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Archive for the ‘The Alarm’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: STARBUCKS Hi-Fidelity Holiday (1998).

This is one of my favorite Holiday CDs.  Say what you will about Starbucks (and I know you will), they know their audience (even if I don’t drink coffee).  Almost the entire CD is excellent, or at least in that groovy Hi-Fi style.  There are a few songs that don’t quite fit with the others, but overall, this is a keeper.

ESQUIVEL-“Jingle Bells”
I love Esquivel, and this space age jingle Bells is just the most fun.  You look ravishing tonight.

KEB’ MO’-“Jingle Bell Jamboree”
Keb’ Mo’ is a great performer, but this song doesn’t quite fit on this CD.  Especially after Esquivel.  Maybe if it was a little later in the sequence?  But the song itself is great and should be heard more at Christmas time.

COCTEAU TWINS-“Winter Wonderland”
I have loved Cocteau Twins for decades.  This version of “Winter Wonderland” has been a perennial favorite.  I love what they do with the song and how they keep it faithful but make it their own.  This should have followed Esquivel.

DEAN MARTIN-“Baby It’s Cold Outside”
This song is problematic for many reasons.  But if you can get past the creepiness, Dean’s version is fun.  It’s interesting that the female singers are practically a chorus of voices.

COMBUSTIBLE EDISON-“Sleigh Ride”
I’ve pretty much forgotten about Combustible Edison, but I love this swinging instrumental version of this song.  It’s totally terrific.

LEONARD COHEN-“Hallelujah”
This is not a Christmas song.  At all. It is also so over played that I never really want to hear it again.

XTC-“Thanks for Christmas”
I love this song.  It’s bright and happy and the XTC voices and guitars are just perfect.

EL VEZ-“Christmas Wish”
I have a soft spot for El Vez, but man I don’t care for this version of this song.  It’s not bad, but I kept thinking it was some B list actor form a 1950s rock n roll film (like Arch Hall).  I suppose if it was more in the El Vez spirit I’d enjoy it more.

JAMES BROWN-“Merry Christmas, Baby”
I like this song except it always bugs me that there’s a line about not being drunk but being all lit up like a Christmas Tree.  James seems a little not into this recording, to be honest.

THE ALARM-“Happy Christmas (War is Over)”
This song bugs me.  I think it’s the obnoxious (but well meaning) idea that war can be over if we want it.  But whatever.  This version is kind of flat, which is springing given The Alarm is all stadiumed out most of the time.

THE TEMPTATIONS-“Little Drummer Boy”
This song is tough to pull off.  The Temptations were a little flat at first I thought, but they pulled through to the end and won me over.

PEGGY LEE-“I Like a Sleighride (Jingle Bells)”
This song is weird and fun.  The “I like a sleighride” chorus is weird and kind of creepy, but it’s got a real fun feel overall.

ROBBIE ROBERTSON-“Christmas Must Be Tonight”
So I listened to this song and had literally no recollection of ever hearing it before–even though I have listened to this disc every year for a decade.  And even now, I have no recollection of it either.

THE BLUE HAWAIIANS-“We Four Kings (Little Drummer Boy)”
Is it because I have heard every Christmas song a million times that I gravitate to the oddball recording?  Probably.  I love this surf guitar instrumental version of “We Three Kings,” it brightens my day.

BOBBY DARIN-“Christmas Auld Lang Syne”
This is a classic.  It used to bug me that he goes so over the top with the LOOOOOOORD business at he end, but it doesn’t bug me much anymore–its makes me smile.  I really like the melody and the way the songs are conflated.

Overall this is a great collection of songs.  It’s not all as groovy and space-age as it appears, but it’s still good holiday fun.

[READ: December 1, 2017] “Skinks”

Near the end of November, I found out about The Short Story Advent Calendar.  Which is what exactly?  Well…

The Short Story Advent Calendar returns, not a moment too soon, to spice up your holidays with another collection of 24 stories that readers open one by one on the mornings leading up to Christmas.  This year’s stories once again come from some of your favourite writers across the continent—plus a couple of new crushes you haven’t met yet. Most of the stories have never appeared in a book before. Some have never been published, period.

I already had plans for what to post about in December, but since this arrived I’ve decided to post about every story on each day.

This story is told by a little boy, Wendell, who wants to be called Dilly.  He tells us that Jesse doesn’t like it when he calls him Dad.  Jesse always says “Two things.”  Like “One, your dad left a long time ago and two, although you don’t want to say he’s your dad, he still is.  I’m not.  Clear?

Clear.  Clear as mud, he says.

Jesse is now in the hospital and the boy has been talking to his mom a lot.

When he goes into Jesse’s room the pastor is in there.  “He thinks all the answers are in that book,” his mother says to him.  She then says to the pastor, “I know it’s serious, but that was years ago when you both loved getting into trouble.  He’s different now.”

The pastor bristles at this and says “some of us know better than to get into fights over things people say.”

There’s a lot of observations from the boy about his mother (and what both she and Jesse say about women in general)

And sometimes he just goes in and talks to Jesse, which he thinks is weird, but he does it anyway.  When he heard there was skink in the hospital he knew Jesse would want to see it. “It’s a weird word but I like it.”

But mom and a police officer enter and Dilly hears the officer say, “I’m sorry, but things have changed.”  Before he can leave the room he sees that Jesse is now restrained.

The pastor comes out while Dilly is outside and asks Dilly what he’s doing.  When Dilly mentions the skink, the pastor gives him some suggestions about bait and ways to catch them.   During this brief conversation, a lot of truths come out.  About Jesse, about Dilly’s father and about the pastor.

But I feel a little too much like Dilly in this story–like everyone is talking around me.  There’ a few too many gaps that I can’t fill in to fully get what happened.

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  karlove5SOUNDTRACK: RAGA ROCKERS-“Slakt” [“Slaughter”] (1988), “Hun er Fri” [“She is Free”] (1988) and “Noen å hate” [“Someone to hate”] (1990).

ragaKarl Ove mentions many bands in his books.  Raga Rockers appeared twice in this one.  I can’t find a ton about them online, because they never really made it beyond Norway, but the Google translated version of their website says:

Raga Rockers is an ingenious rock ‘n roll band that has existed since 1982.

Today the band consists of: Michael Krohn (vocals, lyrics), Hugo Alvar Stein (keyboards / guitar), Eivind Staxrud (guitar), Arne Sæther (keys), Livio Aiello (bass) and Jan Kristiansen (drums).

The band came out of the punk community in the early eighties, but became such a “poppy” large parts of the Norwegian people have founded acquaintance with them.  Songs like “She is free” and “Someone to hate” is almost singalong classics! Their greatest triumph came perhaps in 1999 when they played for thousands of ecstatic Norwegians at the yellow stage at Roskilde Festival. (Reviews of the show by Dagbladet (which Karl Ove wrote for) and Dagsavisen–both are in English.

Despite their punk roots and the rather violent song titles, the songs are almost poppy–heavy guitars but simple chords and a singer who doesn’t sound angry at all.  In fact, if I didn’t read about their punk roots, I’d swear these songs are kinda goofy.

“Slakt” is a simple song, opening with a 4/4 drum and splashes of guitar.  The middle is a bluesy riff with a chorus of “ah ha ha”  The lead singer’s voice is mostly kind of deep–not quite what I expected from the heavy guitars.

“Hun Er Fri” is quite different from the others songs.  It’s only 90 seconds long and features a piano.  The chords are still simple the piano may be playing single notes in fact).  The lyrics are pretty much nonstop and kind of fast.  It seems like a silly pop trifle and I can see why it’s popular among their fans.  The first time I listened to it, I was surprised it ended when it did.  This bootleg live version is certainly fun.

rocknrollThese two songs came from their 1988 album Forbudte følelser [Prohibited feelings]

“Noen å hate” has a bit more of a metal sound, but is essentially the same kind of heavy rock with simple chord progressions.  There’s a good solo at the end.  A black metal band called Vreid has done a cover of this song (which really only sounds different because the Vreid singer is more growly).

This song comes from their 1990 album Rock n’ Roll Party.

And yes, they are still around.  They took a hiatus in the 2000s but came back with three albums 2007’s Übermensch, 2010’s Shit Happens and 2013’s Faktor X.

[READ: May 1, 2016] My Struggle Book Five

karlove 5ukI realized as I read this fifth book that I should have been keeping a vague sense of the timeline of these books.  Specifically, because he opens this book with this: “The fourteen years I lived in Bergen from 1988 to 2002 are long gone.”  So if he was born in 1968, this book covers roughly ages 19-33.

So my general outline for the other volumes:
Book Five: 1988-2002 (19-33)
Book Four: 1987 (18)
Book Three: 1968-1981  (1-13)
Book Two: 2008 (40) (with flashbacks to meeting his second wife in 2003 or so)
Book One: 2008 (40) (with flashbacks to his father’s death in 1998 or so)

What era could Book Six possibly be about?

We’ll find out next year in what is said to be the 1,200 page final volume.

So as I mentioned above, Karl Ove talks about the fourteen years he lived in Bergen.  And it made me laugh that he says:

The fourteen years I lived in Bergen, from 1988 to 2002, are long gone, no traces of them are left, other than as incidents a few people might remember, a flash of recollection here, a flash of recollection there, and of course whatever exists in my own memory of that time.  But there is surprisingly little.

And then he proceeds to write 600+ pages about that time. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: THE AIRBORNE TOXIC EVENT-4 songs from My Space (2008).

Since the author of one of the stories below is the singer in this band, I thought I’d listen to them and see what they were all about. With a name like that I was expecting some kind of hardcore band. And that is NOT this band! They don’t have a record out yet, but they have some songs on MySpace here. The first song “Sometime Around Midnight” made me think of a couple of bands from the 90s: The Church and Midnight Oil, and possibly The Alarm. The vocals are mixed loudly in the mix, and there is an earnestness about the vocals which made me think of those bands. The second one, “Papillion” has a keyboard solo (!) over some fairly raucous simple melodies. The third song “This is Nowhere” is a fun indie rocker with a good staccato riff and a cool/spooky chorus harmony. And the fourth song “Innocence” was rocking and bouncy. I can’t get over the use of keyboards on songs where you wouldn’t expect them. I enjoyed these songs quite a bit, and will certainly check out the CD when it’s released.

[READ: May 30, 2008]: McSweeneys #27

This volume contains three books in a slipcase. Even though each is a small paperback, the overall package is quite nice. The slipcase has many tiny holes in it to look like skyscraper windows (or Led Zeppelin’s Physical Graffiti). (more…)

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This Christmas, I decided to list my 12 favorite Christmas albums. I have a rocky past with Christmas songs. Like every good Christian kid, I grew up singing Christmas songs. Then, as I grew a distaste for organized everything, for the commercialization of Christmas, and frankly, the astonishing disregard of Thanksgiving, I really started to rebel against them.

Plus, as everyone knows, you start to hear Christmas songs in November for crying out loud. I also worked a job where the only music we were allowed to play during the holiday was Christmas music. It was actually during this fallow period that I found out that there were some great alternatives to the standards.

Since that time, I have gotten married and I have two kids, and I really enjoy the feelings of hearth and home, and I want to share the joy of Christmas (and hopefully avoid the icky parts).

More back story: I grew up listening to big band music. My parents were just old enough that they didn’t really like rock n roll, so I got to listen to swing and big band and horns, horns, horns. I never really rebelled against that because it was pretty innocuous, but I did really start to miss it as I got older. And, what I found is that the Christmas songs that I like are the traditional ones sung by big band leaders. It was the “rock n roll” Christmas songs and some of the novelty songs that I really didn’t like. So, I try to avoid those as best I can, and I stick with the classics and some of these fun alternatives. (more…)

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