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Archive for the ‘Pugwash’ Category

irl  SOUNDTRACK: THE DUCKWORTH LEWIS METHOD-Sticky Wickets (2013).

stickyThe cricket-loving songwriters are back with their second disc.  Although I bought their first disc because I love Neil Hannon, I found myself enjoying the songs by Pugwash’s Thomas Walsh even more.  (Which led me to get some discs by Pugwash, a great, sadly unknown band).

I’m inclined to say I like Walsh’s songs better on this disc as well–his title track has a groovy classic ELO-inspired guitar riff and Walsh’s great falsetto vocals.  But I also love the bouncy fun of “Boom Boom Afridi” (written by Neil Hannon). So maybe I just like the two of them together.

These are followed by the amusing “It’s Just Not Cricket” which features a group of rowdy indignant cricket fans singing along. See the awesome accompanying picture below which shows the kind of sort of naughty but not really way the sport is portrayed on the disc.  cricket“The Umpire” gives some real sympathy to the Cricket umpire (who eats his eggs and soldiers) as his position is taken over by machines.

I don’t know much about cricket, so I don’t claim understand what most of these songs are about, but the awesomely bouncy and catchy “Third Man” is a total mystery to me.  But that doesn’t stop me from singing along. It’s like a classic lost Pugwash song.  It even has a (weird) narration from Daniel Radcliffe.  “Chin Music” is a pretty, carnivalesque instrumental.

“Out in the Middle” is a slower Walsh song which is also very pretty.  “Line and Length” is a silly song which (in spoken word) explains how line and length are used in cricket. It has a very discoey chorus which differs nicely from the formality of the verse. “The Laughing Cavaliers” is a march with a big choral vocal line. “Judd’s Paradox” has a lengthy spoken section by Stephen Fry (at his most formal). It’s a very enjoyable song with an interesting perspective on cricket and history.

“Mystery Man” is a pretty, sixties-sounding song with bouncy jaunty keyboards and a catchy chorus–except that the verses are all about how he’s a tough bowler.  It’s also got a hilarious spoken word section read by Matt Berry “trod on wicket.”

“Nudging and Nurdling” ends the disc and is more or less 5 minutes of people saying the words “Nudging and Nurdling” set to a boppy silly melody.  The list of contributors is extensive, although I’ve only heard of Daniel Radcliffe, Neil Finn, Joe Elliott, Matt Berry, Graham Linehan, an Michael Penn (!) who sounds so American. I love they way they build something so simple (and kinda dumb) into such a big song by the end.

Hannon and Walsh know how to write gorgeous songs (even if they can be rather silly).  This is a great collection–even if you don’t know anything about cricket.  You too will soon be shouting along with the Laughing Cavaliers.

[READ: November 9, 2014] In Real Life

I was pretty excited when I saw this book.  I really like Cory Doctorow and here was a comic of his published by First Second, one of my favorite graphic novel publishers (I need to make a category for them…there, done).  I didn’t know Jen Wang’s artwork, but that hardly mattered as the cover was gorgeous.

So the story is an interesting one.  It begins simply enough with Anda, a young girl who has moved from San Diego to Flagstaff (of course, we don’t learn that she moved to Flagstaff for a few pages, so the fact that we are introduced to Flagstaff by a snowfall was confusing to me–I assumed she was on the East Coast).  However, this was not as confusing to me as the other character in the book who doesn’t know where Flagstaff is.  What high school aged person doesn’t know that Flagstaff is in Arizona?

Anyhow, we see Anda in school and her class is given a presentation by Liza the Organiza, a woman who is introducing the class to an online virtual game called Coarsegold (I’m also confused as to why this woman would be allowed to give this presentation in school, but maybe I’m too nitpicky here?).  Incidentally, I really enjoyed most of the art in the book, but the picture of Liza the Organiza on this same page is quite disturbing to me.  In fact, a few pictures in “real life” seem a little “off” to me, and I was worried that I wouldn’t enjoy the visual aspect of the book.  But when we get into the game, the pictures are simply fantastic, so I don’t know what that’s all about. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: FATHER JOHN MISTY-“Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings” (2012).

This song is also on the list of NPR’s Top 50 songs of the year (so far).  It comes so far out of left field in terms of who the guy is and the way the music sounds that I can’t believe it made it to  their list.

Father John Misty is comprised of former Fleet Foxes dude J. Tillman.  I was bummed that the Foxes were not the original lineup anymore (although Tillman says he didn’t really want to be part of someone else’s vision, so that’s cool).  And if this is Tillman’s vision that  makes sense.

This is a simple guitar and drums kind of song;  There’s a ton of reverb (on the vocals, the guitars and especially the drums).  It has an incredibly retro feel.  It reminds me of someone like Pugwash, although it sounds nothing like them, really.  It feels like an older song (aside from the reverb, the guitar sounds very clean) and then the lyrics kick in: “Jesus Christ girl, what are people going to think”  And the song is all about death and cemeteries (“Someone’s gotta help me dig”).

I wasn’t sure about the song when I first listened, but then I couldn’t stop replaying it.  Yes the song is very simple–chord structures are pretty basic, but it feels so raw that it’s hard to stop listening–especially when the song starts to pick up more…instruments, and vocals, before it ends.

There’s a video for the song (in which Aubrey Plaza (from Parks and Rec) goes batshit crazy).  And the video version is a bit longer (a lengthy coda is added on).  Well, hell, here it is:

I will definitely have to hear more from this album.

[READ: June 23, 2012] “In Space No One Can Hear You Slay”

As I mentioned yesterday, The Guild was backed with a Buffy the Vampire Slayer comic for Free Comic Book Day.  I loved Buffy the show.  I loved Buffy the comics.  I loved the idea that Joss was keeping the series alive in the comic books.  And then somehow I fell behind in the series.  I haven’t really read much of Season 8 (some day…some day). So there was a little bit of a context issue for me here (very minor, but still there).

True context is kind of unnecessary here (except that I don’t know what Spike and Buffy are doing together–their past relationships are so complex, who knows where they may wind up).  Anyhow, as I said context is irrelevant because this issue takes place in…outer space.  That’s right, Spike suggest that Buffy go on a space vacation to see a nebula explode (what?).  Massive cerebral cortex confusion aside, this one-off does indeed see Buffy on a spaceship.  (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: THE DUCKWORTH-LEWIS METHOD-The Duckworth Lewis Method (2009).

This is a CD released by the combined forces of Neil Hannon of The Divine Comedy and Thomas Walsh of Pugwash.  And if that weren’t enough of a sales pitch, the title of the band is a method of calculating cricket scores!  And even more…in concordance with that, this CD is largely about cricket.  Huzzah!  Buncha sellouts.

I don’t know a thing about cricket, but I know about great orchestral pop, and this disc has it in spades.  Some of the more obvious cricket songs are even understandable to non cricketers (the themes of “Jiggery Pokery” are familiar to anyone who has failed in a sport–and musically it sounds like a silent film soundtrack).

“The Age of Revolution” begins with an olde-fashioned soundtrack as well (jazz swing, including tap dancing) but quickly jumps into a dancey discoey verse (the two soundtracks blend surprisingly well in the chorus).  And the revolution?  Well, it has something to do with cricket.  Next, “Gentlemen and Players” is a wonderfully Divine Comedy-esque track complete with harpsichords.

“The Sweet Spot” is another discoey dancey track with some funky bass work (and innuendo whispered vocals).  And “Rain Stops Play” is a fun musical interlude.

“Mason on the Boundary” is the first track that seems distinctly Pugwash-y.  Hannon and Walsh have similar singing styles, and I find it hard to know who is who sometimes.  But this track is clearly Walsh’s and it’s very nice indeed.  Similarly, “Flatten the Hay” has that distinct Pugwash XTC/Beach Boys vibe and it’s quite good.

“The Nighwatchman” is also a very DC type song (it even sounds a bit like “The Frog Princess” but pulls away before being a repeat of that great single by introducing some very 70s sounding strings).  The rest of the disc follows in this same wonderfully orchestrated pop feel.  This a great record that, as far as obscure bands that get no statewide attention go, is top notch.

Oh, an it’s even more fun with headphones!

[READ: October 9, 2010] Skippy Dies

Wow, there’s a lot going on in this book.  It’s exhausting just trying to think of all the topics covered: boarding school life, failed romance (two big ones), life as a teacher, the appeal of pop singer Bethani, the Catholic priest sex scandal, drugs of all kinds, sneaking into a girls’ school, World War I, institutional cover ups, M-theory–which is pretty much the entire universe, and donuts.

But let’s start at the beginning.  Yes.  Skippy dies.  In the first couple of pages.  And what’s fascinating about this is that we don’t care.  I mean, in the scene where he dies, he’s not even the major character.  But then Skippy turns out to be more or less the glue of the book once the story proper begins.

Skippy resides at Seabrook school in Dublin (the best, most prestigious Christian academy in the country–sorry Gonzaga).   His roommate is Ruprecht (perhaps the strangest major character name I’ve read in a long time).  Ruprecht is a large boy who is incredibly smart (he will single-handedly raise the school’s average on the year’s final exams).  He is a computer geek who is obsessed with aliens and SETI.  And he hopes to be able to communicate with the other world by using techniques suggested in M-Theory.  The book does an admirable job explaining M-theory and string theory.  I’m not going to take up space here, but there’s a fine description at Wikipedia (or, if you don’t like Wikipedia, here’s an academic explanation that is written for the lay person).

Anyhow, Skippy and Ruprecht are two of a few dozen boys who reside full time at the school.  (Most of the other kids are day students).  And they have a cadre of half a dozen friends that they hang out with who make jokes at each other’s expense.  It’s a very realistically written entourage.  Mario is Italian and claims to have had sex with many many women (thanks to his lucky condom which he has had for three years).  Dennis is the ballbreaker.  He’s the abusive one (but by most standards, he’s not a bad guy).  And a few other hangers on.

This story of dorm life is a good one.  The boys are funny, their stories believable, even if they are all eccentric in their own way.  And then, one day, Skippy sees a girl playing frisbee at the girls’ school across the way (Ruprecht has a telescope which he uses for the stars, while eveyrone else uses it for the girls’ school).  And Skippy winds up becoming rather obsessed with the unknown “frisbee girl.”

This girls’ school plays a part in the story in another way too.  Carl and Barry are the Seabrook’s thugs.  When Barry hits upon the idea of selling ADD meds to the locals (as diet pills), it’s the girls’ school that he mostly preys on.  For yes, this story is also about drugs. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACKPUGWASH-Giddy (2009).

I found this CD through a connection to The Divine Comedy (Neil Hannon plays on a few of their tracks).  Pugwash (what a crazy name–it comes from a series of children’s books (and a TV show) called Captain Pugwash) is an Irish band with four CDs (and this collection).  And man, it’s hard to find their stuff over here (although their website has a wonderful collection of videos and such).

Giddy is a collection of songs from all of their albums.  Their first album is represented by two songs here “The Finer Things in Life” and “Two Wrongs.”  These two songs sound, with no disrespect intended, like great Oasis ballads.  Say what you will about Oasis’ originality, they wrote some great songs, and these two sound like the best Oasis songs you’ve never heard.

Their other three albums sound far less like Oasis and far more like XTC.  In fact, the XTC comparisons are well-founded as Andy Partridge eventually co-wrote a song with them and eventually signed them to Partridge’s Ape House records (which is how this collection was released in the U.S.).

The XTC comparison is unavoidable on a few tracks.  The opening of “Song for You” (the “when we die” part) sounds like an uncanny XTC outtake, but when the chorus kicks in it sounds nothing like them and moves into more of the gorgeous orchestral pop that overflows on this disc.  And the Partridge co-written “My Genius” is also a wonderful near-XTC outtake, clever, witty, and perfect.

And the song “It’s Nice to Be Nice” is just a wonderful cheery pop ditty.  It sounds retro and charming; if the simple lyrics (and gorgeous harmonies) don’t bring a smile to your face you must be made of stone.

Although the album is primarily orchestral pop, there’s a wonderful array of styles on here.  “Anyone Who Asks” has chipper keyboard bits in the verses, but the chorus is a wonderful mix of dark minor chords.  And then, the absolutely bizarrely wonderful “Monorail” sounds like a fantastic Beck song (with lyrics that are as decidedly unusual as anything Beck himself might write).   It even opens and closes with wonderful circa 1920s banjo.

Despite the obvious nod to XTC, Pugwash does something that XTC doesn’t.  XTC is a very mannered band.  They always seemed very rigid and formal (and were wonderful because of it).  Pugwash uses XTC as a springboard, but Thomas Walsh seems like a guy who likes to let loose with unchecked silliness, so he can move past the strictures of XTC (and sound like Beck!)

And the packaging is just wonderful. The carnivalesque appearance of the cardboard case is enhanced by not just a cardboard sleeve but also by a second cardboard half-sleeve that you slide on top.  Depending on which way you slide it on, it creates a different set of pictures.  It’s a little thing but it’s a nice nod to the fun of non-digital products.

This is certainly one of my favorite albums this year (even if it came out last year).

[READ: September 21, 2010] One False Note

I enjoyed the first book of the series so much, I couldn’t wait to get to Book Two.  In particular, I was interested to see if Gordon Korman’s writing style would differ much from Rick Riordan’s.  As I said last time, I hadn’t read Riordan before, (although I have read a few by Korman) and while I wasn’t expecting them to write in the same manner, I wondered if they would try to keep the style the same (or if it would be really obvious that they were different writers).

I have to say that I didn’t notice the difference between the two.  Korman’s seems a bit faster paced (but he had no exposition to deal with), and it’s possible that he made things seems a bit more scary/dangerous than Riordan, but not much.

The question I have with the series is three-part: Is the basic plot given to each new writer–like the writer is told what the 39 Clues are–or, possibility two, are they told very specifically, the clue is this and it is here and the writer has to figure out how to get the kids there, or possibility number three, they are free to do whatever they want.

Either way, this is an exciting series, and I’m looking forward to Book Three.

So in Book Two, Amy and Dan continue their adventure.  This time, they go to Saltzburg and Venice.  The Saltzburg trip leads them to the Mozart house.  There’s a wonderful sorta subplot about Mozart’s sister, Nannerl (real name Maria Anna), who was also a great pianist and harpsichordist, oftentimes getting top billing when they played together.  I’s never heard of her, and didn’t know of her talent, and that’s the point of the subplot–how Nannerl had to put her musical skills to the side because she was a woman.   This works nicely with the pairing of Dan and Amy and how they are both good at different things and are both very useful on the quest. (more…)

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