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Archive for the ‘Seth Grahame-Smith’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: BLUE ÖYSTER CULT-Fire of Unknown Origin (1981).

This was the first BOC album that I bought.  The video for “Burnin’ for You” was all over MTV (although I don’t remember it at all, now).  And I was an instant convert to BOC.  I listened to this disc constantly.

It took going to college and meeting my roommate before I got any other BOC discs (he was a diehard fan).  And while I like most of their releases, this one still ranks as number one for me.  BOC had been getting poppier and lighter over the years, there’s no question.  But this album perfected this mix, making for a supremely catchy recording that still exhibited all of their metal trademarks: wild guitar solos, bizarro futuristic lyrics (although there’s no weirdo titles on this one) and heavy heavy chords.

The opener, “Fire of Unknown Origin” is a wonderful rocking song.  It sets the tone for the disc: keyboards, yes, but of the atmospheric/spooky variety, not the poppy/hit single variety.  “Burnin’ for You” seems like an obvious single, and so it was. It also screams early 80s to me, which I guess isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

But the album’s wonderful weirdness kicks in with “Veteran of the psychic Wars” written by Michael Moorcock. It was featured in the movie Heavy Metal, and is weird and creepy, propelled by thunderous drums and a great guitar riff: a sci-fi masterpiece.  “Sole Survivor” is in the same vein, Eric Blooms ragged voice and the awesome bass line really sell the song.

The middle track is “Heavy Metal (Black and Silver)”  It is heavy heavy heavy and it rocks like all get out with a screaming feedback solo.  It’s an awesome song that seems more than a little out of place on this rather light sounding disc (although even on their later discs, they have included an occasional heavy track).

“Vengeance (The Pact)” is a keyboard-fueled track.  But the greatness is that it’s Lanier’s spooky keyboards.  It also features an awesome middle section with heavy heavy guitars and dark lyrics.  “After Dark” is another wonderfully creepy keyboard song.  The underlying riff is sinister and cool, and the lyrics (and harmonies) meld the “band vocals” on some of their more “hit single” songs, with the oddness that keeps BOC interesting.

But by far the creepiest, most sinister and flat out weird song is “Joan Crawford.”  When I first heard this song back in 1982, I had no idea who Joan Crawford was.  Finding out later that she was a real person has messed with my head for my entire life.  I have never seen a film with her in it and am just convinced that she’s a scary, scary woman (the whispered “Christina…mother’s home” really did me in).  Interestingly, I don’t find the song spooky (although I do get chills if I’m paying attention), but I still find her spooky.  It opens with a pseudo-classical piano riff and then bursts out with menacing metal chords.  The chorus “Joan Crawford has risen from the grave!” complete with squeaky violins proceeds until and the break with sound effects that imply Crawford’s life, I assume: car crashes, race tracks, telephones, babies crying and the whispered “No.”   And it’s all catchy as hell.

“Don’t Turn You Back” ends the disc as something of a mellowing out after Joan Crawford.  It features a great solo and rather soothing choruses (despite the warning that you shouldn’t turn your back).  And it features the ever confusing line: “You use that special option in your car”  (what could that BE?).

Why on earth hasn’t this disc gotten a deluxe reissue from Columbia>?

[READ: March 3, 2010] Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter

I received this book as a prepub Advanced Readers Copy and hoped to have it finished before the book actually came out, but I was shy of it by a couple of days (rats).

So Grahame-Smith wrote Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.  His was pretty much the first in what has become an ever increasing series of literary mash-ups: using “classic” texts as a basis and inserting a seemingly random (usually horror) element.  The genre is already close to jumping the shark, although realistically, you never know when a combination is going to work wonders.

I wasn’t really that interested in the follow up to P&P&Z: Sense & Sensibility & Sea Monsters.  When I first heard of it I was intrigued, but watching the promotional video for the book actually turned me off of it.  I’m intrigued that a new title: Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: Dawn of the Dreadfuls is written by a different author, but I have to assume that it will be all original as there’s no prequel to P&P itself.  And I have to admit I like the title of the upcoming Jane Slayre (for Jane Eyre).

But the things about P&P&Z were that it kept the original text (mostly) intact, and there were a number of things in the original that actually led to inserting zombies into the text.

Plus, Grahame-Smith matched the tone of the original perfectly.  The forthcoming mashups will have a lot to prove but I think some cream will definitely rise to the top.

So, Grahame-Smith’s new book Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter is sort of a mashup.  Unlike P&P&Z, there is no source text to blend.  Rather, Seth Grahame-Smith, who is a character in the introduction of the book is given the “secret” diary of Abraham Lincoln, under provision that he write up the real story of our 16th president.  The secret diary reveals not only that our country was plagued by vampires but that Lincoln himself was personally impacted by them. (more…)

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pride-zombiesSOUNDTRACK: The Core: WVPH, 90.3 FM.

coreThe Core is also from Rutgers University.  How do they have two radio stations?  Interestingly, the station is shared with Piscataway High School.  For several hours a day Piscataway High School takes over the airwaves.  Although I admit that I have not listened to any of the PHS stuff because the first block is at 6 in the morning, and the other block is from 1- 3PM.

The college folks, however, play a pretty excellent selection of alternative music.  They’re not quite as indie and out there as WRSU, but they’re not commercial either.  To me, they’re more of the kind of college station I’m used to from my days as music director at the University of Scranton.

In the few days that I listened, I heard a lot of familiar alternative artists, with a nice focus on new bands.  What I especially liked about the station was that they didn’t play too much in the way of commercial alternative (your U2s and R.E.Ms who were once alternative but are now mainstream).  Rather, they played bands like Art Brut, The Decemberists, Portishead and Neutral Milk Hotel: bands that many people have at least heard of, but that you won’t find anywhere else on the dial.

This is the station that I would turn to most if my CD player busted permanently.

The only thing I didn’t like about it, but which also reminded me of my days as a DJ, was that college DJs tend to talk A LOT.  We all think that we are imparting precious wisdom to the masses.  And often, that is true.  Although in this one case, the DJ said that the name of the band was Art Brut Vs Satan, which is in fact just the album name.  (See, I’m still a pretentious music snob!).   However, when I’m having dinner and reading a book, I don’t need a seven minute update about that last concert that you went to.

[READ: May 19, 2009] Pride and Prejudice and Zombies

When I first heard about this book (as a punchline on Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me at my brother-in-law Tim’s house), I couldn’t believe it was real.  I was so intrigued by the concept, and then so impressed by the reviews, that I couldn’t wait to read it.

And this book does not disappoint.

For those out of the loop: Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is, as the title suggests, Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice with good old zombie action thrown in.  Elizabeth and Darcy… What?

Yes.  Zombies.

Seth Grahame-Smith has taken Pride and Prejudice, changed a few details and then added an entire…well, subplot is not right…more like an underlying condition to the story.  It turns it from a story of love and marriage into a story of love and marriage amidst zombie brain-lust. (more…)

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