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Archive for the ‘Tom Petty’ Category

harpers maySOUNDTRACK: SHEARWATER & SHARON VAN ETTEN-“Stop Dragging My Heart Around” (2013).

Shearwater-Sharon_RSDEverybody knows this song.  It was  way overplayed (overplayed enough that Weird Al parodied it in 1983).  So I can’t say I was all that excited to hear this cover.

What’s nice about it though is that if you’ve heard a song a million times, hearing a slightly (not radically) different version can reintroduce it to you in a new way.

It’s noisy and clunky in the music–giving a more folkie vibe.  And while Sharon sounds a bit like Stevie Nicks—she gives that same raspy quality to it–she’s definitely not trying to be Stevie.  The Shearwater vocalist does moderate mimic of Petty—enough to show that he knows what the original sounds like without duplicating it.  The whole feel has a kind of tossed off, less polished vibe that really works with the lyrics.

It turns out that this version is live and it was released on a  7″ single (but NPR gives it to us for free).  I like this version quite a bit although I do miss the “Ah ha has” and “Hey hey heys” in the bridge.

[READ: May 29, 2013] “The Gift”

This was a very strange little story.

In it, a woman wakes up after her house has flooded.  Not entirely, but there was certainly a few feet of water (she can see the residue marks).  What’s also strange is that she had not left her apartment for five days and she had just spent nearly $90 (the bulk of her grocery money) ordering a box of glacé apricots from Australia–in gold foil at extra cost–no less!

She feels guilty… but they just looked so good in the catalog.  Of course, so did the mosquito netting–but really what use had she for that?

She spent some time thinking about the Australians working in the glacé apricot factory–did they ever steal an apricot?  Were they hungry? Somehow she imagined them enshrouded in the mosquito netting.

She was awoken from her reverie by the water rushing around her living room–and the piglets grunting around in the mud. (more…)

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expedSOUNDTRACK: JAPANDROIDS-Celebration Rock (2012).

japan2So, the cover looks the same and there’s still only two of them and there are also 8 songs and it’s also 35 minutes long.  I guess the Japandroids second album is going to be more of the same.  Well, yes and no.

Their debut was a surprise success (which actually prevented them from breaking up) and they seem to take the successes of that album–big choruses and sing along sections to even more glorious heights.  The songs are still poppy and super catchy and they’ve removed some of the noise that was on the first album.  Of course at the heart of the album is still two guys playing kinda sloppy, poppy punk with loudly yelled lyrics–not exactly a formula for pop success, but not too far away from it either.

The disc is pretty unmistakably from the Japandroids–the duo is still loud and fast with distorted guitars and vocals.  But there is a lot more melody here.  The guitar riff that opens the album on “The Nights of Wine and Rose” is simple, but it sounds like a new edge for the band.  “Fire’s Highway” has a guitar sound not unlike Tom Petty until again the propulsive drums (and guitar) follows along.  But there’s a lot more space to breathe on this song–it takes some of the punk edge off (although again the chorus is fast) and those backing Oh ohs bring it to a catchy conclusion).  And check out the “Oh Yeah, Alright” section of  “Evils’s Sway,” another Tom Pettyish nod to major catchiness.

“For the Love of Ivy” is a cover and it very distinctly does not sound like a Japandroids song (which sounds obvious, and yet it’s fascinating that it fits with the album but doesn’t sound like anything else they’ve done).  It’s followed by “Adrealine Nightshift” a song that adds a kind of classic rock anthemic feel–a very different kind of anthemic feel than the other songs–to the mix.  “Younger Us” is a powerful rocker that gets more and more chaotic as it goes along–but it starts from such a poppy place that it’s a great ride to take.  “The House That Heaven Built” has a kind of Arcade Fire feel to it (ironic given the disparity of band members), but it’s got that same big vibe and lots of oh oh oh ohs.  The guitars start fast and don’t let up.

The final track, “Continuous Thunder” sounds like a slightly different band–the vocals are cleaner and the drums are more martial and less frenetic–although the guitar is still continuous and by the end the pace is simply breakneck.

So yes, this is a poppier version of their debut (and a successful one at that).  If one still cared about bands selling out one might suggest that that’s what’s happening here, but it’s still a far cry from a pop album.

[READ: February 11, 2013] The Expeditioners and the Treasure of Drowned Man’s Canyon

This is the first book in the McSweeney’s McMullens collection that is written for young adults.  And while the writing isn’t perfect (there were a number of sentences that I found a little awkward), the story is wonderful and very captivating.

The book is set in a parallel universe or a distant dystopian future.  The protagonists live in a borderline-wilderness state.  There is little money for food, there is no electricity and no modern technology.  But the big difference in this book is that there are places that have yet to be explored.  New worlds, new territories that are not on the map.  So it must be a new world?  No, because the protagonists venture to Philadelphia and Arizona.  So, perhaps this is set way in the future after the deterioration, when maps proved to be unreliable?  It’s never exactly explained, and does it really matter?  No, not really.

The protagonists are three kids: Zander, the oldest , M.K., the youngest and only girl who is a whiz with tools and tinkering and Kit, the middle child and narrator.  Kit is the smart one, able to read his father’s maps and make smart decisions based on given information.  Their mother is long gone (mothers always fair so poorly in adventure stories) and their father has recently disappeared.  He was on an exploratory mission and has been reported killed.

However, government officials did not approve of their father’s recent actions and had him stripped of his ranking as an explorer (could they be fabricating his death as well?  Or at least the cause of his death?  With the government acting in a very dictatorial fashion, anything is possible, especially since they have eyes everywhere.

The story gets underway when Kit, who is out buying food at the market  is grabbed by a tattooed man.  The man knows who Kit is and presses a book on him, saying his father wanted him to have it.  He tells Kit to be careful and runs off.  Kit puts the book in his backpack and heads home, with his mind reeling.

When he gets home, government officials are at their house.  The kids are lucky–since they are technically orphans, they should be removed from their home, but for some reason, the government has not taken them away yet.  But they ask if Kit or any of them has been approached by a man with a tattoo.  Kit lies, and the men eventually leave.

This sets in motion a series of events that lead the kids to realize that their father has half of a map of Drowned Man’s Canyon in Arizona.  The kids believe that their father wants them to find the treasure there.  But how could they possibly find it?  They can’t travel unnoticed, they have practically no money and they’re not even really sure what they are looking for.  Well, that is the story, now isn’t it? (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: KATHLEEN EDWARDS-Voyageur (2012).

This is Kathleen Edwards’ latest album.  And every time I listen to it, it gets better.  Her songwriting has reached amazing heights.  The lyrics are wonderful and the melodies are just outstanding.  “Empty Threat” (“I’m moving to America…it’s an empty threat), opens the disc with a bouncy acoustic guitar and, eventually, a full band.  The lyrics for “Chameleon/Comedian” are wonderful: the juxtaposition between these two ideas is just amazing—each verse gets more complex.  I would quote them, but the whole song is great.  And, amazingly, the “I don’t need a punchline” is easy to sing along to as well.  “Soft Place to Land” is a nice ballad—a full band that never gets overwhelmed by any of the instruments—the violin adds a nice texture as do the military drums mid way through.  “Change the Sheets” is one of my favorite songs of the year.  It starts out slow, with simple guitars and more great lyrics.  As it builds (of course it builds) it grows into an amazing bridge/chorus that just dares you not to tap your feet.

“House Full of Empty Rooms” is like a minor palate cleanser before “Mint.”  “Mint” opens like a classic 70s rock song (Bad Company or Tom Petty), but she brings in her unique voice and phrasings and changes the song into something very different.  But again, that chorus–how can you not sing along to the catchy/voice-breaking chorus after the minor key verses?  The tension builds wonderfully.  “Sidecars” is a fun poppy track (“You and I will be sidecars, we chase down the hard stuff”).

“Pink Champagne” is a five-minute piano ballad.  It’s more akin to her earlier more country songs.  It’s a wee bit long but never overstays itself.  It’s followed by “Going to Hell,” which features some great screaming guitars in the midst of more delicate singing.  “For the Record” closes the album with a seven minute slow burner.  It begins quietly, and builds and builds–never the ecstatic heights–but with a chorus that is as catchy as it is mournful.

I have this CD in my car and every time it comes up, i just can’t stop listening.

[READ: June 18,2012] I Dream of Zenia with the Bright Red Teeth

I received this limited (autographed!) chapbook from The Walrus when I re-subscribed recently.  That’s pretty cool.  It has been sitting around because I thought it was a much longer piece.  When I received the latest issue of The Walrus, and saw that the same story was in there, well, I realized that this was just a short story and could be polished off pretty quickly.  The issue of The Walrus also told me that this story is a kind of follow-up to The Robber Bride.

I have never read The Robber Bride (I like Atwood quite a lot and yet have never read her most iconic books!).  So I would never have known that this was a sequel (of sorts).  As I said, I don’t know The Robber Bride, (and hope to read it maybe this year).  I don’t know exactly how it ties to the novel (the first line of the Wikipedia entry tells me that the three main characters are the same), and given the tone of the story, I assume it is simply catching up on them some twenty-five years later.

In this story, Claris, Tony and Roz (who are all women, I didn’t realize that right away) are going for their weekly walk in the woods together (because it’s good for you and Roz hopes to increase their cellular autophagic rates).  Tony and Roz bought (from a shelter) a dog for Claris called Ouida.  Ouida is a wild terrier mix (who hops on Roz’s orange coat and leaves footprints).

It quickly becomes apparent that Claris is something of a hippy—organic, vegetarian, communing with spirits and whatnot.  Claris just had a dream about Zenia.  Zenia (who I assume is in The Robber Bride, because why wouldn’t she be), was a woman from their past.  She stole a man from each one of them—with varying outcomes in each woman’s case.  Zenia died about twenty years ago but she has come back, Claris believes, to tell her about Billy. (more…)

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abstinence.jpgSOUNDTRACK: PEARL JAM-Live at the Gorge 05/06 (2007).

gorge.jpgPROLOGUE: When Guns N’ Roses’ Appetite for Destruction came out, it galvanized the three friends I had with the most disparate musical tastes. I knew an indie rock guy, a metalhead, and an industrial/goth guy, and all three of them loved Appetite for Destruction. It was the only record that they all agreed on. I thought the same would happen with Pearl Jam’s Ten. But, the goth guy didn’t think it was dark and sleazy enough (like GnR) and the indie guy found it too commercial. And, actually, I only talk to one of the three of them these days anyhow.

I’m usually pretty cynical about celebrities. And, I know well enough that rock stars who say “We love you” and “Hello, Cleveland” are, at best, pandering to us. And yet, there are some who seem sincere enough to be believed.

Eddie Vedder is one of those sincere fellows. Ever since Pearl Jam took on Ticketmaster, they seemed to be using their fame and influence for the good of the common man (or at least the common fan). Since then they have donated to various charities, thrown their support behind a (in hindsight, bad) politician (Ralph Nader, a guy whose idealism I supported, but whose reality was less than ideal), and tried their best to muckrake against the current administration. So, when he thanks the audience for letting him share music with them, when he says he’s genuinely glad to be there, and when he acts moved by the show, it all seems genuine. Again, maybe he’s a good actor (although I just watched Singles, for the first time in many years, and Eddie and some of the other PJ guys are in it, and he’s not exactly a scene stealer) but I believe him.

This is all a long set-up to review this recent live collection. It’s a collection of three shows: one set is 3 CDs the other two are 2 CDs each. The first show is from 2005 and the second and third are their tour-ending shows of 2006. All of these shows were performed at The Gorge amphitheater outside of Seattle. From the talking that Eddie does, the Gorge sounds like a great place to see a show, and it sounds like there is camping on the grounds. I only wish they included photos of the show, as I’d love to see it.

The 2005 show starts out with a disc of acoustic songs. The band appears to be in unplugged mode, chilling out before letting ‘er rip in the second half of the show. As with most of their shows, the set list is long and varied. Their shows often clock in at over two hours, with a break at about the midway point. There is a decent selection of tracks from throughout their career, as well as a couple of covers. The notable aspect of this show is that Tom Petty is performing on the following night, and Vedder vows to keep him awake all night. He gets the crowd to chant “Hello Tom, Come down, Tom,” which, sadly Tom never does. But Vedder does a rendition of “I Won’t Back Down.”

The two 2006 shows are back to back two nights in a row. It sounds as if people camped out overnight. And there is some good-natured banter between Vedder and the crowd. What is especially interesting to me about this two-night event is that they play 61 songs over the course of the two nights and the only ones they repeat are “Alive,” “Corduroy,” “Even Flow,” “Given to Fly,” “Life Wasted,” “Severed Hand,” “World Wide Suicide,” and “Yellow Ledbetter.” It’s quite apparent that the band knew there would be lots of folks for both shows and they designed a nicely diverse set list for both nights.

There’s also an interesting shout out to the previous year’s show. On the last night he mentions the Tom Petty taunting from last year, and a large portion of the audience begins the “Hello, Tom. Come down, Tom.” chant.

If you’ve been a big fan of Pearl Jam (as I am) you probably have this. But if you’ve been a mild fan of Pearl Jam over the years, this is a great set to get. You’ll get all of the hits, you’ll get a bunch of songs you’re unfamiliar with, and you’ll get a band playing at its peak. The live renditions of their songs are typically fast and furious. There’s also a lot of room for improvisation. And, it’s a chance to see the lighter side of such a “serious” band. A lot of people used to like Pearl Jam but feel their works since Ten have gone steadily downhill. I disagree, but I think that’s because listening to the live versions of the songs makes you appreciate them even more. So, check it out, it’s well worth it.

[READ: January 8, 2008] The Abstinence Teacher.

My first book finished in 2008! And, I can only hope that this is a good portent for future books this year. Wow, this book was great!

(more…)

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gum.jpgSOUNDTRACK: TOM PETTY AND THE HEARTBREAKERS-Anthology: Through the Years (2000).

petty.jpgTo me, Tom Petty suffers more than anyone else from egregious overexposure. I’m not sure if it’s just me who feels that way, but in my experience, “Free Fallin'” was utterly inescapable for what seemed like an eternity. And, geez, his mug was all over MTV when that album came out. It got so bad that I simply decided I was done with him.

Well, as it turns out, Sarah is a fan, so I decided to get her a greatest hits for her birthday. We’ve listened to it a few times, and it made me remember that, hey! I used to like this guy. In fact, disc one of this set is pretty darn great. There are about three songs that I didn’t recognize immediately, but otherwise I was singing along to all of his old classics.

There’s a great memory from Fast Times at Ridgemont High with “American Girl,” And there’s some songs that I forgot about like “Breakdown” and “Refugee.” However, I feel that the Tom Petty/Stevie Nicks duet “Stop Dragging My Heart Around” was the original overexposure video on MTV. I can’t decide how many times I saw that video when I was a young’un watching MTV in its nascent years. It was so ubiquitous that even Weird Al made a parody of it on his first album called “Stop Dragging My Car Around” (which was not terribly inspired, really).

Through much of the post-Dylan years people were described as the “next Dylan.” What really struck me, re-listening to Tom Petty is that, he seems to have misunderstood that they were speaking about his lyrics, not his voice. It’s bizarre how Dylanesque he sounds, especially on “Breakdown,” If not Dylanesque necessarily, he is at least very idiosyncratic in a way that Dylan made commercial.

Even the second disc (the overexposed era) holds up pretty well, and now, seventeen (!) years later, I can sing along to “Free Fallin'” without cringing. See that, Tom, all I needed was a decade away and now we can hang out again.

[READ: December 10, 2007] The Gum Thief.

An unusual title, The Gum Thief.

I’ve enjoyed Coupland’s work for many years now (see the JPod review), and I’m always excited to see a new book come out. I opted for the autographed box set from amazon.ca which actually turned out be pretty cheap at the time I ordered it. The box set contains Roger Thorpe’s book Glove Pond, (which will make sense in a few paragraphs) which I will be reviewing shortly.

[DIGRESSION]: Incidentally, amazon.ca is THE source for imported items from England. Most of the time, the imports on amazon.com are really expensive. But the retail price on amazon.ca for British imports is usually quite good. (This was even more true before the looney reached parity with our dollar…the exchange rate for awhile was practically half off list price!)

Back to The Gum Thief.

This is what’s called an epistolary novel, meaning it is written as a series of letters. This book varies the premise somewhat by having the letters written to each other in a diary. But it is not a series of diary entries; rather, Bethany discovers Roger’s diary and begins writing responses to his entries in it. It’s a very interesting conceit, and it plays very nicely with these characters, both of whom are completely antisocial. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Roger is an alcoholic, divorced father whose life has been generally going downhill; he more or less bottomed out with a job at a Vancouver Staples. Bethany is a post-high school goth whose life is stalling while she works at the same Vancouver Staples. Roger begins the book with some diary exercises in which he tries to get into the mind of Bethany. Bethany discovers the entries and is appalled and flattered at the same time. She writes back to Roger, telling him what he got right, but also emphatically insisting that they never acknowledge each other outside of the diary.

What Roger’s diary also contains is the beginning of his novel: Glove Pond. The box set I bought contains Glove Pond as a separate item as well, and I’ll review that next. But for now, I can say that Glove Pond is basically Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf, in tone, mannerism and setup. [I rather hope this will get people to read the great Albee play]. It is about an older, long-married couple (he is a writer) who inadvertently invite a young, newly-married couple (he is a writer) over for dinner. The angry resentment between youth and age, success and failure and so many other things brews up into a heady mixture of Scotch and insults.

What makes the story even more meta- is that Kyle, the young writer in Glove Pond is writing his new novel, about an old, drunken man who works in an office superstore.

Surrounding the chapters of Glove Pond are the actual letters of the story. Primarily they are between Roger and Bethany, but they also include some correspondence with Bethany’s mom (whom Roger knew in high school), and, in a break from the “in Roger’s diary” aspect, some letters between other co-workers (who also discover Glove Pond, and do not share Bethany’s (genuine) enthusiasm for it).

Aside from all of the intricacies of the make-up of the story, what about the narrative? Well, the story is basically about a young girl–whose life had been full of close people dying–connecting to a frankly pathetic father-figure (but her own father is also out of the picture, so it’s understandable). It is at times very sad, especially as you watch these characters shut themselves down internally and externally.

Ultimately, Bethany tries to make a bold move outside of Staples, a risk that she didn’t think she was capable of. And Roger sets his sights on accomplishing at least one thing in his life, namely, finishing a book. You watch these characters slowly come alive until the last chapter, in which the meta- world comes crashing in on Roger and makes you rethink a lot of what you have just read.

As with most Coupland, the pop culture references, and corporate skewering, are fast and furious. And, as with most Coupland, just when you think the novel is going to be light and funny, weighty themes are opened and genuine sadness falls over these seemingly frozen people. What I think is particularly cool about this book is the way he is able to take a somewhat detached literary style like the epistolary novel and imbue some real passion into these shells of human beings. Obviously, diary entries tend to reveal impassioned thoughts by the writer, but in a series of letters written to two people who are not wooing each other, one wouldn’t expect high emotion. And yet it comes out, and it comes across very naturally.

And, as it turns out, stealing gum does play a pretty big role in both the novel and the novel within the novel, so the title does make sense.

Oh, and there’s also some cool videos available from Random House Canada. They are promotional shorts for The Gum Thief, and they’re available at Coupland’s My Space page as well as on You Tube, which is funny given the You Tube references in the book.

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