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Archive for the ‘Andy Warhol’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: THE NEW PORNOGRAPHERS-Live at Massey Hall (October 1, 2017).

I’ve been a fan of the The New Pornographers for years.  Their first single, “Letter from an Occupant” was one of my favorite songs of 2000.  For nearly twenty years, they’ve been releasing super catchy fun poppy alt rock.

I was really excited to see them last week.  And then almost equally excited to see that they had a show on Live at Massey Hall.

This show did not have Neko Case singing and while she is not the crux of the band, I’m glad she was at my show, because her voice is great and having three women singing was more fun than having just two.

Before the set, singer and songwriter AC Newman says, “I’m nervous because I realize this is what I do … people paid to come see you.”  His niece, keyboardist Kathryn Calder is with him.  She says she loves having the momentum of 7 people on stage.  It’s a very in the moment feeling shared by all of them.

The show starts with an older song “The Jenny Numbers.”  There’s a wild ripping guitar solo from Todd Fancey in the middle of this otherwise poppy song.  Calder and violinist Simi Stone sound great with their backing vocals–so full and complete.  And excellent compliment to the songs.

Up next is “Whiteout Conditions” which starts with a ripping violin melody from Stone.  I happen to know their newer songs a lot better than their middle period songs and I really like this song a lot.

The full setlist for this show is available online.  They played 22 songs at he show, so it’s a shame to truncate it to 35 minutes.  How did they decide what to cut?  They cut “Dancehall Domine.”

Up next is one of the great songs from the Together album, “Moves.”  The opening riff and persistent use of violin is perfect.

Between songs, Newman says to the audience, “you’ve got to promise not to sit down because it’ll be like a dagger in my heart.”

In the interview clip he says he always love the compartmentalized songs of Pixies.  They influenced the way he wrote music.  So did The Beach Boys for harmonies.  He says it’s hard to know what seeps through, but there’s a ton of it.  Sometimes I’ll hear an old song I used to love and realize I totally stole a part from that song and I didn’t know it.

The show skips “Colosseums” and moves on to “The Laws Have Changed.”  I loved seeing this live because of the amazing high notes that AC Newman hits in the end of the song.  This is also a chance for Kathryn to shine a bit.  “High Ticket Attractions” comes next in the show and here.  It’s such an insanely catchy song.  From the call and response vocals to the overall melody.  It’s one of my favorites of theirs.

The show skips three songs, “Champions of Red Wine,” “Adventures in Solitude,” and “All the Old Showstoppers.”  So up next is “This is the World of the Theater.”  I’m glad they chose this because Kathryn Calder sings lead vocals and she sounds fantastic.  The middle section of the song also includes some hocketing where Newman, Calder, Stone and maybe some others sing individual notes alternately to create a lovely melody.

I noticed that drummer Joe Seiders sings quite a bit as well.  And a shout out to bassist John Collins because he gets some great sounds out of that instrument.

Newman tells the audience that Massey Hall is an intimidating venue, but one you get here it feel welcoming and warm.  The crowd applauds and he says, “soooo, I’m not sweating it.”

Up next comes the poppy and wonderful “Sing Me Spanish Techno.”  It has a constant simple harmonica part played by Blaine Thurier who also plays keyboards.   It’s such a wonderfully fun song.

They skip pretty much the rest of the show to play the big encore song, “Brill Bruisers.”  [Skipped: “Backstairs,” “Play Money,” “Testament to Youth in Verse,” “Sweet Talk, Sweet Talk,” “Avalanche Alley,” “Use It,” “Mass Romantic” )that’s a surprise!) and “The Slow Descent Into Alcoholism”].

“Brill Bruisers” is from the then-new album.  The first time I heard it I was blown away.  Those “boh bah boh bah bah bohs” in the beginning are so arresting.  The harmonies that run through the song are sensational and the “ooh” part in the verses just knocks me out.  Its a great great song.

“The Bleeding Heart Show” closed the show and it is played over the closing credits.

This is a terrific example of how good this band is live, but nothing compares to actually seeing them.

[READ: August 1, 2019] Bit Rot

A few years ago I had caught up with Douglas Coupland’s publications.  I guess it’s no surprise to see that he has published more since then.  But I am always surprised when I don’t hear about a book at all.  I just happened to stumble upon this collection of essays.

Coupland’s general outlook hasn’t changed much over the years.  He is still fascinated by “the future,” but he looks at technology and future ideas in a somewhat different way.  He tends to mourn the loss of some things while often embracing what has replaced it.

As my son is now a teenager, I wondered what his take on some of these essays would be–if he would think that Coupland is an old fuddy duddy, or if he was right on.  Or, more likely, that he had never looked at some of these ideas that way at all.  Coupland is quite cognizant that young people are growing up in a very different world than ours.  And that they don’t have any problem with that.  They don’t “miss cursive” because it never meant anything to them in the first place.  They can’t imagine not having Google and hence all of the world’s information at their fingertips.  Of course they assume that technology will continue to get smaller and faster. We older folks may not be prepared for that (or maybe we are), but that’s what younger people expect and can’t wait for

This was a very long, rather thick book that was just full of interesting, funny, thoughtful essays and short stories. I really enjoyed it from start to finish, even if I’d read some of the pieces before. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: MOGWAI-Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait-An Original Soundtrack by Mogwai (2006).

It’s no secret that I love Mogwai.  I like them so much that I even track down soundtracks to obscure films that I’ll never watch.  (Of course, since Mogwai play mostly instrumentals, soundtrack work suits them quite well).

The Zidane of the film is Zinedine Zidane, a French footballer whom many consider to be the greatest ever (don’t yell at me for that, I don’t have an opinion of the man).  I had to look up exactly what the film is about and I have to say I’m intrigued: The film is a documentary focused on Zidane during the Spanish Liga Real Madrid vs. Villarreal CF game on April 23, 2005 at the Santiago Bernabéu Stadium and was filmed in real time using 17 synchronized cameras.  I watched a couple minutes on YouTube, and indeed it is a football match.   How on earth did they decide on that game (in which Zidane is ejected for fighting as the match nears its end).

The music is designed primarily for background and pacing, although there are certainly moments of great melody as well.  There are three songs that are more or less played twice (with different variations): “Terrific Speech 2″ and Terrific Speech” “Half Time and “Time and a Half” are similar piano melodies, and the opener and closer “Black Spider” and “Black Spider 2.”  “Black Spider 2” opens with the same melody as 1, but this song is thirty minutes long.  After a few moments of silence, it tuns into 17 minutes of quiet noise.  The remaining five experiment with distant feedback squalls.  Not loud and crazy, but something that creates a lot of tension, which goes with the end of the film.

Despite the titles, “Wake Up and Go Berserk” and “I Do Have Weapons” are a mellow songs.  They’re very pretty tracks.  Indeed, there’s nothing too wild at all here.  Fans of Mogwai’s wilder music will be a little disappointed.   And indeed, the overall feel is almost kind of sleepy, but it really captures another side of Mogwai, and the music is quite good.

[READ: June 20, 2012] “The Cheater’s Guide to Love”

Not bad… Junot Díaz had a story in the New Yorker just a few weeks ago, and now he’s got another one.

The familiar criticism of Díaz is that he writes the same story over and over (well, the other criticism is that he always writes in Spanish and English, but I think that’s a stupid complaint).  So here’s another story about Yunior and how he cheats on women and is basically a shit-heel.

While there is some validity to criticizing an author for retelling the same basic story, it is not unheard of in art.  Monet, for instance painted over 30 paintings of Rouen Cathedral.  And while they are all the same composition, individually they are very different.  Here’s four paintings (not prints a la Andy Warhol):

While I’m not suggesting that Díaz is on par with Monet, I am trying to say that you can work with a similar subject and create very different pieces of art.

So, yes it’s another Yunior story and yes, Yunior has cheated on his girlfriend again.  But this story is constructed differently.  And at this point I’m starting to wonder if maybe there aren’t multiple Yuniors–I’ll even think of them as in alternate realities.  Because Yunior sure has cheated on a lot of women by this time.

It makes him the perfect writer for “The Cheater’s Guide to Love.”

Unlike in the other stories, this one takes place over five years!  In Year 0 you are caught cheating by your girl (the story is set in second person).  She sticks it out with you for a time and then dumps your ass.  I liked how it was revealed just how many women he had cheated in her with over the years that they were together–he really is a shit.

In Year 1, you act like it doesn’t matter, but it does.  And you are crushed.  Your friends try to help out, but how much can they really do?  You think suicidal thoughts and imagine that that will make her forgive you.  It doesn’t.  By year 2, you have met someone.  But you find some bullshit reason (she hasn’t put out yet) and you break it off and go into another spiral.

Year 3 sees you looking after yourself–running and fitness.  In what I think of as a wholly accurate happening, you injure yourself running and are knocked back on your ass for months–momentum and caring are gone.  You look for substitutes but nothing feels as good as running.  So you stop.  And you let yourself go.

What I also liked about this story is that despite this background of the break up, there are other interesting things spiraling around Yunior.   There’s a fascinating look at racism in Boston (perceived or real?); there’s the woman who claims to be the mother of his child, the woman back in the DR who claims to be the mother of his friend Elvis’s son.  Both men act very differently to the news.  Elvis is thrilled to have a son, Yunior is freaked by this woman.  This is probably the first time that I’ve seen Díaz have a woman do behave the way they do in this story.  It’s also interesting to compare Yunior and Elvis by the end of the story.

I also got a kick out of all the women he used to cheat on his girlfriend with star getting married and they all start sending him invitations: “Revenge is living well, without you.”  Year 5 sees a completion of the spiral for all parties.  And a cool resolution to this story.

Much like with the Monet paintings, if  Díaz can keep his Yunior stories interesting (and varied enough), I will keep reading them.

For ease of searching I include: Junot Diaz, Bernabeu

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SOUNDTRACK: CHUMBAWAMBA-“That’s How Grateful We Are” (1990).

Chumbawamba called it quits this week after 30 years of being a band together.  Most people assume they put out one single and that’s all. And in some ways that is true.  Because most of their other music was way too radical to be played anywhere–even when it was as catchy as this.

This is a six-minute dance-funk song off of the first Chumbawamba album I ever heard (Slap!).  It opens with a little girl saying “Okay, lay some drums on me.”  After some drums and hammered percussion, she says, “gimme some bass” and a funky riff starts.  It’s followed with accordion, horns guitars and, Chumbawamba’s signature–chanting.

It’s a call and response song with a wonderfully catchy chanted chorus.

On first listen you might catch a few unexpected words (black lung, attack, attack, we took to the streets).  But then you get swept up in the chorus again (and maybe the accordion solo).  But on further inspection, the song is about the Hungarian Revolution of 1956:

Working in a forge, black lungs, burnt skin
Callouses, arched back, hammering, hammering
Stalin watching over us pigeon shit head
We’d spit on the floor at this red bastard god.

Not exactly pop music, but you can sure dance to it.  I haven’t listened to too much of their more recent music, but their early stuff is wonderful and worth looking for.  Thanks for the music lads and lassies.

[READ: July 2012] Lucky Peach Issue 4

I can’t get over how much I enjoy Lucky Peach.  I just loaned a past issue to a friend and he loved it too.  He’s looking forward to trying some recipes and he’s been fascinated by the articles, too.  I don’t read any other cooking type magazine, and yet I can’t get enough of this one!

DAVID CHANG & CHRIS YING are still on board with their note “From the Editors” and PETER MEEHAN, JONATHAN GOLD & ROBERT SIETSEMA talk about “American Cuisine, Whatever That Is”

This issue features a choose your own adventure from COURTNEY McBROOM AND ALISON ROMAN–“Voyage of the Taco Belles” in which they travel to Texas and California to compare “Mexican” food.  It’s a fun adventure with many pitfalls and many delicious locations.  No one could conceivably eat that much.

DREW ALTIZER-“Swan Oyster Depot” photos from the independent seller.

DAVID TREUER-“No Reservations” gives a fascinating history of the Objiwe peoples.  How they don’t have a cuisine per se, but they do have specific foods they eat.  Also, that their way of life was not decimated when the white man came because they did not eat bison, they ate from the water and from smaller animals.  But when the white man gave them fatty fried foods, their diet was changed for the worst.  A fascinating look and an unexpected content from a “food” magazine.

PETER MEEHAN, BRIAN KOPPELMAN, ANTHONY BOURDAIN and ELVIS MITCHELL all talk about the movie Diner.  I have never seen it, but it sounds pretty important in a certain range of cinema.  I liked hearing their various opinions of the movie.  Elvis Mitchell (from NPR’s The Treatment) is particularly funny.

TOM LAX-“The Schmitter” talks about The Schmitter a crazy sounding sandwich from Philadelphia that should give the cheese steak a run for its money.  (Cheese, Steak, Grilled Salami, “Special” sauce, Tomatoes, More Cheese and Friend Onions).  Yum!

HAROLD McGEE-“Harold McGee in Outré Space”–He’s back with a lengthy article on eggs and his attempts at peeling hard-boiled eggs without ripping the egg inside–his experiments are pretty out there!

BEN WOLFE–“American Microbial Terroir” How microbes and bacterium form on salami in different regions and how those bacteria inform the flavor of the meat.  Gross but very interesting.

STEVE KEENE-“Portfolio”  He did the cover for Pavement’s Wowee Zowee album and here has a new portfolio of his new style of painting–on plywood.

DANIEL PATTERSON-“We Waited as Long as We Could” He talks about the Rascal House, a restaurant that he went to as young kid with his grandfather.  It’s about the demise of this kind of establishment in general too.

BOB NICKAS-“Someone Has to Bring Home the Bacon” Nickas looks at Andy Warhol and his various accomplishments regarding foot (including the aborted Andymat)

JOHN GALL-“Defrosted Foods” a photo of defrosted foods

NOZLEE SAMASZADEH-“A Modest Proposal”  This clever article talks about eating foods and plants that we consider invasive.  The best idea is to sell back the Asian carp to the Chinese–they love it and we don’t eat it, meanwhile it is invading our waterways.  Seems we could get back all the money they owe us!  Plus, why not eat Nutria?

MATTHEW RUDOFKER-“Knives Out” Look at these amazing knives (that I will never buy).

JONATHAN PRINCE-“Photo-Op Food” A very funny article about politicians trying (and often failing) to blend into regions by eating “local” food.  And the funny photo-ops they often provide.

MARC MARON-“Pan-American” The tale of a used cast iron frying pan and the story behind it.

DOUGLAS WOLK-“Love, Love, and ALE-8 One” This is the story of an independent locally created soda.  It’s based in Winchester, KY and serves more or less the Winchester area.  The soda is in huge demand there.  It’s the story of a brief but failed expansion and a determined independent spirit.  Check out their site and stuff.

DAVID SIMON-“Pickles and Cream” appreciating the only contribution Simon’s grandfather ever made to the culinary arts.

LAUREN WEINSTEIN-“Sushi, USA” a comic about sushi.

MARK IBOLD is still on board (hurray!) bringing culinary fun from Southeastern PA.  This time: John Cope’s Fancy Golden Sweet Corn.

There’s of course lots of delicious (and sometime crazy) recipes written in their own wonderful somewhat disrespectful style.

Oh, and just to put your mind at ease, the picture on the cover is of a cow eating a veggie dog.  Even knowing that it’s still disturbing.

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SOUNDTRACK: LE BUTCHERETTES-Tiny Desk Concert #185 (January 9, 2012).

The write up for this Tiny Desk show implies that I should know who Le Butcherettes, and leader Teri Gender Bender, are.  I don’t.  But that doesn’t matter.

In this set, it’s just Teri Gender Bender and her acoustic guitar.  And she is channeling early PJ Harvey like nobody’s business.  If you like PJ’s new album but miss the less than subtle aspects of her earlier  records (and who doesn’t, honestly), this is a very enjoyable set.  Teri is angry and it shows.  But it’s all done on an acoustic guitar, so the anger is modified by the music.  It’s a neat trick.  But it’s also a little disconcerting.  Not least because she seems so nakedly honest when she sings (when she coughs aggressively during “Henry Don’t Got No Love” it’s not entirely clear if that’s part of the song or not.  But also because Teri is not afraid to look right at the camera (or, indeed, the audience) when she sings the songs.  Teri is very pretty but there is something haunting about her, which makes these songs of loss and love all the more effective.

See for yourself here.

[READ: January 22, 2012] “Notes on The Chelsea Girls”

I’m not going to start reviewing films, or, worse yet, reviewing reviews of films.  But since I like to try to read all of the academic articles that get recommended to me, I wanted to mention this one too (I admit I will not be subjecting myself or readers to a thirty plus page article about Charles Darwin and pigeon fanciers (which seemed interesting, especially the pictures, until I saw that it was over thirty dense pages).

It’s childish to laugh that a reviewer of Warhol’s The Chelsea Girls is named Battcock, but I’m not above that sort of joke.  What is amazing, to me, is how intellectual this review is.  I’m used to reading reviews in Entertainment Weekly or even The New Yorker, which talk about the plot of the film and the quality of the direction and what not.  And The New Yorker often trashes mainstream film on highfalutin grounds.  But even that doesn’t come anywhere close to:

Warhol still questions the very nature of the medium and its relationship with the cultural matrix and the contemporary value structure–for which he clearly holds no brief.  He is determined to prove that only vital institutions can provide vital art statements; his challenges to the medium serve ultimately to assure its legitimacy.  If in his earlier movies he attempted to redefine the nature of film and to clarify its limitations, the new works may be said to check out the remaining restrictions of the art form.  These include such physical aspects as the two distinct types of images (the retinal-visual and the cerebro-visual), as well as the nature of the auditorium, projection and screen.

Battcock is kind of hash on the film–which is actually several short films–two of which are projected side by side at the same time.  He says the individual shorts, which run about 30 minutes each, are “a little bland.”  Although, as he points out above, the actual films themselves are kind of beside the point.

Indeed, he criticizes other critics for missing the “point” of these films, which is that Warhol is “stripping the cinematic medium of its pretension and decorations.”  Rather, he complains, “Nearly all the other critics writing in the popular press dwelt with the lugubrious insistence on the squalidness, sordidness, perversion, etc of the lives depicted in the film” (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: FRANK ZAPPA-Does Humor Belong in Music? (1995).

Frank Zappa made money and found fame by writing dirty, funny songs.  Yet he was really a great guitarist and a serious composer.  But hey, when you need the money to make your studio, you write songs about “Penguins in Bondage.”  When I was in high school my friend Al introduced me to Shiek Yerbouti, and I was hooked.  I’d never heard songs that were so intentionally funny.

So, this live collection is kind of an odd assortment, given the title.  I mean the first song is an instrumental (ie. not funny at all except for the title “Zoot Allures”).  “Tinseltown Rebellion” however is pretty darn funny.  The mockery that goes on (and the call-outs range from The Scorpions to Culture Club and The Tonight Show) is nasty and offensive, but never really wrong.  And this is when you find out how good a Zappa stage show was.  The band was tight, they could play all kinds of crazy things and, as in this song, they were always in sync even when improvising.

This disc is a collection of songs from a 1984 tour.  I rather like this incarnation of the Zappa band (Ike Willis is pretty amazing at any time).  And they play tracks from across Zappa’s output.  Although there’s times when the disc sounds really abrasive (some of the solos–like on “Bondage”–are really piercing and not very smooth, and the drums can be very electronic sounding).

Of course, that’s the kind of music that Zappa wrote (“What’s new in Baltimore” is very electronic sounding–beautiful but mechanical–which is why it’s so amazing to hear it live–even if it doesn’t sound human, exactly).

And just so you know it’s not only Zappa showing off (although he kind of is since he hired all the musicians) in “Let’s Move to Cleveland,” everyone gets a solo…keybaords, drums…everyone.  And the final track “Whipping Post” sees his son Dweezil taking the lead guitar solo (which feels really human and rocks the dickens off the place).

For many of Zappa’s later “live” records, he compiled songs from all over the place (a very common practice for live records).  On some of the collections he even mixed a tour from the 70s with one from the 80s.   Now the thing that I just recently realized (even though it’s spelled out in the liner notes) is that these songs are cribbed together from different songs (!) (on “Cleveland” the piano solo is from St. Petersburg, the drum solo is from Vancouver, and the guitar solo is from Amherst College…weird, eh?  And what about the backing music, where does that come from while the solos are spliced in?)).  So, they’re not really live, except they kind of are.  And, heck that’s kind of funny too.  If you care about things like that it kind of ruins the “authenticity” of the recording.   But if you don’t, they sound pretty darn good anyway.

So this is not his funniest stuff, but it’s still an interesting live collection.

[READ: November 12, 2010] More Things Like This

I don’t know where I learned about this book, but I recently found it used for about $4 and I was pretty psyched to both find it and to pay a pittance for it.

As the subtitle indicates, this book is a collection of drawings that have words on them and are funny (but which are not “cartoons” (although some kind of are)).  The impetus for the book was a show at apexart of exactly this sort of thing.  The book expands on the show and includes many artists who were not in the show (including several very famous artists).

The Foreword by Dave Eggers offer the rationale behind the show & the book: Image + Text (usually referring to the image) + Humor = Good enough for us.  And it also asks pertinent questions: Why is it that so many of these artists can’t spell?  And why is it that when they screw up a word, instead of starting over, they just cross the word out and write it again?  Why is it important to some of the artists that the drawings appear casual, even sloppy?

And more. (more…)

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