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Archive for the ‘Sonic Youth’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: MUDHONEY-“Halloween” (1988).

Mudhoney recorded a cover of Sonic Youth’s “Halloween” just two years after the original was released.

Mudhoney, a deliberately noisy and abrasive band recorded a deliberately noisy and abrasive version of this song.  And yet at the same time, it doesn’t hold a candle to Sonic Youth;s version for deliberate noise and chaos.

On the other hand, in many respects the Mudhoney version is better.  It feels more like a “real song” with the guitar, bass and drums all playing along fairly conventionally.  It follows the same musical patterns as the original, with that same cool riff, but it just feels…more.

Mark Arm sing/speaks the lyrics more aggressively and less sensuously than Kim Gordon did.  In some way it helps to understand the original song a little more, as if they translated it from Sonic Youth-land into a somewhat more mainstream version.  Although it is hardly mainstream what with the noise and fuzz, the cursing and the fact that it lasts 6 minutes.

It feels like Mark emphasizes these lyrics more than the others although it may just be that the songs builds more naturally to them:

And you’re fucking me
Yeah, you’re fucking with me
You’re fucking with me
As you slither up, slither up to me
Your lips are slipping, twisting up my insides
Sing along and just a swinging man
Singing your song
Now I don’t know what you want
But you’re looking at me
And you’re falling on the ground
And you’re twisting around
Fucking with my, my mind
And I don’t know what’s going on

Happy Halloween

[READ: October 24, 2018] “From A to Z, in the Chocolate Alphabet”

Just in time for Halloween, from the people who brought me The Short Story Advent Calendar and The Ghost Box. comes Ghost Box II.

This is once again a nifty little box (with a magnetic opening and a ribbon) which contains 11 stories for Halloween.  It is lovingly described thusly:

The Ghost Box returns, like a mummy or a batman, to once again make your pupils dilate and the hair on your arms stand straight up—it’s another collection of individually bound scary stories, edited and introduced by comedian and spooky specialist Patton Oswalt.

There is no explicit “order” to these books; however, Patton Oswalt will be reviewing a book a day on his Facebook page.

Much respect to Oswalt, but I will not be following his order.  So there. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: SONIC YOUTH-“Halloween” (1986).

This early Sonic Youth song is creepy mostly for Kim Gordon’s whispered, drawling, sexy delivery.

The music is a simple, somewhat pretty guitar melody.  The drums are almost tribal toms, that propel the story along.  There are noisy shards from the other guitar.  I don’t hear any bass at all.

The musical motif repeats itself over and over as Kim whispers

There’s something shifting in the distance
Don’t know what it is
Day as dead as nights
Except for the feeling That’s
crawling up inside of me As you
sing your song As you
swing along, and you’re
It’s your, your song
It’s the Devil in me
makes me stare at you As you
twist up along, you
sing your song And you
slithering up to me and You’re
so close I just a
Wanna touch you and I
sing your song And you
don’t know what’s going on
But you want me to come Along
As you sing your, your song

It ends with a hollow bell ringing over and over.

I don’t know what it has to do with Halloween, but it’s pretty creepy (and sexy at the same time).

[READ: October 23, 2018] “The Lake”

Just in time for Halloween, from the people who brought me The Short Story Advent Calendar and The Ghost Box. comes Ghost Box II.

This is once again a nifty little box (with a magnetic opening and a ribbon) which contains 11 stories for Halloween.  It is lovingly described thusly:

The Ghost Box returns, like a mummy or a batman, to once again make your pupils dilate and the hair on your arms stand straight up—it’s another collection of individually bound scary stories, edited and introduced by comedian and spooky specialist Patton Oswalt.

There is no explicit “order” to these books; however, Patton Oswalt will be reviewing a book a day on his Facebook page.

Much respect to Oswalt, but I will not be following his order.  So there. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACKJUST SAY NOËL: A Gift for You from Geffen Records (1996).

This is a weird mix of songs.  I purchased this all those years ago because I loved the Sire Records Just Say series, and this seemed like a fine addition.  But this album really pushes what might have been anticipated in a Christmas collection.

Look at the names!  Beck! Sonic Youth! (when they were riding high), Elastica! But man, this is just a crazy mix of stuff.

BECK-“The Little Drum Machine Boy” (NSFC)
This is like 7 minutes of drum machine nonsense from Beck.  There’s mention of the Hanukkah robot funk.  Gonna drop some Hanukkah science.  And then 7 minutes of Beck’s nonsense lyrics.

AIMEE MANN with MICHAEL PENN-“Christmastime” (NSFC)
This is a little mopey because Aimee is always a little mopey.  The Michael Penn parts are a bit more upbeat.  They sound great together, but “all alone at Christmastime” isn’t really much for holiday cheer.

SONIC YOUTH-“Santa Doesn’t Cop Out On Dope” (NSFC)
I had no idea that this was a cover.  Martin Mull recorded this back in 1973.  That explains the spoken word part that doesn’t sound like something Sonic Youth would construct.  But after the spoken intro, they turn the end into 2 minutes of utter noise.  Thurston sings the actual song almost a capella with strange noises in the background and twinkling bells.  The last 40 seconds are just squelching noise.  And they end with Thurston saying “Merry Christmas, David Geffen.”

THE POSIES-“Christmas” (NSFC)
This song is downbeat and sad (“you made me for the last time.  That’s okay Christmas means little to me”).  The chorus is kind of pretty though.

THE ROOTS-“Millie Pulled A Pistol On Santa” (NSFC)
I had no idea that this was a cover.  And never would have guessed it was originally by The Roots.  It is shockingly about incest. The Roots version is even darker (and the recording features an echoed voice making it even harder to hear the words).

SOUTHERN CULTURE ON THE SKIDS-“Merry Christmas Baby” (NSFC)
This version is bluesy and slightly funky in a very white way.

REMY ZERO-“Christmas” (NSFC)
This is muted and mopey and I have literally no idea what its about.

ELASTICA-“Gloria” (NSFC)
This is without a doubt the best song on this record.  Although as far as I can tell aside from chanting (and playing) the melody from the Christmas song “Gloria In Excelsis Deo” there is no connection to Christmas whatsoever.

WILD COLONIALS-“Christmas Is Quiet” (NSFC)
This is six-minute mellow folk dirge.  Her voice is pretty, but good lord, six minutes?  Even a build up and backing vocals doing la las can’t rescue this.

XTC-“Thanks For Christmas”
Obviously, I love this song as I have mentioned elsewhere.

THE MUSICAL CAST OF TOYS FEATURING WENDY & LISA -“The Closing Of The Year”
The Toys song is such a weird inclusion–clearly it’s only here because they own the rights.  But it’s a really pretty song and it should be played more at the closing of the year, for being a lovely optimistic song.  Even though I like this version, I’d like to hear a cover from someone else with a strong voice (and not necessarily Seal, or whoever that is, joining in).  I’ll bet it could be done really well.

TED HAWKINS-“Amazing Grace”
Hawkins has a low gravelly voice.  This is a lovely cover of just him and his guitar.

So overall, this is a disappointing collection of songs.  Most of them can’t be played in a festive way.  But there are a few rocking standouts.

[READ: December 12, 2017] “Announcements”

Once again, I have ordered The Short Story Advent Calendar.  This year, there are brief interviews with each author posted on the date of their story.

Hello. Welcome. It’s finally here: Short Story Advent Calendar time.

If you’re reading along at home, now’s the time to start cracking those seals, one by one, and discover some truly brilliant writing inside. Then check back here each morning for an exclusive interview with the author of that day’s story.

(Want to join in? It’s not too late. Order your copy here.)

This year I’m pairing each story with a holiday disc from our personal collection.

This was a fun, light-hearted look at Wedding announcements.  And of course, as with any fun, light-hearted look at something, there were undercurrents of seriousness that made the story even better. (more…)

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[ATTENDED: July 22, 2017] Thurston Moore Group

I’ve loved Sonic Youth since the late 1980s.  And yet in all of those years I never saw them live.  Never!  So to make up for that, I quickly snatched up tickets for Thurston Moore’s show at Underground Arts (such a great intimate venue).  Inexplicably, I don’t  think the show sold out.

For this show his band consisted of Thurston on guitar and vocals, Steve Shelley on drums (1/2 of Sonic Youth right there), My Bloody Valentine bassist Debbie Googe (!) and maniac guitarist James Sedwards.

I had the impression that they would play most if not all of their new (fantastic) album Rock n Roll Consciousness.  And that was fine with me.  They did play the whole album, but not in order.

I was talking to the fans around me and we marveled at the lo-tech way their gear was set up–the bass was propped on the bass drum case, guitar amps were stacked on chairs.  And, everyone (except Thurston) came out to prep their own gear.

There were a couple lunatic bozos nearby who just screamed and shouted through the set, but it’s hard to overpower Thurston and Co.  One of these bozos took off his short and threw it on stage–it actually landed on Deb’s bass which I could see pissed her off.  After the song she threw it back into the crowd–it sailed right over my head. (more…)

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[ATTENDED: June 22, 2017] Sneaks

Sneaks was second on the bill opening for Chastity Belt.

I ended my post about Joy Again by coming out of the bathroom.  Well, while I was on line, I kinda thought that Sneaks was standing behind me.  But I’d only watched one video from her so I wasn’t sure and didn’t want to be presumptuous.  Well, I was right, because the woman wearing the Space Jam T-shirt climbed up on stage with the same shirt tied in a knot and, now, glitter all over her face.

I hadn’t heard Sneaks, so I checked out her bandcamp.  Sneaks is basically a one-woman show.  She plays bass and sings/raps/freestyles over her punky bass and a drum machine.  She has a lo-fi recording out and a more polished disc.  I would have loved both of these records when I was in college–the DIY punk attitude is pretty great.  But I didn’t love either one all that much the other day.

But she was great live. (more…)

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class3 SOUNDTRACK: OUGHT-Sun Coming Down [CST115] (2015).

oughtsunSun Coming Down changes but also enhances the sound that Ought worked with on their debut. This album is faster overall–with fewer slow and mellow sections.  It is jittery and sometimes hostile but very much alive.

And yet as with the debut you can hear inspirations from The Fall and trippier Sonic Youth throughout the album.  And there’s more than a hint of No Wave sprinkled throughout.

Notice that Tim Beeler is now known as Tim Darcy.  But the band is the same and Matt May’s fuzzed-out keys often sound like a second guitar.  And drummer Tim Keen and bassist Ben Stidworthy keep the pace perfectly.

 

“Men for Miles” has a very Mark E. Smith feel–especially in the chorus–a kind of spoken/shouted style.  But that’s not the only way that Ben “sings.” There are actual sung parts like the “tear to your eye” section.   The music is kind of like Protomarytr–aggressively, slightly angular but mostly fast and propulsive.  I love the guitar riff which is surprising and yet catchy at the same time.  And amid a quieter moment, he asks, “Excuse me, did you say there’s a chance of bringing this whole fucker down?”

“Passionate Turn” is a but less intense, but it has a nicely sung verse and a cool, unusual chanted chorus.  There’s also a nifty guitar riff right after the chorus.  The steady rhythm of the bass really keeps the song moving along.

“The Combo” has aggressive guitars and a lumbering bass and drum line combined with some noisy guitars and more of that Mark E Smith chanting vocal.    The middle section grows almost pummeling with the noisy guitars and jackhammer drums as he chants “it’s a little bit strange” in a voice that sounds like he’s almost mocking punk singers.  It’s a surprise about 2/3 of the way in when the vocals grow almost positive: “Jubilation coming.”  It’s one of two songs on the disc that are just over 3 minutes but which still pack a lot of music in.

“Sun’s Coming Down” opens with a ringing feedbacking guitar and some noisy soloing.  “I am talking out of my ass because my heart is not open.”  About half way through, he starts saying “just like that, it changes” and the music follows suit–it changes to a slower thumping drum with some vocals “oooh oohhoohhoooh.”  The song reaches its end with a guitar that sounds like a police siren before returning to that calming “oooooh.”

I love the way “Beautiful Blue Sky” opens.  The guitar riff sounds very familiar in tone, and when the other guitars and noises come in it has  very Sonic Youth feel, with a pretty guitar riff. And then some spoken words enter over some abrasive scratchy guitar “warplanes, condo” that morph into a series of clichéd phrases: “beautiful weather today, how’s the family, how’s your health been, fancy seeing you here.”  The middle section slows things down with “I am now longer afraid to die because that is all I have left.  Yes.  I am now longer afraid to dance tonight because that is all I have left.”  And the ecstatic way he says “Yes” is surprisingly powerful as it sounds so different–almost ecstatic– from the rest of his delivery

“Celebration” is a much shorter piece with a sort of angrily chanted “Celebration.”  There’s buzzy guitars and a feedback-seeming drone behind the music.  It all leads up to a slow down where he chants, “All right, I’ll take it!” in a rather louche voice.

“On the Line” begins with the vocals sung quietly over a buzzing drone.  Slowly a synth line comes in.  The song sounds like nothing else on the disc until  the drums and guitars come bursting forth and the song blisters along.  And then it settles back to the quieter section with spoken word recitation.   The changes are abrupt and switch between a mellow poetry and garage rock.

“Never Better” opens with an aggressive riff and keening vocals.   It has a quieter chorus but the song never flags in intensity.

Even though it is obviously the same band, their three discs really explore many different facets of their sound.  I’m really looking forward to what the come out with next.

PERSONNEL
Matt May: Keys, Vocals
Ben Stidworthy: Bass
Tim Keen: Drums, Violin
Tim Darcy: Vocals, Guitar

[READ: September 24, 2016] Assassination Classroom 3

I looked up this series online and saw that there are currently 21 volumes in it!  (11 are translated into English so far).  I can’t imagine how he can keep this story going (and at a pretty fast pace until the Earth will be destroyed) for so many more books!

This book begins with the students still on vacation in Kyoto.  Two of the girls have been captured by other students.  It’s a disturbing chapter with the implication that these boys have done things to girls before.  But Koro Sensei’s book about field trips actually covers the event of a kidnapping!  So the rest of the class is on it.  It even suggest where they might find the culprits (how did he know?).  It’s also a really big book and can be used as a weapon.  And our class comes out unharmed.

In the next chapter a new assassin named Red Eye is sent to take out Koro Sensei.  Red Eye is a sniper but he is baffled by Koro Sensei–who is able to stop a bullet with a dumpling.  Koro Sensei proves to be such a good teacher that even the Red Eye can learn something from him.

After a light episode in which the kids try to learn about Koro Sensei (and Irina’s) past girlfriends/boyfriends, a new student is added to the class.  But this student is a computer named Autonomous Intelligence Fixed Artillery.   It is a fast learning computer (with a pretty girl as its avatar).  And it is designed to learn from its mistakes.  It estimates that bu the end of the day it will have a .03% chance of killing Koro Sensei but by the end of the month it will be 90%.  So it begins class by opening fire on Koro Sensei (despite the fact that it breaks the class rules and disrupts class).  And then the kids have to clean up the mess of BBs.  In fact the kids are so annoyed that they tape the machine up so it’s guns can’t come out.  Eventually Koro Sensei teaches it that it needs to respect the fellow students or it will never blend in.  Koro upgrades the machine who actually seems to enjoy learning.  This is pretty fun sequence of chapters.

In the next section, Koro Sensei is affected by humidity–his head swells to a crazy size.  But that proves to be a diversion compared to the real plot that follows–revenge on a cheating girlfriend and her jerky boyfriend.  It’s very funny and quite elaborate.

The final chapter of the book is all about Irina.  She is trying to teach them to speak without an accent but the kids can’t seem to get their Ls and Rs correct.  She says that if they can’t get them straight, she will have to French kiss them (totes inappropes–although the previous chapter revealed that she was 20, which is much better than the mid 30s I assumed she was).  But we soon see that Irina’s “handler,” the guy who sent gave her the assignment, determines that she is no longer the right assassin for the job.  She is pissed but her services are no longer useful.

The book end with Koro Sensei proposing a test between Irina and her handler to see which one is the better assassin!

This manga is written in the traditional style of right to left, which is fun.  It is translated by Tetsuichiro Miyaki with an English adaptation (whatever that means) by Bryant Turnage.

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[ATTENDED: August 31, 2016] Marco Benevento

2016-08-31 20.40.39I’d never heard of Marco Benevento before this show.  I looked him up before the show and listened to one song and thought it sounded okay.  Because of a tight security force (understandable in light of recent events), I missed the opening few minutes of his set, but he played for nearly an hour, so I got a full taste of Marco’s music.

And Marco is a performer. Sitting at a modified piano in a black and white striped suit, he conducted his trio through long, groovy songs.  Andre Borger played drums.  And I was struck as soon as I walked in at how great and wild the drums were.  Many songs had a click track of some sort (I think more just electronic noises on repeat), but Borger dominated the rhythm–playing great fills and smashing the hell out of everything in sight.

But the real star of the show was bassist Karina Rykman. (more…)

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