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Archive for the ‘Bob Mould’ Category

secondsSOUNDTRACK: FOO FIGHTERS-Wasting Light (2011).

Foo_Fighters_Wasting_Light_Album_CoverThis summer I began writing about Foo Fighters’ albums.  Somehow I stopped before the final two.  Even though I had talked about Wasting Light before, in respect of a sense of continuity here’s more words about it.

It took four years for the Foo Fighters to release this album (I guess Grohl was doing one of his many side projects?).  The big story about this record was that Grohl wanted it all recorded with analogue equipment (in Grohl’s garage).  And he chose Butch Vig, who recorded Nevermind to do the work. Pat Smear was also included as a member of the band for this album (he even plays a baritone guitar)

Although to my ear it doesn’t sound any different from the digital recordings, there is a warmth and bigness to the album that their recent records seemed to lack

“Bridge Burning” opens with a bunch of muffled notes that give way to a big screamed opening verse.  This song grows more adventurous with some guitar harmonics at the end of the verses. The bridge leads to a classic Foo Fighters chorus (with more vocal harmonies in the background, that just seems to make it feel bigger)).  I love the descending chords in the (what, sixth?) part of the song.  Before the simple but great closing riffs.  It was released as the fifth (!) single from the album.

“Rope” was the first single.  It opens with some echoed guitar chords and then what sounds like a big old Rush riff and intro.  The riff is a little unusual but really cool (guitarist Chris Shiflett to comment that “What my guitar is doing over the bass makes no sense in a way. It does, but you don’t know how.” ) The verses have that riff in between them and a big “ow!” in the bridge.  Unsurprisingly, despite all of the oddness of the verses, the chorus is big and friendly with some great sing along parts.  There’s even a section for a (brief) drum solo.

Bob Mould (clearly an influence on Grohl) came into sing and play guitar on “Dear Rosemary.”  You can’t really hear him all that much, but when he pops up (especially near the end) it sounds great.   “White Limo” is a punky blast, with Grohl’s vocal shredding (lyrics are pretty much inaudible) right from the get go.  There’s some interesting riffs and chord changes (the music is so much cleaner than the distorted vocals).  “Arlandria” sounds like the Foo Fighters, but there’s something unusual about the feel of the song (the bridge especially).  The chorus is pure Foos, but the verse has an interesting style that’s not like anything Grohl has done before.

“One of These Days” opens with some rather unusual guitar notes (Grohl has clearly been experimenting with his guitar skills over the years).  It progresses into a smooth verse and then shifts to a big (but short) chorus with stadium chords and then another sing a long part after it.  It’s a very cool song (and Grohl has said it’s his favorite song that he’s written).

“Back & Forth” has a strange backwards kind of riff that opens the song and a kind of chugga chugga heavy metal guitar verse.  The song is one of the simplest ones on the record–almost completely poppy (if not for being so heavy).  It also seems weird that it ends with the riff too.  “A Matter of Time” starts out as mostly drums and vocals with some guitar riffs. It moves to a kind of unusual staccato riff around one minute and then turns into yes, a huge chorus.  The verses after the chorus seem bright and sweet with a newly added guitar line.

“Miss the Misery” features Fee Waybill, lead singer from The Tubes (and a friend of Grohl’s).  The opening riffage actually reminds me a song by Aldo Nova (who?).  I like the chorus (and backing vocals, although I never would have guessed it was Fee Waybill).

And Krist Novoselic plays bass (and accordion!) on “I Should Have Known.”   It has a slow echoey intro (complete with mellotron and strings).  It has an aching vocal delivery in the chorus.  The bass doesn’t really kick in until about 3 minutes (when the song really fills out)

“Walk” ends the album.  It is pretty classic Foo Fighters at this point, a slow opening and then big choruses (and was written about helping his daughter to walk).  This one even has a radio friendly pause in one of the choruses.   (I love that the final song was released as the second single, and am so glad they didn’t front load the album!).  And that the song and album end with a fast chord .

This is a solid album from start to finish.  I think when they keep their albums under 50 minutes, they keep the music tight and don’t throw in any filler.

[READ: January 13, 2015] Seconds

Wow I loved this book.

I had been reading a lot of graphic novels and I was a little burnt on them, but this one rose above everything else I’d read in a while.

O’Malley did the Scott Pilgrim series, one of my favorite series and a darn good movie too.  While this has similar sensibility to Pilgrim (including the punchline of the same joke, ha) I think this being a a single book made it more impactful.

The story is about Katie.  She is a chef.  She also looks a lot like the style of O’Malley’s characters–sort of short roundish features, bordering on anime but with his own style thrown on top.  Katie’s most recognizable feature is her awesome flame of red hair on top of her head.

Katie co-owns Seconds, a very popular restaurant.  People come for her food because she is a very good cook.  Even if she doesn’t actually do much cooking anymore–she’s more a manager than a chef (having read a lot about chefs in Lucky Peach, I understand what this whole scene is like more than I might have otherwise).  She is really interested in opening up her own place (called Katie’s) across the river.  Since she is only co-owner of Seconds, she wants to be out of it and into her very own restaurant (even if she still likes the other co-owner).

We meet the others who work at Seconds.  The new head chef Andrew (with whom there’s a bit of a romance) and the waitresses, especially Hazel, a very tall mousy kind of woman whom everyone else thinks is very strange.  Hazel is quiet, she’s really hot, and she always wants to close the restaurant at night (others have seen her doing strange things before she leaves). (more…)

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auroraSOUNDTRACK: FOO FIGHTERS-Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace (2007).

330px-Foos-ESPGIt would seem that after recording the split acoustic and rocking In Your Honor and then touring a lot of acoustic music that the Foos were ready to make an album that combined both of these dynamics into one disc.  For many of the songs it means acoustic openings and super heavy end sections.  But some, particularity at the end of the album are completely acoustic.

Of course having said that, the album opens with a great heavy classic Grohl song, “The Pretender.”  A fantastic opener with the great chorus of “what if I say you’re not like the others.”  The next song, “Let It Die” opens with a real acoustic opening–not just mellow electric guitars but full on acoustic guitars (which Grohl has clearly become quite proficient at).  The switch to the really heavy chorus (not until almost 3 minutes into the song) is pretty intense–they pack everything into one song.

“Erase/Replace” is another great song–there’s an interesting twisting riff and an awesome chorus.  There’s some very nice contrasting with the smoother sections and even a cool guitar solo (there’s not too many solos in early Foos songs).  “Long Road to Ruin” is one of my favorite Foo Fighters songs–the chorus pushes all my yes buttons with the way it speeds up and has and the staccato stops in the middle of the chorus.  Fantastic.

“Come Alive” is another song with a slow mellow acoustic opening.  It builds slowly over 5 minutes to a noisy end.  “Stranger Things Have Happened” is the first fully acoustic song on the album that stays acoustic–there’s nothing heavy in it.  It’s got a classic Unplugged type of feel with two acoustic guitars playing off of each other, and a soloing section that has several pause click click resume moments.

“Cheer Up, Boys (Your Make Up Is Running)” has a great riff and very poppy verses. It sounds like earlier Foo Fighters songs and reminds me of Cheap Trick with the “stop, stop” backing vocals.  There’s also several different sections which hearkens back to earlier songs.

And from this point on the album mellows out but in different ways.  “Summer’s End” has a folky jam band feel (even though it’s not acoustic.  It’s got a such a wonderful chorus.  It’s the first of three songs to feature Grohl on piano!  Taylor Hawkins plays piano on it too.  “Ballad of the Beaconsfield Miners” is a 2 minute instrumental written by Grohl.  There’s some lovely finger picking in the song and you can hear that Grohl has really developed his guitar playing.  Kaki King plays rhythm guitar on this song which is surprising as she is such a much better guitarist than he is.

“Statues” is a piano ballad (played by Grohl).  It feels totally classic rock, with the sound of the opening guitar solo and the chord progression.  “But, Honestly” is fast acoustic song.  The melody and backing vocals remind me a lot of Bob Mould’s style of song writing.  The song feels like it’s just going to stay in a mellow vein, but this song really ramps up at around 3 minutes with some simple but cool riffing and a big growling end.

The final song, Home,” is a pretty piano ballad (Grohl on piano and vocals) with strings.  It’s almost cheesy but avoid that trap.  It doesn’t have a  big chorus, and is rather understated.  It also provides the album with its title.

This is a really complex album that works to all of the band’s strengths and even lets them explore different styles a bit. Guests on the album include Rami Jaffee and Drew Hester from the live shows as well as Pat Smear (who is a sometimes member of the band, but only plays on one song here).

[READ: January 26, 2015] The Rise of Aurora West

I really enjoyed Paul Pope’s Battling Boy, but I didn’t really like the art work. So here’s the second book in the series with a different artist (and no color)–perfect!

I enjoy this David Rubin’s art a lot more because of his much cleaner page–it’s far easier to understand what’s happening here.  But at the same time I don’t really like the way he renders faces.  For instance, on the very first page, the bottom right image of Aurora–it’s really hard to tell what she is thinking in that image–is she angry or what (and her face seems kind of oddly misshapen).  And that is fairly consistent throughout–the eyes are too big or something?  I found it distracting but it didn’t really hinder my enjoyment of this story.

This story looks at the early life of Aurora West, the daughter of Acropolis superhero Haggard West (so Battling Boy does not appear in it at all). (more…)

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questSOUNDTRACK: BOB MOULD-Tiny Desk Concert #381 (August 11, 2014).

mouldbobMan, I leave the Tiny Desk concert area for a little while and they have loaded up ten shows already!  How will I ever catch up?  But more importantly, one of them is with Bob Mould!  How about that?  Mould has a new album out which I have been enjoying, but it’s really fun to see him in this Tiny Desk setting–just him and his electric guitar, bashing out four songs in 13 minutes and still playing in that low-slung style.

His voice still sounds great (even if it is a little disconcerting to see the bald, gray-bearded man with glasses who replaced the bratty punk Mould of old).

     He plays two new songs from Beauty and Ruin “The War” and “Hey Mr. Grey.”  He also plays an older solo song: “I Don’t Know You Anymore.”  And since he’s playing them all from his fuzzy amp, they sound great together (even if the new stuff isn’t quite as catchy).  After some chatting, he ends the set with a classic Hüsker Dü song, “Makes No Sense At All.”

  It’s great to see him being funny and charming.  And it’s even better to have him back and rocking.

[READ: August 1, 2014] Bone: Quest for the Spark 1

BONE: Quest for the Spark #1

Many years ago I read and loved the Bone series.  I have all of the books and even bought the individual issues (back when I collected comic books…they must be worth half of face value by now!).  C. even started reading the Bone books a while back (we love saying “Stupid Stupid Rat Creatures” to each other).

But I honestly haven’t thought much about the series since then.  So I was shocked to see this “new” book at the library.  And even more shocked to see Shiegoski’s name on it (instead of Jeff Smith’s (which is there, fear not)).  And then triply shocked to see that it is a novel with a few pictures and not a graphic novel at all.  Whoa, consider my mind blown.

So this story takes place years after the events of the Bone series.  Gran’ma Ben is still around and Thorn is queen now.  But as the Prologue states, Queen Thorn is unwell.  She is in a deep sleep and is ice cold.  And Gran’ma Ben has the gitchy feeling that things are not okay.  if none of that makes sense to you it’s because you’ve never read Bone.  So, in a nutshell, most of the characters are people, but the Bone family are small, white, ghost-like creatures, very cartoony in a human world.  They’re adorable and funny. (more…)

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artofmcSOUNDTRACK: SUGAR-“Helpless” single (1992).

helplessI loved that first Sugar album and even bought the single for “Helpless” (back then singles were ways for record labels to get more money out of fans of a band rather than for people to pay for one song).  In addition to “Helpless,” the single contains three songs.  “Needle Hits E” is a poppy song–very Mould, very Sugar.  The song is a bright and vibrant addition and would fit nicely on Copper Blue.

The second track is an acoustic version of “If I Can’t Change Your Mind” which sounds wonderful.  Mould really knows how to record a 12 string guitar to make it sound huge.  “Try Again” is the final track.  It reminds me of The Who, especially the bass line at the end of each verse.  It’s a darker song (especially for his single which is so up).  But I love the way the acoustic guitar seems to make it build and build.  Then, some time around the two and a half minute mark, a feedback squall starts building.  It’s way in the background (and actually sounds a bit like squealing balloons).  It continues until the last thirty seconds just degenerate into full blown feedback noise–just so you know Sugar aren’t all pop sweetness.  All three songs were later released on Sugar’s Besides collection.

[READ: May 10, 2013] The Art of McSweeney’s

Sarah got this book for me for my birthday and I devoured it.  It answers every question I’ve had about McSweeney’s and many more that I didn’t.  It provides behind the scenes information, previously unseen pieces and all kinds of interviews with the authors and creators of the issues as well as The Believer, Wholphin and some of the novels.

The real treasure troves come from the earliest issues, when there was very little information available about the journal.  So there’s some great stories about how those early covers were designed (ostensibly the book is about the artwork, but it talks about a lot more), how the content was acquired and how the books were publicized (book parties where Arthur Bradford smashed his guitar after singing songs!).

The cover of the book has a very elaborate series of very short stories by Eggers (these same stories appeared on the inside cover of McSweeney’s 23).  For reasons I’m unclear about, the rings of stories have been rotated somewhat so it is does not look exactly the same–although the stories are the same.  The inside photo of the book also gives the origin of the phrase “Impossible, you say? Nothing is impossible when you work for the circus.”

The opening pages show the original letters that Dave Eggers sent out to various writers seeking stories and ideas that were rejected by other publications (and interesting idea for a journal). (more…)

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#20SOUNDTRACK: SUGAR-File Under: Easy Listening (1994).

fuelI  always thought File Under: Easy Listening was a very funny title.  But it’s possible that people took it too literally as it didn’t sell all that well. And in Mould’s autobiography he says he didn’t have much time to write songs for this disc and he thinks it suffered.  Of the three Sugar discs, this is definitely the weakest, although there are some great moments on it.

The disc opens with “Gift” which has some ragged distorted guitars. It’s got some noises and grungy sounding solos showing that FU:EL was a joke.  Although, the overall sound is kind of a cleaner version of the angry songs on Beaster.  “Company Book” is kind of a pounder, until the voice comes in and you realize…it’s not Mould!  It’s got a catchy chorus, but after the kind of underwhelming opener, it’s a strange place for a song that’s also not so dynamic.  Especially when it’s followed by “Your Favorite Thing” another great pop song from Mould—not top tier but a really strong second tier (although that bright, simple guitar solo is a real winner).  “What You Want It To Be” is a another decent song (the addition of that extra guitar playing the melody line really makes the song shine.  “Gee Angel” is also a high point.  A catchy song, but which never quite reaches the heights of the previous albums.

“Panama City Hotel” has the same feel as the opening of Beaster: bright acoustic guitars and a similar riff.  But it never really goes anywhere, and the 4 minutes seem.  The “do do do do’s” that open “Can’t Help You Anymore” are certainly the brightest spot on the album, and a big pop song as well.  “Granny Cool” has a nicely abrasive riff although it seems kind of mean spirited.  It’s funny that he tucked “Believe What You’re Saying” at the end of the album.  It’s a minor song but it sounds so bright on this album after the other songs. It’s really quite pretty.

And the closer, “Explode and Make Up” is one of Mould’s great angry songs.  Unlike Beaster, this one has a happy acoustic field—bnright guitars with that raging distorted guitar underneath.  It’s a great slow burner of a song and at five minutes it ends a somewhat lackluster album in a great way.

[READ: March 31, 2013] McSweeney’s #20

McSweeney’s #20 is an issue that I have read before.  At least I think I have.  My recollection is that it was the last one I read before I started writing about them on this blog.  I was hesitant to read it soon again, which is why I waited until now.  And while I remember the issue itself (with all of the art), I didn’t remember the stories.  So who knows if I actually read it six years ago.

Anyhow, this issue comes jam-packed with art.  Every fourth page has full-color artwork on it–many of them are quite famous.  It makes for a very beautiful book.

In between these artworks are a number of stories–ranging in size from 2 pages to 30-some pages.  There are no letters, and the explanatory and copyright information is on the cover of the book–which would be fine, except that it is covered up by a kind of 3-D artwork.  I wonder if the whole text is available anywhere?

The book also comes with a separate pamphlet–an excerpt from Chris Adrian’s Children’s Hospital.  I intend to read the novel eventually so I didn’t read the excerpt–although maybe if I put off the novel for six years I should just read the excerpt now. (more…)

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#16SOUNDTRACK: SUGAR-Beaster EP (1993).

beasterI didn’t know that Beaster, the Sugar EP was recorded at the same time as Copper Blue.  Mould’s biography was very helpful in explaining all the details of the timing and styling behind these two recording.  As well as how the super pop of Copper Blue could be followed right on the heels with the very very dark EP of Beaster.

I have often thought of this disc as being really dark and insular and Mould confirmed as much—he was really airing out some demons with this disc.  But they thought it would be better to put them all in one place rather having them bounce around the poppier full length.  What must fans (like myself) have thought to hear this dark album after the pop of Copper Blue.  I mean just look at the cover!

I hadn’t listened to this in a long time, so I was surprised by how cool “Come Around” sounds—Mould’s acoustic guitar high in the mix with some appropriately grungey guitars in the background.  There are lyrics but for the most part I think of it as just Mould making sounds with his mouth.

It’s followed by the blistering “Tilting.”  It’s got superfast drumming with aggressive guitars, it’s like we’re back to the early Hüsker Dü punk sound (with a little more clarity).  The drumming is great in this track.  The song ends with a preacher being interrupted by dissonance and what sounds like electronic interference. And this song morphs into “Judas Cradle” one of Mould’s darkest songs.  It’s very claustrophobic-feeling with echoed vocals, lots of feedback and lots of compression on the overall sound—quite different from the big open sound of Copper Blue.  And yet for all of that, the chorus, “Have you seen the Judas Cradle, ah”is really quite catchy.

“JC Auto” has some buzzsaw guitars which make it seem like it’s going to be quite an angry song and yet the bridge is quite welcoming (all this talk of holidays) and then the chorus is amazingly fun to sing along to (Mould always finds pop in anger): “Passing judgment on my life you never really got it right/I can’t believe in anything / I don’t believe in / Do you believe in anything / Do you believe me now…  Look like Jesus Christ / act like Jesus Christ I Know I Know I Know Here’s Your Jesus Christ I’m Your Jesus Christ I Know I Know I Know.”  And, as always, I love when Mould repeats his lyrics in the background (the “I Know I Know” surfaces throughout the end of the song).

“Feeling Better” has weird synth blasts that kind of works in the song but sounds out of place on this record.  This song flips between really aggressive guitars and a very bright poppy chorus.   At 6 minutes this song is a little long (because it’s primarily repeating itself by the end), whereas Judas Cradle and JC Autos’ 6 minutes are well justified.

The final song “Walking Away” is a strange one. It is comprised entirely of organs (church organ it sounds like) with Mould delicately singing “I’m walking away back to you”  The end starts to wobble giving a bit of a nauseous feeling but then it’s over.  So even in his most downtrodden and questioning, Mould still has the chops to write some great music.  Down be put off by the cover, Beaster is a great album.

[READ: March 28, 2013] McSweeney’s #16

After the fairly straightforward Issue 15, McSweeney’s was back to fun with Issue #16.  The issue opens up into a kind of quad gatefold which has , in order–a comb, a book, another book and a deck of cards.

The main book contains nine stories, by the typical McSweeney’s roster at the time.  The other booklet contains a lengthy story by Ann Beattie.  The deck of cards is for Robert Coover’s “Heart Suite” and the comb is a comb.  It’s a nice one, although it has never touched my hair.

The MAIN BOOKLET (more…)

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#15SOUNDTRACK: SUGAR-Copper Blue (1992).

copperblueAfter Bob Mould made some solo albums, he created another band.  Another trio, this one called Sugar.  Sugar seems to take Mould’s poppiest elements and wrap them in a big 90s grunge sound–a sound that Mould pretty much invented in Hüsker Dü.  And in many ways Sugar is not all that different from Hüsker Dü–maybe a bit less experimental and a little more commercial.

One thing I noticed about this album that, once I noticed it I couldn’t avoid it, was that when the drummer plays the cymbal (it might even be a hi hat with a tambourine on it), which he plays a lot, the tinny shimmer of that sound is so pervasive, I find it rather distracting.  Or should I say it adds an almost minute level of static over the proceedings.

The disc opens with “The Act We Act,” where big grungy guitars and a simple chugga chugga riff burst out of the speakers. I love the Pixies feeling of “A Good Idea” both that up front bass and the buggy sounding guitars provide an almost false introduction to the catchy verse and chorus that’s to come.  I also enjoy the unexpected break after the chorus.

It’s followed by the ringing guitars that introduce “Changes” a classic poppy rock song that is unmistakably Mould.  The uneasy almost nauseating sounds at the end of the song are again like a feint in the wrong direction as “Helpless” easily the most pop song Mould has ever written comes out.  Of course, as with Mould, this outrageously poppy song is all about feeling helpless.

Keyboards open the next song, “Hoover Dam” (something of a surprise for this album), which proves to be yet another big Mould single.  The song is so open with multiple acoustic guitars (and that cool synth solo) and a really wild reverse guitar solo.  It’s one of my favorite Mould  songs and yet another example of why this album was such a huge hit.

“The Slim” brings back the darker songs that Mould is also known for.  And just when you think that Mould can’t pull out another huge big single, he gives us “If I Can’t Change Your Mind,” one of his great big bouncy acoustic guitar songs.  It is almost obscene how catchy this song is, right down to the simple scale solo at the end.  Mould has this little technique that I find irresistible where he plays a song normally and then plays two fast chord changes segueing into another section.  It’s so cool.

“Fortune Teller” is a fast rocker with Mould’s trebly guitar taking the lead.  “Slick” is the only song I’m not crazy about. There’s something about it that kind of slows the momentum down, which is odd for a song about a car.  It’s got a real middle-period-Who feel to it, which I do like (and I really like the bridge) it just feels odd in this place in the disc.  The end of the song has some snippets of chatter that could have been edited out but lend an amusing air to the final track, “Man on the Moon” which ends the disc with that same air that the rest of the album has—big guitars and Mould’s slightly distorted vocals.  The solo is weirdly processed and kind of fun.  The end of the track with its repeated half step has a very Beatles feel to it. And the very end of the disc has the sound of tape rewinding, an amusing nod to the digital era.

Copper Blue was Mould’s first huge success and in his book he talks about not realizing quite how huge it was until he was in the middle of it.

[READ: March 20, 2013] McSweeney’s #15

I was a little disappointed with McSweeney’s #14, but #15 was once again fantastic.  This issue is a smallish hardcover (I like when their books are this size).  The bottom half of the cover features a cool 2 color painting by Leif Parsons.  The issue is known as the Icelandic Issue because of a few things.  The first half of the book features stories by the usual suspects.  Each of these stories is accompanied by an illustration of a Scandinavian rune that dates to the Viking era.  The stories in the second half of the book have illustrations that are taken from Icelandic grimoires–magician’s handbooks.  It is these second half stories that are all from Scandinavian authors.  It’s a fascinating peek into a culture few of us probably get to read.

There’s no letters in this book, which removes some of the levity, but that’s okay.  The front page has a brief story that it was being written on November 2, 2004 in New Mexico, hoping to bring some voting power to “the good guys “in this “completely fucking terrifying election.”  (The bad guy eked out a victory 49.8 to 49.1).  They went canvassing door to door with an Iraqi veteran named Joey (who was 21).  He was very pro-Kerry and may have even convinced a young girl to vote (she thought her vote didn’t count because she was poor (!)).  It really evokes the feeling on that dark night in 2004 when the iota of hope was snuffed out. (more…)

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