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Archive for the ‘The Stranglers’ Category

karl2SOUNDTRACK: BRASS BED-Tiny Desk Concert #339 (February 24, 2014).

brass bedI expected Brass Bed to be a goofy band because of the snapshot image of them singing into toy microphones.  I was initially disappointed by how normal they were, but I was soon won over by their interesting floating sound. They have this overall trippy underwater vibe (which seems to be accomplished by a bowed slide guitar). This is especially notable on “Yellow Bursts of Age” their best song in the set.  Later the guitar solo is echoey and also underwatery. It’s a very wild sound for a fairly simple song.

They tell a funny story about being from Louisiana and encountering Washington DC snow and (of course) not having an ice scraper (although they did have bag of sand).

“Cold Chicory” is an upbeat sounding song musically although it is kind of a bummer lyrically, but again there’s the great sound of the bow on the slide guitar and the echoey lead guitar. “Please Don’t Go” is a slow song—with more interesting effects from singing into that slide guitar.

The plastic mikes do come out in the last song “Have to be Fine” in which they sing into the echoey mikes for the intro (with very nice harmonies).  They sing the intro for about a minute, and then the slide guitar player takes lead vocals on this simple but pretty song (I don’t know any of their names).

At the end, the NPR folks gave them an honorary NPR ice scraper.

[READ: June 24, 2014] My Struggle Book Three

boyhoodI read an excerpt of Book Three just a few weeks ago.  And in the post about it I said I wouldn’t be reading this book for quite some time.  But then the book unexpectedly came across my desk and I couldn’t resist grabbing it while it was here.  So it appears that I will now have to wait well over a year before Book 4 (which is, I think about 1,000 pages–yipes).  I also see that Book Three is fully called “Boyhood Island” in Britain.

At the end of Book Two, Karl Ove was more or less caught up to the present–writing about what he was then up to (with a few years gap, of course).  So it makes sense that this book is about his childhood–showing us how he came to be the man he is.

The book, amusingly enough, starts off with memories that he cannot possibly remember, and he even says as much.  He is using memories of his parents and piecing together pictures from when he was an infant.  In 1970, (Karl Ove was born in 1968) his family moved to the island of Tromøy tromo(and check out the idyllic picture that Wikipedia had).  This is where Karl Ove spent his (rather traumatic) formative years.  Their island is small, so he knows everyone in his school, but there are some amenities around like the Fina station and the B-Max, and there’s lots of soccer to be played and bikes to be ridden.

Things seem normal at first–he runs and plays with his friends, there is ample green space to run around in, and they have boats to sail on.  And we meet two of Karl Ove’s earliest friends: Geir and Trond (so many people are named in the book, I’m very curious to know if any of them remember him).  In an early scene they chase the end of a rainbow looking for a pot of gold (and have a discussion about what happens to it when the rainbow vanishes (the boys even play a prank on Karl Ove that they actually found the pot,a dn while he doesn’t initially fall for it, he is compelled to go back and they tease him).

But the looming figure here and throughout the book is Karl Ove’s father, who, at least according to Karl Ove’s memory, is pretty much a monstrous dick.  He is demanding and exacting, unforgiving and seemingly uncaring.  He is either bipolar or a drunk, jumping from goofy to outright rage in a mater of seconds.  Karl Ove and his brother Yngve fear him unconditionally and, by the end of the book they both seem to hate him.  The scene where their dad tries and fails to teach Karl Ove to swim is heartbreaking, especially when the dad goes home and tells their mom right in front of him “He’s frightened of water.”  There are dozens of instances of fear and intimidation (often accompanied by a wrenching of Karl Ove’s ear).  Like when Karl Ove turns on the TV for his grandparents (he wasn’t allowed to touch the TV but he wanted to do something nice for them).  After a few minutes, the TV fizzed out and, naturally, he was blamed for it and sent to bed without supper (after some minor physical abuse). (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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