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Archive for the ‘Jon Stewart’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: OKX: A Tribute to Ok Computer (2010).

OK Computer is one of the best records of the 90s.  Every time I listen to it I hear something new and interesting.  So, why on earth would anyone want to cover the whole thing?  And how could you possibly do justice to this multi-layered masterpiece?

I can’t answer the first question, but the second question is more or less answered by this tribute which was orchestrated by Stereogum.

The answer is by stripping down the music to its bare essentials.  When I first listened to the songs I was really puzzled by how you could take a such a complex album and make Doveman’s version of “Airbag,” which is sort of drums and pianos.  Or gosh, where would you even begin to tackle “Paranoid Android?”  Well Slaraffenland create a bizarre symphonic version that excises many things–in fact half of the lyrics are missing–and yet keeps elements that touch on the original.  But it’s an interesting version of the song and shows  a bizarre sense of creativity.  And that is more or less what this tribute does–it makes new versions of these songs.

Mobius Band make a kind of Police-sounding version of “Subterranean Homesick Alien.”  Again, it radically changes the song, making it a fast and driving song (although I don’t care for the repeated “Uptights” and “Outsides” during the verses).

Vampire Weekend, one of the few bands that I actually knew in this collection (and whom I really like) do a very interesting, stripped down version of “Exit Music, for a Film.  The “film” they make is a haunted one, with eerie keyboards.  Again, it is clearly that song, but it sounds very different (and quite different from what Vampire Weekend usually sound like).

“Let Down” (by David Bazan’s Black Cloud) and “Karma Police” (by John Vanderslice) work on a similar principle: more vocals and less music.  The music is very stripped down, but the vocals harmonize interestingly.  Perhaps the only track that is more interesting than the original is “Fitter Happier” by Samson Delonga.  The original is a processed computer voice, but this version is a real person, intoning the directives in a fun, impassioned way.  There’s also good sound effects.

Cold War Kids take the riotous “Electioneering” and simplify it, with drums and vocals only to start.  It’s hard to listen to this song without the utter noise of the original.  “Climbing Up the Walls” is one of the more manic songs on this collection, with some interesting vocals from The Twilight Sad.

There are two versions of “No Surprises” in this collection.  Interestingly, they are both by women-fronted bands, and both treat the song as a very delicate ballad.  Both versions are rather successful.  Marissa Nadler’s version (the one included in sequence) is a little slower and more yearning, while Northern State’s version (which is listed as a B-Side) is a little fuller and I think better for it.  My Brightest Diamond cover “Lucky.”  They do an interesting orchestral version–very spooky.

Flash Hawk Parlor Ensemble (a side project of Chris Funk from The Decemberists) do a very weird electronic version of the song (with almost no lyrics).  It’s very processed and rather creepy (and the accompanying notes make it even more intriguing when you know what’s he doing).

The final B-side is “Polyethylene (Part 1 & 2),”  It’s a track from the Airbag single and it’s done by Chris Walla.  I don’t know this song very well (since it’s not on OK Computer), but it’s a weird one, that’s for sure.  This version is probably the most traditional sounding song of this collection: full guitars, normal sounding drums and only a slightly clipped singing voice (I don’t know what Walla normally sounds like).

So, In many ways this is a successful tribute album.  Nobody tries to duplicate the original and really no one tries to out-do it either.  These are all new versions taking aspects of the songs and running with them.  Obviously, I like the original better, but these are interesting covers.

[READ: November 5, 2011]  McSweeney’s #8

I had been reading all of the McSweeney’s issue starting from the beginning, but I had to take a breather.  I just resumed (and I have about ten left to go before I’ve read all of them).  This issue feels, retroactively like the final issue before McSweeney’s changed–one is tempted to say it has something to do with September 11th, but again, this is all retroactive speculation.  Of course, the introduction states that most of the work on this Issue was done between April and June of 2001, so  even though the publication date is 2002, it does stand as a pre 9/11 document.

But this issue is a wild creation–full of hoaxes and fakery and discussions of hoaxes and fakery but also with some seriousness thrown in–which makes for a fairly confusing issue and one that is rife with a kind of insider humor.

But there’s also a lot of non-fiction and interviews.  (The Believer’s first issue came out in March 2003, so it seems like maybe this was the last time they wanted to really inundate their books with anything other than fiction (Issue #9 has some non-fiction, but it’s by fiction writers).

This issue was also guest edited by Paul Maliszewski.  He offers a brief(ish) note to open the book, talking about his editing process and selection and about his black polydactyl cat.  Then he mentions finding a coupon in the phonebook for a painting class  which advertised “Learn to Paint Like the Old Masters” and he wonders which Old Masters people ask to be able to paint like–and there’s a fun little internal monologue about that.

The introduction then goes on to list the 100 stores that are the best places to find McSweeney’s.  There are many stores that I have heard of (I wonder what percentage still exist).  Sadly none were in New Jersey.

This issue also features lots of little cartoons from Marcel Dzama, of Canada. (more…)

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more-infoSOUNDTRACK: Dungen-4 (2008).

4Vill du tala svensk?

Even if you don’t speak or understand Swedish, Dungen plays music that is pretty universally understood.  The album feels more or less like an all instrumental affair.  There are some songs with words, but they are all sung in Swedish. So, no, I have no idea what he’s singing about, and in that respect it feels all instrumental.

Like the previous discs, 4 feels like a blast from the psychedelic days.  It is trippy, at times loud and raucous, (with some amazing guitar workouts) and even has flutes on a few tracks.

The big difference between this disc and the previous releases is that there’s a lot more piano.  This has an overall calming effect on the music.  And in some ways, I think I don’t like this disc as much as previous ones.

The piano really comes to the fore on track 2 “Målerås Finest” which to me sounds like a a tribute to one Zappa’s instrumentals (it reminds me of “Peaches en Regalia,” although I don’t mean to suggest it’s a rip off at all). “Samtidigt 1 an 2” are the major instrumentals of the disc.  They also remind me of Zappa in that they feels like a snippet from some crazy guitar jam session.  (Zappa releases a lot of  “songs” like this on his …Guitar… albums. On this disc, we’re privy to about 3 minutes of wild guitar solo but since they fade in and then fade out at the end we have no idea how long the jam went on.  The final track “Bandhagen” also feels Zappaeque, but maybe it’s just the staccato notes that Zappa also uses to such good effect.

“Fredag” has a feeling like some of the more otherworldly Flaming Lips songs.  And “Mina Damer Och Fasaner” has a choppy heavy metal sound that really stands out from the disc.

Really there isn’t a bad song on the disc, but for some reason it doesn’t move me quite as much as the others.  I don’t want to bring a negative vibe to the review.  I’m sure if this was the first Dungen CD I had, I’d think it was amazing, I just got spoiled by them.

[READ: February 14, 2009] More Information Than You Require

John Hodgman is a man you will no doubt recognize from the Mac Vs PC ads (he’s the PC). He’s also a contributor and guest on The Daily Show. When this book was released he promoted it on The Daily Show, and on the Sound of Young America. It sounded really funny. And I was delighted that Sarah got it for me for Christmas. (more…)

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