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Archive for the ‘Muse’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: OK GO-Tiny Desk Concert #278 (June 3, 2013).

I love OK Go’s music videos.  They are stupendous. I have watched all of them several times.  And yet I can’t remember a single song.  But that doesn’t diminish my appreciation for them.

When NPR was moving offices, they made a “Tiny Desk Concert” of the band proceeding from their old location to the new one.  And in OK Go fashion, they made a great video to go with it.  The music is live (I believe), even though they must have shot the footage hundreds of times.  It’s sort of a stop motion video, except that it’s not single frames but short 2 second clips spliced together.

You can watch as the old office is dismantled, as they walk through the halls to the moving truck.   As they play on the truck in the streets of D.C. and then as they enter the new building.  There are cameos from NPR colleagues: Ari Shapiro, Audie Cornish, David Greene, Guy Raz, Scott Simon, Alix Spiegel, Susan Stamberg and more.  There’s a hilarious moment with Karl Kassel who gives them a dirty look.  And then they march through the offices, the news room and into the new Tiny Desk location where they finish the song.

The song is fun and catchy and even has new lyrics that reference the NPR move.  It has to be seen to be appreciated.

And if you like figures here are some details from the shoot:

  • Number of video takes: 223
  • Number of seconds Carl Kasell spent in the elevator with OK Go: 98
  • Number of times Ari Shapiro played the tubular bells: 15
  • Number of days it took to shoot: 2
  • Number of cameras: 1

Incidentally, NPR and I are out of sync with our counting of Tiny Desk Concerts.  I can’t figure out what happened.  The reason mine is correct is because I have written down every concert and numbered them.  So I feel that for them one doesn’t count?  They say this was number 277.  Someday they’ll read this and we’ll get to the  bottom of everything.

[READ: April 1, 2016] No Mercy Vol. 1

Because of the way books are being handled at my work now, I don’t get to see as many books as I used to. So i was pretty delighted to get this graphic novel on my desk.  Even if I didn’t quite know what it was about, I wanted to read it.  And boy did I enjoy it.

I had no idea that the cast was a group of aspiring Princeton University students on a per-freshman trip to an underprivileged county (I like the t-shirts that say Building Bridges Helping Hands with a kinda Princeton P on the front.

We meet the cast in a cool way–each one steeping forward a bit in the crowd and giving a bit of information about themselves…mostly through text messages. Oh and I loved the way the opening colophon pages looked just like Facebook (or whatever) with a timeline photo and then on the right side–sponsored images with drawings of the author and the illustrators and an ad for an other Image comic by Alex de Campi called Valentine–genius layout idea.

There’s also a comment under the photo which says “OMG how sad, they were also young.”  So you know something bad is going to happen these poor kids. (more…)

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[ATTENDED: April 28, 2016] Pearl Jam

pjphilyWells Fargo Center is becoming one of my favorite venues.  Not because the acoustics are so good (although they are pretty good), but because now I’ve seen three of my favorite concerts there: Rush, Muse and now Pearl Jam.

I’ve been a fan of Pearl Jam for nearly their entire 25 years of existence.  I loved their first few albums, lost my way a bit in the late 1990s and then came back big time in 2001 when I enjoyed listening to their Live bootleg series.   Their live shows sounded amazing–super long, playing different songs every night–and making all of their songs sound more alive than on record.  They just sounded amazing.

And yet I had never seen them.  I should probably have gone on the 2003 tour but didn’t.  And then I met Sarah and Pearl Jam was one of her favorite bands, but she’d never seen them either.  Since we’ve been married they’ve toured near us 6 times.  We had some excuses of little babies for a couple of those tours, but we should have certainly gone in 2013.

Well, here it is, their 25th anniversary tour and Sarah and I finally got to see them.  And, although I do wish we’d gone before, was it ever worth the wait. (more…)

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[ATTENDED: January 31, 2016] Muse

2016-01-31 19.03.02I have liked Muse since their debut album, although I really got into them with Origin of Symmetry.  Given their over the top sound and Radiohead meets Queen meets really heavy metal I am astonished that they are as popular as they are.

I wished that I had seen their previous tour because I really liked their last album, and while I enjoyed Drones, it was a bit more basic than the over the top sound of The 2nd Law.  Nevertheless, I was pretty excited to see them live, especially when my friend Joe said they were the best show he has ever seen.

And I have to concur with him.  This show was outstanding.  There was nothing disappointing about this show at all.  Even before the show started, they had a Drone Processing Entrance for anyone with general admission seats (I didn’t know there was such a thing, but they all got to stand on the floor inches from the band, which is pretty cool).  2016-01-31 19.23.49The stage setup itself was spectacular–a circular stage with two catwalks extending out to either side–like a bow tie–which guitarist/singer/superathlete Matthew Bellamy and bassist (and growler) Chris Wolstenholme ran to throughout the show.

2016-01-31 20.15.57Just before the band came out, a dozen stormtrooper-looking guys with batons and blue glowing lights came out to “patrol” the perimeter while they played “Straight Outta Compton.”  And then the lights went out.

The giant orbs lit and up descended from the rafters while the prerecorded “Drones” played.  These drone balloons had lights on the bottom which scoped out the audience.

And then the band came out and launched into “Dead Inside” while the drones floated around above them.  It was cool to see Wolstenholme’s bass with the led lights on the fretboard.  And before I forget, drummer Dominic Howard is a monster.  His set was right in the center of the stage anchoring the whole business. And his drums were loud and impressive and super fast when needed.  I also liked that at the end of the show, he ran to both sides of the bow tie stage to wave to fans. (more…)

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[ATTENDED: January 31, 2016] X Ambassadors

2016-01-31 19.33.02I have had a great string of luck with opening acts in the last year.  But that more or less came to an end with X Ambassadors (the first half of the tour had Phantogram as the opening act, whom I would have been pretty psyched to see).  I didn’t know X Ambassadors at all before seeing this show (although I understand that they have a number of singles out).

It’s not that X Ambassadors were bad, because they weren’t.  It’s not even that they didn’t fit with Muse, although really they don’t.  There was just something flat about them.  And that is really surprising because they sure looked and acted like they were ready to be huge.

They played the center circular stage.  Noah Feldshuh on guitar was at 9:00 as I looked at the stage.  Keyboardist Casey Harris was at 6:00 and drummer Adam Levin was at 3:00.  Lead singer Sam Harris was all over the place.  He ran around, jumped and bounced and really got the crowd into it.  I assume they were into it.

Sam Harris has a great voice–he can wail, he can hit high notes, he can croon, he can do it all.  He might as well be a star on a TV music show.  And I think that’s where the problem with the band is for me. They are playing a show with Muse and they have a sound that is kind of heavy.  But I think they’d be better suited with a less “alternative” rock sound.  I think an RnB vibe would suit his voice better. (more…)

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[ATTENDED: March 28, 2015] Spencers: Theatre of Illusion

Back in October of 2012 we saw Spencers: Theatre of Illusion.  I saw that they were coming around again, and even though we had seen the show, I remember enjoying it and thought it would be fun to see them again since the kids were a little older now.

I also assumed that the show would be different.  I mean, it had been nearly 2 and a half years.  Sadly, many of the magic acts were exactly the same.  But on the positive side, they were still pretty awesome, and there was a bunch of new material as well.

In my previous write up I said that the pacing was too slow.  I’m sure it wasn’t faster but it didn’t feel slow this time.  That may have been the audience–the room was full of super excited kids and there was plenty of laughter and applause–it worked very well with his leisurely storytelling style (I may have also been anxious last time since our kids were younger and I wanted them to be excited all the way though).

He started off , like last time, by doing a seemingly easy but very cool illusion of tearing today’s newspaper in half. He made some jokes about the paper and then proceeded to rip it up and then reunite the whole page.   It’s pretty cool. (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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mister orangeSOUNDTRACK: MUSE-The 2nd Law (2012).

2ndlawMuse are over the top.  No question about it.  And that’s why I like them so much.

So when the new album opens with crunchy guitars that give way to keyboards that sounds not unlike a Bond movie, it’s not really surprising.  The first verse is fairly mellow, building until Matt Bellamy hits some crazy high notes and the heavy bass guitar kicks in.  But unlike some previous albums, this one is not all heavy heavy guitar rock.  There’s some electronic elements as well.  Especially on the single “Madness” (which was debated about on the alt rock station I listen to, wondering if it was too dance-oriented).  The song uses a dub format for repeating the Muhmuhmuhmuhmuh madness, but the verses are so catchy it’s hard to resist.  It also has a major Queen feel (a common complaint about them, although it’s not like Queen are still making music).  For Muse, this song is kind of understated until the big verse at the end when Bellamy can really soar.  “Panic Station  has a big thumping bass and drum along with some screams that sound out of an 80s metal band but there are horns that give it a dancey feel–always a contradictory outfit, Muse.

“Prelude” sounds indeed like a prelude to what proves to be “Survival” it is big and anthemic (as Muse tends to be).  It is uplifting and, as one may recall, it was the official song of the 2012 London Olympic Games (which is fitting it’s all about winning).

“Follow Me” slows things down a bit in the beginning, but it of course comes back with lots of bombast (this is Muse after all) but there’s also elements of electronica (is that  dubstep sound?) and backing vocals that remind me a lot of U2.  “Animals” has a kind of slinky bass line that wends its way through the song’s guitar solos.  By the end of the song it has grown much heavier with shouting crowds and a furious double bass drums.

“Explorers” is a ballad that grows and retracts.  “Big Freeze” has another big chorus. It’s followed by “Save Me,” a gentle ballad with harmonies.  Then “Liquid Freeze” picks up the pace a bit.  This is all leading to “The 2nd Law: Unsustainable” which is my favorite weirdo song in ages.  It is so crazy over the top and audacious that I love it.  It opens with crazy strings and a fast talking jittery computer voice.  And when she reaches the word “unsustainable,” the song goes absolutely bonkers, with crazy sound effects–I would assume most people hate this track, but I think it is very cool.  The final track “The 2nd Law: Isolated System” is a kind of denouement for the whole album–a piano ballad of 5 minutes that has a bit of a dance feel to it.

I can’t get over how much I enjoy this record.  It’s definitely not as heavy as past muse records, but it has some great experimentation and Bellamy absolutely knows a great melody.

[READ: March 8, 2013] Mister Orange

I was walking past the New shelves in the library and this book caught my eye (who says placement isn’t important?).  Something about the title and the cover design was really appealing.  I looked at the blurb–it’s about an American kid during WWII.  I wasn’t really sure I wanted to read that, but then there was a line about an artist and comic books.  I immediately thought about The Adventures of Kavalier and Clay which is also about comics in the 1940s (although this book is NOTHING like that one at all), and I decided to grab it.  Besides it was only 150 pages.

Well, I never would have guessed that the book is a historical fiction novel about Piet Mondrian, one of my favorite artists of all time.

So the story is about a boy, Linus, and his family living in New York City in 1943.  His oldest brother, Albie has volunteered for the war.  His mother is disappointed in him as she believes that all war is wrong and that nothing good every comes from war.  She is so disappointed, in fact, that she does not hang the blue star that all families with soldiers are given to hang in their windows.  Linus wonders if she is not proud of her son for fighting for what he believes in, but his mother says “Flags are for celebrating, and there is nothing to celebrate about war.”  She doesn’t even let him go to the parade for the departing soldiers.

When Albie leaves, the rest of the family is stuck waiting for word from him.  But life goes on at home and with Albie gone, that means that everyone moves up in responsibility (and shoes get handed down).  Simon (now the oldest at home and a sullen teenager) takes on Albie’s work at the newspaper, Linus picks up Simon’s grocery delivery route (their family owns a grocer’s shop) as well as Simon’s shoes, which are way too big, and Max takes over looking after the youngest children: Sis and Willy.  For the most part we follow Linus as he learns the new route and learns a bit more about the city. (more…)

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