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Archive for the ‘Kurt Cobain’ Category

wrenchiesSOUNDTRACK: FOO FIGHTERS-In Your Honor Disc Two (2005).

Foo_fighters_in_your_honorSo disc two is an all acoustic collection (and is actually a little longer than the rocking side, bring the total time to about 85 minutes).  Because of the guests, I tend to think of this as a less than exciting collection of songs.  But it is actually quite solid.  And even though I have always preferred Foo Fighters’ louder songs, Grohl’s voice is well suited to acoustic songs and his songwriting withstands stripping away the noise.

“Still” is a mellow acoustic opener.  Grohl’s voice is gentle.  It’s the kind of opening that on later records would lead to a big loud chorus, but this album is all mellow.  I like the way the song unexpectedly shifts chords about half way through.  The song also has keyboards done by Rami Jaffee (I believe a first for a Foo Fighters record).  It’s 5 minutes long and perhaps a little samey.

But the album perks up with “What If I Do?” a brighter song with a catchy chorus.  It is also 5 minutes but doesn’t feel long. It’s followed by “Miracle” a lovely ballad with a great chorus (and John Paul Jones on piano).  I really like the entire composition of “Another Round,” the clear guitars and the bright chorus.  And John Paul Jones plays mandolin on this one!

“Friend of a Friend” is done on just a quiet acoustic guitar. It’s a lovely, dark song.  Although it is always tempting to assume Grohl’s songs are about Kurt Cobain, this one apparently was.  According to Wikipedia, this was the first acoustic song Dave Grohl had ever written.  “The song was written by Grohl in 1990 (and recorded in secret the same year), and it was about his first impressions of new bandmates Kurt Cobain, and Krist Novoselic.”  The way it is so sparsely recorded was a really good choice.

“Over and Out” has a cool and interesting riff and a nice big chorus.  “On the Mend” has some lovely acoustic guitar pairings.

Then comes “Virginia Moon.”  It has a slow jazzy feel, a shuffling drum sound and really delicate vocals.  The biggest surprise of course is that Norah Jones (no relation to John Paul Jones) sings a duet with him.  It’s a pretty song and, while I wouldn’t want a bunch more songs like this, it works well as a one off.  The next song “Cold Day in the Sun” was written by drummer Taylor Hawkins.  Evidently they tried to make a rocking version but it never really came off so they made it acoustic.  Hawkins sings lead vocals (and has a raspy Peter Criss type of voice–is that a drummer thing?) and Grohl plays the drums.  It’s got a super catchy chorus.

“Razor” ends this disc with a neat hammering guitar line.  Josh Homme plays rhythm guitar on this song.   It’s a very pretty song, although I feel like Homme is underutilized.

For an 85 minute album, this is mostly really quite excellent.  I tend to forget about it in the Foo’s discography but there are a number of stand out tracks here.

The band did some acoustic shows following this album, and made a CD and DVD from them.

[READ: January 20, 2015] The Wrenchies

Most of the First Second books I had been reading were either for kids or young adults. This one is squarely in the adult category–and I feel you can tell that by the rather ugly style of drawing on the cover.  (First Second does an admirable job of getting books that are pretty as well as ones that are ugly).

Dalrymple has a broad spectrum of styles in this book.  He has excellent realistic characters (warts and all) but he also has really nice pretty sections as well–where the characters are quite beautiful.  The fact that he chooses to pick the uglier style more is likely a matter of the location–a post apocalyptic hell–than anything else.

This story is (obviously) quite dark.  In fact I can see a lot of readers being turned off right from the get go with how dark and violent it is.  It’s also a little confusing because the post apocalyptic world that we are introduced to is not really explained.  There are also riffs on T.S. Eliot-with lines like “In the room the children a come and go.”

The story begins with Sherwood and Orson entering a cave. It all seems rather idyllic until we see just what kind of creepy thing lives in the cave–and what it does to Sherwood. (more…)

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kurt-cobain-montage-of-heck-psterSOUNDTRACK: FOO FIGHTERS-Foo Fighters (1995).

ffDave Grohl was like the anti-Kurt Cobain.  How many photos do you see of him with a big stupid grin on his face.  He seems to be silly and fun all the time (despite some apparent angst in his life).  And how surprising was it to find out that not only could he bang the hell out of the drums, he could also write songs (and play guitar).  Of course we all looked for songs “about” Kurt, on this record, but I realize that Dave only knew Kurt for a couple of years, he likely didn’t even really know him that well.  Dave has other things on his mind.

And somehow, despite the really aggressive often heavy metal feel  of Foo Fighters albums, they are always popular.  Foo Fighters have gotten so big, it’s easy to forget that Grohl was even in Nirvana, which is saying something.

The Foo Fighters debut album was written and performed entirely by Dave Grohl.  I remember when it came out (well, after it was revealed to be Grohls’ album–it was a secret for a little while) listening to it in an apartment in Boston.  I must have listened to it a lot because I know the whole thing so well.

Grohl uses some of the loud/quite format of Nirvana, but mostly he just writes songs with simple lyrics (easy to sing along to even if you don’t know what he’s saying (bridge to “I’ll Stick Around” anyone?) and big catchy choruses.

If you like loud rocking songs, this album is fantastic.  “This is a Call” and “I’ll Stick Around” are super catchy heavy songs.  “Alone + Easy Target” is a bit less catchy, although the chorus has a very cool riff in it.  “Good Grief” is super heavy with an aggressive chorus.

But it’s also git some sweet songs.  “Big Me” is quite tender and it makes me laugh because the drums are so incredibly simple and gentle for a basher like Grohl.  “Floaty” is a really pretty song with some cool fuzzy guitars and a cool riff that goes from bridge to chorus.  The chorus has an aggressive punk riff which complements the rest of the song in an interesting way.

“Weenie Beenie” (I had no idea that’s what the song was called) is loud and aggressive with a massively distorted vocal. It’s kind of a throwaway but shows Grohl’s love of punk.  “Watershed” is a similarly fast punk track and is only 2 minutes.

“Oh, George” is a mid tempo song, with some very catchy moments and a classic rock style guitar solo.  “For All the Cows” opens with a kind of jazzy guitar and drum sound and then really rocks out.  It was released as a single but never did anything, which is a shame because it seems like a joke but is actually quite good.

Even though Grohl did everything on the album, he had a little help from Greg Dulli who played guitar on “X-Static.”  I would never have noticed it was Dulli, although knowing that it’s someone else playing, you can hear a different style in the guitar.  The disc ends with “Exhausted,” a song which sets a kind of trend of longish more meandering songs near the end of Foo Fighters albums.  I don’t love it but its a fine ending.

So many things could have been wrong with this album–a drummer writing songs, and an ex-famous drummer at that.  He even initially wanted to record it with Krist Novoselic, but was afraid that people would think it was a Nirvana band (and he’s very right about that).  Despite all of that, it turned out to be pretty great.  And it was the start of something of a phenomenon.

[READ: May 20, 2015] Montage of Heck

So I was a huge fan of Nirvana (like the rest of the world) when they came crashing forth on my speakers.  And yes, I knew that they saved rock.  But by the time Kurt killed himself, I was bummed but not distraught.  I was never going to have a poster of him on my wall or anything like that.

I was intrigued when I heard this documentary was coming out. But I didn’t have any plans to see it.  And then NPR played an audio excerpt from the movie in which a drugged up Kurt is getting yelled at by Courtney while their infant baby is lying next to them.  And I decided I didn’t need to see that film–it was brutal just to listen to.

Then I saw this book at work and thought it might be an easier dosage than the film.  (Although my friend Eugenie has seen it and says it’s excellent).

It turns out the book has a lot more stuff that the film does (although I can’t say what as I haven’t seen the film).  It consists entirely of interviews and illustrations (very cool ones by Hisko Hulsing and very creepy ones from Stefan Nadelman.   There’s lots of photos and a few excerpts from Kurt’ diaries and the like.

The interview subjects are listed on the page 18-19 spread of the book.  Each has a photo.  There’s Don Cobain and Jenny Cobain (Kurt’s father and stepmother).  Then there’s Wendy O’Connor, Kurt’s mom and she looks exactly like Courtney Love WHAT IS UP WITH THAT?  In her early younger photos she doesn’t.  It is creepy. (more…)

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esqSOUNDTARCK: VOIVOD-Dimesnion Hatröss (1988).

hatrossDimension Hatröss takes the advances from Killing Technology and moves them even further into craftsmanship and prog excellence.  In the Killing Technology band photo and in this one, Blacky had shaved part of his head—which was pretty outrageous for a metal band in the late 80s.  It’s just a small visual showing how the band was different from other metal bands.

It also opens with some interesting sounds—a swirling noise that coalesces into a fantastic solid heavy riff—a confident metal riff that is more sophisticated than most of their output already.  And then a cool noisy chord from Piggy lets you know that this album is going to be…different.  And so it is, a wonderful mix of metal and prog rock chords (and long songs)  all used as the background of a sci-fi story of The Voivod.  The dissonance is amazing on the album—Piggy is playing chords that seem like they shouldn’t come from a guitar.

“Tribal Convictions” is a little less harsh than “Experiment” and you can really hear Snake has been honing his singing skills.  There’s even multiple tracks of vocals (including a deep voice singing along on this track).  And there are so many different sections—and the first that stands out on the album is Piggy’s echoed guitars just before the “who’s the God” section.  Or the repeated chords that open the fantastic “Chaosmongers”—sounding for all the world like electronic malfunction.  And yet for all of the experimentation, the songs are still heavy—the chorus of this song is very fast and full of Away’s noisy splash cymbal.  My favorite parts comes at around 2:15 where Piggy plays these great fast chords and Blacky plays a very cool accompanying bass line.  Indeed, Blacky’s bass sounds great on this record.  And when that riff repeats later in the song, it’s followed by a great concluding section.

“Technocratic Manipulators” is a fast heavy song—a very traditional sounding metal song until the “that’s not for me” comes in with a  huge time change that last… for one measure.  I love how the song ends with a repeated section of “I’d rather be…” until the final line, “I’d rather…think.”

Then comes one of my favorite Voivod songs with the awesome title “Macrosolutions to Megaproblems.”  It opens with some increasingly dissonant chords, but also features some loud chanted singalong sections followed by a ringing guitar solo that sounds like a siren.  All within a few seconds of each other.  It also has the thoughtful bridge, “You better shake up your mind, coz if you’re just staying blind, integrity you won’t find.” And another super cool dissonant chord sequence on the high notes of the guitar—I don’t know how Piggy thought of these sequences.  Just to top it off, the ending sequence is a series of descending chords, each one odder than the last.

“Brain Scan” has a cool riff at the end of each verse that is actually surprisingly major chord bright—amidst the chaos of the rest of the song (more great bass from Blacky and some crazy sounds of a brain scan—Snake’s voice processed?).  “Psychic Vacuum” is one of the songs where I have to wonder how they can switch to different sections so fast.  “Cosmic Drama” opens with a distant echoic riff and then nothing but heaviness.  And yet it keeps up that sci-fi experimental feel.  This is one of the great heavy metal records of the 80s.  technically brilliant playing, odd time signatures and yet still some really catchy music.

The CD has an addition of the Batman theme song.  It’s a very odd addition and has no place on the record, but I’ve always liked it because it is so weird. (It’s also only 1:45).

[READ: August 29, 2013] “Nirvana”

I was apprehensive about reading this story because I tend to dislike Esquire fiction. But Adam Johnson won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction for The Orphan Master’s Son (which I haven’t even heard of), so I figured this must be better than the male bonding stories that usually appear in Esquire.

And so it was.

This also happens to be the second stories about a virtual reality President that I’ve read in a few days.  How about that.

So this story is set in some kind of future.  And in this future the President has been assassinated (and has been dead for three months).  The story seems like it is set in the near future (so I kept imagining Obama as the dead President and I wonder if others do too).  But something is odd, because the protagonist has been whispering to the President (and evidently the President is talking back to him).  However, what’s more significant to the narrator is his wife. (more…)

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lacavaSOUNDTRACKFUCKED UP-David Comes to Life (2011).

Fdavidor a band named Fucked Up, they make music that is surprisingly catchy.  Of course, as befits their name, they also have a pretty aggressive punk sound with lots of drums and loud guitars.  But many of the guitar lines and choruses are surprisingly melodic.  And then comes singer Pink Eyes.  He screams in a gravelly, rough, cookie-monster type voice (although he is mixed lowish in the mix so he doesn’t often overpower the music).  Despite the fact that most of the words are indecipherable, he also have a good sense of melody.

So how does a band that plays distorted hardcore punk with a barely comprehensible singer decide to make a 78 minute concept album?  Beats me.  But guitarist 10,000 Marbles has written a pretty solid collection of songs.  Of course, it also beats me exactly what the concept is.  According to allmusic the plot is: In the fictional town of Byrdesdale Spa UK, David has a humdrum life working at a light bulb factory, and finds an escape by falling in love with a communist rebel rouser, only to find out later that she has died in a terrorist bombing and that he has a lot of emotional turmoil to face.

I’ve listened to the disc a dozen or so times and never got that plot.  I even followed along with the lyric sheet and never got that plot.  Part of the reason may be that Pink Eyes sings all of the parts in the same way, so it’s really hard to notice that there are different characters (like Veronica) in the story.  While it is fascinating to hear a really catchy choruses sung by someone who is kind of scary, it doesn’t do a lot for the story.  The other odd thing is when Mustard Gas provides female backing vocals–they are sweet and pretty–a drastic counterpoint to the noise that Pink Eyes makes.  But she only comes in on a few songs.  I wish she did more.

There are some really great songs on this disc.  Song two, “Queen of Hearts” has some incredibly catchy sections.  And the “dying on the inside” harmony in “The Other Shoe” compliments the grizzly “It can’t be comfortable when you know the whole thing is about to fall” very nicely.  The b vox are also great in “Turn the Season.”  I find myself singing the “Hello my name is David, your name is Veronica.  Let’s be together. Let’s fall in love” section over and over.  It’s surprisingly sweet when sung by such a voice.

Since this is a concept album (or rock opera I suppose), there’s things like the nearly two-minute instrumental intro to “Remember My Name” which doesn’t fit with the rest of the song but is really catchy.  There’s also a kind of introductory “theme” that crops up in the album.  Fucked Up confound you at ever turn with beautiful melodies that morph into noisy punk.

By the middle of the disc (where I gather David is a low point), there’s some really loud heavy songs.  Amid the pummeling noise, there’s some nice acoustic guitar in “A Slanted Tone” and some very cool rumbling drums and bass that propel “Serve Me Right.”  These songs help to break up the flow nicely.  “Life in Paper” which is near the half way point opens with the same staccato notes as the disc itself, and it proves to be a very catchy song in which David asks “Who can I trust?”

The second half of the disc continues with the more catchy style with “Ship of Fools.”  But as the story nears the end, it starts to feel very samey.  There’s a few breaks, but it’s a hard row to hoe.  There is redemption in the end, but you still feel exhausted.  Perhaps 78 minutes of Fucked Up is too much.  For some listeners even 5 minutes will be too much.  Despite the accolades (and they received a lot), you won’t be hearing this one the radio (and not because the DJs couldn’t say their name).

And yet amid all of the noise, there are some really shiny gems.  They have even released four music videos for the album!  The first one, “Queen of Hearts” is especially cool as the video is set in a classroom and the kids sing all the parts (after a nearly two-minute spoken intro of the song.  I admit to not having any idea what’s actually happening in the video, but it’s still cool.

[READ: January 26, 2013] An Extraordinary Theory of Objects

This is a strange little book.  It was another one that I saw while waiting online at the library.  I was attracted to the cover (I know, don’t judge… but honestly, you can tell a little bit about a book by the way it is marketed. And this was marketed at me.)  It’s a small book with a stark cover and interesting drawings on it.   And then there’s the unusual title.

The book was only 180 pages (plus notes and a bibliography) and it was chock full of pictures.  I mean, this thing can be polished off in an afternoon.

And here’s what it’s about.  Well, let me modify that.  Here’s what’s in the book.  Stephanie is a young girl when her family moves to France (for her father’s work).  She has always felt like an outsider and now feels even more so in France.  She is introverted and spends a lot of her time in books.  Then she moves back to America and reflects on her childhood.

Yeah, that’s about it.  For here’s the thing, Lacava isn’t famous and she hasn’t done anything that you might have heard of.  She’s just a person who went to France as a kid.  The introduction kind of gives you some reason as to why you should read the book.  Lacava was a sad and miserable child and she took refuge in objects–not as a collector so much as an admirer.  On her windowsill she has collected various geegaws that she treasured (and which she brought from America in her carry on, they were so precious).  And she has this interesting relationship with objects.  Although, as with many things in the book, that relationship is not really delved into very much.   (more…)

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