Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Manuals’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: DAN AUERBACH-Tiny Desk Concert #726 (April 4, 2018).

Everybody loves Dan Auerbach, but I’m just lukewarm on him.  I could never get into The Black Keys and the Arcs were okay.  I will say that I absolutely love the final song they play here today and didn’t realize it was him.  But I think I dislike the style of music he makes not the quality of the songs.

Dan brings his Easy Eye Sound Revue to the Tiny Desk. It’s an abundance of gifted musicians who have all played with a long, long list of legends, including Elvis, Don Williams and John Prine. …  The small band for this stripped-down version of the “Revue” is fleshed with Dante Schwebel on guitar and Russ Pahl’s resonator guitar sounds.

Midway through the four-song set (that includes tunes from his 2017 album Waiting on a Song), Dan introduces a powerhouse: the seasoned but relatively unknown blues-and-soul singer Robert Finley. The husky voiced gentleman, with a giant smile and magical charisma, is heart-winning and heart-warming. It’s remarkable that this legally blind singer is only now getting the attention he deserves….  Robert Finley and Dan Auerbach released [an album] at the end of 2017 called Goin’ Platinum.

In the recent Tiny Desk Concert from fellow Nashville musician John Prine, [he told a tale] of writing songs with Pat McLaughlin in the morning, going to town for some meatloaf and then recording the song by day’s end. Well that’s Pat on the mandolin here in this Tiny Desk set. His playing is both astonishing and low-key.

The Review plays four songs

“Waiting On a Song” is a folk song with a country feel and a slide guitar solo on that resonator guitar.

“Never In My Wildest Dreams” feels like an old cowboy song complete with what is almost cowboy yodelling from Schwebel.

“Get It While You Can” features Robert Finley on vocals.  It is the traditional song and Finley does a great job, singing with gusto and making clear some lyrics that I never heard before.  His voice is pretty great too.

“Shine On Me”  This song is irresistible even if it sounds exactly like a Travelling Wilbury song.

It’s just a matter of time before he hits on a genre that I really like, I’m sure.

[READ: January 5, 2018] Haynes Explains Americans

This book came across my desk and it looked pretty funny.

There was no author name on the cover, but inside it mentions that it is written by Boris Starling.  I’d never heard of him, but I looked him up and found that he has written seven crime novels and that his first, Messiah, was notable for its fast pace and high levels of gore.  He has written a bunch of other stuff too, including several (at least 12) of the popular ‘Haynes Explains’ series of tongue-in-cheek mini-manuals.

So this is written as a manual (based on a stripdown and rebuild).

It is written very much like a car manual: “the aim of this manual is to help you get the best value from the American.”  It includes lots of pictures of car parts with labels for other things.  It’s a good mockery of the manuals .

Normally I enjoy a good mockery of Americanisms.  We are ripe for parody.  But this book feels just too easy. (more…)

Read Full Post »

SOUNDTRACK: LO MOON-Tiny Desk Concert #688 (January 5, 2018).

WXPN has been playing “This is It” quite a bit lately and I’ve realized that it sounds way too much like Mr. Mister (I think it’s Mr. Mister, or something else cloyingly 80s) for me to really enjoy.  [Speaking of Mr. Mister, how is it possible that Pat Mastelotto, currently touring with King Crimson, was the drummer for Mr. Mister?  Are they better than “Broken Wings.” There’s hardly any drums in that song at all and Mastelotto is awesome].

Anyhow back to the history of Lo Moon, lead singer and instrumentalist Matt Lowell says he created the song “Loveless” 5 1/2 years ago in a basement studio in New York.

He then moved to Los Angeles and linked up with Crisanta Baker (guitar, bass, keyboards and backing vocals) and multi-instrumentalist and principal guitarist Sam Stewart. They spent months in a backyard shed with gear and guitars everywhere. There they learned to feed off each other, sometimes jamming on two-chord drones for six hours straight without even saying a word. With the lights turned down, it was a comfortable space for the band to catch its artistic wind and create a celestial sound.

No word on when Sterling Laws was added as a drummer.

The show starts with “This is It.”  Lowell is on piano, and the song sounds pretty faithful to the recording. It’s the combination of the four note melody and the synth sound of those four notes at the end of the chorus that really rings Mr. Mister to me.  The addition of the backing vocals (ahhhing) is a nice addition to the song.

For “Real Love” Chrisanta switches to piano, Sam switches to acoustic guitar and Matt goes to electric guitar.  He plays a pretty melody on the guitar, but I can’t help feel that his voice is too soft, too middle of the road.

The same is true for “Loveless.”  They switch back to the original instruments.  Like “Real Love” it’s a pretty song, but ironically, without those Mr. Mister notes, there’s really no hook.  The songs just sound like pretty, generic songs on some kind of soft rock station.

[READ: September 9, 2017] Pip Bartlett’s Guide to Unicorn Training

I enjoyed the first Pip Bartlett book.  It was funny and had a good time with magical creatures.

In the first book we find out that Pip Bartlett is a young girl who can speak to magical creatures–unicorns, silky griffins, fuzzles–but no one believes her (because no one else can).  This is a drag because she loves magical creatures and her Aunt Emma is a veterinarian of magical creatures (people know magical creatures exits, they just don’t think people can talk to them).

Pip loves Unicorns and in the past has assisted Mr Henshaw with a very timid Unicorn–Regent Maximus–who was afraid of his own shadow.

I love the tone of the books.  This one opens: I was shoveling Greater Rainbow Mink poop. This wasn’t as bad as you might think. Greater Rainbow Minks only eat brunt sugar, so their poop literally smells like candy.  (It’s NOT candy, of course, It’s very important to remember that no matter how good its smells, it’s still poop).

And then we see (or actually we don’t see) a Rockshine who can only say the word Hey, but most often says “Heyyyyyyyyyyy!”  Rockshines are dull sheeplike creatures who turn invisible when frightened–which is often. (more…)

Read Full Post »

manualSOUNDTRACK: LUCY DACUS-Tiny Desk Concert #553 (July 29, 2016).

lucyI didn’t realize that I knew Dacus, but I’ve heard and loved her song “I Don’t Wanna Be Funny Anymore” for months (I just never knew she sang it).

In this Tiny Desk Concert, the songs have a really gentle feel (she plays electric guitar without a pick, using her fingers to gently pick out the melodies.  Although on record, the songs are a bit sharper.  But it’s her that is so intriguing.  A lazy comparison is Sharon Van Etten, but she has that kind of tone and delivery.

“I Don’t Wanna Be Funny Anymore” has a super catchy vocal melody and simple steady rhythm.  But it’s the way the electric guitar swirls around and her voice sounds dry and disinterested (and yet it clearly isn’t).  She’s not posing as a cynical youth, she is full of regret.  The last line is “That funny girl doesn’t want to smile anymore.”  When the song is done she says, “I always tend to smile after that line.”

Before the second song she asks if anyone else’s biggest fear is having a runny nose on Tiny Desk?  She says she woke up with a runny nose, but its fine now.

I like the way “Direct Address” opens with her gentle strumming which gets really fast as she ramps up to a quick vocal delivery on each verse.   But even when she sings fast, her voice is almost like a deep intense whisper.  Once again, the last line is great: “I don’t believe in love at first sight / maybe I would if you looked at me right.”  The song ends with some cool swirling guitars.

Before the final song she tells everyone there that the NPR workers kind of have the coolest job ever and she envies them all–a little bit.

“Green Eyes, Red Face” is a slower song with an interesting, subtle melody.  Another great lyric: “I see the seat next to yours is unoccupied and I was wondering if you’d let me come and sit by your side.”  I love the way the guitar kind of bursts forth for the solo by Jacob Blizard.  This song is the most like SVE here, although you’d never mistake one for the other.  The middle of the song has some really great riffs juxtaposed with the bass.

I like how this lyric quite a bit: “With your green eyes on my red face” and I get a kick out of how she plays her last chord.  And as it rings out she rests her hands on top of her guitar patiently waiting for the song to fade out.

I’m really entranced by her voice.  But one of the most telling things is at the end of the show just as it fades out.  When talking about their show that night, she says “we’ll be a lot louder.”

I’d be interested to hear that.

[READ: November 21, 2016] A Manual for Sons

Back in 2014, I ordered all 16 books from Madras Press. Unfortunately, after publishing the 16 books they seem to have gone out of business (actually they are switching to non-fiction, it seems). They still have a web presence where you can buy remaining copies of books.  But what a great business idea this is/was

Madras Press publishes limited-edition short stories and novella-length booklets and distributes the proceeds to a growing list of non-profit organizations chosen by our authors.  The format of our books provides readers with the opportunity to experience stories on their own, with no advertisements or miscellaneous stuff surrounding them.

The format is a 5″ x 5″ square books that easily fit into a pocket.

Proceeds from Barthelme’s book go to the The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center.

Okay I’ll say it.

I don’t really get Donald Barthelme.  I know that’s sort of the point of his writing–it is all anti-writing, a reaction against the novel.  But I also don’t get things like this “story.”  (It turns out it is an excerpt from a larger novel, but that still doesn’t really help).

So this “manual” is designed for sons to learn all about the different kinds of fathers there are and how to deal with them.  It states that it was translated from the English by Peter Scatterpatter.

The manual lists the different kinds of fathers: Mad fathers, fathers as teachers, falling fathers, etc.

And it’s not really helpful and it’s not really funny, and I have to wonder what keeps things like this from just ending.  How does Barthelme know when his bizarre list of things is actually done?

Some examples:

Mad fathers stalk up and down the boulevard, shouting.  Avoid then or embrace them or tell them your deepest thought–it makes no difference.

Fine, that’s good.  But then he says to notice if their dress is  covered in sewn-in tin cans or if they are simply barking (no tin cans).  If they are barking

Go up to them and, stilling their wooden clappers by putting your left hand between the hinged parts, say you’re sorry.  If the barking ceases, this does not mean that they have heard you, it only means they are experiencing erotic thoughts of abominable lustre.

What the hell?

And what to make of this “some fathers are goats, some are milk, some teach Spanish in cloisters.”

Or this: “The best way to approach a father is from behind, thus is he chooses to hurl his javelin at you he will probably miss.”

There’s an alphabetical list of fathers names which all start with  A and end with Albert.  (And the list is pretty unexpected with names like: Aariel, Aban, Abiou, Aeon and Af.

The most successful section to me was the “Sample Voice” part.  It gave three examples of a crappy dad–abusive and unsympathetic and very masculine.

The “colors of fathers” was presumably modified from a book about horses as each color is a horse color.

There’s a disturbing section about incest and then about the penises of fathers.  And finally a discouragement to patricide.

I just don’t get it.

Rick Moody provides some answers in his Afterword.  He gives some context for this story and some of his favorite bit of this manual (which was originally published in a dark book called The Dead Father.  He says he really related to this story because one of the sections opens “If your father is named Hiram or Saul” (and his father had one of those names).

He puts Barthelme in context with Gaddis and describes this manual as hilarious.

Guess you had to be there.

Read Full Post »

pipbartrSOUNDTRACK: TURTLE ISLAND QUARTET-Tiny Desk Concert #111 (February 26, 2011).

turtleTurtle Island Quartet (there’s no explanation for their name) are a quartet who play an interesting hybrid/jazz crossover. This is most evident in cellist Mark Summer’s playing.  Half the time he bows the strings but the other half he plays like an upright bass (including a percussive elements when he slaps the strings).

“Model Trane,” the opening tune is a John Coltrane-inspired piece, propelled by Summer’s running bass lines Despite the more classical set up (and three violins) it feels very jazzy.  It runs about 4 and a half minutes.

The band leader is David Balakrishnan who has written most of the songs.  He describes the second song, “Monkey Business,” as “loosely based on a sardonic view of Darwin’s theory of evolution.”  I don’t quite know what that means (it’s an instrumental after all), but it’s neat the way the music is all over the place stylistically.  The most notable moment comes when they quote (and fugue) “Strangers in the Night.”  Although other parts of the song remind me of the music in Bugs Bunny cartoons.

The final song has the funny title “Groove in the Louvre.” He says it was inspired by Django Reinhardt.  I don’t know enough Django to know if that is evident here, but there is plenty of soloing going on.  There’s jazzy fiddles (Balakrishnan plays a baritone violin on this song).  There is very jazzy bass (and even a bass solo on the cello) as well as classical elements.  The song is 8 minutes long.

They are definitely an unexpected quartet.

[READ: June 1, 2015] Pip Bartlett’s Guide to Magical Creatures

Pip Bartlett is a young girl (yes I was surprised that Pip was a girl, especially since it didn’t say so until nearly the end of the Prologue).  She can speak to magical creatures–unicorns, silky griffins, fuzzles–but no one believes her (because no one else can).  This is a drag because she loves magical creatures and her Aunt Emma is a veterinarian of magical creatures (people know magical creatures exits, they just don’t think people can talk to them).

The Prologue sets up that Pip loves unicorns but she never really encounters them.  Pip is an authority on magical creatures because she has read (and carries with her) Jeffrey Higgleston’s Guide to Magical Creatures.  She has actually been annotating it as she learns more stuff than is in the guide.  (The guide is good it’s just incomplete).  Then on field day, a classmate brings in four of her show unicorns.  Pip talks to them and discovers that they are incredibly vain and show-offy.  One of them demands that she ride her so that she can show off as much as the other unicorns.  So Pip does (against her better judgment) and all chaos reigns.  Pip is then sent to live with her Aunt for the summer.

As mentioned, Aunt Emma is a vet for magical creatures, and Pip is pretty excited to see them all.  Emma’s daughter Callie is less than thrilled.  She works in the vet’s office for long thankless hours.  And she is crabby when Pip sees her.  Within a few minutes, a couple of exciting things happy, though. (more…)

Read Full Post »

[LISTENED: April 15, 2013] Shop Class as Soulcraft

shopcraftMy sister-in-law Karen got me this audio book for Christmas.  Now that I have a daily commute I had a chance to listen to it.  And it has really stayed with me.  I think about things from it nearly every day.

Think of the book as “Western Philosophy and the art of Motorcycle Maintenance.”  Crawford studied philosophy in college.  He later went to work for a think tank.  But underneath all of that learning was a kid who worked as an electrician and a man who was always a gearhead.  So after working in a knowledge job, he quit the life and opened a motorcycle repair shop in Virginia (Shockoe Moto).  This is very likely the only book that quotes Heidegger and Hannah Arendt and also liberally uses the words shit and motherfucker (until I write my novel, of course).

My initial reaction to this book was not great.  I didn’t especially like the reader, Max Bloomquist (although I see he is a frequent audiobook voice).  His voice reminded me a lot of old filmstrips from grade school–a little stilted (which made the cursing even more surprising).  But I got used to it after an hour or so.  I also didn’t like the introduction/first chapter.  There was something about the tone of the Introduction that was either snooty or pedantic which I found off-putting.  The first chapter was a lengthy summary/example of what the book was supposed to be about–so much so that it felt like he wouldn’t need the rest of the book.  By the end of the chapter I didn’t understand why there was so much left.  So I’m actually pleased with myself for sticking with it, as I really didn’t enjoy the first two hours or so.  It was an uncomfortable mix of fifty cent words and a comparable dismissal of people who use them, or at least that’s how it felt.

But then he seemed to loosen up and that’s when it got really interesting.  His story is a fascinating one.  I think he grew up on a commune (although I feel like he only started talking about that about midway through the book).  His scholarship, his abandonment of it, his love of motorcycles and his work as an electrician and an apprentice mechanic all led to where he is now–a well-rounded individual. (more…)

Read Full Post »

SOUNDTRACK: NEIL YOUNG-Trans (1982).

By most standards this Neil Young album is a disaster.  It’s so bad that despite updating his entire catalog and releasing all kinds of bootleg concerts, he has never issued this disc on CD in the States.  So, just what’s so awful about this disc?

Well, mostly it’s awful as a Neil Young disc.  Meaning, if you like Neil Young (either flavor: country/folk or hard rock/grunge) this disc is a big fat HUH??  Neil Young has gone all synthy?  And not just synth but computerized synthy–sometimes his voice is utterly like a computer.  It’s a travesty, it’s a shame, it’s an incredible surprise.  Unless you listen to it without thinking of it as a Neil Young record.

But after all that introduction, the biggest surprise is the first song.  You’ve been prepped for this weird album full of computer nonsense and you get the fairly standard (if a little dull) rockabilly type music of “A Little Thing Called Love.”  It’s a pretty standard Neil Young song for the time.  Hmm, maybe the album isn’t that weird.

Well, then comes “Computer Age” and the keyboards kick in.  Interestingly, to me anyhow, this is the year that Rush released Signals.  Signals was the album where Rush fans said Woah, what’s with the keyboards guys.  Similarly, “Computer Age” makes you say, geez, was there a sale on keyboards in Canada?  The keyboards are kind of thin and wheedly, but the real surprise comes in the processed vocals (Rush never went that far).  The vocals are basically the 1980s equivalent of auto-tune (no idea how they did this back then).  Because the song is all about the computer age it kind of makes sense that he would use this weird robotic voice.  Sometimes it’s the only voice, although he also uses the computer voice as a high-pitched harmony over his normal singing voice.

“We R in Control” sounds like it might be a heavy rocker (anemic production notwithstanding) until we get more computer vocals.  Again, conceptually it works (its all about the dominance of CCTV), but it is pretty weird as a Neil Young song.

And then comes yet another shock, “Transformer Man.”  Yes, THAT “Transformer Man,” except not.  This original version of the song is sung entirely in a processed super high pitched computer voice that is almost hard to understand).  The only “normal’ part of the song is the occasional chorus and the “do do do dos.”  It sounds like a weird cover.  Sarah, who loves Neil Young, practically ran out of the room when she heard this version.

“Computer Cowboy (aka Syscrusher)” continues in that same vein.  Musically it’s a bit more experimental (and the computer vocals are in a much lower register).  Although I think it’s probably the least interesting of these songs.

Just to confuse the listener further, “Hold On to Your Love” is a conventional poppy song–no computer anything (aside from occasional keyboard notes).  Then comes the 8 minute “Sample and Hold” the most computerized song of the bunch and one of the weirder, cooler songs on the disc.  It really feels like a complete song–all vocodered out with multiple layers of vocals, not thin and lacking substance like some of the tracks.  It opens with personal stats (hair: blonde, eyes: blue) and proceeds through a litany of repeated “new design, new design” motifs.

This is followed by a remake of “Mr Soul” previously only on Decade.  This is a new vocodered-harmonies version of the song.

The biggest failure of the disc to me is “Like an Inca” it’s nine minutes of virtually the same guitar riff.  The chorus is pretty wonderful, but it’s a very minor part of the song itself.  It is fairly traditional Neil song, I just wish it were much shorter.

So, this travesty of a disc is actually pretty interesting and, for me, pretty enjoyable.  Most of these synthy songs sound kind of weak but I think that has more to do with the production of the time. I’d love to hear newly recorded versions of these songs (with or without the vocoder) to see what he could do with a great production team behind him.

Trans is not a Neil Young disc in any conventional sense, but as an experiment, as a document of early 80s synth music, it not only holds up, it actually pushes a lot of envelopes.   I’m not saying he was trying to out Kraftwerk Kraftwerk or anything like that, but for a folk/rock singer to take chances like this was pretty admirable.  Shame everybody hated it.

[READ: July 5, 2011] Five Dials 19

Five Dials 19 is the Parenting Issue.  But rather than offering parenting advice, the writers simply talk about what it’s like to be a parent, or to have a parent.  It was one of the most enjoyable Five Dials issues I have read so far.

CRAIG TAYLOR & DIEDRE DOLAN-On Foreign Bureuas and Parenting Issues
I enjoyed Taylor’s introduction, in which he explains that he is not very useful for a parenting issue   That most of the duties will be taken on by Diedre Dolan in NYC.  They are currently in her house working while her daughter plays in the next room.  His ending comment was hilarious:

Also, as is traditional at most newsweeklies, someone just put a plastic tiara on my head and then ran away laughing at me.

I resist Parenting magazines, from Parents to Parenting to Fretful Mother, they all offer some sound advice but only after they offer heaps and heaps of guilt and impossible standards.  So I was delighted to see that Five Dials would take an approach to parenting that I fully approve of.  Dolan writes:

Nobody knows what works. Most people just make some choices and defend them for the next 18 to 50 years – claiming nurture (good manners) or nature (crippling shyness) when it suits them best.

And indeed, the magazine made me feel a lot better about my skills (or lack) as a parent. (more…)

Read Full Post »

SOUNDTRACK: KISS-Alive! (1975).

This was the first Kiss live album and was the album that broke Kiss worldwide.  I’m not entirely sure why a live album of songs that didn’t sell very well would do better than the original studio albums, but so it was.

And, yes, the live recording is pretty awesome.  It is clearly a collection of greatest hits off their first three records, and the band sounds on fire: the songs are heavier and faster and largely more consistent than some of the odder tracks on the original records.

There has been considerable controversy about whether the album was overdubbed.  Wikipedia lists a few different possibilities for what originally recorded sounds were kept for the disc.  It never occurred to me that the disc might be overdubbed (and honestly that doesn’t bother me all that much).  But since I had the pleasure of watching Kissology recently, and I could see the state of their vocals live, it would surprise me entirely if the vocals were not overdubbed.  Not because the band didn’t sound good live (they did), but because they were very sloppy with their vocals, consistently leaving off the ends of lines and things like that, and the disc sounds perfect.

Of course this is all nitpicking.  Alive! is a fantastic document because the live versions add a lot of punch to the originals.  But on top of that, you get fun extras like the drum solo and banter of the 12 minute “100,000 Years” as well as Paul’s drinking banter: “I know there’s a lot of you out there that like to drink…vodka and orange juice!” (How can you pass that up?).  It’s hard to pick highlights from such a good record, but “She” is a particular one with Ace’s wild guitar pyrotechnics.  Right on to the end, the disc is a rocking good time.

It’s also funny to hear that “Rock And Roll All Nite” is not the final encore; rather it is the next to last track with “Let Me Go Rock n Roll” being the BIG FINISH.  That’s the last time that THAT would happen!

[READ: December 28, 2009] The Elfish Gene

I happened to pass this book in the New section of my library and I loved the title.  I read the blurb, made a mental note of it, mentioned how much I liked the title to Sarah and then more or less forgot about it (although, actually, I still see it every day, as it’s always facing out, cover forward).

Imagine my surprise to see that Sarah got it for me for Christmas!

So, yes, this is the best parody-titled book that is not a parody or a make-a-buck joke book that modifies a popular title.  Rather, it is a memoir of a British guy who spent his teen years utterly absorbed in Dungeons & Dragons.  But I must disagree with the Christian Science Monitor’s review as “laugh out loud funny.”  I only laughed out loud once in the book (the dog walking scene is hilarious), but that’s because I don’t think it was meant to be funny (at least I hope it wasn’t).

I’ve said before that I’m not a big fan of memoirs in general.  I find them mostly to be a big “so what,” and often without the subtlety required for a good novel.  But the topic here was delicious enough for me to dive right in.  And I think that this book, which I absolutely enjoyed, sort of proves my theory.

Barrowcliffe has done nothing worthy of anyone caring about.  He’s just a guy who played D&D, so when checking out the book, you kind of feel, so what?  Plus, the book is completely unsubtle, with him summarizing his attitude over and over and over.  But nevertheless, I could not put it down. I was hooked from the opening and was totally intrigued all the way to the end.  (I even put down the book I had been reading to speed right through this).

And yet, Barrowcliffe himself is so unlikable.  And not, as he suggests, because of the D&D. (more…)

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »