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Archive for the ‘Art Brut’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: GURR-“Christmas One and Only” (2018).

I really enjoyed Gurr when I saw them live this year.  I wanted to see what their studio music sounded like and I found this release called the Christmas Business EP.  Two songs that feature Eddie Argos from Art Brut.

This second song has a poppier riff (More guitar than bass) and a happier vocals style with the Gurr women singing “Christmas coming into town all the kids are frantically screaming / Christmas coming into town its all about love, oh this is the season.”

Even the hard-hearted Eddie Argos finds his Grinch heart melting this year.

It begins with him saying “Sat around the Christmas tree sorry about my misery” and this rather amusing line: “My favorite thing about Christmas time used to be finishing everybody’s glasses of wine.”

But after some cheerful lines from Gurr, he has a change of heart:

“I never liked Christmas, but since I met you I want to grab it with both fists and give it a big kiss.”

There’s also this very nice ending sentiment

“good or bad this year is nobody’s business / I hope you have a wonderful Christmas.”

Thank you Eddie.

This short song (also less than 3 minutes) ends with this amusing comment:

Die hard is a Christmas film and so is Die Hard 2 / I want to drink some Glühwein and watch them both with you.

Cheers!

Check it out here.

[READ: December 1, 2019] “Torre Del Mirador”

This year, S. ordered me The Short Story Advent Calendar.  This is my fourth time reading the Calendar.  I didn’t know about the first one until it was long out of print (sigh), but each year since has been very enjoyable.  Here’s what they say this year

The Short Story Advent Calendar is back! And to celebrate its fifth anniversary, we’ve decided to make the festivities even more festive, with five different coloured editions to help you ring in the holiday season.

No matter which colour you choose, the insides are the same: it’s another collection of expertly curated, individually bound short stories from some of the best writers in North America and beyond.

(This is a collection of literary, non-religious short stories for adults. For more information, visit our Frequently Asked Questions page.)

As always, each story is a surprise, so you won’t know what you’re getting until you crack the seal every morning starting December 1. Once you’ve read that day’s story, check back here to read an exclusive interview with the author.

Want a copy?  Order one here.

I’m pairing music this year with some Christmas songs that I have come across this year.

This story (translated by Margaret Jull Costa) seemed very familiar and I have to wonder if I’ve read it anywhere before.  I loved it for how weird and engaging it was.

One morning, the narrator is awoken by a phone call.  The caller tells him that he was close to having a nervous breakdown and he needed to talk to someone.  The narrator is annoyed at being woken up and assumes it is a prank from one of his friends.  But the caller tries to clarify.  He says that his wife was making his life miserable–always telling him how ugly he was.  She said she hated his face.  He got so fed up that he left her. He rented the apartment across from their villa and has been spying on her ever since.  He tells the narrator that he picked his number at random. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: GURR-“Christmas Holiday” (2018).

I really enjoyed Gurr when I saw them live this year.  I wanted to see what their studio music sounded like and I found this release called the Christmas Business EP.  There are two songs that feature Eddie Argos from Art Brut.

This first track has a very B-52’s vibe to it.  With Eddie Argos doing his thing and the women from Gurr singing lovely backing vocals, it sounds like a punkish update to their style.

A thumping beat introduces Eddie speaking (in his own distinct way) “Silent Night, holy night everything is gonna be alright.  Silent Night holy night, maybe not but lets pretend it might.”

Then the Gurr women sing a line (with lovely ahhs behind it).

The chorus is simple and catchy “We’re on Christmas holiday / sat around with nothing left to say / We’re on Christmas holiday / you don’t have to stay if you donb’t want to.”

The song is short (less than three minutes) and it continues with more great Eddie Argos lines like “We’ve got something cooking in the kitchen / it doesn’t fit in with your dietary restrictions” (this sounds the most like the with B-52’s since both women do the ahhs.)

After another chorus, Eddie ends the song with this heartfelt Christmas wish

I’ve gathered you all here today to say … I  hope you are all enjoying Christmas exactly the same amount as … I am enjoying Christmas.

Check it out here.

[READ: December 1, 2019]Beginnings

This year, S. ordered me The Short Story Advent Calendar.  This is my fourth time reading the Calendar.  I didn’t know about the first one until it was long out of print (sigh), but each year since has been very enjoyable.  Here’s what they say this year

The Short Story Advent Calendar is back! And to celebrate its fifth anniversary, we’ve decided to make the festivities even more festive, with five different coloured editions to help you ring in the holiday season.

No matter which colour you choose, the insides are the same: it’s another collection of expertly curated, individually bound short stories from some of the best writers in North America and beyond.

(This is a collection of literary, non-religious short stories for adults. For more information, visit our Frequently Asked Questions page.)

As always, each story is a surprise, so you won’t know what you’re getting until you crack the seal every morning starting December 1. Once you’ve read that day’s story, check back here to read an exclusive interview with the author.

Want a copy?  Order one here.

I’m pairing music this year with some Christmas songs that I have come across this year.

The story it is told in many different parts–22 numbered sections.  Number 1 is called “The Beginning” and in its entirety, it consists of

 I find you impossibly beautiful, the man tells me. Give it a year, I tell him, and you’ll find me impossible

(more…)

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[ATTENDED: September 7, 2019] Fontaines D.C.

I had heard of Fontaines D.C. from NPR.  They raved about the band’s live show.   I was pretty exited to get to see them in a small place like Johnny Brenda’s.  Then I was really quite surprised that they sold out.  I feel like a lot of times bands that I think have a lot of buzz either don’t or don’t have it in Philly.

But it was sold out and the crowd knew the band really well (much better than I did).

When Pottery went off stage, the floor cleared out a bit and I got a great spot right up front.

Then they turned on these awful blue lights.  Was that the band’s decision?  Why were they like that for the whole show?  Who thought that wa sa good look for anyone?  But I didn’t really care because I was ready to hear this legendary (already) band.

They are an interesting band to be sure.  Many (but not all) of their songs are fast.  But all of their songs feature lead vocalist Grian Chatten speak-singing ala Art Brut but with a Dublin accent.  On stage Chatten is something of a caged tiger, walking around grabbing the mic stand, lurching, looking distracted or pissed off.  And then he bursts out his vocals.  (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: ART BRUT Live from the 9:30 Club, November 29, 2007 (2007).

I’ve really enjoyed Art Brut’s two albums.  They are funny but they are not jokey.  They also rock really hard with wonderful, angular punk.

Sometimes I’ve felt the albums are a little bit…shall we say…perfect.  They are very tight and polished on record (which actually serves the records very well).  But I wondered what a live show would be like for them.

And I’m delighted to say that their live set is more shambolic than their records.  The shambolicness suits them very well, because they are clearly a lot of fun live.  As you might expect from the vocals on the records, Eddie Argos is practically a ringleader on stage.  He has playful funny banter; I love the way he introduces almost every song with “Are you ready Art Brut?”

I was also quite delighted with the way he introduced every band member with a song that he was the first musician on.  It allowed for spreading out the various interruptions of the music and really kept the flow.

Some of the guitar bits sound muddied (and I have to admit the recording level is a little lower than I would like–or maybe that’s the radio I’m playing it out of), but again, that adds to their punkier stylings.  But my favorite song “My Little Brother” sounds like it’s on fire!  The band plays it magnificent and the bass sounds amazing.  I was surprised that my second favorite song “Formed a Band” was more or less tacked on as a segment of the final track, but it works well in that location.

Perhaps the most surprising thing was the “drum solo” at the very end.  I kept expecting Argos to tell him to knock it off.  It’s a great live show.

The end of the show includes an interview with Eddie Argos and the singer from The Hold Steady (Art Brut opened for them on this tour).  The questions are mostly for The Hold Steady, but there’s enough or an Art Brut fan to keep listening all the way through.

[READ: December 15, 2010] “Agreeable”

So this is the final work that I printed out from the New Yorker by Jonathan Franzen.  And this means that I am done reading short Franzen works (actually, there’s one other piece that was available in Harper’s but I’m going wait on that one for a while).  Starting sometime in 2011, (although not right away) I’m going to begin reading his novels.

So, I assume this story is also excerpted from Freedom.  It concerns the same character as in the previous short story, “Good Neighbors” although she is not yet Patty Berglund.  She is still Patty Emerson and is a jock in high school.  Tying this in to yesterday’s story, Patty was an outcast even in her own family.  She was taller than all of her siblings and was much more athletic and aggressive.  Her mother had little time for her (she loved her artsy other daughters) and her father, a defense attorney, was often too busy for her.

The interesting set up of the story comes when we see her as a young girl.  She is, as mentioned, an outcast in her own family, and it seems that her father is quite a joker, often at her expense.  As a defense attorney, her father deals with many clients who are guilty and he is not above mimicking them to his family.  And this carries over when it comes to Patty as well.  He mocks her intellectual gaffes in front of everyone. And it’s unclear whether this is an odd way of showing love or just a nasty thing to do (well, it is nasty, but it’s unclear if it’s a clumsy attempt at affection). (more…)

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newyorker jun1SOUNDTRACK: ART BRUT-Art Brut vs. Satan (2009).

art brutI’ve mentioned Art Brut before. I enjoy their talky/punk style. This, their new album, is produced by Frank Black of Pixies fame.  I can’t honestly say that I see a real difference in production values, but I don’t usually notice things like that.

What I did notice is that Art Brut are branching out a little bit from just having  Eddie Argos dramatically reciting his lyrics. On “What a Rush” there’s a group chorus of “Parents, please lock up your daughters.”  And on “Summer Job” there’s a “woah ho o oh” singalong bit from a different band member as well as a sung chorus.  But aside from that they are still the same Art Brut.

The focus of Argos’ rants this time seems to be very music-centered.  “Slap Dash for No Cash” describes the kind of recording style he likes (and which was presumably used on this disc).  Meanwhile, “The Replacements” is all about his shock at only just now discovering this awesome band (and his further shock that they are almost old enough to be his parents). And, of course, there’s the ever present concern of an indie band disliking and being disliked by the mainstream: “How am I supposed to sleep at night when no one likes the music we write? The record buying public, we hate them: This is Art Brut vs. Satan”

Argos’ lyrics also return inevitably to love and sex and drinking (not necessarily in that order) with “Alcoholics Unanimous” and “Mysterious Bruises.”

There’s also a song that absolutely must be used in a future episode of The Big Bang Theory (are you listening Chuck Lorre?): “DC Comics and Chocolate Milkshake.”  Can you not see the perfect setup: the song is playing in the background, and as the woman that Leonard falls for leaves the comic book shop, the soundtrack breaks to the line: “I’m in love with a girl in my comic shop.  She’s a girl who likes comics. She probably gets that a lot.”

Many of their songs are funny, but to me they don’t come across as a joke band.  And despite Argos’ great delivery and witty lyrics, it’s the music that really sells the album.  You don’t notice at at first, but it’s what makes these songs more than just novelties.  The guitar solos and opening riffs are really memorable, and when the songs start, the punk guitar blasts are really catchy.

My one gripe is that on some songs, Argos repeats the same line.  A LOT.  So on “Mysterious Bruises,” a song I like, by then end I don’t want to hear him say that he’s had one Zirtec and two Advil again and again.  And that is the one pitfall that Art Brut can stumble into once in a while.  For most bands, a chorus that is sung many times can be catchy and fun to sing along to.  Art Brut’s spoken lyrics are fun to hear, and might be fun to shout along with in a concert, but hearing him repeat himself can be tedious when there’s no melody (I find this true of Rage Against the Machine as well, as Zach de la Rocha is the king of repetition.  The king of repetition.  The king of repetition.) Fortunately Argos doesn’t do it all that often.  And the album stands up to multiple listens.

[READ: May 27, 2009] “Love Affair with Secondaries”

This story, set in Moscow, concerns a man, his wife, and his mistress.  The man, Piotr, recently had some tests done to see if he inherited a familial cancer.  With this hanging over his head, he tries to prove to himself how alive he is by sleeping with his mistress Agnieszka.

The affair is conducted in his own house, because his wife Basia is out until late most evenings. One day Basia comes home while Agnieszka is still in the house.  As Agnieszka flees the house, Basia hits her with a blunt instrument; Basia later claims that she now has a tumor.  Piotr, wracked with guilt for cheating and for this presumed cancer doesn’t know what to do. (more…)

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pride-zombiesSOUNDTRACK: The Core: WVPH, 90.3 FM.

coreThe Core is also from Rutgers University.  How do they have two radio stations?  Interestingly, the station is shared with Piscataway High School.  For several hours a day Piscataway High School takes over the airwaves.  Although I admit that I have not listened to any of the PHS stuff because the first block is at 6 in the morning, and the other block is from 1- 3PM.

The college folks, however, play a pretty excellent selection of alternative music.  They’re not quite as indie and out there as WRSU, but they’re not commercial either.  To me, they’re more of the kind of college station I’m used to from my days as music director at the University of Scranton.

In the few days that I listened, I heard a lot of familiar alternative artists, with a nice focus on new bands.  What I especially liked about the station was that they didn’t play too much in the way of commercial alternative (your U2s and R.E.Ms who were once alternative but are now mainstream).  Rather, they played bands like Art Brut, The Decemberists, Portishead and Neutral Milk Hotel: bands that many people have at least heard of, but that you won’t find anywhere else on the dial.

This is the station that I would turn to most if my CD player busted permanently.

The only thing I didn’t like about it, but which also reminded me of my days as a DJ, was that college DJs tend to talk A LOT.  We all think that we are imparting precious wisdom to the masses.  And often, that is true.  Although in this one case, the DJ said that the name of the band was Art Brut Vs Satan, which is in fact just the album name.  (See, I’m still a pretentious music snob!).   However, when I’m having dinner and reading a book, I don’t need a seven minute update about that last concert that you went to.

[READ: May 19, 2009] Pride and Prejudice and Zombies

When I first heard about this book (as a punchline on Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me at my brother-in-law Tim’s house), I couldn’t believe it was real.  I was so intrigued by the concept, and then so impressed by the reviews, that I couldn’t wait to read it.

And this book does not disappoint.

For those out of the loop: Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is, as the title suggests, Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice with good old zombie action thrown in.  Elizabeth and Darcy… What?

Yes.  Zombies.

Seth Grahame-Smith has taken Pride and Prejudice, changed a few details and then added an entire…well, subplot is not right…more like an underlying condition to the story.  It turns it from a story of love and marriage into a story of love and marriage amidst zombie brain-lust. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: ART BRUT-It’s a Bit Complicated (2007).

Art Brut is a really great punky band from England. Their first album contained two great singles: “Formed a Band” and “My Little Brother.” The premise of the band is that they play fast but melodic songs–they’re punk, but not thrash, and the songs are crisp. But the really unique aspect is the singer, Eddie Argos, who basically talks rather than sings, in his strong London accent. In fact, in “Formed a Band” he states: “And yes, this is my singing voice; It’s not irony; And it’s not rock and roll; I’m just talking; To the kids.”

This sets the stage for the rest of that album and this, the successor. Now, a band like this is stuck with two options: continue with this style of speaking/singing and possibly become a novelty or move on to a new style, thereby belying the lyrics from their manifesto. They chose option one. And the good news is that, while not making a better album that the first one–which is pretty fantastic–they come up with a slightly more mature album, which is still pretty great.

When your style of music is almost a gimmick, it’s not easy to get past that. The first two or three times you listen to the record, you are totally sucked in by Argos talking to you. Sometimes he’s yelling, sometimes he’s almost singing, and most of the time he’s being cockily self-deprecating (how you do that, I’m not sure). And you start to think of the band as little more than a spoken word record with backing music. Until you start to listen to the music. Then you gain a fuller appreciation for the band. The musicians are all top notch, playing rhythmic and catchy punk. Some songs have great chugga chugga riffs, others have really catchy guitar soloing type riffs, and all the time, the songs maintain a verse/chorus structure that keeps the songs from being simply rants set to music.

The album is fast and furious. The songs are funny without being twee, or tiring themselves out. The closest band I could compare them to is King Missile. Those of you who remember “Detachable Penis” from the 90s know King Missile. (more…)

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