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Archive for the ‘The Fall’ Category

 SOUNDTRACKLONELY LEARY-“Flaneur” (2018).

At the end of every year publications and sites post year end lists.  I like to look at them to see if I missed any albums of significance.  But my favorite year end list comes from Lars Gottrich at NPR.  For the past ten years, Viking’s Choice has posted a list of obscure and often overlooked bands.  Gottrich also has one of the broadest tastes of anyone I know (myself included–he likes a lot of genres I don’t).  

Since I’m behind on my posts at the beginning of this year, I’m taking this opportunity to highlight the bands that he mentions on this year’s list.  I’m only listening to the one song unless I’m inspired to listen to more.

One of the things that I love about Lars, and this list is a great example, is how effortlessly multicultural he is.  He doesn’t listen to music because it’s from somewhere, he listens to music wherever it;s from because he likes it.  So this band, with the decidedly English-sounding name Lonely Leary is actually from China.  Lars says that the

The excellent label Maybe Mars documents the current Chinese underground music scene, from the psych-rock of Chui Wan and surfy shoegaze of Dear Eloise to P.K. 14, Beijing’s experimental rock pioneers.

Lonely Leary is a post-punk band which sounds like they would fit right in with Protomartyr or even The Fall, Sonic Youth or Joy Division.  The fact that they are from China and sing in Chinese doesn’t affect the tone and overall feel of the music, it somehow makes it more intense (to my ears).

Lars describes their debut album as one “where noise needles into perversely kitschy surf riffs and hoarsely barked punctuation marks.”  Although I hear less kitschy and more Dead Kennedy’s guitar and feedback noise.

The sounds they achieve throughout the album are great.  “Flaneur” opens the disc with a screaming feedback followed by a rumbling bass.  There’s some great guitar lines from Song Ang (which remind me of Savages) and then Qiu Chi barks his dissatisfaction through to a satisfyingly Dead Kennedys-ish chorus.  There’s even some Savages-esque chanting as the song squeals to and end.

This is great stuff.

[READ: January 4, 2019]  “Father”

Here is a new year and a new essay from Sedaris that perfectly mixes emotional sadness and hilarious light-heartedness.

The night before his fathers 95th birthday, his father turned in the kitchen and fell.  David’s sister and brother-in-law discovered him the next day and brought him to the hospital.  They felt the most disturbing thing was his disorientation, including getting mad at the doctor: “you’re sure asking a lot of questions.”  He was lucid the following day, but he was quite weak.

David was in Princeton on the night his father fell [at a show that I could have been at–we opted not to go this year].   He called his father and said that he needed him to be alive long enough to see trump impeached.

A few months later, his father moved into a retirement home.  David and Hugh visited and at first he seemed out of it, but hr recognized both of them instantly.  The thing was that he was no injured.  He had tried to move his grandfather clock (one of the prized possessions he brought to the home) and it fell on him (for real).  Many family members called the clock Father Time, so David said to Hugh “When you’re 95 and Father Time literally knocks you to the ground, don’t you think he’s maybe trying to tell you something?” (more…)

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[ATTENDED: October 21, 2016] Umphrey’s McGee

2016-10-21-21-25-48 As of this summer I didn’t know who Umphrey’s McGee were.  I assumed they were a country band or something.  Then I found out a friend of mine who was at the Phish show that I went to was a huge fan of Umphrey’s McGee too.  She said that they were amazing live.  I listened to some of their stuff (and learned that their debut was called Greatest Hits Volume III, which I love), and then saw that they were playing three nights at The Fillmore in Philadelphia.  So I got a ticket for the middle night to see what the story was.

And I think I picked a good night to go.  Friday night the band had an opening act, not so Saturday or Sunday.  This meant that they didn’t go on until 9:15, which was fine.  I arrived in time but I had forgotten about the long security lines (and I’m thankful for the security, but ouch, it adds ten minutes to the line).  I missed the opening song, but since the band played for nearly three hours, that was okay.

So it turns out that Umphrey’s McGee are a jam band who work within a more progressive/metal sound.  They have a lot of stops and starts and time changes and their guitar solos are superfast pyrotechnics.  Most of their songs extend to about ten minutes or more (maybe like Dream Theater if they were a jam band).

But the fun thing about UM is that they throw in all kinds of cover segments and mashups.  To my knowledge there were no mashup in this show, although they are about a to release a whole album full of great mashups. However, they did tease out sections of other songs during some of their longer instrumental jams, which was fun. (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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assclassSOUNDTRACK: OUGHT-More Than Any Other Day [CST103] (2014).

oughtmoreOught might just be the most straightforward band every released by Constellation Records. They are a rock/punk band with some spoken word singing that sound at times like Mark E. Smith.  However, the music is a bit catchier than The Fall’s with fast moments and really slow almost ambient stretches.

“Pleasant Heart” opens with a raw echoing guitar riff and chords that sound like nothing else on the album.   The song lurches through some great sounds and Beeler’s unusual chanting style of singing.  There’s also a cool bass line rumbling throughout the song built with lots of drum fills and chaos.

About half way through this six-minute song the bass and drums drop out leaving just a squeaky violin and harmonic guitar (this squeaky violin is possibly the only thing that makes this record sound like a Constellation release).  The bass comes back in slowly.  But it’s not until almost two minutes of this instrumental that the song resumes with a crunch and the lurching melody and verses continue until the end.

“Today More Than Any Other Day” was the first Ought song that really grabbed me.  It starts out slowly with some spare drums and meandering bass.  It doesn’t really feel like its going to resolve into anything.  By a minute and a half it’s finally starting to sound like something–a slow meandering song perhaps.  Around 2 minutes Beeler starts whispering “we’re sinking deeper, and sinking deeper.”  And then the song starts building and turning into something else .  We’re now half way through this 5 minutes song when the guitar starts chiming and he states “The name of this song is ‘Today more than any other day Parts 4-43.  So open up your textbooks … or any kind of reading material.”  And as the guitar plays the verses he recites various things that have happened today more than any other day (making a “decision between 2% and whole milk.”  A cool bass line starts playing as else drops away and he starts chanting a rather laconic “dah dah dah dah dah” following the bass.  It reminds me, strangely enough of the Dead Milkmen as its kind of not exactly out of tune but almost as if  not really caring.  But when the song resumes, it’s all right on again.  It’s a weird and wonderful, strangely catchy song.

“Habit” opens with a nice slow bass riff and chiming guitars.  It brings the intensity of the previous song down some.  And the vocals sound a little different, especially in the chorus, where the whole song take on a kind of Talking Heads vibe (the falsetto singing in particular).  It slows down toward the end with some scraping violins. The song is quite pretty in an alt-sorta way.

I love “The Weather Song” from the opening harmonics and intriguing bass line to the way the song suddenly ramps up for the chorus.  In addition to the catchy spoken opening there’s a great chorus of “I …. just wanna revel in your lies.”

“Forgiveness” is a relatively short 4 and a half minutes and opens with almost an organ sound.  A scraping violin sound joins the drones. After 2 minutes he sings in a very slow drawl “forgiveness is a drug that you take with a shrug.”  It has echoes of the Velvet Underground’s “Heroin” although it never changes tempo or intensity.

“Around Again” has a very 1980s guitar riff and whispered vocals until the whole band kicks in and it grows in intensity.  And then the whispered “go slow” returns the song to the beginning.  After 3 minutes, the song builds and then drops out with a spoken: “It’s coming. Why is it you can’t stand under the sun but you can stick your head into a bucket of water and breathe in deep” and then a whole new sound of dissonant guitar and thudded bass and drums “we have reached the intermission.”  But it’s not an intermission it goes through to the end of the song like this.

“Clarity!” opens with what sound to me like “Love Will Tear Us Apart” but with guitar chunks played over the top.  Slow harmonics and whispered vocals move the song forward.  After 2 minutes it rocks out, with a returning ringing high note and interesting sound effects.  And by the end the song comes to a plunging conclusion

“Gemini” opens with some low rumbling notes and then a sprinkling of keyboards.  There’s some scratchy guitars and a rumbling bass.  After 2 and a half minutes, the song’s punky parts take over with jagged guitars and screamed vocals.  The end of the song is mostly just two-note thumping while he screams “you wanted … wanted … wanted … wanted.”

I really like this album a lot.

I noticed that the lead singer changes his name on each release.  So, to help keep it straight:

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

[READ: September 20, 2016] Assassination Classroom 1

Assassination Classroom has a very strange and unsettling premise–the students of this classroom are being taught to assassinate their teacher.  Given the current climate of guns in the US, that’s probably not a comfortable position to take.  However, Matsui alters the premise to make it more palatable, and frankly more fun. The students’ teacher is actually an alien (or maybe not, but it is certainly not human).  He (I guess) is a multi-tentacled creature who can move at Mach 20, is exceptionally perceptive and can’t be harmed by most conventional weapons.  But wait, there’s more.  The students are sent to assassinate this particular creature because he blew a huge chunk out of the moon (it’s now a permanent crescent) and is planning to do the same to the earth in a year’s time.  But wait, there’s more.  One of his conditions for not blowing up the Earth sooner is that he be allowed to teach this particular classroom.  Although no one is sure why yet.

The class is 3-E, the lowest of the low, the worst students in the very prestigious Kunugigaoka Junior High.  The 3-E class are misfits–they were smart enough to get into the school, but they have done something wrong and they are treated very poorly because of it.  In fact, 3-E is used as a kind of cautionary tale for the other students–act up and you could wind up like them.  (Why they don’t just leave the school is not addressed).

The kids call the creature Koro Sensi (which is a pun on the Japanese “Koro senai” which means “can’t kill”), and it turns out he is actually a pretty great teacher.  He really seems to care about the kids.  So why would they want to kill him?  Well, aside from the destruction of the planet, there is also a ten billion yen reward (the amount seems to change some in the book, but it’s roughly 100 million dollars).  Of course, as the name implies, this guy is really hard to kill.  And when they try to kill him in a way he finds beneath them (they are training to be great assassins after all), his own revenge will be swift.  At the same time, he heartily encourages them to try their best to kill him–and he applauds their most creative efforts. (more…)

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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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[ATTENDED: May 20, 2016] Disappears

2016-05-20 20.46.47 This was my first show at the relatively new Fillmore Philadelphia.  The venue is really nice.  There’s a balcony with bleacher seats and a very large floor area.  It’s also reasonably easy to get to (although kind of hard to leave–bottleneck city!).

I was there to see Explosions in the Sky, but I had given a listen to a few songs by this opening band and was certainly looking forward to seeing them.

I was intrigued that their sounds was described as a mix of shoegaze, krautrock and garage rock.  Three things which don’t really seem to go together.  The tracks I listened to were really rather dissonant, which I found interesting.  It also seems that each album is a little different, with the earlier stuff being a bit more garage-y.

I was also intrigued to read that Steve Shelley, drummer from Sonic Youth, played with them for an album and a couple of tours.  But he was not with them now, having been replaced by Noah Leger.  I’m not sure what Shelley did with the band, but Leger was really amazing to watch.  More on him later.

The rest of the band is Brian Case on guitar and lead vocals with second guitarist Jonathan Van Herik and bassist Damon Carruesco. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: GORILLAZ-Plastic Beach (2010).

I have been a huge supporter of Gorillaz since the drew their way onto the music scene all those years ago.  It’s true that part of my love for the band was the art of Jamie Hewlitt, who I assume doesn’t really have any input anymore.  I also love Del the Funky Homosapien (who is also missing).  But I’m almost slavishly devoted to Damon Albarn, so I was pretty psyched when I heard they had a new album coming out and that it was getting rave reviews.

I was severely disappointed when I heard the record. 

“Welcome to the World of the Plastic Beach” features Snoop Dog who is phoning it in from a vacationland far far away.  He was more exciting on his cameo for The Lonely Island.  Even musically, it’s not very interesting.  “White Flag” is more promising, with the cool flute and string intro, but the rap by Bashy (which I wanted to like because of his accent) is just bland.  And Gorillaz must agree as the rap is less than a third of the song. 

“Stylo” has a cool bass line but the track overall is surprisingly discoey.  The Mos Def bit is interesting but I guess I’m not a fan of Bobby Womack, as I don’t care for his part of the song at all.  “Sweepstakes” has some interesting parts but the intermittent yelling of “Sweepstakes” kind of ruins it for me.  “Plastic Beach” features Mick Jones and Paul Simonon but you’d never know it.  And I actually don’t enjoy the manipulated voice much here, it sounds uncomfortably like early 80s technology.  “Cloud of Unknowing” is barely there at all (sorry Bobby Womack, I’m, not convinced)

It’s probably unsurprising that my favorite song with guests is “Superfast Jellyfish.”  I love De La Soul (although their “dopey” sounding rap is a bit much).  But I like that they play up the cartoon feel of the song (and the band).  I also didn’t even realize that the main singer was Gruff Rhys until a few listens in.  And since I love him, it all plays out nicely.  I also like “Glitter Freeze” because fun with keyboards can be interesting. I didn’t realize it was Mark E. Smith until recently.  I’m not really sure if that makes any difference since he just says a few words, but things are always more interesting when he’s around.  Of course, this song could have been 2 minutes instead of 4.  “Some Kind of Nature” features Lou Reed.  Reed has been hit or miss lately and this is more miss than hit.  “Empire Ants” features Little Dragon (unknown to me).  It is very slow to get to the interesting part, but when it does, the song is pretty cool.  The other song with Little Dragon, “To Binge” is wonderful.  It reminds me of a track from A Clockwork Orange and it also features some great lyrics. 

The few songs that I like on the album are ones that are credited to just Gorillaz.  “Rhinestone Eyes” is a bit lazy for my tastes, although the second part of the song really showcases the first decent melody on the disc, and the introduction of Damon’s voice is like a salve.  “On Melancholy Hill” has the best wispy keyboard intro this side of early 80s Madonna–a wonderful counterpoint to the title and lyrics.  “Broken” is actually a little too mellow for me, but again, the melody is a nice one.  “Pirate Jet” is a simple, dopey song that ends the album in a kind of limbo state.

I’m confused by all the rave reviews, especially the one that says the album is chock full of singles.  I mean, “Dare” now that’s a single.  I guess I just miss Del (and Russel) way too much.  And frankly, even the artwork is pretty lame on this one.

[READ: January 10, 2012] “Center of the Universe”

Simon Rich never fails to make me laugh. Sometimes his ideas are completely original.  Other times he takes a fairly common observation and runs with it into a land of lunacy.  And sometime he takes an idea that seems like it’s been done before but he puts a fun twist on it and makes it entirely his own.  Such is the case with this.

The very simple premise is that while God is busy creating the earth, his girlfriend is not only complaining that he never spends time with her, but she also feels slighted that he doesn’t seem to care how hard her job is.

A wonderful part of this scenario is that God has not yet finished making the earth–He’s only on the sixth day–but His girlfriend, Kate, is hanging out in Chelsea reading a magazine impatiently waiting for Him to show up.  (more…)

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