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Archive for the ‘Humiliation’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: BLACK SABBATH-“Neon Knights” (1980).

There was no way I could read this book about Plasma Knights, Oxygen Knights and, yes, Neon Knights, and not think of this song.

This was the lead off track to the first Black Sabbath album in which Ronnie James Dio replaced Ozzy Osbourne.   It is a great song and a huge testament to Dio’s ability to revive a flagging band.

It’s really catchy, too.  Geezer Butler’s thumping bass riff opens before Tony Iommi’s chords add a nice rhythmic juxtaposition.  And with Dio’s voice you can hear that Black Sabbath sounds rejuvenated.

Dio’s crooning goes really well with the fast chords and propulsive beat.

This is a great song from a great album.  Although it’s hard to say that the Dio era of Black Sabbath was better than the Ozzy years, the two Dio albums are really fantastic.

[READ: February 27, 2019] Chasma Knights

Although this book was satisfying in the end, I thought it was kind of weirdly unsatisfying overall.

Perhaps it’s because there no real context to the story aside from a rhymed poem that introduces it.  It tells us that if you catalyze toys your powers grow.  And everyone loves to do it except Neon Knights, because they can’t catalyze anything–they don’t have the power.  Aside from that there is no explanation of the setting or the people or anything.

Weird huh? (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: Y&T-“Mean Streak” (1983).

In the early 1980s Y&T had a couple of albums that made it onto my radar.   This one, Mean Streak, had this song which I liked enough. It’s got some cool riffs and Dave Meniketti’s raspy but distinctive voice.

I remember liking this song, even though I really had no idea what was going on in the lyrics.  The chorus where everyone sings “mean streak” behind his lyrics was certainly the catchy selling point.   But this is hard rock more than metal and is not really my thing.

I may have bought this album, but I know I have the follow up In Rock We Trust, which was more poppy (and they were more pretty).  I had forgotten all about “Lipstick and Leather” yet another cheesy pop metal song about, well, lipstick and leather.

People who were fans of Y&T (like Posehn) were die-hards, but even listening now I see why I never really got into them, even if I liked them for a bit.  Maybe it was a California thing.

[READ: January 2019] Forever Nerdy

S. got this for me for Christmas after we saw Posehn on a late night show and he talked about his nerdy obsessions, including Rush.  It seemed like an obvious fit.  And it totally was.

Posehn is a few years older than me, but if he had lived in my town we would have totally been friends (except I would have never talked to him because he was older).  Anyhow, we had more or less the same obsessions and the same nerdy outlook.  Although I was never really picked on like he was so perhaps I was a little cooler than he was.  Although I never smoked or drank when I was in high school so maybe he was cooler than me.

Things to know about before reading this–Posehn is a vulgar dude–there’s not much kid friendly is in this book.  Also this book isn’t really an autobiography exactly. I mean it is in that he wrote it and its about him, but if you were dying to find out fascinating stories about his crazy life, this book isn’t really it. I t’s more about the things he was obsessed with–in true nerdy fandom.

Although, Brian, what nerd doesn’t have an index in his own book? (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: NEW ORDER-“Ceremony” (live) (1981).

Recently, Peter Hook was in Philly to play some New Order music with his band The Light.  I wonder how much different that show sounded from this one.

New Order formed out of the ashes of Joy Division in 1980.

Their first single, “Ceremony,” was actually written with Joy Division prior to Curtis’ suicide. It popped up as a single in advance of New Order’s 1981 debut album, Movement, which is about to receive the deluxe-reissue treatment; to commemorate the occasion, the band is circulating a little-seen performance of “Ceremony,” recorded live at Manchester’s CoManCHE Student Union.

Imagine having been at that show in 1981?

The music sounds amazing here–the guitar sound is perfect, the bass and drums are spot on.  But the vocals are terrible.  Practically inaudible.  I realize that he’s mostly speak/singing at this time, but you really can’t really hear him at all on the first verse.  It’s a little better on the second verse, but it’s the instrumental break that’s the real high point.

You can read about the re-release here.

[READ: January 23, 2019] “Cream”

The first line of this story sounds like it could describe most of Murakami’s stories:

So I’m telling a friend of mine about a strange incident that took place back when I was eighteen.  I don’t recall exactly why I brought it up.  It just happened to come up as we were talking.

Murakami is all about the strange incident.

He gives some details about himself at the time–finished high school, not yet in college–when he received an invitation to a piano recital.  The invitation came from a girl who was a year behind him in school but who went to the same piano teacher. They once played a piece together but she was clearly much better.  He’d stopped playing and obviously she had gone on to give a recital .

The recital hall was at the top of a mountain in Kobe.  He took a train and then a bus and then had a short walk to get to the venue.  It was a weird, inconvenient place for a concert venue.  He brought flowers to show his appreciation. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: STELLA DONNELLY-Tiny Desk Concert #819 (January 22, 2019).

Stella Donnelly has been generating some buzz lately, but I wasn’t familiar with her.  I didn’t even realize she was Australian.

She is adorable with her hair in two little nubs at the back of her head and a big smile most of the time.

She immediately won the office over with her broad smile, warmth and good-natured sense of humor. It’s the kind of easy-going, open-hearted spirit that makes her one of the most affable live performers you’ll see. While there’s no doubting her sincerity, she’s also got a disarming way of making her often dark and brutal songs a little easier to take in.

And indeed, she does not mince words when she sings.

“Beware of the Dogs” is a delicate song with Stella strumming her guitar with no pick and singing in a beautiful but soft voice.  There’s such a gorgeous melody for the chorus.

It turns out that this song and the other two are new.  Because she doesn’t even have an album out yet!

For this set, she performed entirely new — and, as of this writing, unreleased — songs from her upcoming full-length debut, Beware of the Dogs. Opening with the title cut, Donnelly smiled cheerfully through the entire performance while reflecting on the horrors that often lurk beneath the surface of seemingly idyllic lives. “This street is haunted like a beast that doesn’t know its face is frightening to behold,” she sings. “All the painted little gnomes, smiling in a line, trying to get your vote.”

As the song builds she gets more pointed:  “There’s no Parliament / Worthy of this country’s side / All these pious fucks / taking from the 99.”

She follows with “U Owe Me” which is “about my old boss at  a pub I used to work at back home.”

This song has a gentle guitar melody and some surprisingly soft vocals (including some vibrato at the end of each verse).   But the lyrics are straightforward and pointed (all sung with that disarming smile)

you put your great ideas up your nose /
and then try to tell me where the fuck to go /
you’re jerking off to the cctv /
while I’m pouring plastic pints of flat VB [or Foster’s or whatever].

At the end of the song she says, “He actually paid me a week after.  I was on the wrong week of my payroll.  It was very dramatic back then.”

She says “Allergies” is a run-of-the-mill breakup song.   “I’ve only got two of them and this is one of them.”  It’s a delicate, quiet song (capo on the tenth fret!) and once again, her voice is just lovely.

How can this Concert be only ten minutes long? I could listen to her all day.

Surprisingly, Donnelly chose not to play any of the songs that have gotten her to where she is in her young career — songs like 2017’s “Boys Will Be Boys” or last year’s “Talking,” two savagely frank examinations of misogyny and violence that earned her the reputation for being a fearless and uncompromising songwriter. But the new material demonstrates that her unflinching perspective and potent voice is only getting stronger.

I’m bummed that I am busy the night she’s playing a small club in Philly, as it might just be the last time she plays such a small venue.

[READ: January 26, 2019] Brazen

This is an awesome collection of short biographies of kick-ass women.  Bagieu has written [translated by Montana Kane] and drawn in her wonderful style, brief, sometimes funny (occasionally there’s nothing funny), always inspiring stories about women who spoke up for themselves and for others.  Some of the women were familiar to me, some were not.  A few were from a long time ago, but many are still alive and fighting.  And what was most cool is that the stories of the women I knew about had details and fascinating elements that I was not previously aware of.

What a great, great book.  It’s perfect for Middle School students all the way to adults.  I actually thought it might be perfect for fourth and fifth grade girls to read and be inspired by.  However, it skews a little bit older.  There’s a few mentions of sex, abortion, rape and domestic violence.  These are all real and important issues, but may be too much for younger kids.

Bagieu’s art for most of the pages is very simple–perfectly befitting a kind of documentary style but after each story she creates a two page spread that is just a breathtaking wash of colors which summarizes the previews story in one glorious image.  Its terrific. (more…)

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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…)

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SOUNDTRACK: BÉGAYER-“L’image du manque” (2018).

At the end of every year publications and sites post year end lists.  I like to look at them to see if I missed any albums of significance.  But my favorite year end list comes from Lars Gottrich at NPR.  For the past ten years, Viking’s Choice has posted a list of obscure and often overlooked bands.  Gottrich also has one of the broadest tastes of anyone I know (myself included–he likes a lot of genres I don’t).  

Since I’m behind on my posts at the beginning of this year, I’m taking this opportunity to highlight the bands that he mentions on this year’s list.  I’m only listening to the one song unless I’m inspired to listen to more.

I certainly didn’t know Bégayer before hearing them here.  Bégayer is a trio from the south of France that howls in French and Arabic, bangs on homemade instruments and leaves a path of delirious distortion in its wake.

Lars describes them as a combination of Animal Collective, Malian desert rock and Eugene Chadbourne thrown off a cliff.

This song starts with a kind of unsure-sounding opening foray into a guitar riff (very Malian in style), after twenty seconds, the high-pitched guitar notes resolve into a furious frenzy–an almost amelodious riff that flies around at breakneck speed.   The super fast drums help to propel the chaos along.

After a minute or so the vocals kick in–they are sparse and peculiar–more keening than singing at times and I have no idea what he is singing.  On a few occasions, the guitar seems to almost have a breakdown while he is singing although by the end he starts to sound like Jeff Buckley having a bit of breakdown himself. It’s bizarre and eerily compelling.

The whole album plays around with these sounds for a different experience with each song.

[READ: December 29, 2018] “Feast of the Epiphany”

This surreal story was published in 2016 in Gronzi’s collection Claustrophobias.

It begins with this bizarre, hilarious opening

It must’ve been either my thirty-third or my thirty-ninth birthday, if one is to believe the numerological charts, and there must’ve been some kind of adult arrangement involving children or else I would’ve never agreed to show myself in public in the company of three or four diversely aged creatures whose cumulative understanding of metaphysics was equivalent to the curiosity of a wart on the nose of a Rajasthani kaan-saaf wallah cleaning people’s ears in the streets of Paharganj.

This dinner becomes farcical with the introduction of the waiter:

Unable to appreciate the animated performance of the waiter who insisted on joining his forefingers over his head and doing a little dance every time he mentioned the rabbit in orange and thyme sauce, I finished the rather cheerless ten-year-old Hermitage before I even read the menu.

Before the appetizer is even over, the narrator makes his excuses and heads for the restroom. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: ERASURE-Snow Globe (2013).

Rather than making a straight up Christmas album, Erasure created a hybrid of original songs and traditional songs for the holidays.  I’m not even sure if some of the original songs can be considered holiday songs at all.  What’s interesting is that while the songs are clearly Erasure (Andy Bell’s voice is unmistakable), they don’t exactly sound like Erasure.  Musician Vince Clarke said, “Everything about Christmas has been written already. We thought it would be more interesting to look into the darker side of the season. For a lot of people, Christmas is not a happy time.”  So a lot of the songs feel stripped down or perhaps eerie.

The first song “Bells of Love (Isabelle’s of Love)” is a song of hope.  It has an Erasure feel (especially in the chorus), but it’s definitely not as full as a typical song from them.  It may not be especially Christmasey what with these lyrics:

I don’t believe in your religion
I only know what I can see
So many sad, so many lonely
It’s only love that sets us free

But the sentiment is what’s at the heart of Christmas sprint

What we want
What we need
Is a touch of the healing hand
With a little emotion
Can you hear the bells of love?
One day they’ll be loud enough

“Gaudete” is absolutely wonderful.  It’s a 16th century Christmas Carol (which means “rejoice”).  Erasure could easily make an album doing this with traditional songs and it would be amazing.  They stick to the traditional melody, but it just feel so powerful.  The backing vocals, thee Latin, the bells and subtle bass.  Everything about this song is very cool.  It doesn’t really scream Christmas, but clearly it is a Christmas song.

“Make It Wonderful” has a cool synth riff after the chorus and a somewhat poppy feel.

“Sleep Quietly” is a by Ruth Heller (originally called “Sleep Quietly My Jesus”) who I can find no information about.  This version feels eerie for sure with the synth choices and the nearly whispered vocals by Bell.  These songs about Jesus seem odd for Erasure, since their song “Bells of Love” specifically mentions not believing.

“Silent Night” is a beautiful song and they do a lovely job with it–layered synths and Bell’s gently echoed vocals.  It’s lovely.  “Loving Man” feels most like an Erasure song–bouncy synths and clacking drums.

“The Christmas Song” is one of the most unsettling songs on the disc because Bell sings the song fairly traditionally, but the music sounds like an 8-bit video game.  That is until the chorus which sort of takes off in a dance direction.

Next up is a delicate take on “In the Bleak Midwinter.”  It is pretty and gentle and as with many of these songs I love the attention to care that they band put into the backing vocals and production.

“Blood on the Snow” hardly seems like a Christmas song, but it is about the snow.  It’s quite sinister, especially that powerful five-note bass line and those eerie mechanical synths sounds.  The lyrics make it seem like a take on the three wise men story, but with a darker twist

Star don’t lose your shine
Be sure to light the way
Your essence is divine
For these three gifts we bring
It’s only a small offering of time

“There’ll Be No Tomorrow” is a pure Erasure dance song.  It doesn’t feel bleak like the other songs because its got that whole “party like there’ll be no tomorrow vibe,” and yet lyrically that’s a pretty bleak thought:

All bets are off, the party’s on
So let’s away and drown out our sorrows
So don’t be late and celebrate
And party like there’ll be no tomorrow

“Midnight Clear” is the traditional song. Bells’ vocals are lovely.  The music is a little weird–deep almost ghostly backing vocals and a very cool, but unexpected, melody between verses.

“White Christmas” is definitely eerie.  And since the song is actually quite a sad song, it makes sense.  The vocals are distant and almost sound like they are over the phone.  In fact, with the intro and outro sound effects, it seems like maybe it’s meant to be sung on a train.  And again, there’s that spare mechanical music accompanying.

“Silver Bells” is a simple, pretty take on the song.  It’s softer than the other more mechanical songs, with some sweet backing vocals.  A slightly happy ending to a rather sad Christmas album.

[READ: December 17, 2018] “Deer Season”

Once again, I have ordered The Short Story Advent Calendar.  This is my third time reading the Calendar (thanks S.).  I never knew about the first one until it was long out of print (sigh).  Here’s what they say this year

Fourth time’s the charm.

After a restful spring, rowdy summer, and pretty reasonable fall, we are officially back at it again with another deluxe box set of 24 individually bound short stories to get you into the yuletide spirit.

The fourth annual Short Story Advent Calendar might be our most ambitious yet, with a range of stories hailing from eight different countries and three different originating languages (don’t worry, we got the English versions). This year’s edition features a special diecut lid and textured case. We also set a new personal best for material that has never before appeared in print.

Want a copy?  Order one here.

Like last year I’m pairing each story with a holiday disc from our personal collection.

This is the second story I have previously read in the New Yorker.   I assume that since I read it before I read it differently because I feel like I got more out of it this time.  On the original read it seemed like a guy writing a story about a girl who wants to have sex.  What I found interesting on this read was realizing that a young girl having sex in a small town can have consequences–and not the typical ones (she doesn’t get pregnant). (more…)

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