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Archive for the ‘Marriage Trouble’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: DIET CIG-Tiny Desk Concert #640 (August 2, 2017).

The guys at NPR have raved about Diet Cig for quite some time.  Especially their live show.  They played at a small club near me and I thought about going but I couldn’t make it.  So I was happy to hear they played a Tiny Desk so I could see what all the fuss was about.

Diet Cig is yet another duo:

with drummer Noah Bowman propelling the high kicks and constant pogo bounce of guitarist and singer Alex Luciano. With a candied voice, she sings of being on the cusp of adolescence — but underneath that bright veneer Alex sings truth to power, and about what it means to be a punk in a skirt, dealing with disrespectful souls. “I think you’re the kind of guy / who would meet me at a party / and forget my name / and try to take me home all the same,” she sings on “Sixteen.”

And while the songs do have some angst, it’s the incredibly happy infectious nature of Luciano that made me instantly fall in love with them and berate myself for not going to see them in a small club when I had the chance–I see they’re selling out shows in London now.

They play 3 songs in 9 minutes (and the last one is pretty extended because Luciano is dancing all over the place: on desks, on the drums, everywhere.  None of the songs are terribly complex, but that’s fine.  They’re charming pop punk nuggets

“Sixteen” is what gets the parental warning. Its starts off slowly:

when I was sixteen I dated a boy with my own name / it was weird in the back of his truck / moaning my own name while trying to fuck

then it picks up and Alex starts bouncing around.  And although the song is kind of sad, “I’ll never barbecue again, and you can keep all of your shitty friends” she can’t stop smiling all the way through.

“Tummy Ache” is when she really starts dancing–doing high kicks and bouncing around all while playing nonstop guitar.  The lyrics are simple but great: “I don’t need a man to hold my hand / and that’s just something you’ll never understand.”

“Harvard” is the first song they wrote.  It has the amusing chorus of  “fuck your ivy league sweater.” She bounces all over the place, climbs on the desk, steps over to the drums and plays the last chords from the bass drum.  As the final chord rings out she reaches into her fanny pack and throws confetti all over herself as she jumps down.

The set is delightful and adorable and boy, I hope when they come back to the area it’s to another small club.

[READ: August 2, 2017] “New World”

This story centers around a global event that I know nothing about.  That combined with some confusing lineage angles made this story less satisfying for me than it should have been.

The story is about the independence of Ceylon (currently Sri Lanka) from Britain.  The story presumes we will know a few details about this event (I knew none: Independence from Britain occurred in 1948, but had a convoluted history trying to attain full independence).  I assume knowing that is useful to the story.

But for our story the impact is more local.  When the new prime minister Don Senanayake spoke first in English and then in Sinhala–no one knew what he was saying–but they all heard the word Ceylon.  Sir William (no last name given) left the country on the eve of independence and he left all of his property to Mr Balakumar, the Tamil manager.

The story is written from a “we” narrator: “We didn’t see Selvakumar approach.”  The “we” are married ladies (who mustn’t be too old, although they do mention husbands at one point).  They are mostly interested in Selvakumar’s story.

This character was fascinating but slightly confusing–at one point he says of himself:  “How can an Indian bastard be prime minister?”  Selvakumar worked for Mr Balakumar, and the man often whipped the boy for doing a poor job (I loved the grotesque detail that he was beaten so hard with the sugar cane that he “smelled like brunt molasses.”

But the real conflict for Selvakumar is with a boy named Muthu.  Muthu, they said, would grow up to be like his father Mr Padmanathan who thought of himself as a big boss.  Muthu was 10 and that was the only reason his father allowed his son to have a friendship an “Indian coolie.”  Muthu would teach Selvakumar whatsoever he learned in school.  The thing that stuck with Selvakumar the most was Marco Polo and his travels.

While the village was celebrating its independence, a storm came through the village.  The rain came hard and fast and began to knock down the poorly made houses.   It flooded the ground, which turned into raging torrents.  When the rain subsided, the people slept “by the ruins of our homes.”  And yet despite the destruction, they knew that Independence would be a more lasting and powerful event for them.

As they assessed the damage, it became clear that Selvakumar was missing.  Had he been killed?  Everyone scoured he area for him.

But I found this part really confusing.  The main part of the story was full of so much detail that I was really surprised by how unstraightforward the end was.  .

This sentence, once unpacked, makes sense but reading it in context created so many visuals that I couldn’t parse it right away.

By the time we discovered the yellow-tipped butterfly on the fat corpse, Muthu’s father had rounded the hillside, dragging his son by the ear with one hand and comforting the wailing Mrs. Balakumar with the other.”

So much is going on there.

Suffice it to say that someone has died.  But something else largely unexpected has happened as well.

The end of the story sees the women imagining their future and the future of the boys in the village as well.

There was a lot going on in this story and I felt like some things came just out of the blue. It was strange how the story begin speaking of the future as one thing but then things changed dramatically after the storm.  Although apparently not because of the storm.

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SOUNDTRACK: THE SHINS-Tiny Desk Concert #638 (July 24, 2017).

Although this is billed as The Shins, it is actually James Mercer solo (although really The Shins are more or less Mercer’s solo gig anyway).

Mercer plays three songs with just his voice and acoustic guitar: two new tracks and one that reached back to 2003 from the album Chutes Too Narrow.

The first two are slow and very folky–I don’t know the new album yet.

“Mildenhall” has a country flare and is something of an autobiography.  “I thought my flattop was so new wave until it melted away.”  The chorus is nice: A kid in class passed me a tape a later chorus reveals: “a band called Jesus and Mary Chain.”     Started playing his dads guitar and that’s how we get to where we are now.”  I love the unexpected ending chord.

“The Fear” is a delicate, simple song that fits perfectly with his voice.  It’s also quite sad.

“Young Pilgrims” is the recognizable song from Chutes to Narrow (the song even mentions that phrase).  It doesn’t sound that different in this stripped down format–there’ some missing extra guitars bit other wise the acoustic format fits it well. The biggest difference is that he seems to be singing in lower register here.

In fact none of the songs sounded like him exactly and I think that’s why– he usually sings in more of a kind of higher pitch, so it’s interesting to hear it slower and lower.

[READ: June 29, 2017] “The Mustache in 2010”

I really enjoyed the story.  I loved the strange way it was constructed and that even though it didn’t seem to start as a story, it certainly was one.

It begins

Social historians will record that in the early twenty-first century, the fashion for a clean-shaven face lost its dominance in metropolitan North American Bourgeoisie society.

After some lengthy discussion about the merits of various facial hair construction ,we meet Alex, a youngish (36 is youngish in New York City) businessman.  He availed himself of this trend by shaving only every third Monday.  His growth was dense and black.

One morning he realizes that he had left large sideburns, which amused him.  Thereafter he “subtracted facial hair so as to create an amusing residue.”  He never wore the stylized looks outside, they were private jokes for him and his wife.  Although there was always a scream of horror because he would sneak up on her.

This all l leads to some more details about Alex.  He was Québécois living in New York.  His English was fine but “fell just short of the level required for wittiness.”  This left him with an unjustly wooden personality.  So his wife was always looking for nonverbal diversion for him. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: RAVI COLTRANE QUARTET-Tiny Desk Concert #630 (June 26, 2017).

Ravi Coltrane is the son of John Coltrane–giant shoes to fill.  Indeed there’s quite a legacy in this band:

Yes, Ravi Coltrane is the son of the John Coltrane, one of the most famous and important jazz saxophonists and composers of all time. He’s also the son of multi-instrumentalist, composer and spiritual leader Alice Coltrane Turiyasangitananda. (In fact, all members of the band here are performing artists in their own right and come from artistically rich families; drummer E.J. Strickland is the brother of saxophonist Marcus Strickland; Adam Rogers parents performed on Broadway and Yunior Terry is Yosvany Terri’s brother, both heirs to Cuban music royalty.)

I don’t know anything else about Ravi Coltrane, so I’m going to let the blurb do the detailing:

The first song in the set, “Cobbs Hill,” was written by Coltrane’s good friend and colleague Ralph Alessi. Beginning with Yunior Terry’s funky and deliberate bass line, further enhanced by intentional drum rolls the 2/4 time signature, two beats per measure, captures a march-like proclamation. [Ravi plays the soprano sax on this one.  There’s a lengthy guitar solo in the middle of the song in which Ravi just relaxes, but it is primarily Ravi’s show].

The second song is Coltrane’s own composition, “Three For Thee”, a fan favorite from the 1998 Moving Pictures album; the original recording included Ralph Alessi on trumpet. Only 32 years old when that record was released, it could be taken as a sign of things to come: Ravi Coltrane, an old soul in a young body, mature and capable of creating work so robust and important. Almost 20 years later, hearing that music again here, even better, is affirming and a testament to Coltrane’s ever-evolving artistic journey. And E.J. Strickland’s opening drum intro couldn’t be more spunky; he teases the audience into the groove with effortless, intentional punctuations.  [Ravi is on tenor sax for this song.  There’s another lengthy guitar solo in the middle].

After this song, he thanks everyone and then points out that there is a two drink minimum.

Sadly there is no blurb for “Phrygia,” so it’s up to me.  I really like the main riff of this song.  And the middle has a groovy bass solo, which could be longer, frankly.  I like that the guitar plays some really delicate notes and phrases to accompany the bass solo.  After some good wailing, I like that they return to the main theme and then bring things down with some thumping bass and gentle guitars

[READ: August 20, 2016] “Four in Prose”

Back in 2009 Williams had 7 brief stories published in Harper’s.  My take away was: I would have not finished this work, except the whole thing was only two pages long.

These four pieces are also only 2 pages long.

The first is called “The Perverted Message” (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: RHEOSTATICS-Ultrasound Showbar [2nd GSMW Night 4] (February 28, 1994).

Second annual Green Sprouts Music Week held at Ultrasound Showbar Feb 25-March 1 1994. Setlists for all shows were fairly similar in content focusing mainly on the 25-30 songs that they would use for consideration on Introducing Happiness which began recording the following week. Rare performances of Symphony, Green Xmas, Floating, Woodstuck, Halloween Eyes and a cover of Blondie’s Heart Of Glass. This is show 4/5.

Sounds like people are sitting and then there s a request for people to stand up to make more room, but what about the people who can’t see…?  Let them fight it out I guess.

Most of this show is pretty clear with the exception of a few moments of wobbly tape.  Also notable is that most of the songs seem to be played a little bit more slowly than usual.  This makes them much easier to hear–and makes most of the lyrics really clear.

The tape is wavery through “In This Town.”  As an introduction to “Introducing Happiness,” Martin says “I think our next record is going to be a happy record…we didn’t have any idea how it was going to sound but…  [someone mentions where they are going to record it]: “how could it not be happy.”  It segues segues into “One More Colour” and Clark says that should dispel all rumors about any antipathy between Rheostatics and Jane Siberry–we are going to cover one of her most excellent songs on our new record.

Once again for “The Woods Are Full of Cuckoos,” they ask “fancy beginning or simple?”  Some people shout fancy!  Then a few for simple!  And then someone shouts “Angular.”  Martin says “This sing is angular.”  It’ sa fast burst of music and then comes a slow and kind of moody “Michael Jackson.”

Starting “Fishtailin'” Martin says, “I remembered to put my capo on this time.”  Bidini says, “the capo is like the condom of the guitar.  I don’t know how or why but it is.”  Someone in the audience shouts, “it prevents you from having another key.”  To laughter and confusion.  Martin then says, “For this one we gotta start by snapping on what they call the one.”  Tim jokes, “If you’re really good we’ll fly you down to Compass Point so you can record the snaps on the album.”  They stop after a verse (everyone likes Tim’s falsetto) and no one seems to know what happened.  Then they start again and all is well

Dave says “Me and Stupid” is a song about “fishing for fun and misadventure.”

Earlier in the night Dave and Dave were “fighting,” and Bidini said he was “Danny Bonaduce” and Clark was “Donny Osmond.”  [I had no idea that this was a real “event” that happened in January 1994].  At one point he says he will have to go through Tim to fight Clark–that must make Tim Susan Dey.  Tim: “At least I still got a career.”  There’s a long version of “Oneilly’s Strange Dream” and Martin repeats the first verse entirely.

“Claire” sounds good–slightly experimental–like many of the other songs this night.  “Floating” has an interesting opening with a cool bass line–this is probably the best recording of the song.  “Full Moon Over Russia” is suitably wacky with some really extra crazy nonsense singing and playing–lines about Colgate and teeth and litter and whatnot.  There’s some really jazzy section and Dave says, “I guess that’s why the kids love the jazz sound.”

“Green Christmas” opens with some whistling–“there should definitely be whistling on our happy pop album.”  There’s an interesting bass throb to open “Alomar” which segues into the opening pretty guitar of “Artenings Made of Gold/Cephallus Worm–they loudly sing the “what did martin pull out of cat’s ass in Italy”many times.  Every part has an extended section including a kind of ska groove during Uncle Henry.”  In the middle they ask for “some of that nifty audience participation stuff”  Tim says, “Get them to do something silly.”  There’s some howling “kind of Halloweenish,” which gets them to sing a verse of   “devils got horns devils got a tail 666 you’re a sitting duck ahoooooo.”  This is from a thing called “Halloween Eyes (666 gonna fuck you up!)” that seems to have been recorded once in 2001.  Martin jokes that the next time they’ll sing: “don’t look at me with those Halloween eyes / don’t tempt me with those pumpkin pies.”

Clark says “Uncle Henry” and “Halloween Eyes” just prove what you can do with a lot of… weed.  Sorry, I mean happiness.   Bidini says, “Someone is spontaneously combusting because we played this not on Halloween.”

Dave tells a story about smoking substances in the back of the van (audience member: “but that’s illegal!” and then says “I told Don Maclean I’d always call it marijuana perfume.”

“It’s the cleanest version of “Symphony” I’ve heard yet.  It is slower than the others.  As is “Jesus.”  “Jesus” is so slow that Martin speaks one of the middle verses.

They give a shout out to Kevin Hearn (and other musicians) who is hanging around and watching–it seemed like they called him up at one point but I don’t think so.

They have a ton of fun with “When Winter Comes”– a really lengthy opening in which they tease each other (what can I do to please you, Tim?).  Unfortunately this is where the tape gets all wobbly and warped so you can’t hear it very clearly.   The whole song is ten minutes long.  It’s wild and crazy sloppy with another song squeezed in by Bidini.  But the crowd is insane for the chorus.

The next few songs are really slow and moody.  They sound very different and interesting.  But that pace seems to mess everyone up a bit.  During “California Dreamline,” Martin misses the fast guitar solo during the “dolphins” line.  And in the really slow “Palomar” it seem like Tim can’t sing the chorus that slowly.

Clark asks if everyone is enjoying themselves and a fan shouts “Green Sprouts always enjoy themselves.”  Bidini notes, “but not too much… they always have just the right amount of fun.”  He says that they’re going to be on Much Music to debut the video for “Shaved Head,” which they also play really slow and really moody.

For the encore they start with their weird sorta half-assed version of “Heart of Glass” that segues into their new wavey “Crescent Moon.”  Martin says “we’re taking requests,” and someone immediately shouts “Woodstuck.”  “Done!”  Someone else shouts “and let’s hear it for the Trans Canada Soul Patrol.”  They throw in the “Mommy’s alright” line from “Surrender” during the song.

Lots of requests for the last song, someone shouts “I Fought the Law,” but they decide to do “The Battle of Wendell Clark” which I haven’t heard in a long time and which they segue into “The Good Old Hockey Game.”  It’s dedicated to the Olympic team who brought home silver.

As they finish, Clark says you can shuffle out to the shuffling sounds of the Shufflestatics.

Shave an a haircut, goodnight.

[READ: January 18, 2017] “Cold Fish”

This is a story of a couple who has gone to Key West.  They are engaged, but this is not a wedding-related trip, just a vacation that Neil wanted to do.  Mara can’t think of a reason not to go to Key West, so she decides that she just wants to get drunk and get a tan.

Mara orders dessert–key lime pie–and Neil who doesn’t like desserts, seems sad when she says it’s not the best pie she’s ever had (as advertised on the door).

Neil is always looking around for someone to take their picture.  In the photos Mara looks put-upon.

She calls her sister from the hotel that evening and tells her about watching a Jane Fonda movie.  Later her sister tells her not to call back unless they’ve eloped. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: RHEOSTATICS-The Rivoli, Toronto, ON (November 11, 1989).

“This is not the best sounding show – it sounds like a 25-year-old soundboard from a small club which is what it is – It is very interesting though as it is from a poorly represented period between Greatest Hits and Melville.”

The notes also say:

It contains early versions of Northern Wish, Aliens, Record Body Count, Christopher, King Of The Past, Horses, Chanson Les Reulles, Queer and When Winter Comes. Horses refers to Ozzy getting caught on the high voltage wire. Queer doesn’t have the ending portion yet, lyrics to Soul Glue are not quite the same etc. Plus a bunch of songs which were not played often such as Seems Like, Uptake, Poor Mouth and As I Was Going Down The Stairs (which sounds like it was a precursor to Triangles On The Walls).

I don’t think it’s a precursor actually, but that’s just me.

Northern Wish has a lot of hiss and a rather disconcerting echo on Martin’s vocals. The hiss comes and goes on a few songs, but is mostly absent.

“Aliens” has some notable lyric changes.  “Woodstuck” gets the CSNY intro (which he says they never do anymore).  In this version they sing in silly falsetto.

Northern Wish, Aliens, Record Body Count and Christopher sounds pretty much the same (and very good), although Christopher has some interesting sounds on guitar strings–maybe from Dave?–during the solo.  Christopher: “That was about Etobicoke, where we’re from.” and this [“King of the Past”] is about our trip to Winnipeg (with the disconcerting lyric change: “I won’t close my eyes–oh nevermind” instead of “I won’t close my eyes to the passage of time.”

As the intro to “Horses,” Dave asks, “Hey Mr lighting guy can you make it look like the hull of a freighter?”  or “can you make me look like thee tar of the band?” “Dave Clark responds: “Yes, just turn around and show your ass.”  The song totally rocks, but it’s really weird not hearing the audience sing along to “Holy Mackinaw, Joe.”  I trust they responded appropriately the awesomeness of the ending of the song.

After the song they have “the ceremonial exchanging of the instruments (that we can’t play).”  Martin says he got a book out of the library about ghosts across Canada.  And he wrote this song about it.  Dave interjects, This is dedicated to Jim Hughes.  Then Martin says, “That’s the first time I’ve ever spoken on stage.”  The lyric is “As I was going up the stairs, I met a man who wasn’t there” played with accordion, by Tim I think! (apparently the poem is called “Antigonish”).  They continue with the accordion on “What’s Going On” (which gets cut off).

You gotta stand up for three minutes and 20 seconds while they play the drum-heavy “Chanson Les Reulles” (which Dave says he can’t understand).  They play “Queer” and mess it all up: Clark says “don’t you hate it when the drummer counts in?”  It has a really lengthy intro and no ending.

“This is a song Martin wrote I have no idea what it’s about.  All you guys and girls at the bar, there’s plenty of room up front.”  Seem Like” is a quiet song with some dark lyrics and a cool effects filled guitar break.  “Poor Mouth” is a slow mournful ballad by Bidini (with some loud growls at the end of each section).

They say “It’s hard to tell if we stink or not.”  Clark asks, “Hey Dave, if you were hiding from a guy with a gun, would you stick your fluorescent yellow flag out or would you hide it under your camouflage jacket?”  Not sure if that is an introduction to “When Winter Comes” or not, but the song sounds great.

Dave then does a poem which is kind of stupid (like usual).  Then they play “Good on the Uptake” they played a lot but never officially recorded.  It’s got a lot of their early new wave style but with Martin’s wild guitars.  It segues into a wildly chaotic “PROD.”  Midway through Bidini wanders into the crowd.  He tries to get the audience to sing.  Some do, but one guy speaks it, “oh no, you have to sing melodiously.  That’s why we came out here.”

For the final song, called “Grant’s Song in G,” Clark shouts, “Grant? Sober enough to play drums?  Come on up.”  It’s all silliness for about a minute and then Clark starts singing an intense anti-drug song: “well you had your chance / and you blew it / up your nose / in your arm / in the car at the end of that…” When he shouts “Take it away Marty,” the tape ends.

[READ: August 28, 2016] “Home”

I hate when the first sentence of a story throws you.  I don’t know if it was the typographical layout, but I had to read this sentence three times before it sank in: “Lee was the daughter of his mother’s hairdresser.”

Once unpacked, it made perfect sense.  The He is the main character of the story.  Jim had heard about Lee for years.  She as in an abusive relationship and finally got out. Jim’s mother told him that Lee was looking for a lawyer (which Jim is).  He initially refused but then agreed to take her out to dinner because “she’s a beautiful girl.”

Jim’s ex-wife was pretty, sure, but Lee is stunning.  He can’t believe that he is having dinner and then seeing her in his own house later that night. (more…)

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[LISTENED TO: December 2016] The League of Beastly Dreadfuls

beastlyI was looking for an audio book to listen to with the kids and I found this one.  I didn’t know anything about it, but the title was interesting.

I never suspected just what a peculiar story this turned out to be.

It is the tale of Anastasia McCrumpet, an otherwise normal 11-year-old girl who suffers from flatulence and a mum who does little more than yell from her bed all day.  Her father is a loving man, but as of a few years ago he has been quite obsessed with vacuum cleaners.  She also has a guinea pig who is quite ill-tempered; when it feels crossed by someone, it takes revenge by pooping in their slippers.

On this particular morning, they were having a funeral.  A funeral for her father’s plant (they wound up tossing it out the window).  And then her father made them his famous waffles (which her mother screamed for upstairs).

But Anastasia was running late for school that morning because of the funeral and she ran out of the house wearing a most unusual outfit (part of a Halloween costume, which was top on the laundry pile). (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: TIGERS JAW-Tiny Desk Concert #628 (June 19, 2017).

I was in a sub shop the other day and saw a poster for Tigers Jaw playing (somewhat) locally.  That was pretty neat as I had just seen that they played a Tiny Desk Concert.  I hadn’t heard of them, but I was pretty excited to think that bands are willing to put up fliers around here.

The blurb says that the band “at one point, made yelping and earnest pop-punk before finding its way to intricate, and melancholy, pop.”

After the lineup shake-up three years ago, Ben Walsh and Brianna Collins both step into larger roles as the primary songwriters and singers, here playing songs from spin [their debut] stripped down to an acoustic guitar and keyboard.

They play three songs.

On “Guardian” the melodies are fantastic.  I love the simple but powerful keys that occasionally play over Ben’s strummed guitars.  And his chord choices are really interesting and unconventional.  He has a really good voice and when she sings her harmonies during the chorus it’s really very lovely.

On “June,” Brianna takes over lead vocals and there’s some more prominent piano in the verse as swell.  Her lead vocal voice sounds like a whole bunch of 1990’s female singers that I love and this song feels like it could easily have come from that era–Ben’s deeper harmonies are a nice addition.

“Window” has as simple but pretty piano.  They sing a duet and sound great together.

There’s nothing new or outrageous about this band.  They just play pretty music and sound great doing it.

[READ: December 15, 2010] “The Yellow”

I really enjoy a character who is judgmental and insecure.  And that’s what we get here.

The story begins with coyotes and babies, but it’s really about a woman, a recent mother, who is concerned about her marriage.  And a whole lot more.

She states:

Every real thing started life as an idea.  I’ve imagined objects and moments into existence. I’ve made humans.  I tip taxi-drivers ten, twenty dollars every time they don’t rape me.

But what has been keeping her up at night is that it has been 8 months since she and her husband had sex.  She quips, “I had great hopes that the threat of Lyme disease would revitalize our sex life: will you check me for ticks.”  But sadly for her, Lyme disease never really took off in California as it did on the West Coast. (more…)

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