX has a quieter feel overall.  “Nell’s Theme” opens with acoustic guitars playing a simple, pretty four-note melody.  The song slowly grows more complex as a violin is added to the song. With about 30 seconds remaining, everything drops away save for a mournful violin.

Thudding bass and picked notes echo through “Trop tard.”  It has a slow, spacey feel (like mid-period Pink Floyd).  A guitar is added and it speeds up some but still sounds of the era and then settles back down to a languid pace.  “Cape Fear” is less than 2 minutes of swirling outer space sounding synths—a creepy, lonely feeling.

“Cité d’or” has more slow pulsing rhythms and more echoing surf guitars and the whole thing feels rather tension filled.  Some squealing  feedback intersperses the surf guitar.   “Hotel Blues Returns” for 1:43.  It’s primarily the drumming pattern of “Hotel Blues” with some swirling synth noises (it’s good for headphones).  “Hotel Kiss” ends the disc with sirens and then a slow thudding drum and more noir guitars.  This could be used in a Twin Peaks scene.

So this album is an interesting mix of rocking songs with unsettling noises and mellower songs with cool synth effects.  It’s a great find.

[READ: September 24, 2016] The Black Diamond Detective Agency

I read this book a while ago, but I never posted about it.  And that gave me the opportunity to re-read it and, frankly, to enjoy it more.

This is the third book by Eddie Campbell that I have read.  I have found his stories to be complicated and hard to follow on first read.  They really demand a second and even a third read.  Part of it is that he writes complicated and somewhat intentionally convoluted narratives.  And part is because of his drawing style.

I love the cover of this book, how it is set up to look like an Old West placard: ORPHANS! MAYHEM! TERROR!  “In This the most recent offering from The First Second Quality line of Books.  An epic take of a newly industrialized America as revealed in words and pictures by the inimitable Mr Eddie Campbell.  Based upon  the manuscript of a Kinematographic play by Mr C. Gaby Mitchell.”

And its this last part that I missed when I first read it–that it was based on a screenplay.  And this book does resemble a screenplay.  However, I noted that in my other posts about Campbell that I’ve said of this book: I liked and didn’t like this book.  Well, which is it?

The story is incredibly complicated–with double and triple crosses.  And the visuals call for mistaken identity and hidden identity as well as new characters who all look vaguely the same–like pale photographs of turn of the century urban gangsters. But the story is really interesting. So I liked it, although I think I’d like to see it more as a film. (more…)

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overpoSOUNDTRACK: J. MASCIS-Tiny Desk Concert #406 (November 22, 2014).

mascisJ. Mascis is best known as a wailing guitarist who plays in front of a wall of speakers with Dinosaur Jr.  But for this Tiny Desk Concert he busts out an acoustic guitar and plays some songs from his solo album (as well as an old Dino classic).

“Stumble” is sung in Mascis’ delicate falsetto.  They zoom in on him singing and its amazing how he doesn’t seem to be straining in any way doing this really high voice.  After all the falsetto, his saying “Thanks” in a deep voice is really kind of funny.

For the second song, he busts out the classic “Little Fury Thing.”  This acoustic version sounds really good–so simple and clean.  The original is great burst of loud rocking and it’s amazing that the song can sound so good stripped down. His voice is much deeper for this song .  I love at the end how he plays the strings really really fast but continues to swing in his most languid style.

The third song is actually two songs.  He switches guitars (and is apparently using sheet music) to play “Drifter/Heal the Star.”  The first part is a lengthy, really pretty instrumental.  For all of Mascis’ noise and rocking out, he knows how to write beautiful, lovely melodies.  The main melody is played on the high strings alternating some great strumming on the low strings for the “chorus.”   I could listen to this for ages.

The song segues into “Heal the Star” which sounds very Mascis–his most Mascis voice and strumming style.  Although for the chorus he’s back to the falsetto vocals again.  The solo a the end is great as he plays chords on the lowers strings while soloing ion the high strings (there must be a different tuning to make this sound so good).

I saw Dinosaur Jr a couple of months ago and I’m going to see them in November again.  I love Mascis’ loudness, but it’s wonderful to hear him play these quiet pieces too.

[READ: April 1, 2016] Overpowered!

I loved the premise of this book right from the start.  I mean, the cover alone is great, and flipping through it, there are some wonderful images of men with great mustaches in turbans doing all manner of hypnosis to people.  What I didn’t expect (but probably should have if I’d read his bio on the back) is that Green himself is a practicing hypnotherapist (in addition to being an actor and performer who has created such characters as “US Country music star Tina C and pensioner rap star Ida Barr.”

It turns out that Green has been interested in hypnosis for a long time.  He learned how to do it and then wanted to set the record straight for what hypnosis actually is as opposed to what we believe it is.

So this proves to be a thorough (and very funny) history of hypnosis through the years.   He says the book is called “Overpowered” because “I’m fascinated by the delight human beings derive from the idea of being taken over.  Being conscious may be beneficial, but it is also hard work.” (more…)

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earnestSOUNDTRACK: THE SILVER MT. ZION MEMORIAL ORCHESTRA & TRA-LA-LA BAND-Born into Trouble as the Sparks Fly Upward [CST018] (2001).

Born_into_Trouble_as_the_Sparks_Fly_UpwardNotice that the band’s name has gotten longer.  That could be because they have added three new members (which means they are slowly growing to be the size of GYBE anyway). In addition to Efrim, Thierry and Sophie, there is now Becky Foon on cello, Ian Ilavsky on guitar and organ and Jessica Moss on violin (all Constellation stalwarts).

The first song is the nine minute “Sisters! Brothers! Small Boats of Fire Are Falling From the Sky!”  Echoed drum sounds slowly grow louder before a slow violin plays a mournful melody.  But with the new members, there is now a cello to accompany the violin, making this album sound even more classical.  Three minutes in, the piano takes over (and the strings slowly fade).  The piano is a bit prettier and more accomplished sounding (even if it has only been a year since the last album).  Despite the addition of all of the extra instruments, the song still veers pretty far from GYBE territory.  It feels very acoustic (what with the piano), and while the song is repetitive it never feels like it is epic or building towards something–it just grows bigger and more beautiful as more instruments enter the mix.

“This Gentle Hearts Like Shot Bird’s Fallen” opens with what sounds like bird noises, but may actually be a child.  The song is primarily echoed guitars which lay a foundation over which the violins and cellos play slow mournful notes.  The song grows as more instruments  play along, including some gentle percussion, and it all seems to end too soon.

“Built Then Burnt [Hurrah! Hurrah!]” is a spoken piece.  Efrim doesn’t recite the words–it sounds like a child (but may be a young woman).  The reading is dramatic and works very well with the slowly building strings that comprise the bulk of this song.

some lines:

Why are we all so alone here
All we need is a little more hope, a little more joy
All we need is a little more light, a little less weight, a little more freedom.
Good words, strong words, words that could’ve moved mountains
Words that no one ever said
We were all waiting to hear those words and no one ever said them
And the tactics never hatched
And the plans were never mapped
And we all learned not to believe
And strange lonesome monsters loafed through the hills wondering why
And it is best to never ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever wonder why

As that song fades, the aggressive strings of “Take These Hands and Throw Them in the River” take over. This song features Efrim singing in full voice–the recognizable voice of SMtZ.  On this song his voice is processed and echoed and so the strange timbre of his voice doesn’t quite register because it sounds so…unusual anyway.  I really enjoy the way this song sounds so much bigger than the rest.  At around 4 minutes, while the song begins to build –both instrumentally and vocally, new strings bring more intensity until the whole thing just fades away to the sounds of actual birds which chirp for about 2 minutes.

“Could’ve Moved Mountains…”is eleven minutes long and shows incredible restraint, especially in the vocals.  It opens with slow bass notes.  The whispered spoken vocals return and the song is kind of ominous..  About three minutes in quiet harmony vocals accompany him and soon after, strings are added and continue to grow louder.  The instrumental section is quite pretty although still melancholy.  Around 8 minutes in, a guitar riff begins playing a similar melody to the strings. It plays for a bit and then the strings rejoin the song, playing a more hopeful melody.  The song ends with some kids talking and singing as the song melds into….

“Tho You Are Gone I Still Often Walk W/You”  This song opens with piano and cello, a sad intro indeed.  I like that after a minute the song jumps keys unexpectedly while keeping the rhythm otherwise the same.  The song doesn’t vary much from this simple piano and strings feel although it ebbs and flows in intensity.

“C’monCOMEON (Loose An Endless Longing)” breaks the melancholy of the previous son with a big buzzy electric guitar chord.  Strings eventually come in and the song builds and builds, complete with interesting percussion.  This song is probably the closest to a GYBE song with a dramatic build and very satisfying chord progressions.  When the fast bass notes kick in around 3 minutes it seems like the song is going to grow even faster, but instead, it fades away to some ringing chimes–what sounds like a giant echo chamber (a really neat effect).  That calm is broken by a series of horns playing one note at a time, louder and louder (this whole middle section reminds me of the middle of “Atom Heart Mother” by Pink Floyd–in fact I have found a number of comparisons to some of Floyd’s trippier moments on this and other albums).  And then the drums come crashing back in.  It’s a very different song that resumes–loud bass, lots of drums and everything mixed loud enough to distort the sound.

The final song is “The Triumph of Our Tired Eyes.”  It opens with guitar harmonics and Efrim’s disatnat voice.  It’s a pretty and delicate song, joined by strings and a genuinely pretty vocal melody: “There’s beauty in this land, but I don’t often feel it.”  And as the strings swell and swell, the voices sing the refrain: “musicians are cowards” over and over.  The song and disc end on a surprisingly quiet and beautiful note.

When the songs ends, there’s a few seconds of children singing lyrics to the “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” melody although the words don’t fit like: “when we finally cross the barricade…”

I really like the way this album plays with the new style of music the band has embraced but also admits some of the strengths from pretty much everyone else’s other band.

[READ: April 4, 2016] The Importance of Being Earnest–The Graphic Novel

This play is one of the great plays in English literature.  Oscar Wilde is at his best, writing witticism upon witticism–each line is a funny rejoinder to the previous one and the wit is infectious.

The story is fairly simple, but he adds so many twists that it’s almost easy to get lost in the story.  In fact, it’s entirely possible that reading the play is a sure way to get lost in the deceptions.  And that’s why this graphic novel is so excellent.

I’ve always maintained that it is difficult to “read” a play, especially if there are dozens of characters.  The short, one act plays that I’ve been reading over the last years are fairly easy to follow, but when you have 20 named characters in three acts, it’s not always easy to keep people straight.  And that’s why to really appreciate Shakespeare you need to see it.  Well, this graphic novel effectively performs the play for us.  The dialogue is exact and there are no changes from the original (except for any stage directions, which are left out of the text, but are presumably addressed in the art).

What’s (intentionally) confusing about this play is that the two main characters are trying to deceive other people about their identity.  Algernon Moncrieff and John Worthing are two gentlemen–well off, single, clever.  Algy talks about how he likes to go Bunburying.  Which means he has “invented an invaluable permanent invalid called Bunbury, in order that I may be able to go down unto the country whenever I choose.  …If it wasn’t for Bunbury’s extraordinarily bad health, I wouldn’t be able to dine with you.”  This comes up because John has informed Algy that he “has always pretended to have a  younger brother of the name Ernest, who lives in the [city] and who gets into the most dreadful scrapes.”

They have lies in common: each man lies to a group about a phony other person whom they use as an excuse for bad behavior. (they are old friends as well, of course). (more…)

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