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Archive for the ‘Jack Pendarvis’ Category

#20SOUNDTRACK: SUGAR-File Under: Easy Listening (1994).

fuelI  always thought File Under: Easy Listening was a very funny title.  But it’s possible that people took it too literally as it didn’t sell all that well. And in Mould’s autobiography he says he didn’t have much time to write songs for this disc and he thinks it suffered.  Of the three Sugar discs, this is definitely the weakest, although there are some great moments on it.

The disc opens with “Gift” which has some ragged distorted guitars. It’s got some noises and grungy sounding solos showing that FU:EL was a joke.  Although, the overall sound is kind of a cleaner version of the angry songs on Beaster.  “Company Book” is kind of a pounder, until the voice comes in and you realize…it’s not Mould!  It’s got a catchy chorus, but after the kind of underwhelming opener, it’s a strange place for a song that’s also not so dynamic.  Especially when it’s followed by “Your Favorite Thing” another great pop song from Mould—not top tier but a really strong second tier (although that bright, simple guitar solo is a real winner).  “What You Want It To Be” is a another decent song (the addition of that extra guitar playing the melody line really makes the song shine.  “Gee Angel” is also a high point.  A catchy song, but which never quite reaches the heights of the previous albums.

“Panama City Hotel” has the same feel as the opening of Beaster: bright acoustic guitars and a similar riff.  But it never really goes anywhere, and the 4 minutes seem.  The “do do do do’s” that open “Can’t Help You Anymore” are certainly the brightest spot on the album, and a big pop song as well.  “Granny Cool” has a nicely abrasive riff although it seems kind of mean spirited.  It’s funny that he tucked “Believe What You’re Saying” at the end of the album.  It’s a minor song but it sounds so bright on this album after the other songs. It’s really quite pretty.

And the closer, “Explode and Make Up” is one of Mould’s great angry songs.  Unlike Beaster, this one has a happy acoustic field—bnright guitars with that raging distorted guitar underneath.  It’s a great slow burner of a song and at five minutes it ends a somewhat lackluster album in a great way.

[READ: March 31, 2013] McSweeney’s #20

McSweeney’s #20 is an issue that I have read before.  At least I think I have.  My recollection is that it was the last one I read before I started writing about them on this blog.  I was hesitant to read it soon again, which is why I waited until now.  And while I remember the issue itself (with all of the art), I didn’t remember the stories.  So who knows if I actually read it six years ago.

Anyhow, this issue comes jam-packed with art.  Every fourth page has full-color artwork on it–many of them are quite famous.  It makes for a very beautiful book.

In between these artworks are a number of stories–ranging in size from 2 pages to 30-some pages.  There are no letters, and the explanatory and copyright information is on the cover of the book–which would be fine, except that it is covered up by a kind of 3-D artwork.  I wonder if the whole text is available anywhere?

The book also comes with a separate pamphlet–an excerpt from Chris Adrian’s Children’s Hospital.  I intend to read the novel eventually so I didn’t read the excerpt–although maybe if I put off the novel for six years I should just read the excerpt now. (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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SOUNDTRACK: All Songs Considered Year End Music Roundup (2010).

Every year, I like to check various sources to see if there were any albums that I missed.  My definition of good resources: allmusic, amazon, pitchfork.  (There’s another fascinating list available here at Best Albums Ever, a site I’ve never seen before, and I have a large portion of the Top 50 albums.  I didn’t buy a lot of music this year, but evidently I chose wisely!).  I don’t necessarily agree with these lists, but if I see the same album on a few lists, I know it’s worth at least listening to.

This year, since I spent so much time on All Songs Considered, I thought I’d see their Best of Lists.  What’s awesome about the site is that you can hear not only selected songs in their entirety, you can also download the audio of the original show…where the DJs talk about their selections and play excerpts from them.   There are many different lists to investigate.

The most obvious one to star with is 50 Favorite Albums of 2010.  This shows the staff’s 50 favorite albums in all genres.  I admit that there’s going to be a lot on this list that I won’t bother exploring (I’m not really that interested in new classical or jazz and I’m not too excited by most pop music, although I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed the Kanye West songs here).

But some albums did stand out that I hadn’t heard, and I will investigate them further in 2011:

Buke And Gass, ‘Riposte’
Deerhunter, ‘Halcyon Digest’ (I know, this is on many best of lists)
The National, ‘High Violet’ (This is also on everyone’s list)

Bob Boilen, All Songs Considered’s most awesome host, picks his Top 9 of the year.  I’m on board with about 1/2 of his list (haven’t heard the other half).  Sufjan Stevens is his #1.

Robin Hilton, Boilen’s partner in crime, has a Top Ten which is remarkably similar to Boilen’s.  It has most of the same albums just appearing in a slightly different order.  Lower Dens is #1. (I’ve never heard of them).

Carrie Brownstein (of beloved Sleater-Kinney and now evidently a permanent member of the NPR team) has a Top Ten (Plus One)–funny that she liked more than ten when Boilen liked less than ten.  I’m really surprised by her selection of albums because her own music is so punk and abrasive, but her top ten features R&B and some folky bands.  Her top album is by Royal Baths, a band I’ve never heard of.

Stephen Thompson also picked his Top Ten.  He has an interesting mix of alt rock and jazz.  His number one is by Jonsi from Sigur Rós. (A great album).

Perhaps the best list comes from 5 Artists You Should Have Known in 2010.  I didn’t know any of the 5.  Sarah bought me two CDs for Christmas (and she was pleased to have gotten me good music that I hadn’t heard of!).  The Head and the Heart hasn’t arrived yet, but The Capstan Shafts is great.  I’m also really excited by Tame Impala.

Another great list is Viking’s Choice: Best Metal and Outer Sound (stay tuned for much more from this list).  It is dominated by black metal, but there are a few surprises in there as well.

Even the All Songs Considered Top 25 Listener’s List was great.  I had most of the list (except for The Black Keys who I simply cannot get into).

Although I enjoyed a lot of new music this year, it’s always nice to see that there is some new (to me) stuff to investigate.  Who knows maybe some day I’ll even have listened to enough new music in a year to make my own Top Ten.

[READ: December 31, 2010] McSweeney’s #36

With McSweeney’s #36, it’s like they made my conceptual ideal.  Its weird packaging is fantastic and the contents are simply wonderful.  But let’s start with the obvious: this issue comes in a box.  And the box is drawn to look like a head.  You open up the man’s head to get to the contents.  Brilliant.  The head is drawn by Matt Furie (with interior from Jules de Balincourt’s Power Flower.

Inside the box are eleven items.  The largest are smallish books (postcard sized) running between 32 and 144 pages.  The smaller items are a 12 page comic strip, a nineteenth century mediation (8 pages) and 4 postcards that create a whole picture.  The final item is a scroll of fortune cookie papers.   The scroll is forty inches long with cut lines for inserting them into your own fortunes (I wonder if they will sell this item separately?)

Aside from the bizarre head/box gimmick (and the fact that there is ample room in the box for more items), the contents are really top-notch.  For while many of the books included are individual titles, there is also an actual “issue” of McSweeney’s (with letter column and shorter stories) as well.  So let’s begin there

ISSUE #36: New Stories and Letters.  The resurrected letters page continues with more nonsense.  I’ve often wondered if these are really written like letters or if they are just short pieces that have no other place to reside.  (Oh, and the back of this booklet contains the bios for everyone in here as well as assorted other folks who don’t have room for a bio on their items).

LETTERS (more…)

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