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Archive for the ‘Gilligan’s Island’ Category

cpatain 10 SOUNDTRACK: “WEIRD AL” YANKOVIC-Bad Hair Day (1996).

bad hair dayBad Hair Day is an uninspired album title, especially given how great of an album it is.  As I posted last week, “Amish Paradise” is great, (I forget to mention the funny Gilligan’s Island verse in the middle.  “Everything You Know is Wrong” is just a magnificent They Might be Giants parody.  Now, TMBG and Weird Al are pretty kindred spirits (they both use accordions and sing silly songs).  In that respect, this song isn’t that different from a typical Al song, but there are so many great musical nods to TMBG that the song is just awesome.  And it’s very funny too.

“Cavity Search” is a parody of U2’s “Hold Me Touch Me Kiss Me Kill Me” and it works very well, both as a great soundalike (Al’s vocal tricks get better with each album) and the way he plays with the original (the drill solo is great) are really clever.  “Calling in Sick” is a kind of Nirvana parody, although I don’t hear it as well as other band parodies.  It’s certainly a grunge song and, as such it works.  But it was “The Alternative Polka” that proved to be my favorite of his medleys so far.  “Loser,” “Sex Type Thing” “All I Wanna Do” “Closer” (hearing him do Nine Inch Nails is hilarious–especially this song!), “Bang Bang Blame” (so much R.E.M. lately), “You Oughta Know,” “Bullet with Butterfly Wings” (Weezer’s song was supposed to be included here but they asked it to be removed and he did at the last minute–see the video below).  “I’ll Stick Around,” “Black Hole Sun” and “Basket Case”–a great mix of songs that I loved at the time and still do, this song is like reliving the mid 90s.

“Since You’ve Been Gone” is a fun a capella band version of a funny break up song.  He gets better and better at this kind of lyric (“a red hot cactus up my nose” is particularly wonderful).  “Gump” is a very funny parody of “Lump” by Presidents of the United States of America.  Evidently they liked his parody so much they used some of his lyrics in the final verse when they played it live.

“Sick of You” has a fun bass line (reminiscent of Elvis Costello) and a great chorus.  And “Syndicated, Inc.” is a very funny parody of that overplayed Soul Asylum song “Misery.”  It’s a very funny song about syndicated TV shows.  “I Remember Larry” is a pretty funny original about a prankster, although it’s the weakest song on the album.  “Phony Calls” is a parody of TLC’s “Waterfalls” and it’s pretty funny (especially hearing Al do TLC vocals).  The parody works pretty well, and it’s certainly helped by the sample of Bart and Moe on the Simpsons.  “The Night Santa Went Crazy” is a pretty funny twisted take on Santa.

This album is definitely one of his best.  Just about every song is a winner.  And it’s his best-selling album too.

[READ: February 22, 2013] Captain Underpants and the Revolting Revenge of the Radioactive Robo-Boxers

Clark was pretty excited when this book came out.  He had just finished up book #7 or 8 when the book was published.  And so it didn’t take too long for him to get caught up with the series.  I was also pretty lucky to have just finished book nine so this “last” book (although not really) was very well timed.

When we left off in Book Nine, Tippy Tinkletrousers had inadvertently destroyed the earth and the giant zombie George and Harold were stomping through the town.  And, shockingly, they had just crushed Tippy in his robo-pants.   But as this book opens, Pilkey gives us the truth about zombies.  They are really slow.  So slow that Tippy was able to get out of the way of the giant foot (and do lots of other things) and put a giant ketchup packet under the foot so it got squished instead of him.

The rest of the book is simply chock full of time travel, overlapping people and all kinds of paradoxes.  I have to wonder if Clark got it, but he just read it again and he did seem to have decent understanding of what happened. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: NADA SURF-The Stars Are Indifferent to Astronomy (2012).

Nada Surf continues to put out poppy guitar rock.  I tend to link them with Guster, in that they write really catchy pop songs about unexpected things.  The songs are usually fast, but they also writes some slower songs too.  They would make a good double bill.

This album with the wonderful title is 38 minutes long, a perfect light summer album.  If you don’t get “Waiting for Something” (which I agree is repeated waaay too often in the chorus) stuck in your head, then you haven’t been listening to this record.

All ten songs feature bouncy guitars (except “When I Was Young” which opens as a slow ballad), although even this song, after about 2 minutes, calls forth loud electric guitars.  There are some elements that show the band “maturing”–strings on “When I Was Young” horns on “Let the Fight Do the Fighting.”  But one of the songs references Gilligan’s Island, so they’re not maturing too much.

And some of the songs sound like throwbacks to other eras too, the 60s guitar intro of “Jules and Jim,” the R.E.M. ish intro of “Waiting for Something.”  It’s a great album, fun, catchy and perfect for driving.

[READ: July 24, 2012] Emmaus

I had no idea who Alessandro Baricco was when I got this book as part of my Book of the Month deal with McSweeney’s.  But I’ve never been disappointed by one of their new books before, so it was worth checking out.

The book is short–134 pages–and is novella length, which is the perfect length for this story.  [I had just read about Jim Harrison and his novellas, and I believe that there needs to be more novellas published].  This book was originally written in Italian and was translated by Ann Goldstein.

There is a prologue which is completely exciting and absolutely wonderful.  It’s only a page and a half, but it is intriguing, funny, deep and, most of all, really surprising.

The opening of the book doesn’t quite match the excitement of the prologue, but that’s because this novella has two aspects–deep, thoughtful introspection and base, animal instinct.  And Baricco/Goldstein does an excellent job keeping the flow and continuity going between these two very different writing extremes.

The book reminds me of Jeffrey Eugenides’ The Virgin Suicides for two reasons.  One: it is written about a group of boys and is written in the second person plural (at least the beginning is) and two: they are all watching a girl who is beyond their ken–someone of their world but not, someone who is en route to hurt herself.  And there’s nothing they can do about it.

But this book is entirely its own.  There are four boys who make up the initial “we” (and when it diverges from plural to singular, you really feel the loss of the other boys).  And so the book starts: “We’re all sixteen or seventeen years old, but we aren’t really aware of it.”  The four boys are good boys–Catholic (and believers, at that), who play in the church band, who volunteer removing catheters at the poor person’s hospital and who plan to not have sex before marriage (heavy petting is okay but it never goes too far).  The four boys are: the narrator, whose name is never given I don’t think; Luca, whose father is rumored to be suicidal; Bobby, the most outgoing of the bunch and The Saint, a very pious young man who has designed for the priesthood and who is not afraid to be seen as more pious than you. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: RA RA RIOT-Live at the Black Cat, Washington DC,  October 12, 2008 (2008).

I really like Ra Ra Riot’s album The Rhumb Line, and this concert is basically a showcase for that album.  There’ s an interview at the end of the show (all downloadable from NPR), in which the  band says that critics raved about their live show as much as their album.

I don’t really hear that the show is more energetic than the album (maybe visually they are wild), but it did sound fantastic.  It’s amazing to hear a rock band that is dominated by strings–the cello and violin are often louder than the guitar (but not in a competing/drown you out kind of way,  more of a strings do the melodies and the guitar adds bulk to the sound).

I always enjoy hearing a band that is grateful to their audience for showing up (this is most evident in young bands, who seem so much more genuine about their love of the audience) and Ra Ra Riot are certainly that .  They seem genuinely surprised at the turn out, and they play a great set accordingly.

There are two songs that aren’t on the album here “A Manner to Act” and the encore “Everest.”  They both feel like they came off the album, which bodes well for their second album, Orchard, which just came out in May.  Ra Ra Riot also do a great cover of the obscure Kate Bush song “Suspended in Gaffa.”  At the end of the show they tack on a cover of “Hounds of Love.”  Lead singer Wesley Miles has a wonderfully strong voice and he can reach some pretty high notes–not soprano or anything like that, just strong enough to be able to pull off a Kate Bush cover.

This is a great show.  And when you read about the tragedy they suffered just as they were starting to take off, their obsession with death may not be so surprising.  I’m looking forward to Orchard.

[READ: 1995 and August 18, 2011] Microserfs

After reading Life After God and thinking about Microserfs, I looked up Coupland’s bibliography and saw that indeed Microserfs came next.  And I was really excited to read it.  I have recently watched the JPod TV show and I knew that JPod was a kind of follow-up to Microserfs, so I wanted to see how much of it rang true.  And I’ve got to say that I really rather enjoyed this book.

While I was reading this, I started taking notes about what was happening in the book.  Not the plot, which is fairly straightforward, but about the zeitgeisty elements in the book.  And, since I’m a big fan of David Foster Wallace, I was also noting how many zeitgeisty things this book had in common with Infinite Jest.  I’m thinking of tying it all together in a separate post, maybe next week.  But I’ll mention a few things here.

My son also loved the cover of this book because it has a Lego dude on it and he has been really getting into Lego lately.

So Microserfs is the story of a bunch of underpaid, overworked coders who work for Microsoft.  The book is written as the journal of Daniel Underwood (Coupland still hadn’t really branched out of the first person narrative style, but the journal does allow for some interesting insights).  The story begins in Fall 1993.  I felt compelled to look up some ancient history to see what was happening in the computer world circa 1993 just for context.  In 1991, Apple released System 7.   In 1993, Windows introduced Windows NT, Intel released the first Pentium chip, Myst was released and Wired magazine launched.  In 1994, Al Gore coined the term Information Superhighway.  Yahoo is created.  The Netscape browser is introduced.  So we’re still in computer infancy here.  It’s pretty far-seeing of DC to write about this.

Daniel works at Microsoft with several friends.  Daniel is a bug tester, Michael (who has an office, not a cube) is a coder, Todd (a bodybuilder) is a bug tester.  There’s also Susan (smart and independent), Abe (secret millionaire) and Bug Barbecue (an old man–he’s like 35).  The five of them live in a house on “campus.”  There’s also Karla (a type A bossyboots who doesn’t like seeing time wasted) who works with them but lives up the street.

As the story opens, Michael has just received a flame email from Bill Gates himself and has locked himself in his office.  This leads to a very funny scene and ongoing joke in which the office mates feed slide two-dimensional food under his door and he vows to eat only things that are flat. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: BROKEN BELLS-Broken Bells (2010).

When I first played this disc I was really disappointed by it.  I’ve grown to expect crazy magic from Danger Mouse, and I assumed that this collaboration with James Mercer of The Shins would be crazy awesome.  But it seemed very mellow to me.  Mellow in a way that just kind of sat there.  So I put it aside for a while.

Then I listened to it again a little later and I found that I really liked it this time.  In fact, it rapidly grew into one of my favorite releases of 2010.

The disc is a wonderfully paced mixture of acoustic guitars, interesting keyboard sounds and, often, downright bizarre electronic choices (subtle, yet bizarre).  The weird sounds that open the disc, a kind of backwards keyboard, are disorienting but also very catchy.  And the song itself is instantly familiar.  It’s followed by “Vaporize” a simple acoustic number that bursts out with some great organ and (very) distorted drums.  It also features a fascinating horn solo!

“Your Head is on Fire” settles things down a bit with a mellow track which, after some cool introduction, sounds like a  pretty typical sounding Shins track (ie, very nice indeed–and more on this in a moment).

“The Ghost Inside” feels like a ubiquitous single.  I’m not sure if it is or if it’s just so catchy (with dancey bits and hand claps and a great falsetto) that it should be everywhere.  “Sailing to Nowhere” reminds me, I think, of Air.  And the great weird drums/cymbals that punctuate each verse are weird and cool.

One of the best songs is “Mongrel Heart” it opens with a western-inspired sound, but quickly shifts to a quiet verse.  The bridge picks up the electronics to add a sinister air (and all of this is accompanied by nice backing vocals, too).  But it’s the mid section of the song that’s really a surprise: it suddenly breaks into a Western movie soundtrack (ala Morricone) with a lone trumpet playing a melancholy solo.  And this surprise is, paradoxically, somewhat typical of the disc: lots of songs have quirky surprises in them, which is pretty cool.

Having said all this, there are a few tracks where it feels like the two aren’t so much collaborating as just playing with each other.  And that may have been my initial disappointment.  I was expecting a great work from a combined powerhouse, and I think what we get is two artists writing great stuff while seemingly respecting each other too much to step on each others toes.

There is another Broken Bells disc in the works.  And I have to assume that they’ll feel more comfortable with each other and simply knock our socks off next time.  But in the meantime we have this really wonderful disc to enjoy.

[READ: October 21, 2010] The Broom of the System

It dawned on me sometime last summer that I had never read DFW’s first novel.  I bought it not long after reading Infinite Jest and then for some reason, never read it.  And by around this time I had a not very convincing reason for not reading it.  DFW seemed to dismiss his “earlier work” as not very good.  I now assume that he’s referring to his pre-Broom writings, but I was a little nervous that maybe this book was just not very good.

Well I need not have worried.

It’s hard not to talk about this book in the context of his other books, but I’m going to try.  Broom is set in the (then) future of 1990.  But the past of the book is not the same past that we inhabited.  While the world that we know is not radically different, there is one huge difference in the United States: the Great Ohio Desert.  The scene in which the desert comes about (in 1972) is one of the many outstanding set pieces of the book, so I’ll refrain from revealing the details of it.  Suffice it to say that the desert is important for many reasons in the book, and its origin is fascinating and rather funny. (more…)

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