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Archive for the ‘Mad Scientists’ Category

liofriends SOUNDTRACK: RHEOSTATICS-Railway Club, Vancouver, BC (November 1987).

RailwayClub87-PROD91It’s pretty impressive that this show (ostensibly from the same month as the previous show) has such a different setlist.  Between the two shows they play 22 songs and only four are repeated.  And this time five of the songs come from their debut album, Greatest Hits.

This tape begins with a recording of “Indian Arrow” by the 13 Engines.  It sounds very different from the other songs on the tape–the audience is very loud and you can hear a woman say “I wanna sing this one” (!).  I know this song from a Martin Tielli solo tour (and indeed, he sounds pretty much solo here–although there is a piano, too).

The rest of the tape all has the same audio quality but sounds different from the first song.  “Crescent Moon” begins mid-song (as if it was recorded over by “Indian Arrow”).   “Sad Sad World” is more upbeat than the title suggests with a “vocal solo” introduced with Dave and Tim chanting M-R-T-I-N in time with the music.  An upbeat “Ditch Pigs” leads to some silly banter during the guitar solo.  “Churches and Schools” sounds a lot like Talking Heads.  “Bridge Came Tumbling Down” is a Stompin’ Tom Connors song–they really had been playing him since forever.  Then they play a good version of “Higher and Higher” (from Greatest Hits).

It’s their last night in Vancouver, apparently which leads to a lengthy talk about he next song–a funky version of “Good on the Uptake” with lots of screaming at the end (from Tim).

The band plays the full version of “The Ballad of Wendell Clark” (with a some jokes about “Joel” whoever that is).  It’s rollicking and stomping and Martin starts playing “O Canada” as part of the solo.  Bidini stops the song and asks him to play it again, so Martin plays it on a good echoed effect (and Dave Clark shouts “alright Joel!”)  There’s some inappropriate jokes before Martin launches into a delicate version of The Beatles’ “Across the Universe-“-not the best version I’ve heard but still nice.

The final song is a romping stompin “PROD”–the only song The Rheostatics play in G#.  It has a fun shambolic end and it ends the set with them saying they’ll be back to play some Menudo tunes after a short break (which we never do hear).

[READ: January 15, 2016] Making Friends

It’s unsettling to me that the Liō books come in different shapes.  This one is even hardcover!  The contents of these stories are not unsettling to me though, even if they are to some readers (looking online, you can find gripes).

Liō continues to be a strange kid who loves zombies and squids and spiders and playing pranks.  This is his latest book (and I just confirmed to see that he is still publishing daily, so a new book must be coming soon, right?).

Tatulli still has some great gags.  And this format book has some of the strips in color. (more…)

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lioSOUNDTRACK: RHEOSTATICS-El Mocambo, Toronto ON (November 1987).

ElMo-Nov1987After re-listening to some of the Rheostatics most recent shows, I checked the Rheostatics Live site and found out that he has added some really old shows.  This show is the oldest show on the site, dating back to 1987.  A brief Rheos history shows that in the earlier incarnation, it was Dave Bidini, Tim Vesely and Dave Clark.  They were joined by the Trans Canada Soul Patrol and played mostly R&B and funk.  Around 1985 the Soul Patrol left and Martin Tielli joined.  Around the time of this show, they had released Greatest Hits.  And then they broke up (circa 1988).  Then they reformed in 1991 with an entirely different sound.

So this is from what I guess you’d call he Mach II era: no Soul Patrol but before the breakup.  Interestingly, only two songs from this how appeared on their debut album, although many appeared on earlier demos.

They play 11 songs, including what I assume is an improvised rap from Dave Clark (the really silly one of the band).  And the songs are dominated by a smooth guitar sound and often times a funky bass.  Perhaps the most amazing thing about this set is the prominence of Tim.  He sings many of the songs and Dave includes him in many jokes.  Martin is almost non-existent.

“National Pride” dates back to 1983 and starts as a kind of goofy rap song but then turns into the funky version from the demo.  Martin Tielli also released a solo song called “National Pride” which is nothing like this.  They follow this with the “Greensprouts Theme Song” (which they played at the AGO almost 30 years after this show).  Dave Clark calls it the “silliest song ever written,” although in the years hence they have made a few challenges to that claim.

“Good on the Uptake” is a song I’ve heard in a few places before.  Tim sings lead and there’s a kind of funky bass line with lots of guitar harmonics.  I think Martin is singing backup (and probably playing the harmonics).

Tim breaks a string and Dave Clark shouts, “This song is called Rheostatics learn how to string their guitar.”  With a broken string they play an impromptu version of “Red Dog Ray” taught to them by Reverend Ken and the Lost Followers “about the beer strike in 1983.  We were all pissed off because we had to drink Old Milwaukee and Rolling Rock and all that shit.”  This song has come up in their sets in the early 2000s.

It segues right into “Ditch Pigs” from Greatest Hits and sung by Martin.  The middle section devolves into a chant of “I want an egg salad sandwich and a glass of Coke.”

For “Four Upright Walls” Bidini introduces David Clark as the Poet Laureate of Etobicoke.  This is a rap of sorts in which the band does response to Dave’s rap (with all kinds of crazy sound effects and even some beatboxing (!)).

“Crystal Soup” is very much a Tim song–it sounds a lot like a song he would write now–there’s a surprise guitar riff in the middle of the verses that sounds a bit like Rush.  At the end of the song Dave introduces “Mr. Nigel Tufnel,” although I’m not sure to whom he is referring.  “Sue’s Mining Song” (also sung by Tim) has a kind Rush feel although the lyrics are very un-Rush (“woman,” “girl” and a line about “buzzards on your Steely Dan”).  It also features Tim screaming a high note!  It’s a pretty heavy song (especially at the end).

It’s funny that they follow-up with “a nice song,” Martin’s sung “Crescent Moon” a very, very new wavey song that Bidini wrote, and which leads of Greatest Hits.  They follow with a fun and fast rocking “People’s Republic of Dave” in which Dave encourages Tim to make silly faces.  And Tim growls that he wishes his name was Dave.  This seems like a great show ender, but they’ve got one more song.

“Chemical World,” has a kind of discoey guitar opening and lots of slap bass.

[READ: January 5, 2016] Zombies Need Love Too

I prefer to read series like this in order, but sometimes you can only get the books that you can get (and you don’t get upset).  For reasons I don’t understand, my library only had the first two books (which were also collected in Liō’s Astonishing Tales which they also have) and the two most recent books.  There’s maybe two books in between, as far as I can tell.

The good thing is that there’s not a lot of forward narrative in these stories–except perhaps for the new pets that Liō acquires.

So after four years what is Tatulli writing about?  Well, largely the same stuff, which is fine with me. (more…)

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silentSOUNDTRACK: HOSPITAL SHIPS-Tiny Desk Concert #177 (November 23, 2011).

hospital shipsHospital Ships is a band created by Jordan Geiger, who was in the band Shearwater, among others. In 2011 he released his second album as Hospital Ships.  The blurb describes the album as “packed with poppy folk songs and brash rockers enhanced with instrumental flourishes and bursts of guitar feedback,” but for this recording, they strip everything down to the basics: a guitar, banjo, ukulele and a drum with a towel over it to muffle the sound.

Geiger has a rather high-pitched, delicate, almost talking-singing voice and his songs are rather pretty.  The band plays 3 songs in just over ten minutes.  The first one, “Phantom Limb,” (once my lover, now my friend, you are my phantom limb) has a recurring motif of them saying/singing “ha ha” which is rather catchy.

“Carry On,” features a four-letter word (technically a seven letter word), which might be one of the first times on a Tiny Desk Concert that such a word is uttered.  It’s especially funny given how sweet the band sounds.  The sentiment of the song is nice though: “To all the women I’ve loved, When I was with you I would say I was better off….  And when I’m gone, carry on, carry on.”  There were harmonies in the first song, but they are more prominent in this one (three part) and are quite nice.  The banjo player also does a whistling solo.

“Let Me In” made me laugh because he uses the word baby a lot (which Ben Folds said in his Tiny Desk that he has never said in real life, so why would he put in it a song?).  But this song is very gentle and sweet–just Geiger on his guitar singing “baby, let me in.”

Geiger’s voice reminds me of a few different people–Ben Gibbard from Death Cab for Cutie especially on the final track; perhaps the Mountain Goats or the Weakerthans.  And his songwriting is very good.

[READ: December 26, 2015] Silent But Deadly

I really enjoyed the first Liō collection, and was pretty excited that I could find the second collection so quickly (my library doesn’t have any more collections for some reason, so I’ll have to track the rest down elsewhere).  This book collects the strips from February 25, 2007 – December 2, 2007.

Not much has changed from that book to this one, but I think Tatulli’s comic chops have gotten even better.

The strip won me over immediately with the first one in the book. Lio draws a monster and it comes to life.  He looks at the marker and it says “magic marker” and he gets a big grin and goes back to work.  So simple yet so funny.

It is that big grin–wide open-mouthed just unfettered mischievous delight that occurs in nearly every strip. (more…)

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lio1 SOUNDTRACK: JOE HENRY-Tiny Desk Concert #176 (November 21, 2011).

joe henryI had never heard of Joe Henry, so imagine my surprise to find out that he was releasing his 12th album in 2011.  For this Tiny Desk, it’s just him at a stool playing his guitar.  He has a very easy vibe, telling stories between songs and playing them with very little fuss.

He opens the show by saying this is, “not exactly like Woody Guthrie playing for the union members but you are working people.”

He plays four songs, “Sticks and Stones,” After the War,” “Odetta” and “Piano Furnace.”

Between the first two songs, he says he first became aware of Tiny Desk Concerts when his friend Vic Chesnutt was on the show (amusingly, he was the second person on the show).  He says he has a song on his new record about Chesnutt (Chesnutt had recently died).  He doesn’t play it though.  At first it seems like he might not be allowed to play it, but then it seems like maybe he just doesn’t get to it.

Rather he plays “After the War” where his guitar sounds like it has an incredible echo on it.  That echo is also present on the third song.  After which Bob asks him about his guitar.

Joe says he’s had the guitar for 6 years.  But the guitar dates back to 1932.  He says that he heard things differently with this guitar.  It’s got a smaller body and was actually sold as a budget guitar by Gibson (for $19 in 1932).  He also jokes that it’s black and looks a bit like a World Wrestling Federation belt.

Then someone asks him about Sam Phillips.  Joe says he sold her husband a guitar about 20 years ago.  She and her husband have split and Sam got the guitar and has been playing only that guitar for the last 20 years.  He says that he loves that she doesn’t plug in her guitar.  She plays into a microphone where you can hear the whole guitar and which makes the other players lean in to hear her.

I love the chords he plays in the final song, “Piano Furnace,” even if I don’t know what the song is about.  Henry’s voice is familiar.  I think he sounds a bit like a number of different singers.  And overall, nothing really stands out in his performance, except that everything sounds great and hiss songwriting is really solid.  That’s not a bad thing.

[READ: December 20, 2015] Happiness is a Squishy Cephalopod

Mark Tatulli is the author of the Desmond books.  I liked the stories, but I didn’t love the drawing style so much.  Imagine my surprise to find out that Tatulli has been drawing comics featuring this little boy Liō since 2006 (going forward, I’m leaving off that line over the o, because it’s a real pain).

And even more surprising is that I like the drawing style in the comic quite a bit–it is slightly refined over the Desmond books and is all the better for it.

I am also really surprised to find out that this strip appeared in newspapers across the country.  I’ve certainly never heard of it (but then I don’t read newspapers anymore, either).

So Lio is strip about a boy named Lio.  Lio is a dark, dark kid.  He has a pet squid, he loves monsters and he’s delighted by chaos. (more…)

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[LISTENED TO: November 16, 2014] The Clue of the Linoleum Lederhosen

linoWe enjoyed Whales on Stilts so much that we were really excited to listen to this second book in the series.  However, this book, while featuring the same main trio, was actually quite different.

The gang has decided that they are going on vacation.  They’re a little bored (Katie’s mom has been doing things like cutting off her own hand just to freak out Jasper), so they take Jasper’s latest gadget and head up to the mountains for a little r n r (and a free dinner with the coupon that Jasper received).

When they get to the hotel (the Moose Tongue Lodge and Resort), they realize that they can’t afford a room, so Jasper’s gadget attaches to the side of the hotel and looks just like it is supposed to be a part of it (apparently).  Of course, when they leave their invasive bubble, they have to go out through someone else’s bathroom and he is terrified by the calamitous sound that Jasper’s gadget made while attaching to the building).  They also learn that the coupon for a free dinner was fake.

When Jasper reveals to the hotel clerk that he is indeed Jasper Dash, boy technonaut, the clerk reveals that he is but one of many literary super sleuths in residence that night.  The Manley Boys and the Hooper Quints are there, and so is Eddie Wax and the Cutesy Dell Twins.

Who?  (more…)

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[LISTENED TO: October 15, 2014] Whales on Stilts

whalesWhen this book came out it was hugely popular in my library.  I was very curious about the title–it’s crazy, right?  But I had no real sense of what the book was about (I wasn’t even sure if it was meant to be funny or a drama–it was on every reading list of that year but who knew why).  Well, had I ever looked at the book carefully I would have known it was a comedy and I would have realized that it was exactly the kind of comedy that I love.

This book is part one in Anderson’s Pals in Peril series.  I believe the series shares characters, but I’m not sure if it is necessary to read them in order (we’ll find out when we listen to Book 2 next week).  Of course there are more than three characters in this book, but the three main characters are: Jasper Dash, Boy Technonaut! and star of his own adventure series; Katie Mulligan, star of her own horror books series Horror Hollow; and Lily Gefelty, a girl who is friends with both of them.

What is wonderful about the book is that the narrator describes Lily as being remarkably unremarkable.  She hides behind her bangs, doesn’t want to be the center of attention and is grateful that her two superfriends have known her for longer than they have been famous.  And what is doubly wonderful is that Lily is the catalyst for solving the major crisis that is about to hit her town.  In fact, Lily is the first one to even suspect that anything is awry. (more…)

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how you dieSOUNDTRACK: DIARRHEA PLANET-“Lite Dream” Live on KEXP (2014).

dpHow to pass up a band with a name like this?  Well, it’s pretty easy, actually.  Who would even want to say their name?

The name conjures images, no, let’s not go there.  The name conjures music that is just abrasive and rude–ten second punks songs.  But in reality, their music is pretty traditional old school heavy metal.  They have 4 lead guitarists after all! (There’s 6 guys in the band altogether, surprisingly, there’s no women).   One of the lead guitarists even plays with his teeth (for a few seconds).

This song is about heavy metal, although I’m not sure what about it.  There’s some big riffs, solos galore.  There’s even a classic 80s style dual lead guitar solo.  There’s big loud drums.  There’s feedback.  It’s everything you think of as heavy metal, with a seeming wink and nod thrown in.

This is basically a goofy feel good band, playing fast heavy metal.  Shame about the band name, though, really.

Watch it all here.

[READ: spring and summer 2014] This is How You Die

It is quite disconcerting to open a Christmas present from your wife and have the first thing you see be the words “This is How You Die.”  To then look at her confusedly and try to interpret the look of excited delight on her face as she wonders why you’re not excited.  Then she explains that it is a sequel to the interesting collection Machine of Death that you both had read several years ago (but which I evidently never posted about).  Sighs of relief and then Christmas can proceed with more merriment.

So over the course of the new year I read these stories and I enjoyed most of them quite a lot.

The premise of the book is that there is a Machine of Death.  This machine states how you will die, but it does not give you a time, place or real definition of what it means by hope you will die.  Statements seem obvious but may in fact be different in some twisted way.  As it says on the back of the book, OLD AGE could mean either dying of natural causes or being shot by an elderly bedridden man in a botched home invasion.  The book revels in the irony that you can know how it’s going to happen , but you’ll still be surprised when it does.

The way the machine works is that you insert your finger, it takes a blood sample and gives you a card with the way you die printed on it.  No matter how many times you do it you will get the same result.  These are the guidelines, and each author made a story with just that set up.

Pretty cool right?  The first collection was really great.  And so is this collection, done by writers and cartoonists that I had never heard of before.  There are 34 stories and 12 comic strips (it’s a hefty collection).  Because each story is basically about how a person dies, I had to think about how best to review the book–without giving away any twists.  So I think the title and a very brief plot will have to suffice.

There’s even a funny promo video for the book (at the end of the post). (more…)

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