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Archive for the ‘Adam Levin’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: RIO MARA-Tiny Desk Concert #905 (October 25, 2019).

Rio Mara sings (and speaks) entirely in Spanish for this Tiny Desk.  But that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy this if you don’t know Spanish.  The musical is wonderful–full of percussion and a wonderfully vibrant wooden marimba that feels utterly tropical.

Rio Mira takes its name from a river that separates Ecuador and Colombia and empties into the Pacific Ocean.

For just about fifteen minutes, the members of Rio Mira created a living and very melodic connection to Africa. Set behind a large marimba — and drums that are unique to their corner of the world — the members of the band performed music that is the legacy of enslaved people who were in both Ecuador and Colombia.

Rio Mira’s three songs in this performance are dominated by the marimba and accompanied by drums from both Europe and Africa. “La Pepa de Tangaré” references the culinary joys of life and, like the rest of their set, celebrates life along the river: soft breezes, loving friends, the embrace of Africa and, of course, lots of festejando (partying)!

Karla Kanora sings lead vocals, while Esteban Copete plays the amazing marimba.

Introducing the band (and the instruments) we meet Carlos Loboa on the cununos (a hand drum that looks like a conga).  Tito Ponguillo on the bombo hembra (a two headed drum that you wear on a strap), while Sergio Ramírez plays the bombo macho (the “male” version of the two headed drum). Fernando Hurtado plays the shaker and sings.

Benjamín Vanegas sings lead on “Román Román” with a fun and enjoyable style.  The chorus is really catchy. The middle has an extended spoken part.

If you’re a little rusty on your college Spanish classes, the extended narration in “Román Román” tells the tale of a village man who has healing powers and challenges death.

For the final song “Mi Buenaventura” Fernando Hurtado sings.  It is a fast song with the marimba going wild.  I really appreciate how very different each singer’s style is amid all of this fun percussive music.

[READ: March 1, 2020] “Kid Positive”

I really enjoyed Adam Levin’s massive book The Instructions.

This story is the first thing I’ve read by him since that, and while I love his writing style I hated the content of this story.

Each section of the story shows a year in Adam’s childhood with a title to accompany it.  Like Shitty Little Tevye, Big Brother, 1980.

In this flashback, we see a young Adam enjoying it when his parents had friends over to dinner.  He would crawl through their legs to get to the bathroom and they would joke…  Is there a dog in here?  On one occasion, he came back from the bathroom singing what he thought was his father’s favorite song “If I Were a Rich Man.”  (It wasn’t his favorite song).  Adam sang it and the adults all thought it was cute except for his father, who said “Okay.”  But he didn’t mean it, it wasn’t okay.  Adam climbed back under the table and continued to sing and his father said “he’s acting like an idiot, a real fucking idiot.”

In Puppet, 1981 a puppet that Adam enjoyed watching on TV said “I think therefore I am.”  This existential phrase upset Adam and he worried that if the puppet thought he was real, how did he know if anyone was real.  Maybe his mother was a puppet too.

The Rabbits, 1982 section is a terrible part about baby bunnies dying.

In Turtle and Sensei, 1984, there;s a story about a dying (probably) turtle and how he wanted to name it Mergatroid.   The other part is a bit funnier–about his family going to see a sensei perform a demonstration. His father did not believe it–saying the board was perforated.

Adam told people about this event and then made up that at the end of the demonstration his father went to shake the sensei’s hand but then pulled him close and whispered in his ear.  When he let go, the sensei looked afraid.

In The Frost and the Frogs, 1985-86 he talks about throwing his cat.  What the hell is wrong with this story. They also kill a snake.

In Hum, 1988, all of the kids push Giles Crowley because when they do he would said “Hum.”  So they would shove him to see how many Hums he would say.  If they shoved him harder and he stumbled four steps, he would say “Hum um um um.”  It’s possible he enjoyed the attention.

Throughout, the narrator says things like

Had you asked me if I thought Giles Crowley had feelings, I would probably have told you that I had feelings because that would have addressed what I would have thought you were secretly trying to get at with your question and I’d have wanted you to know that I was smarter than you.

The story ends with Splash Pad, 2015.

Adam is grown up and married.  They are hanging out with friends who have kids at a Splash Pad–a giant fountain for kids to frolic in. The kids have a great time. The pleasure is contagious and Adam realizes that he is positive about kids–he is kid positive.

Adam was so pleased with the way the kids played so nicely that he told his friends that kids now played so much nicer than they did when they were kids.  He hoped these good childhood memories would foster

deep with them greater capacities for kindness and decency than the people of our generation possessed and that, down the line, these greater capacities for kindness and decency would grant these kids the strength they’d need to neutralize and overcome what would otherwise be our generation’s malforming influence and eventually turn the whole country, perhaps even the whole world, into a safer and friendlier place.

Are you making fun of our children, they asked.

Its nice to see that a seeming sociopath like that kid actually turned out okay.  But I’m still not a fan of this story.

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SOUNDTRACK: REN & STIMPY-Crock O’ Christmas (1993).

Certainly reaching the weird bottom of the list CDs in the Christmas collection here.

I’m not entirely sure why I even have this as I wasn’t a  huge Ren & Stimpy fan.  I assume I got it for free somewhere.  Anyhow, this is the kind of nonsensical disc that actually made me chuckle a few times as I listened to it again.  The songs are sort of parodies of actual classic songs.  But they’re not so much making fun of the Christmas song so much as using the Christmas songs to make up songs for their holiday Yaksmas.

If you know anything about Ren & Stimpy, you know that everything they do is gross, and this CD is just full of grossness.

The Wikipedia post about the disc is pretty thorough, so I’ll let it stand, with some of my one thoughts.

  • 1. “Fleck the Walls” – 2:51 – Stimpy explains to Ren that it is Yaksmas Eve to the tune of “Deck the Halls”.  [Stimpy’s untiring happiness is really just too funny. As is Ren’s hair-trigger temper.  This is a pretty funny and gross wait to start: “Come on everyone pit on a hat made of garbage and lets go Yaksmas caroling.”  The utterly over the top seriousness of the backing vocals is icing]
  • 2. “Cat Hairballs” – 3:27 – Stimpy sings about the gifts he can make out of his hairballs to the tune of “Jingle Bells”.  [Gross, but catchy].
  • 3. “We Wish you a Hairy Chestwig” – 3:04 – Ren and Stimpy sing about the “chestwig” they’ve gotten for Mr. Pipe to the tune of “We Wish You a Merry Christmas”, wishing him a “hairy chestwig and a bucket of beards”.  [No idea what this is all about but it’s a funny concept].
  • 4. “It’s A Wizzleteats Kind Of Christmas” – 3:51 – Stimpy sings a song about Stinky Wizzleteats, singer of the “Happy Happy Joy Joy” song; his “souped-up sausage cart” is the basis for the album cover.  [Stinky Wizzleteats is a wonderfully ornery character.  Not based on anything else, so it’s all about the bizarre words].
  • 5. “We’re Going Shopping” – 4:39 – Stimpy drags Ren into the mall to do some Christmas shopping.  {I was puzzled that they talk about Christmas here.  The disc follows a thread of the two of them all day, with everything having a narrative.  The Christmas just seems like a mistake.  Although the shopping items are pretty fun].
  • 6. “Yak Shaving Day” – 4:22 – Ren and Stimpy stumble on the secret gathering place of the Gilded Yaks.  [I love the voices of the Yaksm how serious and pretentious their voices are.  Plus the rocking guitars in the chorus totally rule].
  • 7. “What Is Christmas?” – 3:19 – Stimpy and his son, Stinky the Fart, recall the events of “Son of Stimpy”.  [I listened to this song and thought it was so treacly and un Ren & Stimpy-like.  And then I looked this up and saw that Stimpy’s son is a fart, and that makes everything different.].
  • 8. “Cobb To The World” – 3:08 – Ren and Stimpy sing the song of “good king” Wilbur Cobb, a senile senior citizen, to the tune of “Joy to the World”.  [This is just bizarre and creepy]
  • 9. “Happy Holiday Hop” – 3:48 – Ren and Stimpy attend TV star Muddy Mudskipper’s holiday celebration.  [This song is so peculiarly straight, that it could almost work outside of Ren & Stimpy, aside from the whole Muddy Mudskipper part of course]
  • 10. “I Hate Christmas” – 4:23 – While Stimpy goes to bed, Ren sings the blues about his personal disdain for the holiday.  [Again, with the Christmas.  This is actually quite a downer.  Poor Ren.  But surely Stimpy must get him over the blues].
  • 11. “The Twelve Days of Yaksmas” – 4:24 – Ren and Stimpy count down the Yaksmas gifts of Ren’s cousin Svën Hoek to the tune of “The Twelve Days of Christmas”.  [Everything that makes fun of this preposterously long song makes me laugh.  This one is especially gross, but they have a great time with the absurd lyrics.]
  • 12. “Decorate Yourself” – 5:26 – Ren and Stimpy sing an anthem in the style of “We Are the World” about decorating oneself for the holidays.  [This song soars and flies and is so catchy it could have been an anthem for the ages “Don’t deck the halls or burn boughs of pine, hang your mistletoe where the sun don’t shine!”].

Sometimes it’s wonderful to be silly for Christmas.

[READ: December 7, 2018] “A Qualitative Study of Our Father”

Once again, I have ordered The Short Story Advent Calendar.  This is my third time reading the Calendar (thanks S.).  I never knew about the first one until it was long out of print (sigh).  Here’s what they say this year

Fourth time’s the charm.

After a restful spring, rowdy summer, and pretty reasonable fall, we are officially back at it again with another deluxe box set of 24 individually bound short stories to get you into the yuletide spirit.

The fourth annual Short Story Advent Calendar might be our most ambitious yet, with a range of stories hailing from eight different countries and three different originating languages (don’t worry, we got the English versions). This year’s edition features a special diecut lid and textured case. We also set a new personal best for material that has never before appeared in print.

Want a copy?  Order one here.

And here’s a Q&A with Levin.

Like last year I’m pairing each story with a holiday disc from our personal collection.

This story is written in Levin’s words as “a kind of pseudoscientific research paper by a pair of siblings trying to make sense of their father via examining his behavior toward houseflies.”  It has epigrams from Shakespeare and Skinner.  The abstract, for of course there is an abstract, states that their father, a well-meaning human being likes to kill flies.  There;s nothing sexual or creepy about his desire to kill them, he just seems very placidly happy when he does. (more…)

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instruct SOUNDTRACK: RHEOSTATICS-The Horseshoe Tavern, Record Body Rheos Day#6, Toronto, ON (November 12, 2001).

Sometimes you would go see Rheos and they would play a show packed with rarely played songs. This is one of those shows – The Woods Are Full Of Cuckoos, SRBM, Onilley’s, Jesus Was Once A Teenager Too, Public Square, Halloween Eyes, Satan Is The Whistler, PROD, Martin’s First Day Of School, Home Again…a treasure trove for hardcore fans. This was night 6 of Winter Nationals 2001 aka Record Body Rheos.

This is the only show remaining in 2001.  It is also only the second show of this run available on RheostaticsLive.

The recording of this show is spectacular—loud and very clear soundboard recording.  It features Michael Phillip Wojewoda on drums–the band’s final drummer before their dissolution in 2007.

Dave as always is very chatty: “Is it the first night for a lot of you folks here?  Oh you’ve been here before?  Cool.  We mixed it up for you tonight.  We got a lot of stuff we haven’t played over the last 4 or 5 nights.

Mike says, “A lot of stuff I haven’t played.”  Apropos of nothing Martin says, “We’re going to play a new song called ‘Couscous.'”  [They don’t].

The show starts with “The Midnight Ride Of Red Dog Ray.”  I’d always assumed this song was by Stompin’ Tom, but in fact it was by Washboard Hank Fisher.  The songs sounds sounds big and full–much louder than other versions of this song.  Tim has lots of backing vocals: “riiiiide” “Raaaaaay.”  Dave rolls his rs in the last chorus.  It ends and Dave asks “That wasn’t too hard was it, Mike?”

Dave says, “we’ll stay in Ontario for this next number.”  It’s a nice, spare version of “Christopher.”  I like when Martin is singing “we used to take trips,” he plays the melody on the guitar the same notes.  And when he “setters” ‘trips’ a second time he plays the guitar note as well.  They have a really hard time with “The Woods Are Full Of Cuckoos.”  They play it twice way too fast for Tim to sing.  The guitar in the beginning feels way too fast even if you don’t know the song.  Tim says, “Hey this is way too fast.”  Martin agrees: “Bit of a wrist twister.”  Tim: “I only go so fat.”  They try again, Martin slows down but the drums are the problem.  It’s pretty much the same tempo.  Then MPW gets it right and Tim does a good job—it’s still a pretty fast song.   During the end part they mess up that final riff, but they do manage it after another try.

Martin jokes: “The woods are full of caca” (chukcle).

Tim says, “Speaking of that band, Gordon Cummings’ new band Precious Little is playing with us this week.”  He asks when and Dave says “It’s in the paper, Tim.”  Tim: “‘I don’t subscribe to such things.”

A fan says something and Dave replies, “I’m not smoking.  My playing is pretty hot, but I’m not smoking, sir.”  He then tells a story about playing hockey at 2PM at the Annual Green Sprouts Game.  He says he normally wears full pads, but this time he wore pants and water got all over him–it looked like I peed myself.  Tim: “remember that gig in Victoria when you actually peed yourself?”  Dave says something about a toilet and then says “And you were drawing it in your sketchbook.”

Martin has his new robotic voice synthesizer and speaks “SUPERdifficult.”  It’s fun to hear this song after so much time in the mid-1990s.

Dave: “I sense that you are a loud crowd.  Sometimes smaller bodies of people should be louder”
Martin: “The example of the Belizian howler monkey–small body, loud sound.”
Dave: “Any howler monkeys here tonight?”

They thank the opening acts: Some Guy with a Guitar (is that the guy’s name or are they joking about who it is?  I can’t find anyone with that name).  And The Keep On Keepin’ Ons  they should lose that Dave Love guy he’s gonna destroy them if he doesn’t destroy himself.  [Can’t find anything out about him either].

Martin introduces “PIN”:  “This is a song about stuff that goes like this.”  But for “Sweet Rich Beautiful Mine” Dave says, it’s a song from The Blue Hysteria which we recorded in 1996.”
Martin: “Really eh?  This is song about probiscis monkeys and how good they are at sweeming…swimming.”
When they start there’s a terrible flat note on bass.
Martin says, “No, no, its not gong to be that interesting.”
Dave: “I mean how many fucking songs do we have to have about proboscis monkeys who swim?  Shit.”
Tim: “Martin, can you stretch a little?”
Martin: “All my songs are about apes.”  Fan: “What about ‘That’s How They Do It in Warsaw’?”  Martin: “Polish apes.  It’s about a zoo I visited there in the elate 60s.  Zoos at the at the time, ooh la la.
Before this gets out of han Dave says “Let’s go capo monkey.”
When Martin gets to the “sweetest ass” part he chimes in: “all red and blue and such.”

When the song ends, Martin says “Archie” in Edith’s voice (why he is talking about All in the Family I have no idea).  Dave says, “All I could think of the tragedy in the towers.  (this show is just a couple months after 9/11) Archie Bunker lived in Queens and when they showed the footage of the plane wreckage all the houses looked like Archie Bunker’s house.”  Martin: “704 Hauser Street.”  Dave: “Alright Tim [Mech], atta boy.  Pretty good to have a guy feeding you lines in the wings.”
Tim: “No more monkey jokes, Tim.”
Martin: “Yeah, cool it on the ape shit.”

While they’re bantering, someone says, “That last song was really fucking good.  Dave: “Thank you, sir.”

This next song [“Mumbletypeg”] is dedicated to Tim’s tie.  Dave says that Night of the Shooting Stars is out in a couple weeks.  The album cover is a cross between Spinal Tap, Charlie’s Angel’s and Metallica’s black album.  And it sounds like a cross between those three things.
Martin: “Precisely.  With nothing else.”
Mike: “As a total marketing move the last night of our run here is the night of the shooting stars.  So everyone should go up north and watch the Leonids
Martin: “When does the meteor shower start, Mike?”
Mike: “Well 4 in the morning. Until the 18th”
Dave: “We should probably end the night with a processional chant of LEE-OH-NiD.”
Mike: “With flutes and a bus.”
Martin: “The flute bus!”
Dave: “The flute bus, I think The Medieval Babes have it.  They did beautiful older music but they added a sexy edge to it.”

They play another song from NotSS called “Reward”: “We’re gonna do a song we did last night but it didn’t turn out to good, so we’re going to try it again for you. No, No, for us.  For the greater good. We are true artists.”

“Oneilly’s Strange Dream” sounds so much like “Saskatchewan” in parts.   Those three harmonica notes before the solo are just like in “Claire.”  Dave seems to fill in on some of the words if Martin forgets them.  The end of the song has a really noisy section of chaotic chords and drums.  Martin ends the song with the lyrics from the first verse instead of the final verse.  Dave rescues the song and Martin finishes it.

Tim: All we did was smoke pot in the Bahamas when we recorded that album.  Sorry about that.

Dave tells a very long story about he Bahamas that is very funny (drinking, missing planes, throwing up).

This leads to a mellow, almost acoustic “Jesus.”  Martin messes up a lyric and Dave feeds him a line, so he continues.

Dave: “Pretty great fun for a Monday night for us.  We’re usually at home watching Golden Girls by this time.

They go all the way back to their debut album for “Public Square,” a song they didn’t even play that much back then.

Someone shouts “Halloween Eyes.”  Dave: Halloween has passed, ma’am.”  But they play it anyhow. Really goofy.  They don’t play it much at all: “Don’t look at me with your Halloween eyes.  Don’t hit me with your pumpkin pies.  Devils got horns devils got a tail.  666 gonna fuck you up.  Some even say that he’s got scales. 666 you’re a sitting duck.”  Dave: “They actually really were stones when they wrote that.”

This next song [Bad Time to be Poor] is dedicated to the retirement of Mike Harris [Harris was the 22nd Premier of Ontario from June 26, 1995 to April 14, 2002. He is most noted for the “Common Sense Revolution”, his Progressive Conservative government’s program of deficit reduction in combination with lower taxes and cuts to government spending].

“Satan is the Whistler” is sloppy but rocking with more of that robotic voice “he is the whistler.”

There’s an interesting surf guitar like opening to “Four Little Songs.”  The whole thing is crazy fun.  For Tim’s: “Lets go to France, beautiful France.”
I’m not sure who is singing Don’s part, but they stop “we should get these guy to sing that one.”

Huge creatures prowl the streets tonight
Moon and antlers set the sky alight

Martin: “These beast have antlers, perhaps they’re just moose.”  After the first attempt, Dave chides, “Wait that’s really terrible, hold on.”   They resume the middle part and then the audience sings along pretty well.  During the Neil Young part there’s some gentle jamming with funky bass from Tim.  Whoever sings it has a crazy voice.  They slow things down at the end for “and my brain goes….”  The sound goes slow and woozy.
When they stop that, Martin says, “This is the morning after” and they resume properly, except Dave sings “We drank all our beer and ate all our pizza.” at the end.  And then he introduces, “Drunk guy.  Drunk guy.  Thanks, Justin.”  Mike says, “Dave, I love it we your son gets up to sing with us.”

On his way out Martin says, “Rush never sleeps.”

Thanks to The Keep on Keepin’ Ons and the Poppy Salesman (this makes me think the guy with a guitar was Martin).

The encore starts with “CCYPA.”  Dave says this is the lead off track or the emphasis track about Canadian politics.  As the song ends, Martin says, “Pleased to meet ya.  Dave Love of Love Your Stuff Records.”

It’s followed by a wild “PROD.”  Dave: “Tim’s got the urge, we got the urge”  ….Tim gets a small bass solo.  Then “Let’s give the drums some space.” (a small solo).  And then they say goodbye.

They come back and Tim asks Martin for a few bars of “Martin’s First Day of School.”  “I’ve always liked that song.”  Martin: “The last time we played that was in 1992.”  Dave: “Not even.”

Martin: “Before the world changed.   Before the horrible events of Dave’s birthday.”  Dave’s birthday is September 11.  He said people were calling him up saying, “Dave, happy birthday.  What a tragic day, terrible day, your birthday.”

They end with “Home Again” from Harmelodia and then “Song of the Garden” which they re-recorded fro NotSS.

As they head out, Dave reminds everyone: Tomorrow’s free, so you got no excuse.  Tomorrow night: Precious Little at 9:30.  John Ford at 10: 25 and  Rheostatics later on.

[READ: June 30, 2016] The Instructions

I put off reading this book for six years.  And I see that I started to write about this over a year ago.

The book is massive!  (Category Thirteen even created a web page comparing the size of the book to other things).

It has been a major conversation piece.  I was reading it at the mechanics and an elderly lady and I wound up talking about books for 20 minutes because of it (she was reading Michael Chabon).

I had heard that even though it was big, it was not particularly challenging to read.  So while it is physically bigger than Infinite Jest (see the link above), it has about 40 fewer pages (and while it does have footnotes, there are not very many).

This story is all about Guiron ben-Jusah Maccabee, a ten-year old Israelite who may just be the next Messiah.

The book itself looks like a Bible (from the sheer size) and, indeed, as it opened we see that The Instructions were written by Guiron and translated and re-translated from the Hebrew and the English by Eliyahu of Brooklyn and Emmanuel Liebman.

Then there is a note from the publisher in 2013 (the book came out in 2010) saying that Guiron received no fanciable remuneration for his work, but money will go to the Scholars Fund.  Whether the U.S. Government “convicts, acquits, or fails to prosecute him for crimes relating to “The Damage Proper,” “the 11/17 Miracle,”: or any other event pertaining to “The Guironic War,” note that the Scholars Fund “in neither a terrorist organization nor a sponsor of terrorist organizations.”

That’s a pretty intense introduction.

The whole 1000 page book takes place in just a few days Starting November 14, 2006 (between second and third period).
Although the book is about Guiron, there are dozens of characters in the book–those who are “faithful” to Guiron and those who are not.

Benji Nakamook and Vincie Portite are his two closest allies.  They go to school with him at Aptakisic Junior High.  And they are all in The Cage.  The Cage is sort of a detention class–a high-security education experiment–the kids have all of their classes in this one room that has more security than any other room.

Guiron has been expelled from two other Jewish day schools.  In both instances he was considered brilliant and a genuine scholar but he was removed from both because of his violent tendencies.  And those violent tendencies are right up front.  As the book opens, Benji, Vince and Guiron are trying to waterboard each other. (more…)

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concavityStarting this month, Matt Bucher and David Laird, scholars and fans of David Foster Wallace have created the first regular Podcast devoted to Wallace.  And the intro and closing music is from Parquet Courts’ “Instant Disassembly” which is also pretty cool.

This introductory episode serves as an introduction to Bucher and Laird, their love of Wallace’s work, and what they hope to do in future episodes.

Matt Bucher lives in Texas, not far from the Ransom Center where the Wallace archives have been settled (he assures us that he moved there before the site was selected). David Laird is from Kelowna, in British Colombia (4 hours east of Vancouver).  The claim to fame of Kelowna is the mythical lake monster Ogopogo.  But in Infinite Jest, a character is spoken of as being addicted to a thick apple juice that comes from BC.

Bucher also runs Sideshow Media Group which published Elegant Complexity, Nature’s Nightmare, and Consider David Foster Wallace. He says he and his brother founded the press because no one would publish Elegant Complexity, and he felt it needed to get out there. (more…)

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38SOUNDTRACK: SAN FERMIN-“Crueler Kind” (2013).
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This was the final song that NPR played in their summer new music collection.  It was a band that Bob didn’t know, but he liked the song and then saw them live and put the song here.

It opens very simply, quietly with beautiful harmonies over a simple synth.  After about 45 seconds, the drums and horns (!) kick in and the backing harmony vocals take on more of a choral sound (AHHHH!) that punctuates rather than accompanies the vocals.

The main riff stems from that horn—a bass saxophone?  And yet during the verses, everything resorts to that pretty, mellow sound.

It’s a very interesting mix of musics, and it reminds me of some of the more experimental bands of the 1990s.  I’ll bet they would be fun to see live.  And I’d like to hear more from this album.

[READ: June 20, 2013] McSweeney’s #38

And with this book, I have now read all of the McSweeney’s issues (except that Mammoth Treasury which I will get to, probably by the end of the year).  This one was a great collection of fiction and non-fiction, it also had an inserted comic.  The book itself was paperback, with a nice, textured cover and a cool design for the numbers. In looking for a picture I learned that it came in two colors (the yellow that I received and a black cover with white lines).

It continues with the later issues’ less frivolous style (in that there’s nothing weird about the book) and throughout, the quality of the work is great.  I really enjoyed this book.  It opens with letters and contains color pictures, too.

Letters (more…)

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#16SOUNDTRACK: SUGAR-Beaster EP (1993).

beasterI didn’t know that Beaster, the Sugar EP was recorded at the same time as Copper Blue.  Mould’s biography was very helpful in explaining all the details of the timing and styling behind these two recording.  As well as how the super pop of Copper Blue could be followed right on the heels with the very very dark EP of Beaster.

I have often thought of this disc as being really dark and insular and Mould confirmed as much—he was really airing out some demons with this disc.  But they thought it would be better to put them all in one place rather having them bounce around the poppier full length.  What must fans (like myself) have thought to hear this dark album after the pop of Copper Blue.  I mean just look at the cover!

I hadn’t listened to this in a long time, so I was surprised by how cool “Come Around” sounds—Mould’s acoustic guitar high in the mix with some appropriately grungey guitars in the background.  There are lyrics but for the most part I think of it as just Mould making sounds with his mouth.

It’s followed by the blistering “Tilting.”  It’s got superfast drumming with aggressive guitars, it’s like we’re back to the early Hüsker Dü punk sound (with a little more clarity).  The drumming is great in this track.  The song ends with a preacher being interrupted by dissonance and what sounds like electronic interference. And this song morphs into “Judas Cradle” one of Mould’s darkest songs.  It’s very claustrophobic-feeling with echoed vocals, lots of feedback and lots of compression on the overall sound—quite different from the big open sound of Copper Blue.  And yet for all of that, the chorus, “Have you seen the Judas Cradle, ah”is really quite catchy.

“JC Auto” has some buzzsaw guitars which make it seem like it’s going to be quite an angry song and yet the bridge is quite welcoming (all this talk of holidays) and then the chorus is amazingly fun to sing along to (Mould always finds pop in anger): “Passing judgment on my life you never really got it right/I can’t believe in anything / I don’t believe in / Do you believe in anything / Do you believe me now…  Look like Jesus Christ / act like Jesus Christ I Know I Know I Know Here’s Your Jesus Christ I’m Your Jesus Christ I Know I Know I Know.”  And, as always, I love when Mould repeats his lyrics in the background (the “I Know I Know” surfaces throughout the end of the song).

“Feeling Better” has weird synth blasts that kind of works in the song but sounds out of place on this record.  This song flips between really aggressive guitars and a very bright poppy chorus.   At 6 minutes this song is a little long (because it’s primarily repeating itself by the end), whereas Judas Cradle and JC Autos’ 6 minutes are well justified.

The final song “Walking Away” is a strange one. It is comprised entirely of organs (church organ it sounds like) with Mould delicately singing “I’m walking away back to you”  The end starts to wobble giving a bit of a nauseous feeling but then it’s over.  So even in his most downtrodden and questioning, Mould still has the chops to write some great music.  Down be put off by the cover, Beaster is a great album.

[READ: March 28, 2013] McSweeney’s #16

After the fairly straightforward Issue 15, McSweeney’s was back to fun with Issue #16.  The issue opens up into a kind of quad gatefold which has , in order–a comb, a book, another book and a deck of cards.

The main book contains nine stories, by the typical McSweeney’s roster at the time.  The other booklet contains a lengthy story by Ann Beattie.  The deck of cards is for Robert Coover’s “Heart Suite” and the comb is a comb.  It’s a nice one, although it has never touched my hair.

The MAIN BOOKLET (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: KISS-Asylum (1985).

This series of mid-80s Kiss CDs is regarded pretty poorly.  In fact, I believe that Gene and Paul have distanced themselves from Asylum.  And yet, despite its pop metal vine and really dayglo appearance, there’s some good stuff on it.  The solos are really notable on this disc.  Bruce Kulick has taken over lead guitar duties and he is wailing maniac.  He has speed and flash and he, frankly, really stand out (not always in a good way) in these songs.  His solos seem to signal a shift to a more pop heavy metal sound.

The disc opens with a pounding drum salvo and aggressive guitars!  “King of the Mountain” is a classic Kiss song—loud, with a great sing a long chorus from Paul.  “Anyway You Slice It” also rocks pretty hard, one of Gene’s fast, sex songs.  But man I hate songs that break down to just vocals and drums. “Who Wants to Be Lonely” seems like a ballad—lyrically and all—but it’s actually a pretty heavy song, again, perfectly suited for Paul’s voice.  “Trial By Fire” is the first song that really falters.  A generic anthem with the really lame chugga chugga guitars that Kiss would really push in this era.  “I’m Alive” opens with more crazy drumming and wild soloing and for all the world sounds like mid 80s Van Halen.  Until Paul belts out a fast vocal line.  This is a fast, aggressive song with a great chorus.

“Love’s a Dirty Weapon” almost turns into a great song—the chorus is just a little lacking.  And there’s that other part with just drums and a guitar solo—again, very Van Halen, which is good for Van Halen, but sounds really weird for Kiss.  I should hate “Tears Are Falling,” it’s got the chug chug chug guitars, and very little else, but I love a good Paul ballad—when he starts wailing at the end, it’s pretty great.  I am aware that the lyrics suck, yes.  But the solo is more like old school Kiss.  “Secretly Cruel” is cheesy, but delightfully so, and actually sounds like Kiss of old as well.  “Radar for Love” is an awkward song that never quite flows the way it wants.  It’s a good song that shows them branching out, though.  “UH! All Night” is a, well, look at the title.  It’s the kind of throwaway song that is so over-the-top ridiculous that it comes back around to be kind of fun.  And I imagine that some fans are still singing that chorus to themselves.  “When you work all day you gotta Uh all night.”  No one ever said Kiss was classy.  Note:  I listened to this song a week ago and that frikkin chorus is STILL in my head.

[READ: August 11, 2012] McSweeney’s #40

This issue came in a double pack–with a paperback issue of the magazine and a hardback edition of In My Home There Is No More Sorrow by Rick Bass.  I have not yet read Bass’ book [UPDATE: read it at the end of July 2013], because it sounds really depressing [UPDATE: It was].  But I do hope to get to it before the end of the year.  This issue has a few short stories and  a non-fiction at the beginning.  The entire back half of the journal is devoted to the January 25 uprising in Egypt.  It is full of testament and testimony about the event from all kinds of people–bloggers, poets, musicians.  It’s pretty profound–and almost seems like having a silly story in the journal is inappropriate.

As has been the trend lately, the journal also opens up with a series of letters. (more…)

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