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Archive for the ‘Opus’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: THE ENFIELD TENNIS ACADEMY-The Dark (2017).

The Enfield Tennis Academy is one of the major locations in David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest.  So, of course, a band that names itself after it must be listened to.

This is the second release by the band (which states “The Enfield Tennis Academy is TR.”

The Dark is described as

This EP is a collection of remixes and covers of Bruce Springsteen’s “Dancing in the Dark”, from the 1984 album “Born in the U.S.A.” It is not ironic. “Dancing in the Dark” is © Bruce Springsteen and Columbia.

And that is literally what this is. Five tracks that rethink “Dancing in the Dark” each one called “Dancing in the Dark.”

Track 1 opens with someone doing a kind of Elvis impersonation (or is it actually Bruce?) of the first line of the song: I get up in the evening…”  It then gets echoed and looped on itself until it is inaudible.  After a minute a guitar comes in strumming music backwards, I believe.  The big takeaway is the rolling “I” repeated over and over.  After 1:30 there’s a rather pretty sax solo. which may be from the song, I don’t know it that well.

Track 2 is an ambient piece with electronic claps and a kind of slow almost pixelated pipe organ version of the main melody of the song.  There’s some of those 80s processed “ahhhhs” added to the end.  It would eerily make you think of the song without knowing exactly why.

Track 3 is a noisy track.  Electronic drums played very rapidly and then some glitchy guitars playing the melody in triple time.  It is the least recognizable of the five pieces.

Track 4 is a fingers-on-chalkboard electronic screech with what I assume is the song played in reverse.  It’s a tough minute before the noise clicks away and we’re left with the backwards vocals.  If you didn’t know it was “Dancer in the Dark” you might not recognize the melody but if you do, you can kind of hear it.

Track 5 plays the original song in the middle ear. But in the left ear is another song (as if the radio was staticky and in the right ear is another even louder song.  But Bruce is squarely in the middle.  It’s pretty disconcerting.  Ultimately, the left ear gives way to people talking and the right ear reveals itself to be “You Make Me Feel Like a Natural Woman.”  It fades and for about ten seconds during which you can hear pretty much only the Bruce song, but then it all falls apart into glitchy noise.

The longest track is 2:15; the rest are about 2 minutes.  No one will say this disc is enjoyable, but it is kind of ugly fun.

[READ: January 30, 2017] Liō ‘s Astonishing Tales from the Haunted Crypt of Unknown Horrors

I have observed before about the maddening publication life of Liō books.  It’s going on four years since a new collection has been published.

But at the same time there are a number of books that cover the same territory.  Like this one.

This book collects “Liō” (which I take to mean Happiness is a Warm Cephalopod) and Silent But Deadly.  But what puts this book head and shoulders above the others (and just about any other collection of any series) is that it is almost completely annotated.

I didn’t compare the two books to see if all of the strips were indeed included.  But I’ll assume that claim is true.

Tatulli doesn’t comment on every strip but he does on a lot of them.  Like the very first one (in which he criticizes his–admittedly horrible-looking–spider.

He has at least three comments about what a genius Charles Schulz was.  Including the first time he tried to draw Lucy and Charlie: “I wanted to use the retro 1950s Peanuts look, but it was a bitch to reproduce…Schulz just make it look so simple.”

He’s also very critical of his drawing style of Mary Worth: “I won’t even tell you how embarrassingly long it took to make this lousy copy.” (more…)

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opusSOUNDTRACK: FRANK ZAPPA-Baby Snakes [the movie & soundtrack] (1979).

babyThis is sort of a review of the soundtrack album to Baby Snakes, but really it’s a review of the film, which I just watched over the last 4 days.  Baby Snakes (A Movie About People Who Do Stuff That is Not Normal) was not as depraved as the subtitle (and the history of Zappa) would lead you to believe.  In fact, primarily it is a concert film.  There are a bunch of other things in the film as well, but easily 3/4 is a live Halloween concert in New York City.

More on that in a moment.

In today’s market, the other parts of the film would simply be packaged as bonus features on a DVD.  The claymation and subsequent interview with the artist Bruce Bickford would be a (somewhat) interesting short film, and a lot of the behind the scenes footage would also go well as a bonus attachment to the concert.

But I won’t get ahead of myself.  The claymation sequences are, frankly, amazing to watch.  There’s a clip on YouTube of Frank on the Mike Douglas Show (which is a trippy/weird thing to watch in and of itself) in which he shows an example of the claymation from the film and from elsewhere. Unlike the amazing work of Aardman on Wallace and Gromit, Bickford’s work is not polished.  However, each new image slowly morphs into the next in a series of mindblowing sequences…there are scenes of sex and violence and driving and mountains and flowers, and naughty bits and vomiting and you name it.  It is the most stream-of-consciousness looking visuals I may have ever seen.

During the sequences, Frank interviews Bickford.  The interview is pretty long, and it sounds like Bickford may be completely stoned. I tuned out a lot of what he was saying.

The backstage footage is the kind of sillydebauchery that you imagine happens back stage: there’s a blow up sex doll, there’s most of the band members telling little stories about what’s going on and there’s Adrian Belew dressing in drag.  But again, the editing is not great, and the footage is just sort of randomly inserted…the worst part is when Adrian Belew is actually talking OVER the Frank and the Devil negotiation during “Titties and Beer.”  Boo!

So, both of these segments could have worked very nicely as their own short films, rather than being inserted into this longer piece.  In fact, the haphazardness of the proceedings seems even worse when you realize that they are no longer inserted into the film after about the two hour mark: the last stretch of the concert is interruption free.  The problem is that the whole film is nearly three hours long, and since he intersperses these interviews/animations in between live footage, watching five or ten minutes of animation feels disjointed (overall, the editing leaves something to be desired)

The live footage, however, is pretty amazing.  Watching Terry Bozzio beat the crap out of the drums while singing/narrating is pretty fantastic.  And Andrian Belew is amazing to watch at any time. It’s also fun to see the percussionist going nuts on what must be a hundred different instruments (including the ever-present Zappa Xylophone.)

But clearly the highlight is watching Zappa.  Zappa conducts a whirlwind percussion jam, giving the musicians the key (A is a triangle of two hands, C is his hand shaped like a C) before getting them to strike their chords.  It is a fun improv moment, and shows that even back in the 70s, he was interested in composing music, not just writing rock songs.

Incidentally, the soundtrack, of Baby Snakes contains many of the live songs from the film,(but not the improv)  including the excellent “Punky’s Whips” and “Black Page #2.”  The soundtrack is short (especially compared to the movie) but is really great.

Watching Zappa solo on the guitar is also pretty amazing.  I’ve listened to all of his guitar solo releases.  And he simply knows the guitar backwards and forwards.  So, this concert is a good way to just sit back and watch him play.  But it’s also a good way to watch him interact with the fans.  Frank is right there with the fans, shaking hands, slapping high fives (and doing this while he is playing an extended solo as well).  His charisma is undeniable.

And his charisma is in great evidence during the audience participation section where some of the thronging masses are invited onstage to enact a scene out of Frank’s imagination (a young volunteer is “whipped” by a young woman whose face is painted white with flowers on it, and her friend Donna U Wanna).  The woman in the white makeup is all over Frank when she’s down in the crowd, too.  While Frank is singing, she starts kissing him and even taking his hair out of a ponytail holder–and he never flubs a word!  What a professional.

By the end of the film you kind of forget about the editing, but in the first 2/3, mostly you come away thinking that the editing is just not very good.  Much of the claymation is repeated (some is repeated three times).  While I understand that Frank reedited the film down to 90 minutes in a failed attempt to find a distributor, and I know everyone is happy to get this unedited version of the film, nevertheless I think the whole film should be broken up into smaller films for maximum enjoyment.

[READ: January 2008 ] Opus

I was a huge huge huge fan of Bloom County back in the day. It was one of my favorite comics, and I can recall doodling Opuses and Bill the Cats during downtime in class.  I sort of liked Outland, but then, I didn’t get a paper, so I never really saw those.  And, lo and behold, I didn’t even KNOW about the Opus strip.  I also just read that he just finished the Opus strip in November.  The final panel is supremely touching and is available here (what appeared in the Sunday paper) and then here (the link that’s in the cartoon).

I found this book remaindered, and figured I’d have to give it a try.  And it filled me with nostalgia! (more…)

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