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Archive for the ‘Squeeze’ Category

[ATTENDED: October 14, 2016] Squeeze

2016-10-14-22-01-21Squeeze’s 1982 Greatest Hits album 45s and Under is my favorite Greatest Hits record of all time.  And yet, I don’t actually own any other Squeeze records.

But over the last year or so my friend Amy has been posting pictures of all the Squeeze and Squeeze-related shows she’s been going to.  And I wanted to see what all the fuss was about.  So when they announced they were playing The Keswick Theatre (which I’d never been to before, but which I knew was an intimate venue), I snatched up tickets.

And as their T-Shirt says (see bottom) I’d forgotten how much I like Squeeze. (more…)

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[ATTENDED: October 14, 2016] The English Beat

2016-10-14-20-21-09I’ve been a fan of The English Beat (and other luminary ska bands) for years.  When I saw that The English Beat with Dave Wakeling was touring the States (apparently non stop) I thought it would be fun to see them.  They played the New Hope Winery once in a while, but I thought the tickets were a little pricey.  So I was thrilled to see that they’d be opening for Squeeze–a great double bill!

The band played for a solid hour and covered most of the songs of their career.  It was non-stop dancing and fun.  Well, it would have been except that the Keswick Theater is seated, so most of us couldn’t really dance, but we could stand.  And the  aisles and were packed with people who didn’t want to sit down and just danced instead.  (more…)

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basoonSOUNDTRACK: THE MUSIC TAPES-Tiny Desk Concert #182 (December 20, 2011).

musictaopesJulian Koster released an album in 2008 called The Singing Saw at Christmastime.  It was a complete CD of Christmas songs played on the saw.  That should tell you that Koster is an unusual fellow. But that doesn’t prepare you for what he unleashes during his Tiny Desk Concert with The Music Tapes.

Koster has a very high-pitched voice (I have a recording of him doing “I’ve Got My Love to Keep me Warm,” which is almost unbearable.  His singing is really close to the fine line of unique and bad (and I imagine for many it crosses the line). He’s also got a fascinating way of looking at things and of storytelling.  So this Tiny Desk show winds up being quite long (20 minutes) with quite a lot of different things going on.

First he tells a lengthy story about his great grandpa.  And how his great grandpa told him that baby trees can walk.  But they are tethered to the ground by an umbilical cord. And when we cut them down, we sever the cord.  And a Christmas tree is adorned and worshiped for two weeks and then set free to roam the earth.  It is a warm and strange and delightful.

Then he and a second member of the group play “The First Noel” on two saws.  It’s weird ad wonderful.  At the end of the song he has his saw bow, and Bob says he didn’t know a saw could bow.  Julian says they do and in fact that singing saws sing by themselves but we encourage them by petting them and placing them in our laps.

I don’t enjoy everything Koster does, so the second song “Freeing Song For Reindeer,” a banjo based piece about a tired old reindeer transporting Santa is slow and kind of sad and not my thing.

But then he tells a story of growing up with all kinds of culture and Holiday traditions which leads into a version of Gavin Bryars’ “Jesus Blood.”  I enjoy the original and didn’t know what to expect here.  They begin with a tape loop of an old man singing the song (possibly the one Bryars used, but I don’t know).  And then Koster starts playing the banjo with a bow.  And then a second guy does the same. Then the percussionist stars playing the toy piano and the noises build.  He switches from piano to trumpet and plays along.  Meanwhile the second banjo player switches back to the saw for the end. It’s really quite a lovely performance.

“Takeshi And Elijah” is another slow and keening banjo based song.  It’s pretty long, I don’t really like it, but by the end, as it builds with trumpet and toy piano, he ends the song sith a puppet Santa doing a tap dance as percussion.  It’s a great ending to an okay song.

The final song is “Zat You, Santa Claus?”  It’s played on bowed banjo and sousaphone.  It’s a fun and crazy rendition.   It’s one of the weirdest Tiny Desk shows and certainly the weirdest Christmas set.

[READ: December 5, 2015] The Bassoon King

I really liked Rain Wilson in The Office, but I haven’t seen him in much else (I forgot he was in Six Feet Under and Galaxy Quest) . I wanted to like Backstrom, but it got cancelled before we even watched an episode.

So why did I check out this memoir of an actor I like a little bit?  Well, primarily for the title.  The Bassoon King had an absurd ring that I really gravitated towards.  When I saw there was an introduction by Dwight Kurt Schrute, I knew this would be a good book.

The introduction (by Dwight) is very funny.  I love Dwight and I love thinking to myself “FALSE!” whenever I disagree with someone.  Dwight wondered why anyone would read a biography of a young semi-famous actor.  “Fact. NO. ONE. CARES.”  But then says he doesn’t care either because he is making a lot of dollars per word for this thing.

Rainn begins his memoir by making fun of his big head (especially when he was a baby).  It’s pretty funny.  And then he describes his hippie family and his weird name.  His mom changed her named from Patricia to Shay in 1965.  She wanted to name Rainn “Thucydides.”  But his dad always liked Rainer Maria Rilke.  Now, they lived pretty close to Mt Rainier, so they went for Rainn (“Tack an extra letter on there for no apparent reason”). (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: TARKIO-Live on KGBA (from Omnibus) (1998).

Tarkio released an album called Live on KGBA in 1998.  Omnibus collects 4 songs from that release (according to various websites, the other tracks include “Kickaround” “Neapolitan Bridesmaid” “Helena Won’t Get Stoned” “Caroline Avenue” and “Candle”  (from the I Guess… album) “Weight of the World” (from Sea Songs) and “Whipping Boy” (the only song that’s not elsewhere on Omnibus).  This live record was distributed in some fashion way back when and there are copies floating around the internet.  I’m not willing to risk a virus by clicking on these links though, so I’ll stick with the few tracks on Omnibus.

The sound is excellent, and the full collection would no doubt be a welcome addition to anyone’s Tarkio fandom.

“Carrie” has a very Neil Young feel, from the rough acoustic guitars to the aggressive strumming technique.  It doesn’t sound like any Neil Young song in particular but you can imagine Neil looking on and smiling.  Even the solo is kind of Neil-ish (electric guitar over the acoustic main song).  “Am I Not Right?” sounds like a newer Decemberists song—there’s some very cool abrasive chords at the chorus “Knowledge!”  “Mess of Me” is a boppy acoustic number that’s fun to sing along to.  It opens kind of like the Decemberists song “The Infanta” but quickly turns into something else entirely.  “Goodbye Girl” is a cover of the Squeeze song done with a dominant banjo.  Although it lacks the original’s punch, it works well as a folk number.

[READ: June 5, 2012] “The Golden Age”

I feel like I’ve really been missing out by not reading any Le Guin.  The more I read from her now, the more I feel like I should be dropping everything and reading her output.  And I will read at least some of Earthsea eventually.

But in the meantime, I can enjoy pieces like this.  She talks about how science fiction has never really been considered “literature” and how it’s always been relegated to the genre ghetto.  Be that as it may, she’s also disappointed when science fiction writers try to deny their ghetto by saying, “Pay no attention to the spaceships…[this] is Literature.”  She thanks Michael Chabon for smashing down at least some of the ghetto walls.

Which allows her to look back at the past and the early Science Fiction Writers of America conventions.  She remembers the fun talk and open mindedness—except for a notable few who were deeply conservative, a surprise for a group of men who were supposed to be looking forward, not back.  And yes…men.  There were very few women sci-fi writers back in the fifties (in “The Golden Age”).  Indeed one SFWA member wanted to create a members-only necktie! (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: PINK FLOYD-the final cut: a requiem for the post war dream (1983).

My college experience seems very unlike many people’s (especially the stories I hear from you young kids today).  And I’m just talking musically.  I went to college in the late 80 and early 90s.  And my freshman year, the most popular albums on campus  were Steve Miller’s Greatest Hits, Squeeze’s 45s and Under and Pink Floyd’s The Wall.  My friend John also loved this album.  And I think we listened to it hundreds of times, blasting out of dorm room windows.

It’s kind of strange that college freshmen would embrace an album about (more or less) Roger Waters’ father dying in WWII, especially since none of our fathers had died at all, much less in WWII.  But angst finds its home I suppose.

This album is not a sequel to The Wall, but it has echoes (see what I did there) from that album.  There were touches of WWII in The Wall.  And sonically a lot of this album sounds similar.  The big difference is that Roger Waters wrote pretty much the whole thing, long time keyboardist Richard Wright left the band and David Gilmour, sings on only one song.  So, it’s practically a solo project (and it fees a lot like Waters’ solo album The Pros and Cons of Hitch Hiking).

This album seems to have alienated fans of Floyd. But I happen to like it quite a lot.  And, I it a lot while reading Gravity’s Rainbow.

“The Post War Dream” opens with military sounding horns and funereal organs, as befits an album about the war.  It also has an intriguing assortment of sound effects (I wonder where he gets most of this stuff).  It sounds very Pink Floyd–Roger Waters’ voice is pretty unmistakable).  But “Your Possible Pasts” sounds even more Pink Floyd.  Evidently this album has a number of songs that were cast offs from The Wall.  If that’s true, this is probably one of them, as it sounds like it could easily fit on that album–especially when the keyboards kick in during the second chorus (even if Richard Wright wasn’t on the album).  And the guitar solo is so David Gilmour–that’s what you call a signature sound.

“One of the Few” has something I love from Floyd–whispered vocals (“teach”) and creepy laughing; it works as a nice transition to the louder “The Hero’s Return.”  This track is very complex–all kinds of tonal shifts, echoed vocals and bitter lyrics.  It explodes into “The Gunner’s Dream,” a gentle piano ballad about a soldier being shot down.   It’s a surprisingly tender song (although not really given the topic of the album) and lyrically it is really impressive.  I don’t really care for the saxophone solo–it’s not my thing, but I think it actually works well for the song.  And, again the end sounds like it came from The Wall (Waters is amazing at angsty screams).

“Paranoid Eyes” is a delicate song that works, for me, as lead in to the wonderful “Get Your Filthy Hands Off My Desert” a short, string-filled somewhat goofy song that is very bitter under its seeming jocularity.  It’s followed by “The Fletcher Memorial Home,” a really dark track about old age with a lot of current political commentary thrown in (although the “group of anonymous Latin American meat-packing glitterati” always confused (and amused) me.  So even though it is “about” WWII, there’s plenty of anger at current political climate, right Maggie?.  Boom boom, bang bang, lie down, you’re dead–take it away David…

“Southampton Dock” is another gentle song, more of a story with musical accompaniment.  It segues into “The Final Cut” a fitting piano end to a sad album about death and loss, that also happens to reprise song elements from The Wall.

But that’s actually not the last song.  We get the incongruous “Not Now John.”  It really doesn’t fit with the album at all (I happen to love it, even if it doesn’t).  It’s way over the top, including the how-in-the-hell-did-they-think-this-would-be-a-single? opening lyrics: “fuck all that we gotta get on with this. (fuck all that).”  And yet, single it was, reaching #7 in the US.  Man it rocks.  Oi, where’s the fucking bar, John?

The album ends properly with “two suns in the sunset” a mostly acoustic track that returns the mood to more sombre feelings (except for the rocking section where you drive into an oncoming truck).  Never has futility felt so upbeat.  For an album as personal as this is, it really draws the listener in.  Of course, if you don’t want to be drawn in, it’s easy to resist, as many have.

The reissue (which I don’t have), includes the cool song from The Wall movie, “When the Tigers Broke Free.”  Which I imagine would work quite well contextually.

[READ: Week of April 30] Gravity’s Rainbow 4.7-end

And the book ends with a bang and a lot of leftover questions.  My first reaction is that I can’t get over Pynchon spent so much time in the last 60 pages talking about things that had nothing to do with the “plot” per se.  I never really felt like the story was all that hard to follow until the end, when Pynchon let loose the dogs of war on his writing.  There are several pages of stream of consciousness reverie where I was completely at a loss.  Of course, this has been true for much of the book–Pynchon would talk about something and then cycle back into it, filling in the gaps that he left open.  The whole book seemed to have this kind of coiled effect (perhaps a slinky). He would set up a scene as if you had been there all along.  And while you were puzzling over just who the hell he was talking about, he would flashback to whatever you needed to fill in the missing pieces.  And he is still doing that as the story comes to a close.

And although it starts out with a familiar figure, he quickly takes something and has a massive hallucination.  Is this even true? (more…)

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jpod.jpgSOUNDTRACK: SQUEEZE-Singles 45s and Under (1982).

squeeze.jpgThis record came out in 1982. When I was in college in the late 80s, we used to joke that every freshman was issued a copy of Steve Miller’s Greatest Hits, because it was played virtually every day by someone. It seemed that Squeeze’s Greatest Hits may have been issued as an alternate. I never really thought much of this record back then. I enjoyed it, especially “Pulling Mussels From a Shell,” but I never really considered the quality of the record. Since then I learned that Difford and Tilbrook are up there with Lennon and McCartney and Jagger and Richards, or, if not that grand, at least with Forster and McLennon of the Go Betweens. So I grabbed this CD to play at a party and gave it some scrutiny, and I have to say it is a terrific album. I know for a Greatest Hits, it should be, but man, they can write songs that are stories, or observational or even funny and yet not sound twee or noveltyish. (more…)

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