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[ATTENDED: September 10, 2017] Dead Cross

I had heard that Mike Patton (Faith No More, Mr. Bungle and a million other projects) and Dave Lombardo (Slayer and other things) had formed a band and were touring.  I have wanted to see Slayer forever but never have.  I almost saw them last year but it sold out.  So, I kind of lost interest in seeing them.

And of course, Mike Patton is legendary and I’ve liked so much of what he’s done, but I’ve never seen him either.

I was curious what the album would be like and wasn’t entirely surprised to hear that it was basically a hardcore/speed metal album (10 songs in like 25 minutes).  Despite the two of them, I wasn’t really sure if I wanted to go to a show like that (I don’t really relish getting in a full-sized mosh pit).  But the more I thought about it (and after reading about the opening band) I decided it would be worth going to.

I checked out their setlists online and saw that they basically played the whole album and a couple extra songs.  Which, by my calculation, would be about 40 minutes. (more…)

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margoSOUNDTRACK: COLIN STETSON-New History Warfare Vol. 3: To See More Light [CST092] (2013).

stetson3 After the raucous wildness of Stetson’s Vol. 2, I wasn’t expecting the first song to be so gentle.  Justin Vernon sings (with many layers of processing) the rather pretty opening track.  When I first heard it I didn’t like it—I wanted Stetson to do Stetson and it seemed like the track was all voice (nad very different from Stetson).  But Stetson is there, and he plays his normal unceasing melodies behind the voices.  The track seems especially light since it is followed by the aggressive “Hunted” which prominently features Stetson’s “voice” (he has a microphone on his throat or something to pick up his grunts), making an almost growling noise as he plays.   It’s worth repeating that Stetson does circular breathing, is able to play nonstop and can somehow to play different things at the same time (no overdubs) as well as vocalize in interesting ways.  You can also hear him taking breaths while he platys—the breaths are part of the percussive nature of his playing. It’s pretty amazing.  About four minutes in, the tone changes a bit, becoming a little sharper which seems to make the growl even more pronounced.

“High Above A Grey Green Sea” is a quieter song with more vocalizing, but this one feels mournful and lonely as opposed to intense and scary.  “In Mirrors” opens with a deep breath as he plays a slow quiet 90 second song full of unexpected high notes.

“Brute” is appropriately named as it sounds like he is forcing the song out of his sax.  He places mics on his sax so you can hear the clacking of the keys.  And that is readily apparent on this song which is full of clacking and clicking and grunting all the way.  After about a minute, a discordant melody comes in and establishes a tone that plays or a few bars until Justin Vernon returns, but this time with growled words.  It’s a pretty intense and rather scary track—and nothing like Bon Iver at all.

“Among The Sef (Righteous II)” is a brighter song—higher notes played in a very fast style.  There are some vocalized melodies as well.  But the main song is a rolling series of high notes.  “Who The Waves Are Roaring For (Hunted II)” opens with an interesting vocalized melody—he is really using that technique a lot on this record.  It also featured Justin Vernon.  “To See More Light” opens with slow echoed notes as he begins to build a melody out of a four note string.  He starts adding more and more notes.  The melody grows faster and faster until about five minutes when it starts to really slow down—dramatically so.  Around 7 minutes in, the song slows to a crawl, almost drunkenly it seems.  And the song feels like it has ended.  But Stetson has more on his mind.  The notes are held longer and shift more slowly.   Then the song starts to build up again with a different 4-note pattern that adds some squeaky feedback notes and then a catchy melody.  All 15 minute of this song done nonstop, pretty impressive.

“What Are They Doing In Heaven Today?” begins with voices from Vernon (in a softer voice than we’ve come to expect) as he sings a verse before the sax comes in.  “Bed” features some loud key clacking a great rhythmic pattern and some quiet notes from both the sax and his voice.

The final song is “Part Of Me Apart From You.” It really emphasize his “singing” the melody in his throat while playing the repeating lines on the sax.   The song seems to emphasize the lower notes in this song even as he “sings” higher notes.

[READ:October 20, 2016] The Creepy Case Files of Margo Maloo

The title of this book implies that it is a series, and I rather hope it is.  I loved the premise of this book.  Most of the characters were interesting and the mystery behind Margo herself was really cool.

I didn’t love Weing’s drawing style, though.  It really never resonated with me at all, and at times I found it off-putting.  Which is a shame since the story is so fun.

Charles is moving to Echo City and he hates it.  His mom tries to convince him that big cities are fun.  Plus, his dad is fixing up a big old hotel and they get to live there for free (suspension of disbelief there).  There are already some people living there, too.

Charles’ dad is hip and cool (he is seen with Dead Kennedys and Black Flag logo tattoos).  All of the things that Charles finds creepy about the place, his dad calls “character.”   Like the giant chandelier that was in a closet.  Whatever his dad says, Charles’s comment is simply, “This place is definitely haunted.” (more…)

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91SOUNDTRACK: PRIMUS-Pork Soda (1993).

pork sodaPork soda was a surprise hit read any review and they always talk about how it’s the oddest top ten record ever).  Even more unexpected was that the first single, “My Name is Mud” was also huge.  But how weird.   The bass is really low and rumbling–sometime so low that it sounds like drums (which I thought it was in the verses when I first heard it) and the guitar is just crazy cool–buzzing noises all over the place.  And the lyrics–whoo boy–they match the video perfectly.  And yet a big hit–which got them invited to Woodstock that year.

“Welcome to this World’ reminds me of the Dead Kennedys (which is weird, I know).  Not the opening bit of course, but the way Les sings the chorus and the punky chords that accompany it seem very DK to me.   “Bob” is a really dark song about a guy who hangs himself.  The melody is an interesting and compelling one, but man lyrically it is such a downer (Ler’s sirens guitar plays that well).

It is followed by the awesome “DMV.”  Between Les’ cool tapping bass, Ler’s crazy noise-chords and wild solo and Tim’s great drums, not to mention the awesome lyrics about the DMV, this song is a major winner.

“The Ol’ Diamondback Sturgeon” has an interesting bass line and is a kind of mellow song that tells the tale of a big fish in the waters of San Pablo Bay.  Musically the bass sounds Middle Eastern–although there’s no mention in the credits of any instruments other than bass and mandolin, so how does he do it?

I love “Nature Boy” a weird song (aren’t they all) in which he talks about dancing around the house naked.  The verses are quiet while the chorus is quintessential Primus–slapped bass and stop-on-a-dime changes.  At around 3 minutes the song changes tempo into this really fast section with Ler’s insane guitar solo, and then it migrates into an awesomely catchy fast instrumental section which is over too fast.

“Wounded Knee” is a 2 minute percussion piece that Tim Alexander says was inspired by “Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee.”  It’s followed by one of the craziest songs in Primus history–“Pork Soda.”  The bass is a bowed upright bass (but bowed in a way that I’ve never heard before) and Ler’s guitar is basically a one note ringing.  And all the while Les is rambling on about something that you can barely hear.  Until the chorus comes in and you can all grab a can of pork soda.

The next song is “Pressman” which was on Suck on This. It was my least favorite song on that disc and it’s not a lot better here.  It’s a much better sound, but I think it’s long and kind of unremarkable.  But “Mr Krinkle” changes that.  Another bowed bass song (with the weird sounds he gets out of it).  This one had a crazy wonderful video. It’s followed by the bluegrass sounding “The Air is Getting Slippery,” a banjo romp in which the obvious rhymes with luck and pluck are switched with a quiet “forgive me if I hesitate.” It’s followed by a weird banjo solo from Ler.

One of the highlights of the record is the 8 minute instrumental (yes!) “Hamburger Train.  It’s got a lot of slap bass and Ler’s crazy noises all held in place by Tim’s drums.  The biggest difference is that Ler gets a pretty normal solo and Les also does a fast solo.  This was clearly just an excuse to jam for a while and it’s a good listen.

The disc basically opens and closes with “Pork chop’ Little Ditty,” a mandolin song that is under a minute.  Although there a kind of bonus track called “Hail Santa” which is just a sort of woozy bass sound and bells.

It’s an unexpected hit, and one that I have to wonder how many people still play.  If you have it, put it on again.

[READ: January 7, 21049] “The Referees”

I’ve only read one story from Joseph O’Neill before and I enjoyed it a lot.  I also enjoyed this one.  I thought it was nicely funny and also constructed in an unexpectedly amusing way.

The story begins with the narrator talking about meeting up with his fiend Mike.  Mike is complaining about his neighbor.  The asshole known as Gus (real name Gustavus).  Gus is, well was, an alcoholic and he’s trying to make amends.  But Mike knows that Gus is an asshole and doesn’t want to be friends.

The way the story is told, the narrator describes it in the past tense, but then he interjects dialogue as if it is occurring the present.  He even interrupts himself: (more…)

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dk SOUNDTRACK: DEAD KENNEDYS-Demos (1978).

demosI didn’t know these demos existed until I saw them mentioned in this book.  They are obviously not meant for public consumption (Jello sounds like he’s straining on a few songs, like “Kill the Poor). But it’s impressive just how good the band sounds and how fully formed the ideas are.

I also enjoy how some of the songs are played a wee bit slower which changes the vibe of the lyrics somewhat (especially “California Uber Alles” and “Holiday in Cambodia”).

“Kepone Kid”s is a slightly different version of “Kepone Factory” (same basic music but different lyrics.)  “Forward to Death” is pretty much the same.  “California Uber Alles” is much slower and perhaps a a bt more menacing.  “Your Emotions” is pretty similar to the version I’m familiar with.  “Kill the Poor” is also pretty much the same

“Holiday in Cambodia” is the most drastically different.  In addition to being slower, Jello sings the first verses in a flat monotone.  At first I thought that perhaps he wasn’t giving his all, but then it seemed like a deliberate choice–which makes it seems somewhat more sinister a the end–where he goes nuts in the Pol Pot section (even crooning it at one point).

“Kidnap” is new to me–a kind of football chant about kidnapping someone (hard to get the actual lyrics from this demo).  “The Man with the Dogs” has that great creepy echoed guitar opening and sounds a lot like the final product (with Ray having some awesome fun with feedback and noise at the end).  “I Kill Children” is even more disturbing without the “God” quote at the beginning.

“Dreadlocks in the Suburbs” is a reggae song (!).  I can’t really make out the lyrics, but I’ll bet it’s funny.  “Rawhide” is a little sloppier than I’m used to, but it really gets to what they are trying to do with the cover.  “Mutations of Today” has a very strange guitar set up–intertwining guitar riffs (I assume the second is by 6025) and a very long intro before Jello sings (really oddly even for him) about Mexican monster babies.  It’s not a favorite and seems more improvised than anything.  “Cold Fish” is simple punk song.  I’m not quite sure what its’ about although it seems to be about killing someone (and seems more like a goof than a song).

“Forward to Death” appears again.  This later version is a bit more loud and full sounding.   And “Viva Las Vegas” ends this set with a fun romp of a cover–it sounds great and raw in this demo.

So it’s interesting to hear these early versions of their songs.  There’s a few insights (and I understand that the drummer Ted likes the slower versions of those two big hits) and a few surprises.

[READ: November 16, 2014] Dead Kennedys

When I was a young punk I loved the Dead Kennedys. Jello Biafra was THE MAN! And he still is, although I am less politically motivated as I used to be. I have a bunch of his spoken word albums and all of the DK’s output. I distinctly remember buying Frankenchrist on vinyl at the Flea Market in Elmwood Park and feeling nervous as he slowly put the album in a bag while my parents waited for me to be done.

I haven’t really thought about the DKs that much for a few years. I knew there was some kind of litigation about something, but I didn’t care all that much. Then I saw this book and I thought it would be a fun read. And it was.

I have no idea who Alex Ogg is, although he seems to have some kind of insider information about the band. And this book is comprised of quotes from the band members, recollections from others who were there and all kinds of photos.

As the subtitle says, this is the early years. So it really only covers the band’s formation to the recording and release of Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables.

Because Jello was the frontman and was very very outspoken, he was always the main focus of the band for me.  Although I knew the names of the other guys, I never really thought about East Bay Ray or Klaus Flouride or Ted or 6025 or D.H. Peligro.  And honestly I never really thought about the DKs as musicians—I knew I liked the music and that some of it was pretty weird, but I never really thought about it like I did with other bands that I wanted to play. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: BIG DIRTY BAND-“I Fought the Law” (2006).

I just found out about this “supergroup” which was created for the Trailer Park Boys Movie.    The group consists of Geddy Lee and Alex Lifeson from Rush, drummer Jeff Burrows from The Tea Party and three people I don’t know: the singer from Three Days Grace, the singer/guitarist from Thornley and on lead vocals Care Failure from Die Mannequin.

I have to say that I’m not that excited by this cover.  The song has been covered so many times (some very good: The Clash, some very clever: The Dead Kennedys, and some terrible: many others).  And frankly there’s not much that you can do with this song.  It’s simple in structure with potential for shouting (which everyone likes), but little else.

For Rush fans, you can’t tell that Geddy or Alex are even on it.  So really it’s just a kind of metal-ish version of this old song.

Oh well, they can’t all be zingers.  You can hear it here.

[READ: February 1, 2011] Polaroids from the Dead

After reading Shampoo Planet, I wanted to see if I remembered any of Coupland’s books.  So I read this one.  It’s entirely possible that when I bought this book I was disappointed that it was not a new novel and never read it.  Because I don’t remember a thing about this book.  (This is seriously calling into question my 90’s Coupland-love!).

But I’m glad I read it now.  It’s an interesting time-capsule of the mid-90s.  It’s funny to see how the mid 90s were a time of questioning authority, of trying to unmask fame and corporate mega-ness.  At the time it seemed so rebellious, like everything was changing, that facades were crumbling.  Now, after the 2000s, that attitude seems so quaint.   Reading these essays really makes me long for that time when people were willing to stand up for what they believed in and write books or music about it (sire nothing changed, but the soundtrack was good).

So, this collection is actually not all non-fiction.  Part One is the titular “Postcards from the Dead.”  It comprises ten vignettes about people at a Grateful Dead concert in California in 1991.  As Coupland points out in the intro to the book, this was right around their Shades of Grey album album In the Dark, and huge hit “Touch of Grey”, when they had inexplicable MTV success and it brought in a new generation of future Deadheads.  He also points out that this is before Jerry Garcia died (which is actually helpful at this removed distance).

These stories are what Coupland does best: character studies and brief exposes about people’s lives.  The stories introduce ten very different people, and he is able to create a very complex web of people in the parking lot of the show (we don’t see the concert at all).  As with most Coupland of this era, the characters fret about reality.  But what’s new is that he focuses on older characters more (in the first two novels adults were sort of peripheral, although as we saw in Shampoo, the mother did have millennial crises as well).  But in some of these stories the focus is on older people (Coupland was 30 in 1991, gasp!).  And the older folks fret about aging and status, just like the young kids do. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACKDEAD KENNEDYS-Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables (1980).

Punks often marry politics to their music.  And none moreso than the Dead Kennedys.  I found out about them around the Frankenchrist album, but it’s this one that introduced Jello Biafra to the world.

What I loved about the Dead Kennedys is that they set out to offend everyone–unless you actually listened to their lyrics. The first track, “Kill the Poor” seems like it a horrifying encouragement to do just that, but if you read the lyrics: “Efficiency and progress is ours once more/Now that we have the Neutron bomb/It’s nice and quick and clean and gets things done/Away with excess enemy/But no less value to property/No sense in war but perfect sense at home.”   As was recently commented, Dick Cheney may have seen the sarcasm there.

“Let’s Lynch the Landlord” is a song that Sophia and Yarostan could get behind: “I tell them ‘turn on the water’/I tell ’em ‘turn on the heat’/Tells me ‘All you ever do is complain’/Then they search the place when I’m not here.”

The biggest track of the disc was “Holiday in Cambodia,” a song so catchy that Dockers actually asked to use it in a commercial (!).  Cause nothing sells jeans like: “Play ethnicky jazz/To parade your snazz/On your five grand stereo/Braggin’ that you know/How the niggers feel cold/And the slums got so much soul.”

The thing that I especially liked about the DKs was that although they played hardcore (some brutally fast and crazily short songs), they didn’t limit themselevs to just that.  They had actual guitar riffs, they tinkered with styles and genres (surf and rockabilly among others), and they even slowed things down from time to time (all the better to hear the lyrics).

Even if the band disintegrated into lawsuits, it’s fair to say that they inspired plenty of kids to take an interest in what was going on around them.

Pol Pot.

[READ: Week of June 25, 2010] Letters of Insurgents [Yarostan’s Fifth Letter]

Because Sophia’s letter is very long, this week it’s only Yarostan’s letter for Insurgent Summer.  It opens with Yara annoyed about the tone of Sophia’s letters and her surprise that Yarostan is so quick to want to open the latest one.   But indeed, Yarostan feels compelled to apologize for “the way I treated your earlier letters.  I did treat you as an outsider, as a person with whom I couldn’t communicate about my present situation.  I was wrong” (283).  [It’s very nice of him to admit that he was wrong].  But that doesn’t mean that he is going to lighten up in his discussions with Sophia: “it seems to me that …critical appreciation is not an expression of hostility but is at the very basis of communication and friendship” (285).  Mirna also chimes in (with rather high praise):

Sophia is a born troublemaker, just like Jan and Yara.  She shares Jan’s recklessness as well as his courage.  I’m glad for her sake that she was taken away from here even if her emigration caused her some pain.  There’s no room here for people like that.  If she’d stayed she would have disappeared years ago in a prison or concentration camp (283). (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: PEARL JAM-Live at Easy Street (2006).

This is a live EP of Pearl Jam playing at the Easy Street record store in West Seattle. Wikipedia says their set list had 16 songs; however the EP (which is only about 25 minutes) has 7 songs. The EP is really great, though, as it contains some terrific punk covers in addition to some classic PJ tracks. It also makes the set seem like it was much more fast and furious than it actually was. The disc speeds up really quickly with the one minute “Lukin” and then jumps right a cover of The Avengers’ “American in Me” and then a song later, a fabulous cover of the Dead Kennedys “Bleed for Me” (complete with right-on squealing guitar noises), and then, the biggest surprise a great cover of X’s “The New World” (complete with guest vocals by John Doe). They end with a great rendition of “Porch” and then they’re done. I suppose it is more for completists, but i you’re not a big PJ fan, but like their harder stuff, this is a great EP to check out.

[READ: May 6, 2008] “Bullfighting

This story focuses on 4 middle-aged Irishmen and the bonds they create by meeting weekly for pints to talk about…nothing. Donal and Elaine have been more or less happily married for years. All of their kids are grown, and Donal is, well, satisfied with his life. (more…)

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