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Archive for the ‘Ozzy Osbourne’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: BLACK SABBATH-“Neon Knights” (1980).

There was no way I could read this book about Plasma Knights, Oxygen Knights and, yes, Neon Knights, and not think of this song.

This was the lead off track to the first Black Sabbath album in which Ronnie James Dio replaced Ozzy Osbourne.   It is a great song and a huge testament to Dio’s ability to revive a flagging band.

It’s really catchy, too.  Geezer Butler’s thumping bass riff opens before Tony Iommi’s chords add a nice rhythmic juxtaposition.  And with Dio’s voice you can hear that Black Sabbath sounds rejuvenated.

Dio’s crooning goes really well with the fast chords and propulsive beat.

This is a great song from a great album.  Although it’s hard to say that the Dio era of Black Sabbath was better than the Ozzy years, the two Dio albums are really fantastic.

[READ: February 27, 2019] Chasma Knights

Although this book was satisfying in the end, I thought it was kind of weirdly unsatisfying overall.

Perhaps it’s because there no real context to the story aside from a rhymed poem that introduces it.  It tells us that if you catalyze toys your powers grow.  And everyone loves to do it except Neon Knights, because they can’t catalyze anything–they don’t have the power.  Aside from that there is no explanation of the setting or the people or anything.

Weird huh? (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: Y&T-“Mean Streak” (1983).

In the early 1980s Y&T had a couple of albums that made it onto my radar.   This one, Mean Streak, had this song which I liked enough. It’s got some cool riffs and Dave Meniketti’s raspy but distinctive voice.

I remember liking this song, even though I really had no idea what was going on in the lyrics.  The chorus where everyone sings “mean streak” behind his lyrics was certainly the catchy selling point.   But this is hard rock more than metal and is not really my thing.

I may have bought this album, but I know I have the follow up In Rock We Trust, which was more poppy (and they were more pretty).  I had forgotten all about “Lipstick and Leather” yet another cheesy pop metal song about, well, lipstick and leather.

People who were fans of Y&T (like Posehn) were die-hards, but even listening now I see why I never really got into them, even if I liked them for a bit.  Maybe it was a California thing.

[READ: January 2019] Forever Nerdy

S. got this for me for Christmas after we saw Posehn on a late night show and he talked about his nerdy obsessions, including Rush.  It seemed like an obvious fit.  And it totally was.

Posehn is a few years older than me, but if he had lived in my town we would have totally been friends (except I would have never talked to him because he was older).  Anyhow, we had more or less the same obsessions and the same nerdy outlook.  Although I was never really picked on like he was so perhaps I was a little cooler than he was.  Although I never smoked or drank when I was in high school so maybe he was cooler than me.

Things to know about before reading this–Posehn is a vulgar dude–there’s not much kid friendly is in this book.  Also this book isn’t really an autobiography exactly. I mean it is in that he wrote it and its about him, but if you were dying to find out fascinating stories about his crazy life, this book isn’t really it. I t’s more about the things he was obsessed with–in true nerdy fandom.

Although, Brian, what nerd doesn’t have an index in his own book? (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: RHEOSTATICS-Fall Nationals, Night 1 of 10, The Horseshoe Tavern, Toronto (December 8, 2005).

This series of ten concerts contains the final Rheostatics live shows that are left to write about–except for their “final shows” and their “reunion shows” (which I really hope to see some day). This was the 1st night of their last 10 night Fall Nationals run at the Horseshoe. Ford Pier was on keyboards.

These shows seem significantly shorter that the 2004 Fall Nationals.  This show is under 2 hours–practically unheard of in a Fall Nationals.  Unlike the 2004 Fall Nationals, however, they are not promoting an album, so there is a lot more diversity of songs.

This recording is from the audience, so there’s a (shocking) amount of chatter from fans.  You also can’t hear everything that’s said into the mics, so you have to listen close if you want to hear audience interaction.

The show opens with them talking to fans from San Diego (Mike: “that means Saint Diego”).  Dave asks how long they’re here. He says well, we have three chances, then.

“Loving Arms” is a sweet opening from Tim.  Then Martin starts announcing in a smarmy voice “I’m a member.  Hi there.”  It’s a launch into “CCYPA” (Miek: “in an election year, imagine that”).  Tim follows with a quick “Song Of The Garden.”

Then Dave starts playing the opening to “Fat” to much applause.  “That’s Ford Pier on the keyboards.  That’s Tim Vesely on the keyboards.  That’s Martin Tielli on the keyboards.”  During the end jam section, there’s some loud, unusual backing vocals which I assume are from Ford Pier.

Martin: “What’s the first note of the next song, Dave?  I’m feeling a little shaky.  But that’s what this song [‘Fish Tailin”]is about so it should lend itself to this current number.  After this comes “Mumbletypeg” Martin: “That is David Augustino Bidini.  Dave wrote this song.  All by himself!”  It romps along nicely.

Next is the first of a couple new songs.  “Sunshine At Night” is actually a song hat Tim would release on his 2008 Violet Archers disc Sunshine at Night (where it is mostly the same but more fleshed out and better-sounding).

Martin is having fun with the “Hi there” smarmy voice as an intro to “The Tarleks.”  It’s followed by “Marginalized” which has a rather lengthy and dramatic piano solo in the middle.

Martin: “That was by Timothy Warren Vesely.”  Ford: “Stop shouting everyone’s middle names, Jesus.”  Dave:  “Martin is obsessed with middle names, whenever he meets someone new he says ‘What’s your middle name?”  Mike: “Yeah right but whats your middle name.”  Ford continues, “A friend of mine was engaged to a woman from Slovenia.  When she came to visit she was astonished to hear that everyone had a middle name–are you all rich?  It was a difficult thing to explain to her.  She associated middle named with wealth?  Middle names were not a concept that came to her block in Ljubljana.  Tim: “Ford tried to convince her it had something to do with wealth.”

Then came a song, “The Land Is Wild.”  This would eventually be released on Bidiniband’s 2009 album The Land is Wild.  It’s pretty much the same although this earlier version has a few lines that are not in the final.  A line about him being in his own head and listening to Metallica, Ozzy or Queen.  There’s another line about tickling the net and being lost in his head.  Both of these lines are left off in the final.  Interestingly, the final verse about fishing with his old man and his death were added later.

Martin says that for “Here Comes the Image,” Augustine is going to play the drums and Dimitrius is going to play the keyboard.”

As they start, “It’s Easy To Be With You,” Dave says, “My friend this is no time to be talking on your phone, there’s some serious rock n roll happening up here.  Take a picture with your mind.”

It’s followed by a beautiful “Stolen Car.”  Martin’s vocals are just so good.  After the song ends, properly, there’s an extra acoustic strumming section that soon becomes “Nowhere Man” sung by Selina Martin.

Dave notes that it has been 25 years since John Lennon was killed.  The world has gotten a lot shittier.

Ford then says, “You know who was really burned on that score? Darby Crash, lead singer of The Germs.  He committed suicide with an intentional heroin overdose the same day.  Five years earlier David Bowie said they only have five years left.  So he told his band mates hat five years from now he was going to off himself.  They ignored him, but he did.  And then three hours later the Walrus gets blown away.”
Dave’s takeaway: “Never take advice from David Bowie.  He told me to buy a wool suit.  Well actually Springsteen told me, but Bowie told him.”
Tim once ate some hot soup with David Bowie.

We’ll do a couple more for you seeing as how it’s Thursday.  Tim: “Can you do a little pretty intro for me that you sometimes do?”  Dave does and “Making Progress ” sounds big and more rocking than usual (the keys help).  Martin plays  a more rocking guitar solo before settling in to the pretty ending.  When it’s over you can hear Dave says “we can call him Timmy, I’m not sure you can call him…  Well, I guess you just did.  Is this your third straight year?  Fourth?  You’ve earned the right to call him Timmy.”

Thanks to the Creaking Tree String Quartet they were beyond awesome.  I can’t wait to see them again tomorrow night.  The set ends with a lovely version of “Self Serve Gas Station” with some great piano additions.  The song ends in a long jam with trippy keys a fun solo from Martin.  As he walks off Martin says, “I smoke Gaulioses Blue cigarettes, since they can’t advertise.  The flavor!  And so did John Lennon and Bruce Cockburn.”

After the encore, Dave sings and acoustic “Last Good Cigarette.”  When Martin comes back out they play a surprising encore song of “Song Of Flight” which segues into a mellow intro for “In This Town.”  By by the end it picks up steam and rocks to the end.

It was a fairly short first show, of the Fall Nationals, but they played a lot of interesting stuff.

[READ: April 20, 2017] Friends is Friends

This book had a lot going against it.  The title is virtually impossible to find in a catalog (3 words long, 2 words repeat, the other word is “is” and the one main word is incredibly common in children’s books, ugh).  On top of that, no libraries near me carried it.  And then its got that creepy-ass cover.

Reviews of the book weren’t very positive either.  So my hopes weren’t very high.

And even with low hopes, I was still pretty disappointed. (more…)

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armadaSOUNDTRACK: RAID THE ARCADE PLAYLIST (2015).

raidIt should come as no surprise that Cline’s media campaign would include a Spotify “Raid the Arcade” playlist.  A playlist of the mixtape that the protagonist’s father made when he was a teen.

And I can pretty much see how this would have been a very satisfying mixtape for killing aliens and generally rocking out.  Of course, I had to have a listen and add my thoughts.

Side A: Track:

  1. One Vision – Queen (I was never a big Queen fan, particularly their later poppier stuff)
  2. Crazy Train – Ozzy (A classic, of course)
  3. Chase the Ace – AC/DC (I find it odd that the two AC/DC songs are instrumentals from the Maximum Overdrive soundtrack.  It makes sense given the guy who made them, but there’s so many better AC/DC songs)
  4. Hair of the Dog – Nazareth (One of my favorite classic rockers)
  5. Get it On – Power Station (I really hate Power Station a lot, and this version of an already pretty stupid song song is pretty dreadful)
  6. Old Enough to Rock and Roll – Rainey Haynes (I didn’t know this song.  It comes from the Iron Eagle soundtrack.  This song is not on Spotify and I imagine that’s because it’s terrible)
  7. Danger Zone – Kenny Loggins (This song is such a punch line that even if I did like it I’m not sure I could take it seriously)
  8. Vital Signs – Rush (I was totally psyched that he chose this Rush song)
  9. Barracuda – Heart (I’ve mixed feelings about Heart, but I do like this song a lot)
  10. T.N.T. – AC/DC (Now this is more like it for AC/DC songs–not an overplayed one either)
  11. You Really Got Me – Van Halen (Not my favorite Van Halen song, but a good rocker)
  12. Another One Bites the Dust – Queen (I loved this song when it came out.  It holds up pretty well (there’s some interesting sound effects in the background, but it’s nowhere near as good as the songs below)
  13. One of These Days – Pink Floyd (I love this song but never would have considered it particularly rocking–in the way these other songs are.  But it does rather work)
  14. Top Gun Anthem – Harold Faltermeyer (seriously?  Well, I guess if you like piloting video games, this makes sense.)

Side B: Track:

  1. I Hate Myself for Loving You – Joan Jett (I don’t care for this song, although the guitars sound good for the mix)
  2. It Takes Two – Rob Base (I’m surprised and pleased that this song made it into what is basically a metal compilation.  I never would have had such diversity at that age.  Although I got really sick of this song in college.)
  3. Hammer to Fall – Queen (I don’t really like this era of Queen)
  4. Twilight Zone – Golden Earring (I don’t love this song, but it is cool to hear once in a while)
  5. We’re Not Going to Take It – Twisted Sister (I loved TS back in the day, although I wince at them now. If this song wasn’t overplayed I could probably really get into it.)
  6. Rock You Like A Hurricane – Scorpions (I loved the Scorpions back in the day too. I certainly tapped my foot along to this one.)
  7. Black Betty – Ram Jam (This song is in a Rayman video game that Clark plays and while I think the song is really dumb, it certainly rocks.)
  8. D.T. – AC/DC (see above for instrumental AC/DC)
  9. Delirious – ZZ Top (I never got into ZZ Top, and while I do like some late 70s ZZ, I really don’t like mid 80s ZZ)
  10. Iron Eagle – King Kobra (Wow, this was obscure even to me–more pop metal from Iron Eagle)
  11. Run’s House – Run-DMC (Whose house?  It’s funny how stripped bare Run-DMC songs sound compared to contemporary rap.)
  12. We Will Rock You/We Are the Champions –Queen (overplayed but classic)

Bonus Track: Snoopy versus the Red Baron – The Red Guardsmen (a goof y novelty song that I think overstays its welcome.)

So I guess my verdict is that I really don’t like the Raid the Arcade mix all that much.  That’s kind of a shocker, actually.

[READ: July 31, 2015] Armada

I loved Cline’s first book Ready Player One.  And Sarah and I were understandably excited about his latest book, Armada.  I was surprised about the content of the book which is of similar plot to the new movie Pixels (I say similar based on what little I know of Pixels–that video game characters attack the earth).  This is surprising to me because Cline has already sold the rights of this book to Spielberg–and I have a  hard time believing someone would try to cut Spielberg with an idea.

Of course, Armada is rather different from Pixels in that the characters that attack the earth are not classic 80s video game characters.  Indeed, there is a whole back story that shows how very different these two premises are.

In a recent interview, Cline talked about how you have to include all the pop culture sci-fi and video games in his book because there’s no way you should be able to make a sci-fi book or movie on earth and not reference all of the pop culture that the protagonist grew up with.  So this story is not set in a vacuum.  In fact, it the pop culture establishes the plot.

Zack Lightman is a senior in high school.  He’s had a pretty crappy life.  His father was killed in a sanitation explosion when Zack was just a month old.  The death set him and his mom up for life, but he has spent his whole life immersed in his father’s life (he is close to his father’s age when his father died).  Zack has a lot of his father’s effects.  His dad was a huge gamer, spending a lot of time at the arcade, and loving all things sci-fi and fantasy.  His father would have been born around 1970, making the pop culture references perfect for those of us around the same age.

One day, while looking out the window of school, Zack sees an alien ship.  But not just a generic cigar shaped UFO.  Rather this is a ship directly from his favorite videogame, Armada.  Zack plays this game pretty much every day. In fact, he is ranked sixth in the world as a pilot protecting the earth from alien invaders.  Naturally he assumes he has gone insane–especially since no one else has seen it. (more…)

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may20014SOUNDTRACK: CRYPTOPSY-“Slit Your Guts” (1996).

cryptI had never heard of this band until I saw the song mentioned in the article.  The song is impossibly fast with speeding guitars, super fast (inhuman) drums and an indecipherable growl as vocal.  In other words, a typical cookie monster metal song.  And yet, there is a lot more to it and, indeed it took me several listens before I could even figure out what was happening here, by which time I had really fallen for the song.

There’s a middle section which is just as punishing and fast but which is basically an instrumental break–not for showing off exactly but for showcasing more than the bands pummel.  It has a short guitar solo followed by a faster more traditional solo (each for one measure, each in a different ear). Then the tempo picks up for an extended instrumental section.  The melody is slightly more sinister, but it sounds great.  There’s even a (very short) bass solo that sticks out as a totally unexpected (and fun) surprise.

Then the growls come back in, staying with the new melody.  The vocals are so low and growly that they are almost another distorted instrument rather than a voice.

After that there’s a lengthy proper guitar solo.  As the song comes to a close,  it repeats some previous sections before suddenly halting.  It’s quite a trip. And it definitely makes me want to hear more from them (whatever their name means).

[READ: April 14, 2014] “Destroy Your Safe and Happy Lives”

Robbins, who is a poet, but about whom I know little else, takes us on a sort of literary tour of heavy metal.  His tone is interesting–he is clearly into metal, like in a big way (at the end of the article he talks about taking his writing students to see Converge (although he doesn’t exactly say why)), but he’s also not afraid to make fun of the preposterousness of, well, most of the bands–even the ones he likes.  It’s a kind of warts and all appreciation for what metal is and isn’t.  many people have written about metal from many different angles, so there’s not a lot “new” here, but it is interesting to hear the different bands discussed in such a thoughtful (and not just in a fanboy) way.

His first footnote is interesting both for metal followers and metal disdainers: “Genre classification doesn’t interest me.  Listen to Poison Idea’s Feel the Darkness followed by Repulsion’s Horrified and tell me the main difference between hardcore punk and metal isn’t that one has a bullshit positive message and one has a bullshit negative message.”

But since Robbins is a poet, he is interested in metal’s connection to poetry.  And in the article he cites William Blake (of course), but also Rilke and John Ashbery and (naturally) Milton’s Paradise Lost, as well as Shelley, Lord Byron and Charles Baudelaire.  He talks about them not because they are cool poets, but because they have also talked about because of metal’s “most familiar trope…duh, Satanism, which might be silly–okay, its’ definitely silly, but has a distinguished literary pedigree”.  Besides, he notes that Satan has the best lines in Paradise Lost (and I note that just as Judas has the best songs in Jesus Christ Superstar).

But sometimes this Satanism turns into a  form of paganism which then turns into nature worship.  From Voivod’s “Killing Technology” to black metal’s romanticism of nature (sometimes to crazy extremes–but that’s what a band needs to do to stand out sometimes).  Metal is all about the dark and primordial, a”rebuke to our soft lives.”

And yet, as a poet, Robbins has some quibbles with metal: (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: RHEOSTATICS-2067 (2004).

This was the Rheostatics’ final release.  I’m not sure if they knew this would be their last disc, but it kind of feels like they are throwing everything they can into it.

It opens with a delicate song from Martin which reminds me of Jane Siberry (the “row upon row” section).  Although at about 4 minutes it starts rocking out.  It’s a kind of meandering song, which is odd to open an album with.

It’s followed by “Little Bird Little Bird” a great folky song form Bidini.  But the disc really come alive with “Marginalized” a song that reminds me in some ways of “Horses,” as it is rocking and a little twisted (it seems surprising that it came from Tim Vesely).  It’s got some great guitar and an impressive keyboard solo (!) from new member Michael Phillip Wojewoda.

“The Tarleks” follows (with some fun frog noises). It opens slowly (as Martin songs tend to do) but once it really takes off, its got a great riff with his wonderful dramatic pauses and really funky sound from the bass/keyboards.  Then we get the wonderfully odd “Power Ballad for Ozzy Osbourne.”  It’s a kind of joke (but not really) about rock performers aging gracefully.  Bidini gets a bunch of songs on this disc, and here he gets two in a row, with the bizarrely wonderful “I Dig Music.”  The subtitle is “The Jazz Animal” and it tells you a lot about the song…it is indeed a kind of high-octane jazz.  But it has many different segments (and a lyric that references Squarepusher).

“Here Comes the Image” is a 6 minute track from Vesely which sounds very much like his more mellow tracks.  I’m not sure his tracks belong in the middle o f a disc because they tend to really bring the momentum to a halt.  Although it is a pretty song, it’s quite mellow (the organ solo at the end is pretty sweetly retro).  It’s followed by the five-minute slow instrumental “Who is This Man and Why is He Laughing?”  It really feels like an album ender.

So when “The Latest Attempt on Your Life” comes in, it revitalizes the sleepiness that those two songs imbue.  This track has the wonderful repeated chant “Everyone hates you, you sing like a woman”).  “Polar Bears and Trees” follows and it’s another kind of crazy song from Bidini.  It has such simple verses but the chanted “hey hey ho ho” rocks hard and is wonderfully fun.  (The lyrics are clever too).

Vesely returns with the beautiful, wonderfully catchy “Making Progress” which has another great retro keyboard solo at the end. The final track “Praise This Mutilated World” is one of the most beautiful songs in their output.  It starts as a fairly simple acoustic track (Bidini knows a good melody).  At about two minutes in, the band joins in with amazing harmonies.  The quiet parts keep coming back only to be overwhelmed by the harmonies once again.  The last two minutes are a spoken section.  It goes on a bit long, but is redeemed by another gorgeous chorus.

There’s a bonus track which is a very electronic version of  “Record Body Count.”  So this disc is definitely overly long in some places.  There are some great parts to the disc, but it feels like it could have used a good editor.  Nevertheless, since it’s the band’s final release, respect is due.

[READ: March 15, 2011] “Water Spider”

This very short (three-pages) story turned very dark rather quickly.

It opens with an African man, Bokarie, settling into his life as a convenience store clerk in Ottawa.  We learn that he was granted asylum, and that he has the scars to prove it.  He was quite nervous about leaving his country, and he still puts cinder blocks behind his door, to discourage uninvited guests.

At the same time, the action of the story concerns the accidental drowning of Caitlin, a young girl who presumably got too close to the creek when it overflowed.  The town is obviously distraught that one of their youngest and most innocent kids was killed, and they are planning a memorial service.  They are encouraging everyone to wear pink to the service and are even hoping to get a wreath put on the town’s crest.

Bokarie looks on this entire scene with a kind of bemusement.  His life in Africa was full of death.  Most of it horrifying.  So he seems somewhat unsure of what to make of the town’s outpouring for one lost child.  And then the story slowly reveals a shocking truth.

The truth is NOT that he killed Caitlin.  That’d not how the story is going (I didn’t really think it would go there, but it was a possibility).  Rather, the truth comes out about Bokarie himself, and his life back in Africa.  And it’s frankly horrible.

As the story draws to a close, Bokarie makes a decision that is going to impact the community.  It’s a little unclear what his motivation is, but it opens so many possibilities, that it really brings out a whole new realm to the story,

In some ways this story reminded me of Damon Galgut’s “An African Sermon (from The Walrus July/Aug 2004)  which also had an African character whose past has a hidden element and which turns out to be much darker than originally laid out.

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SOUNDTRACK: THERION-Theli (1997).

I bought this disc when I was living in Boston and I immediately fell for it.  I seem to recall I was doing a lot of driving at the time, and this mix of extreme metal, orchestral accompaniment and twinned vocals was very captivating.  It was also really fun to play very loud on a dark highway.

I’d read a very good review of this disc that claimed it was a big step forward in styles of thrash/black metal (and if you Google reviews for this album they are pretty universally great).  The disc is exemplified by the track “To Mega Therion” which is almost entirely a full choir singing what I guess is the chorus.  The verses are populated by a guy screaming in a guttural voice who is answered by an almost mechanically twinned voice which sounds great but is even harder to understand.  Follow this with a beautiful piano (!) solo not unlike something Randy Rhoads put together for Blizzard of Oz, and add a pounding double bass drum all the way through (truth be told the album could be a little heavier in the bass) and you get a crazy mix of styles which is catchy and creepy at the same time.

It’s hard to match a song like that.  And, admittedly, the band doesn’t quite manage to do so, but the rest of the album keeps up this orchestral death metal throughout.

Reading about Therion has taught me that this album is something of  touchstone for a new genre of metal, called variously symphonic or operatic metal (I suppose we have this to blame for the Trans Siberian Orchestra?).

In addition to the choirs and guitars there are a lot of keyboards. They are disconcerting when you’re thinking death metal and yet really they add an even fuller sound, even if at times they are not as grand or powerful as anything else.  At times the album seems cheesey, but that may have more to do with thirteen years distance than the music itself.

Anyone who has seen The Exorcist knows that choirs can be spooky.  And when you mix it with the heavy guitars and guttural vocals, you get a really cool sinister yet catchy (and possibly uplifting) album.  There are certainly a lot heavier albums, but this one is pretty stellar.

[READ: Summer of 2010, finished December 12, 2010] Lords of Chaos

My brother-in-law gave me this book for my birthday this year.  I was familiar with it as it is fairly well-known in heavy metal circles as a fascinating read.  And so it was.

This book is basically a history of black metal in Norway and how some bands’ antics went beyond music into burning churches and even murder.  The authors present a pretty neutral account of the story.  They let the main participants (criminals) have their say and the interviews don’t comment on their answers, they just let them tell their side of the story.  The authors also know a lot about the music scene.  Of course, in the end, the authors (thankfully) disapprove of the violence.  It makes for an interesting and somewhat conflicting read. (more…)

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