Archive for the ‘Scrabble’ Category

CV1_TNY_08_26_13Drooker.inddSOUNDTRACK: VOIVOD-Negatron (1995).

negatronAfter The Outer Limits failed to grab an audience, Voivod’s lead singer Snake departed the band.  With just the two original members left (and no bassist or singer), Piggy and Away decided to start again.  And they went dark and heavy.  For the first 45 second of this album, you think, wow, Voivod has made a really heavy album—with thundering riffs and, yet still, some unusual chords from Piggy (the chord progressions are definitely still weird).  Then new singer (and bassist) E-Force opens his mouth.  And that’s when a good portion of Voivod’s  prog rock fan base started weeping.

E-Force is a screamer.  He’s not unlike Snake on the first couple of albums (although without the French accent).  But there’s very little diversity.  E-Force’s voice isn’t a total failure.  It works pretty well with the heaviness of the music.  But those of us who grew used to Snake’s singing can’t help but be disappointed by E-Force’s very limited range and style.

Opener “Insects” has some very cool parts and the music is kind of interesting—Piggy is always inventive and it’s cool to hear him mix some of his weird chords with such heavy music (the style is kind of like Killing Technology era but heavier and weirder).  And there’s some sequences where the chords are just bizarre and cool.  There is a bridge in “Insects” where E-Force sounds a bit like Snake and it’s like a great heavy Voivod album of old.

Speaking of heavy, Away sounds like he is having a great time banging the hell out of his drums.  I feel somewhat surprised that after the last few albums of mellowing out that both guys could ramp up to play so fast and heavy again.  “Project X” gives E-Force some room to do some different vocal styles (like on the first bridge which is actually kind of catchy), but the song is more pounding than exciting,

“Nanoman” brings some diversity, with a standard, but cool metal riff (and double bass drums). It also has a chorus that you can sing along to (or scream along to at any rate).  “Reality?” is by now standard scream fare, but there is a chorus “upside down reality” in which E-Force shows he can actually sing and that part is quite good.  “Negatron” is over 7 minutes long, and yet there s very little prog at hand.  It does have some astonishingly noisy dissonant chords, though.  “Planet Hell” opens with a bass riff that stands out a bit on this pounding album.  But it quickly begins to sound like much else of the album.  I do like the middle of the song where it breaks down into alternating guitar and drum breaks.

Starting with “Meteor” the album gets a little more interesting.  There’s more high notes in this song, especially in the bridge—it’s still heavy and bludgeoning but there is some diversity here.  I haven’t talked about the lyrics on the albums mostly because I can’t make them out, but on this song you can actually hear the lyrics and you can tell that they’re also not really up to snuff: “I don’t fucking care, I don’t care no more, I don’t give a shit.”

“Cosmic Conspiracy” opens with a simple echoing guitar line.  It introduces a sci-fi element that the album has sorely lacked.  Between that and the heavy drums and the crunchy bass, the song sounds really promising.  Indeed, when E-Force starts singing, it’s muffled in an interesting way.  And mid way through, it breaks into just martial drumming from Away.  This is the diversity we’ve been looking for.  There’s even an impressive (an interestingly effected) drum solo.  Then the guitars that kick in are fairly traditional but actually fun speed metal.  Sadly, E-Force’s voice doesn’t work with this section and kind of ruins it, which is a shame.  There’s some interesting guitar work in the end of the song but it’s kind of drowned out by E-Froce’s screams.  “Bio-TV” has a staccato sound that breaks up the pummeling.  And the middle has a kind of pretty guitar riff (and a simplistic sing along section that sounds great amidst the chaos).

The final track is by far the most interesting and unusual.  It is called “D.N.A” which stands for “Don’t know Anything” (seriously).  But what’s unexpected is that the song is primarily written by and sung by Jim Thriwell (of Foetus).  It’s not entirely clear if Piggy’s guitar is even on it (it is so distorted beyond guitar that it could be anything), although you do hear some chords near the end.  Away’s drums are in the mix somewhere (it may indeed be all machines).  It sounds like a Ministry/Skinny Puppy hybrid, and I would have preferred that electronic direction to the fairly generic death metal sound of the album.  I’m really not sure what to make of this song.  If you like noisy industrial music, this is an unexpectedly interesting track and surely a weird place to look for something like this.

There is a degree of irony that Blacky left to play more electronic music and Voivod recorded “DNA”.  But even more ironic is that Snake left in part to start a much more heavy hardcore band (Union Made) and then the next Voivod album was the heaviest they’d done.  It’s cool that Voivod is ever evolving, but this is a weird sidestep in a career of progression.  It’s not a failure, but it takes a number of listens to find the gems within the noise.

[READ: September 17, 2013] “The Tribal Rite of the Strombergs”

This Simon Rich story is very funny.  It begins (as the picture that accompanies it shows us) with Scrabble.  Jeremy is playing his father.  Jeremy always loses to his father.  And yet, Jeremy reveals that he has been playing Words with Friends (his father doesn’t know what that is).  And through Words with Friends he has learned that words like “qat” are playable (his father doubts the word but doesn’t challenge).

It soon becomes clear (because Jeremy can see the score) that although he is losing, it’s close enough that he might, for the first time, be able to beat his father.

When Jeremy plays Ta (a word they have always used), his father challenges.  But it is useless.  Jeremy’s father has a Z and that should do it. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: PINK FLOYD-Alan’s Psychedelic Christmas (1970).

I’ve always loved Pink Floyd’s Atom Heart Mother.  I have no recollection of how I stumbled upon this live bootleg, but when I saw that it contained one of the few live recordings of “Alan’s Psychedelic Breakfast” I had to give it a listen.

So this show is from 1970 and was recorded in Sheffield just before Christmas (Nick Mason evidently introduced the show while wearing a Santa Claus suit).  The sound quality is pretty good given that it is 40 some years old.  There’s a bunch of hiss, and the quieter talking bits are hard to understand, but the music sounds fine.

So the show opens with “Alan’s Psychedelic Breakfast” and what is so silly (and I assume funny to watch (a little less funny on bootleg) is that the band made and ate breakfast on stage.  As Collectors Music reviews writes: “This is the only known live recording of ‘Alan’s Psychedelic Breakfast’ but also hosts an amazing performance by the band which included them making morning tea on stage which is audible. Just like most of their earlier performances, the performance of “Alan’s Psychedelic Breakfast” slightly differs from the album version due to some nice jamming done by the band, especially Gilmour with his delay pedal.” As I said, some of the audio is static and hard to make out in this song–the band is conversing during their tea, but who knows what they are saying.  And who know what is o the radio.

Then the band gets down to business.  One of things I love about this period Floyd which is so different from their later work is that the played really long spacey jams often with very few lyrics.  So we get a 12-minute version of “The Embryo” (the only available studio version is a very short one on Works which is quite a shame as the song is really good).  A 14-minute workout of “Fat Old Sun” which is usually only about 5 minutes.

There’s a great version of “Careful with that Axe Eugene” and “Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun” (15 and 12 minutes respectively).

Then in a killer version of “Saucerful of Secrets,” just as they get to the end, there’s a power failure (at least according to the song title).  The band is rocking out just hitting the climax when suddenly all you can hear are un-miked drums.  Ha. After a couple of minutes, power comes back and they pick up from just before where they left off.

Then the band launches into a full 31-minute version of “Atom Heart Mother” complete with horns and choir  of voices.  It sounds quite good (the horns seem a little sketchy but that might be expected with such staccato music).

The set ends and the band needs an encore.  Apparently they couldn’t remember anything else because they just re-do the last few minutes of “Atom Heart Mother” again.

One of the things that cracks me up about these shows in the 70s in England, is that the audience is so polite. Their applause sounds like a classical theater rather than a rock show.  And with a bootleg you know they didn’t try to make the audience sound bigger than they are.

The whole package is a fun trip.

[READ: August 17, 2012] Welcome to the Monkey House

So this book is Vonnegut’s second collection of short stories.  But there’s a twist.  This collection contains all of the short stories from Canary in a Cat House except one. It also contains many of the stories he had written since then as well as stories not collected in Canary.  So you get basically 18 years worth of stories here.  And it’s interesting to see how much he has changed over those years (during which he wrote 5 novels, but not yet Slaughterhouse Five).

Since I read Canary a little while ago (see comments about the stories here), I knew that his 50’s era stories were influenced by WWII.  So it’s interesting to see how his stories from the 690s are not.  They deal more with day to day things and, of course, abstract concepts about humanity, although politics do enter the picture again once Kennedy is elected .

  • Where I Live (1964)

This was a good story to open with because it shows the then-later-period Vonnegut’s mindset and location.  This story is about Barnstable Village on Cape Cod (where I assume Vonnegut lived since there are a number of stories set on the Cape).  This is a very casually written story about an encyclopedia salesman who goes to the local library and sees that their two encyclopedias are from 1910 and 1938.  I enjoyed this line: “He said that many important things had happened since 1938, naming among others, penicillin and Hitler’s invasion of Poland.”  He is told to talk to the library directors who are at the yacht club.  I love the attitude that Vonnegut creates around the village which “has a policy of never accepting anything.  As a happy consequence, it changes about as fast as the rules of chess.” For really, this story is about the Village more than the encyclopedia salesman, and it’s an interesting look at people who move into a new place and want it to never change. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: THE VASELINES-The Way of the Vaselines (1992).

I had never heard of The Vaselines until Kurt Cobain praised them so much back in 1992.  SubPop quickly issued Way of the Vaselines, a fairly comprehensive collection of their recordings.

I bought it and thought it was okay.  Not revolutionary or anything, but decent indie pop.  And I think my lackluster response is in part because I often react the same way to what you’d call originators of a scene when I’ve already been in the scene for a while.  Once people have blown the fundamentals away, it’s hard to appreciate the fundamentals anymore.

And so I’ve given them a new listen with more appreciative ears.  I also enjoyed poppier music a lot more now than I did in 1992 (it’s funny how poppy The Vaselines are and yet how noisy Cobain was).

The songs really hold up quite well in a Velvet Underground way (“Rory Rides Me Raw”), or the left field dance anthem cover of Divine’s “You Think You’re a Man.”  They also have some fast punk songs (“Dying for It”).

Nirvana covered three of their songs, “Son of a Gun” and more famously “Molly’s Lips.”  (The Vaselines version of “Molly” is much cuter (with a bike horn in the chorus)).  And, perhaps most famously, “Jesus Wants Me for a Sunbeam” (which is pretty close to the original).

The Vaselines sang a lot about sex, (“Sex Sux,” “Monsterpussy”) that was disguised in a largely pop context.  But they also had inclinations towards fuzzy punk.

I think what’s so wonderful about this collection is that it’s four Scottish kids who had good pop sensibilities (and some talent) playing what they liked.  They’re an amateur love to the whole disc, and yet for all of their lo-fi ness, the songs sound good–even if you can’t always understand the lyrics. (Sub Pop remastered and re-released the package with bonus tracks as Enter the Vaselines, but I’ll not be getting that).

Were they, as Allmusic says, the best pop band from 1986 to 1989? I don’t know.  But they sure played some great songs.  I’m don’t think I need to hear their reunited selves, because there’s something about the charm of these Edinburgh kids playing these songs in something of a vacuum that I rather like.  It only took two listens to this record (probably the first time in ten years) for me to see how much was here.

[READ: April 16, 2011] “Underachievers Please Try Harder”

The subtitle of this article is “Indie Rock Reunites on the English Coast,” and I’m mentioning it because it got me to listen to the Vaselines record again.

It was an interesting article about the state of music and “festival” tours, specifically All Tomorrow’s Parties.  (This year’s ATP spinoff, I’ll Be Your Mirror will be in Asbury Park, New Jersey! and features Portishead, Mogwai and A Silver Mount Zion among others–were I 20 years younger, I’d be there). (more…)

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