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Archive for the ‘Batman’ Category

wwSOUNDTRACK: PETER WOLF CRIER-Tiny Desk Concert #74 (August 17, 2010).

pwcWhen I saw the name of this band, I assumed it was Peter Wolf, the former lead singer of the J. Giels Band.  But indeed it is not (confusing much?).  Rather, it is a singer named Peter Paisano and his drummer Brian Moen.

They play three songs.  Paisano has a good voice.  But to me the highlight of this show is the drums.  Moen uses this really heavy-looking set of “brushes” that bring a deep resonance to his drums.

“Untitled 101” is short (all the songs are short with no guitar solos).  I like the breakdown when it’s just the drums.  “Saturday Night” he dedicates specifically to Bob Boilen.  It is a bit more dramatic in delivery.  The end has some nice hummed parts, but I find the sounds that Peter makes to be unsettling (more of a grunt than a hum), especially compared to the normal hums of Moen.  “Crutch & Cane” has a bit more of that unusual pronunciation, which I think I find more upsetting than interesting.

This was a short set, but I’m not likely to track down more from them.

[READ: May 26, 2015] Sensation Comics featuring Wonder Woman

I was never a big fan of Wonder Woman when I was growing up (I was a boy after all).  I never watched the show, really.  As it turns out, I had no idea about Wonder Woman’s origin story, which is totally fascinating (I also don’t know if it was ever introduced in the TV show).  Turns out that Wonder Woman’s real name is Diana.  She was a Princess on the Amazonian island of Paradise.  An island where only women lived.  And, most interestingly, she was made from clay when her mother could not bear a child of her own. Whoa!

So this book is a collection of short stories by different artists with very different styles. (more…)

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staticSOUNDTRACK: YES-Fragile (1971).

fragileComing out just nine months (!) after The Yes Album, Fragile (which included new keyboardist Rick Wakeman) was a brilliant classic rock album that (depending on how much you like Wakeman) eclipses The Yes Album in greatness.

This was the first Yes album with a cover by Roger Dean (not up to his usual style for the band and prior to his creating their iconic logo).

Some might argue that Fragile is a better album than The Yes Album, and I might be one of them, but it’s really close (and depends on the day).  Fragile has bigger hits in “Roundabaout” and “Long Distance Runaround” (at only 3 minutes an actual radio song!), but it also has a number of weird little “solo” items.

“Roundabout is a staple in classic rock—not bad for an 8 minute song.  The opening notes are iconic, and then the bass comes in, big and round and heavy.  And there’s so many little fiddly bits-the keys, the guitars, even the bass, that it’s not even that clear to me how they did it all.   But there’s also the “in and around the lake” part that has such simple guitars and is so catchy.  It’s also the first time you really get to hear new keyboardist Rick Wakeman who is insanely talented and full of all kinds of interesting notions (and evidently a rack of 12 keyboards). And sure, the end of the song is mostly a chance for everyone to show off their skills and that’s pretty cool.  The final section has some great harmonies ala Crosby, Stills and Nash.

According to Bruford: “I said—brightly—’Why don’t we do some individual things, whereby we all use the group for our own musical fantasy? I’ll be the director, conductor, and maestro for the day, then you do your track, and so on.’  And that’s why there are five tiny pieces of songs scattered between the longer songs.  The first one is by Wakeman and is called “Cans and Brahms” a piano and organ piece.  Wakeman later described the track as “dreadful” as contractual problems with A&M Records prevented him from writing a composition of his own.  The following solo piece is by John Anderson and has multiple vocal lines overlapping over a simple musical base.  I never knew the lines were “Tell the Moon dog, tell the March hare.”  I love that it ends with footsteps running away and a door slamming—to what?

“South Side of the Sky” returns to a proper 8 minute song. It opens with a cool drum fill and some great guitar lines (all with Squire’s rumbling bass underneath–or actually in front).  After about two minutes there’s some interesting piano sections, including an almost spooky solo section of high notes.  There’s a pretty section of “la las” after this until the song comes bouncing back to the noisy part nearly 6 minutes in.

“Five Per Cent for Nothing” is a Bruford composition.  It’s staccato and all over the place and was, evidently his first composition (all 38 seconds of it).  Then comes “Long Distance Runaround,” another classic with an iconic guitar intro.  There’s some more unusual guitar lines (and a lot of open space) in this song.   It segues (and when I grew up the radio station often played both parts) into the next track written by Squire: “The Fish (Schindleria Praematurus).”  Even though it is Squire’s it does not have a lot of crazy bass in it, well, until the end when he gets to really fly.  This isn’t really a solo song since the rest of the band plays along.   The final solo piece is Howe’s flamenco guitar piece “Mood for a Day” which is lovely.

And then comes “Heart of the Sunrise” one of my favorite Yes songs.  It has one of the most amazing  introductions to a song.  It’s incredibly fast and intense riffage followed by a very slow section that has complex drumming an interesting bassline and keyboards.  It’s great how Squire and Bruford keep the steady beat amidst all the flourish.  The chaos goes on for nearly 3 and a half minutes before it totally mellows out to a delicate section sung by Anderson.  Then as you settle into this more mellow (and very pretty) section, around 7 minutes in we get a wholly new section of some wild keyboard.  And then some interspersing of weird keyboard and that awesome opening riff.  And although it sounds like it’s going to fade out, there’s more to come—another delicate section with repeats of the great guitar riff (not the opening heavy riff, the other one).  The song slowly builds to a climactic section that then switches back to the wild riff for a quick end.  It’s exhilarating  But that’s not exactly the end.

The disc ends with the door opening again and “We Have Heaven” reprising for a few seconds before fading out.

It’s outstanding and is unquestionably a classic.

Since almost every Yes album had different personnel, I’m going to keep a running tally here.  Our second change occurs with this their fourth album:

Chris Squire-bass
John Anderson-vocals
Bill Bruford-drums
Rick Wakeman (#2 replaced Tony Kaye)-keyboards
Steve Howe (#2)-guitar

[READ: January 15, 2015] Static Shock: Trial by Fire

In the old DC vs Marvel war I have clearly become a Marvel guy.  In fact, when asked to name some DC guys, after Superman and Batman I fall flat.  And, unlike the Marvel Universe, Superman and Batman are never really seen together.  Let’s say that Marvel has done an awesome job at marketing.

So here’s a DC book, and I was pleased to give it a try. I was also pleased to see that the superhero is black–an all too rare experience in graphic novels.

The back of the book says that Static Shock is the “hot new animated series on the Kids WB!”  I wasn’t sure if Kids WB was still on, but that’s irrelevant because this book was published in 2000 (! why are we getting it now?).  The book was printed in 1993, so nothing in the introduction (which talks about the Kids WB ) is at all relevant.

Not to mention that the TV show was clearly adapted from the comic to make a much more kid friendly show.  I didn’t realize that when my son grabbed this and started reading it.  He put it down after a few pages.  I don’t know if he got to the point where the boys in high school call each other fag and queer or the black kids are called monkey, or what.  I had to apologize to him and he declared it “weird” so I don’t know what he actually thought.

Suffice it to say that this book is not for kids.  It is a harsh look at racism in high school and the opportunity for a black nerd (who is into comics) to actually fight back against he white playas (who are way too into the hip hop scene). (more…)

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burnsSOUNDTRACK: ADAM ARCURAGI-Tiny Desk Concert #42 (January 10, 2010).

adamI had never heard of Arcuragi before this show and in the five years since I haven’t heard of him elsewhere.  Bob introduces the show by raving about Adam’s voice.

But I don’t really think there’s anything special about his voice.  It’s a good decent string voice, but nothing notably unique about it or anything.  So it was a bit of a set up for a let down.  Which is  shame because Arcuragi and his mates sing three delightful songs.

“She Comes to Me” features acoustic and electric guitars and mandolin.  “Steal People’s Medicine” uses the electric guitar a a slide guitar, which sounds remarkably different from the first song (no mandolin either).  “Bottom of the River” which switches the mandolin for a tambourine is the most fun of the three songs.  It’s a bit more upbeat, there’s some good harmonies and the crowd even starts clapping along.  And Adam does wail a few notes showing that his voice is better than I suggested.

Watch it here.

[READ: April 7, 2015] Handbook of World Domination

I was unaware of The Vault of Simpsonology Series.  This is the third book in the series, the other two being from Homer and Bart with future books from Lisa, Grandpa and Bartman.  I’m also not exactly sure why our library received this book,   But it’s a fun little addition to all things Simpson.

The book is 64 pages about 6 inches square and it is chock full of insights into Mr Burns.

On the first page is an envelope with a poster.  Given the incompleteness of the back, I assume that all the books have similar posters with which you would make one giant poster.

The introduction (by Mr Burns) explains that he just wants to entertain with this volume–not to give away secrets.   So we get Burns’ bucket list (#29–keep a meal down completely; 17- Buy the EPA and rename it the Environment Profit Administration) and Secrets to Burns’ long life (a bizarre medical contraption involving syringes, a small devil and a drooling baby). (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: WOODEN SHJIPS-Live on KEXP, August 7, 2011 (2011).

while ago I reviewed an Earth concert and while I felt like I should have liked them, I didn’t like them as much as I anticipated.  Well, Wooden Shjips (no idea what’s up with that “j”) sounds like I would have liked Earth to sound–a bit faster and yet still ponderous   They play with really distorted guitars and heavy bass, but their songs aren’t terribly fast or anything.   The thing that sets them apart is the keyboard–loud droney keyboards that take a kind of lead role and add a weird sort of retro feel to the heavy proceedings.  Indeed, even the voice is fuzzed out and echoey, making the keyboard one of the few clean sounds in the show.

As befits droney metal bands, all of these songs are long.  The first two “Lazy Bones” and “Black Smoke Rise” are over four minutes while the final two “Home” and “Flight” are over 5 and nearly 7 minutes respectively.

Lazy Bones is dominated by a spacey keyboard riff and vocals that are echoed almost into oblivion, reminding me of a kind of mid 70s Black Sabbath (if Ozzy’s voice was deeper).  The riffs on “Home” and Flight” sounds like we’re in for some real classic rock, but again that droney keyboard (which also sounds retro but in a different way) mixes with the heavy distorted guitar in a new way.  I’m intrigued to hear more from them.

Rock out here.

[READ: November 15, 2012] “Batman and Robin Have an Altercation”

I’m always surprised to see a Stephen King story in say Harper’s or the New Yorker.  Not because he’s not good, but because he’s such a famous genre writer (and he certainly doesn’t need the exposure).   I don’t even think of him as a short story writer, really.  I wonder how he gets his stories in these magazines?  Does he get vetted?

Well, this story was really enjoyable and if I hadn’t known it was Stephen King, I never would have guessed.

The first 3/5 of the story are about Dougie Sanderson and his Pop.  Pop is in an old age home, suffering from Alzheimer’s. They have a routine, which is easy enough for Dougie  to do, even if to his father it’s new every time.  Dougie visits every week, they go Applebee’s, and they come home.  This depends, of course, on how good Pop is doing that day–as long as he’s fairly lucid and isn’t cursing out everyone in sight.

What I appreciated about this story was that Pop has moments of incredible lucidity that can be immediately followed by moments of utter confusion   Like when Pop calls him Reggie (Dougie’s brother who died forty-five years ago in a car accident .  But the moments of lucidity are nice for Dougie–although they’re not encouraging exactly, because most days he guiltily admits that he wishes things would end sooner rather than later.

The Batman and Robin of the title refer to a Halloween costume that Dougie ad Pop wore when Dougie was little.  Indeed, Pop remembers it very well, “Halloween, you dummy.  You were eight, so it was 1959.  You were born in ’51.”  Pop even adds a detail that Dougie didn’t remember: that Norma Forester looked at Dougie and said “trick or treat” and then looked at Pop and said “trick or drink” and offered him a bottle of Shiner’s.  Dougie is silent–amazed at the memory.  Then Pop says “she was the best lovin’ I ever had.”  Dougie doesn’t know whether to believe this or not thinking, “They hurt you….  They may not mean to, but they do….  There’s no governor on them, no way of separating the stuff that’s okay to talk about from the stuff that isn’t.” (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: MOGWAI-Ten Rapid (1997).

The release of this disc hot on the heels of Young Team rather confused me, especially when trying to keep track of which discs were “real” and which ones were compilations.  This one is a compilation.  It’s subtitled: (Collected Recordings 1996–1997).  And the fact that it has ten songs on it tells you just how much they released in those two years.  (It appears that they released 4 or 5 singles, although all the songs don’t seem to appear on Ten Rapid, and there seems to be a song or two unaccounted for.  Wikipedia also suggests that some of the songs were re-recorded for Ten Rapid.  Gosh, what’s a completist to do?).  And given all that they released back then, it’s also a surprise at how short this collection is  (just over 30 minutes).

The amazing thing is how much the disc sounds like a complete recording and not a collection of singles.  It is mostly Mogwai’s slower, quieter pieces, and the overall tone is one of “mood” rather than “songs.”  And, for those of us who thin of Mogwai as a really loud band, the prominent use of glockenspiel comes as something of a surprise (as does the quiet singing on two of the tracks).

The opener “Summer” is not the same as “Summer [Priority Version]” on Young Team.  This one is a beautiful track with glockenspiel while the YT version is much heavier and darker. “Helicon 2” (also known as “New Paths to Helicon, Pt. 2”), is a wonderful track with an interesting riff and texture.  On a recent live disc, it was expanded greatly. “Angels vs Aliens” and “Tuner” are the two tracks with vocals.  They’re both rather quiet and kind of soothing.

“I am Not Batman” is mostly washes rather than a riff based song.  “Ithica 27ϕ9” is one of their best early songs. It’s also the one track here that really experiments with sound dynamics.   It opens with a beautiful melody that swirls around for a bit.  Then the loud guitars come screaming out until it returns to that melody (and all in under 3 minutes).

The final track “End” is an entirely backwards recordings.  Wikipedia says that it is “Helicon 2” backwards, and I’ll take their word for it.

Ten Rapid is a really solid collection of songs showing just how good Mogwai was from the start.

[READ: March 8, 2011] Donald

This book is a speculative piece of fiction that answers the question: what would happen if Donald Rumsfeld was sent to Guantanamo Prison.  Note also that the cover is a parody of the cover of Rumsfeld’s own memoir (released around the same time).

The main character is clearly Rumsfeld, although he is never mentioned by his full name, always “Donald.”  But his description and his biography make it obvious that it is him.  There is a Note at the end of the book which states that the information about Donald is as accurate as possible.

First we see Donald in a library, presumably working on his memoirs.  He is accosted by a young kid who asks him questions.  Donald is annoyed by the kid and more or less blows him off.  Donald then has a fancy dinner with his wife and “Ed and Peggy” (two people who I can’t place historically).

That evening, masked people break into Donald’s home and haul him off to a prison (he is bound and his head is covered so he doesn’t know where).  The rest of the book sees him taken from one prison to the next, tortured in various ways (nothing too graphic, most of the torture consists of thinks like disrupting sleep, keeping the temperature really hot or really cold, and asking him lots and lots of questions, sometimes for 20 hours at a time.  There is no physical torture (again, it’s not graphic). (more…)

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onlyrev.jpgSOUNDTRACK: BARENAKED LADIES-Everything to Everyone (2003) & Barenaked for the Holidays (2004).

bnl-every.jpgEverything to Everyone. I was pretty down on this album when it first came out. I remember being rather disappointed in it because BNL had, gasp, matured somewhat, and were making more “serious,” less “wacky” songs. To me, the whole CD was somewhat flat. But, after a recent listen (possibly the first time in 4 years) and expecting the worst, I was pleasantly surprised by the record.

“Celebrity” is a decent start off, although it breaks from their standard set up of rollicking lead off tracks. “Maybe Katie” is a somewhat disappointing track 2 (a track that seems to produce great results for them)…. It seems to be so close to a single, yet it just misses. There is a somewhat zany song “Shopping,” which sets off a run of three or four good songs. It also ends on a pretty high note with, “Have You Seen My Love?” being a slow, but, sensibly, short song, so it doesn’t just drag on.

The noteworthy thing about this album, is what its title alludes to: everything for everyone. It seems like this album has fifteen different styles at work. There’s an Irish jig type song, a crazy rocking song, a soft ballad, a salsa beat. Basically everything is on here. It’s either crassly commercial or (more likely) a funny jab at their complex styles.

The overall sound of the album is definitely more mellow and “mature” than their earlier ones. There’s not a lot of outright silliness involved, and the tunes themselves have certainly calmed down a lot. If you’re not expecting the zany BNL of old, then the album works pretty well. Just don’t have high hopes for “If I Had $1,000,000.”

bnl-holiday.jpgBarenaked for the Holidays. This has become one of my favorite Christmas/holiday records (and it’s a good time of year to be writing about it.) It ranks up there with Brave Combo’s It’s Christmas, Man, brave.jpg South Park’s Mr. Hankey’s Christmas Classics, hankey.jpg Sufjan Steven’s great boxed set Presents Songs for Christmas, sufjan.jpg and Brian Wilson’s What I Really Want for Christmas, wilson.jpg which has also quickly jumped to the top of my Xmas list.

BNL’s is definitely silly, but it is also somewhat reverential for the time of year. They mix classics with originals (and if Jews don’t adopt “Hanukkah Blessings” as an official Hanukkah song, then they have no taste!).

The recording is a mix of old and new tracks (“God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” was recorded almost ten years (more…)

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mcs24.jpgSOUNDTRACK: GUIDED BY VOICES-Universal Truths and Cycles (2002).

gbv.jpg

I like Guided By Voices more in theory than in actuality. In theory, Robert Pollard is a songwriting maniac who has released hundreds of songs that are all snappy, catchy and brilliant. In practice, Robert Pollard is a songwriting maniac who has released hundreds of songs that he puts out whether they are finished or not. A vast quantity of GBV output is about a minute long. And for the most part the songs feel like fragments, rather than real songs. Nevertheless, I find that just about everything he writes is catchy and quite good, it’s just that so much of it is so forgettable.

Despite that, they have several songs that are fantastic. I could easily make a greatest hits record of GBV songs that I think are fabulous, and it would probably have 20 songs on it. The only problem is Pollard has released probably a thousand songs, so that’s not such great average.

I received this copy of Universal Truths and Cycles as a promotional copy many years ago. I had really enjoyed Do the Collapse, and so I grabbed this CD, and much like my assessment above, I find that there’s nothing I really dislike about the album although at 4:59, almost three times longer than a typical GBV song, “Storm Vibrations” tends to drag, but overall there’s not that much that’s memorable. Of course, “Everywhere with Helicopters” is fantastic and “Christian Animation Torch Characters” is also pretty wonderful. I could pick maybe 3 of the 19 songs here to go on my hits collection, but overall, the album is typical GBV, a little weird, but very catchy.

[READ: October 2, 2007] McSweeney’s #24.

I just flew through this latest issue of McSweeney’s. It was a real treat to read. The packaging was another one of their fun covers. It is designed in two parts, with a gatefold type of sleeve that reveals a full nighttime scene if you open it all the way. These guys have so much fun with their design, I’m surprised they’re not noted more for that.

Anyhow, the contents: the one side is a selection of six short stories, they all seem to feature guns, and they’re not afraid to use them. The other side is a symposium of reasonably famous authors writing tributes about Donald Barthelme, and two short stories by Barthelme himself. It also comes with an excerpt from Millard Kaufman’s Bowl of Cherries, which I have not yet read, but if it’s good I will get the book and review it later. (more…)

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