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Archive for the ‘Margaret Atwood’ Category

McSweeney’s 49: Cover Stories: Contemporary writers reimagining classic tales (2017)

SOUNDTRACKBIG K.R.I.T.-Tiny Desk Concert #714 (March 5, 2018).

A while back I downloaded one of Big K.R.I.T.’s mixtapes and rather liked it.  Since then he seems to have become pretty huge and I feel like he has really expanded on his style.

K.R.I.T. sings/raps three songs from his new album.

4eva Is a Mighty Long Time, a double album in which he covers everything from blessings to depression while plumbing the carnal and spiritual depths of his own duality. All three songs performed here come from side two, titled after his birth name Justin Scott.

The first song “Mixed Messages” is really thoughtful.  He sings and raps

I gotta whole lotta mixed messages / in my songs am I wrong / to feel this way
I got me a lover but I still wanna cheat / I wanna be saved but its fuck the police
i never really liked the fake shit / but I’m attracted to the fake ass and fake tits
i really wanna sing but id better rap

K.R.I.T.’s backing band, which includes Burniss Travis II on bass and Justin Tyson on drums, also features on keys Bryan Michael Cox — the hitmaking producer and songwriter behind a slew of Billboard chart-toppers. Together, the trio delivers stripped-down versions of the latest thought-provoking material in Big K.R.I.T.’s catalog.

Introducing the second song, “Keep The Devil Off” he says his grandmother introduced him to gospel.  She brought him to church and “she would wake me up when i fell asleep saying wake up you gotta hear this.”  He sings beautifully.  And then the rapped verses are really well structured.

And when he stops to pay homage to his church-going grandmother before performing “Keep The Devil Off,” it’s clear that everything she instilled in him is keeping him alive, too.

Definitely in these times we need to keep the negativity away–keep the devil off.

His grandmother was clearly very important to him.

Big K.R.I.T. has kept her spirit alive through his music since his breakout mixtape, K.R.I.T. Wuz Here, which he released in 2010, the same year she died.  So it only makes sense that he would bring her with him for his Tiny Desk concert.

Halfway through his three-song set at NPR Music headquarters, K.R.I.T. stops to pull out an old-school tape recorder — the same one his grandmother would use to record him singing and reciting poetry as a child. “I have to feel like my grandmother was my first mix engineer,” he says before pressing play to reveal him and his brother as kids singing a duet of R&B crooner Donell Jones’ 1999 slow burner, “Where I Wanna Be.”

He plays the tape and cracks up listening to it.  He gets the audience to sing the refrain with his younger sell.  And then his grandmother introduces he and his brother as an R&B singer, “but I’m sticking with the rap thing.”

It’s a sublime interlude — one that resonated so strongly with K.R.I.T. that he had to start his last song, “Bury Me In Gold,” over to catch the proper beat. “I’m super emotional from this, too,” he says, laughing in a moment so genuine it was only right to leave it unedited.

He says “Bury Me in Gold” is not about gold really, it’s about having something so that in the event he gets to heaven he’ll give everything away.

He tells us to remember that peace of mind and your soul are more important than gold.

I’ve always enjoyed thought provoking rap and K.R.I.T.’s lyrics combined with his voice really work wonders.

[READ: May 29, 2017] McSweeney’s 49

It has been a long time (three years or so) since the previous McSweeney’s volume.  During that silence, the publishing house went non-profit and that seems to have taken up a lot of their resources.  They even address this a bit in the interdiction to this book.

But regardless of the reasons why, it is great to have them back.

As the subtitle says, this is a book of “cover stories.” What that means is a little vague–the contemporary writers model their story after a classic story.  I try to compare it to music covers, although in music covers the music and words are typically the same with some kind of variations.  Typically, the words are the same but the music is different.  I liked to flip this idea on its head for describing these stories in that the words are different by the music is the same.

Since I don’t know most of the original stories here I don’t know how similar these are to the originals–same character names?  Same ideas?  Same plot?  I don’t know.  And perhaps it would affect the way I read these stories if I was familiar with theory original pieces.  But without knowing them, these just turned out to be good stories from good writers.

Interspersed between the stories were poems and, in a wonderful commentary on our current shitty president and the cowardly house of representatives who on the day I finished this voted to strip 24 million people of health care, are comparisons of classic historical figures’ speeches with the petty garbled tweets of out current crap in chief.  Can we impeach this motherfucker already?  And send the whole lot of them to jail, please.  #ITMFA

As many McSweeney’s do, this one opens with letters.  And of course they aren’t really letters at all, even if they are addressed to McSweeney’s.  Many deal with cover songs, but a few are much more serious, political and right on.

WAJAHAT ALI writes from Camp FDR in Washington DC where he and his fellow prisoners were finally able to cobble together WiFi.  Ali explains that the Executive Order was inevitable the ban, the vetting, the registry were all just prelude. The need to protect against terrorism outweighs the individual rights and the rights of American Muslims…read the Supreme Court decision.

NICK JAINA writes about the Sept 23, 1970 episode of The Johnny Cash Show in which Ray Charles appears and plays “Walk the Line” and then “Ring of Fire.”  The letter states that the creator of “Ring of Fire” is actually mis-attributed.  The story is that June Carter wrote it after seeing a page in her uncle’s book of Elizabethan poetry.  But Johnny first wife claims that Johnny wrote it while drunk about a certain female body part: “all those years of her claiming she wrote it and she probably never knew what the song was really about.”  Then it reverts back to Ray Charles’ performance with an unseen band playing behind him–especially a great baseline–and as the song ends he lets out one last shudder and cackle like he just invented the orgasm.  “Johnny returns to the stage looking like a man who just watched someone have sex with his wife but was so in awe of how good he was at it that he could only thank him.”

ROBIN TERRELL talks about trumpmania in the Czech Republic from the perspective of a black woman, lesbian, child of civil rights activists, mother of a black man living in Prague.  The look in the eyes of people after the election: The U.S. is going to fuck us over again.  It stunned Europeans that the U.S. could generate someone fouler than Europe’s own crop of white male extremists.  She is now a refugee from her own country.  #RESIST #ITMFA

KIMBERLY HARRINGTON says she always believed that even in the darkest times humor has its place.  But lately she’s been bursting into tears rather than cracking a smile.  She hopes she can find things to laugh at–even death in these horrible times.

MARY MILLER says that for the longest time she thought her uncles wrote “Stagger Lee.”  Her uncles were musicians who wrote songs but also threw some covers into their shows.  She believed that “Stagger Lee” was one of theirs. She realizes that they are not famous and that no one will remember them–but she promises them that she will remember them.

RICK MOODY writes at length about Elektra’s 1990 tribute album Rubaiyat: Elektra’s 40th Anniversary.  I remember it coming out and I remember not getting it because it was too expensive. But Moody talks about what a great conceit this collection was to have contemporary artists cover classic songs.  He also talks about how the tribute album was quite popular in the 1990s (was it ever).  Some thought: He loves Bjork, but he thinks of the Sugarcubes as a cheeseball imitation of the B-52s (and that their “Motorcycle Mama” is pretty bad.  He mentions a few great tracks, like Kronos Quartet covering “Marquee Moon,” Metallica doing “Stone Cold Crazy,” and even a Howard Jones cover of “Road to Cairo” by the cult hero David Ackles.   But he says fully half of the collection is bad, some of it even awful–not worth its list price at the time but it has a great number of masterpieces on it.

Will Buttler (from Arcade Fire) wishes to make some amusing corrections: some errors during concerts, and apologizing for singing “I’m So Bored” with the USA because he is not.

ARIEL S. WINTER-This is an interesting philosophical question wondering whether or not Marty McFly actually created “Johnny B. Goode.”  How could he cover it before Chuck Berry had released the original.  As a child this blew her mind.  This facile beginning then goes on to say that before recorded music the notion of a cover didn’t really exist.  And indeed in the 1950s people recorded songs without concern for copyright.  It’s also true that when Chuck Berry plays Johnny B. Goode live, it’s not considered a cover of his original.  She concludes by that the Back to the Future is probably the first time she ever heard Johnny B. Goode.  So Marty McFly’s is the original to her (as it is to all the kids at the dance).  So in addition to a song having an original for the performer there is also an original for the listener.  Anyone who has loved a song for years before finding out that it’s a cover has had that experience.

INTRODUCTION BY THE EDITORS

This introduction talks about how the first time they did a “cover story” was in 1999 in issue 4.  Rick Moody covered Sherwood Anderson’s “The Egg.”  They had been planning to do an entire issue of covers as far back as two years ago and then things happened in the McSweeney’s universe to delay it.  And now : this issue is being born in a moment of racial, social and economic reckoning and imminent fascism…into a country that looks much different from the one in which it began, fronted now by a mean and disingenuous imitation of a president.   As such: Tucked between these thirteen beautiful renditions of thirteen classic stories are instances when a cover is not an homage but rather a perversion of its predecessor”  And by that they offer examples of eloquent speeches by former leaders and then tweets from our pervert in chief.

GARY BURDEN-excerpt from Nobody Knows (an autobiography)

Gary Burden created the cover images for this issue.  I had no idea who he was, but this autobiography tells me just how interesting a fellow he was.  He has been responsible for some of the most iconic album covers of the last 60 years!

These excerpt shows his origin story–he was 8 on December 7, 1941 and he has had vivid memories of WWII.  When he was 16 he joined the Marines.  But he was restless, got involved in bad things, was dishonorably discharged and got mixed up with even worse people (he says he can’t believe the things he did back then).  In 1964 he met “Mama” Cass Elliot. They spent a lot of time together and this opened him up to meeting all kinds of people: David Crosby, Stephen Stills, Graham Nash.  Eventually he met and hung out with Jim Morrison and designed Morrison Hotel (a fascinating story that).  In one of the nicer things I’ve heard someone say he says that Jim was a real poet, someone who was unafraid of delving deeply into life irrespective of the personal cost.  Then he met Neil Young. He says that Buffalo Springfield has been his favorite band and then one day Neil came to Mama Cass’ house in his 1948 Buick Hearse.  He was also hanging around when CSN decided to become CSN&Y and then he and Neil became friends. and Neil sold him his house in Topanga.  Eventually he made the cover art for After the Gold Rush (and he gives a little story about the old lady there on the cover).  I’m kind of curious to read this whole book now, especially if it includes album covers.

EMILY RABOTEAU-“The Babysitter” after “Some Women” by Alice Munro
This is the story of a babysitter for Mrs Fagan.  She is a young girl and her employer is very rich and locally famous.  And quite eccentric (she went to East Africa and allegedly witness the Ark of the Covenant and then wrote a controversial book about it).  But in their town she was known as the white lady with black kids (Maya 3, Eddie 10 months old).  The story reflects back on the babysitter as child (she is now the same age as Mrs Fagan was when the babysitting began.  The babysitter’s mother is kind of jerk and is very sarcastic about this babysitting arrangement.  She is also a very strict Jehovah’s Witness, so when the narrator gets her first period rather than tell her mom, she just takes products from Mrs Fagan.  As the story opens Mrs Fagan’s son has just arrived and that changes the dynamic in the house.  How will Mrs Fagan take it when the narrator accidentally sets fire to the kitchen? I really enjoyed the way the end of the story plays on the notions of memories and the impact people have on others.

MEGAN MAYHEW BERGMAN-“The Lottery, Redux” after “The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson
“The Lottery” seems like a pretty easy story to cover–I think everyone knows everything about it and it has been covered in things like The Hunger Games in their own ways.  I don’t know if this story references the original (with the redux),  for this story the people of the island of Timothy were exiled from America fifty years earlier for crimes against the environment.  They were gathering on July 27th, the day of the lottery.  And indeed the lottery is a death sentence, although it’s not entirely clear why.  Interestingly, the story is more about the girl chosen and what her life up to that point has been like.

ANTHONY MARRA-“The Tell-Tale Heart” after “The Tell Tale Heart” by Edgar Allan Poe
This story doesn’t diverge all that much from the original except for the wonderful modern twist on the beating heart.  It’s hard to say more without giving things away but I loved the modernization.

JESS WALTER-“Falling Faintly” after “The Dead” by James Joyce
I didn’t know all that many stories before hand, but I knew this one very well and this is wonderful homage.  It is not in any way rewriting the story–it’s a very different story, but it alludes to the Joyce story and directly mentions it and it is quite clear where the connection between them is.
Michael is a writer.  He is married with kids but has moved temporarily out to New York to write for this new police procedural.  The show is doing well and the female star is quite beautiful.  They bond over cigarettes–she is foreign and smokes like a European, he recently started again.  As stories like this tend to go, Micheal gets the wrong idea about this young, hot actress.  And given that she is not American she misunderstands the subtleties of his behavior (which isn’t very subtle admittedly).  But he wants her to know that his story is a tribute to Joyce’s “The Dead.”  When he talks about the dead she thinks he means real dead people and is pretty freaked out.  This leads to a restraining order and a police intervention–not how he thought his life in New York would go.  What doe sit have to do with “The Dead”?  Well they are standing smoking in the snow as it gently floats to the ground falling through the universe, faintly falling.

LAUREN GROFF-“Once” after “Wants” by Grace Paley
I loved the way this story started.  I saw my enemy at the beach.  With that as a groundwork we slowly learn just how this woman has an enemy (it’s an old boyfriend’s mother) and how they have grudgingly begun to respect each other decades after the two broke up. I really enjoyed this short piece.

ROXANE GAY-“Men on Bikes” after “Rape Fantasies” by Margaret Atwood
I can’t imagine what the original of this story is.  The actual story of this is pretty peculiar itself.  Basically, the men in town have all started riding bicycles everywhere.  It started when one of them was arrested for drunk driving.  He didn’t lose his license but his wife took it away from him.  He dug out a bike and began riding it.  She thought he looked ridiculous, but when another man had his license taken away, they began riding together.  It was quite a sight, although I’m not sure what the point of it was.

NAMWALI SERPELL-“Company” after “Company” by Samuel Beckett
I like Beckett, and I know that he can be confusing.  I don’t know what “Company” is about so I have no idea how it relates to it, but man I did not get this at all.

It was confusing and really long.  It is broken into many small sections which might be connected.  The first is about the brightening which happened although many people missed it. Then we learn about the ship which is electro epidermal, which is cool but not really explained  and then the story turns into a quest for melanin and just when you think it’s a sci-fi story, it becomes a story about race.  There is a pale man tied to a tree hitting a sack (pound pound).  There’s a lot of vomit.  If the white man inseminates even one person, finding pure stem cells is impossible.  Dark skin marked you as  lucky when the darkening came.  But then she says the mission is over.  There’s more vomiting.  A fellow is supposed to be invisible in the village but Pound sees him.  There’s more vomit, a section titled rape, where Pound rapes Lila every once in a while and then who the hell knows what happens at he end.

KIESE LAYMON-“And So On” after “Hills Like White Elephants” by Ernest Hemingway
Weeks ago 64 black folks changed the world.  You are the 11th.  Aside from the direct address to the reader the story is pretty straightforward and interesting.  Chanda Stewart was 8th, the narrators research assistant was 9th and Doug E., Chandra’s boyfriend was 1st.  They are at a fancy restaurant, Chandra, the narrator and you.  She swears that Doug is a porn star, but the narrator argues that having 1089 twitter followers and awkward consensual sex with a few white women filmed on an iPhone 2 in his fake Timberlands, blue knee brace and yellow wrist bands makes you a porn participant, not a star.  The story comes down to which side the narrator is going to choose.   sides or run for our lives.  Because while they were talking, Doug E. and about sixty young black kids were marching down the street.  To the school.  They each had an ax and a shovel.

MEG WOLITZER-“If You’re Happy and You Know It” after “A Perfect Day for Bananafish” By J.D. Salinger
I haven’t read this Salinger story in a long time, so I don’t really know how it connects to this, but I really enjoyed it.  I enjoyed the way that it was written which was a little confusing but in an intriguing way.  Set in a hotel on Miami there is the young woman in 609 who arrived with her new husband.  She’d sent him off to the beach.  We see her telling her parents that he is taking it easy, but they want to know if he is taking the Klonopin.  Later that night in the lobby, a four year old girl, Chloe, is in the lobby of that hotel watching a man play piano.  The man is a guest also and he is playing and really getting into it.  Another boy asks if he can play This Old Man and the player jokes about the boy calling him old.  But Chloe asks if he can play “If You’re Happy and You Know It.”  He says he might be happy but he may not know it. She is puzzled by that.  He says she is breaking his heart.  We soon realize that the pianist is the Klonopin man, and while things don’t get dark exactly, they certainly get strange.  And Chole’s parents have foisted her off on a poor babysitter the whole time.  This was one of my favorites in the book.

T.C. BOYLE-“The Argentine Ant” after “The Argentine Ant” by Italo Calvino
I can’t imagine what the original story is like, but this one from Boyle was really icky and really fantastic.  Its’ a fairly simple premise–a family moves to a rental property in Argentina, only to find that it is swarming with ants.  The ants are everywhere–even crawling all over their baby.  They run to the next door neighbor’s house only to see that they know about the ants and might have a secret weapon.  But mostly they just seem to be putting their furniture in jugs of water–presumably as a deterrent.  There is also an Ant Man who might be fighting the ants or who might actually be bringing more.  What is great about the way Boyle writes this is that the guy renting the house is working on an academic theorem that his wife thinks is rather frivolous.  And that tension underpins everything.

ALICE SOLA KIM-“One Hour, Every Seven Years” after “All Summer in a Day” by Ray Bradbury
Again I don’t know the original, but this story was great, and also weird. The weird part is that the story seems to start over multiple times. And that’s because there is a kind of time travel component to it.  The title refers to how often the sun comes out on Venus.  There is a girl, the main character, named Nargit. She was born on Earth and so she saw the sun.  The other kids are pretty angry at her for it (as if it’s her fault).  They are abusive to her, and the time travelling is the girl’s attempt to protect her younger self.  Many things go wrong but they bring about different results.

CHRIS ABANI-“Sleepy” after “Sleepy” by Anton Chekhov
This story was pretty horrific.  Kemi, a sixteen year old black girl who is now an orphan is working for a white family.  The family has two little children, one of whom is a baby.   The family is horrible to Kemi.  Pretty unrelentingly horrible.  Kemi is tired and never gets a break and the baby cries all the time.  She can’t soothe the baby and the family blames her for her failures.  Her exhaustion builds and builds until you pretty much know the ending several pages before it happens.

TOM DRURY-“The Yellow Wallpaper” after “The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman
I know the original story although not super well.  But this version feels almost exactly the same. I honestly can’t tell what the difference is (without having re-read the original again to compare).   Jane and John are renting a place on an island for the summer.  John thinks Jane is not strong and keeps her hidden away in a room with yellow wallpaper.  He more or less runs everything in her life until she starts seeing people through the wallpaper.  You know things can’t go well from there.

POETRY:

REBECCA LINDENBERG-“Having a Coke with You” after “Having a Coke with You” by Frank O’Hara

MATTHEW ZAPRUDER-“Poem for Keats” after “Ode to a Nightingale” by John Keats

STEPHEN BURT-“A Nickel on Top of a Penny” after “Piedra Negra Sobre Una Piedra Blanca” by César Vallejo

BRIAN TURNER-“The Metaphor Program” after “The Red Wheelbarrow” by William Carlos Williams

STEPHEN BURT-“Roofers” after “The Armadillo” by Elizabeth Bishop

MATTHEW ZAPRUDER-“Poem on the Occasion of a Weekly Staff Meeting” [the first two lines are taken from “A Poem on the Occasion of the Consecration of Sandford and Shippon Churches” by Rev. F. Wilson Kittermaster, 1855]

STEPHEN BURT-“Suspense” after “To Brooklyn Bridge” by Hart Crane

KEVIN MOFFETT-“Second Wonder”-a monologue that will air on The Organist.
I found this puzzling at best.

PATTY YUMI COTTRELL-excerpt from Sorry to Disrupt the Peace
I read this book not too long ago.
This except was about two young children who invented a game called “Confession” in which the boy confesses his real or imagined sins to his sister.

~~~~~

The comparison quotes are called Great Speeches from History vs. the Tweets of Donald J. Trump:  I can’t bring myself to write any of the jerks tweets.

Mahatma Gandhi from the “Quit India” speech, 1942 vs. a Feb 4 2017 tweet

Abraham Lincoln’s “The Gettysburg Address” 1863 vs. a Feb 18 217 tweet (about fake news)

Martin Luther King Jr from “Letter from Birmingham Jail” vs. Feb 21 2017 (crowds planted by liberal activists)

Frederick Douglass from “The Hypocrisy of American Slavery” 1852 vs. Feb 6 2017 (negative polls are fake news).

Franklin D. Roosevelt, inauguration speech 1933 vs. Jan 22, 2017 (including all my enemies)

 

The bad thing about this issue is that the last four or five stories were all real downers, making it a pretty tough slog.  But I loved the idea, and I liked that they found the time and space to point out how stupid trump sounds and looks and is.

For ease of searching, I include: Cesar Vallejo

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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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