Archive for the ‘Japandroids’ Category

thisoneSOUNDTRACK: JAPANDROIDS-Post Nothing (2009).

japan1Japndroids are two guys from Vancouver.  And man, they make a racket fit for a group double its size.  There’s a lo-fi quality to the recording but that’s mostly because the guitar is buzzy and noisy and distorted and the drums are miked very loud (and there’s cymbal splashes everywhere).  The vocals (which are mostly screamed/sung) are also pretty relentless (especially when the backing vocals come in).  And yet for their simple punk aesthetic  their songs aren’t short. “Young Hearts Spark Fire” which opens with some slower guitar (before crashing into a huge verse) runs over 5 minutes.  That’s five minutes of thumping drums and super fast guitars.  Well, they do take small breathers in the song, but they don’t last long.

But for the most part, the songs are simple, fast rockers and while there is a sameness to the album, there is diversity within their sound.  “Rockers East Vancouver” has a bit more treble in the guitar and a slow middle section.  It also has what sounds like a bass guitar break–but remember there’s no bass.  The thudding guitar and drums that open “Heart Sweats” also sound very different, as do the groovy Ooooohs that punctuates the verses–making it a very distinctive song.

“Crazy/Forever” opens with a nearly 2 minute instrumental before turning into a slow rocker that last for 6 minutes of catchiness.  The album closer, “I Quit Girls” has a cool feedbacky sound on the guitar that makes it sound rather different as well.  And the song itself is a slow almost ballad (bit not really a ballad, don’t worry) that really stands out on the disc.  So this debut is 8 songs in 36 minutes–a great length for a fun rocking album.

[READ:  February 19, 2013] This One is Mine

If you named a book Unlikable People Who Do Foolish Things it probably wouldn’t sell. Or maybe it would.  Regardless, it’s an apt subtitle for this novel.  Semple is extremely daring to write a story in which nobody is likable at all.  Luckily for her, though, is that she writes really well and the book itself is very likable, so much so that I stayed up way too late several nights in a row to finish it.

So this book is about a small group of people who run somewhat parallel lives.  David Parry is married to Violet.  His sister Sally is single.  Although David is the sort of fulcrum between the two women, the story is about the women far more than David.  But it’s important to start with David to set things up.  David Parry is a multimillionaire.   He works in the music industry–he’s the asshole that all the bands need on their side.  So, he has autographs with everyone (working on getting his daughter a photo op with Paul McCartney, had Def Leppard play his wedding, etc).  But he’s cold and distant to his wife.

Or at least he seems to be from Violet’s point of view.  Violet is a writer.  She wrote a very successful TV show but wanted out of that life.  When she met David, they had an amazing first date (and David still swoons when she looks at him that way, but it seems like she hasn’t been looking at him that way very much lately).  And when they settled in, she realized she didn’t have to work anymore.  But then she felt odd realizing that she wasn’t making any money herself.  So she threw her creativity into a new house.  Which took forever.  Then they finally managed to have a child (Dot), but Violet found being a mother overwhelming as well, so the nanny (called LadyGo) takes Dot much of the time (and yes, David is resentful of this too).

Violet is at loose ends with her life.  And then she meets Teddy.  Teddy is a loser–a former addict with Hepatitis C, he plays double bass in a Rolling Stones cover band.  When she first sees him, he is playing in the park for some kind of function (not as the Stones cover band, but in some other kind of band) and she is entranced by the music they make.  Teddy has a double bass and, when Violet runs into him after the show, because she parked near him, he is trying to fit it into his crappy car that breaks down all the time.  Indeed, it won’t start now.  He can;t afford to fix it which means he wont be able to get to gigs, which means he won’t have money for rent, etc.  He’s about as far from Violet’s one can get.  Yet, despite the fact that he is an asshole: verbally abusive, cocky and prone to make very bad choices, she falls for him.  She offers to pay to have his car fixed.  And then imagines when they can meet again. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: JAPANDROIDS-Live on KEXP, June 16, 2009 (2009).

Back in 2009,  one of the guys from Japandroids had surgery and they had to cancel some dates.  That’s only relevant to this because when this set is over, the guitarist is bleeding from his scar.

Japandroids are two guys and they make a lot of noise.  I can recall jamming on guitar with my friend on drums and even when we were totally in synch, we never sounded this good.  It really sounds like there are four or five people playing.  This set has three songs from their debut album and an amazing cover of Big Black’s “Racer X.”

The three  songs are very good and the guys pay hard and fast and, as I said, they sound amazing.  It’s a great set.  You can hear the whole thing here.  There’s also video of the performance.  It’s broken  into two parts.  This is part two, with the blistering cover of “Racer X.”

[READ: September 17, 2012] Bluebeard

I’ve mentioned this book a few times in the last couple of days as something that I’d been struggling with.  And, indeed, I found it to be a little slow going.  I was excited to start reading it because, as the subtitle says, this is an autobiography of Rabo Karabekian, an artist who appeared in Breakfast of Champions–I love that Vonnegut keeps working within his own universe.  But there was something about the early pages of the story that were just not that compelling.

Rabo is having a hard time getting his book going, and while that is a dramatic effect, I had a hard time getting into the book too.  It’s not that complicated of a story.  There are really only about a half dozen characters in the book:

Rabo–he is an American Abstract Expressionist painter (contemporary of Jackson Pollack, Jasper Johns, et al).
Circe Berman–she is an author who writes under the pseudonym Polly Madison (ha).  Madison’s books look at the real life of American young people and are staggeringly popular.
Paul Slazinger–Rabo’s next door neighbor who spends most of his time in Rabo’s house, although he and Rabo mostly ignore each other.  Slazinger is a writer with a decades long writer’s block.
Dan Gregory–a famous artist for whom Rabo apprenticed.  Gregory was such a good detailist that he once created a perfect forgery of a bill (on a dare).  Gregory was also a terrible racist and philanderer and treated Rabo with contempt at best.
Marilee Kemp–Gregory’s mistress and sometime muse.  She inadvertently sends Rabo an encouraging letter on behalf of Gregory and then she and Rabo begin a writing relationship which blossoms when they eventually meet. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: JAPANDROIDS-“Fire’s Highway” (2012).

I regret dismissing the suggestions of the NPR folks the other day.  As the more I dig into their suggestions, the more I like–seems their selections are better than their descriptions of said selections.  Take this description of the Japandoids’ album: “snarling punk meets the fist-in-the-air anthemics of Born to Run-era Springsteen and his modern-day equivalents in The Gaslight Anthem.”  I’ve never really liked Springsteen (I know, a Jersey boy, too).  I think it’s more about production (and saxophone) than anything else.  So, comparing bands to him is never a sell for me (even if it may be true).  To me, this sounds much more like a low-key Arcade Fire (with literally no pretensions to anything–I mean, there’s only 2 Japandroids).  Granted, Arcade Fire owe a lot to Springsteen too, but they do something different with his sound, which is why I like them.  [I’m not going to be able to argue my way out of this].

Anyhow, this song is a four minutes of punky guitars and a stupidly catchy chorus.  The fact that it’s only two guys makes it all the more remarkable that it sounds like a full band.  And perhaps, the biggest difference for me is the singer’s voice which feels very early 90s alt rock/punk.  Whatever it is, I’m a fan and will certainly be listening to more of this album.

[READ: June 14, 2012] “The Clockwork Condition”

Like most young men of a certain bent, I loved A Clockwork Orange.  I’ve watched it dozens of times and I’ve read the book.  What I especially like about the story is that my feelings about it change as I get older—which, while not the point exactly, is certainly a theme in the story–how age makes things seem different.  The most important thing I learned from this article is that there was an epilogue in the British version of the book that was not available in the American version (or the film).  And it seems to be pretty important.  What a strange thing to leave out.

Incidentally, Burgess wrote the book in 1962 and the film came out in 1973, which is why he was wrote this in 1973.  He says he was asked about Issues that arose from the film.  And he talks a lot about them.

But he also gives a lot of background.  The title of the book comes from the expression “as queer as a clockwork orange” which is Cockney slang for something so weird it subverts nature.  It was a perfect title for an idea he was going to write about—how people suggested using aversion therapy to change juvenile delinquent behavior.

So this article goes on for a pretty long time, raising all kinds of questions.  It’s really articulate and fascinating and really makes me want to re-read the anti-authoritarian novels I read in high school: 1984, It Can’t Happen Here, Brave New World.   He even talks about B.F. Skinner, who proposed that aversion therapy (which is what Alex gets in the book/movie) was wrong and that positive reinforcement was always more effective.  Skinner worked with animals (Burgess jokes about that) and the whole “you get more flies with honey” attitude works better for training animals he says.  The same is true for people.  Besides, aversion therapy removes freewill. (more…)

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