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Archive for the ‘Punks’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: RHYE-Live at Massey Hall (March 5, 2018).

Rhye opens with the sweetest story about Massey Hall thus far–“My parents’ first date was at Massey Hall.”  He also says the first show he saw there was Sigur Rós, which must have been amazing.  (They played there 6 times, so I’m not sure which one).

He knew that he had to play there…somehow.  Setting a big goal makes you subconsciously have to do it.

Rhye is a Canadian R&B act created by Mike Milosh.  As such (the R&B, not the Canadian part), I don’t enjoy this show all that much.  Although Milosh has a wonderful high-pitched voice and a  second listen got me to come around to a lot of what he was doing.

Prior to Rhye, Milosh had a band called Milosh and they released two albums.  But these songs are form the two Rhye albums.

His band is made up of organic and electronic instruments.  He’s got horns and strings as well as synths.

The first song is “3 Days” and despite all of the live instruments the entire middle of the songs is overtaken by a weirdly cheesy keyboard solo (performed by Theresa Womack ).  The key board sound they chose is so unpleasant.   But I do like the way the solo ends in utter chaos.  During the solo Milosh plays a small drum kit (there is already a drummer, Zacahary Morillo) which he plays harder during the crescendo.   I really enjoy the crescendos of his songs.

“Waste” is a gentle song with cello from Claire Courchene and Milosh gently singing.  It’s quite a pretty melody and ends with a cool trombone solo (also from Claire Courchene!).

“Please” continues in the same mellow vein.  As with the other songs, the bass (from Itai Shapira) sounds great throughout.  The middle gets loud with a clap-along “give me all of that sugar cane, one more time.”

For “Count to Five” Milosh removes his jacket and gets back on the tiny snare and high hat.  This song is much funkier than the others.   By the middle of the song, the guitars (Patrick Bailey and Paul Pfisterer) kick in full–the keys soaring and the bowed upright bass roars along.  It’s a shame it doesn’t last longer, but it does act for a nice dramatic middle section.

“Song for You” opens with a quiet keyboard melody and gently strummed guitars.  The trombone comes back adding some nice washes of sound.  The gentle trilling of strings works really nicely along with Milosh’s quieter and quieter singing.  For the end of the song he steps away from the mic and up to the front row as he sings along.  This whole denouement goes on for about four minutes of intimacy.

“Taste” gets things moving again with a clap-along into and a funky bass line.  And indeed this turns out to be a dance song “I’m dancing with my eyes closed” and even throws in a disco bass line during the rather wailing guitar solo.  It’s my favorite song of the set.  The song is quite long and the dance part segues into a pretty piano based denouement for the show.

Rhye’s not my thing, but I did enjoy this show.

[READ: April 10, 2019] “Monster”

This story won The 1999 Esquire Fiction Competition.  I have no idea what the criteria were for that competition–previously unpublished? No idea, although she doesn’t seem to have written anything else that I can easily discern.

This story opens by telling us that a motorcycle is definitely in the town’s pond.  It has been there as long as anyone can remember.  But no one can remember whose it was.  And no one owns the pond.  So it just sits there.

Seventeen year old Dale Roberts would go almost daily to the pond with his little brother Davey,  Their father said there was no bike down there–it was more likely a monster.  This excited Dave more than the motorcycle.

Dale imagined that motorcycle under him.  He imagined riding fast, riding the hell away from here.  Dale’s father has a motorcycle and Dale is forbidden from touching it.  He said the only place Dale was going “was juvey hall if he didn’t straighten up and fly right.” (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: BIDINIBAND-The Carleton, Halifax, NS (February 13, 2015).

This is the most current solo show from anybody on the RheostaticsLive webpage.

Bidiniband’s third album came out in 2014 and this show chooses from it pretty heavily.

The show starts (Dave sounds either like he has a bit of a cold or he’s just worn out) with Dave saying “We’re going to start with a song about the cold, because it is.  Fucking snow, eh  Wow.”  “The Grey Wave” has great chord changes in the chorus.  It is a slow folkie song about cold and snow.  I like that he whispers “let’s go” before the buzzy but quiet solo.  The chorus comes out of that fairly rocking (a least for this set).

Dave continues, “I have some news.  Last night I was offered cocaine in the bathroom of the Alehouse.”  (Don, on drums, whispers, “in exchange for what?”).  Dave: “I think the guy just wanted to be my friend.  He was a bit of an asshole.  Cocaine is the one drug I think where when people offer it to you and when you say no, they apologize for having assumed you wanted any.”

Someone else notes: “I like that we’re the rock band from Toronto and we’re the ones shocked by all the drugs everyone is doing.  We were in BC and we were shocked at the big jug of MDMA being passed around.”

“Everyday Superstar” is a rocking, swinging song.  I love that the chorus is “I’m an animal out of control” but it’s kind of slow and mellow and at one point he says “its true.” And there’s this lyric: “When it’s hot, I’m gonna be Bon Scott you be Lita Ford.”  At the end of the song, someone asks, “Does everybody in the house know what bass face is?  You never know when Haddon is going to a picture of you with that face.”  Dave tells a story that Haddon Strong had a subscription to a magazine and it was addressed to Hardon Strong.

Introducing “My First Rock Concert” he says, “this is a song about music.  I bet you think it’s ‘Proud Mary’ but it’s not.  That was done last night.”  He sings it kind of whispering/spoken.   In the middle, Paul plays the riff to “Brown Eyed Girl” while Dave is singing “you’re either a mouse or Steven Page.”

“Take A Wild Ride” is s short song that segues at the same fast tempo into “The List” which is, again, almost spoken.  He throws in some other people who have made the list.  Jian Ghomeshi and Joel Plaskett (he was in Thrush Hermit) and at the end he says, “only kidding about Joel.”

“Big Men Go Fast On The Water” is a great-sounding song–in this version, the guitar riffs between verses sound like Boston.  They played this song last night at “Stolen from a Hockey Card” at the Spats Theater.  Dave was disappointed there were no spats there.  He says, “If I’ve over pattering, just tell me.”

We wrote this song “Bad Really Bad” about the Toronto Maple Leafs.  Three chords and the truth.

“In The Rock Hall” is about the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland from a poem written by Paul Quarrington  Once again he almost whispers, “C’mon Halifax, let’s rock.”   About “Ladies of Montreal,” he says, “I didn’t think there were enough songs in indie rock well, elderly indie rock, independent seniors, about beautiful women… boobs, you know.  It came in a dream.  I had to write it.”  Dave says it is sexist although I don’t exactly know what he’s saying with the French words.

Getting ready to play “The Motherland Part 1,” he asks, “Jerry you brought your flute, did you?  Oh fuck’s sake.  It’s okay. I think I told you last night but we were both pretty hammered.”  “The Fatherland” is “a heavy metal political song…political metal… politometal.”  It totally rocks and at the end Dave says “I don’t understand, the dancing girl left and we’re playing our most uptempo tunes.”  Before they complete the trilogy with “The Motherland Part 2” someone in the band asks, have you got the cocaine?–its pure MDMA.  Don rehashes the story about him throwing up at a party in the closet because of hot knives.  The middle of Part 2 really rocks.

“Last Of The Dead Wrong Things” is quieter for sure but the chorus and backing vocals are great.  Where there’s usually a drum solo there’s a kind of quiet freak out.

He says, “we’re going to do one more” (boo) …well how many more do you deserve?  Seventeen, eh, you have a very inflated view of yourself.”

“We’ll do ‘Fat,’ (a song “by Rheostatics band”), it has similar chord shapes don’t hold that against us.  Did I tell you we were playing this one?”  “Would it matter?” Let’s have a round of applause for Kevin Lacroix on the bass and Don Kerr on the drums.  Paul Linklater on guitar.

“We played with Corb Lund yesterday, from Alberta.  He’s very handsome and very accomplished.  “Really really handsome.”  Kevin: “I made out with him.”  Dave: “I made out with a guy who I thought was Corb but who was really the cleaning guy for the hotel….  Last night on this very stage he intoned, he evoked the name of Washboard Hank Fisher….  You’re not going are you, it’s going to be a good song.”  They have Lots of fun with “The Midnight Ride Of Red Dog Ray”  with over the top backing vocals.  And in the solo, we get Paul Linklater, one more time pickin’ and grinnin.’

Before the next song Dave says, “What are you guys laughing at?  I can see you in the mirror, you know.  This is my favorite club coz I can watch my rock moves, they’re top ranked.”  Don:  “That’s actually Dave’s mirror, he brings it to every club and says that.  It’s embarrassing.”  Dave mentions a famous story (doesn’t know who it’s about) about a heavy metal singer who was hammered and he saw the guy in the mirror and thought he was mocking him.  So he challenged him to a fight.  That’s rock n roll.”

“You got a weak bladder Jerry?  I’ve got a weak bladder, too.  I’ve peed myself twice during this set.”

This is an album by Bidiniband called The Motherland.  It’s a delicious record and I’d like you to buy it.  All of you.  It’s only $10.  Produced in Toronto in a studio  … by professionals.  Trained professional sounds.  Nothing like what you’re hearing tonight.

There’s a great buzzy bass sound on “Desert Island Poem” which is “a funny song about cannibalism.”  Dave gets pretty crazy at the end.

It segues into a wonderful surprise of them playing”Queer.”  And then a terrific version of “I Wanna Go To Yemen” with a fun wild sliding solo.

He wishes everyone a good night and they leave for a few seconds.  “If we take a break we probably won’t play anymore.  But that was break…  We probably should have taken a longer break and milked it more… but we didn’t.”

“Do people who come to lean along the bar are they into the music?”  Kevin: “Those are some of the best people in Halifax…but the creme d la creme starts right here.”

Jerry didn’t find his flute did he?  Dave asks for a hand for the opening act, Communism Music, look them up

The first encore is the hilariously offensive song “Take A Bath Hippie.”   Sample verses:  “This ain’t the 1960s / These are brand new modern times / everyone is equal and everyone is doing fine,”  “Your revolution ended the day Trudeau retired.  A land of Stephen Harper… we got the country we desired.”   He asks, “You guys got hippies out here?  Probably not. You got Buddhists.  That’s just as bad.  They lie around in their robes  eating flowers.  Shaving each other’s heads.  Sacrificing a goat here and there.”

 We’re all getting G&Ts?  Thank you people of the night.  Kevin: “Treating us all equally?  Like my parents.  My parents would bring us all something she wouldn’t bring me a G&T without bringing one to my sister.”  Dave: They were saints.

FYI, tomorrow, there is Hockey Day in Canada–a ton of games on and footage from the concert last night with Theoren Fleury, Rich Aucoin, Buck 65, Miranda Mulholland, and the ever handsome Corb “The Boner” Lund and The Barra MacNeils.  Dave did a short movie about John Brophy, that’s gonna be on.  “Fuck, it’s Saturday… just sit at home and watch hockey.  It’s what we are supposed to do.  If you don’t, Stephen Harper will have your ass.  But I’ll save you because I’m the hockey guardian.  No I’m not, I’m just tired.”

We’ll try to do one last song.  Have we done “Take a Bath Hippie?”  We’ll save it for next time.  I’m trying to not do a typical show closer tune.

Last gig Kevin played with this band he was playing drums.   I guess it didn’t go well because he’s been demoted to bass. (ha ha).  Dave: “You’ve got the best bass player joke about what happened to Gordie Johnson.”  Kevin: “oh no that’s just nasty.”  Dave “You’re right, its for later in the washroom when were doing coke.”

They play a surprising “Stolen Car.”  It’s so weird to hear Dave sing this song (which he wrote)–he whisper sings it (and can’t really hit the notes).  It segues into a folkie
“Legal Age Life -> Do You Wanna Dance -> Legal Age Life” with them singing, “Oh yeah music is fun.  Friends are fun.  Rock n roll is fun.  Sloppy and fun.”  They end with a Johnny Cash line get rhythm when you get the blues.

Who would have guessed that just seven months later Rheostatics would reunite?

[READ: November, December 2017 & January 2018] West End Phoenix

West End Phoenix is a newly created newspaper.  It was inspired by Dave Bidini.

I have loved just about all of the music that Bidini has created (with Rheostatics and Bigdiniband) and I have loved just about all of the books he has written.  So why wouldn’t I love a newspaper created by him?  Well, possibly because it serves a community that I do not live in and have very likely never visited.  That’s right, this is a community newspaper for a community that isn’t even in my country.

And it is terrific.

But why on earth would I want to read it?  Can I really like Bidini that much? (more…)

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silence THEE SILVER MT. ZION MEMORIAL ORCHESTRA & TRA-LA-LA BAND-13 Blues for Thirteen Moons [CST051] (2008).

330px-13_Blues_for_Thirteen_MoonsThis album opens with 12 tracks of a kind of feedbacking noise.  The total time for this is about a minute before track 13 begins.  And this album feels very different from the more acoustic Horses.  Whereas Horses felt acoustic and organic, this album is noisy and raucous and very electric.  After the 12 brief tracks there are four lengthy ones that comprise the album.

“1,000,000 Died to Make This Sound” starts with scratched notes and pizzicato strings.  The choir quietly begins singing the title “one million died to make this sound.”  Their voices grow louder and then at about 3 minutes in there’s a great bowed riff that introduces the more rocking section–a guitar “solo” and drums as that bass riff continues.  About mid way through the song it takes on a real rocking feel–the guitars rock out and the steady beat keeps up.  The song feels sloppy and intense–like they couldn’t wait to get this out.  I would describe the song as fun (except that it’s pretty bleak).  Efrim’s voice sounds a bit like Johnny Rotten or some other British punk) on this song and the punk style suits it well.  I really love the way the violin-swells make the riffs even bigger until about 9 minutes when the song shifts dramatically again and it feels like a Crazy Horse jam–big, sloppy, noisy guitars.  The song reaches a sort of natural stopping point as the music all fades away and the voices resume–I love the choir of voices at the end of the song (although perhaps Efrim’s voice could be a tad quieter?  Efrim’s voice seems to be a polarizing thing for fans of this band.  I’m even polarized about it on different songs–sometimes I think it’s too much, but other times I think it works well.

“13 Blues for Thirteen Moons” is 16 minutes long.  It begins with thumping drums and bass before Efrim’s voice comes chanting in.  The song is noisy and chaotic–lots of drums and cymbals and then the backing vocals start a call and response with the lead vocals.  The song continues in the same vein–with a refrain of “I Just Want Some Action” but then around 5 minutes a big distorted guitar plays a kind of concluding riff before a quieter guitar begins a new section with some quiet picking.  And its in this section that the album title is sung.  This quiet guitar section goes on for quite a while with Efrim shouting various parts–and then second voice joins him.  It’s unusual that the band will play the same riff through so much of a song, but it’s a good riff.  The whole band picks up the riff as it grows louder and more rocking.  The final two minutes are filled with feedback and quiet guitars with Efrim shouting syllable after syllable until it feedbacks to an end.  It’s a pretty intense song.

“Black Waters Blowed/Engine Broke Blues” opens in a much quieter way with slow revered guitars.  The vocals are also slow and accompanied by a lone cello.  But after a minute and a half chaos erupts in the song–feedback squalls and wild guitars accompanied by chaotic drumming make the song sound like it is tripping over itself , but it soon resolves to a quiet part like the intro–this time with two singers.  The song builds again, with the chaotic drums fighting for dominance over the string section.  But they both cede again to the quieter vocals once more.  The band then acts in concert building the song and allowing the vocals to continue.  And after a musical interlude, the vocals begin again over a quiet organ.  And this next section builds as strings accompany the louder vocals and the drum gets a pounding martial beat.  The final section, which appears to be the “Engine Broke Blues” is a repeated refrain of “Building Trainwrecks in the Setting Sun.”

The final song “BlindBlindBlind” also opens quietly, with a simple guitar motif.  As the vocals continue, a ringing guitar and a feedbacking guitar join the song (each in a different ear).  And then a violin adds to the melody.  About 4 minutes in, the melody shifts to an organ heavy section with the lead vocal followed by backing vocals.  A pizzicato section begins next.  What’s interesting is that the vocal melody hasn’t really changed this whole time (in this song Efrim again sounds a bit like a British punk rocker).  At around 7 minutes, the song turns towards the end, with strings and drums.  This end bit is my favorite part on the record, not only for the melody, but for the excellent backing chanting.  The backing vocal melody is very cool in itself–I love when they add the high notes–repeating the refrain “Some hearts are true” over and over.  A guitar solo interrupts the proceedings for a bit and then they resume singing all the way to the end.  It’s a very cathartic conclusion.

For this album, the lineup stayed the same although Eric Craven replaced Scott Levine Gilmore on drums.

Back in 2009, I wrote a post about this album.  It’s pretty brief and mostly talks about the singing.

[READ: March 1, 2016] The Silence of Our Friends

This was the final First Second book that I had in a huge stack that I took out from the library.  I had been putting this book off because I was nervous about reading it.  Nothing pretty is going to happen in a Civil Rights book and I had to prepare myself for it.  Obviously, the era is staggeringly important–even more so today with the kind of political rhetoric being shouted around.  That’s not why i didn’t want to read it.  I was afraid about how ugly this book might get.

But in fact, this book doesn’t go in that direction at all.  It is a factual story and while it looks at racism, it also shines a light of hope on race relations. It’s another excellent graphic novel from First Second [#10yearsof01].

What I did not know is that this story is based on actual events–the author’s father was a journalist in Texas during a serious Civil Rights confrontation.  And his father was able to help offset a travesty of justice.  He risked his career and even his own safety to do the right thing.

Set in Houston in 1968, we see some kids playing army in the yard.  This is also during Vietnam, so that’s probably not a very uncommon sight.  When the kids go inside, their mom is watching the Saigon execution on TV.  She is horrified and begins crying. The talk that night is of the atrocities of war. (more…)

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[ATTENDED: April 7, 2016] Gogol Bordello

2016-04-07 22.47.46It was two years ago that I saw Gogol Bordello and I put them on my list of bands to see again–their live show was that much fun.  So they played two nights at Union Transfer.  I chose the first night (Thursday rather than Friday) although I’m not exactly sure why.  I think it turned out to be the right choice because Friday night’s show sold out and if my show was intense, I can’t imagine what a sold out show is like.

This show was part of their tenth anniversary tour.  Not ten years since the band formed, but ten years since their first big album, Gypsy Punks (which was recorded by Steve Albini!).  And their plan was to play that entire album, and some other songs.  I only found out about this entire album thing a few days ago.  It turns out that it’s the GB album I don’t own (I don’t own their earlier ones either), so I had to quickly scramble to see what songs were on it.  Well, it turns out that most of those songs have been played live or appeared elsewhere, so I knew a pretty good amount of them.  Phew.

They came out to roars from the crowd and they launched right into the lead off track from the album.  “Sally” features some intense screaming from one of the women in the band, and one of the women came out and supplied it for the song.  And I knew that this set was going to be a lot of fun. (more…)

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academiaSOUNDTRACK: MARTIN TIELLI-“We didn’t even suspect that he was the poppy salesman.” (2001).

popptI wrote about this album once before, and while I made notes about it after listening to it again, I found out that they were pretty much exactly what I thought of the record four years ago.  So I’m going to simply repost the review here, but I’m going to add some new notes seamlessly intermingled.

Martin Tielli’s first solo disc is a proper solo release: it’s almost all him on acoustic guitar and his gorgeous alto voice.  I hadn’t listened to this disc in a while and I was delighted by how much of the disc I knew so well.

The opening track, “I’ll Never Tear Your Apart” is deceptively simple: beautiful harmonic’d guitars and his gentle voice.  There’s a great video to go with it here.  That is followed by the wonderful “My Sweet Relief” which sounds like a great Neil Young folk song: great verses an a strong chorus.  Lyrically, though, it is all Tielli.  “Double X” highlights Tielli’s beautiful acoustic guitar work.  It’s another great story song, this one about a destitute person hanging under a superstore with a K and an M.

“Voices in the Wilderness” is a simply beautiful song, a lovely guitar melody and Tielli’s high voice singing along.. I also love that the lyric  (mis)quotes Rush very nicely: “‘If you choose not to be free you still have made a choice,’ said a high and squeaky voice.”

“Farmer in the City” is the only track that Tielli didn’t write.  It’s a nearly 8-minute song by Scott Walker.  I had never listened to the original, but having now done so, I find the Walker version to be far superior.  Walker’s voice is so eccentric and wonderful.  So even though I love Martin’s voice, he just can’t compare to the original.   Also find Martin’s version to be just a little spare (the Walker version has lovely strings. Kevin Hearn plays celeste and Selina Martin plays wine glasses on the track.

It’s followed by the delightful “World in a Wall” which uses mice in the wall as a metaphor for a broken relationship (with wonderful detailed lines like: She’s like a mouse, I know she’s around It’s a gnawing sound. Leaves little brown poohs from a little pink bum.”

This is followed by “That’s How They Do It in Warsaw” which is the first really rocking song (it has bass and drums) and a voiceover in Polish by Kasia Zaton.

It’s coupled with a slightly less rocky but still loud track “How Can You Sleep?” (which makes another fun musical allusion, this time about Guided by Voices). It has a co-songwriting credit from Dave Bidini and has a kind of vocal allusion to Bob Dylan, although I doubt it is about him.

“She Said ‘We’re On Our Way Down’” is a song that I really want to enjoy more.  But It is so spare and Martin’s vocal line is so abstract, that I can never really get int it. But the guitar riff is really powerful and cool.  And yet, the song seems to eschew melody but then a gorgeous guitar or vocal line shines through and really sounds brilliant.  “From the Reel” is a beautiful, aching acoustic ballad.

The disc ends with the odd, seven minute “Wetbrain/Your War.”  The first part (wet brain) is kind of slow but it builds into a beautiful dark song about addiction.

This is a really beautiful album, although there are moments when I fell like Martin gets too delicate, it’s amazing to hear just what he can do when he’s on his own.

[READ: October 19, 2015] Academia Waltz

Way back a long time ago I was pretty excited to read all of the Bloom County reissue books.  Somehow I only got through Books 1 and 2, although I see now that five volumes were released in total.

Presumably at the end of that run, (which technically ended in 2011) comes this volume.  Academia Waltz is the strip that Breathed wrote back in college.  This book collects some (but apparently not all) of the strips.  It’s odd to not collect them all since there is also an art gallery with all kinds of original pieces (complete with edits and scribbled notes) that duplicate many of the earlier strips.

The first part collects pieces from Academia Waltz the 1979 collection.  The second part comes from Bowing Out, the 1980 Collection. (more…)

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freedomSOUNDTRACK: CRASH TEST DUMMIES-Jingle all the way… (2002).

ctdEven though the Crash Test Dummies are often seen as a joke band or a one hit wonder (which I guess they are), I’ve liked them for a while (their earlier stuff a lot more than their later stuff, admittedly).  But it seemed like they’d have a fun take on Christmas music.

And it starts out in a comical sort of way with Brad Robert’s deeper-than-ever voice reciting about his life in Los Angeles, where it is warm and sunny at Christmas time.  I like that he rhymes 24th with up north.  The spoken section is quite loud in the mix (it sounds like he is right in your ear).  Unfortunately, that is the case when he starts singing too–he is uncomfortably loud in the mix and it sounds like he is holding back because of it–he doesn’t sound great and his voice sounds more comical than interesting.  Which is a shame because the music (with cheesey keyboards) is great.

Roberts sings lead on about half of the songs.  Ellen Reid sings lead on the other half except for a couple where they split lead duties.

The rest of Robert’s songs include: “Jingle Bells” (which is certainly comical–it sounds like a chain gang song with the “Hey!s” sounding almost like a prison chant).  It’s weird and cool though (even if his voice is once again too loud in the mix).  “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” has his voice mixed much better–he seems to be really singing.  And this version–a loungey/jazzy rendition is much great fun.  “God King Wenceslas” sounds proper (with Reid’s close backing vocals).  It has a pretty penny whistle keeping the song going.

Ellen Reid has a great voice and I love hearing her sing.  But in the first two songs she sings lead on in this disc she sounds like she is singing too slowly.  “O Little Town of Bethlehem” especially sounds like the music is going to pass her up at any minute.  I also don’t like the country vibe of the song.  “In the Bleak Midwinter” is also (intentionally) slow, which I don’t like.  Perhaps I just don’t like this song (although I do think the melody is lovely).  “The Little Drummer Boy” is beautiful and Robert’s bass backing vocals are perfect.  “Silent Night” is done in a countryish style, but I like this version.  Although normally this song can make me cry, this version absolutely does not–too honky tonkish.

The final song, “The Huron Carol” is quite formal and proper–just Reid and a piano opening the song.  It sounds very holy, very pretty.  When Robert’s bass backing vocals come in, it adds more depth to the song.  And it’s a lovely way to end.

[READ: October 30, 2014] Freedom

I read this a couple months ago and then got so caught up in reading other things that I never got around to posting about it.  And that’s a bummer because I really liked the book a lot and I fear that I won’t remember everything I wanted to say about it.

I had read a couple of excerpts from the book in the New Yorker (quite some time ago).  They were helpful in grounding the story for me, but they didn’t prepare me for the breadth of the story.  It follows one family, the Berglunds, through several decades, focusing on each of them in great detail as they navigate through the Reagan, Bush, Clinton, Bush and a smidge of the Obama years.

The Berglunds are a liberal family.  They were among the first white families to move onto their urban street in St. Paul, Minnesota (after white flight to the burbs).  Patty is a charming (some say smug) homemaker and Walter is a lawyer (public defendant, naturally).  They have two kids, Jessica and Joey.  Patty dotes on Joey to an embarrassing degree (Joey is embarrassed by it, Jessica is infuriated by it and even Patty is kind of embarrassed when she really thinks about it).  At the same time she is rather neglectful of Jessica.  Naturally, Jessica becomes quite the success (loves reading, committed to the environment), while Joey rebels and finds all kinds of ways to disappoint them and make money.  (This isn’t a bad thing, but the family has plenty of money and Joey doesn’t need to (especially not the way he goes about it).  Not to mention Walter and Patty are not into the money for money’s sake thing.

The book opens that there was some “news” about Walter. He and Patty had moved to Washington DC two years earlier.  He clearly did something bad (we won’t find out until much later).  But that serves as an introduction to the Berglunds.  And then we go back to see them, years earlier, settling into St Paul. (more…)

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dk SOUNDTRACK: DEAD KENNEDYS-Demos (1978).

demosI didn’t know these demos existed until I saw them mentioned in this book.  They are obviously not meant for public consumption (Jello sounds like he’s straining on a few songs, like “Kill the Poor). But it’s impressive just how good the band sounds and how fully formed the ideas are.

I also enjoy how some of the songs are played a wee bit slower which changes the vibe of the lyrics somewhat (especially “California Uber Alles” and “Holiday in Cambodia”).

“Kepone Kid”s is a slightly different version of “Kepone Factory” (same basic music but different lyrics.)  “Forward to Death” is pretty much the same.  “California Uber Alles” is much slower and perhaps a a bt more menacing.  “Your Emotions” is pretty similar to the version I’m familiar with.  “Kill the Poor” is also pretty much the same

“Holiday in Cambodia” is the most drastically different.  In addition to being slower, Jello sings the first verses in a flat monotone.  At first I thought that perhaps he wasn’t giving his all, but then it seemed like a deliberate choice–which makes it seems somewhat more sinister a the end–where he goes nuts in the Pol Pot section (even crooning it at one point).

“Kidnap” is new to me–a kind of football chant about kidnapping someone (hard to get the actual lyrics from this demo).  “The Man with the Dogs” has that great creepy echoed guitar opening and sounds a lot like the final product (with Ray having some awesome fun with feedback and noise at the end).  “I Kill Children” is even more disturbing without the “God” quote at the beginning.

“Dreadlocks in the Suburbs” is a reggae song (!).  I can’t really make out the lyrics, but I’ll bet it’s funny.  “Rawhide” is a little sloppier than I’m used to, but it really gets to what they are trying to do with the cover.  “Mutations of Today” has a very strange guitar set up–intertwining guitar riffs (I assume the second is by 6025) and a very long intro before Jello sings (really oddly even for him) about Mexican monster babies.  It’s not a favorite and seems more improvised than anything.  “Cold Fish” is simple punk song.  I’m not quite sure what its’ about although it seems to be about killing someone (and seems more like a goof than a song).

“Forward to Death” appears again.  This later version is a bit more loud and full sounding.   And “Viva Las Vegas” ends this set with a fun romp of a cover–it sounds great and raw in this demo.

So it’s interesting to hear these early versions of their songs.  There’s a few insights (and I understand that the drummer Ted likes the slower versions of those two big hits) and a few surprises.

[READ: November 16, 2014] Dead Kennedys

When I was a young punk I loved the Dead Kennedys. Jello Biafra was THE MAN! And he still is, although I am less politically motivated as I used to be. I have a bunch of his spoken word albums and all of the DK’s output. I distinctly remember buying Frankenchrist on vinyl at the Flea Market in Elmwood Park and feeling nervous as he slowly put the album in a bag while my parents waited for me to be done.

I haven’t really thought about the DKs that much for a few years. I knew there was some kind of litigation about something, but I didn’t care all that much. Then I saw this book and I thought it would be a fun read. And it was.

I have no idea who Alex Ogg is, although he seems to have some kind of insider information about the band. And this book is comprised of quotes from the band members, recollections from others who were there and all kinds of photos.

As the subtitle says, this is the early years. So it really only covers the band’s formation to the recording and release of Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables.

Because Jello was the frontman and was very very outspoken, he was always the main focus of the band for me.  Although I knew the names of the other guys, I never really thought about East Bay Ray or Klaus Flouride or Ted or 6025 or D.H. Peligro.  And honestly I never really thought about the DKs as musicians—I knew I liked the music and that some of it was pretty weird, but I never really thought about it like I did with other bands that I wanted to play. (more…)

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