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Archive for the ‘Ursula K. Le Guin’ Category

kelly-linkSOUNDTRACK: THE DUDE OF LIFE & PHISH-Crimes of the Mind (1994).

Crimes of the Mind is the debut album from The Dude of Life, Steve Pollak, a childhood friend of Trey Anastasio and a lyrical contributor to many of Phish’s early songs. Phish is the backing band for the entire album.

The album was recorded in 1991 but wasn’t released until 1994. The Dude of Life performed several of these songs in a live setting with Phish on a number of occasions.

Of all of the “Phish” albums, this is the one I listen to the least.

The main riff of “Chalkdust Torture” was used in the song “Self” on this album.

Dude

“Dahlia” is a kind of sloppy rock song—it certainly has a Phish feel to it, but as soon as the vocals come in, you know it’s going to be different.  Lyrically, however, it sounds a lot like crazy early Phish—a song about a girl who is a little nuts and a really catchy melody.  The song has a weird climax with the sucking Cherry Charms Blow Pops line.

“Family Picture” opens with a watery bass, it has a kind of silly Phish-iness to it—you wouldn’t be surprised if Phish played it but again, although Dude’s voice makes it much sillier.  Once again there’s a fun chorus and a rather silly guitar solo.  “Self” is a wonderfully selfish song (“I don’t care about anyone but myself”).  I also like that he rhymes “bluer” with “sewer.”  Once the song starts rocking, it features the main riff as “Chalkdust Torture” and then it really takes off.

“Crimes of the Mind” is a simple song with a catchy chorus.  “She’s Bitchin’ Again” has a very cool guitar riff and motif, and while the lyrics are funny, the addition of the woman bitchin’ at him is a bit much (especially since her voice is quite unpleasant and isn’t quite singing).  “TV Show” is the first thing that’s close to a ballad.  It starts slowly but after the sound of keyboards building and ramping up, the song kicks into high gear with the chorus of “life is a TV show that should have been canceled long ago.”  “Trials and Tribulations” is a funny/weird romantic song about the Swiss Miss, Captain Crunch and Mr Clean, with a cute melody for the guitar riff.

“Lucy in the Subway” is of course a kind of follow up/piss take on “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds.”  It sounds nothing like The Beatles’ song, being a simple, rather than psychedelic song, but that befits the tone about a girl down on her luck–she is “with daffodils” if you were wondering about the D).   “Ordinary Day” is the kind of simple song—singing about nothing happening—that makes you wonder how people write them.  “Revolution’s Over” is as close to punk as this line up will get—fast drums, fast tinny guitar and a quick riff.  The middle has some funky weird jam stuff

“King of Nothing” is a slow, almost ponderous song (except that Dude’s voice is more goofy than deep).

Since Pollak contributed much to Phish’s early silliness it’s not surprising that these songs are rather silly too.  But the band plays really well and holds it all together.

[READ: November 14, 2016] Stone Animals

Back in 2014, I ordered all 16 books from Madras Press. believing that I’d been told about a cool gem of a publisher.  And I had been. Unfortunately, after publishing the 16 books they seem to have gone out of business or so. They still have a web presence where you can buy remaining copies of books.  But what a great business idea this is/was

Madras Press publishes limited-edition short stories and novella-length booklets and distributes the proceeds to a growing list of non-profit organizations chosen by our authors.  The format of our books provides readers with the opportunity to experience stories on their own, with no advertisements or miscellaneous stuff surrounding them.

The format is a 5″ x 5″ square books that easily fit into a pocket.

Proceeds from Link’s book go to The Fistula Foundation.

Many of the books from Madras Press have been unusual–some of them downright surreal.  And this book, which finished up series 3, is no exception.

I started to read this when I was on a camping trip–I was tired and exhausted from a long day, and I genuinely thought I was having lack of concentration issues because this story didn’t really seem logical.  When I read it again in the light of day, it still didn’t exactly seem logical, but I was able to follow it a little better.

The story follows a family–husband and wife and two kids.  They are moving from New York City to the suburbs.  The house that they are purchasing has two giant stone rabbits on the front porch.  The children’s don’t want to leave the city exactly but the adults are pleased with the house. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: SURFER BLOOD-Tarot Classics (2012).

I really enjoyed Surfer Blood’s debut album.  This EP is a little stopgap until the next one. Although the sound is unmistakably Surfer Blood–poppy hooks and a very recognizable singing voice, the band sounds a little bit different here.  They haven’t lost any of their catchiness–there may be even more on the opener, “I’m Not Ready” (who doesn’t love when the guitar and vocals match each other?)  “Miranda” has that fun thumping chorus that is always fun to sing along to.

“Voyager Reprise” moves away from the surf-styled songs of their debut into an alt-rock of the 90s sound–when guitars were noisy (until they were quiet for a bit) and guitar solos happened between verses instead of as the third verse.  And “Drinking Problem” has a kind of early Depeche Mode (in vocals, not synths) feel–quite a departure from their debut.

In the way of EPs, the final two songs are remixes.  I’ve never been a fan or remixes and these don’t do much for me, but i do wonder if they will have any impact on their future sound.

[READ: June 14, 2012] “Olds Rocket 88, 1950”

All this time I thought there were only five of these short essays in this sci-fi issue of the New Yorker.  And yet tucked away near the back was the sixth one by William Gibson, a pioneer in science fiction.

Gibson’s recollection is of being a child and having everything seem like science fiction–something that is notably absent these days.  Like the chrome trim on his father’s Oldsmobile Rocket 88, the prevalence of spacemen and space-themed ideas everywhere.  Even the word Tomorrow was capitalized.

Then he recounts a personal incident.  He got in trouble with his parents for arguing with an Air Force man.  The man said space travel would never happen. But Gibson knew it would.  How could it not?  And science fiction shaped this worldview.  Not that he believed the stories would come true, but that his entire mindset was that in the future “things might be different…and different in literally any way you could imagine, however radical.”

What a wonderfully freeing notion.  To me, this sort of future-looking lifestyle accounted for the unprecedented achievements of post 1950 America.  Now that we no longer think of tomorrow with a capital T, we don’t seem as enchanted by the future.  Perhaps it was a naive outlook, but you need a certain degree of naiveté if you hope to do anything radically new.

Gibson ties in the sci-fi books he bought for a dollar to other fantasists: J.G. Ballard, Ursula K. Le Guin, Michael Moorcock, and how these thinkers weren’t all that far off from the likes of Kerouac and William S. Burroughs.  And he believes that without science fiction, he might not have been interested in what these other radical writers had to say.

It’s a short piece, but it really made me wish for more chrome and space-age technology in our lives–when people weren’t afraid to dram big.

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SOUNDTRACK: TARKIO-Live on KGBA (from Omnibus) (1998).

Tarkio released an album called Live on KGBA in 1998.  Omnibus collects 4 songs from that release (according to various websites, the other tracks include “Kickaround” “Neapolitan Bridesmaid” “Helena Won’t Get Stoned” “Caroline Avenue” and “Candle”  (from the I Guess… album) “Weight of the World” (from Sea Songs) and “Whipping Boy” (the only song that’s not elsewhere on Omnibus).  This live record was distributed in some fashion way back when and there are copies floating around the internet.  I’m not willing to risk a virus by clicking on these links though, so I’ll stick with the few tracks on Omnibus.

The sound is excellent, and the full collection would no doubt be a welcome addition to anyone’s Tarkio fandom.

“Carrie” has a very Neil Young feel, from the rough acoustic guitars to the aggressive strumming technique.  It doesn’t sound like any Neil Young song in particular but you can imagine Neil looking on and smiling.  Even the solo is kind of Neil-ish (electric guitar over the acoustic main song).  “Am I Not Right?” sounds like a newer Decemberists song—there’s some very cool abrasive chords at the chorus “Knowledge!”  “Mess of Me” is a boppy acoustic number that’s fun to sing along to.  It opens kind of like the Decemberists song “The Infanta” but quickly turns into something else entirely.  “Goodbye Girl” is a cover of the Squeeze song done with a dominant banjo.  Although it lacks the original’s punch, it works well as a folk number.

[READ: June 5, 2012] “The Golden Age”

I feel like I’ve really been missing out by not reading any Le Guin.  The more I read from her now, the more I feel like I should be dropping everything and reading her output.  And I will read at least some of Earthsea eventually.

But in the meantime, I can enjoy pieces like this.  She talks about how science fiction has never really been considered “literature” and how it’s always been relegated to the genre ghetto.  Be that as it may, she’s also disappointed when science fiction writers try to deny their ghetto by saying, “Pay no attention to the spaceships…[this] is Literature.”  She thanks Michael Chabon for smashing down at least some of the ghetto walls.

Which allows her to look back at the past and the early Science Fiction Writers of America conventions.  She remembers the fun talk and open mindedness—except for a notable few who were deeply conservative, a surprise for a group of men who were supposed to be looking forward, not back.  And yes…men.  There were very few women sci-fi writers back in the fifties (in “The Golden Age”).  Indeed one SFWA member wanted to create a members-only necktie! (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: PHISH-Live Bait, Vol 1 (2010).

This first Live Bait release contained songs from Phish’s 2010 tour.  It was a good way to see how the band sounded these days and, as the title suggests, it was a good way to bait the fans into buying full shows.  The sampler covers shows from NJ, NY, GA and MA and it runs about 80 minutes.

Although it features primarily older tracks (a great version of “Tweezer” and a lengthy “Slave to the Traffic Light”) it also includes my first exposure to a live version of one of their new songs: “Backwards Down the Number Line.”  It also contains “Show of Life” a song that’s really a Trey Anastasio solo song–although frankly it doesn’t sound any different from a Phish song here.

The band sounds great–the hiatus did them wonders and it’s an auspicious beginning to a whole bunch of free music.

[READ: September 25, 2011] 3 Book Reviews

When I first discovered that Zadie was going to be writing the New Books column at Harper’s I deliberated about whether or not to write about each one here.  I mean, first off, it’s book reviews, how much can you say about someone else’s book reviews?  But second off, would I be writing about her reviews forever?  I mean, it’s a monthly column, it would be exhausting.

Well, it was exhausting–for her anyhow.  At the end of the column she admits that she can’t keep up the schedule (and frankly, reading that many books a month would be exhausting for me, but she’s also trying to write a novel, teach classes and “bring up a kid.”)  So this is her last one.  She had a pretty decent run from March-October 2011.

And she ends unexpectedly (for me anyhow) by talking about science fiction! (more…)

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LoveLettersSMSOUNDTRACK: SONIC YOUTH-SYR 7: J’accuse Ted Hughes/Agnès B Musique (2008).

syr7The first side of the disc (for it was only released on vinyl) is a ballsy blast of music.  Ballsy because it was the opening track of their live set at the All Tomorrow’s Parties festival in 2000.  And who opens up their set at a festival that features bands like Super Furry Animals, Sigur Rós, and Stereolab (basically a who’s who in awesome Brit-rock) with this 22 minute shriek of noise?

The set was so derisively received that the cover of the NME (hilariously reproduced on the cover of the LP) stated “Goodbye 20th Century, Goodbye Talent.”

The noise is palpable: squeals and squalls and all manner of feedback.  Kim even gets a strange little spoken word section in the middle.  I would think fans might have enjoyed it for 5, maybe even 10 minutes, but by 23 it’s pretty numbing.  The rest of the set included instrumentals from the not yet released NYC Ghosts and Flowers.  It almost seems like the set was payback for the invitation.

The B-side is an 18 minute “soundtrack” of sorts.  Agnes B. is a French clothing designer and yet somehow the music feels like it could be for some scary kids’ movie.  It has a number of creepy elements to it.  I kept picturing people sneaking around a little cottage.

The liner notes are written in Arpitan, a steadily-declining-in-use language spoken mostly in Italy and Switzerland.

Not for the faint of heart (or the vinylphobic).

[READ: August 31, 2009] Four Letter Word

I read about this book in The Walrus and then I ordered it from Amazon.ca as it doesn’t seem to be available in the US.

The book is a collection of “love letters.”  What is so very interesting about the collection is the varied nature of the letters themselves.  It’s not just: “I love you XOXO” (of course).   There are letters to mothers, stepmothers, mountains, and the Earth itself.  There are letters of love, lust, anger and respect.

I was most attracted to the book by the great list of authors, some of whom I read religiously and many others whom I just really like (and of course a bunch who I’ve never heard of).

It’s hard to review a collection of short stories that is as varied as this, especially when the pieces are this short (as most of them are).  And, I guess technically, they aren’t even short stories.  They are just letters. I would never base my opinion of these authors from this work.  Although some of the authors that I know well definitely retain their signature style.  There were only one or two letters that I didn’t enjoy, but for the most part the entire collection is very good.  And if you like any of these authors, it’s worth checking out.

I’m going to list all of the authors, mention who the letter is to, and any other salient features (without trying to give anything away–several letters have a surprise in them)! (more…)

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