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Archive for the ‘David Byrne’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: DARK WAS THE NIGHT: This Disc (2009).

This compilation was released to benefit the Red Hot organization, who raises money to fight AIDS.  I’ve gotten about a half dozen or so of their compilations over the years (and was surprised to see that they have released about 2o of them!).

This collection is a two disc set of contemporary cutting edge indie rock bands.  And, when it came out it was definitely billed as a who’s who of cool.  The first disc is more or less an acoustic/folky collection of songs.  While that’s not entirely true, the discs are more or less broken down that way.  The artists include David Byrne & The Dirty Projectors, Jose Gonzales, Feist (on two tracks), Bon Iver, The National (a band I don’t know but whose song I love) and Iron & Wine.

Probably the coolest song of the disc (although not my favorite) is Kronos Quartet’s take on Blind Willie Johnson’s “Dark was the Night.”  For years, Kronos has been interpreting rock and other genre songs to fit into their string quartet style.  And this song sounds amazing.  I’ve no idea what they’re doing, but they turn their standard quartet instruments: violin, cello, etc into really cool blues sounding strings (even a slide guitar at one point).  It’s really amazing.  As I said it’s not my favorite track, but it sounds great.

The Decembersists contribute a 7 minute song (that I believe is new as I don’t recognize it).  It’s very good, but it seems like the kind of song that normally would have had a lot of effects/orchestration on it.  And this is an acoustic rendition, so it sounds more sparse than I would think.  It’s still very good though.

Finally, the disc ends with the weirdest track, an 11 minute freak out by Sufjan Stevens.  Every time you think it’s going to end, it morphs into a new instrument which continues the track.  It works well as a soundscape, although it’s a bit tedious in comparison to the rest of the disc which is largely concise acoustic gems.

Disc one is a great collection of tracks, and the overall style works well together.  It’s a very worthy collection of songs and it’s for a good cause.

[READ: December 18, 2009] Love as a Foreign Language 1

This graphic novel is the kind of great romance story that I’ve come to expect from Oni.  It is clever, it is funny, it plays games with pop culture and, of course, the writing and art are fantastic.

Joel is a Canadian living in Korea teaching English to native Koreans.  The book opens with the 4 H’s of culture shock: The honeymoon (you love the place), the horror (you hate the place), the humor (you accept the place and its flaws) and the home (you see yourself living there).  Joel is clearly in the horror stage.  He hates everything about Korea, especially the food. Joel has a few months left on his contract but he wants to get out of it and just go home. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: KISS-Kiss (1974).

I’ve always loved the first Kiss record.  Everything about it is over the top, and I can’t imagine what people thought of it when it hit shelves back in 1974.

And yet, for such a preposterous looking record, the tracks are really great.  The music is a mixture of pop, Rolling Stones rock swagger, Beatles harmonies, and a sort of proto-heavy metal.

“Strutter” proves to be a great opening track with a great riff and fun vocals.  And it’s just one of thousands of Kiss songs about hot chicks that, because of its metaphorical/obscure lyrics is less offensive than it might have been.  “Nothin’ to Lose” is another lyrically inscrutable song that I’ve always assumed was very dirty: “Before I had a baby, I tried every way.  I thought about the back door.  Didn’t know what to say.”  And yet it is so outrageously poppy that no one minds singing along.  “Firehouse” is a wonderfully over the top song with great falsetto vocals and an awesome solo from Ace. “Cold Gin”  is another rocking classic with cool basswork and guitar solo notes over a standard rocking verse.  Side one ends with”Let Me Know” a pop song hiding under the guise of a heavy rock song.  The song is such a poppy bit of fluff (check out the soulful harmonies before the ending guitar solo kicks in), but it works wonders.

Side Two starts with a silly cover of “Kissin’ Time” that of course is appropriate for this band (and if they went for a more poppy sound overall, this would have been their anthem, no doubt).  “Deuce” follows, and it blasts forth with some heavy stuttering and slighty off-sounding guitars.  It also has the best opening lyric ever: “Get up and get your grandma out of here.” Which is later followed by one of the top ten Huh? choruses off all time, “You know your man is working hard, he’s worth a deuce.”  (Rampant speculation as to what a “deuce” was in 1974 can be found online).  I’ve always loved the “Love Theme from Kiss” which is possibly the most hated pre-disco Kiss song that I can think of.  It’s a weird pseudo-middle-eastern instrumental that I’ve always thought was trippy and funny.  And then comes “100,000 Years,” another one of my favorite songs.  Again, the lyrics are just bizarre (and I’ve always mis-heard them until I looked them up just now: “How could you have waited so long, it must have been a bitch while I was gone” (I’d always thought the “it” was actually “you” which means the song isn’t as nasty as I ‘d always thought).  So, it’s sort of like The Odyssey, then.  But musically the song is just phenomenal: a great guitar riff over simple bass notes and a staggering guitar solo.

The disc ends with the outstanding “Black Diamond.”  There’s so much to love about this song.  It’s a gritty tale about life on the streets.  It opens with a pretty acoustic guitar ballad sung by Paul.  Then, after the awesome “Hit it!” the song kicks in powerfully.  Peter takes over vocals, and his rough voice works perfectly.  It’s only five minutes long, but it feels like a great epic track.  No the least of which is because the song ends with a cool concept: a single note, punctuated with drums, that is slowed down (from the original taped master), getting slower and slower making the notes sound heavier and heavier, slower and slower.  You can even hear the drum riff played at a by-now snail pace.  It’s very cool.

This is really a great album, and it’s somewhat overshadowed by their mid 70’s more famous music.  And if you like 70s rock but don’t think you like Kiss, this is one disc you can sneak into your collection.

[READ: December 20, 2009] The New Sins

I’m not entirely sure what to make of this.  I bought it from McSweeney’s in their attic sale for a couple of bucks.  David Byrne is Talking Heads David Byrne, so everything he makes is arty, avant garde and hard to fathom on a first listen/view.  But I’m unlikely to read this again, so he gets a cursory attempt here.

The New Sins purports to be a collection of what the “new” sins are.  It’s also written as if it were an ancient text that was recently uncovered and translated into English (although obviously, the word choices are laughably not ancient (web design, for instance).  Basically, what you get is a list of behaviors that until recently were not sins but which are now.  The odd thing about the book is that the sins are not an obvious parody of virtues or anything like that.  He doesn’t just say that kindness is a sin, he adds that ambition is a sin as well.  So it’s not even simple inversion. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: Future Soundtrack for America (2004).

This CD came with the McSweeney’s Future Dictionary for America.  It was released on Barsuk Records (home of Death Cab for Cutie and other great bands) and it was compiled by Spike Jonze and one of the Johns from They Might Be Giants.

This is a solid compilation of indie rock tracks.  At the time of the release most of the songs were rare or hard to find (since then I’ve seen a number of these tracks elsewhere).

TMBG obviously include a piece (a rendition of the old political song “Tippicanoe and Tyler Too”).  Other featured artists include: OK Go, David Byrne, Jimmy Eat World (covering Guided by Voices), Mike Doughty (with a song called Move On, that I have to wonder if it was written for this compilation as proceeds went to MoveOn.org), Ben Kweller (great song title: “Jerry Falwell Destroyed the Earth”), Blink 182 (with the only song I know by them, “I Miss You” that reminds me When in Rome’s The Promise“), the much missed Sleater-Kinney, a remix by R.E.M., a great track from Nada Surf, a live piano version of “Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots” from The Flaming Lips, a staggering song by Laura Cantrell (who I only know from her work with TMBG, this song is a cover of a John Prine song), Tom Waits’ amazingly powerful and very emotional “Day After Tomorrow,” and a rocking piece from Elliott Smith.

Proceeds for the disc went to MoveOn.org in an attempt to raise money to defeat Bush in the 2004 election. We know how that turned out.  But, as that is not relevant anymore, if you like your indie music good, this is a wholly worthy collection.

[READ: December 17, 2009] Maintenance Volume 1

Now this is a comic that I can get into.  And I’m already delighted to see that there are two more volumes out.

The premise of the comic is that the two guys on the cover, Doug and Manny, work as maintenance men for TerroMax, Inc., the world’s biggest and best evil science think tank!  Their work is sometimes scary, often disgusting and always interesting.

There are three stories in this volume.  In the first one, the guys encounter a ManShark.  In the second, they are sent back in time to the cavemen era (where they learn that a scientist has already visited them) and in the third, a minor character from the first story comes back to play a large role in an alien invasion. (more…)

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