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Archive for the ‘Pablo Picasso’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: THE DIVINE COMEDY-“Don’t Mention the War” (2019).

The Divine Comedy contributed a song to the Amazon Prime series Modern Love.

I don’t know anything about the show, but I was delighted to hear a new song from Neil Hannon.

This is a much quieter songs than he has put out recently. It features acoustic guitars and strings and over a slightly bouncy melody, he gently sings.

Do you remember when? No I don’t either
All this remembering we’re none the wiser
It’s time to let go and say

The chorus is similarly bouncy but more nostalgic than happy.

Don’t mention the war
Don’t talk of those days
What good is it for?
Don’t mention the war
Let history lie
Kiss the old days goodbye
They’re no help anymore
Don’t mention the war

This song isn’t mind blowing (an apparently is a left over from something else). but it’s a delightful slice of chamber pop.  I’d like to think it might introduce him to a whole new audience who will love him, but realistically, I think it will get some nice plays on Spotify and that’s good enough.

[READ: November 29, 2019] “Hurricane Season”

Sedaris says that when you grow up in North Carolina, you know not to get too attached to a beach house. If this year’s hurricane doesn’t get you, next year’s will.  And so it was in 2018 that Hurricane Florence took away their house, the Sea Section.

While Hugh was devastated David could only think to mock the old fashioned hurricane names “they sound like finalists in a pinochle tournament.”  Where’s Hurricane Madison or Skylar? Category 4 Fredonté?

They were in London when the hurricane hit, so their friend, owner of the Dark Side of the Dune checked on their house for them.  The pictures made  the place look so tawdry he was embarrassed to share them.

Luckily for them they had purchased the house that’s next door to the Sea Section as well –preemptively avoiding a McMansion (eight bedrooms were common, spread over three or  four stories).  The place is ancient by Emerald Isle standards (vintage 1972).  But what you really didn’t want next door to you was a swimming pool.  All you hear is Marco Polo over and over. (more…)

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pablo SOUNDTRACK: BUILT TO SPILL-Live (2000).

btsliveSoon after releasing “Carry the Zero,” Built to Spill released this, their first (and so far only) live disc.

This disc shows a jamming side of the band that their records up to now hadn’t really displayed (sure there was some evidence of the jam band within, but who would have guessed 2 songs on this disc would stretch to 20 minutes?).

The live set also shows a rather contrarian spirit in that there are only 9 songs in 70 some minutes and only 5 of the songs are actual Built to Spill songs.

The disc opens with “The Plan,” a great version of their most recent disc’s opener.  Then they jump right into Perfect from Now On’s  opening track “Randy Described Eternity.”  That song has a lot of parts and sections, and they do them perfectly.  They follow it with another song from Perfect, “Stop the Show” which also has multiple parts and again, they nail it.  These three songs were recorded in New York.  Brett Netson joined them for “Randy,” and “Stop” which really helps to flesh out those songs.

The next song is a cover of The Halo Benders’ “Virginia Reel Around the Fountain.”  And if it sounds very fitting for Doug, he was in The Halo Benders with Calvin Johnson before he started Built to Spill.  Then comes the centerpiece of the record–a 20 minute version of Neil Young’s “Cortez the Killer.”  And it is amazing.  He sounds enough like Neil to be totally respectful, without just being a rip off.  It’s probably the best version of this song I’ve heard (until I saw Neil do it this summer).

They switch gears to their first single, “Car,” a delightful 3 minute song.   And then, to fill out this almost all covers section, they play “Singing Sores Make Perfect Swords” a song originally done by Love as Laughter.  I don’t know the original, but it fits in with Doug’s style.  These four songs were record in Seattle.

There’s one song that was recorded in Denver, “I Would Hurt a Fly,” which is yet another song from Perfect, and is one of my favorite songs of theirs.  It does not disappoint.

The final song on the disc is a nineteen minute version of the song “Broken Chairs” (which is 8 minutes long on Secret).  They do the whistling section and a ton of solos.  Indeed, the way they stretch out the song out with guitar solos and noise (and the way the song ends with feedback) is really cool.  Netson joined them for “Fly” and “Broken Chairs” (which is why that ending solo is so intense.

It’ s a great live collection of songs and the sound is outstanding.  You’d never know it was recorded in different venues, either.

[READ: October 4, 2015] Pablo

Judging this book by its cover you would be correct in assuming that it is about Pablo Picasso.  But rather than being a simple history of the Art Master (the title of the series), this is a thorough recounting of Picasso’s life.  And what’s even more interesting is that the story is told from the point of view of Picasso’s lover and model Fernande Olivier.

And Fernande’s diary entries make up the bulk of the story and allow for a very personal look into the man and the stylistic choices that Picasso made over the years.  As the book says on the back, the authors show “how Picasso’s style developed in response to his friendships and rivalries.”  And of his rivals none was greater than Henri Matisse.  (The book also covers Picasso’s life before she met him too, of course).

The original work was published (in French) in four volumes.   This edition was translated by Edward Gauvin.

I especially like the way the book begins from the point of view of Fernande as an old woman, still alive and reminiscing about her life. (And yes, it’s amazing to realize that Picasso died in 1973…in my lifetime!).  (more…)

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CV1_TNY_08_11_14Mattotti.indd SOUNDTRACK: PRIMUS-Sailing the Seas of Cheese (1991).

cheeseHere they come, here comes the bastards again.  Sailing the Seas of Cheese was the band’s major label debut, and they were given a lot of freedom to do whatever they wanted.  Which they did.

The first two songs sort of ease you into the chaos that is “Sgt Baker” a noisy stomp that mocks the military. It’s followed by “American life” a relatively quiet song that is rather sad.  Although I like Ler’s solo at the end (which is rather conventional for him).

But the album really takes of with “Jerry Was a Racecar Driver”, Primus’ first real hit.  Which is amazing in and of itself given how weird a song it is and how noisy (and moshy) the middle section is.  Fun drumming opens “Eleven,” a rocking song done in 11/4 time–count it, its crazy!  I just love the lunacy of “Is It Luck?”–the bass is fast and so bizarre while Ler’s guitars are playing one simple dissonant note for much of the song.  “You wanna get lucky little boy?”

“Grandad’s Little Ditty” is basically Les singing in the shower (and one of the few songs I know of which use the word “flatus”).  It leads into the new recording of “Tommy the Cat.”  This time the role of Tommy is played by Tom Waits, which make a slot of sense.  The Primus book has a funny story about Waits singing this (he sent them a version without having heard the song and he sang it through a megaphone).  The bass in the middle of the song is just incredible.

“Sathington Waltz” continues the adventure of Sathington Willoughby, although this is a scattered instrumental with banjos and loud drums (and lots of guests).  “Those Damn Blue Collar Tweekers” is a stomping song with a great riff.  I never knew exactly what it was about (not that its hard to figure out), but the book explains exactly who Les was talking about.

“Fish On” is a 7 minute song (most of the songs on this record are shorter than on Frizzle Fry) with a lengthy intro and outro.  The disc ends with “Los Bastardos” a reprise of the opening bastard music with some samples from The Young Ones and all kinds of friends playing along.  It’s a really fun record with some absolutely classic songs on it.

Shut up you bastards!

[READ: January 5, 2015] “Picasso”

The ever prolific César Aira had a new short story in The New Yorker (he usually writes novella length pieces, but this appears to be an actual short story (3 pages)) which is a little different.

In the story, the narrator says he was in the Picasso museum enjoying the artwork when a genie came out of his bottle of Miracle Milk and offered him a choice: Would he rather have a Picasso or be Picasso.  I enjoyed this twist on the typical three-wishes genie (he even mention how most people are prepared to ask for more wishes), and that this was totally unexpected.

To me, the answer was obvious from the start, Picasso was a pretty unhappy guy, why would I want to be him?  Of court, as the narrator goes through the options, he says that if you were Picasso you would automatically have all the Picassos.  Plus, he says that he himself has a pretty unhappy life, so Picasso would be a step up.

The narrator reviews Picasso’s life and output, but ultimately he decides that owning a Picasso would give him the financial security to allow himself to write his novels.

As soon as he thinks that, a painting appears on the table in front of him.  It is clearly a Picasso.  He spends the next few paragraphs describing the painting and then comes upon a “meaning” for it.  It’s an interesting look at a Spanish fable or joke.  The fable involves a queen who is lame and her servants who want to tell her without actually telling her.  The punchline of the joke comes down to “Su Majestad, escoja” which translates as “Your Majesty, choose” or if the last word is broken up (into es coja) “Your Majesty is lame.”  It’s a pretty elaborate painting or what amounts to a joke (and I have no idea if this is a real painting or not).

As the story comes to an end, the final paragraph introduces a whole new aspect of the story which was hilarious and unepxetced.  It was a great twist.  I do have to wonder if this is part of a bigger story because although it feels complete, I could easily see him following this character further.

This was translated by Chris Andrews.

For ease of searching I include: Cesar Aira

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whiteSOUNDTRACK: IMAGINE DRAGONS-Night Visions (2012).

nightvisImagine Dragons is a band that is hugely popular (popular enough for “Weird Al” to parody their song) and seemed to come out of nowhere.  I kind of sort of like them but also sort of don’t.  I didn’t know anything about them when I first heard “Radioactive” a big bombastic anthemic sing along with big drums and an amusing (or interesting at least) part in the beginning where the singer “breathes in chemicals.” And what’s great about the song is that it’s fun to sing along to and it doesn’t overstay its welcome.

But the thing about the album is that some of their songs veer right into the realm of cheesey pop.  “Tiptoe” has a synth sound that is so cheesy I can’t stand it.  It also has a chorus that a boy band could easily do.

So the album is full of songs I like and one or two I dislike a lot.  “It’s Time” stays on the good side of pop with a preposterously poppy song which never drifts into cheese (even if it flirts with the line). “Demons” is catchy and fun as is “On Top of the World” (with the “hey”s and handclaps).  Depending on my mood, I could easily hate these songs, but most days I find them happy and enjoyable.

“Amsterdam” and “Hear Me” are rocking anthems that sits pretty squarely in the not-too-poppy camp.  They have big choruses and are pretty easy to like.

As for songs I dislike–“Every Night” is the worst piece of pop crap drivel I’ve heard in a long time.  Everything about it is gawdawful ( I won’t even list them all).  I can see it being huge.  And “Underdog” goes over the line into cheese for me as well.  I don’t know if it’s the synth sounds or the lyrics or what but I can do without it.

“Bleeding Out” returns to that gritty vocals but still pretty polished sounding song that Dragons do quite well.  “Nothing Left to Say” is an interesting ender to the album (with cellos and all).  The tacked on coda “Rocks” is also kind of fun in a Mumford and Sons sorta way.

It was about half way through the disc that I realized the band sounds like Coldplay (the opening of “Demons,” jeez–I may have even heard this on the radio and assumed it was Coldplay)–but like an excessive version of Coldplay (both in anthemic quality (which is hard to do) and in pop potential).

I haven’t heard the band’s new single, but it should let me know which way the band is going–more rock anthems or into the pop pit of despair–and that will probably determine my final verdict of the band.

[READ: October 17, 2014] White Cube

I found this book at work and was quite intrigued by it.  Of course, I am intrigued by nearly everything Drawn & Quarterly puts out, even if I don’t love everything they release. And I didn’t love this one.

In fairness, there was a lot I liked about it.  The fact that it was originally published in Belgium is pretty cool.  And the fact that there are barely any words in it also made it intriguing.  I even enjoyed that there were two main characters, each one a virtually identical pink bald man who express his pleasure by giving a thumbs up.  And yes, I enjoyed that most of the stories were about art.  So, perhaps I did enjoy this more than I realized.

The book as a whole seems to be mocking the state of modern art.  When the two unnamed guys go into the “White Cube” they follow signs for Modern Art and then make adjustments to what they see, giving a thumbs up when they are done.

What confused me was trying to figure out whether each piece was an individual story or part of the whole. Several of them start with a “title panel” that says White Cube (while others seem to have different titles).  But since they all seem to be about art, they could all be rooms in the big White Cube. (more…)

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The edition I’m using.

SOUNDTRACK: RICHARD WAGNER-“Ride of the Valkyries” (1856).

Possibly the most famous piece of music from any opera (known for a billion reasons other than the opera itself).  This song was introduced to be by Bugs Bunny.  And then cemented in my consciousness in Apocalypse Now.

It’s really impossible for me to listen to it without seeing helicopters dropping napalm.

I’ve never seen it performed before.  Most of us think of it as an instrumental, but there are vocals, and they add a lot to the performance.  I also didn’t realize that the whole first minutes is a prelude to the third Act–with a darkened stage.  I just watched this version by the Danish Royal Opera in which the setting is updated.  The Stage is amazing and it’s a pretty powerful image, that won’t leave me head too soon.  And of course, the women sound phenomenal.

Smells like victory to me.

[READ: Week of June 19, 2012] JR Week 1

And so begins the saga of JR.  A little of my background:

I read JR about a decade ago.  I recall the structure and some of what happens, but not enough to actually remember anything ahead of time, plotwise.

Usually for these weekly group reads, I post fairly detailed recaps of the book.  And usually I do that because there’s so much going on in a large book, that it’s one way for me to keep track.  JR is going to be a little different.  If you’ve gotten this far in the book, you’ll notice that there’s not a lot of plot going on.  There’s a few scenes with lots of dialogue and maybe something comes of it, maybe not.  So, I’m certainly not going to try to recap everything that happens in the dialogue, nor am I even going to try to figure out who said what or even who is in every conversation–I’m not even sure that’s possible.  But I am going to talk about each scene a bit and see if I can pick out anything that seems important.

The book strikes me as being like an unedited film.  Or like a Picasso–Gaddis wants to show you everything, and let you pick out the important bits.  And so the book feels like a boom mike has been inserted into a room or scene.  We’re not really sure who everyone is, or even who is talking at a given moment.  But we hear everything that’s said. And then the boom mike pulls out and the camera pans somewhere else and the boom mike goes down and we hear some more.  It’s not always clear even that a scene has shifted–although usually a dense paragraph of prose indicates a shift in scene.

As far as characters, it’s not clear if anyone mentioned early on is going to stay with us through the book.  It’s clear that JR will be here (although his first real scene is right after my spoiler line for this week).  There’s also the Bast family who will no doubt play some ind of important role.  Then there’s a lot of teachers as well. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: PUBLIC ENEMY-Fear of a Black Planet (1990).

NPR recently broadcast a PE show from the All Tomorrow’s Parties Festival.  I didn’t know that PE was still touring, so that was a surprise to me.  The show was largely a celebration of Fear of a Black Planet, which meant that I had to go back and listen to the original.

Man, is this a solid album.  The lyrics pack a punch even twenty years later and what is perhaps more amazing is that the sound collages that Terminator X created, which were something of an oppressive sonic assault are now fairly mainstream-sounding (forward thinking or what?).

What I like about this (and most PE) albums, is that  they have little skits between songs, but unlike most rap skits they’re not one-not jokes that you listen to once and then skip every future time.  A wonderful skit (for lack of a better word) is “Incident at 66.6 FM” in which we hear an amazing amount of racist epithets thrown at PE apparently on the radio.  Or the rather disturbing “Meet the G That Killed Me.”  “Anti-Nigger Machine” is a great collage of samples like “Think” and James Brown and a dozen more songs.

“Can’t Do Nuttin for Ya, Man!” is a (sort of) comic song from Flav that is catchy as anything. While “Reggie Jax” is a confusingly titled song that has nothing to do with baseball, but everything to do with funk.

Of course, this disc has some of PE’s best songs as well.  From the awesome “911 is a Joke” to one of the best rap songs ever, “Welcome to the Terrordome” (my favorite story of this song is when I was wearing a  Welcome to the Terrordome shirt and my philosophy professor asked me quite pointedly, “What in the hell is a terrordome.”  That was a fun conversation).  “Terrordome” is still amazing–powerful, musically intense and for all of its lyrical acuity, it still has funny moments….boing.

And of course, “Burn Hollywood Burn” is an amazing critique of the movie industry (and it’s catchy too).  I got Black Caesar back at the crib, right Lar?

I’ve always been a little confused by “Pollywannacracker.”  Not lyrically, but vocally, as Chuck’s (is it really Chuck?) voice is treated in a surprisingly tinny way.  I liked the song more on this listen than any other, I guess in the past it just kind of snuck by me.

The album is a little front loaded with greatness.   “Power to the People” is another powerful song, but it’s not quite as memorable as the other tracks.  “Fear of a Black Planet” has some really cool sounds on it (where did they get that “black man, black woman, black baby” sample?).   “Revolutionary Generation” is a great track in which Chuck and Flav stand up for black women: “R-E-S-P-E-C-T, my sister’s not my enemy.”  Not your average rap subject.

And the last couple of proper songs, “B Side Wins Again” and “War at 33 1/3” are fast paced and furious, but they don’t really have much in the way of a hook.  Nevertheless, lyrically they are really great, and I love to hear Chuck D flow that quickly.

The biggest surprise for me is the censored version of “Fight the Power” (the song that got me into PE in the first place, thanks Spike).  It’s really surprising to me that PE allowed their music to be bleeped–unless it was just for a deliberate radio play (which I can accept).  Although they also list a title as “Leave This Off You Fu*Kin Charts” (did I buy a Columbia House version or something?)

This is an amazing album, one that still sounds fresh and sadly, is still relevant.

[READ: October 15, 2011] Between Parentheses

I never expected to get so addicted to Roberto Bolaño.  And despite his death, there is no shortage of works coming out in English (that is one of the advantages to reading a translated author–even death doesn’t cease the available materials).  Indeed, this year alone, New Directions is publishing Between Parentheses, and Tres and FSG is publishing The Third Reich (a collection of non fiction, a collection of poetry and a novel respectively).

When I really get into an author, I fall for his or her works, not necessarily him or her as a person (heck, some author are downright jerks).  But there are some authors that I want to know about, personally.  Bolaño is a pretty polarizing figure–he seems obnoxious, his works don’t shy away from very specific opinions, and sometimes it’s unclear what kind of views Bolaño himself has in his works (or if he’s even telling the truth about his so-called truths).  One thing in particular is the constant use of the word “faggot.”  It is used often in 2666 (and I know that is a translator’s choice, but still) and used derogatorily.  Now, clearly the context is everything for something like that.  But it seems to speak badly of Bolaño.  And yet, when reading these essays he is not homophobic in the least.  He is obviously well aware of institutionalized homophobia in Latin America, and he is obviously not supportive of it.

But that’s just one interesting thing about this book.  So let me back up. (more…)

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