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Archive for the ‘The Police’ Category

oct13SOUNDTRACK: PRIMUS-Rhinoplasty (1998).

Rhinoplasty_primusThis is a kind of follow-up EP to Miscellaneous Debris–a covers and live song compilation EP that runs 48 minutes.

While there are some of the same artists covered, there are also a few surprises.

XTC-“Scissor Man.”  I didn’t know the original of this song, but I like the cool bass and the chorus’ da da da da nyow”  They tack on about a minute and a half of extra nonsense at the end, but it’s a still a fun cover.  The original is quite similar (Primus should be commended for getting more people into XTC, although it’s a small shame that this song is on the same album a “Making Plans for Nigel”).  See the original:

Peter Gabriel-“The Family and the Fishing Net” is next and fortunately this song is off a different Peter Gabriel album (although it is also called Peter Gabriel)  The original of this song is 7 minutes long (Primus lops off 30 seconds).  The Primus version is quite faithful (which shows just how odd the PG version is).  You can compare here:

The first surprise (sort of) is their cover of Stanley Clarke’s “Silly Putty.” It’s obvious that Claypool is a huge fan of Stanley Clarke, it’s just an unusual sound to hear from Primus.  There’s some turntable scratching by Disk from the Invisibl Skratch Piklz.  The song is quite faithful to the original spirit (although the original had horns).

The next surprise is “Amos Moses” as done by Jerry Reed, a honky-stomping song if ever there was.  And their version is honky-stompin and pretty much right on to the original–a huge surprise to me.

The Police-“Behind My Camel” is an unusual choice –a Police song with no words?  It’s one of their weirder songs too, and Primus does it perfectly. (If not a bit heavier with more popping bass).

“Too Many Puppies” is the first song the Les ever wrote.  I believe that this is how it was originally written, although it is listed as a remix.  It sounds quite different–watery bass instead of popping bass and no I don’t like it as much.

Metallica-“The Thing That Should Not Be” is quite faithful to the original, even down to Les’ growly singing.  He says in the Primus book that he wished he had sung it more like himself and I kind of do too–I’d have liked to hear a bit more “Primus” in the version as well.  But it’s fun to hear them do other people’s songs reverentially.

There are two live bonus tracks.

“Tommy the Cat” is a fun wild live version–it has changed somewhat over the years–a little faster and Les’ singing is rather different.  This version is 9 minutes long.  The first part is the song proper (I love that Ler plays the same wild guitar sounds perfectly and Brain is perfect with the drums).  But this song also features a bass solo at around 3:31 (which is primarily Claypool playing the song “The Awakening” from his Holy Mackerel album (it’s a cover from the Reddings) and a drum solo at 5:30 (which is okay, nothing special).  By 7:30 the song more or less resumes till the end.

It blends right into a live version of “Bob’s Party Time Lounge” (from The Brown Album).  It’s one of my favorite recent songs from them  and the live version is quite good.

As with Debris, this is a really enjoyable stopgap–one that shows how normal the band can sound, but which also lets you see just what formed Primus.

[READ: January 12, 2015] “Amazing Proposal Stories”

In this one page story, Simon Rich gives us three “amazing” proposal stories.

The first one comes from Alice.

On Valentine’s Day her boyfriend did something really special, which involves a ship, the US Embassy and, uh, hostages.

The second one comes from Kayla. (more…)

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1982SOUNDTRACK: DAVID BOWIE-“The Laughing Gnome” (1967).

gnomeI have always liked David Bowie.  Never loved him, but always liked his radio hits (and a bit more).  Suffice it to say that I have never heard of “The Laughing Gnome” before reading about it in this book.

What a strange little song.  I can’t tell if it came out before or after his debut solo record (he has the same haircut), but I gather it was released as a novelty record.

It’s a delightful little song.  Very sixties mod with a healthy nod of dance-hall.  The very different thing of course is that in the song, the main singer (Bowie) meets and sings with a sped-up-voiced Cockney “gnome.”

So the song is clearly a novelty song (what else would you call it?).  Except that the production is really great and the music is really good too.  Despite the gnome, the song isn’t really a “funny” song (well, there are jokes and puns, I guess).  It’s certainly weird and certainly silly, but it holds up pretty well to repeated listens (even if the chorus is “ha ha ha hee hee hee I’m a laughing gnome and you can’t catch me”).

Bowie doesn’t really acknowledge the song anymore, although he did joke that he was considering performing it in a new ‘Velvet Underground-influenced’ style.  Before that happens, hear the original

[READ: November 22, 2014] 1982

So yes, I know that Ghomeshi is in the midst of a scandal in which he is pretty undeniably a sexually abusive scumbag.  I’ll say nothing more about that since things are still under investigation {formal charges were brought today].  But it doesn’t look good for Jian.

This is rather upsetting.  For the women involved, obviously, but also for those of us who liked Jian and thought he was one of the good guys.  Which I did.  I loved Moxy Fruvous.  I loved his solo album.  I had a brief email exchange with him before he joined the CBC, and his show, Q was one of the best interview shows out there.  He always seemed so nice and on the right side of so many issues.  Ugh.

But anyhow, this is about the book, not him (although the book is about him as well).  I only heard about the book when I was looking for news about his scandal (I had no idea he had written a book).  The book is called 1982 because it is all about his life in the year 1982, a formative year in his childhood. (more…)

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CV1_TNY_02_17_14Columbo_spine.inddSOUNDTRACK: THE ALLER VÆRSTE!-Materialtretthet (1980).

matThe Aller Værste! were a Norwegian new waves/punk band with elements of ska thrown in.  I only know of them because of this story, but I decided to check out some of their stuff since it is so relevant to the story.

This was their debut album, which has been ranked as the number 6 best Norwegian album of all time (by Morgenbladet, a Norwegian weekly newspaper).  The album opens with lounge piano and trombone before breaking into a ska-inflected “Du sklei meg så nær innpå livet.”  Lead singer Chris Erichsen sings in some unusually deep voices (some of which seem comical) in “Dødelige drifter.”  “Døgnflue” is a two-minute punk blast with a loud Farfisa organ running throughout.

“Bare du som passer på” has a distinctly Clash feel in the vocals.  “For dem betyr det lite” is powered by that organ sound, while “Bare en vanlig fyr” is very guitar heavy (and may have a different singer).  This is probably my favorite song on the album, there’s some great sections in it.

This sound of punk sensibility with a prominent organ (an vocals in Norwegian) really make The Aller Værste! stand out in 80s rock.  “Må ha deg” has some interesting backing vocals and sounds like a Clash inspired ska song (with more crazy vocals).  It has a slow instrumental section with a twangy guitar solo.

“Igjen” is 90 seconds of punk (but not very harsh punk).  The next few songs are all about 3 and a half minutes long.  “Bare ikke nok” has call and response vocals and an unexpected beat.  “Hong Kong” slows the sound down, with a prominent bass riff.  “De invalide” is an upbeat song with horns.  “Hekt” has some dissonant guitar over almost funky bass and a serious breakdown at the end.  “Discodrøv” has very fast drums as it opens, but it turns into a rollicking song with disco bass and big horns.

“Oppvekst” follows those horns with some fast (ska-like) guitars.  “Materialtretthet” opens with some great, wild bass and continues wit a very fast-paced song.  This is another favorite (it’s interesting that the title track is also one of the shorter songs on the record).  “Menneskelig svikt” sounds quite raw, with echoey distant guitars and vocals.  “Blank” is the final song on the album (reissues have added more tracks).  It has a distant echoey harmonica acting as a melancholy sound behind the vocals.

I hope that Karl Ove’s book somehow gets this disc in print, I’d like to listen to it on more than YouTube.

There’s a live version of the song mentioned at the end of the story here:

[READ: June 11, 2014] “Come Together”

I know that this is an excerpt form the third part of My Struggle which I plan to read in say six or eight months.  But I decided to read it anyway in part because I was intrigued by the cover picture, which is of a record sleeve with a man on a bicycle and the wheel is the inner label of an album.  That, coupled with the title “Come Together” made it pretty apparent that this would be about music.   And so it was.

As I said, this is excerpted from Karl Ove’s third book in the My Struggle series, which is called Boyhood.  I’m intrigued that this book is set in his teenage years since the first two were set much later–it actually felt like Book 2 caught us up to the present).  At any rate, this is one small section (chock full of details) about being young and being in love with music and with girls. (more…)

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mystrugglSOUNDTRACK: TRICKY-“Christiansands” (1996).

christiansandsThis book is set in Kristiansands, and so naturally this song was ringing through my head the whole while I was reading it.  I’ve known this song for ages, but had no idea that Chirstiansands was an actual place in Norway.

This song is dark and tense.  Over a slinky beat, a spare guitar riff introduces Tricky’s voice as he rasps (his voice is slightly modified to give him a weird echo).  And while he’s reciting his verses, the gorgeous voice of Martina Topley-Bird, repeats what he’s saying in a whispered voice until she sings out the chorus “I met a Christian in Christiansands.”

The verses repeat with Tricky emphasizing, “master your language and in the meantime I create my own.  It means we’ll manage.”

I honestly don’t know what the song is about, and it feels like it never properly ends–that riff, at once menacing and gripping never seems to conclude.  It’s a masterful track and hard to forget once you’ve heard it.

[READ: May 11, 2013] My Struggle Book One

I read an excerpt of Book Two from this series in Harper’s.  And despite the fact that nothing really happened in it, I was drawn in by the writing style.  This first novel is very similar in that not a lot happens but the voice is very captivating.  The translation is by Don Bartlett and it is fantastic–I can only assume the original Norwegian is just as compelling.  So, despite the fact that this autobiographical series contain six books (six!) and totals over 4,000 pages (how could this be if Book one is a mere 400?  Books 4-6 are over 1,000 pages each), I decided to give it a try.  (Incidentally, Book Two has just been translated into English this month).

This series has caused some controversy because it is given the same title as Hitler’s Mein Kampf (Min Kamp in Norwegian), and also because he says some pretty means stuff about people who are still alive (like his ex-wife).  Although there isn’t much of that in Book One.

death in the familyIndeed, Book One basically talks about two things–a New Year’s Eve party when Karl Ove was youngish and, as the bracketed title indicates, the death of his father.  (The title A Death in the Family is the same book as My Struggle Book One–from a different publisher.  It has a totally different cover but is the same translation.  I don’t quite get that).  But indeed, these two events take 430 pages to write about.

How is this possible?  Because Karl Ove writes about every single detail.  (I assume this why the books are considered novels, because there is no way he could remember so much detail about every event).  I’m going to quote a lengthy section from a New Yorker review (by James Wood) because he really captures the feeling of reading the book:

There is a flatness and a prolixity to the prose; the long sentences have about them an almost careless avant-gardism, with their conversational additions and splayed run-ons. The writer seems not to be selecting or shaping anything, or even pausing to draw breath….  There is something ceaselessly compelling about Knausgaard’s book: even when I was bored, I was interested. This striking readability has something to do with the unconventionality of “My Struggle.” It looks, at first sight, familiar enough: one of those highly personal modern or postmodern works, narrated by a writer, usually having the form if not the veracity of memoir and thus plotted somewhat accidentally, concerned with the writing of a book that turns out to be the text we are reading.  But there is also a simplicity, an openness, and an innocence in his relation to life, and thus in his relation to the reader. Where many contemporary writers would reflexively turn to irony, Knausgaard is intense and utterly honest, unafraid to voice universal anxieties, unafraid to appear naïve or awkward. Although his sentences are long and loose, they are not cutely or aimlessly digressive: truth is repeatedly being struck at, not chatted up.

That idea of being bored but interested is really right on–and it may sound like a bad thing, but it’s not.  You can read along thinking that there’s no way he is going to give so much unimportant detail.  But you get this description of drinking a cup of tea: (more…)

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daiper2SOUNDTRACK: “WEIRD AL” YANKOVIC-Even Worse (1988).

evenAfter the slump of Polka Party, Al took a little time off and then released Even Worse.  It features his second Michael Jackson parody and this one was destined to be huge!  The song and especially the video for “Fat” was amazing–a big budget extravaganza that really captured the original (amazingly).  The jokes are awful throughout the song (every fat cliche ever) but there’s something about singing them in a Michael Jackson style that is really funny).

“Stuck in a Closet with Vanna White” is an 80’s metal type song about nightmares   It’s pretty funny and it actually rocks pretty hard–and might fool those who don’t really listen to  the lyrics.  “This Song is Just Six Words Long” is a genius parody of the dreadful George Harrison song “I’ve Got My Mind Set on You” which really is just six words long.

“You Make Me” is a funny, weird song about the kinds of crazy things that being in love makes you do.  The song is frenetic with crazy sound effects.  Wikipedia says it is a style parody of Oingo Boingo which I never would have guessed, but I can certainly see it in retrospect.

“I Think I’m a Clone Now” is a pretty fun parody of that ubiquitous Tiffany song.  “Lasagna” is a parody of La Bamba and it starts with a very proper-sounding Italian accordion Italian solo.  The song turns into a preposterous over the top Eye-talian accented song about food.  “Melanie” is a song to a girl who won’t go out with him.  Perhaps because he is a stalker (and a weirdo!).  “Alimony” is a parody of “Mony Mony,” a song I particularly dislike, but I like Al’s parody which doesn’t exactly duplicate the sound of the original.

“Velvet Elvis” is in the style of The Police and you can certainly tell, but it doesn’t hit you over the head.  And yet when you hear all of the musical details, you realize just how genius the song is.  And I find that the more I listen to it the better it sounds. And the more you know The Police, the more you should be impressed by the musicianship of Al’s band.  “Twister” is a style parody of The Beastie Boys. It’s basically a commercial for the game and it works well in the style.  It wouldn’t work if it was longer than a minute, but for what it is, it works very well (and is funny to imagine the Beastie Boys doing it (especially circa 1987).  “Good Old Days” ends the disc as a sweet James Taylor-esque ballad about how things were so good way back when.  Of course it’s written from the point of view of a serial killer, so there is that.

This album showed Al really improving his musicianship and the quality of his parodies.  And more importantly, his originals (and the style parodies  were really taking off.  Al looked like he was on a major roll.  And then he made UHF.

[READ: March 13, 2013] Super Diaper Baby 2

As this sequel opens we see that professor Krupp was not amused by George and Harold’s first Super Diaper Baby comic book.  And he demands to know why all they can write about is poo.  Their answer, logically: what else is there?  But they take the Principal’s words to heart and decide to write about something else for the sequel.

And it has some surprisingly sensitive ideas in it.  As the proper story opens, we see Super Diaper Baby and Diaper Dog come to the rescue in a number of situations.  But they realize that Billy’s dad is feeling a little bummed because the people came to him for help first but the superheros took over.  It’s not easy being the father of  superhero.  They’re not sure what they can to help Billy’s dad.

Meanwhile, Dr Dilbert Dinkle, a mad scientist, has created the Liquidator 2000.  It will change anything into water.  And he demonstrates on the wall of a bank.  He explains the machine to his evil cat, Petey, who is bored by the doctor and does nothing but mock him.  (He is quiet evil).  Petey says it’s boring being the lookout for him.  But Dr Dinkle replies that that’s a Y.P. not an M.P (your problem not my problem).  Petey is not amused by this and continues to mock the Doctor’s breath.  Then he accidentally leans on the lever and turns the doctor into a puddle of water. (more…)

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booger1SOUNDTRACK: “WEIRD AL” YANKOVIC in 3-D (1984).

in3dAfter Al’s debut he came roaring back the next year with In 3-D a disc which opens with his first Michael Jackson parody “Eat It.”  The song was leaps and bounds above anything on the debut (even if there are still hand farts in it).  The song actually sounds like the original (if a little less “full” and a little goofier and on the whoo hoos).  But the solo by Rick Derringer rocks and the whole song works very well.  The rest of the album is a solid mix of originals and parodies

I didn’t really understand that “Midnight Star” was meant to parody the Weekly World News and such (I didn’t really know those papers at the time) but I thought the headlines were funny.  And yes its a lot of fun to sing a long to.  It’s always funny when Al parodies a song that is already rather stupid (My Sharona, or in this case Safety Dance), and “The Brady Bunch” opens with a general overview of stupid TV shows and then morphs into the The Bunch’s theme song to the music of “Safety Dance.”  “Gonna Buy Me  A Condo” is a reggae song which I never really got the joke of as a kid.  I mean, I knew it was reggae but I didn’t know enough about reggae to know that this song is kinda funny, about selling out for the mainstream life.  It’s not genius or anything but it’s kinda funny–in fact I think it’s funnier now than I ever did as a kid.

“Jeopardy” works perfectly as a parody.  It retains all of the weird sounds and “drama” of the original and yet it works entirely unto itself.  It’s definitely an early highlight.  This disc also introduces what would be come a staple on all his later albums:  “Polkas on 45” where he mashes together a string of songs into a polka beat.  They are always fun and clever.  This one is a mix of new wave and classic rock bands Devo, Deep Purple,  Berlin, The Beatles,  The Doors,  Iron Butterfly, Jimi Hendrix, Talking Heads, Foreigner, The Police,  The Clash,  The Rolling Stones,  and The Who.

“Mr Popeil” is another one that I didn’t full get until later (why did i like Al if I didn’t get any of the jokes?).  Ron Popeil is the king of the As Seen on TV  product (as listed in the song).  The thing that I really didn’t get was that this is was a parody of the B-52s–one of the first parodies he’d done that’s a parody of band but not really a song.  This is not a parody of Rock Lobster exactly, but it sounds quite a lot like it–and that’s a neat trick.

“King of Suede” is a parody of The Police–I never really liked it even though it does work as a parody–perhaps the original isn’t a very string song.    “That Boy Could Dance” is instantly forgettable, so much so that I had forgotten all about it.  “Theme from Rocky XIII” is a pretty funny parody of “The Eye of the Tiger.”  But it doesn’t prepare you for the genius that is “Nature Trail to Hell.”  An epic song about horror movies with the great line “if you lie the 6 o clock news you’ll love Nature Trail to Hell (in 3D).”  It’s over the top and very silly–the music escalates  with screams and strings and several different sections (although the solo section is a little anemic).  I can’t imagine what he would do with it today if he rerecorded it.

So In 3-D was a big jump in quality for “Weird Al” and was actually a pretty big hit (charting at #17).

[READ: February 22, 2013] Captain Underpants and the Big Bad Battle of the Bionic Booger Boy Part 2

Since it is 2013 and not 2003, I don’t have to wait several months for Part 2.  Huzzah!

The opening comic in this book not only gives all of the Captain Underpants background that it usually does, it also includes what happened in Part 1.  At the end of the book, the robotic booger monsters (Carl, Trixie and Frankenbooger) were on the attack.  They destroyed the Combine-O-Tron 2000 so it would not reverse the effects of the machine on Captain and Melvin.  But Sulu the hamster rescued them by hurling the boogers into space (with his mouth, ew).

The boys want to get things back to normal.  But Professor Krupp (who is in Melvin’s body) is going about his business getting everyone in trouble.  Except that since he looks like Melvin people are getting angry at him rather than listening to him.  This book features a wonderful letter swap from “Check out our school’s big internet website at http://www.jhes.com” to “We shake our big butts when we swim in the toilet.”

The boys give up on trying to fix the Combine-O-Tron and decide to use the Purple Potty Time Machine that is in the library and go back in time.  There’s a great sequence in which the librarian has banned every book but one and I love the posters that are up encouraging the banning of books–it’s another awesome dig at those who censor.  And the librarian is named Miss Singerbrains. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: OKX: A Tribute to Ok Computer (2010).

OK Computer is one of the best records of the 90s.  Every time I listen to it I hear something new and interesting.  So, why on earth would anyone want to cover the whole thing?  And how could you possibly do justice to this multi-layered masterpiece?

I can’t answer the first question, but the second question is more or less answered by this tribute which was orchestrated by Stereogum.

The answer is by stripping down the music to its bare essentials.  When I first listened to the songs I was really puzzled by how you could take a such a complex album and make Doveman’s version of “Airbag,” which is sort of drums and pianos.  Or gosh, where would you even begin to tackle “Paranoid Android?”  Well Slaraffenland create a bizarre symphonic version that excises many things–in fact half of the lyrics are missing–and yet keeps elements that touch on the original.  But it’s an interesting version of the song and shows  a bizarre sense of creativity.  And that is more or less what this tribute does–it makes new versions of these songs.

Mobius Band make a kind of Police-sounding version of “Subterranean Homesick Alien.”  Again, it radically changes the song, making it a fast and driving song (although I don’t care for the repeated “Uptights” and “Outsides” during the verses).

Vampire Weekend, one of the few bands that I actually knew in this collection (and whom I really like) do a very interesting, stripped down version of “Exit Music, for a Film.  The “film” they make is a haunted one, with eerie keyboards.  Again, it is clearly that song, but it sounds very different (and quite different from what Vampire Weekend usually sound like).

“Let Down” (by David Bazan’s Black Cloud) and “Karma Police” (by John Vanderslice) work on a similar principle: more vocals and less music.  The music is very stripped down, but the vocals harmonize interestingly.  Perhaps the only track that is more interesting than the original is “Fitter Happier” by Samson Delonga.  The original is a processed computer voice, but this version is a real person, intoning the directives in a fun, impassioned way.  There’s also good sound effects.

Cold War Kids take the riotous “Electioneering” and simplify it, with drums and vocals only to start.  It’s hard to listen to this song without the utter noise of the original.  “Climbing Up the Walls” is one of the more manic songs on this collection, with some interesting vocals from The Twilight Sad.

There are two versions of “No Surprises” in this collection.  Interestingly, they are both by women-fronted bands, and both treat the song as a very delicate ballad.  Both versions are rather successful.  Marissa Nadler’s version (the one included in sequence) is a little slower and more yearning, while Northern State’s version (which is listed as a B-Side) is a little fuller and I think better for it.  My Brightest Diamond cover “Lucky.”  They do an interesting orchestral version–very spooky.

Flash Hawk Parlor Ensemble (a side project of Chris Funk from The Decemberists) do a very weird electronic version of the song (with almost no lyrics).  It’s very processed and rather creepy (and the accompanying notes make it even more intriguing when you know what’s he doing).

The final B-side is “Polyethylene (Part 1 & 2),”  It’s a track from the Airbag single and it’s done by Chris Walla.  I don’t know this song very well (since it’s not on OK Computer), but it’s a weird one, that’s for sure.  This version is probably the most traditional sounding song of this collection: full guitars, normal sounding drums and only a slightly clipped singing voice (I don’t know what Walla normally sounds like).

So, In many ways this is a successful tribute album.  Nobody tries to duplicate the original and really no one tries to out-do it either.  These are all new versions taking aspects of the songs and running with them.  Obviously, I like the original better, but these are interesting covers.

[READ: November 5, 2011]  McSweeney’s #8

I had been reading all of the McSweeney’s issue starting from the beginning, but I had to take a breather.  I just resumed (and I have about ten left to go before I’ve read all of them).  This issue feels, retroactively like the final issue before McSweeney’s changed–one is tempted to say it has something to do with September 11th, but again, this is all retroactive speculation.  Of course, the introduction states that most of the work on this Issue was done between April and June of 2001, so  even though the publication date is 2002, it does stand as a pre 9/11 document.

But this issue is a wild creation–full of hoaxes and fakery and discussions of hoaxes and fakery but also with some seriousness thrown in–which makes for a fairly confusing issue and one that is rife with a kind of insider humor.

But there’s also a lot of non-fiction and interviews.  (The Believer’s first issue came out in March 2003, so it seems like maybe this was the last time they wanted to really inundate their books with anything other than fiction (Issue #9 has some non-fiction, but it’s by fiction writers).

This issue was also guest edited by Paul Maliszewski.  He offers a brief(ish) note to open the book, talking about his editing process and selection and about his black polydactyl cat.  Then he mentions finding a coupon in the phonebook for a painting class  which advertised “Learn to Paint Like the Old Masters” and he wonders which Old Masters people ask to be able to paint like–and there’s a fun little internal monologue about that.

The introduction then goes on to list the 100 stores that are the best places to find McSweeney’s.  There are many stores that I have heard of (I wonder what percentage still exist).  Sadly none were in New Jersey.

This issue also features lots of little cartoons from Marcel Dzama, of Canada. (more…)

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