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Archive for the ‘Ben Folds Five’ Category

S57OUNDTRACK: DAVE BIDINI-The Upstairs, Sydney, Nova Scotia (July 26, 2007).

sydneyAfter the Rheostatics broke up, Dave Bidini did a solo tour and then wrote a book about it.  This is that book.  And this show is from the mini-tour he did as promotion for the book.  I don’t know too many details about this tour.

I wrote notes about these shows before I read the book (which I recently found and tread).  But I’m going to leave in some of the notes I took about the audio portion for posterity.

I gather he was in town to promote his book and was invited to do a few shows as well.  So these three shows from the Rheostaticslive site include a short reading from the book and then many songs.  This show has two readings and 8 songs (and runs over an hour).

He opens with a description of the book and the tour of china with a band they called the Rheos Not Rheos.  They were asked over and over to play The Beatles.  They played at the Sculpting in Time café.  Dave hung out with the Chinese singers Dirt Star and Airbag (who were also in a cover band that played Radiohead).

For the music, it is just Dave an his acoustic guitar (and a tuner). He plays three Rheos songs “My First Rock Show,” “Me and Stupid” and “Horses” (to much applause).

He plays four new, solo songs “Song Ain’t Good,” “The List” “The Land is Wild” and “The Ballad of Zeke Roberts.”  All of these would appear on the debut Bidiniband album which would come out in 2009.

“The List” is a diatribe against Canada: Tim Horton’s, Stephen Harper,  Zack Werner, and Chad Kroeger.  He says that it was inspired by taking a close look Tim Horton’s bacon and wondering just what it was.  And the mention of Chad Krueger gets a big reaction from the crowd.  The Zeke Roberts song is about a Liberian singer who was killed.  “The Land is Wild” is about Bryan Fogarty, a hockey played who died (it’s not the most upbeat concert I’ve heard).

There’s an extra song “Moncton Hellraisers” (you can watch a video of this one).

He ends the show with second reading and there’s a drunk guy who keeps shouting and interrupting.  I feel bad for Dave, but he handles it well—different than a rock show obviously.  This section involves meeting a TV show producer (of a show called Super Girls) and the Chinese version of the Spice Girls (who sing for them).  He also mentions going to an all night record shop and finding a copy of the Toronto band The Diodes.  He plays their song “Tired of Waking up Tired” for the employees.

If nothing else, this book will introduce you to a lot of little-known bands.

It’s interesting to hear him in such a casual setting.  He sounds good and the audience is really responsive.

[READ: November 5, 2015] Around the World in 57 1/2 Gigs

This book chronicles Dave Bidini’s solo tour after the Rheostatics broke up.  He explains that it was Tim Vesely who wanted to break up the band (no doubt inspired somewhat by Dave and Martin’s harsh critiquing of the songs Tim wanted to submit to their final album 2067).  Nevertheless, Dave was devastated and angry and unsure what to do, especially since they were planning to gig China for the first time.  So he decided to do it himself.  A world tour unlike any other.

disc_baladesqueHe scheduled a few gigs in Finland.  And he decided to invite his friend Alun Piggins along.  Piggins has been in a number of bands and has released several solo albums.  He seems notable for being a little crazy (with wild hair).  And I automatically respect him for making this album cover.  When Dave asked Alun what to do about being a solo artist (Dave hadn’t really played solo before).  Alun gave him some comforting advice and then said that with his band The Quitters, they would play “our loudest song then tell the crowd, “‘Thank you and fuck off.'”

The two would play separate shows on a double bill and occasionally duet on Rheos songs. They decided to tour Finland.  They flew into London and were only staying for 24 hours.  He wanted to try to get a gig before they left for Finland.  They scored one at the last minute in the Maple Leaf Tavern (which had never staged a live show before) and was themed in Canadian kitsch.  He talks about one man bands like Bob Log III “probably the superstar of all one man bands” (his song “Boob Scotch” is surprisingly straightforward).  He says he spent most of his 35 minute set worrying an doesn’t recall too much about it.

Then they set out for Finland.  First stop Hämeenlinna ( enjoyed typing out all these Finnish towns). (more…)

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bungSOUNDTRACK: BEN FOLDS FIVE-Live (2013).

bfflThis is the first official live record from Ben Folds Five.  They reunited after a decade or so away and put out a great album and this documented their tour of that album.

It’s a fun collection of songs that spans their career and also includes a solo Ben Folds song.

To me, one of the best things about BFF was Robert Sledge’s bass (yes, I know BF is the man and his piano and songwriting are stellar, but the sound that Sledge gets on his bass just brings those songs to new heights of coolness).  And that bass does not disappoint here.

The setlist is taken from a number of different venues over the course of 2012 and 2013, with a lot of shows in San Francisco, but also some from across Europe.  And the songs really span their career, opening with a song from their debut (“Jackson Cannery”) and then following up with one of their most recent songs “Erase Me”).  They even play “Tom and Mary” from their Naked Baby Photos collection.

About midway through the disc, Ben plays an improvised One Chord Blues (which turns into “Rock This Bitch”) in which he makes up “some bullshit” and this segues into part of “Billie’s Bounce” by Charlie Parker.  This is followed by “Do It Anyway” into which he throws a verse from Jesus Christ Superstar.  On the liner notes of the disc he talks about how throwing these verses onto a live album will cost you “a lot.”

For the song “Draw A Crowd” they play a synth opening, but when Ben switches to piano, he messes up and sings “the piano player can’t play…but keep the party going.”  He is amusingly self-deprecating both in his banter and in his song lyrics.

The disc ends with the awesome “Song for the Dumped” which includes great audience participation.  Amusingly as the crowd cheers, he asks them “Would you like us to play one more?” And as they cheer for one more, the disc ends.

[READ: October 28 2014] The Love Bunglers

Jaime Hernandez is one half (with his brother) of the duo who create the cool graphic novel series Love and Rockets.  I have read (and own) some issues of the book, but I haven’t really kept up with it all that much.

But I really like his stuff, so I was delighted to see this book, which was originally printed in Love and Rockets: New Stories 3 and 4.

This is a complex story, written in a back and forth style which only makes the narrative that much more compelling.  As the story opens we see some men playing chess on a street corner.  A woman, Maggie, walks by.  She is older but still curvy and the men size her up.  One of the men, the “new guy” gets up and follows her then hides in the bushes watching her.  Next we see Maggie, naked, lying on a leaf.  But she is actually talking to Reno and relating this recurring dream.

Then we see that she is a landlady and is also friends with a man named Ray.  Ray is an artist who is showing at a local gallery.  Maggie agrees to go with him. By the end of the first section it’s not entirely clear what Maggie’s feelings are about either of these men, but they both seem to like her. (more…)

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febSOUNDTRACK: BEN FOLDS FIVE-The Sound of the Life of the Mind (2013).

bffThe first Ben Folds Five album in over a decade opens with a big noisy sound and then quickly shows the diversity of the band by pulling back and showing a mellow verse with Ben’s piano and occasional bass.  But then the chorus comes in and Robert Sledge’s bass is once again masterful.  While Ben is clearly the leader of the band, there is something about the BFF’s bass that is so notable.  And this album rocks in BFF’s unique way–rollicking piano, and noisy buzzy bass.

“Michael Praytor, Five Years Later” has some great harmonies (the kind that BFF do so well).  “Sky High” is the kind of social commentary ballad that Ben excels at. And the title track is a fast moving rocker that has more great harmonies.

“On Being Frank” is a Sinatra inspired song with strings.  While “Draw a Crowd” continues Ben’s humorous vulgarity in a very unexpected way: “if you’re feeling small, and you can’t draw a crowd…draw dicks on a wall.”  “Do It Anyway” the single, which inexplicably wasn’t huge, gets more and more fun with each listen–to scream along with “OKAY!” is very cathartic.

“Hold That Thought” is one of those mellow but speedy numbers that I love from Ben.  And when then bass plays that high solo bit near the end (oh that bass), the song kicks into new levels of excellence.  “Away When You were Down” is another string-filled mellow song.  The final track “Thank You for Breaking My Heart” reminds me of “Boxing”, a mellow piano ballad which is, obviously, heartbreaking.

This is a great return to form.  There’s some heavy rockers and some pretty ballads. It’s nice to hear the Five back together again.

[READ: October 5, 2013] 3 book reviews

This month Bissell reviewed three books.

The first book is a biography of Flavius Jospehus called A Jew Among Romans jar by Frederic Raphael (who also wrote the screen play for Eyes Wide Shut).  I had never heard of Flavius Jospehus but evidently without him we would have no historical accounts of time from around the beginning of the Common Era.  His writings are pretty much the only works that have survived.

And his story itself is interesting too. In 70 A.D. the Romans destroyed Jerusalem. This attack has had more impact on current life than can be explained.  Judaism lost the Second temple, Jewish Christianity soon disappeared beneath the waves of Gentile Christianity, even Islam was shaped by this because a Mosque now stands where the Second Temple was.  And nearly all modern forms of anti-Semitism can be traced back to this attack in some way.  Flavius Jospehus chronicled this time as a Jew in a reasonably impartial way (which led many to call him a traitor).  His books Jewish Antiquities and The Jewish War are the sources for almost all of our knowledge of that era, including about Pontius Pilate. (more…)

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commitSOUNDTRACK: KANYE WEST-Late Registration (2005).

I lateregcan’t get over how much I’ve been enjoying Kanye West’s music as of late.  So much so that I went back and bought Late Registration.  I wanted to check out his early stuff, so naturally I started with…his second album.  And it’s a really enjoyable, soulful, gospel-filled rap album. Complete with Kayne’s bizarre, humorous and often offensive lyrics.

Musically the samples are wonderful—they create a very specific feel of pop soul that both works with and sometime against the lyrics.  The album suffers from two things that I’ve found I do not like in rap, and in articular in Kayne’s albums.  It bugs me when rappers intro their songs with several “uh, yeah”s.  I don’t know why but it does and that’s how Kanye opens the disc.

And, I wish there weren’t so many guests on the record.  While I understand the guest singers who provide backing vocals, I don’t get all the guest rappers (and there are a lot: Paul Wall, GLC, Lupe Fiasco, Common, Game, Jay Z, Really Doe, Nas, Cam’ron Consequence).  I mean, I’m not here for them, so why devote so much time to others, it makes you seem like you couldn’t thin of enough to say (and we know that’s not true about Kanye).  After a few listens, I have grown to appreciate the guests, but I like Kayne’s style so much that the other guys are just distractions.

Late Registration is largely produced by Jon Brion, who has made some amazing music with Fiona Apple and Aimee Mann—and while it is certainly stripped down Brion, the flourishes that Brion often employs are apparent here.  Like the tinkly pianos and farty bass that opens “Heard ‘Em Say.”  There’s some falsetto R&B-esque vocals from the singer from Maroon 5 here—I had no idea he sang like that.  It fits very well with the song.  And the instrumental section at the end is very Brion.

“Touch the Sky” uses a long sample (slowed down quite a bit) of Curtis Mayfield’s “Move on Up.”  But the sample is so much of that original song that it almost seems like cheating.  Except that he has slowed it down and modified it somewhat, and…his raps work perfectly with it.  The other really crazy sample is from Gil Scot-Heron which samples “Home is Where the Hatred Is.”  The strange thing is that the song is 1:44 and the last 45 seconds of the song are just Scot-Heron’s song playing along by itself.  It’s weird to have given up that much to another song…but it sounds great.

“Gold Digger” is a very funny song about, well, gold diggers.  The topic isn’t new (the fact that it samples an ancient Ray Charles song attests to it), but the chorus of “I ain’t saying she’s a gold digger, but she ain’t messin’ with no broke niggers” is great.  There’s also an intro section with Jamie Foxx doing his now patented Ray Charles.  It’s a pointed song but done with a very funny twinkle in his voice (the Kayne twinkle).  “Drive Slow” is a cool slow-tempoed number with a great sample from Hank Crawford and an interesting slowing effect at the end of the song.  “Crack Music” is a great political song equating making records to selling crack.  The metaphor works well.  And this is one of Kayne’s strong pro-black songs.  It’s really powerful.

The surprising thing is the two really sensitive songs: “Hey Mama” which is a sweet song to his mother in which he promises to go back to school and get his doctorate and “Roses,” which is an angry but beautiful song about his grandmother being in the hospital.  There’s a great verse about her being poor and therefore not getting the best care: “you telling me if my grandmother was in the NBA right now she’d be okay”   As well as a line about a nurse asking for his autograph while they are worried about his grandmother—although, realistically, how often is a nurse going to meet a star like Kayne?  The end of the song has some great soulful crooning by (as far as I can read) an uncredited singer.  And I feel like Brandy, who opens up the next song really falls flat in comparison to this unnamed singer (I don’t care for the way newer black singers wail their scales).  But the Etta James sample of “My Funny Valentine” that floats through “Addiction” is gorgeous.

“Diamonds from Sierra Leone: is a surprisingly political song that samples “Diamonds are Forever.”  There’s two version on the album.  I like the remix featuring Jay-Z a lot less, in part because I’ve never been a huge Jay-Z fan, but also because his verses completely interrupt the flow of the song.  “We Major” has  a very retro, almost easy listening vibe. There’s a lot of backing vocals going on and they remind me somewhat of Ben Folds Five’s backing vocals (which is pretty weird, I suspect). This song is interesting for its talk of worrying about daughters—as with many rappers, women are bitches and hos unless they are your grandma, your mama or you daughter—which is kind of awkward, really.

“Celebration” is perhaps the weirdest juxtaposition of contents.  It’s a celebration, bitches.  A celebration apparently about the fact that he and a woman (who had a fatty) accidentally had a baby (“You my favorite accident”).   That line makes it sound like the child is at the party, which makes the chorus “Grab a drink, grab a glass, after that I grab your ass” hard to fathom.

 “Gone” has a nifty piano melody (and some cool interstitials very Brion-infused melodies) that plays under Cam’ron and Consequence’s raps.  The song is kind of a muddle (although a funny muddle) until Kanye comes in at around 4 and a half minutes.  I really like the way the album ends: with Kayne rapping “Sorry Mr West is gone” and the music completely cutting off.

The bonus tracks include the original of “Diamonds from Sierra Leone” and “We Can Make It Better” (which features Q-Tip, Talib Kweli, Common and Rhymefest). It’s an interesting track (especially the sped up backing vocals) but it seems like a bit of a throwaway (which is surprising given the number of guests).  “Late” is a unlisted bonus track which is very strange.  There’s lots of “ah ha ha has” in a posh sounding falsetto).  But there’s some witty lines in here, especially this verse:

They said the best classes go to the fastest
Sorry Mr. West there’s no good classes, and that’s what yo’ ass get
Not even electives? Not even prerequits?
You mean I missed my major by a couple of seconds?
Now I’m in the shop class or the basket weavin
With all the rest of the muh’fuckers underachievin

So Kayne is clever and stupid.  A great rapper and a not so great singer.  And amazing producer and a good song writer.  And this is as good an album as I’ve heard it was.

[READ: August 8, 2013] The Commitments

I have been reading a number of big, heavy books lately (which I have yet to post about…later in the week), so I decided to take a break with a light, fun book. And one that I’ve read before (and seen the movie of many times).  I looked on the inside cover where I wrote the date of acquisition (a thing I did for a while until I realized it was kind of silly, and yet I’m glad i did it here) October 1993, almost twenty years ago.

But aside from Jimmy playing songs on vinyl, there’s very little that’s dated about the album–which may even be the point of the book.

This is the story of a bunch of misfits in Ireland who join together to form a soul band.  The nucleus of the band is Jimmy Rabbitte, a local kid who lives and breathes music.  He had Frankie Goes to Hollywood before anyone else and he knew they were shit before anyone else.

Some of his mates have started a band (called hilariously And And! And) which plays new wave.  Jimmy tells them they should play soul instead.  He plays them some James Brown and they love it.  Which leads to the talk of music and sex.  And they are really into it.  And then there’s  the oft quoted line from the movie: “The Irish are the blacks of Europe. And Dubliners are the blacks of Ireland. And the Northside Dubliners are the blacks of Dublin. So say it once and say it loud, I’m black and I’m proud.”

And so they begin a quest to find the rest of the band.  Jimmy puts an ad in Hot Press (the Irish music magazine) and interviews everyone (some very funny jokes in there).  And the recruits form a crazy quilt of characters.  (more…)

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[ATTENDED: July 20, 2013] Last Summer on Earth

lsoeWhen I heard that three bands who I like very much were playing, it was an obvious decision to get tickets.  And thanks to Sarah’s cousin, Kate who lives nearby, we were able to avoid the assholian $9/ticket fee from Ticketmaster.  $9 a ticket??  Assholes.  Interestingly, we got very good seats (thanks again, Kate), but for one reason or another, they were upgrading lawn seat tickets for an extra $10.  I read online that for the price of a lawn seat and $10, they got sixth row.  SIXTH ROW!  Damn.

We arrived at the show just in time to hear Ed Robertson introducing the opening act (an opening act when there are three bands!).  The opening act was a guy named Boothby Graffoe.  What?  Well, Graffoe is an English comedian and singer/songwriter.  Most of his songs are funny.  And so were these in the five song set: (more…)

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songbookSOUNDTRACK: songs from Songbook (2002).

songbook2Songbook came with an 11 song CD.  I’m curious, given the way he speaks so lovingly of the songs in the book how come more bands/labels didn’t want to be included on it.  The proceeds went to charity and it would just be more exposure for the artists.  There were a lot of songs I didn’t know and would love to have heard (or would love to hear while I was reading).  And frankly I see no downside to throwing a track on a compilation which is a collection of someone’s favorite songs.  Of course, things were very different in the music world in 2002.  Now, someone will just make a playlist on their iPod of theses songs, and post them to Spotify.

PAUL WESTERBERG-“Born for Me.” I’m much more of a fan of Westerberg with the Replacements, as he got a little too polished as a solo guy.  But this song has a fun, shambolic quality to it (it doesn’t even sound like Westerberg singing).  It wouldn’t be a favorite song of mine, but it is a nice one.

TEENAGE FANCLUB “Your Love is the Place Where I Come From” and “Ain’t That Enough.”  I really like Teenage Fanclub a lot.  They are one of my favorite jangly pop bands.  So these two songs rank pretty high for me.  Although I admit to liking their slightly more rocking songs a bit more, “Your Love” is a very pretty ballad and “Ain’t That Enough” is just gorgeous.

THE BIBLE- “Glorybound” Hornby says he knew these guys.  It’s an okay song, a little too slick for me and very of its time.

AIMEE MANN-“I’ve Had It”  I like Aimee Mann very much.  I can’t say that I paid a ton of attention to the lyrics of this song (I didn’t know it was about touring) but I’ve always liked it—the understated yet beautiful melody and chorus are very nice.

RUFUS WAINWRIGHT-“One Man Guy” I like Rufus a lot.  I don’t own any of his music, but I really like everything I hear from him.  His delivery is so louche, it makes me smile every time.  This song is actually one his father wrote and sang many years ago (very differently).

ROD STEWART-“Mama You Been on My Mind” Hornby’s essay on Rod Stewart is hilarious.  And his defense of early Stewart is wholly believable.  I, of course, know Rod from his later, laughable stuff, so I never considered his early work  But this track is pretty good.

BADLY DRAWN BOY-“A Minor Incident” Sarah and I love Badly Drawn Boy, and this soundtrack in particular.  Hornby’s discussion of how he Damon got to do the soundtrack is very interesting.

BEN FOLDS FIVE-“Smoke” I’ve liked Ben for years now (going to see him in two weeks).  This song has always been a favorite both for the lyrics, which are great and because that weird harp-type sound is him playing the strings of his grand piano with a pick.

MARK MULCAHY-“Hey Self Defeater” I don’t know Mulcahy at all.  This song has a beautiful wavery guitar and gentle vocals (it’s funny to read about Hornby rocking out when most of this disc is quite mellow).

ANI DIFRANCO-“You Had Time” I was a huge Ani DiFranco fan back in the day, but this song is unknown to me, or should I say unfamiliar to me.  It’s on one of her very early albums.  Perhaps it’s more that I must have ignored the piano opening, which Hornby pays close attention to and really explains it in a useful way, showing how it is more about a beautiful melody being born from chaos.  And now I respect the song a lot more.

[READ: 2002 and July 1, 2013] Songbook

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve written this very book in my head….  A list of favorite songs and why they are so important to me?  How cool is that.  I have no idea how come Hornby got to write it (I know, High Fidelity), but still, what a nice cozy assignment.  And to have this book illustrated by Marcel Dzama is even cooler.

This book came out in 2002 after About a Boy (and in the year that About a Boy was being turned into a film).  Hornby had recently hooked up with the McSweeney’s gang and began writing for The Believer in 2003.

I had no idea that the book was released in the UK under a different name (31 Songs) or that they also released an accompanying CD (A Selection of Music from 31 Songs) with 18 songs on it (see my comment above about CDs).  Although we got fewer songs on the disc in the US, at least ours came with the book. (more…)

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