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Archive for the ‘Steve Toltz’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: AUDIOSLAVE-Audioslave (2002).

Despite the pedigree of this band: Rage Against the Machine + Chris Cornell, I wasn’t all that interested in the band when they came out.  I was over Rage and was bored by Cornell’s solo stuff.  But then recently, someone donated a copy of this album to th elibrary, so I thought I’d see what all of the fuss was about (nine years ago).

There are times when this album is really superb.  The Rage guys get an amazingly full sound out of their instruments (the choruses of “Show Me How to Live” are so full).  And when it works, and Cornell’s amazing voice is in full force, this seems like a genius pairing.

But there’s a lot that feels kind of clunky here (and there’s some really bad choices of guitar solo work by Tom Morello–the weird noises that compriose he solo of “What You Are”–in Rage the noises were weird but exciting and inflammatory, these are just kind of dull.  Worse yet, is the, well, stupid solo in “Like a Stone”–boring and ponderous at the same time).  Although he redeems himself somewhat with the cool solo on the otherwise dull “Intuition”.

The biggest surpise comes in “Like a Stone” which is insanely catchy and mellow–something one assumed Rage didn’t know how to do).  Lyrically the song is pretty stupid (as are most of the songs), but the combination of melody and Cornell’s great vocal lines really raise this song high–shame about the solo).  Also, a song like “Shadow of the Sun” seems to highlight Cornell’s more mellow moments (and shows that the Rage guys can actually play that slow), and they all seem to be in synch.

And there are several songs that rock really hard, sounding at times like Rage and at time like Soundgarden, but working on all cylinders together.  “Cochise” and “Set It Off” are simply great riff rock songs.

But ten or so years later, and twenty years since Badmotorfinger (my favorite Soundgarden album), it’s nice to hear Cornell rocking again.  Although man, the record is too long!

[READ: June 1, 2011] Five Dials Number 8

For Issue Number 8, Five Dials went to Paris.  And so the whole issue is given over to French concerns and ideas.  For a magazine that didn’t need a change of pace, it’s a delightful change of pace.  The feel of the magazine is different, and there’s an air of vacation about it (which is not to suggest that it is slacking off in any way), and it feels really vibrant.

I don’t know a lot about France in general.  I mean, I’ve been there, and I keep up with things, but I am not a Francophile by any means. So a lot of this stuff was simply new to me, which is always fun.  What I especially liked about the issue was that they were not afraid to show some of France’s uglier sides as well–it’s not just a tourism booster.

It even starts out differently than the other issues. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: BATTLES-“Ice Cream” (2011).

My friend Lar told me about Battles way back in 2007.  I listened to the concert he sent me, and it was great. But my memory of the band was that they were really heavy (the drummer was in Helmet and Tomahawk for cripessakes).

But they’re not so much heavy as noisy and crazy.  And this track is a head-spinning amalgam of keybaords, unsettling rhythms, processed guitars and singing from Argentinean techno producer Matias Aguayo.  The lyrics sound like they are not English, but they are (with heavy effects on them).

The song is weird, indeed. But after just one listen, I was totally hooked.  It’s catchy and bouncy and very sunny and it’s a real joy to listen to.   I absolutely must go back and check out their debut Mirrored.

Listen at NPR.

[READ: April 28, 2011] Five Dials Number 6

Five Dials Number 5 was an excellent issue that I enjoyed immensely.  They followed it up with Number 6, which deals with a subject that I was very passionate about in the early 90s: censorship/obscenity.  When I was in high school and college, the PMRC was the big bogeyman for advocates of free speech (of which I am one).  I still advocate passionately for freedom of speech (now that I’m in a library, the issue can be part of my daily life), but it seems like there are so many more important issues in the world, that stickers on a record seem kind of silly.

Nevetheless, as this issue reminds us, those who control what is said control what we hear.  And that’s true for music and books, as well as our everyday news.  So, free speech should never be taken lightly.  Although this issue looks largely at obscenity in England, they also pull up some good information from Jello Biafra as well.

CRAIG TAYLOR-A Letter from the Editor: On John Mortimer and Obscenity
John Mortimer appears later in the issue. He was the lawyer who defended Lady Chatterly’s Lover against accusations of obscenity.  And Taylor points out that Mortimer’s attitude was that he “understood the silliness of censorship.”  And with that attitude, he was able to work to convince juries of that silliness.  The rest of the issue looks at important cases of censorship over the years, from The Dead Kennedys to NWA (it’s nice to be reminded about how “dangerous” they were when they came out).  He also laughs at the lame attempts at putting adult content on network TV (Fudge you!). (more…)

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