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Archive for the ‘Gilbert Hernandez’ Category

 loverboysSOUNDTRACK: FOO FIGHTERS-Sonic Highways (2014).

sonicThree years after Wasting Light, Foo Fighters gathered to make Sonic Highways. It only has 8 songs on it (3 are five minutes one is 6 and 1 is one is seven).

There is a lot of back story about this album.  And I’ll use the Wikipedia summary because it is so tidy

In writing the album’s eight songs, singer and guitarist Dave Grohl traveled to eight cities across the United States to conduct interviews with musicians, recording engineers, record producers, and other individuals discussing each city’s musical history, which he used as inspiration for the songs’ lyrics. The band and producer Butch Vig then traveled to a different recording location in each city to record the songs. Each track features contributions from one or more musicians with ties to that city’s musical history.

They made a documentary about it which I have not seen, but which I feel I ought to.

I can’t say I recognize the sound or any signs of whatever city is supposed to be represented ion each song.  I was initially concerned that it meant that the Foos were going try to make a “Chicago song” or, gasp, a “Nashville” song, but that isn’t the case.  So perhaps in that regard the traveling part was unsuccessful, although perhaps it was good for inspiration.  Plus the album is really quite good.

“Something for Nothing” [Chicago (featuring Rick Nielsen)] There’s a nice riff on this song and an interesting guitar sound (Neilsen I assume).  The first 90 seconds feel like an intro to the more chugging riff that is yet another interesting part to the song.  I love that the second repeat of that section includes a clavinet.  And with all of those parts, I love that the song turns into a hugely metal section (“fuck it all I came from nothing”) by the end.

“Feast and the Famine” [Virginia (featuring Peter Stahl and Skeeter Thompson)] has a quick and tidy introductory riff and quickly jumps into a loud chorus.  Stahl and Thompson are in Scream, the hardcore band Grohl was in before he moved to Nirvana.  You can hear their influence in the cool backing vocals during the “Is there anybody there” part.

“Congregation” [Nashville featuring Zac Brown] This song does not feel Nashville at all.  It has a simple but very catchy riff.  There’s a nice chorus which doesn’t get too heavy.   Zac Brown does “devil pickin'” and backing vocals on “Congregation.”  It has a lengthy middle section which is quite different (and angry) before returning to the big chorus.

“What Did I Do? / God As My Witness” [Austin, featuring Gary Clark, Jr.]  This song starts out with a big rumble of chords and then a nearly a capella vocal turn.  I like the way the chords build and then stop for each line.  The “What Did I Do” section feels very classic rock (the way that guitar lick is played–knowing that Joe Walsh is on the record I would have assumed he was on this song).  Gary Clark plays the solos on this song.  The middle of the song is just like the opening.  And then it segues into “God as My Witness” which seems to elevate the song in an interesting way (this is where the much longer guitar solo kicks in.

“Outside” [Joshua Tree, featuring Joe Walsh].  This song has a great fast riff (kind of like a Pearl Jam riff, actually).  The song is fast all the way through with no major distinction between verse and chorus.  Walsh plays lead guitar during the lengthy jam section–mostly just quiet bass and drums while the guitar natters away.  It’s a very different style of song for the Foo Fighters.  And while it’s a little dull at 5 minutes, it’s not bad by any means.

“In the Clear” [New Orleans featuring the Preservation Hall Jazz Band].  Despite the location and the guests, I never would have guessed the location of the song.  It has a big riff to open with but it quickly settles down to a verse that ends “god damn I swear.”  It’s a simple song but it has big catchy chorus with horns playing along with the guitars.  Although I wouldn’t have wanted to have a big jazz influence on the song (and they have done jazzy things before) it’s a little wasted to have the ensemble only add horns to the song.  I like it nevertheless, but it feels like they could have done more.

“Subterranean” [Seattle, featuring Ben Gibbard] is a slow build of a song (with two people playing eerie e-bow).  It lasts six minutes and has several stages as more musicians enter the song.  Even at 6 minutes it is still quite a subdued song with no really big chorus, the chorus is actually kind of understated and very moody.  And yet I can’t hear Gibbard at all.

“I Am a River” [New York, featuring Tony Visconti and Kristeen Young] The song is over 7 minutes and has a very slow introduction, with overlapping guitars and the vocals not coming in until about 90 seconds in.  It seems like it’s going to take off about 2 minutes in, but there’s a delay at work and the slow verses continue.  The song builds slowly to a big chorus (although it’s not a dramatic change from the verse either).  I love Kristeen Young but I can’t hear her anywhere on this song (she has a unique voice too).

This is certainly not my favorite Foos’ album but it’s very solid and despite a few songs being too long,  it’s a pretty tidy album (at 42 minutes) and could have been way overblown (the strings at the end of the album are almost too much but they are actually quite restrained for this concept album).

[READ: May 25, 2015] Loverboys

I know Hernandez’ brother Jaime’s work a little better than Gilbert’s.  And I have to say that I like Jaime’s better as well. There’s something I find lightly offputting about Gilbert’s drawing style.  It seems very boxy and childlike–despite the fact that he clearly has a great grasp of anatomy. There’s something especially odd about the faces that I just find… odd (to say nothing of the breasts on Mrs Paz and the waists on every woman in the book).

So, having gotten past that concern, what about the content of the story.

Well, I found the story a little confusing as well.  I mean, the basic premise is obvious, but there were some side issues that I thought were really weird.

So the premise is that in the small city of Lagrimas (“tears”), there are a number of characters. There are some young girls who are sill in grade school, there are some mid 20s men who are out of school and working and there are some older women–successful workers. (more…)

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wwSOUNDTRACK: PETER WOLF CRIER-Tiny Desk Concert #74 (August 17, 2010).

pwcWhen I saw the name of this band, I assumed it was Peter Wolf, the former lead singer of the J. Giels Band.  But indeed it is not (confusing much?).  Rather, it is a singer named Peter Paisano and his drummer Brian Moen.

They play three songs.  Paisano has a good voice.  But to me the highlight of this show is the drums.  Moen uses this really heavy-looking set of “brushes” that bring a deep resonance to his drums.

“Untitled 101” is short (all the songs are short with no guitar solos).  I like the breakdown when it’s just the drums.  “Saturday Night” he dedicates specifically to Bob Boilen.  It is a bit more dramatic in delivery.  The end has some nice hummed parts, but I find the sounds that Peter makes to be unsettling (more of a grunt than a hum), especially compared to the normal hums of Moen.  “Crutch & Cane” has a bit more of that unusual pronunciation, which I think I find more upsetting than interesting.

This was a short set, but I’m not likely to track down more from them.

[READ: May 26, 2015] Sensation Comics featuring Wonder Woman

I was never a big fan of Wonder Woman when I was growing up (I was a boy after all).  I never watched the show, really.  As it turns out, I had no idea about Wonder Woman’s origin story, which is totally fascinating (I also don’t know if it was ever introduced in the TV show).  Turns out that Wonder Woman’s real name is Diana.  She was a Princess on the Amazonian island of Paradise.  An island where only women lived.  And, most interestingly, she was made from clay when her mother could not bear a child of her own. Whoa!

So this book is a collection of short stories by different artists with very different styles. (more…)

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McSweeney’s #13 (2006)

13SOUNDTRACKPARTS & LABOR-Stay Afraid (2006).

partslaborParts & Labor have changed t heir style over the years going from noisemakers who have a melody to being melodious noisemakers.  This album is one of their earlier releases when noise dominated.  Right from the opening you know the album is going to be a challenge.  The first song has pounding drums (electronics that sound like bagpipes) and heavy distorted shouty vocals.  By the end of the songs there is squealing feedback, punk speed drums and screaming distorted vocals (complete with space sound effects).  It’s an aggressive opening for sure.  Song two opens with a long low rumbling and then “Drastic Measures” proves to be another fast-paced song.

“A Pleasant Stay” is 5 minutes long (most of the rest of the album’s songs are about 3 minutes).  It continues in this fast framework, although it has a bit more open moments of just drums or just vocals.  The way the band plays with feedback in the last minute or so of the song  very cool.

“New Buildings” has a hardcore beat with a guitar part that sounds sped up.  “Death” is a thumping song (the drums are very loud on this disc), while “Timeline” is two minutes of squealing guitars.  “Stay Afraid” has a false start (although who knows why–how do these guys know if the feedback sounds are what  they wanted anyhow?).  The song ends with 30 seconds of sheer noise).  The album ends with the 5 minute “Changing of the Guard” a song not unlike the rest of the album–noisy with loud drumming and more noise.

The album is certainly challenging, it’s abrasive and off putting, but there;s surprising pleasures and melodies amidst the chaos.   Indeed, after a listen or two you start to really look forward to the hooks.  If you like this sort of thing, this album s a joy.  It’s also quite brief, so it never overstays its welcome.

[READ: April 15, 2011] McSweeney’s #13

I have been looking forward to reading this issue for quite some time.  Indeed, as soon as I received it I wanted to put aside time for it.  It only took eight years.  For this is the fabled comics issue.  Or as the cover puts it: Included with this paper: a free 264 page hardcover.  Because the cover is a fold-out poster–a gorgeous broadside done by Chris Ware called “God.”  And as with all Chris Ware stories, this is about life, the universe and everything.  On the flip side of the (seriously, really beautiful with gold foil and everything) Ware comic are the contributors’ list and a large drawing that is credited to LHOOQ which is the name of Marcel Duchamp’s art piece in which he put a mustache on the Mona Lisa.  It’s a kind of composite of the history of famous faces in art all done in a series of concentric squares.  It’s quite cool.

So, yes, this issue is all about comics.  There are a couple of essays, a couple of biographical sketches by Ware of artists that I assume many people don’t know and there’s a few unpublished pieces by famous mainstream artists.  But the bulk of the book is comprised of underground (and some who are not so underground anymore) artists showing of their goods.  It’s amazing how divergent the styles are for subject matter that is (for the most part) pretty similar: woe is me!  Angst fills these pages.  Whether it is the biographical angst of famous artists by Brunetti or the angst of not getting the girl (most of the others) or the angst of life (the remaining ones), there’s not a lot of joy here. Although there is a lot of humor.  A couple of these comics made it into the Best American Comics 2006.

There’s no letters this issue, which makes sense as the whole thing is Chris Ware’s baby.  But there are two special tiny books that fit nearly into the fold that the oversized cover makes.  There’s also two introductions.  One by Ira Glass (and yes I’d rather hear him say it but what can you do).  And the other by Ware.  Ware has advocated for underground comics forever and it’s cool that he has a forum for his ideas here.  I’m not sure I’ve ever read prose from him before. (more…)

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