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Archive for the ‘Margaret Atwood’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: BIDINIBAND-The Carleton, Halifax, NS (February 13, 2015).

This is the most current solo show from anybody on the RheostaticsLive webpage.

Bidiniband’s third album came out in 2014 and this show chooses from it pretty heavily.

The show starts (Dave sounds either like he has a bit of a cold or he’s just worn out) with Dave saying “We’re going to start with a song about the cold, because it is.  Fucking snow, eh  Wow.”  “The Grey Wave” has great chord changes in the chorus.  It is a slow folkie song about cold and snow.  I like that he whispers “let’s go” before the buzzy but quiet solo.  The chorus comes out of that fairly rocking (a least for this set).

Dave continues, “I have some news.  Last night I was offered cocaine in the bathroom of the Alehouse.”  (Don, on drums, whispers, “in exchange for what?”).  Dave: “I think the guy just wanted to be my friend.  He was a bit of an asshole.  Cocaine is the one drug I think where when people offer it to you and when you say no, they apologize for having assumed you wanted any.”

Someone else notes: “I like that we’re the rock band from Toronto and we’re the ones shocked by all the drugs everyone is doing.  We were in BC and we were shocked at the big jug of MDMA being passed around.”

“Everyday Superstar” is a rocking, swinging song.  I love that the chorus is “I’m an animal out of control” but it’s kind of slow and mellow and at one point he says “its true.” And there’s this lyric: “When it’s hot, I’m gonna be Bon Scott you be Lita Ford.”  At the end of the song, someone asks, “Does everybody in the house know what bass face is?  You never know when Haddon is going to a picture of you with that face.”  Dave tells a story that Haddon Strong had a subscription to a magazine and it was addressed to Hardon Strong.

Introducing “My First Rock Concert” he says, “this is a song about music.  I bet you think it’s ‘Proud Mary’ but it’s not.  That was done last night.”  He sings it kind of whispering/spoken.   In the middle, Paul plays the riff to “Brown Eyed Girl” while Dave is singing “you’re either a mouse or Steven Page.”

“Take A Wild Ride” is s short song that segues at the same fast tempo into “The List” which is, again, almost spoken.  He throws in some other people who have made the list.  Jian Ghomeshi and Joel Plaskett (he was in Thrush Hermit) and at the end he says, “only kidding about Joel.”

“Big Men Go Fast On The Water” is a great-sounding song–in this version, the guitar riffs between verses sound like Boston.  They played this song last night at “Stolen from a Hockey Card” at the Spats Theater.  Dave was disappointed there were no spats there.  He says, “If I’ve over pattering, just tell me.”

We wrote this song “Bad Really Bad” about the Toronto Maple Leafs.  Three chords and the truth.

“In The Rock Hall” is about the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland from a poem written by Paul Quarrington  Once again he almost whispers, “C’mon Halifax, let’s rock.”   About “Ladies of Montreal,” he says, “I didn’t think there were enough songs in indie rock well, elderly indie rock, independent seniors, about beautiful women… boobs, you know.  It came in a dream.  I had to write it.”  Dave says it is sexist although I don’t exactly know what he’s saying with the French words.

Getting ready to play “The Motherland Part 1,” he asks, “Jerry you brought your flute, did you?  Oh fuck’s sake.  It’s okay. I think I told you last night but we were both pretty hammered.”  “The Fatherland” is “a heavy metal political song…political metal… politometal.”  It totally rocks and at the end Dave says “I don’t understand, the dancing girl left and we’re playing our most uptempo tunes.”  Before they complete the trilogy with “The Motherland Part 2” someone in the band asks, have you got the cocaine?–its pure MDMA.  Don rehashes the story about him throwing up at a party in the closet because of hot knives.  The middle of Part 2 really rocks.

“Last Of The Dead Wrong Things” is quieter for sure but the chorus and backing vocals are great.  Where there’s usually a drum solo there’s a kind of quiet freak out.

He says, “we’re going to do one more” (boo) …well how many more do you deserve?  Seventeen, eh, you have a very inflated view of yourself.”

“We’ll do ‘Fat,’ (a song “by Rheostatics band”), it has similar chord shapes don’t hold that against us.  Did I tell you we were playing this one?”  “Would it matter?” Let’s have a round of applause for Kevin Lacroix on the bass and Don Kerr on the drums.  Paul Linklater on guitar.

“We played with Corb Lund yesterday, from Alberta.  He’s very handsome and very accomplished.  “Really really handsome.”  Kevin: “I made out with him.”  Dave: “I made out with a guy who I thought was Corb but who was really the cleaning guy for the hotel….  Last night on this very stage he intoned, he evoked the name of Washboard Hank Fisher….  You’re not going are you, it’s going to be a good song.”  They have Lots of fun with “The Midnight Ride Of Red Dog Ray”  with over the top backing vocals.  And in the solo, we get Paul Linklater, one more time pickin’ and grinnin.’

Before the next song Dave says, “What are you guys laughing at?  I can see you in the mirror, you know.  This is my favorite club coz I can watch my rock moves, they’re top ranked.”  Don:  “That’s actually Dave’s mirror, he brings it to every club and says that.  It’s embarrassing.”  Dave mentions a famous story (doesn’t know who it’s about) about a heavy metal singer who was hammered and he saw the guy in the mirror and thought he was mocking him.  So he challenged him to a fight.  That’s rock n roll.”

“You got a weak bladder Jerry?  I’ve got a weak bladder, too.  I’ve peed myself twice during this set.”

This is an album by Bidiniband called The Motherland.  It’s a delicious record and I’d like you to buy it.  All of you.  It’s only $10.  Produced in Toronto in a studio  … by professionals.  Trained professional sounds.  Nothing like what you’re hearing tonight.

There’s a great buzzy bass sound on “Desert Island Poem” which is “a funny song about cannibalism.”  Dave gets pretty crazy at the end.

It segues into a wonderful surprise of them playing”Queer.”  And then a terrific version of “I Wanna Go To Yemen” with a fun wild sliding solo.

He wishes everyone a good night and they leave for a few seconds.  “If we take a break we probably won’t play anymore.  But that was break…  We probably should have taken a longer break and milked it more… but we didn’t.”

“Do people who come to lean along the bar are they into the music?”  Kevin: “Those are some of the best people in Halifax…but the creme d la creme starts right here.”

Jerry didn’t find his flute did he?  Dave asks for a hand for the opening act, Communism Music, look them up

The first encore is the hilariously offensive song “Take A Bath Hippie.”   Sample verses:  “This ain’t the 1960s / These are brand new modern times / everyone is equal and everyone is doing fine,”  “Your revolution ended the day Trudeau retired.  A land of Stephen Harper… we got the country we desired.”   He asks, “You guys got hippies out here?  Probably not. You got Buddhists.  That’s just as bad.  They lie around in their robes  eating flowers.  Shaving each other’s heads.  Sacrificing a goat here and there.”

 We’re all getting G&Ts?  Thank you people of the night.  Kevin: “Treating us all equally?  Like my parents.  My parents would bring us all something she wouldn’t bring me a G&T without bringing one to my sister.”  Dave: They were saints.

FYI, tomorrow, there is Hockey Day in Canada–a ton of games on and footage from the concert last night with Theoren Fleury, Rich Aucoin, Buck 65, Miranda Mulholland, and the ever handsome Corb “The Boner” Lund and The Barra MacNeils.  Dave did a short movie about John Brophy, that’s gonna be on.  “Fuck, it’s Saturday… just sit at home and watch hockey.  It’s what we are supposed to do.  If you don’t, Stephen Harper will have your ass.  But I’ll save you because I’m the hockey guardian.  No I’m not, I’m just tired.”

We’ll try to do one last song.  Have we done “Take a Bath Hippie?”  We’ll save it for next time.  I’m trying to not do a typical show closer tune.

Last gig Kevin played with this band he was playing drums.   I guess it didn’t go well because he’s been demoted to bass. (ha ha).  Dave: “You’ve got the best bass player joke about what happened to Gordie Johnson.”  Kevin: “oh no that’s just nasty.”  Dave “You’re right, its for later in the washroom when were doing coke.”

They play a surprising “Stolen Car.”  It’s so weird to hear Dave sing this song (which he wrote)–he whisper sings it (and can’t really hit the notes).  It segues into a folkie
“Legal Age Life -> Do You Wanna Dance -> Legal Age Life” with them singing, “Oh yeah music is fun.  Friends are fun.  Rock n roll is fun.  Sloppy and fun.”  They end with a Johnny Cash line get rhythm when you get the blues.

Who would have guessed that just seven months later Rheostatics would reunite?

[READ: November, December 2017 & January 2018] West End Phoenix

West End Phoenix is a newly created newspaper.  It was inspired by Dave Bidini.

I have loved just about all of the music that Bidini has created (with Rheostatics and Bigdiniband) and I have loved just about all of the books he has written.  So why wouldn’t I love a newspaper created by him?  Well, possibly because it serves a community that I do not live in and have very likely never visited.  That’s right, this is a community newspaper for a community that isn’t even in my country.

And it is terrific.

But why on earth would I want to read it?  Can I really like Bidini that much? (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: CHILLING THRILLING SOUNDS OF THE HAUNTED HOUSE (1964).

The cover during Phish’s 2014 concert was of this album.

Apparently many people grew up with this record.  I personally didn’t know it, but if you read the comments (don’t read the comments!) on any YouTube clip of the album you will see how popular it is.

Wikipedia describes it as  intended for “older children, teenagers, and adults” released by Disneyland Records (now known as Walt Disney Records). The album was mainly composed of sound effects that had been collected by the sound effects department of Walt Disney Studios. The album was released in several different forms. The album was first released in 1964 in a white sleeve, with a second release in 1973 with an orange sleeve. In both versions, the first side contained 10 stories narrated by Laura Olsher, complete with sound effects. The second side contained 10 sound effects meant for others to create their own stories.

Despite the title, most of the cuts had nothing to do with haunted houses or witches or ghostly spirits. Featured were such situations as an ocean liner hitting rocks, an idiotic lumberjack, a man crossing an unsafe bridge, someone lighting a stick of dynamite and a spaceship landing on Mars. Also, there are tracks with several examples of cats, dogs and birds (similar to “The Birds”) becoming enraged for some reason, as well as a skit about Chinese water torture. In addition, some of the screams were taken directly from the scene where Miss Havisham catches fire in the 1946 David Lean film Great Expectations.

The full track listing is

  • “The Haunted House” 3:00
  • “The Very Long Fuse” 1:28
  • “The Dogs” 1:13
  • “Timber” 1:45
  • “Your Pet Cat” 0:49
  • “Shipwreck” 1:39
  • “The Unsafe Bridge” 1:21
  • “Chinese Water Torture” 2:02
  • “The Birds” 0:46
  • “The Martian Monsters” 1:41
  • “Screams and Groans” 0:57
  • “Thunder, Lightning and Rain” 2:01
  • “Cat Fight” 0:37
  • “Dogs” 0:48
  • “A Collection Of Creaks” 1:54
  • “Fuses and Explosions” 1:11
  • “A Collection Of Crashes” 0:45
  • “Birds” 0:33
  • “Drips and Splashes” 1:18
  • “Things In Space” 0:53

Nothing is especially scary–although maybe for a kid, as many adults claim to have been really frightened by it.  Everything is quite over the top, especially the screams and cat howls and dog snarling.  Even the stories are a little silly, although having them in the second person is pretty genius.

But things like “one night as you lie in your lonely room in your stone hut on the moors…”  (What?).  And the Martian one.  Just keeping with continuity: if “you,” meaning me, went on the trip, then I couldn’t hear the crunching as it ate me.  Or the silly voice saying “I wonder what that was.”

And the less said about the horribly racist Chinese Water Torture the better.  I mean, the opening is bad enough: “The ancient Chinese were a very clever race” but the end of the song is really awful.  But if we can look past that, the rest of the record has fun with sound effects and is generally pretty enjoyable.

During the John Congleton interview, he also talks about this album and says (at 40:28) “the speakers are 180 degrees out of phase to make it sound extremely stereophonic.”  He says now as an engineer it is totally painful to listen to.  Bob says it sounds like it comes from the back of your head.

[READ: October 15, 2017] Half-Minute Horrors.

The premise of this book (edited by Susan Rich) is simple: how scared can you get in 30 seconds?  To me, the answer is actually not very.  I guess for me fear builds over time.  It’s hard to get genuinely frightened over something that just suddenly happens (unless it is just trying to frighten you quickly, of course).

Having said that, I enjoyed this book a lot (look at the list of authors!).  I liked the arbitrary goal of writing a scary story in a paragraph or two (or more).  And some of them were really quite creepy.

I was originally going to point out which ones I felt were the most creepy, but there are so many stories, I kind of lost track.  So instead, here’s a rundown and a brief summary. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: RHEOSTATICS-Ultrasound Showbar [2nd GSMW Night 2] (February 26, 1994).

Second annual Green Sprouts Music Week held at Ultrasound Showbar Feb 25-Mar 1 1994. Setlists for all shows were fairly similar in content focusing mainly on the 25-30 songs that they would use for consideration on Introducing Happiness which began recording the following week. Rare performances of Poor Mouth, Green Xmas, Floating, Symphony and a crazy mash up encore of Cephallus Worm/Uncle Henry/Greens Sprouts Theme/Soul Glue. The band also noted working titles for the album included Revenge, You Are A Treasure, Skookum, Twaddling and Art If You Squint.

The quality of this recording is better than night 1

The show starts with Dave Clark asking, “Does anyone know the sound that sled dogs make when they bark?  They go Hi! Hi!, because they bark so much they don’t have voices anymore.  Bidini says “Dave knows this because he was once a sled dog.”  Tim chimes in, “we also met a llama at Exotic (erotic?) cat world in Orono, Ontario.  He said hi, hi.  Then it spit on you–because he liked you.

Then Martin says “Dave Bidini fresh from reading erotic poetry.”  (In last night’s show he said he would be reading erotic poetry).  Dave says, “I’ll read some more to you if you’re good… or bad if you know what I mean.”

They begin the night with “Poor Mouth” a rare song that I don’t really know but it sounds familiar.  It’s a slow song with some noisy sections.

Before Introducing Happiness, Clark asks, “How many people here have cats?  Be proud, Walk tall.”  Then Tim jokes, “This is a new song about cats.  Actually this is a new song.  They’re all new songs tonight.”  An All New Revue!  Clark: All New Revue Screw You!

For Fishtailin’, Clark says This song is not about Cats, nor about Dogs.  This one is about Birds, but nobody got it–it just went over there heads. Bidini: “What Catskills dive did you hear that joke in, it’s an old bad joke?” Clark” “You just killed the flow of the gig.”  The song opens with some finger napping and after a verse Martin says he likes the snapping and Dave says he likes Tim’s falsetto singing.

The begin “Michael Jackson” and Dave asks, “Where’s the Michigan table tonight?  Welcome!  Sorry to hear about Michael Jackson and stuff.”  Then he segues, Dave Clark is the only person I know who when I told him Nancy Kerrigan won the silver he went alright!  Clark responds, “Dave, it’s so hip to hate Led Zeppelin these days, that’s what the kids said in high school but I still loved them.”

After the song, Clark shouts out “Tim Mech all the way from the Mechheads….  a smattering of applause… if they only knew.”  In This Town has kind of goofy opening, as does “Me and Stupid.”  It opens with some crazy lurching almost seasick-sounding sounds.  Martin says that’s track one on our next record.  During “Stupid” in the quiet middle Dave states, “

Middle if song “Something is about to happen.  Two shores away a man is hammering in the sky.  Perhaps he will fall…”  The end of the song the band chants “pike trout bass smelt.”

So Bidini asks about smelt: How many smelt can you eat at one sitting?  I once ate 115.  Clark: “I’ve never eaten smelt in my life.”  Bidini, “I’ve got the bones in a jar.  Clark: Did you shat them out?  Bidini: No!  It is a nona food–an Italian grandmother delicacy.  Then he tells the story: “I went fishing with my dad and we chucked the giant net into the Credit River listening to AM radio with excellently bad Canadian radio from the 70s.  Martin says, “I’ve known you all this time we’ve been together 8 years or whatever?.  Bidini, “I’m glad we’re talking about this now.” Clark: “you should join that Iron John program.”

It’s a pretty complex introduction to “Oneilly’s Strange Dream.”

After the song, Clark says, “I saw Mark Hamill on that Conan the Barbarian show and he was kind of a sexist pig.”  Bidini: “Same with the Howard Stern guy.”  Martin jokes, We’re taking it even further than Vegas were recording in Tahoe.

Then Dave asks, “Acoustic guitar or electric guitar for this song? (Electric wins in landslide).  “Electric it is!”  Every decision you inch us towards will have a profound impact on our musical lives.  Be responsible.”

Dave then gives a lengthy introduction to “The Woods Are Full of Cuckoos.”  He says it was originally a song that Tim and Martin sang when I got married two years ago at my wedding (at the bowling alley?).  Someone asks, “Did you marry the girl that you met when you went back to your old horse riding school?”  Clark asks: Bugsy Malone?  Dave says “Bugsy Bidini, you got it.”  I write the song and sang it and Tim said enh?  then Tim said “I’ll sing it” and now he sings it. It’s about an old band that was famous in Toronto (well, not really famous but were excellent) in the middle to the end of the 80s and this is about them.  Before starting he mumbles, the beginning is tricky and then asks, “Tricky beginning or not?”  Tricky!  we need to practice it once, we’ll do it really quietly so they can’t hear.  It’s funny how short the song is after all of that.

“Full Moon Over Russia” is pretty quiet, and then there’s a wild middle section during the “I don’t care, I don’t care” part.  Dave says do you care, and Martin shouts, “Don’t do that I hate that.” Then there’s a nonsense jazz breakdown.

During the banter Clark asks, are they calling the CIS Russia now?  Bidini says “It’s not the CIS”  Clark: “CIS, CSI,  C-sis?”  returning to the Olympics: Clark responds “My favorite Olympian is Ross Perot.  Martin asks “Dave what are you suffering from?”   “I’ve got Olympic fever.  I get the chills every day around 1 o’clock if I don’t watch channel 9.  The all white network, Jesus Christ.”

And then they have some fun with the Canadian sportscaster Rod Black:

But Dave how did you really feel about that performance in the last song it didn’t measure up to your expectations, did it?” …. “I guess you’ll just have to go home and face all the people who pinned their hopes and dreams on your performance.”

Martin starts “One More Colour” and then says, “This is another song that I have anxiety starting.”  Dave announces, “You can share in that anxiety?  How much did it cost you to get in?”

Opening “Jesus Was Once a Teenager Too,” Dave says “This is for Robert Lawson who came by and gave us a tape of the National Anthem.”  (Not sure what that means).  And then they take a five-minute break.

After the break, Bidini welcomes everyone and invites them down into the “promecium” (the pit).  Clark corrects: “proscenium” a fan shouts “paramecium,” “Prometheus?”

These five days are dedicated to the Green Sprouts Music Club.  You can write to us and we can be friends.  And then they a play a song that I’ve never heard before called “Margaret Atwood.”  This appears to be the only recording of it, which is a shame because it’s pretty interesting with a catchy chorus and some wild guitar wailing.

Dave tells a story about Tim Ecclestone getting another player into a fight with a bruiser from Philly.  And then they play “Green Xmas.”  Clark says, “It can be Christmas any day you want.”  Bidini says, “that’s kind of your motto: every day is Christmas.”  Martin sings a short improv “Every Day is Like Christmas.”

Introducing “Floating” which was never recorded, Dave says “This is a song about taking acid and being 30000 feet above sea level, something we’re all very familiar with, I’m sure.”  This recording is much better than last night’s and it really lets you get a better sense of how interesting this song is.

Someone shouts out “Ditch Pigs.”  The band discusses it and requests and how this is not in the program but they never do it, so Clark agrees.  But Martin forgets the words and no one else can remember them.  He asks someone Do you have the song cued up?  And someone plays a recording of “Dancing Queen” (!).  They get through the end of the song and then immediately start up “The Royal Albert.”

Martin says that “Symphony” is a new song composed of many parts.  Bidini says that he’s going to relax back there behind the drums–that’s what you do back here, right?  It’s a really pretty song, but the recording gets a little muddy here, sadly.

Bidini asks Clark about his microphone which leads to a discussion about Gil Moore, the drummer from Triumph.  Gil Moore would get blind drunk, play really poorly and sing his ass off but he could only hear himself in the monitors and no one could hear him in the big giant rock stadium.  Clark concludes: “You know what they say igna…” someone: “breeds bad rock” someone else: “breeds Triumph.”  Shhh.  Martin comments, Rik Emmet’s a nice guy, right?  Bidini: “Rik Emmet’s a great guy.”

Then someone compliments Dave on his suit.  He says Gordie Johnson (of the band Big Sugar) lent Dave his suit  (and lent him his hot bum too).  Then you hear someone playing Blondie’s “Call Me” (!).  The crowd gets quiet so they tell them to say something.  Someone shouts various things and then “Legal Age Life,” which they agree to play.  It’s an acoustic jam pretty far from the recording, but a lot of fun.  In the middle of it things stop.  Then someone scream “hurry up” and Clark creates a vulgar erotic story that involved having sex with the man.  And then they resume he song.  It’s followed by “Earth/Monstrous Hummingbirds.”

In introducing the band, Clark mentions “Timothy Warren Vesely)–there had been a contest in a previous show to see if anyone could guess his middle name).  Someone requests “Memorial Day” and Bidini says, “We don’t do that anymore.  We’re waiting for John Cougar to do that song.”  They play a delicate “Take Me in Your Hand” instead.

Bidini mentions the Big hockey game at 9:15 in the morning tomorrow  Canada hasn’t won a gold medal in Olympic Hockey since 1952.

Then they start talking album names, like the ones mentioned above.  One other one is : Rheostastics Talk Too Much.

And then Tim gets two songs “Row” with the slide guitar and “Claire” (announced as a song by Desmond Howl).  “Claire” is wonderful with a noisy drum section in the middle.

Despite the requests for “Torque Torque,” the encore is another romping fun sloppy Cheap Trick song “I Want You to Want Me” ( I think Clark is singing?).  And then the crazy medley mentioned above: “Cephallus Worm” a weird enough song to begin with which segues into “Uncle Henry.”  Before it ends they begin a wild “Green Sprouts Theme.”  Someone asks how would Bruce do it?  Who cares?  And then they jump start “Soul Glue” but after just one verse they launch back into the frenetic ending of Green Sprouts and before that can end, they play the final verse of Uncle Henry in a pretentious operatic style.

Be here tomorrow when the Wooden Stars are there.  It’s out matinee show.  It’s only six bucks tomorrow.  Tea and biscuits and no profanity, bring the kids.

SIX BUCKS??

[READ: July 18, 2017] “The Main Attraction”

I’m never exactly sure what criteria are used to get someone into Harper’s.  Especially the short (typically excerpted) fiction in the beginning of the magazine.

It is usually an established author, very often in translation.  But the statement about this entry is particularly noteworthy: “Bennett’s first novel Pond was published in July and this is from a manuscript in progress.”  Wow, that’s seems to set the bar a little low, and yet I really enjoyed this strange excerpt.

Anyhow, this excerpt is fascinating for a few reasons.

It opens with this odd bit:

The idea of going out to dinner came about very suddenly–I wanted schnitzel–after having had absolutely no feelings at all toward it going out to eat schnitzel suddenly seemed vital, inescapable, in fact, as if preordained.

(more…)

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5.20SOUNDTRACK: BLACK ANGELS-Evil Things (2013).

blackangelsThis song has a 70s era metal sound (with a heavy early Black Sabbath feel).  It opens with a big riff and surprisingly quiet vocals (the vocals are not really sung loudly, they’re almost whispered, and they are very clean–it’s a nice contrast to the big buzzy guitars).  But for al the buzzy guitars (and the wonderfully dated to 1967 keyboard sound), there are passages that are quiet and almost gentle.  Indeed, there’s a lot going on in this song.  It’s a nice marriage of heavy metal and psychedelia.

I love the way the end seems like it’s uncontained–like they couldn’t control the feedback.  It’s interesting that Bob and Robin on NPR relate this more to psychedelic bands of the late 60s and yet I hear more Black Sabbath–of course, Sabbath was a lot more psychedelia than we let on.

I’d like to hear more from these guys

[READ: May 16, 2013] “Cats Robo-Cradle”

The five brief pieces in this week’s New Yorker are labeled as “Imagined Inventions.”  And in each one, the author is tasked with inventing something.

Since Atwood wrote Cat’s Cradle, I wasn’t sure what to expect from this piece—the title of which was just kind of odd.  As with many magazine titles, I feel like perhaps she didn’t come up with the title because that’s not what she calls her invention–someone just tried to tie it into her famous novel.

Anyhow, she begins her piece by talking about the fascinating-sounding Museum of Failed Products in Ann Arbor, Michigan.  She says that there are so many interesting things there, some of which she feels must be better than her own invention, and must be better than Pop-Tarts.  She says she predicted the failure of Pop-Tarts because when her family first tried it, the jam exploded all over the toaster.  So she knows from good and bad ideas.

Her idea has to do with the death of so many birds and rodents from feral cats.  Recall that birds are predators of insects so their dwindling number is affecting forests and garden.  When cats kill the birds (and the rodents that larger birds eat), they are permanently impacting the climate.  Her idea is for a safe (to the cats) trap which she calls the Robo-Coyote. (more…)

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circleSOUNDTRACK: BOB MOULD-Black Sheets of Rain (1990).

I blacksheetstend to think of this as a very dark and claustrophobic album, which it is.  And yet it is also unavoidably Bob Mould, meaning that there are pop elements all over it.  There’s also some very cool, simple bass lines that tend to spruce up some moments of the album making it a bit more fun than it would be without them.

Even if the title track is over seven minutes long, with some really blistering guitar solos, there are still really poppy elements to the chorus.  As for claustrophobic, the title and cover make this seem like it would be really quiet and insular.  But a song like “Black Guard” is quite inviting.  And the third song, “It’s Too Late” is one of the poppiest songs that Mould has written.  The opening chords are so obvious and recall so many classic rock songs that it’s almost too pop for its own good.

“One Good Reason” is another longer song and it, too, has a catchy chorus.  “Stop Your Crying” is one of Mould’s great songs–a nasty-seeming minor chord structure with Mould’s screamed lyrics.  And yet he still manages to make you want to sing along.

The largely acoustic (with disconcerting organ) “The Last Night” is a breakup song.  A major downer with the odd lyric: “Tonight’s the last night that I will ever spend with you.  Please don’t ask me why cause I don’t know, yea.”  A similar kind of breakup song is “Out of Your Life.”  The difference is that “Out of Your Life” is incredibly poppy.  A major key with bouncy bass and super sing along chorus.  It’s two sides of an idea.  “Disappointed” sounds very much like earlier Hüsker Dü with that buzzy guitar that is unmistakably Mould.  The album ends with “Sacrifice/Let There be Peace” in which the dichotomy of Mould’s sounds are in full evidence.  Mould’s voice sounds completely shot by the end as she screams and growls (it’s amazing he could even speak after recording some of these songs).  The lyrics are practically impossible to understand and yet in the background Mould is chanting/singing a very steady chorus of “Sacrifice” and there’s a very melodic guitar line going on.

It’s an interesting ending to a very schizophrenic album.  It’s nowhere near as dark as I remember, but not exactly a cheery walk in the park either.

[READ: April 10, 2013] The Circle Game

It’s funny that I’m reading so much poetry, as I don’t typically enjoy it.  Well, April is National Poetry Month after all, so why not.  I received this Atwood book at work.  I really like Margaret Atwood a lot and I hope to delve into her oeuvre more.  So why not take the opportunity to scan this brief volume of poetry (which I thought was new, although I now see is from the sixties).

I’ve read a lot of different types of poetry this month and I found that I really enjoyed Atwood’s work a lot.  Could it be because it’s 40 some years old and not “new” poetry?  I don’t know.  Could it be that she uses parentheses a lot (could be).  Or is it just that she is a great writer.

Her poems actually made me think about the nature of poetry itself.  Why does a fiction writer write poetry?  It seems like some of these poems are simply very short stories.  Is that all a poem is?  A very short story (I mentioned how flash fiction has arisen as a genre, and some of these pieces feel like they could be rendered as flash fiction.  I often find flash fiction unsatisfying and I think it’s because poetry is even tighter and more effective than a flash fiction piece.

I’m also intrigued by Atwood’s poetry because she is writing about atypical stuff (as is Atwood’ wont).  So there’s not a lot of “love” here, except under the guise of something else. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: KATHLEEN EDWARDS-Voyageur (2012).

This is Kathleen Edwards’ latest album.  And every time I listen to it, it gets better.  Her songwriting has reached amazing heights.  The lyrics are wonderful and the melodies are just outstanding.  “Empty Threat” (“I’m moving to America…it’s an empty threat), opens the disc with a bouncy acoustic guitar and, eventually, a full band.  The lyrics for “Chameleon/Comedian” are wonderful: the juxtaposition between these two ideas is just amazing—each verse gets more complex.  I would quote them, but the whole song is great.  And, amazingly, the “I don’t need a punchline” is easy to sing along to as well.  “Soft Place to Land” is a nice ballad—a full band that never gets overwhelmed by any of the instruments—the violin adds a nice texture as do the military drums mid way through.  “Change the Sheets” is one of my favorite songs of the year.  It starts out slow, with simple guitars and more great lyrics.  As it builds (of course it builds) it grows into an amazing bridge/chorus that just dares you not to tap your feet.

“House Full of Empty Rooms” is like a minor palate cleanser before “Mint.”  “Mint” opens like a classic 70s rock song (Bad Company or Tom Petty), but she brings in her unique voice and phrasings and changes the song into something very different.  But again, that chorus–how can you not sing along to the catchy/voice-breaking chorus after the minor key verses?  The tension builds wonderfully.  “Sidecars” is a fun poppy track (“You and I will be sidecars, we chase down the hard stuff”).

“Pink Champagne” is a five-minute piano ballad.  It’s more akin to her earlier more country songs.  It’s a wee bit long but never overstays itself.  It’s followed by “Going to Hell,” which features some great screaming guitars in the midst of more delicate singing.  “For the Record” closes the album with a seven minute slow burner.  It begins quietly, and builds and builds–never the ecstatic heights–but with a chorus that is as catchy as it is mournful.

I have this CD in my car and every time it comes up, i just can’t stop listening.

[READ: June 18,2012] I Dream of Zenia with the Bright Red Teeth

I received this limited (autographed!) chapbook from The Walrus when I re-subscribed recently.  That’s pretty cool.  It has been sitting around because I thought it was a much longer piece.  When I received the latest issue of The Walrus, and saw that the same story was in there, well, I realized that this was just a short story and could be polished off pretty quickly.  The issue of The Walrus also told me that this story is a kind of follow-up to The Robber Bride.

I have never read The Robber Bride (I like Atwood quite a lot and yet have never read her most iconic books!).  So I would never have known that this was a sequel (of sorts).  As I said, I don’t know The Robber Bride, (and hope to read it maybe this year).  I don’t know exactly how it ties to the novel (the first line of the Wikipedia entry tells me that the three main characters are the same), and given the tone of the story, I assume it is simply catching up on them some twenty-five years later.

In this story, Claris, Tony and Roz (who are all women, I didn’t realize that right away) are going for their weekly walk in the woods together (because it’s good for you and Roz hopes to increase their cellular autophagic rates).  Tony and Roz bought (from a shelter) a dog for Claris called Ouida.  Ouida is a wild terrier mix (who hops on Roz’s orange coat and leaves footprints).

It quickly becomes apparent that Claris is something of a hippy—organic, vegetarian, communing with spirits and whatnot.  Claris just had a dream about Zenia.  Zenia (who I assume is in The Robber Bride, because why wouldn’t she be), was a woman from their past.  She stole a man from each one of them—with varying outcomes in each woman’s case.  Zenia died about twenty years ago but she has come back, Claris believes, to tell her about Billy. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: SQUAREPUSHER-Solo Electric Bass 1 (2009).

Yesterday I said that one Squarepusher CD was enough for me.  I did some digging and found out that he has put out a whole bunch of CDs.  And, to the surprise of me, at least, not all of them are crazy electronic music.   This CD, as the title states, is a collection of electric bass solo songs.  The songs were performed live as part of the Jazz à la Villette 2007 festival and were played on an electric six-string bass with no pedals or effects.

And that is all you get—serious solo bass songs.  The man behind Squarepusher, Tom Jenkinson, is apparently a virtuoso musician (who knew?) and these songs really show off his chops (just listen to the insanity of “Seb-1.05” (catchy title, eh?)).  He can play some impressive Spanish-sounding songs–that would probably sound better on a guitar, but sound more impressive on a bass (“Seb-1.06”).  He’s got some great slap stuff going on (“Seb-1.03”), and he really knows from melody (also “Seb-1.03”).  True, 12 all bass songs can meld into one another, but the crowd really loves it (and like a lot of things, seeing it is probably more impressive than just hearing it).

It’s not exactly “fun” listening (even if you love bass solos).  Only 850 copies of the disc were released, so it’s not like they expected a big audience for this.  But it is pretty neat to hear a) how good he is and b) that his main musical output is noisy electronic noodling.  That gives me even more respect for his electronic output.

[READ: June 5, 2012] “The Spider Women”

Margaret Atwood is another author I wish I had read more of—and I’m getting there.  I often wonder if I should just read an author start to finish and be done with him or her or if that just leads to madness.

Much like Miéville says in the previous essay, children don’t read genres, they just read what they like.  I loved Atwood’s idea that “below a certain age, [children] don’t distinguish between ‘true’ and ‘not true,’ because they see no reason why a white rabbit shouldn’t possess a pocket watch, that whales shouldn’t talk, or that sentient beings shouldn’t live on other planets and travel around in spaceships.”  After all, sometimes reality lives under the bed and has sharp claws. (more…)

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