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Archive for the ‘A Clockwork Orange’ Category

yitaSOUNDTRACK: WXPN (88.5 Philadelphia) xpnand wxpn.org online-Prog rock Marathon (2012-??).

Every January, Dan Reed plays a prog rock marathon on WXPN.  This year I was able to enjoy portions of it.  I rather wish the playlist was still available (you can search, but only by artist), because I’d love to rave about the tracks they played (like the live “Supper’s Ready.”)

I was delighted by the great mix of songs they played and (as I learned from reading this book) I was surprised by how many prog artists I didn’t even know.

In 2014 I’ll be listening again and maybe this time I’ll copy the playlist to document what I’ve missed.

[READ: July 7, 2013] Yes is the Answer

This book was sitting on a cart outside of my cube.  I was intrigued by the title (it didn’t have that trippy cover, so I didn’t know what it was).  But “Yes is the Answer” was calling me.  Especially when I looked at the cover and saw that the cover had an excerpt from a William Vollmann story in which the protagonist plays In the Court of the Crimson King (track 5) for Reepah and watches her face as they band went Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!.

Quoting Vollmann (from The Rifles), playing King Crimson?  What could this book be?   Then I saw the subtitle and I knew I had to read it all.

I’m not going to review these essays because that would be like making a radio edit of a side long track, but I’ll mention the band the author focuses on and any other relevant details. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: JAPANDROIDS-“Fire’s Highway” (2012).

I regret dismissing the suggestions of the NPR folks the other day.  As the more I dig into their suggestions, the more I like–seems their selections are better than their descriptions of said selections.  Take this description of the Japandoids’ album: “snarling punk meets the fist-in-the-air anthemics of Born to Run-era Springsteen and his modern-day equivalents in The Gaslight Anthem.”  I’ve never really liked Springsteen (I know, a Jersey boy, too).  I think it’s more about production (and saxophone) than anything else.  So, comparing bands to him is never a sell for me (even if it may be true).  To me, this sounds much more like a low-key Arcade Fire (with literally no pretensions to anything–I mean, there’s only 2 Japandroids).  Granted, Arcade Fire owe a lot to Springsteen too, but they do something different with his sound, which is why I like them.  [I’m not going to be able to argue my way out of this].

Anyhow, this song is a four minutes of punky guitars and a stupidly catchy chorus.  The fact that it’s only two guys makes it all the more remarkable that it sounds like a full band.  And perhaps, the biggest difference for me is the singer’s voice which feels very early 90s alt rock/punk.  Whatever it is, I’m a fan and will certainly be listening to more of this album.

[READ: June 14, 2012] “The Clockwork Condition”

Like most young men of a certain bent, I loved A Clockwork Orange.  I’ve watched it dozens of times and I’ve read the book.  What I especially like about the story is that my feelings about it change as I get older—which, while not the point exactly, is certainly a theme in the story–how age makes things seem different.  The most important thing I learned from this article is that there was an epilogue in the British version of the book that was not available in the American version (or the film).  And it seems to be pretty important.  What a strange thing to leave out.

Incidentally, Burgess wrote the book in 1962 and the film came out in 1973, which is why he was wrote this in 1973.  He says he was asked about Issues that arose from the film.  And he talks a lot about them.

But he also gives a lot of background.  The title of the book comes from the expression “as queer as a clockwork orange” which is Cockney slang for something so weird it subverts nature.  It was a perfect title for an idea he was going to write about—how people suggested using aversion therapy to change juvenile delinquent behavior.

So this article goes on for a pretty long time, raising all kinds of questions.  It’s really articulate and fascinating and really makes me want to re-read the anti-authoritarian novels I read in high school: 1984, It Can’t Happen Here, Brave New World.   He even talks about B.F. Skinner, who proposed that aversion therapy (which is what Alex gets in the book/movie) was wrong and that positive reinforcement was always more effective.  Skinner worked with animals (Burgess jokes about that) and the whole “you get more flies with honey” attitude works better for training animals he says.  The same is true for people.  Besides, aversion therapy removes freewill. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: THE DEARS-Degeneration Street (2011).

I’ve loved The Dears for a long time now.  And yet with every new album I feel like I have to prepare myself for what’s to come.  And with every release I’m a little disappointed when I first play it.  Maybe for the next release I’ll realize what my problem is–The Dears do not stand up to cursory, casual listening.  They demand attention.  If you put them on as background music, you miss everything.  So when I finally gave Degeneration Street some attention, I realized how great it is.

The Dears write emotional songs that are fairly straightforward.  But the magic of their music comes in the layers of ideas and sounds that they put on each track.  And of course, there’s Murray Lightburn’s voice.  He sounds like Damon Albarn if Damon Albarn could sustain a note for a long time–could emote with his voice.  Now I happen to like Damon Albarn quite a lot, but Lightburn can really just out-sing him.  It’s wonderful.

“Omega Dog” opens with an electronic drumbeat, eerie keyboards and skittery guitars.  When the vocals come in–falsettoed and earnest, you don’t anticipate the full harmonies in the forthcoming chorus that lead to an almost R&B sound.  Not bad for the first 80 seconds of a song.  That the song is actually 5 minutes long and by minute 3, it sounds like an entirely different song is even more testament to the versatility of The Dears (check out the harpsichord solo that more or less ends the song).

“5 Chords” is a chugging anthem, a song with potential to be a hit (but which of course never will).  I find myself constantly singing the infectious chorus of “Blood”: “Since I was a baby I have always been this way; I could see you coming from a million miles away.”  Or the excellent chorus of “Thrones” “Plucking our eyes out, turning to stone, give up on heaven, give up the throne.”

“Lamentation” mixes things up with a slower pace and backing vocals that come straight out of Pink Floyd (any era really, but probably more of their later albums).  It adds an amazing amount of depth.  “Galactic Tides” has more Floydian stuff–the guitar solo (and the instrumental break) are really out of mid 70s Floyd–more backing vocals again).

Follow all of this intensity with the super poppy “Yesteryear”. It’s got an upbeat swing to it: happy bouncy chords and an inscrutable chorus: “What’s the word I’m looking for; It starts with ‘M’ and ends with ‘Y'”  It’s followed by the more sinister “Stick w/Me Kid,” in which Lightburn shows off his bass range.  There’s an awesome guitar riff in “Tiny Man,” simple and mournful that sticks with you long after it’s over.

The last couple of songs don’t really live up to the excitement of the first ten or so.  But the final song brings back the drama, with a swelling chorus and soaring vocals.  The Dears have managed to do it again, an emotional album that comes really close to being a concept album yet with none of the pretensions that that implies. 

[READ: July 13, 2011] Five Dials Number 16

Five Dials Number 16 is a brief Christmas Present from Five Dials.  The issue even seems longer than it is because the last ten pages are photos from the Five Dials launch party in Montreal.  The photo essay, titled In Montreal, includes local scenery and (unnamed) people photographed by ANNIKA WADDELL and SIMON PROSSER.

That leaves only 7 pages of text: The Editor’s Note, a look at London, a Christmas Poem and a short story from Anton Chekov.  And there’s another cool illustration from JULIE DOUCET

CRAIG TAYLOR-Letter from the Editor
Taylor thanks Montreal for their warm welcome (despite the crash course in what Wind Chill actually means).  He also hopes we enjoy the Christmas offerings contained within: the traditional Christmas poem and the Chekov story. (more…)

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finSOUNDTRACK: SONIC YOUTH-“Rather Ripped” (2006).

rippedWhen Rather Ripped came out, I was really excited by it.  It rocked heavy, it was catchy and it featured a lot of Kim.  I listened to it all the time, and would have said it was my favorite SY disc of this era.  However, listening to Sonic Nurse reminded me how much I liked that one too, so I’m unclear now which one I like better.

Jim O’Rourke left the band, so they’re back to a 4 piece.  And the overall sound of the album is more minimal. There’s less squalling feedback (although there are noisy parts).  And the song structures are tighter.  It sounds more like a punk album that a jazz album.  It’s a great release.

“Reena” is so instantly catchy, it’s an amazing opener.  And it’s followed by “Incinerate” which might be even more catchy.  A simple guitar riff and a beautiful chord progression.  “Do You Believe in Rapture?” is a delicate guitar-harmonics filled song.  The only thing that keeps it from being totally poppy are the off-kilter harmonics between verses.

It’s followed by the screaming noise guitars of “Sleepin’ Around.”  This has some amazing tom-filled drums from Steve Shelley which really propel the song along.  It eventually morphs into a pretty straightforward chugga-chugga song until the noise solos in the middle.  “What a Waste” is a lo-fi rocker with Kim singing angrily.  It’s followed by Kim’s more delicate/sexy “Jams Run Free,” a rather tender guitar line.  And, with Kim playing more guitar, I’m wondering if she’s writing these more delicate guitar riffs?  They seem kind of bass-like rather than the complex lines that Lee typically writes.  I’ll never know.

“Rats” is a noisy Lee song that I’m quite fond of.  It’s immediately followed by an even more delicate Kim song, “Turquoise Boy.”  This is a slow ballad that is quite surprising.  “Lights Out” continues the quiet mood with Thurston’s own brand of sinister/seductive singing.

“The Neutral” continues Kim’s delicate singing.  While “Pink Steam” is a beautiful six minute near-instrumental that Thurston reins in with great vocals at the end.  “Or” ends the disc in a quiet frame of mind.

I’m still undecided if I like Nurse or Ripped better.  But I am delighted by this new style that SY has been playing with.

[READ: September 17, 2009] Infinite Jest (completed!)

Hal is remembering the ’98 blizzard (which I actually tried to remember if I had been in Boston for and then realized that ’98 came after the book was written…Doh!)

It was the year that E.T.A. opened and they moved from Weston to E.T.A.  The Moms was attached to the Weston house so she dragged things out. (more…)

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