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Archive for the ‘Glasgow Phillips’ Category

adidasSOUNDTRACK: TV ON THE RADIO-Dear Science, (2008).

sciencThe problem with TV on the Radio for me is that their first EP is so damned good that anything else they do pales in comparison.  Having said that, Dear Science, comes really close to topping that EP.  I liked Cookie Mountain (their previous disc) but I felt like they put so many elements into the mix that it detracted from the best part of the band: Tunde Adepimbe & Kyp Malone’s vocals.

And so, on Dear Science, the vocals are back up front where they belong.  This disc is a lot less busy, which may seem a little like selling out, but instead, it just heightens the complexity and originality of the band’s work.  The disc rocks hard but it also heightens some really cool jazz and dance elements.    But it all comes back to the melodies and vocals for me.  And on Dear Science, they pretty much outdo themselves.

And you can dance to it!

[READ: September 30, 2009] Shiny Adidas Tracksuits and the Death of Camp and Other Essays

After reading David Foster Wallace’s essay in this book, I looked at the other articles here and decided to read the whole thing.  And I’m really glad I did.  It’s an interesting book full of, funny and often thought-provoking pop culture articles circa 1996.  As with some of the other pop culture/political books that I’ve read several years after they were relevant, it’s often weird to look back and see what things fully occupied the popular landscape at the time.  And, when a piece is completed dated, it’s pretty obvious, and sometimes unintentionally funny.  But there are many pieces here that are timeless (or at least hold up for a decade), and those are still really good reads.

This book also does a good job of summarizing the tenor of the defunct Might magazine.  A dose of irony, a splash of humor and a lot of criticism of what’s trendy.

The strange thing to me about this book, though is the targets that they chose to go after sometimes.  Rather than critiquing right-wing attitudes or corporate shenanigans (which they do touch on), they really seem to be after pop and rock celebrity.  For instance, there are two separate articles which take a potshot at Eddie Vedder (this was around the time of the Ticketmaster fiasco which didn’t put him in the best light but which could hardly be seen as only self-serving).  This seems rather unfair, unless his sincerity could really be called into question by a bunch of ironic jokesters.  Magazines like Radar and Spy used to do snarky articles like this. I’d always thought that Might was a little better than that.  But indeed, there’s one or two pieces here that have a holier- (or perhaps indier)-than-thou attitude.   Which may have been fine in the 90s but which seem petulant now.

But aside from those, the irony-free pieces are very enjoyable.  (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: SIGUR RÓS-Med Sud I Eyrum Vid Spilum Endalaust (2008).

sigurSigur Rós are nothing if not ethereal.  Their music is constantly floating up in outer space somewhere.  So imagine the surprise when the first song of this disc opens with some thudding drums.  And, there are acoustic instruments aplenty this time around.  Their previous disc Hvarf/Heim had them playing a number of acoustic pieces in various unexpected settings.  And clearly the experience must have been a good one.

“Illgresi” is largely played on an acoustic guitar and “Ára Bátur” opens with a very pretty piano melody.  But lest you think this is Sigur Rós unplugged, “Ára Bátur” turns into a nearly 9 minute epic complete with orchestra, choir and as much ethereal sounds that you can cram into one song.  Indeed, a few songs before that is “Festival” another nine minute epic.  Although like in the beginning, there is a lot of bass, and a lot of drum.

But despite all of the musical changes, the band is still clearly Sigur Rós.  Jon Thor Birgisson’s voice is still unmistakable, and his lyrics are still inscrutable.  In fact, the final song, “All Alright” is sung almost entirely in English(!) and I didn’t realize until I just read about it recently.

In some ways this disc is not as satisfying as previous Sigur Rós releases as it doesn’t take you to quite the same planes of existence as past discs have.  And yet, in other ways it is more satisfying as it shows an earthbound side of them, allowing us to see their craft in action.

Despite any criticisms, Sigur Rós is still an amazing band, and this is an amazing record, too.

[READ: March 14, 2009] McSweeney’s #2

McSweeney’s 2nd issue retains some of the features from the first, and yet, some things have changed.

Similarities:

First: The cover retains that very wordy style that the first issue had.  There are more jokes (a good pun about Big Name authors).

Second: The letters column is still there.  What’s different is that in addition to some unusual letters (including the complete address of a letter writer), there are conversational letters between Gary Pike and Mr. McSweeney.  There’s also several small entries from Brent Hoff.  We are also treated to a letter from Jon Langford of the Mekons, Sarah Vowell, and a piece from Jonathan Lethem (the last of which was put in the letters column because they didn’t know what else to do with it). (more…)

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mcsweeneys1SOUNDTRACK: THE FLAMING LIPS-Hear It Is (1986).

hear-it-isI’ve claimed that I love the Lips, but then I was very harsh about their cover of “White Christmas,” and I noted that I wouldn’t listen to the soundtrack of  Christmas on Mars very much.  So, I felt I owed them some love.  But my recollection of their early stuff was that it was pretty weird and hard to listen to.

And yet, I proved myself wrong.  Hear It Is is not the Flaming lips of the early 2000’s.  It’s almost like the bratty younger brother of that band.  Only Wayne and Michael Ivins are present, and the band is pretty much just guitar, bass and drums.  The guitar is distorted and noisy (except when it’s acousticy and mellow).  The album doesn’t sound too far out of place for a college radio record in the late 80s.

Except of course that Wayne and the boys are pretty out there. The music is psychedelic, acid inspired and quite punk.  So you get songs like “Jesus Shootin’ Heroin” a seven minute epic of heavy riffs and screaming, but also of background “Ahhhh’s”.  You also get “With You” a song that starts out like a pretty, acoustic ballad. “Godzilla Flick” is a ballad like no other.  And yet despite all of the freakouts and noise, really at this stage what you get is a Led Zeppelin inspired heavy garage band having a lot of fun.  To say that this is going to blow your mind would be unfair, but to anyone who says the early stuff is unlistenable, they are totally wrong.   Hear It Is is sloppy, punky and a little ridiculous, the ideal incubator for what will become the Lips of 2000.

This CD comes with a cover of “Summertime Blues.”  This disc was reissued along with their initial EP and some bonus tracks on the disc Finally the Punk Rockers are Taking Acid.

[READ: 1998 and January 10, 2009] McSweeney’s #1

I have been reading McSweeney’s since its inception.  (My copy of this issue even has the two page typed letter that explains the failure of Might magazine and the origins of this one. However, it’s been over ten years since I read the first issues.  Given my new perspective on McSweeney’s, and how I read just about everything they release, I thought it was about time to go back to the beginning and proceed through the issues until I meet up where I first started reviewing them.

Issue #1 has many features that are absent in later issues:

First is the cover.  This cover is simply filled with words; practically littered with them.  There are subtitles, there are jokes, there’s all sorts of things (I mean, just look at the full title of this issue).

Second is the letters column.  The difference with this letters column compared to most publications is that they are all (or mostly) nonsense.  One comes from an author whose piece is accepted into the issue (Morgan Phillips).  Another is a funny/silly letter from Sarah Vowell.  And there’s a letter to his cousin from John Hodgman (whose comic potential may not have been tapped at this point?). (more…)

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