Archive for the ‘James Brown’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: STARBUCKS Hi-Fidelity Holiday (1998).

This is one of my favorite Holiday CDs.  Say what you will about Starbucks (and I know you will), they know their audience (even if I don’t drink coffee).  Almost the entire CD is excellent, or at least in that groovy Hi-Fi style.  There are a few songs that don’t quite fit with the others, but overall, this is a keeper.

ESQUIVEL-“Jingle Bells”
I love Esquivel, and this space age jingle Bells is just the most fun.  You look ravishing tonight.

KEB’ MO’-“Jingle Bell Jamboree”
Keb’ Mo’ is a great performer, but this song doesn’t quite fit on this CD.  Especially after Esquivel.  Maybe if it was a little later in the sequence?  But the song itself is great and should be heard more at Christmas time.

COCTEAU TWINS-“Winter Wonderland”
I have loved Cocteau Twins for decades.  This version of “Winter Wonderland” has been a perennial favorite.  I love what they do with the song and how they keep it faithful but make it their own.  This should have followed Esquivel.

DEAN MARTIN-“Baby It’s Cold Outside”
This song is problematic for many reasons.  But if you can get past the creepiness, Dean’s version is fun.  It’s interesting that the female singers are practically a chorus of voices.

I’ve pretty much forgotten about Combustible Edison, but I love this swinging instrumental version of this song.  It’s totally terrific.

LEONARD COHEN-“Hallelujah”
This is not a Christmas song.  At all. It is also so over played that I never really want to hear it again.

XTC-“Thanks for Christmas”
I love this song.  It’s bright and happy and the XTC voices and guitars are just perfect.

EL VEZ-“Christmas Wish”
I have a soft spot for El Vez, but man I don’t care for this version of this song.  It’s not bad, but I kept thinking it was some B list actor form a 1950s rock n roll film (like Arch Hall).  I suppose if it was more in the El Vez spirit I’d enjoy it more.

JAMES BROWN-“Merry Christmas, Baby”
I like this song except it always bugs me that there’s a line about not being drunk but being all lit up like a Christmas Tree.  James seems a little not into this recording, to be honest.

THE ALARM-“Happy Christmas (War is Over)”
This song bugs me.  I think it’s the obnoxious (but well meaning) idea that war can be over if we want it.  But whatever.  This version is kind of flat, which is springing given The Alarm is all stadiumed out most of the time.

THE TEMPTATIONS-“Little Drummer Boy”
This song is tough to pull off.  The Temptations were a little flat at first I thought, but they pulled through to the end and won me over.

PEGGY LEE-“I Like a Sleighride (Jingle Bells)”
This song is weird and fun.  The “I like a sleighride” chorus is weird and kind of creepy, but it’s got a real fun feel overall.

ROBBIE ROBERTSON-“Christmas Must Be Tonight”
So I listened to this song and had literally no recollection of ever hearing it before–even though I have listened to this disc every year for a decade.  And even now, I have no recollection of it either.

THE BLUE HAWAIIANS-“We Four Kings (Little Drummer Boy)”
Is it because I have heard every Christmas song a million times that I gravitate to the oddball recording?  Probably.  I love this surf guitar instrumental version of “We Three Kings,” it brightens my day.

BOBBY DARIN-“Christmas Auld Lang Syne”
This is a classic.  It used to bug me that he goes so over the top with the LOOOOOOORD business at he end, but it doesn’t bug me much anymore–its makes me smile.  I really like the melody and the way the songs are conflated.

Overall this is a great collection of songs.  It’s not all as groovy and space-age as it appears, but it’s still good holiday fun.

[READ: December 1, 2017] “Skinks”

Near the end of November, I found out about The Short Story Advent Calendar.  Which is what exactly?  Well…

The Short Story Advent Calendar returns, not a moment too soon, to spice up your holidays with another collection of 24 stories that readers open one by one on the mornings leading up to Christmas.  This year’s stories once again come from some of your favourite writers across the continent—plus a couple of new crushes you haven’t met yet. Most of the stories have never appeared in a book before. Some have never been published, period.

I already had plans for what to post about in December, but since this arrived I’ve decided to post about every story on each day.

This story is told by a little boy, Wendell, who wants to be called Dilly.  He tells us that Jesse doesn’t like it when he calls him Dad.  Jesse always says “Two things.”  Like “One, your dad left a long time ago and two, although you don’t want to say he’s your dad, he still is.  I’m not.  Clear?

Clear.  Clear as mud, he says.

Jesse is now in the hospital and the boy has been talking to his mom a lot.

When he goes into Jesse’s room the pastor is in there.  “He thinks all the answers are in that book,” his mother says to him.  She then says to the pastor, “I know it’s serious, but that was years ago when you both loved getting into trouble.  He’s different now.”

The pastor bristles at this and says “some of us know better than to get into fights over things people say.”

There’s a lot of observations from the boy about his mother (and what both she and Jesse say about women in general)

And sometimes he just goes in and talks to Jesse, which he thinks is weird, but he does it anyway.  When he heard there was skink in the hospital he knew Jesse would want to see it. “It’s a weird word but I like it.”

But mom and a police officer enter and Dilly hears the officer say, “I’m sorry, but things have changed.”  Before he can leave the room he sees that Jesse is now restrained.

The pastor comes out while Dilly is outside and asks Dilly what he’s doing.  When Dilly mentions the skink, the pastor gives him some suggestions about bait and ways to catch them.   During this brief conversation, a lot of truths come out.  About Jesse, about Dilly’s father and about the pastor.

But I feel a little too much like Dilly in this story–like everyone is talking around me.  There’ a few too many gaps that I can’t fill in to fully get what happened.


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6616 SOUNDTRACK: CHUCK BROWN-Tiny Desk Concert #217 (May 16, 2012).

chuckI’m puzzled by a few things with this Tiny Desk Concert.  The first is a note that This story originally ran on Sept. 28, 2010.  The second is the note that Chuck Brown, the Godfather of Go-Go music, died Wednesday. In 2010, he brought his full band to the NPR Music office — and put on a party like no one else.

That isn’t confusing in itself, but I have to wonder why it took them two years to air this concert, which is quite a fun rave up.  Are there other shows they didn’t air?

Okay, so I had no idea who Chuck Brown was.  And the blurb anticipated that

The name Chuck Brown might not mean a whole lot to people outside the Washington, D.C., area. … In D.C., Brown is widely known, even revered, as the Godfather of Go-Go, a title he’s held since the late ’70s. Though he started out as a jazz guitarist, Brown invented go-go, a style that incorporates funk, jazz, R&B, hip-hop and dancehall, and has mostly stuck with it ever since.

So, Go-Go, huh?  I never heard of that either.

No one in D.C. can really explain why go-go hasn’t traveled beyond the city’s environs — we love it here, it’s all over our commercial R&B and hip-hop radio stations and, at least when I was in high school, a go-go in a school’s gym was the most packed party of the weekend. Chuck Brown is a local hero. A few days after he played our offices, Brown and his whole band played at the Redskins’ stadium for the halftime show.  So to have Brown play a corner of our office — not a 90,000-capacity football stadium — was like a dream come true for a lot of NPR staffers. Sweat started pouring immediately, between the 11 musicians (that’s congas and a stripped-down kit; saxophone, trumpet and trombone; two backup singers and a rapper) and all the go-go-heads in our building.

Brown played four songs for about 25 minutes.

Go-go is mostly about the groove, though, and Chuck Brown just settles in and leans back. He showed up looking like a million bucks in a vest, Dior shades and his signature hat, and then he did what he does best — get the crowd on his side and hand its members something to dance to.

Go-go is based on a syncopated beat and the use of congas in addition to drums.  So “Senorita” is like a combination of reggae salsa and 50s singing (I can’t help but think he sounds like Frank Zappa when Zappa does his rather funny voice).  The song is slow but smoldering and fun to sing along to.  There’s a Santana guitar vibe too.

“Chuck Baby” is the hip hop element of his music.  His rapper is not very inspiring though.  She seems a little stiff.  And the song is a little flat when he’s doing the call and response–he sounds cool and seductive and they sound more bored than “naughty.”

Before the third song everyone starts chanting “wind me up chuck!” which he lets everyone know www.windmeupchuck.com is his website. “Wind Me Up!” / “Bustin’ Loose” starts with lots of call and response.  “Bustin’ Loose,” is a funky song with very James Brown accents and everyone singing the refrain: “Gimmethebridgenow, gimmethebridgenow.”  The song has been a hit in D.C. since 1979.  The backing vocalist on this song feels a bit looser (apparent as she sings “I feel like bustin’ loose).

The crowd was yelling out requests, too: “Chuck Baby” and “Run Joe,” a go-go cover of the Louis Jordan song.  “Run Joe” / “It Don’t Mean A Thing.”  “Run Joe” has a Jamaican flair “Policeman is on the premises.  What is he doin’ here?”  His guitar playing is really inspired throughout the set, but especially at the end of this song.   He does a lot of playing the same melody as he sings.  The song segues into a version of “It Don’t Mean a Thing” in which he slips in “It don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that go-go swing.”

This set was really a party.  And Brown was just full of energy.

[READ: January 12, 2017] “Surrendering”

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

This reflection beings with Vuong explaining that his family moved to the U.S. from Vietnam when he was two.  He was an ESL student from a family of illiterate rice farmers who saw reading as snobby.

When he entered kindergarten, he found himself immersed in a new language.  He quickly became fluent in speech but not in the written word.  In fourth grade his class was given an assignment to write a poem in honor of National Poetry Month.  Normally his poor writing skills would mean that he was excused from such assignments.  He would spend time copying sentences out of books in the classroom.  But this time he decided to be ambitious and write a poem. (more…)

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holmes1SOUNDTRACK: JAMES BROWN-“Soulful Christmas” (1968).

Ibrown enjoy the funk.  And I enjoy funking up The Christmas.  So this seemed like a song or album I should have been familiar with already.  And yet I wasn’t.  I fear I know too much of Brown’s less than stellar 80s work rather than his awesome 60s and 70s work.

So NPR played this song in the 2010 Holiday Show, and I was immediately grabbed by the funky bass of the song.  The song is all about how much Brown loves us and wants to wish us a Happy Christmas and New Year.

The song doesn’t really deviate from the funky bass line (and indeed why should it?) and it turns more or less into an improv.

The song gets a little weird around 2 and a half minutes when he starts telling us how much he loves his fans, well, because they buy his records and come to see his shows (that’s why he loves us so).  It’s a weirdly worded sentiment, but I’m sure it’s heartfelt.  Next year there may have to be more funk at Chritsmastime.

[READ: December 5, 2013] Sherlock Holmes and a Scandal in Bohemia

I’m always looking for interesting graphic novels for the kids, so I was pretty excited to see this Sherlock Holmes collection (although maybe more for myself than them).  In fact, Clark didn’t seem that interested in them.  I was a little surprised as he enjoys detective stuff but when I read this first one I felt the language was a little stilted (for a comic book).  These are indeed the actual Arthur Conan Doyle stories just severely edited and truncated.  In other words, a lot of the story is cut out and yet the original language is still in place (at least I hope it is, I hope contemporary writers didn’t write the dialogue), so for young kids I think the wording is a little confusing.

The drawings are a little too simple for my liking as well.  They do effectively convey the story, but I didn’t like the very basicness of them.  I feel they make the stories seems a little more childlike than they actually are.

Having said all that however, I found the graphic novels to be a compelling introduction to Sherlock Holmes’ shorter stories (although not for my 8-year-old apparently).

This story introduces us to the infamous (in Holmes’ circle) Irene Adler, the woman who was able to best Holmes. It seems like a really odd place to start this series of books if you are new to Holmes, because Holmes more or less admits that Adler has outsmarted him, which seems to undermine his skills somewhat.  This story was the first short story to feature Holmes, but he had already appeared in two novels.  So readers were familiar with his skills, whereas contemporary readers might wonder what the fuss is about., which you don;t get to read here. (more…)

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commitSOUNDTRACK: KANYE WEST-Late Registration (2005).

I lateregcan’t get over how much I’ve been enjoying Kanye West’s music as of late.  So much so that I went back and bought Late Registration.  I wanted to check out his early stuff, so naturally I started with…his second album.  And it’s a really enjoyable, soulful, gospel-filled rap album. Complete with Kayne’s bizarre, humorous and often offensive lyrics.

Musically the samples are wonderful—they create a very specific feel of pop soul that both works with and sometime against the lyrics.  The album suffers from two things that I’ve found I do not like in rap, and in articular in Kayne’s albums.  It bugs me when rappers intro their songs with several “uh, yeah”s.  I don’t know why but it does and that’s how Kanye opens the disc.

And, I wish there weren’t so many guests on the record.  While I understand the guest singers who provide backing vocals, I don’t get all the guest rappers (and there are a lot: Paul Wall, GLC, Lupe Fiasco, Common, Game, Jay Z, Really Doe, Nas, Cam’ron Consequence).  I mean, I’m not here for them, so why devote so much time to others, it makes you seem like you couldn’t thin of enough to say (and we know that’s not true about Kanye).  After a few listens, I have grown to appreciate the guests, but I like Kayne’s style so much that the other guys are just distractions.

Late Registration is largely produced by Jon Brion, who has made some amazing music with Fiona Apple and Aimee Mann—and while it is certainly stripped down Brion, the flourishes that Brion often employs are apparent here.  Like the tinkly pianos and farty bass that opens “Heard ‘Em Say.”  There’s some falsetto R&B-esque vocals from the singer from Maroon 5 here—I had no idea he sang like that.  It fits very well with the song.  And the instrumental section at the end is very Brion.

“Touch the Sky” uses a long sample (slowed down quite a bit) of Curtis Mayfield’s “Move on Up.”  But the sample is so much of that original song that it almost seems like cheating.  Except that he has slowed it down and modified it somewhat, and…his raps work perfectly with it.  The other really crazy sample is from Gil Scot-Heron which samples “Home is Where the Hatred Is.”  The strange thing is that the song is 1:44 and the last 45 seconds of the song are just Scot-Heron’s song playing along by itself.  It’s weird to have given up that much to another song…but it sounds great.

“Gold Digger” is a very funny song about, well, gold diggers.  The topic isn’t new (the fact that it samples an ancient Ray Charles song attests to it), but the chorus of “I ain’t saying she’s a gold digger, but she ain’t messin’ with no broke niggers” is great.  There’s also an intro section with Jamie Foxx doing his now patented Ray Charles.  It’s a pointed song but done with a very funny twinkle in his voice (the Kayne twinkle).  “Drive Slow” is a cool slow-tempoed number with a great sample from Hank Crawford and an interesting slowing effect at the end of the song.  “Crack Music” is a great political song equating making records to selling crack.  The metaphor works well.  And this is one of Kayne’s strong pro-black songs.  It’s really powerful.

The surprising thing is the two really sensitive songs: “Hey Mama” which is a sweet song to his mother in which he promises to go back to school and get his doctorate and “Roses,” which is an angry but beautiful song about his grandmother being in the hospital.  There’s a great verse about her being poor and therefore not getting the best care: “you telling me if my grandmother was in the NBA right now she’d be okay”   As well as a line about a nurse asking for his autograph while they are worried about his grandmother—although, realistically, how often is a nurse going to meet a star like Kayne?  The end of the song has some great soulful crooning by (as far as I can read) an uncredited singer.  And I feel like Brandy, who opens up the next song really falls flat in comparison to this unnamed singer (I don’t care for the way newer black singers wail their scales).  But the Etta James sample of “My Funny Valentine” that floats through “Addiction” is gorgeous.

“Diamonds from Sierra Leone: is a surprisingly political song that samples “Diamonds are Forever.”  There’s two version on the album.  I like the remix featuring Jay-Z a lot less, in part because I’ve never been a huge Jay-Z fan, but also because his verses completely interrupt the flow of the song.  “We Major” has  a very retro, almost easy listening vibe. There’s a lot of backing vocals going on and they remind me somewhat of Ben Folds Five’s backing vocals (which is pretty weird, I suspect). This song is interesting for its talk of worrying about daughters—as with many rappers, women are bitches and hos unless they are your grandma, your mama or you daughter—which is kind of awkward, really.

“Celebration” is perhaps the weirdest juxtaposition of contents.  It’s a celebration, bitches.  A celebration apparently about the fact that he and a woman (who had a fatty) accidentally had a baby (“You my favorite accident”).   That line makes it sound like the child is at the party, which makes the chorus “Grab a drink, grab a glass, after that I grab your ass” hard to fathom.

 “Gone” has a nifty piano melody (and some cool interstitials very Brion-infused melodies) that plays under Cam’ron and Consequence’s raps.  The song is kind of a muddle (although a funny muddle) until Kanye comes in at around 4 and a half minutes.  I really like the way the album ends: with Kayne rapping “Sorry Mr West is gone” and the music completely cutting off.

The bonus tracks include the original of “Diamonds from Sierra Leone” and “We Can Make It Better” (which features Q-Tip, Talib Kweli, Common and Rhymefest). It’s an interesting track (especially the sped up backing vocals) but it seems like a bit of a throwaway (which is surprising given the number of guests).  “Late” is a unlisted bonus track which is very strange.  There’s lots of “ah ha ha has” in a posh sounding falsetto).  But there’s some witty lines in here, especially this verse:

They said the best classes go to the fastest
Sorry Mr. West there’s no good classes, and that’s what yo’ ass get
Not even electives? Not even prerequits?
You mean I missed my major by a couple of seconds?
Now I’m in the shop class or the basket weavin
With all the rest of the muh’fuckers underachievin

So Kayne is clever and stupid.  A great rapper and a not so great singer.  And amazing producer and a good song writer.  And this is as good an album as I’ve heard it was.

[READ: August 8, 2013] The Commitments

I have been reading a number of big, heavy books lately (which I have yet to post about…later in the week), so I decided to take a break with a light, fun book. And one that I’ve read before (and seen the movie of many times).  I looked on the inside cover where I wrote the date of acquisition (a thing I did for a while until I realized it was kind of silly, and yet I’m glad i did it here) October 1993, almost twenty years ago.

But aside from Jimmy playing songs on vinyl, there’s very little that’s dated about the album–which may even be the point of the book.

This is the story of a bunch of misfits in Ireland who join together to form a soul band.  The nucleus of the band is Jimmy Rabbitte, a local kid who lives and breathes music.  He had Frankie Goes to Hollywood before anyone else and he knew they were shit before anyone else.

Some of his mates have started a band (called hilariously And And! And) which plays new wave.  Jimmy tells them they should play soul instead.  He plays them some James Brown and they love it.  Which leads to the talk of music and sex.  And they are really into it.  And then there’s  the oft quoted line from the movie: “The Irish are the blacks of Europe. And Dubliners are the blacks of Ireland. And the Northside Dubliners are the blacks of Dublin. So say it once and say it loud, I’m black and I’m proud.”

And so they begin a quest to find the rest of the band.  Jimmy puts an ad in Hot Press (the Irish music magazine) and interviews everyone (some very funny jokes in there).  And the recruits form a crazy quilt of characters.  (more…)

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grantladn4SOUNDTRACK: PUBLIC IMAGE LTD-“Poptones” and “Careering” on American Bandstand (1980).

abThe Dick Clark article below alerted me to this bizarre gem–PiL “playing” on American Bandstand.   The article talks about John Lydon ignoring the lip synch, climbing into the audience and generally disregarding the show’s script. The video suggests something sightly less sinister (although maybe for 1980 it was outrageous–do you really cross Dick Clark?).

Dick Clark himself announces the band nicely, and then the crazy off-kilter bass and simple guitar of “Poptones” kick in.   Lydon runs into the bleachers with the kids (most of whom are dressed in New Wave finery not unlike Lydon).  They shriek with glee when he comes nearby (do any of them know who he is?  I have no idea).  When Lydon’s spoken rambling come in a little later you can’t help but wonder what the hell they are doing on AB.

Then, Lydon starts grabbing people from the audience and pushing them towards the stage–something I believe was unheard of on AB.  The fans dance around to the impossible-to-dance-to “Poptones.”  The song ends and Dick asks John if he wants the kids out there for song two.  Yes, song Two!  He does and John faux lip synchs through “Careering,” avoiding cameras at all costs and dancing with the kids–one of the most egalitarian performances I can think of from Lydon.

And listen for Dick asking Jah Wobble his name (reply THE Jah Wobble) and him saying, nice to meet you Wobble.  What a surreal moment–wonder what Dick thought of it.

Enjoy it here:


[READ: December 28, 2012] Grantland 4

Grantland continues to impress me with these books (and no, I have not yet visited the website).  My subscription ran out with this issue and I have resubscribed–although I take major issue with the $20 shipping and handling fee.  I even wrote to them to complain and they wrote back saying that the books are heavy.  Which is true, but not $5/bk heavy.  The good news is that they sent me a $10 off coupon so the shipping is only half as painful now.

This issue’s endpages were “hypothetical baseball wheel-guides created by JASON OBERG–they were pretty cool and a fun idea.  They look very retro, but use contemporary batters, pitchers and catchers.  I’d like to see them for real.

Each issue makes me like sports a little bit more, but not enough to actually watch  them.


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SOUNDTRACK: KISS-Love Gun (1977).

This was the first Kiss album I’d ever heard.  I’ll never forget my cousin bringing it to Long Beach Island in the summer of 1977.  I loved “Christine Sixteen” (of course, I was 8 and had no idea what it was about, I just loved singing it).  And the album has always held a magical mystique for me.

And even now I think the opening guitars of “I Stole you Love” are fantastic–fast and furious.  And the processing (or is that harmonizing) on Paul’s vocals make this song so urgent it’s really amazing.  I also got a kick out of the “guitar!” comment before the solo–certainly not the first band to do it, but surely the first I’d ever heard (they may be the first to say “Listen” at the end of a solo, though).  “Christine Sixteen” is a preposterously poppy song (listen to the bouncy, happy piano!), how could an 8-year-old not love it.  It is, of course, utterly creepy when Gene sings it now, (actually, my calculations show that he was 27 when he wrote the song–still pretty fricking creepy–and in some places, illegal).

The choppiness of “Got Love for Sale” makes the song different from many other Kiss songs, which were all about flow.  The guitars are choppy, the drums are choppy: t’s pretty cool. It’s all hard and heavy (except for the doo wopping “got love for sale” backing vocals).  Ace Frehley finally gets a lead vocal turn on the awesome “Shock Me.”  This has always been one of my favorite Kiss songs although listening to it now it sounds a little weak on this album (really uninspired backing vocals, eh?) but the solo is ripping–and the live versions are much more intense.

My first version of Love Gun had a skip at the beginning of “Tomorrow and Tonight” which made me not like the song very much.  Now I just think of it as a piece of filler–it sounds like it could come from Paul’s solo album (what’s up with the backing singers?).  I assume that they were trying to dip into the anthemic power pop well one too many times with this one.    But all is forgiven with the next song, “Love Gun.”  Yep, sex metaphors abound in Kiss, but this one is pretty awesome.  Beyond that, the sound of the guitars is great: the powerful power chords and the amazingly full chorus are also great.   And the staccato drums (and blistering solo) obviously make the song genius.

The rest of “Side two” is pretty interesting.  “Hooligan” is an odd little number.  It’s Peter’s song and it swings–Peter was always more into older rock than anything else, and this song, if it was stripped of its rougher edges (and cool solo) would fit pretty well on any of Peter’s (not very rocking) solo albums.  Although “dropped out of school when I was 22” is a pretty great line.  “Almost Human” is a weird song with some crazy guitars.  The solo is absolutely insane–I’d love to have seen the recording of it–just noises upon noises, very cool.  And the music itself has an odd eastern feel.  There’s great vocals and effects and all kinds of interesting things going on.  It’s an overlooked gem from this disc. 

Then there’s “Plaster Caster” the song about the woman who makes plaster casts from rock singer’s penises.  I still laugh at the euphemism of “if you want to see my love, just ask her”.   I’ve always loved this song even though listening to it now, it sounds kind of anemic (of course, the guitars were sampled in Tone Loc’s “Funky Cold Medina” so that’s got to mean something, right?) 

The album ends with a cover of “Then She Kissed Me.”  Even though Kiss likes that kind of music, I never did, so this song has always been my least favorite song of all of the first six Kiss albums.  But hey, the album runs 32 minutes in total–without those three minutes, you’re under half an hour.  That’s why I assume it was included.  The solo is nice though.

The album is pretty heavy overall and has some great guitar solos from Ace.  They’re not as anthemic and pretty as on Destroyer but they really show off his guitar skills.  And even though I tend to like Destroyer, Love Gun might be #1 for me on any given day.

[READ: October 4, 2011] “The House on Sand Creek”

This short story was on the surface very funny even though underneath there was exceptional sadness.  The events that set the story in motion are pretty unlikely–a couple rents out a property sight unseen (as if–especially since he is a realtor) and it turns out to hold so much karmic malfeasance that it quickly makes the wife, Monika, flee the god forsaken countryside and fly back to Bosnia. 

The narrator falls into a rhythm with his neighbor Bob (this part of the story reminded me of parts of Wells Towers’ stories–two men, out in the middle of nowhere, bonding despite obvious differences).  But the story quickly moves back out of Tower territory when the narrator gets a call from Monika (about two years after she left).

Her new marriage in Bosnia didn’t work out and she’s moving back in with him and bringing her new son as well.  (Again, it seems unlikely that this could just happen–that she would just call and say she was moving back in with him after two years, but whatever, it moves the plot).  And so, the narrator and his ex-wife move back in together with Monika’s son, Karel.  Karel is the son of an African man and Monika hopes he will grow into a Mandingo (this seems unlikely since the boy’s father is actually a short neurosurgeon from Yoruba–a West African village). (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: THE SLEW “100%” (2009).

The Slew is the latest band created by DJ Kid Koala. Koala is a fantastic turntablist, and this group uses his scratching and sampling to excellent effect.  The lineup includes drums, bass, keyboards and six turntables!

It’s an insane hodge-podge of music.  And it’s very fun.  I’ve no idea how many samples are in here (James Brown seems to be all over the song) or even if any of the “riffs” in the song are original or from other records, but I enjoyed this very much.

I’ve enjoyed just about everything Kid Koala has done, and this is no exception.  I’m glad to see he’s still being so creative.

There are three five tracks available on CBC Radio 3.  And they’re all fun.

[READ: June 14, 2010] “Riff-Raff”

The protagonist of this story is a nineteen year old girl from Montreal.  She is in a horrible relationship with a boy named Leroy.  But near the end of her first year at McGill, she meets an American boy.  They hang out pretty steadily for a few weeks and, when school ends, he invites her to visit him in New Mexico.

There’s so many places this story could have gone.  I guessed a number of them, but I never would have guessed the direction it went. (more…)

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