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Archive for the ‘Danger Mouse’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: JOHN PRINE-Tiny Desk Concert #717 (March 12, 2018).

For all of the legendary status of John Prine, I don’t really know that much about him.  I also think I don’t really know much of his music.  I didn’t know any of the four songs he played here.

I enjoyed all four songs.  The melodies were great, the lyrics were thoughtful and his voice, although wizened, convey the sentiments perfectly.

The blurb sums up things really well

An American treasure came to the Tiny Desk and even premiered a new song. John Prine is a truly legendary songwriter. For more than 45 years the 71-year-old artist has written some of the most powerful lyrics in the American music canon, including “Sam Stone,” “Angel From Montgomery,” “Hello In There” and countless others.

John Prine’s new songs are equally powerful and he opens this Tiny Desk concert with “Caravan of Fools,” a track he wrote with Pat McLaughlin and Dan Auerbach. Prine adds a disclaimer to the song saying, “any likeness to the current administration is purely accidental.”

I thought the song was great (albeit short) with these pointed lyrics:

The dark and distant drumming
The pounding of the hooves
The silence of everything that moves
Late in night you see them
Decked out in shiny jewels
The coming of the caravan of fools

That song, and his second tune, the sweet tearjerker “Summer’s End,” are from John Prine’s first album of new songs in 13 years, The Tree of Forgiveness.

He introduces this song by saying that.  This one is a pretty song.  It might drive you to tears.  He wrote this with Pat McLaughlin.  We usually write on Tuesdays in Nashville because that’s the day they serve meatloaf.  I love meatloaf.  We try to write a song before they serve the meatloaf.  And then eat it and record it.

For this Tiny Desk Concert John Prine also reaches back to his great “kiss-off” song from 1991 [“an old song from the 90s (whoo)…  a song from the school of kiss off 101”] called “All the Best,” and then plays “Souvenirs,” a song intended for his debut full-length but released the following year on his 1972 album Diamonds in the Rough. It’s just one of the many sentimental ballads Prine has gifted us.

He says he wrote it in 1968…when he was about 3.

Over the years, his voice has become gruffer and deeper, due in part to his battle with squamous cell cancer on the right side of his neck, all of which makes this song about memories slipping by feel all the more powerful and sad.

“Broken hearts and dirty windows
Make life difficult to see
That’s why last night and this mornin’
Always look the same to me
I hate reading old love letters
For they always bring me tears
I can’t forgive the way they rob me
Of my sweetheart’s souvenirs”

The musicians include John Prine, Jason Wilber, David Jacques and Kenneth Blevins.

 

[READ: December 11, 2017] X

I really enjoyed Klosterman’s last essay book, although I found pretty much every section was a little too long.  So this book, which is a collection of essays is perfect because the pieces have already been edited for length.

I wasn’t even aware of this book when my brother-in-law Ben sent it to me with a comment about how much he enjoyed the Nickelback essay.

Because I had been reading Grantland and a few other sources, I have actually read a number of these pieces already, but most of them were far off enough that I enjoyed reading them again.

This book is primarily a look at popular culture.  But narrowly defined by sports and music (and some movies).  I have never read any of Klosterman’s fiction, but I love his entertainment essays. (more…)

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greatestSOUNDTRACK: PINK FLOYD-“The Hard Way” and “Wine Glasses” (1974).

glassThis book informed me about these two unreleased Pink Floyd songs (there’s a Wikipedia site that lists some fifty more !).  While the were unreleased in 1974 (from the abandoned Household Objects album), they were eventually released in 2011 on expanded versions of albums.

“The Hard Way” features some “percussion” that sounds like someone taking steps.  There’s a bass riff which I gather is from rubber bands (but very well tuned).  There’s clocks ticking and chiming and tape being unspooled.  It’s a neat idea and while it is absurd to think you could make a whole album with this kind of stuff (in 1974), it’s a surprisingly good sounding track.

“Wine Glasses” was apparently made with wine glasses.  It is all of 2 minutes long.  It was designed to be a full song but was eventually used in the introduction to “Shine on You Crazy Diamond.”  I never really considered that there were wine glasses making the sounds (and clearly there are synths added on top), but yeah, so that ‘s kinda neat.

[READ: November 25, 2014] The Greatest Albums You’ll Never Hear

I found this book at work and knew I had to read it.  I was actually surprised at how long it took me to read (there’s a lot of entries).

The title and subtitle pretty much say everything you need to know about this book (and if you need to read it or not).  This book collects a series of writers who give a brief history of some of the more famous (and some not so famous) albums that were never released.  It explains (as best they can) why the albums weren’t released and even gives a percentage chance of likelihood of the album ever seeing the light of day (interestingly, most seem to be a 3/10–they may have been able to use a 5 point scale).

I knew some of the records they talked about (The Beach Boys’ Smile, Neil Young’s Chrome Dreams), but was ignorant of quite a lot of them. And while big fans of the artists may know all of the details about their favorite lost album already (these are sketches, not exhaustive research), there will certainly be some new information.  For instance, I’m a huge Pink Floyd fan but had no idea about the two shelved works mentioned here.

I liked the way the book was done chronologically and grouped by decade.  It was also interesting to see how the “reasons” for the non-release morphed over the decades from “the record label didn’t like it” to “it was leaked online.”

The one major gripe I have with the book is that it is chock full of “imagined” album covers.  This in itself is okay, but it is not made explicitly clear that they are all imagined (credits are given at the bottom of each image, but it took me a few entries to realize these were just people’s ideas of what the covers could look like).  And most of them are gawdawful.  Just really lame and dull (as if they had 20 minutes to come up with an idea).  They mar an otherwise cool collection,especially since some of the unreleased records actually do have proposed covers (even if they were never released).  I see that there is in fact a paragraph about the covers in the front pages of the book, but it is almost hidden away.

In addition to the albums I’ve listed below, I learned some fascinating things.  That Bruce Springsteen has hundreds of songs that he wrote but never released for various reasons.  That Pink Floyd did try to make an album out of household objects (with no instruments).  That the Sex Pistols’ Never Mind the Bollocks was almost simultaneously released illicitly as Spunk.  And that Danger Mouse’s The Grey Album was recently remastered.

The end of the book includes two small sections: other favorites that were never released.  Not sure why they earned only a small column instead of a full entry, but that’s okay.  The second was albums that we eventually did see, like My Bloody Valentine’s MBV and Guns N’ Roses’ Chinese Democracy.

So if you ever wondered what happened to that long lost album, this may be the book for you.

A sampling of the unreleased records include:

  • The Beach Boys-Smile
  • Buffalo Springfield-Stampede
  • The Kinks-Four Respected Gentlemen
  • The Beatles-Get Back
  • Jeff Beck-The Motown Album
  • Jimi Hendrix-Black Gold
  • The Who-Lifehouse
  • Wicked Lester
  • Rolling Stones-American Tour ’72
  • CSN&Y-Human Highway
  • Pink Floyd-Household Objects (1974), Spare Brick 1982
  • Dusty Springfield-Longing
  • David Bowie-The Gouster (1975), Toy (2001)
  • Sex Pistols-Spunk
  • Neil Young -Homegrown (1975), Chrome Dreams (1976)
  • Frank Zappa-Läther
  • Beastie Boys-Country Mike’s Greatest Hits
  • Weezer-Songs from the Black Hole
  • Jeff Buckley-My Sweeetheart the Drunk
  • Van Halen-IV
  • Foo Fighters-The Million Dollar Demos
  • Green Day-Cigarettes and Valentines (the author doesn’t believe it was actually stolen)
  • Tapeworm (Trent Reznor and Maynard James Keenan among others)
  • Deftones-Eros
  • U2-Songs of Ascent
  • Beck-The Song Reader

 

 

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shoppingSOUNDTRACK: BECK-Modern Guilt (2008).

modern guil;As I mentioned, I missed Modern Guilt when it came out.  I guess I had burnt out on Beck after The Information.  But man, I have recently gotten into it big time.  It may be my favorite Beck album of all.  It is brief and simple but with enough going on to keep iot more than just interesting.  The feel is consistently retro by Beck but Danger Mouse throws in enough modern elements to keep it totally fresh (at least six years after the fact).

“Orphans” opens with a hyper drum beat and keyboards, but once the chords and Beck’s vocals come in it has a very sixties folk/psychedelic vibe.  But those drums keep coming it, making it sound very modern.  This has one of the catchiest verses that Beck has sung in addition to a great unexpectedly poppy bridge.  The song is unmistakably Beck, but the flourishes are very Danger Mouse.  “Gamma Ray” opens with a surf rock sound and backwards backing vocals.  It sounds very “future”, but future from the 60s.  This song ends abruptly just under 3 minutes, it’s especially abrupt after the length of some of his more recent albums.  “Chemtrails” opens like mid 70s Pink Floyd–synths and falsetto vocals.  But when the drums come crashing in it totally changes the song to a more modern sound–and yet that bass is still very Pink Floyd.  “Modern Guilt” has a very simple beat and seems like a simple catchy song.  Then the keyboards come along top and it feels kind of spacey.  Then the second guitar riff comes in underneath the song and it’s grounded again.  There’s so much going on in this little poppy gem.

“Youthless” is another straight ahead simple rocker, this one has disco synth lines over the top.  It reminds me of “Cellphone’s Dead” from The Information (I keep waiting to hear “One by One, gonna knock you out”).  It’s the only song on here that reminds me of another of his songs. “Walls” has a cool vocal melody that plays off of the music very well.  It also ends abruptly–a very cool two and a half-minute song.  “Replica” has very contemporary chaotic drumming that pins this floating song.  “Soul of a Man” makes me think of Deep Purple’s “Hush” for some reason.  But I love the way the guitars and noises just seems to come and go leaving the classic rock rhythm pulsing underneath it all.  “Profanity Prayers” has a very punk feel–buzzy guitars and a fast beat, and yet it’s also smoothed over somewhat with an interesting backing vocal line.  “Volcano” is a slow song that anchors the album nicely.  It runs a little long, but this brief album earns a longer coda like that.

I just can’t stop playing this.

[READ: April 2, 2014] “Shopping in Jail”

Just when I thought I had caught up with everything that Douglas Coupland had published, I came across this book, a collection of his recent essays.  I enjoy the very unartistic cover that Sternberg Press has put on this.  It looks extremely slapdash–look at the size of the print and that the contents are on the inside front cover.  But the essays contained within are pure Coupland and are really enjoyable.

I have read a number of his older essays in recent years.  And here’s the thing: reading old Coupland essays just makes you think, ho hum, he knew some things.  But you don’t really think that he was on the forefront of whatever he was thinking.  So to read these essays almost concurrently is really fascinating.

His thoughts are science fiction, but just on the cusp of being very possible, even probable.  He also looks at things in ways that the average person does not–he notices that on 9/11 people didn’t have picture phones–imagine how more highly documented it would have been.  These essays are largely about technology, but they’re also about the maturation and development of people and how they relate to things.  Coupland can often seem very ponderous, and yet with these essays he seems prescient without actually trying to predict anything.  I enjoyed this collection very much. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: JAMES MERCER-Live on KEXP, February 10, 2012 (2012).

James Mercer came to KEXP to play a few songs solo with his acoustic guitar (the set is billed as The Shins, but it’s only Mercer).  DJ Cheryl Waters talks to him about what he’s been up to in the last five years since the previous Shins record (they don’t discuss that the rest of the band is basically gone).  She asks him about working with Danger Mouse and his foray into acting.  But mostly this set is about the music.

Mercer’s voice sounds great and the songs sound wonderful in this acoustic setting.  He explains the origins of the title Port of Morrow (it’s a real place).  He plays “Australia” from Wincing the Night Away and “September” “Simple Song” and “It’s Only Life” from Port of Morrow.

While I prefer the full album versions, this acoustic setting is quite nice and shows what great songs they are as well as how strong Mercer’s voice is (and that he was really the driving force behind The Shins all along)..

[READ: October 31, 2012] Calamity Jack

And they did.  Two years later.  This book is a kind of sequel to Rapunzel’s Revenge as well as Jack’s backstory before he met Rapunzel.

Jack was a petty thief. He and the pixie Pru (who loves hats) began with small scams (apples and whatnot), and slowly built up to larger ones.  In their defense they initially only tried to rob people who “deserved” it, but they were caught on more than one occasion and Jack’s mother had had enough of him.

Then Jack happens upon a score that he can’t pass up.  And he does it (without telling Pru about it).  Jack climbs into the tower of the evil giant Blunderboar.  Blunderboar is an industrial bigwig with a Jabberwock as a guard of his gigantic tower.  As with Rapunzel’s Revenge, the setting is a mix of fairy tale and contemporary real world(ish).  Blunderboar has a lot of money (including a media empire) and he is responsible for all of the troubles in Jack’s village of Shyport.

But the problem is that the beanstalk (there is a beanstalk, but there’s no cow, there’s magic beans and a pawn shop) destroys his mother’s bakery.  And she realizes that he is responsible.  Jack flees the town both because of his mother and because of the giant (who is understandably incensed). (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: BROKEN BELLS-Broken Bells (2010).

When I first played this disc I was really disappointed by it.  I’ve grown to expect crazy magic from Danger Mouse, and I assumed that this collaboration with James Mercer of The Shins would be crazy awesome.  But it seemed very mellow to me.  Mellow in a way that just kind of sat there.  So I put it aside for a while.

Then I listened to it again a little later and I found that I really liked it this time.  In fact, it rapidly grew into one of my favorite releases of 2010.

The disc is a wonderfully paced mixture of acoustic guitars, interesting keyboard sounds and, often, downright bizarre electronic choices (subtle, yet bizarre).  The weird sounds that open the disc, a kind of backwards keyboard, are disorienting but also very catchy.  And the song itself is instantly familiar.  It’s followed by “Vaporize” a simple acoustic number that bursts out with some great organ and (very) distorted drums.  It also features a fascinating horn solo!

“Your Head is on Fire” settles things down a bit with a mellow track which, after some cool introduction, sounds like a  pretty typical sounding Shins track (ie, very nice indeed–and more on this in a moment).

“The Ghost Inside” feels like a ubiquitous single.  I’m not sure if it is or if it’s just so catchy (with dancey bits and hand claps and a great falsetto) that it should be everywhere.  “Sailing to Nowhere” reminds me, I think, of Air.  And the great weird drums/cymbals that punctuate each verse are weird and cool.

One of the best songs is “Mongrel Heart” it opens with a western-inspired sound, but quickly shifts to a quiet verse.  The bridge picks up the electronics to add a sinister air (and all of this is accompanied by nice backing vocals, too).  But it’s the mid section of the song that’s really a surprise: it suddenly breaks into a Western movie soundtrack (ala Morricone) with a lone trumpet playing a melancholy solo.  And this surprise is, paradoxically, somewhat typical of the disc: lots of songs have quirky surprises in them, which is pretty cool.

Having said all this, there are a few tracks where it feels like the two aren’t so much collaborating as just playing with each other.  And that may have been my initial disappointment.  I was expecting a great work from a combined powerhouse, and I think what we get is two artists writing great stuff while seemingly respecting each other too much to step on each others toes.

There is another Broken Bells disc in the works.  And I have to assume that they’ll feel more comfortable with each other and simply knock our socks off next time.  But in the meantime we have this really wonderful disc to enjoy.

[READ: October 21, 2010] The Broom of the System

It dawned on me sometime last summer that I had never read DFW’s first novel.  I bought it not long after reading Infinite Jest and then for some reason, never read it.  And by around this time I had a not very convincing reason for not reading it.  DFW seemed to dismiss his “earlier work” as not very good.  I now assume that he’s referring to his pre-Broom writings, but I was a little nervous that maybe this book was just not very good.

Well I need not have worried.

It’s hard not to talk about this book in the context of his other books, but I’m going to try.  Broom is set in the (then) future of 1990.  But the past of the book is not the same past that we inhabited.  While the world that we know is not radically different, there is one huge difference in the United States: the Great Ohio Desert.  The scene in which the desert comes about (in 1972) is one of the many outstanding set pieces of the book, so I’ll refrain from revealing the details of it.  Suffice it to say that the desert is important for many reasons in the book, and its origin is fascinating and rather funny. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: DANGER MOUSE AND SPARKLEHORSE present: Dark Night of the Soul (2010).

Seems like most things that Danger Mouse touches involve lawsuits.  I’m not entirely sure why this disc had such a hard time seeing the light of day.  But it is due for a proper release in July.  Although by now, surely everyone has obtained a copy of the music, so why would anyone give EMI any money for the disc (since they hid it away in the first place).

The name that is not listed above is David Lynch, who is an important contributor to the project.  He creates all the visuals (and the visuals in the book that was the original release format).  He also contributed vocals to two tracks on the CD.  (His vocals are weird and spacey, just like him…and if you remember his voice from Twin Peaks, just imagine Gordon singing (but with lots of effects).

The rest of the disc is jam packed with interesting singers: Wayne Coyne (from The Flaming Lips), Gruff Rhys (from Super Furry Animals), Jason Lytle (from Grandaddy) on my two favorite tracks, Julian Casablancas (from The Strokes), Black Francis, Iggy Pop, James Mercer (from The Shins), Nina Persson (from The Cardigans), Suzanne Vega, and Vic Chesnutt.

I’m not sure if Danger Mouse and Mark Linkous wrote the music already knowing who the singers were going to be, but musically the tracks work very well.  And yet, despite the different sounds by the different singers, the overall tone and mood of the disc is very consistent: processed and scratchy, melodies hidden deep under noises and effects.   Even the more “upbeat” songs (James Mercer, Nina Persson) are dark meanderings.

It took me a few listens before I really saw how good this album was.  On the surface, it’s a samey sounding disc.  But once you dig beneath, there’s some really great melodies, and it’s fascinating how well the songs stay unified yet reflect the individual singers.

EMI is going to have to pull out all the stops to make it a worthy purchase for those of us who have already found the disc.  Since The Lynch book was way overpriced for my purchase, (and they surely won’t include it with this CD), they need to include at least a few dozen Lynch photos (and more).  And with a list price of  $19 (NINETEEN!) and an Amazon price of $15, the disc should clean your house and improve your wireless connection too.

[READ: June 1, 2010] Bloom County Vol. 1

Boy, did I ever love Bloom County.  Back in high school I had more drawings of Opus and crew in my locker than anything else.  (I used to reproduce the cartoons by hand, I was never one of those “cut out of the paper” people.)  And so, there are tons of punch lines that I still remember twenty-five years later.

And yet, despite my fondness for the cartoon (and the fact that I owned (and read many times)) all of the collected books, I was amazed at how much of the early strips I had no memory of, at all.  True, some of the really early ones are here for the first time in collected form (according to an interview there are hundreds of comics in collected form for the first time in these volumes).   But those early 1980 comics…wha? (more…)

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wiredMany many years ago (1995), while I was in Boston, I bought my first copy of Wired magazine (how could I forget the absurd cover to the right (yes, there IS a picture there) [And I’m very impressed that you can easily link to all of their back issues, just as I did with the link above].  I’m not sure how long it had been in print , but I think it was still young and buzzworthy. [Research shows that this was its 3rd year].  I remember thinking the magazine was very difficult to read.  Literally.  Text ran across pages, the colors were all wild.  The ads blurred completely with the content (by design).  And it was very “techie.”  I don’t remember if I subscribed exactly then, but I did subscribe eventually.  And then I stopped (sometime in 1999).

Recently I got an offer to re-subscribe, for a dollar an issue.  (This is where my idea that I will cancel a magazine once I stop getting a dollar’s worth from it).  I wasn’t sure if I should subscribe, but I figured what the hell.

Not a resounding chorus of cheers for this publication, huh?

Well, since I’ve subscribed I have been pleasantly surprised by the magazine.  And interestingly, the cover story almost never interests me.  In fact, and my brother in law Tim first pointed this out: the cover stories and the big articles take themselves very seriously.  Everything is always The Future Of This.  The New That.  Don’t Be Left Behind!  It’s over the top in its wanting you to take them seriously. (more…)

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