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Archive for the ‘Oulipo’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: KING GIZZARD AND THE LIZARD WIZARD-Oddments (2014).

After the psychedelia of the previous album, KGATLW released this varied collection of songs.  Indeed, none of the 12 songs sound anything like the others.  It’s hard to say if this is a collection of leftover songs or an attempt to make a varied record.  After all, they had released four and a half albums in three years.

Nothing is really more than 3 minutes except “Work This Time.”  Everything goes by so quickly it’s hard to know what to think.

“Alluda Majaka” opens this record with an instrumental that has every style of music thrown into it–funky bass, organ, Indian music, there’s also sound effects and clips from a movie or two and really loud drums.  It’s a crazy opening for a crazy album.

“Stressin'” slows things down with a falsetto vocal and a gentle groove including a warbly wild guitar solo.  It’s followed by “Vegemite,” a nonsensical ode to vegemite with a great beat and an easy to sing along chorus (sung by Ambrose, I believe): Veg-e-mite…I like.

“It’s Got Old” is slower simple rocker (complete with flute and handclaps) and somehow is followed by the trippy, synthy swirls of “Work This Time.”  It opens with a rumbling wild drum intro and then becomes really gentle with more soft falsetto vocals.

“ABCABcd” is 17 seconds of garage rock nonsense before the sweet rocking acoustic guitars of “Sleepwalker.”

“Hot Wax” sounds like an old(er) KG garage rock song.  There’s creepy vocals from Stu and a simple riff and a chorus that literally repeats chorus from “Surfin Safari” but with their own muffled, fuzzy garage rock chords.  “Crying” has an old soul sound with its simple three note melody.  It even has spoken word parts (the way you act, girl) and everything.

The end of the disc throws in even more craziness in the last five or so minutes.  “Pipe Dream” is a one minute instrumental that doesn’t really do anything except evoke a psychedelic moment.  It fades out just as a riff begins.  But it’s not the riff to “Homeless Man in Addidas” which is a quiet acoustic folk song that sounds an awful lot like “April She Will Come” by Simon & Garfunkel.  The disc ends with “Oddments,” a 25 second piece of silliness that’s like a commercial for the disc which even chants out the disc name.

Unlike their more cohesive albums, this is not a necessity exactly, but it is a fun opportunity to see just how much KGATLW can do in 30 minutes.

[READ: November 2018] Cluetopia

This is a brief history of the crossword puzzle as broken down by year.

David Astle (whose name must be a crossword answer) is a crossword maniac.  What makes this book especially interesting to me is that he is from Australia, which means he has a very different perspective on the crossword puzzle than someone like Will Shortz.  For there is a great American/British (and Australian) divide when it comes to crosswords.

Astle is a huge fan of British-style cryptic puzzles and he really delves into some of the best ones over the last century.

A neat summary of the different types of puzzles comes from Always Puzzling: (more…)

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5dails33bSOUNDTRACK: PUNCH BROTHERS-Tiny Desk Concert #427 (March 16, 2015).

punchtinyIt is Chris Thile’s birthday and Bob and the gang brought him a cake, and Chris seems so genuinely touched, it is adorable.

Bob explains that they usually don’t invite artists back more than once but Chris has been on Tiny Desk four times by having five different “groups.” (Chris Thile And Michael Daves; Yo-Yo Ma, Edgar Meyer, Chris Thile And Stuart Duncan; Nickel Creek and now Punch Brothers).

I had heard of Punch Brothers, but didn’t know them.  I instantly became a fan after watching Chris’ great mandolin playing and his familiar but always interesting voice. The rest of the brothers provide great harmonies and lots and lots of strings (violin, bass, banjo and guitar).  They play four songs, “My Oh My,” a great, fun original and a traditional song “Boll Weevil” which is a rollicking fast fun bluegrass song.  “Magnet” is a “fairly debauched song,” which is even more rollick and more fun.  And Chris’ visuals during the song are very funny.

The final song is longer and much slower.  “Julep” is a mellow song with nice harmonies and delicate playing.  This Tiny Desk Concert really showcases how diverse this band is and I’m really interested to hear more.

[READ: April 5, 2015] Five Dials 33 Part II

Five Dials Number 33 Part 1 was dedicated to women and part II, the more substantial of the two, continues that theme.  And it features illustrations by Melanie Amaral.

The issue opens with a Centenary Appreciation of Marguerite Duras, the ultimate writer of euphoria and despair.  I don’t know much about her although I am familiar with her titles The Lover and Hiroshima mon Amour.

There are brief accolades from SUSANA MEDINA; OLIVIA LAING; DEOBRAH LEVY; AGATA PYZIK; JOANNA WALSH; CARI LUNA; ZOE PILGER; SUZANNE JOINSON; MARINA WARNER and EMMA WILSON all of which makes me think I should stop reading Five Dials and read Duras. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: AUDIOSLAVE-Audioslave (2002).

Despite the pedigree of this band: Rage Against the Machine + Chris Cornell, I wasn’t all that interested in the band when they came out.  I was over Rage and was bored by Cornell’s solo stuff.  But then recently, someone donated a copy of this album to th elibrary, so I thought I’d see what all of the fuss was about (nine years ago).

There are times when this album is really superb.  The Rage guys get an amazingly full sound out of their instruments (the choruses of “Show Me How to Live” are so full).  And when it works, and Cornell’s amazing voice is in full force, this seems like a genius pairing.

But there’s a lot that feels kind of clunky here (and there’s some really bad choices of guitar solo work by Tom Morello–the weird noises that compriose he solo of “What You Are”–in Rage the noises were weird but exciting and inflammatory, these are just kind of dull.  Worse yet, is the, well, stupid solo in “Like a Stone”–boring and ponderous at the same time).  Although he redeems himself somewhat with the cool solo on the otherwise dull “Intuition”.

The biggest surpise comes in “Like a Stone” which is insanely catchy and mellow–something one assumed Rage didn’t know how to do).  Lyrically the song is pretty stupid (as are most of the songs), but the combination of melody and Cornell’s great vocal lines really raise this song high–shame about the solo).  Also, a song like “Shadow of the Sun” seems to highlight Cornell’s more mellow moments (and shows that the Rage guys can actually play that slow), and they all seem to be in synch.

And there are several songs that rock really hard, sounding at times like Rage and at time like Soundgarden, but working on all cylinders together.  “Cochise” and “Set It Off” are simply great riff rock songs.

But ten or so years later, and twenty years since Badmotorfinger (my favorite Soundgarden album), it’s nice to hear Cornell rocking again.  Although man, the record is too long!

[READ: June 1, 2011] Five Dials Number 8

For Issue Number 8, Five Dials went to Paris.  And so the whole issue is given over to French concerns and ideas.  For a magazine that didn’t need a change of pace, it’s a delightful change of pace.  The feel of the magazine is different, and there’s an air of vacation about it (which is not to suggest that it is slacking off in any way), and it feels really vibrant.

I don’t know a lot about France in general.  I mean, I’ve been there, and I keep up with things, but I am not a Francophile by any means. So a lot of this stuff was simply new to me, which is always fun.  What I especially liked about the issue was that they were not afraid to show some of France’s uglier sides as well–it’s not just a tourism booster.

It even starts out differently than the other issues. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: BARENAKED LADIES-Barenaked Ladies Are Me (2006) & Barenaked Ladies Are Men (2007).

Barenaked Ladies decided to forgo a major label altogether and just use Nettwerk as a distributor. They called their own self publishing “label” Desperation Records. [There was a fascinating article in Wired way back when this was happening, which made me want to get their CD, and it’s still online here.] The details are sketchy to me now, but it seemed like they thought they could make it on their own, and Nettwerk seemed pretty innovative as well. So, they released two albums in the span of about five months, and the results are below.

areme.jpgBarenaked Ladies Are Me. As I said, I was excited that BNL were basically doing the whole thing themselves, and wouldn’t have any label pressure to release the next big thing. So, I was a bit disappointed at first that the album stayed in the same “mature” vein as Everything to Everyone. There’s nothing crazily exciting on the CD except for the last song “Wind It Up,” which is the rockingest thing they’ve done in years.

The one song that really stuck out for me though, was “Bank Job” a really catchy Ed Robertson sung song about, of all things, a botched bank job.  It is funny without being silly, and it is so catchy! The song gets stuck in my head for days and days.

As for the rest of the record, once I started listening a few times, and now having listened to it again for the first time in a while, it’s a very solid outing. Again, “Bank Job” and “Wind It Up” are the two tracks that really stand out, but the rest are solid, well-crafted songs. And, here I pay my respects to Kevin Hearn and Jim Creeggan. Usually I don’t enjoy their songs as much, but (and maybe it’s because they don’t sing them themselves) “Sound of Your Voice” is an up tempo singalong, “Everything Had Changed” is a pretty, mellow ballad, and “Peterborough and the Kawarthas” is a pretty, slow song, that really gets into your brain. These are real highlights of the record. Oh and what is Peterborough and the Kawarthas? Why not see for yourself.

So, I give the BNL Are Me a big thumbs up.

aremen.jpgBarenaked Ladies Are Men. Five months after Are Me, came this follow up. The packaging and styling of the disc is very similar to the other one (as you can see by the covers). I wasn’t even sure that it was a new record. Well, it turns out that these are more songs from the same recording session. And, rather than releasing a double album, they did a Use Your Illusion I and II type of thing (there, how many reviews of BNL refer to GNR?)

The problem, such as it is, is twofold: there are really too many songs on this record. Are Me had 13, and this one has 16, which may just be 3 too many. The other is that several of the songs sound like other songs, both from Are Me and from Are Men. There are at least two songs that start out with the same vocal melody line as “Bank Job,” and they’re both sung by Ed Robertson. And the very first song, “Serendipity” sounds an awful lot like one of the songs on Are Me. Fortunately, the songs are catchy, and removed from Are Me, Are Men is probably just as strong a collection. But really 29 songs is a bit much.

The allmusic review suggests that this one is a bit more rocking and diverse than Are Me, and that’s true. The first 8 or 9 songs show a nice breadth of style and feeling. I still think the record runs a bit too long, but overall these two records together are a very good sign of future things from BNL.

And good luck to them and their Desperation “label.”

[READ: December 27, 2007] Ella Minnow Pea.

Sarah read this book over the summer, I think. I sounded great, so I put it in my Amazon “order later” cart, and promptly forgot about it. (This was before I used any kind of reasonable system for keeping track of books). Anyhow, I stumbled upon it while placing holiday orders, and decided to check it out. And, hurrah, our library had it! (more…)

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22.jpgSOUNDTRACK: ARCADE FIRE-Neon Bible (2007) [update].

neon.jpgI’ve decided my previous review was a little harsh. There are some tracks that do stand out. In fact, the first four tracks are really great. With “Intervention” being perhaps even better than “No Cars Go.” Then the ending is very solid. The middle tends to meander a bit, I’m afraid. And, I still stand by my comment that the highs and lows just aren’t here. The way to really notice this is to hear how great the highs and lows of “Intervention” and “No Cars Go” are. You really miss them on the rest of the album!

It is excellent to drive at night to, though.

[READ: April 2007] McSweeney’s 22.

Since I had been remiss in reading my McSweeney’s issues, I decided that I would start (more…)

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