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Archive for the ‘Daniel Johnston’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: BUILT TO SPILL-“Bloody Rainbow” (2020).

What happens when one of your favorite bands releases an album of covers of an artist that you think is so outrageously overrated that you pretty much hate him?

Yep, I’m the indie poster boy who cannot stand Daniel Johnston.  Everyone that I like and listen to seems to believe that his music is a gift direct from god.

I have heard some of his earlier songs when he could actually sing and I found them to be okay.  But most of my exposure to him is his later work when he couldn’t.  And I can’t help but think there’s some element of exploitation involved as well.

But whatever, his songs are simple an fairly catchy even if lyrically they are questionable.

I had no idea that Johnston had recruited Built to Spill to be his backing band for some of his final shows in 2017.  This album comes from the rehearsals for the tour.

This is the first song I’ve heard from the album and here’s what I learned.

I could listen to Doug Martsch sing anything.  This helps a lot.

Musically the song is exceptionally simplistic.  No problem there, lots of songs are simple.

The Built to Spill band sounds fantastic.  This is the trio format of Martsch, Steve Gere on drums and Jason Albertini on bass.

So basically, if the whole album sounds like this, I could absolutely see me enjoying it quite a lot.  Simple fun weird songs, sung by someone who can sing.  What’s not to like?

Just as long as I don’t have to listen to the originals.

[READ: February 3, 2020] Space Battle Lunchtime Vol. 1

I’m always intrigued by Oni Press books that look kind if un-professional. I’m not exactly sure what I mean by that, but many of their books, this one included, don’t look like they are “proper” graphic novels.  I think that’s what first attracted me to the press, that these stories looked like something I could do.  The artwork is good and most of the artists have their own style, but they look more homemade than studio produced.

Space Battle Lunchtime epitomizes that to me.   It feels warm and loved and personalized.  A story that Riess had to tell and enjoyed telling.

We open in a small bakery as Peony is putting the finishing touches on some pastries.  A frog-like creature walks in (on two legs) and asks for some Coo-fee lattes.  Then she notices the cakes and remarks about how cute they are.  While she is talking to them she gets a phone call.  Then she asks Peony if she has what it takes to be The Greatest Chef in the Galaxy.  After a second Peony says Absolutely.

Seconds later, Penny is at an alien television studio.  She says she thought Galaxy was the theme…not the location.  But she has very little time to settle in before it’s show time.

The rules are simple–impress the judges and win a 20,000 solarbuck prize.  Oh and if Peony loses, the frog-creature will lose her job (because she has screwed up too many times before). (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: YOU sleigh ME: Twelve songs from Twelve Atlantic artists for the twelve days of Christmas (1995).

This is one of the first “alternative” Christmas albums I bought.  At the time, I bought it for Tori Amos and Juliana Hatfield.  But this disc has not held up very well and collections have gotten so much better.

Between the poor song choices and the rather bland recordings, the whole things is kind of tedious.

MARY KARLZEN-“Run Rudolph Run”
I’ve said before that I don’t really like this song.  This version chugs along just fine.  The one thing it really has going for it is that she plays with the genders of the kids so that it’s the girl who wants the electric guitar. That’s cool.

COLLECTIVE SOUL-“Blue Christmas”
I don’t really love this song either, although surprisingly this is probably one of my favorite versions so of it.  The rhythm is a weird shuffle, almost like the hand-jive but I like the heavy guitars at the end of each verse.  Weird that his delivery is almost like Elvis though.

TORI AMOS-“Little Drummer Boy”
I can’t imagine when she would actually have sung this live (for it is a live recording). Typical Tori, her voice sounds great and it’s before she started singing in a weird style.

DONNA LEWIS-“Christmas Lights”
No idea who Donna Lewis is.  This song is a mild, inoffensive Christmas song that I can’t say much more about.

BILLY PILGRIM-“The First Noel”
I have no idea if this band is still around or even who was in them, but this version of the song is quite nice.  There’s pretty folk guitar and some great harmonies.  I can nit-pick about the No-ell-ell part but overall this one’s a keeper.

JULIANA HATFIELD-“Make It Home”
As I said, I bought this disc for Tori and Juliana.  This song is pretty, but it was used in My So-Called Life so it’s not special at all.  Boo.

JILL SOBULE-“Merry Christmas from the Family” (NSFC)
I’d always assumed that Jill wrote this song, although I see now that it was written by Robert Earl Keen.  This song is hilarious and mostly inappropriate.  And yet it also has a lovely sentiment (if you can get past the drunks and family problems).  It’s my favorite on this disc to be sure.

DANIEL JOHNSTON-“Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer”
I just don’t understand why people listen to Johnston.  His voice is not compelling, and this sounds like someone making fun of the song.

DILLON FENCE-“Christmas”
This is a slick song that is about Christmas in some way.  It’s sort of blandly inoffensive jangle pop.

JAMES CARTER-“White Christmas”
This is an interminable 8 minute jazz sax solo version of the song.  Wow, it never ends.

VICTORIA WILLIAMS-“Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”
Victoria Williams also has a take-it-or-leave-it voice.  I used to like her more than I do now, bu that could change any minute.  This song is faithful to the original and pretty if you like her singing.

EVERYTHING BUT THE GIRL-“25th December”
Another bland folky song.  The chorus is catchy, but I can’t be bothered to figure out what it has to do with Christmas.

Overall this is a disappointing disc and there are far better options.

 

[READ: December 17, 2017] “Last Woman”

Once again, I have ordered The Short Story Advent Calendar.  This year, there are brief interviews with each author posted on the date of their story.

Hello. Welcome. It’s finally here: Short Story Advent Calendar time.

If you’re reading along at home, now’s the time to start cracking those seals, one by one, and discover some truly brilliant writing inside. Then check back here each morning for an exclusive interview with the author of that day’s story.

(Want to join in? It’s not too late. Order your copy here.)

This year I’m pairing each story with a holiday disc from our personal collection

I enjoyed this piece for the way it juxtaposed a woman living by herself with the last woman left alive in a video game. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: RHEOSTATICS-Fall Nationals, Night 8 of 10, The Horseshoe Tavern, Toronto (November 18, 2004).

The Rheostatics, live at the Legendary Horseshoe Tavern in Toronto, November 18, 2004. This was the 8th night of their 10 night Fall Nationals run at the Horseshoe.  Featuring a crazy 17 minute medley followed by Neil Young’s Powderfinger.

Kevin Hearn played keyboards for much of the show and they played a number of songs from the Group of 7 disc and Harmelodia.  The show ran for 2 and a half hours.  There’s only one recording of this show, and it sounds great.

The show opens some what mellow-ish with “Digital Beach.”  It’s a pretty version of this unexpected song and it’s followed by an awesome “Boxcar Song” with Kevin Hearn on keys.

“P.I.N.” sounds lovely.  Midway through, you can hear bongos playing and Martin sings “I’m in the snow / playing bongos.”  He’s quite growly through the song.  After the song, you hear people shouting: “Come on let Martin sing!” Dave: “I think he is for hire, sir.”  Mike: “But only as a mohel.”

Kevin Hearn is on the organ for “It’s Easy To Be With You” and he sings on “Yellow Days Under A Lemon Sun.”  Actually everyone seems to take a verse on this song (but I think they’re making them up as they go along).  At the end, Tim says, “We started off with no keyboard players and now we have two.”

Mike asks if he can get more of Kevin’s sampler?  Dave: “Careful what you wish for–he’s got some Buddy Hackett in there.”

It’s followed by three more from Harmelodia: a sweet “Loving Arms,” a fun “Home Again” and a romping “I Am Drumstein.”  Tim says he is disappointed because he missed a perfect bongo opportunity in that last song.

After an introduction of Chris Stringer on “the organ and effects and other stuff,” they move toward 2067 with “Marginalized.”  There’s a sweeping, trippy keyboard solo in the middle.  And then some guys start shouting “Whale Music” and other things.  Dave says “Loud guy crowd.  Every Fall Nationals there’s a loud guy crowd.”

Introducing “The Tarleks” Dave says, “Dr. Johnny fever was here last night in the flesh, it was rather exciting.”  (Did they really not mention Howard Hessman the night before?).

Over the entire run there’s been constant requests for monitor sound level changes, especially by Mike.  Mike says he could use less of Martin’s vocal (groans from the audience) and says he can’t hear Martin’s guitar.  Martin asks if his guitar sounds okay out front.  There is much applause.  Mike: “you’re just fishing for a compliment.”

Before “Pornography,” someone asks where the bongos are.  They are put to good use in the song.  After saying how proud they are of the new album the  opening of  “Shack In The Cornfields” sounds a little off.  But it is quickly righted and off they go.  The song ends with what sounds like a skipping record and very quiet percussion playing as the s song slowly segues into “Try To Praise This Mutilated World.”  Martin says, “I like that song.  Dave wrote it.  We’re the Rheosatics.  Are you having a good night?”  Someone shouts something and Martin snarks: “You wanna hear our older, funnier stuff?”

They go old, but stay mellow.  Tim is “gonna serenade you with a song.”  “All the Same Eyes” is one “we don’t do anymore.  And now one we just started doing, ‘Here Comes the Image.'”  Tim introduces it by saying “This is a lesson for all you drummers out there.  Never be late for a rehearsal or you will be banish-ed to the keyboard.  Because everyone else wants to play those drums, including me and Dave.  This next song takes place in 2067, so best of luck to you all.”  It’s followed by another mellow song “Who Is Than Man, And Why Is He Laughing?” with Jen Foster on accordion.  After the song, Dave says, “I don’t know if I was dying back there or if someone is cooking but I smelled pancakes.  Kevin, you got a griddle back there?”  Mike also says, “Shameless plug.  Jennifer has her CD for sale at the merch booth.”  Tim: “It’s called Shameless Plug.”

Dave notes that they are “just entering the ‘shang’ part of the evening, folks.”  Whatever that means, the first song is a rollicking “Stolen Car.”  It feels a bit shambolic, but never out of control.  There’s some cool keyboard sound effects during the middle jam.  There’s a pretty “Little Bird, Little Bird”and then a powerful “California Dreamline.”  It segues somewhat oddly into a grooving “Horses” (the only time they’ll play the song during the nine nights).   Kevin gets a wild keyboard solo in the middle of the song.

Dave says there are here the next two nights and the Loud Guy says “we’re coming tomorrow.”  Dave: “Thanks for the warning.”  Dave seems a bit tired of the bozos.  But he does seem to like the fans up front: “You guys have great looking twin shirts there.  I can’t read what’s on the second bus though.  Nowhere and Boredom.”   Mike says he’d choose Nowhere over Boredom, but Dave’s not so sure.  “Boredom gives you something to work with.”

Tim says, “Bear with us while we do this song for our friend Ron Koop.  He is having a hard time right now and hopefully he draws something from this.”  It’s a lovely version of “Making Progress” which is followed by an upbeat and rather silly “Monkeybird.”

And then comes the above mentioned 17 minute medley.  I’m glad Darrin wrote all the songs down, because it’s hard to keep track:

The Horseshoe Medley (The Pooby Song / The Hockey Song / Devil Town / The Ballad Of Wendel Clark Part II / Bees / Folsom Prison Blues / Ring Of Fire / Old Vancouver Town / War Pigs / Human Highway / Rockaway Beach / Walk On The Wild Side / So Long Farewell / Who Stole The Kishka / Let’s Go Skiing In The Morning).

It begins with Dave playing the acoustic guitar and singing “The Pooby Song.”  “Take one, Kevin” and Kevin gets a simplistic guitar solo.  Dave shouts “take it to C” and they start Stompin’ Tom’s “Hockey Song.”  After the “second period” Dave notes: “last game of the lock out season that didn’t exist.  Doesn’t matter, we got enough hockey stored up in our heads that we’re skating all the time anyway.”  The songs ends, but that isn’t the key from the first tune, we gotta go back to the first tune.  Tim: “Take it to B flat.  I love B flat.  Now, back to D.  You got any chords you like?”  Kevin starts singing Daniel Johnston’s “Devil Town.”  Up to E sharp (or F, whatever you want to call it).  Back down to D take it to C.  They start “Wendel.”  Kevin’s got one.  “‘There are bees, there are bees, everywhere’  you know this one, right?”  Tim: “Does this take place in the devilish town?”  Take it to C, for Dave to sing Johnny Cash’s “Folsom Prison Blues” then Kevin switches it to “Ring of Fire.”  Tim picks up with Stompin’ Tom’s “Bridge Came Tumbling Down.”  Kevin resumes with a hilariously upbeat and folksy “War Pigs” with Martin doing some suitably metal guitars sounds.  They even try to do the heavy staccato part before resuming the bluesy part.  “Go to G.”  Dave sings Neil Young’s “Human Highway” but messes it all up, “Okay, never mind go back to E again.”  Tim: “Take it up to A” for “Rockaway Beach.”  Then it’s Kevin with an amusingly upbeat take on “Walk on the Wild Side.”  Mike jumps in with a goofy stab at “So Long, Farewell” and then Dave takes over with “Who Stole the Kishka.”  Tim is yelling “someone call the motherfucking cops.”  The medley should end there but someone keeps it going “a two-step nightmare.”  Dave sings Frankie Yankovic’s “Let’s Go Skiing” while about three other songs go simultaneous.  Someone chants “four more years” and then Dave starts “Powderfinger” in the medley.  He kind of screws it up and as it fades, Martin asks, “What’s the next verse?”  “Something about hunting” and then Martin takes it over for real. He knows some of the words, and they kind of salvage it.”

At the end Dave even says “Thanks, I think.”

But after 8 days in a row, you’re allowed a bit of a fun meltdown.

As they walk off, Martin asks, “Hey Dave what’s a kishka? A sausage type thing?”  A fans shouts, “a small donut.”  Dave: “It’s not a small donut.  But that’s funnier.”  It’s a great and funny end to a wild show.

[READ: July 11, 2017] Real Friends

I’ve enjoyed Shannon Hale a lot recently, so I was pretty happy to read a new book by her.  Sarah had told me that it was a really excellent portrayal of girl friendship in grammar school.  It is also biographical and makes me think that it’s pretty amazing that Hale made it through to high school at all.

The book is divided into sections with friends’ names, and each of these sections is basically how she met these friends.

Shannon was the middle child between a pair of older girls and a pair of younger siblings.  She was kind of alone and was very clingy to her mom.  But on her first day of kindergarten, despite being nervous and sad, she made friends with Adrienne.

They were soon inseparable.  Shannon made up games for them in which they fought off bad guys (boys who just seemed to want them in whatever capacity a five year-old girls thinks boys might want them).  I love that their game was utterly feminist and yet they were portraying Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders because that’s who was popular and everyone wanted to be one.  And yet these cheerleaders had pet saber toothed tigers and sharks and they beat up ghastly boys. (more…)

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6616 SOUNDTRACK: DANIEL JOHNSTON-Tiny Desk Concert #224 (June 11, 2012).

danDaniel Johnston makes me uncomfortable.  I find his music to be simple and his voice isn’t very good.  And yet he is beloved by so many other people.  The fact that he is schizophrenic makes me worried that there’s some kind of exploitation going on.  But who knows.  He has had rather a lot of (relative) success.

The blurb tells us

Johnston has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, and he’s been institutionalized, but these days he travels and performs. It’s amazing to see and hear a spark of candor in what he does, all while he’s shaking like a scared child. There’s an odd sort of curiosity to watching Johnston perform, but it’s easy to root for him: He’s endearing and sloppy and unmistakably talented.

He and his guitarist Friend McFriendstein (actually Shai Halperin who plays under the name Sweet Lights) play four songs.

“Mean Girls Give Pleasure” is a pretty funny fast romp.  “Sense of Humor” is a slower song.

Between songs, they show off Johnston’s book Space Ducks.  There’s an iPad app and video game which is “Much beter than checking out Starbucks on yelp.”

“American Dream” is a clever song that’s full of monsters as metaphors.  “True Love Will Find You In The End” is a pretty, uplifting song.

His songs are short and unadorned, and surprisingly catchy.  But I don’t think I’d ever listen to him intentionally.

[READ: January 12, 2017] “Uninhabited”

The June 6 & 13, 2016 issue of the New Yorker was the Fiction Issue.  It also contained five one page reflections about “Childhood Reading.” 

Young says that when he was in fifth grade he read Robinson Crusoe (not the abridged version) in one weekend.  But he wasn’t showing off.  He saw an image or cartoon of the book and picked it for a book report not realizing how massive the actual book was.  He delayed until Friday for a report due Monday and thus had to cram in an entire novel.  He did the same thing with Gulliver’s Travels, “Who knew Gulliver met more than just Lilliputians?”

But he says that these masterpieces didn’t seem that different from non-fictional travelogues like Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo, the gory account of the U.S. bombing of Japan.

Crusoe is apt because he says he felt shipwrecked when they moved from New York to Topeka, Kansas.  (more…)

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