Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Woody Allen’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: NEGATIVLAND-No Other Possibility (1989).

In the year that Helter Stupid came out, Negativland released this one hour video.  It is a visual approximation of a Negativland album.  Lots of cuts, lots of snippets of ads and songs and news broadcasts.  It’s mostly nonsense with some reality and some things that may or may not be reality.  Who knows?

It opens with a critical diatribe that scrolls over a test pattern.  The diatribe by Crosley Bendix criticizes everything that is (correctly) poor about the video and making up other things–the death of a stuntman.

After the opening credits, the video opens with David Willis’ mother watching TV.  On the screen is a clip from Dick Vaughn and his Jack-O-Lantern (more below).  Then she asks David for her cigarettes and the song from A Big Ten 8 Place is acted out hilariously.

After some clips from video games and a commercial for Marlboro, there’s a video for “Nesbitt’s Lime Soda Song.”  When the bee comes into the song, it turns into clips of David filming his family talking about bees and more (like his grandma looking in the fridge for potato chips which makes David laugh).

Change channels until The Dick Vaughn Show comes on and he brings out David Willis to light up a Jack-O-Lantern with 700 volts.

After a commercial from ZOTOS and Nation Hairdressers and Cosmetologists Association that tells women they have to look their best in order to get a job.  “Appearance and good grooming are essential.”

Then it’s time for Trick or Treat with David Willis who is dressed as E.T.

He talks about Halloween safety with 5 hand drawn posters.

  1. no fresh fruit–nails razors
  2. looks for holes or tears in wrappers–inject chemicals
  3. avoid homemade treats
  4. avoid weird, strange-looking people.
  5. if you bob for apples make sure your partners are not sick

Then some explosions with cars flipping.  A small video slowly evolves revealing a live performance of David singing the “Very Stupid” song from 10-8.   It is noisier and rocks pretty hard while David yells the lyrics: “1, 2, stupid ; 3, 4 dumb.”  The version slowly comes into focus as David roams the audience.  he even adds new lyrics: “1,2 urinate ; 3, 4 defecate ; 5, 6 fornicate ; 7, 8  seat be sate!”

After a text: “Earlier that same evening,” a car drives into the building under a scroll from Dick Goodbody raving about this beauty, “her name is Monarch Mercury Monarch.”

Followed by a commercial for the Monarch.

Then there’s a video clip of the fire in the Negativland recording building (which I think is true?).  They interview Mark Hosler who grabbed master tapes and studio equipment.  He tours the burned out building.

Then there’s interstitial questions of what people think about TV.

  • An old man complaining about sex on TV.
  • Teenage girls saying they like soap operas because of the sex.
  • A guy saying TV would be improved if they quit showing so many commercials.

Up next is Crosley Bendix (“Director, Stylistic Premonitions” played by Don Joyce) of the Universal Media Netweb has an insane piece about numerology, at the end of which he cries, “Thanks a million!

  • MTV has fine guys on it

Then comes Negativland “Fire Song” with Mark singing in the burnt house.

A series of ads for canned foods: tomatoes, grapes, yams, dog food over a muzak version of “Age of Aquarius.”

Then comes the religion portion of the show.  Another diatribe by Crosley Bendix complains of people always searching for more intense entertainment.  Since Jesus’s time.  In fact, The Last Supper is the crucial link-up of food and show business.

Then comes more live scenes of some crazy music and kids walking around in costumes who start shouting about ice cream and other food.

  • I don’t watch religious TV because I have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

Clips of preachers and then Pastor Dick comes out,

He tells some dad jokes like asking for coffee without cream and the waitress saying “you’ll have to have coffee without milk because we are out of cream.”

He brings out a racist ventriloquist dummy Enrico Gomez.  Then has everyone sing along with the Christian Youth Fellowship song from the album How Do You Spell Joy?

He has a Stop sign and asks everyone to clap along. Stop! [clap clap] And let me tell you what the Lord has done do me.  When he turns around the sign is a hand written note “fuck you pastor dick.”

Then comes the 5 eyewitness news team featuring Hal Eisner, with the video of the audio used in side one of the album Helter Stupid.  Don Joyce is interviewed.

As the video ends, there’s one more guy that they interview.  He says

TV is gonna make me famous one day.  When the interviewer asks how, the guy says

“you gotta know how to exploit the media.”

Was he a plant?  Who knows.  There is no other possibility, godammit.

Watch the whole video here.

[READ: April 25, 2019] “Attention Geniuses: Cash Only”

Woody Allen doesn’t seem to write much for the New Yorker these days.  I’ve found over the years that I rather like some of his New Yorker jokes and then others are just ho-hum.  Of all of the short “funny” pieces in the New Yorker, Woody tends to be able to pull off three pages better than others.

Although this one drags and often come across as an excuse to throw out pretentious references.

And yet he’s got some great turns of phrase:

Jogging along Fifth Avenue last summer as part of a fitness program designed to reduce my life expectancy to that of a nineteenth century coal miner

(more…)

Read Full Post »

SOUNDTRACK: WHITEHORSE-Live at Massey Hall (December 8, 2017).

I saw Whitehorse open for Barenaked Ladies a few years ago and they blew me away.  I really want to see them again.

When I saw them it was just the two of them and the magic of their interplay was what really impressed me the most.  For this special Massey Hall show, they have a full band.  But as Melissa McClelland explains:

This is the first time playing the Massey stage with a full band.  We wanted to … finally invite some friends on stage with us and play music.

Those friends include John Obereian on drums, Ryan Gavel on bass, guitar and backing vocals and on keys and bongos and guitar, the second best singer in this band Gregory MacDonald.  He replies, “Thanks to the second best guitar player in the band.”  I have seen MacDonald on tour with Sloan a bunch of times and he is awesome.

As to why they are a duo, she says

we knew that Whitehorse was always going to be just the two of us and that everyone would know that we are equal partners in the band.  But we didn’t want it to be a folk duo so we started brainstorming and bought looping pedals and a kick drum and a stomp box and we  found new arrangements and once we got it we were like Yeah!

The show opens with hand clapping from the band and the audience and then Melissa’s slinky bass intro to “Baby Whats Wrong.  Then comes Luke Doucet’s echoing Western guitar. Their voices are wonderful together and I love when Doucet sings in that weird telephone microphone.  He also plays a ripping guitar solo.

Luke introduces “Tame as the Wild Ones” by saying they needed to write a sexy song so “Melissa kicked me out and said she’d do it alone.  I go to the bar to get drunk and when I come home, she plays me this song.  And nine months later our son Jimmy was born.”  I love the way the bridge (or is it a chorus) builds and settles–that melody is just gorgeous.

“Pink Kimono” has a simple rocking riff and the two singers singing at the same time.   Doucet’s soloing is on fire in this song.

“Die Alone” is a showstopper.  A slow moody piece in which Melissa sings over a wash of synths.  The music so much build as just unfold as first Luke sings with her and then the band kicks in.  Wow can Melissa belt out a song.

“Downtown” is a celebration of how you can put hundreds of thousands of people in a city and for the most part everyone gets along.  It s got a great throbbing bass and some cool guitar scratching and riffs from Doucet.  It’s a bummer that they interrupt the awesome middle solo section with an interview, even if it is quite interesting.

After Melissa lays out how they wanted the band to sound, Luke says that when people ask him about what it’s like to do Whitehorse, he says

we were solo artists first but we had been involved with each others albums as singer or producer  or touring musician.

So in order to be successful

you have to hang out together for five or six years and play in each others bands and make eight albums together and then you have to go on tour as freelance/hired gun musicians working for Blue Rodeo or Sarah McLachlan and then you have to live together for five or six years and listen to music together and fight and then you have to get married and once you’ve done all these things and listened to 10,000 hours of music and dissected Tom Waits entire catalog and argued about which is the best Beatles record and had fights on stage about who is speeding up or slowing down and once you’ve done all those things together then start a band.

It certainly worked for them.  The only bad thing about this show is that it’s only 30 minutes.

[READ: January 24, 2019] Hits & Misses

It has been a while since Simon Rich published a collection of his stories.  This one was pretty enjoyable.  Overall, not as much fun as some of his previous collections, but still a lot to laugh at.  Rich tends to write what he knows, which is often a very good sign.  However, sometimes what he knows is limited to writing and filming, which tends to miss the everyman silliness of his earlier pieces.

Having said that there are still some hilarious pieces that anyone can enjoy and some pieces about writers that are very funny.

A few of these pieces appeared in the New Yorker, and I indicate as much, with a link to my longer review.

“The Baby.”  This was a highlight.  A sonogram reveals that their baby is holding a pen–he is going to be a writer!  But when word gets out that the baby is already getting a reputation AND representation, well, that baby’s writer father is pretty damned jealous.  Wonderful absurdity based on reality taken to its extremes. (more…)

Read Full Post »

tny 5.26.08 cvr.indd SOUNDTRACK: KEVIN MORBY-Tiny Desk Concert #554 (August 1, 2016).

morby

I didn’t know Kevin Morby before listening to this concert.  He was in two bands that I’ve also never heard of: Woods and The Babies.

Morby plays a kind of smooth folk (but somehow not really folky because the low end feels a bit more rocking).  I found at least the song “Dorothy” to be kind of like Lou Reed–same style of delivery and groove, but on an acoustic guitar (and sounding far less like a disaffected New Yorker).

He plays three songs and his band consists of a drummer a bassist and a lead guitarist.  He sings and plays acoustic guitar.

“Cut Me Down” is a mostly acoustic-feeling song (you can barely hear the electric guitar).  He even takes the few leads that are there.  The song has  some good dramatic pauses, and then about half way through, it shifts to a new melody–the bassist and the electric guitar playing similarly high notes.

“Dorothy” is a much more interesting song to me.  Even if I do feel lit sounds bit like Lour Reed.  It’s on this song that guitarist Meg Duffy shines more.  Her guitar has a cool echo effect on it.  And while she’s not playing loud or hard, she’s got a cool sound, especially when she plays lead.  On this song her lead guitar “substitutes” for other instruments.  He sings that he could “get that piano” or “that trumpet” to play something like… and she gives a little solo (I particularly like the “trumpet” one).  She also gets a chill proper  solo.

But it’s the final song, “I Have Been to the Mountain” which is the most dramatic and interesting.  In addition to the minor keys chords he plays, the bass comes in with a cool riff.  And the chorus is intense.  With good reason.  The song is about the 2014 chokehold death of Eric Garner at the hands of a New York City police officer:

 That man lived in this town / Till that pig took him down / And have you heard the sound / Of a man stop breathing, pleading?

But it’s not overstated or melodramatic.  And Meg gets a cool solo in the middle as well.

[READ: February 23, 2016] “Over, Around, and Through, Your Highness”

I have gotten to the point where I pretty much don’t even read the New Yorker’s Shouts & Murmurs column anymore.  Most of the pieces are an extended joke that could best be summed up by a few paragraphs rather than a whole page.  But there are some authors who I will always give time to and Woody Allen is one of them.

His short funny pieces are not musings on a joke, they are actual stories that develop and usually reflect back on themselves by the end.

This piece opens with a movie producer bemoaning the state of things.  In typical Woody Allen fashion, he plays with pop culture, talking about the latest film “Mourning Becomes Electra on Ice.” He notes that if he’s not careful his next job will be an easy one in which he answers the questions “Did you work last week?  Did you look for work?” (more…)

Read Full Post »

CV1_TNY_08_05_13Cuneo.inddSOUNDTRACK: AMANDA PALMER-Amanda Palmer Performs the Popular Hits of Radiohead on Her Magical Ukulele (EP) (2010).

palmerradioAmanda Palmer made an album of Radiohead covers ,as the title says, on her magical ukulele.

I love the retro cover (and the way Radiohead is written).  It looks like a kitschy piece of nonsense.  And yet, contrary to appearance, it is actually a very respectful and very enjoyable collection of covers.  Despite the title, the album is not simply her on a ukulele, but the uke is the main instrument on most of the tracks, and it works surprisingly well to convey Radiohead’s particular brand of angst.  And one nice thing is that I now know a lot more words to the songs.

“Fake Plastic Trees” is done entirely on ukulele, which works well as the original is quite stripped down.  The ukulele gives it the appropriate kind of mournful angst.  “High and Dry” adds a piano—just a simple one note backing sound in the beginning, but which contributes greatly to the song.  Palmer sounds a lot like Aimee Mann here—understated and untheatrical–she has a lovely voice.

“No Surprises” is a song that starts simply so the ukuleles is well suited to it.  As with the original , the song builds, but much more simply here, with a pretty piano melody.  And her overdubbed voice works very well at the end.

“Idioteque” is absolutely great—she really captures the angst of the song and the ukulele in no way makes it a novelty—probably because the song is full of piano and great percussion.  The fact that the original is so techie and her version is so analog and yet it sounds this good is really a testament to Palmer’s transcribing skills.

“Creep” is done only on ukulele but the real instrument is her voice—where she manhandles the melody and whips it to all her needs—it’s a bravura  performance.  “Creep” live (a bonus digital version) is a bit more dynamic than the studio version as she plays off the audience.  And man she really shows off her voice at the end.

“Exit Music for a Film” opens on piano.  And adds strings. And adds more and more (allowing Palmer to exhibit her inner showwoman to really wail on the song).  Indeed, despite the title of the album, there is no ukulele on this track at all.  And while that may be cheating, this version really sounds great.

Palmer continues to impress me, although as I said last time, I’m still not sure what her real music sounds like.

[READ: August 7, 2013] “O.K., Glass”

Gary Shteyngart was one of the first 100 New Yorkers to get to test drive Google Glass (you had to tweet why you wanted it and then pay $1,500).  I was interested to read this because I like Shteyngart anyhow, but when I saw the reason why he wanted Glass—because his novel Super Sad True Love Story deals with people using a similar technology and he wanted to have a sense of what it would be like to use one for the upcoming movie version—I was even more intrigued.  (I read an excerpt in The New Yorker and I remember that funny device—the äppärät being mind-bogglingly futuristic.  I really need to read the novel before it becomes even less mind bending.

So he wears it out into New York.  (He was supposed to wear it only about an hour a day but he was totally hooked and wore them all the time).  And mostly he talks about how weird it is to have people (young people) approach him to talk about Glass.  People are even taking pictures of him!  He’s like a celebrity!

And of course he gets down to details—you twitch your head (what I imagine as the clicking of a mouse with your temple) to activate windows.  There’s a scroll bar type thing on the temple of the glasses.  But mostly you interact with it by saying “O.K., Glass” and then telling it what you want to do. (more…)

Read Full Post »

CV1_TNY_08_05_13Cuneo.inddSOUNDTRACK: BARENAKED LADIES-Stop Us If You’ve Heard This One Before (2011).

stopThis is a “rarities” collection that was originally to be released as part of their released at the same time greatest hits.  I put rarities in quotes because the collection is actually rather disappointing–there are a lot of unreleased tracks, but they are primarily demos of more recent songs which don’t sound all that different from the actual recorded versions.  There are a few live tracks (the best thing on here) and one or two otherwise unreleased tracks–but not the unreleased tracks that came on that greatest hits record (Disc One).

“I Don’t Get It Anymore” is the only track on the disc that didn’t get a more formal release elsewhere (except for one obvious exception).  It is a slow ballad type song—the kind that BNL had been heading more towards as they matured. It’s a good, solid song and the combination of Page and Robertson makes this song always enjoyable.

“Yes! Yes!! Yes!!!” was released as a B-side (although this is said to be a “Stereo Mix” whatever that means).  “Half a Heart” was re-recorded for Are Men.

That leaves some demos and here’s where most of my complaints lie, for two different reasons.  “The Old Apartment” is nice to hear but it is an acoustic guitar version done solely by Page.  It’s also clearly an early version, because it lacks all of the oomph that makes the final product so good.  I know it’s a demo, but some demos are better than other.  The other bummer demo parts are actually too close to the final product.  “Second Best” eventually appeared on Everything to Everyone, this is a demo version  “I Can I Will I Do” is a demo that appeared on Are Me.  “Adrift” is a pretty, string-filled version of the song from Are Men.  The sad thing is I can’t tell what’s different about them.  The final demo “Long While” is a song that never appeared elsewhere (but would likely have appeared on Everything.  It sounds finalized and not like a demo and it, along with the first song are nice new tracks for fans.

There’s a remix of “One Week” which has been released already and which is frankly pretty boring.  It’s got a few extra lines sampled and a few extra sounds, but otherwise not all that different from the original.

That leaves the lives songs, which, as I said, are a treat.  “The Same Thing” is a very enjoyable live version.  The strange thing about that live song is that the crowd seems absolutely wild—full of screaming young girls.  It sounds a little phony given the BNL shows I’ve been to (were they that huge in 1992/93).  But those same cheers are on “Teenage Wasteland” a song which has not been elsewhere.  The intro to the song is very funny and the song itself is really good.  Shame it didn’t get an official recording.

The final track is the huge highlight though.  It’s a faithful cover of the Beastie Boys’ “Shake Your Rump.”  It is fun and surprisingly right on.  This recording comes from Santa Maria Hilton on 10/13/1994–they played this song a lot during that tour.

Those few highlights aside, this collection a pretty big disappointment.  BNL has some great stuff in their archives (including all of their earlier tapes that deserve a proper release).  Are the Ladies to mature to release this old stuff?  Let’s hope not.  It’s been 20 years after all.

[READ: August 7, 2013] “Now Where Did I Leave that Oxygen Tank”

I have been disappointed with a lot of Shouts and Murmurs lately—many feel like a one note joke that goes on and on.  And so I’ve gotten to the point where I read the first paragraph, determine if it’s going to be funny and more of ten than not, just skip it.  Short, humorous pieces take many shapes, and many people can do wonders in this format (Simon Rich springs to mind because her brings in a dozen different ideas in one piece).  Woody Allen is another for very different reasons.  He knows how to write short comic pieces that are a story unto themselves and which end up being very satisfying.

And this is a very good one, despite the somewhat unpromising title (and illustration which gives a bit away).

And yet, how’s this for a great opening that is ultimately full of misdirection:  “How my wife was able to transmute the ingredients of an award-winning recipe for chocolate brownies into twelve perfect squares of granite was a feat that only medieval alchemists could appreciate.”  The man ate the brownie and is in the dentist’s office.  Where he reads about patients getting things stitched up in them after surgery (6000 a year the USA Today says).

A lot of writers like to throw in absurdities, but to my ear absurdity either works great or falls flat.   Allen’s works great.  His protagonist is a playwright.  And his complaint is that a critic compared his recent play “to typhus.”  Outstanding joke.  The playwright has suffered from writer’s block, but now he seizes upon the lost items tidbit and works though a new play. (more…)

Read Full Post »

dreadSOUNDTRACK: PIÑATA PROTEST-El Valiente (2013).

elvaliente-frontrgbOn the Pogues album If I Should Fall from Grace with God, they sing a song called “Fiesta” that is more or less a punk Spanish song which, while very Spanish sounding, still retains a feeling of Irishness.  Piñata Protest, a band from San Antonio who sing in Spanish and English, sounds like a similar mix of Mexico, Ireland and punk (especially on the second track, “Vato Perron”).  I feel like the Ireland comes from the accordion (one of the primary instruments on the disc), while the punk lasts throughout (the whole album is 9 songs in 20 minutes).

The band plays loud guitars at a fast pace.  And it’s amazing how well the accordion brings it all together.

The band sings a few really fast songs and a couple slower ones.  Interestingly, the slower songs (“Tomorrow Today” and “Guadalupe”) are probably the most conventional and, consequentially, of the least interesting songs on the album.  They sound like pretty typical punk pop, albeit with touches of accordion.  It’s the more fast songs like “Vato Perron” and “Life on the Border” (with the great lead accordion and the fun “Hey!” refrain) which really stand out.

“Volver Volver” is a traditional song which starts out slowly (with big guitars) and after a few verses and a very long held note, the punk can’t be contained any longer and the song ends in a blur.  The title track is a great rocker with some interesting guitar sounds an a cool accordion solo.  Then there;s the rocking (and amusing) cover of “La Cucaracha.”  It starts out as a blistering punk song with no real connection to the original until about mid way through when a lone trumpet begins laying the familiar melody.  It’s only a minute long and so is the final cut “Que Pedo” which is just a blistering punk song with lots of screaming.

And with that album is done.  It’s a fun an unexpected treat of an album, and if you like your punk musically diverse, it’s worth checking out (NPR is streaming it this week).

[READ: May 11, 2013] Dread & Superficiality

Sarah got me this book for my birthday.  If you have ever seen Annie Hall (and if you haven’t, go watch it now), you’ve seen Woody-as-cartoon.  Hample is the person who created the cartoon for the movie.  Around the time that that happened, Hample was pushing Woody to have a comic strip based around him (Hample had a moderately successful strip at the time already) and also convincing newspapers that this was a good idea.  All parties agreed and Inside Woody Allen ran from 1976 to 1984.  1984!  I can’t believe I never saw this in a newspaper.  My parents were daily subscribers to two newspapers and I know I read the comics.  Of course, I didn’t care about Woody Allen until I went to college, so maybe I did see it but ignored it.

Anyhow, this book collects a bunch of those strips (I have no idea how many but I would venture around 200–which is a far cry from the nearly 3,000 that would have been produced over those years.  But hey since there’s no other place to see these strips (there were three books published but they are all long out of print), this is a good place to start and a nice collection.  But more than just the strips, most of the book collects the original proofs of the strips, so you can see Hample’s lines and notes (there are several pieces that deal with his color choices and notes on the same).

The book is broken down into subjects and is in no way chronological.  This makes sense as it’s good to see him dealing with the same topic in different ways, but it makes for weird continuity issues (something that will obviously occur when you only select random strips).  Woody is with various women over the strip and it’s hard to know if he was after Laura for a few months or the duration of the strip.  Of course, the sections aren’t really all that different–they all deal with Allen’s philosophical attitude, his attempts to woo women, his therapist and his parents.  However, the breakdowns, while somewhat arbitrary are enjoyable. (more…)

Read Full Post »

SOUNDTRACK: SHARON VAN ETTEN-“Don’t Do It” (2010).

This song is available from NPR’s All Songs Considered.  I’d never heard of Sharon Van Etten before, so I didn’t know what to expect.  And this was a great way to learn about someone new (to me) and to find a song that I fell in love with.

This is a dreamy kind of track, sort of like later period Cocteau Twins, but less ethereal.  And I have to say on first listen I was really blown away because what starts as a simple song really blossoms into a full blow epic.

The song isn’t staggeringly original, by which I mean I can hear many precedents in the song (Throwing Muses, perhaps, but again, not as extreme).  And yet, she takes this template and really makes it shine in her own way.  This song is layered and textured with more depth of sound coming on each verse.  And it feels like by around the third minute or so, you’re totally caught up in the song.

On further listens, that effect is still there.  It’s very subtle, but really effective.  And I keep getting sucked right in.  I’ll definitely check out her full length, Epic.

[READ: October 20, 2010] “Peep Show”

This was the final story of the 1999 New Yorker 20 Under 40 collection that I read (there’s one more after this, but I read them out of order).  The excerpt in the main issue was intriguing but very short and the whole story blew my mind with its unexpected surrealism.

Allen Fein, a man with his shit together, trips over a curb on his way to Port Authority.  It throws off his stride and his whole day.   When he straightens up, he looks up to see a barker offering peep shows for 25 cents.  Fein had been to a peeps how once before as a teen, and he sort of thinks that his day is a mess anyhow, so why not.

When he goes in, things are not as the were when he was a kid.  In fact, the glass that usually keeps peeper from peepee is removed, and the first word that the woman says when the door goes up is “Touch.”  And Allen finds himself in a weird position, especially when he touches the woman and his erection won’t subside. (more…)

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »