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Archive for the ‘Fishbone’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: A DIFFERENT KIND OF CHRISTMAS (1994).

This is one of the first alternative Christmas albums I bought.  I don’t listen to it that much because I tend to think it’s not that good (the cover is pretty uninspired).  But there’s actually quite a lot of good stuff on this.

SYD STRAW-“The Christmas Twist”
I’m happy to report that the “twist” is not some dark storyline, but an actual dance of The Twist.  Syd has written a Twist and it’s fun and dancey with plenty of Christmas lines to sing along to.  It’s a great opening track.

SHONEN KNIFE-“Space Christmas”
Shonen Knife does what they do best–short fast punky pop songs.  This one about a space Christmas, of course.

NRBQ-“A Christmas Wish”
I know this from the She & Him version.  I didn’t realize I had the original.  It’s sweet and cute with a really catchy and lovely melody in the “people all over the world” line.

BRUCE COCKBURN-“Mary Had A Baby”
This is one of those call and response songs that is very repetitive and goes on for too long.  If it was shorter it would be fun.

The dB’s-“Home For The Holidays”
This is kind of a stomping country song. It’s got a cool stomp stomp in the middle.  At under 3 minutes it’s just right.

SHELLYAN ORPHAN-“Ice” [NSFC]
I love the vocals and the song is quite pretty.  But this song is a downer (I don’t like Christmas anymore) and at over 5 minutes is not really good Christmas party music.

FISHBONE-“It’s A Wonderful Life”
Man I love this song.  It’s a super fun and dancey ska song that cites It’s a Wonderful Life and is just full of fun and pep.

POI DOG PONDERING-“Mele Kalikimaka”
It’s funny to hear this Hawaiian song done in this New Orleans brass style.  It’s a fun song regardless of who is doing it.

T-BONE BURNETT-“God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen”
This opens as a pretty instrumental version of this song on acoustic guitar and violin.  Lovely.  The vocals are fine, but I’d have preferred it with no words–the instrumentation was really striking,

TIMBUK 3-“All I Want For Christmas” [NSFC]
I really disliked Timbuk 3 back in the 1980s.  But I find their strange deliver to be reminiscent of X and I’m quite attracted to their style.  I like this song a lot. Although I can’t endorse a Christmas song about WWIII.  And I suppose lyrically, it’s a bit naive.  But the music is fantastic.

DAVE EDMUNDS-“Run, Rudolph Run”
I don;t know that anyone can get me to enjoy this song. Certainly not this vert standard version of it.

SHAWN COLVIN-“Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas”
Shawn has a lovely voice and this song is delightful.  It’s a simple piano version with some gentle accompaniment.  Interestingly, this does not appear on her own Christmas album (see the 24th), probably because it might be too upbeat–she does get a bit carried away, vocally, by the end.

So there’s nothing stellar on this disc (except Fishbone), but it’s a solid collection of alternative versions of songs and a few solid originals.

[READ: October 19, 2017] Pashmina

I wanted to love this book so much.  It has so many awesome elements.  The black and white to color juxtapositions are wonderful.  The colors are gorgeous and Chanani’s drawing style is simple but charming and effective.

And I think wanting to like this book as much as I did is why I wound up not enjoying it as much as I wanted.

And that’s because it feel like there’s a lot left out of the book–I wanted it to be twice as long.

This story is about Priyanka, a young Indian-American girl.  She is raised by her mother (and knows literally nothing about her father–her mother won’t say a word about him). (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: THE PERCEPTIONISTS-Tiny Desk Concert #661 (October 20, 2017).

The Perceptionists are Mr. Lif [Jeffery Haynes] and Akrobatik [Jared Bridgeman] two emcees whose names rock bells among true hip-hop heads. The duo of Boston natives first teamed up as The Perceptionists in the early aughts to release Black Dialogue on El-P’s Def Jux label in 2005. Their side project went into indefinite hiatus soon afterward, but now LLif and Akrobatik are reunited on their new LP, Resolution.

In a world that often appears to be spiraling out of control, their Tiny Desk set provides a much-needed breather.

With sharp, heartfelt lyricism, The Perceptionists critique the current political climate on “Out Of Control.”  There’s some great lyrics in this song.  I especially like

Man, I’m right there with them
Keeping it funky
If I’m African American, tell me which country
Our differences shouldn’t make you wanna hunt me
When in reality every fruit came from one tree

The song has a groovy funky bass from the really animated (H)Ashish Vyas.

On “Lemme Find Out” they rhyme about the symbiotic human relationship with technology.  They say our lives are just so dominated by technology…  Mr Lif wonders “if I am living in the real reality or just a predetermined reality that I’ve been programmed with.”  Akrobatik says, “50 years from know humans are going to have craned necks from [cell phones].”  The track opens with a cool echoing somewhat sinister guitar riff from Van Gordon Martin [“Not known for shit startin’ but his name is Van Martin”]

Once again, I love Akrobatik’s rhymes:

Microchip implanted in my hip
Got me feeling like an alien that landed in a ship
Probed my frontal lobe now I’m standing here equipped
With abilities to flip
But I can’t get a grip on regular shit
I’m about to dodge my competitor’s wit
Hit them with something that they’ll never forget
Deprogram, roll up a hell of a spliff
And smoke Master Kush at the edge of a cliff

I really like the little growls that Mr Lif does at the end of the verses.

The next song is “A Different Light.”  This chorus is great:

Want to crucify me for toughest era in my life?
That’s all right…
Thought the world of you but now I see you in a different light
That’s all right…

The duo’s

conscious ethos is perfectly encapsulated by Ak’s lyrical run.  He raps: “But I’m above all of the melodrama / When they go low / We go high / Michelle Obama.”

Mr. Lif says, “Everyone enters a relationship with different levels of expectations.”  Sometimes we are looking too closely at our expectations and not looking at the other person and being present with the situations right in front of us.   The song is mellow with some gentle synths from “Chop” Lean Thomas. The end of the song has a retro flute sound.  There’s also a mellow guitar line that runs through the song.

The song tells the story of Ak’s near-death experience with a pernicious aortic dissection, as well as the betrayal of a close friend during his convalescence.

About that incident, Acrobatik raps:

I don’t need to call your name out – I ain’t trying to embarrass ya
This is not about revenge, it’s more about your character
Or lack thereof, step back there brov
How can you call someone a friend and then attack their love?

The final song is “Early Morning.”  It’s got some great funky bass and some great funky drums from “Tommy B” Benedetti.  They say they hope this resonates with us all.

As the song ends, there’s some great riffs on the guitar and then Ak says, “we can’t  make a crazy exit… don’t wanna knock shit over.”

[READ: February 13, 2017] Hip Hop Family Tree 3

Book three continues the rise of Hip-Hop and bands who really start selling big.

Interestingly, it starts with Rick Rubin setting the tone for hip hop: “Sorry but girls don’t sound good rapping” (said to Kate Schellenbach of Beastie Boys.  And then getting the Boys all dressed in matching tracksuits (Puma).  Kate gets two rather unflattering drawings of her as the Boys tell her that the three boys will be the first white rap group (with Rubin as DJ).

Two art critics also get involved with tagging and graffiti at this time. Martha Cooper and Henry Chalfant take photos of the art but find time and again that “legitimate” businesses want nothing to do with this illegal work.  This also accompanies the rise of break dancing–there’s a funny page in which people think that a group of kids break dancing is actually fighting with each other.

But this book really tracks the rise of Run D.M.C., with the promise by DJ Run that he wouldn’t leave Jay behind.  He was good to his word. (more…)

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nov 17SOUNDTRACK: THE LES CLAYPOOL FROG BRIGADE-Purple Onion (2002).

onionThis is the first and so far only studio album from the Les Claypool Frog Brigade (line up slightly different from the live albums).  I think it’s one of his best solo releases in terms of overall musical complexity.  The addition of Skerik on sax makes a world of difference to Les’ songs and even better is percussionist Mike “Tree Frog” Dillon on vibraphone–which adds a new level of depth to these songs.  Also having a backing vocalist seems to add even more to them.

Psychotic circus music opens the saga of “David Makalster.”  It’s a riff on the news (where everything’s exactly as it seems).  The chorus is a fun vibraphone filled section–cheerful and fake.  It’s a decent song.   In true Les fashion, he follows it up with a Part II later in the disc in which the truth of the unhappiness is revealed.  Between the two songs it’s 11 minutes long which is too much for this one conceit, although I do like the way the part II revisits the first song in a different way.

But there’s so much else that’s so good on the record.  Like “The Buzzards of Green Hill” which opens with a jaw harp and some cool bass.  It’s a simple up and down riff that is incredibly catchy.  Later it’s got some great guitar and horn solos.  “Long in the Tooth” sounds like a Primus song, but the crazy sax noises turn this into something else entirely.  “Whamola” is a cool song that features Les’ work with the whamola, a one string instrument that features prominently on the song–it’s like a viola that you can do bends on.  It’s a great jam with Fish from Fishbone on drums and Skerik’s crazy sax as well.

“Ding Dang” sounds like it would be a silly song but it actually attacks all forms of prejudice–racist, homophobic ignorance all gets taken to task and then put to a rather cheerful-sounding chorus.  There’s some wild solos on this in song too.   Tolerance is a good thing.

“Barrington Hall” is an interesting creeping sounding song with vibes and bowed bass.  It feels like a kind of silly horror movie song.

“D’s Diner” opens with some backward percussion.  It has a creepy sinister bass line and some crazy vocal all about a yummy dinner.  It features Gabby La La on sitar and Norwood Fisher from Fishbone on bass.  “Lights in the Sky is an atmospheric song which is a bit too long.  “Up on the Roof” has a great slapping bass thing going on and the vibes solo is wonderful.

“Cosmic Highway” ends the disc with a pretty lengthy jam.  It has some great solos from the various instruments–I actually would have preferred this as an instrumental–I think it would have removed the slower parts.  But it’s a fun, trippy album closer.

And after this, Primus would (briefly) reunite.

[READ: January 19, 2015] “The Alaska of Giants and Gods”

In this story (which I imagine is the beginning of a new novel from Eggers), Josie has packed her kids into a (cheap rented) R.V. and has taken them to Alaska.

Josie used to be a dentist.  She was sued by a woman who claimed that Josie should have seen the cancer in her mouth.  Josie was so disgusted, she threw up her hands and said to take everything.  Which the woman did.  She felt the lower forty-eight states were full of cowards and thieves so it was time to get out.

And yet when they crossed the border, the Alaska she imagined was nowhere to be seen–no magic, no pure air, just a regular old city. (more…)

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primus bookSOUNDTRACK: PRIMUS-Suck on This (1990).

primus suckThis was the disc that introduced me to Primus–it was on a beach vacation with my friends Al, Joe and Rad.  Al made this the soundtrack of the drive and, man, it was weird and crazy and super cool and by the end of that trip I was hooked.

Actually I was immediately hooked when the band opened this live disc with a rough version of Rush’s “YYZ” which then launched into “John the Fisherman.”  What do you make of this band and this weird song?  Stomping bass which is doing all of the lead stuff, with guitars that are just noises and craziness but which really work with what the bass is doing (once you listen a few times, anyway).  The drums are mammoth and very prog rock.  And then there’s Les’ voice–cartoony and unconventional–sometimes deep, sometime really silly, sounds that work perfectly with the storytelling lyrics.

The quality of this recording is pretty poor, although I find that it sounds a bit better on smaller, less “good” stereos, where Ler’s guitars don’t get lost so much in the bass.  Most of these songs have been re-recorded for later albums, so perhaps the newer versions sound cleaner to me.  [Groundhog’s Day, Frizzle Fry, John the Fisherman, Pudding Time and Harold of the Rocks on Frizzle Fry and Tommy the Cat on Sailing the Seas of Cheese].

The best songs on this disc have really catchy parts: “John the Fisherman” (most of it) or the insane fast bass and wild soloing section of “Groundhog’s Day.”  Sometimes it’s just when the noise stops and Les gets a line, like “It’s Just a Matter of Opinion” (in “The Heckler”).  Although the noise there is really catchy too–listen to what Ler is playing during the funky bass section–it’s wild and amazing.

Of course “Tommy the Cat” is a major standout from all three guys.

The only song that doesn’t really work for me is “Pressman” which seems a bit too long without a lot of resolution (although the end is pretty cool).  I often get “Jellikit” (the other song that didn’t make it to a studio album) in my head, whenever I think, Did you like it?  There’s even a drum solo from Herb the Ginseng Drummer in that song

What’s fun is that the audience is totally into it and they know most of the songs–anticipating lyrics and even singing along.  And this is where “We’re Primus and we suck.” comes from.  It was a shocking debut when it came out, and it’s still pretty unusual, although not as unusual as some of their later songs would be.

[READ: January 3, 2015] Primus

As I said above, I’ve been a fan of Primus since near the beginning of their existence.  And yet, for all of my enjoyment of them, I didn’t really know all that much about their origins.  I didn’t know that the original line up was Todd Huth and Jay Lane (guitars and drums), and that the three of them wrote the songs that appear on Suck on This and much of Frizzle Fry.  Ler had to learn these unusual parts (Ler took lessons with Joe Satriani and is much more accomplished than his lack of flashiness indicates) and did so wonderfully. I also didn’t know that Les and Kirk Hammet were in the same class in high school (and that he’s the reason Les picked up a bass in the first place, even though they never formally played together).

The book is constructed as a series of quotes from a vast assortment of people.  The “cast” is two pages long and includes current and former members of the band and management as well as fans like Trey Anastasio, Matthew Bellamy (from Muse), Geddy Lee, Chuck D, Eugene Hutz, Tom Morello, Buzz Osborne, Matt Stone, Mike Watt, Hank Williams III, guys from 24-7 Spyz, Fishbone, Limbomaniacs and even Linda Perry (!).

It opens with Les talking about his high school years.  And what’s amazing is how many people who were involved in Primus are friends from when he was a kid.  If they didn’t play together, they were involved with art or management or something.  We also get the origin story of Bob Cock, which answers many questions.

Les had formed Primate (legal dispute with the band The Primates made them become Primus) with Todd and Jay.  They toured a lot and were gaining a following, but Les was always looking for something more.  He even auditioned for Metallica after Cliff Burton died (Kirk thought it sounded great but I guess James didn’t). (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: BAD BRAINS-I Against I (1983).

I don’t remember buying this album, but I remember getting it because of the connection to SST records (not because Bad Brains were an amazing hardcore band–I didn’t know that yet).

All of these years later, this album is still pretty astonishing.  The heavy punk blends so well with the reggae-inspired jams.  Perhaps the biggest band where Bad Brains influence is evident is Fishbone (especially their later metal songs).  But you can hear t hem in Faith No More and many other mid 90’s bands as well.

The disc opens with a great off-beat instrumental (“Intro”) which leads into the amazing yell-along “I Against I.”  “House of Suffering” follows with some more speedy hardcore.  Then it all slows down with “Re-Ignition,” the first indication that this is an album unafraid to take risks.  Although the thumpy riff and heavy beats are still there, the vocals are more of a reggae style (especially towards the end).  “Secret 77” follows with a kind of funk experiment (but those drums are still loud and stark–Earl is a maniac!).

Darryl’s bass work is tremendous throughout the disc, and Dr. Know’s guitar is amazing–speeding fast soloing, heavy punk riffs and delicate intricate reggae sections intermingle with ease.  And, of course, we can’t forget about H.R.’s vocals.  He has several different delivery styles from the speedy punk to the reggae deliveries and the all over the place (including high-pitched shrieks on “Return to Heaven”).

The second half of the disc experiments with more diversity, and it is somewhat less punk sounding (although not by much).

Historically, it’s hard (for me) to place exactly how influential they were.  Listening to  the disc today (which doesn’t sound dated in any way) it sounds utterly contemporary in stylistic choices.  Did they come up with the mosh break?  They certainly are the first punk band the embrace Jah (that’s a trend that never really took off though, eh?), but their funk metal sound predates the popular Faith No More style by over a decade.

[READ: November 21, 2010] “The Kids Are Far-Right”

I know I subscribed to Harper’s when this article was published (I distinctly remember the jelly bean portraits of Reagan), but I’m pretty sure I didn’t read it then because the whole idea of it sounded depressing (the subtitle: “Hippie hunting, bunny bashing, and the new conservatism”) was just too much for me in 2006 (and was almost too much for me in 2010).

And so our correspondent (not long after his trip through the Bush/Cheney volunteer minefield) heads out to the twenty-eighth National Conservative Student Conference.  He meets exactly what you would expect: right-wing campus types (several from ultra-religious schools) who are there to learn to hate liberals even more than they already do (and boy do they).

Wells’ article is full of details about all of the speeches and programs, as well as biographical information about some of the attendees.  Most of them just want to get rid of liberals on campus, but some want to go into politics themselves someday (they are viewed with suspicion here).  Many also hate George W. Bush because he raised taxes.  In hindsight what we have here is the origins of the tea party.

The only comforting news to come from the article is that only 400 people attended (but they were willing to spend a few hundred dollars and give up a week of their summer vacation, so it’s still a pretty high number). (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: The Believer July/August 2010 Music Issue Compilation CD: “We Bumped Our Heads Against the Clouds” (2010).

Of all the Believer music compilations, this is by far my least favorite.  It would be oversimplifying things to say that the music is not for me, but in many respects it is not.  Chuck Lightning, the curator of the project states that this compilation is more or less a look into the state of the union for black artists.  And that invariably means a lot of R&B and songs that might be heard on Glee (I like the show, but I never know any of the music).

Deep Cotton’s “Self!” reminds me of novelty dance hit from the late 80s.  Of Montreal, who I thought sounded totally different from this, offer “Hydra Fancies” which is as catchy a disco anthem as any disco anthem can be.  Roman GianArthur’s “Depraved Valet” is an amazingly falsettoed Prince knock off.  Cody Chestnutt’s “”Come Back Like Spring” is a simple almost acapella ode to spring.  Saul Williams’ oddly titled “B.S. in a Tampon” is a spoken word with acoustic guitar that reminds me of Gil Scot-Heron.  Janelle Monáe’s “Cold War” is the first really catchy song (the la las remind me of Carole King), although  I could do without the overstated “Calinda” part and the extended fade.

The first song I really liked was BLK JCKs “Iietys” which sounded enough like TV on the Radio to be really interesting.  Spree Wilson’s “Chaos” also sounds like TV on the Radio (the more R&B side of the band, although the guitar solo is a dead ringer for “Hotel California.”  Scar’s “Rewind” is the song that should be on Glee.  I want to hate it but it is so damned catchy, I can’t.  Again, those Oh Oh Ohs are too perfect (and the auto0tune of course is unassailable).

Rob Roy’s “Velvet Rope Blues” is my favorite song on the disc by a large distance. It’s a weird rap that reminds me of The Streets, with an awesome sung chorus ala OutKast.  Hollyweed’s “Have You Ever Made Love to a Weirdo” is a trippy, juvenile space rap that is really silly.  Sarah hates it but I kind of like it, as it’s in the spirit of Frank Zappa, (although I hate the sax solo).  Fear & Fancy’ s “Off the Grid” sounds also not unlike OutKast.  And George 2.0′ s “Turn Off the TV” is a anti-TV rap rant (with the somewhat ironic conclusion that you yourself might end up ON the TV).

M.I.A. is probably the biggest name on the disc. “Born Free” is a weird little track of highly distorted vocals over a punk guitar buzzsaw sound.  But her vocals are mixed so loud in the mix that they sound unrelated.  It sounds not unlike a Go! Team track.  This track makes me wonder how she became such a sensation.

Hot Heavy & Bad’s “One” returns to that disco sound in the vocals with some contemporary bass sounds.  It wears out its welcome pretty quickly.  Tendaberry’s “Cold Boy” sounds like a less horn-y Fishbone.  Mother Novella offers one of the few all guitar songs, “Closer 9 1/2” and it’s an okay mid tempo rocker.

The final song is pretty awesome in theory: Nina Simone covering Alice Cooper.  That’s right, Nina Simone covering Alice Cooper.  Sadly I don’t know the Alice Cooper song, so it’s a bit lost on me.

[READ: September 16, 2010] Speaking with the Angel

I bought this volume when it came out (and apparently donated $1 to TreeHouse at the same time).  It’s a collection edited by Nick Hornby (and the cover is designed similarly to the way High Fidelity and even About a Boy were at the time (“the Hornby look,” I suppose).

I didn’t buy it for Hornby alone, although he does have a story in it, but because it looked like a really promising collection of stories from authors I liked.  And for some reason I didn’t read it until now.  It includes 12 stories, and as the introduction notes, $1 was donated to TreeHouse.org.uk (in the US $1 goes to TreeHouse and another $1 goes to New York Child Learning Institute).  I don’t know if the money still goes there, but you can donate with a form at the back of the book.  (more…)

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mc29SOUNDTRACK: FISHBONE-Give a Monkey a Brain and He’ll Swear He’s the Center of the Universe (1993).

monkeyI had actually forgotten about this album, because it was so overshadowed by Truth and Soul and Reality….. When I put it on I wasn’t expecting much (Fishbone had something of a precipitous decline around this time).  So, I was amazingly delighted with how much I remembered this album and how much I enjoyed it (which shows to me that I must have listened to it a lot back in college).

This album is much much heavier than anything they’ve done up to this point (I can’t speak for the releases that came after it).  It does have some variety of songs, but not nearly as much as their previous releases.  The other notable thing is that there’s no short songs on it.  There’s none of the one minute songs that they’ve put throughout their discs.

“Swim” was the single from the album and it is heavy and moshy.  The video, I seem to recall, was a lot of people crowd surfing.  “Black Flowers” slows things down a bit, but unlike previous ballads, this one is still pretty loud.  It’s got a great catchy melody, but it’s still  quite dark. “Servitude” reminds me of some of King’s X’s s darker moments, with their riffs and dark harmonies.  (This just shows how Fishbone is much more metal on this release).  Their first “lighter” song is the return to ska with “Unyielding Condition.”  It’s a nice let up from the heaviness, and is still catchy. “Lemon Meringue” is the other lighter moment, with a nice bass riff included.

Funk returns with “Properties of Propaganda” and the repeated chants of “Fuk This Shit on Up.”  “The Warmth of Your Breath” is hardcore insanity, the type of song that would have been about 2 minutes on another disc sort of overstays its welcome, although the often repeated line “may your dog’s colon be familiar with the warmth of your breath” while barely audible can’t help but raise a smile.  And even though “Drunk Skitzo” features Branford Marsalis, it’s still too long for such silliness.

So, it’s really the first half of the disc that I liked a lot…I guess some discs run too long.

I never got a Fishbone CD after this one.   The reviews were pretty lousy by then.  But of course, the reviews of this one were lousy too, so maybe I’m, selling their later output short.

[READ: January 3, 2009] McSweeney’s # 29

My cover for this book happens to be red.  Huh.

This issue comes as a hardcover book.  There are planets on the cover, including a die cut hole that shows the moon of the next page.

On the bottom of every page of the book are matchbox labels.  Most of them are Eastern European in origin.  They were collected by Jane McDevitt, a web designer in the UK.  Some of the images are available on her Flickr site: www.flickr.com/photos/maraid.  They are a pretty cool collection of images.  And, they brighten up all the work . (more…)

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