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Archive for the ‘War’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: RADIOHEAD-Drill EP (1992).

Radiohead recently released a bunch of their stuff to streaming platforms.  One of those releases was Drill, their debut EP that came out a year or so before Pablo Honey.  Most of the tracks appear to be demos.  And yet, they are very well recorded demos.–they sound quite good.

Three of the four songs were rerecorded for Pablo Honey.  The only one not on the album is “Stupid Car” a quiet ballad.

“Prove Yourself” and “You” sound a lot like the album versions.  The biggest difference is the sound quality and the “Prove Yourself” guitar solo which is much louder and more piercing on Pablo Honey.  “You” sounds pretty identical, right down to Thom Yorke’s powerful scream mid song

The biggest difference comes with ‘Thinking About You”  On Pablo Honey it is a slow acoustic ballad.  But here it is a fast-paced almost punk rocker.  It’s got racing guitars and fast drums.  Honestly I prefer this to the album version.

The impressive thing is just how good these songs sound.  Not only because they were basically demos.  But because this was their first release and while Radiohead has changed drastically over the years, these original songs are still really good.

Fans tend to disregard Pablo Honey, but the compositions, while nothing like the newer work, are solid, well-crafted alt rock songs.  Don’t dismiss this EP, this band is going somewhere.

[READ December 29, 2019] Out of the Cage

Every now and then I get a short play at my desk.  This one looked pretty interesting.

Inspired by the munition women of Silvertown, London during the First World War, this tells the story of women’s courage, dignity and hope, fired in the crucible of war.

During the War, women worked in munition plants (munitionettes, they were called).  Despite their hard work in dangerous places, they were given far less credit and pay than their male counterparts.  (Sound familiar?). Could they possibly stand up for themselves or would they forever be seen as second class citizens.

There are eight major characters in the play

  • Jane Byass: 40’s 4 kids, hard but fair
  • Nancy LongdonL Late 20s upper-class, committed to the cause
  • Dee Jessop: 40s, sick and dying, vengeful
  • Nelly Jonson: 30s forceful and sharp, the only Irishwoman there
  • Annie Castledine: early 20a vibrant and funny
  • Carrie Sefton: Early 20s, tough and engaging
  • Ol’ Mim: 50’s nurturing, tough
  • Lil’ Ginny: early teens, naive

The play opens in Jane’s apartment.  The women are meeting there to discuss what to do about he unfair working conditions.  The first to arrive is Nancy.  The others are mistrustful of her because she is upper class, but she is dedicated to women’s rights.

Dee arrives next, she is bitter and sarcastic, she has been breathing in the toxic fumes in the furnace room.  Her breath is a short as her temper and she is not doing well at all.  Nelly arrives next.  She is the most cynical about Nancy because of the Irish vs. English class wars.  The women descend into bickering but Jane settles them down. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: NEIL PEART-September 12, 1952-January 7, 2020.

When I was in high school, Rush was my favorite band, hands down.  I listened to them all the time.  I made tapes of all of their songs in alphabetical order and would listen to them straight through.

I still loved them in college, but a little less so as my tastes broadened.  But every new release was something special.

It’s frankly astonishing that I didn’t seem them live until 1990.  There were shows somewhat nearby when I was in college, but I never wanted to travel too far on a school night (nerd!).

For a band I loved so much, it’s also odd that I’ve only seen them live 5 times.  However, their live shows are pretty consistent.  They play the same set every night of a tour (as I found out when I saw them two nights apart), and there wasn’t much that set each show apart–although They did start making their shows more and more fun as the years went on, though).

One constant was always Neil Peart’s drum solo. It too was similar every night.  Although I suspect that there was a lot more going on than I was a ware of.  It was also easy to forget just how incredible these solos were.  Sure it was fun when he started adding synth pads and playing music instead of just drums, but even before that his drumming was, of course, amazing.

It was easy to lose sight of that because I had always taken it for granted.

I am happy to have seen Rush on their final tour.  I am sad to hear of Neil’s passing.  I would have been devastated had it happened twenty years ago, but now I am more devastated for his family.

So here’s two (of dozens) memorials.  The first one is from the CBC.  They included a mashup of some of Neil’s best drum solos:

But what better way to remember the drum master than with a supercut of his drum solos? From a 2004 performance of “Der Trommler” in Frankfurt, Germany, to a 2011 performance on The Late Show With David Letterman, to his first-ever recorded drum solo (in 1974 in Cleveland, Ohio), dive into nearly five minutes of Peart’s epic drum solos, below.

The best Neil Peart drum solos of all time.

I was only going to include this link, because it was a good summary, then I saw that Pitchfork ranked five of Neil’s best drum solos (an impossible task, really).  But it is nice to have them all in one place.

You can find that link here.

Starting in the 1980s Neil’s solos were given a name (which shows that they were pretty much the same every night).  Although as I understand it, the framework was the same but the actual hits were improvised each night.

Even after all of these years and hearing these drum solos hundreds of times, watching them still blows my mind.

  • “The Rhythm Method”
  • “O Baterista”
  • “Der Trommler”
  • “De Slagwerker,”
  • “Moto Perpetuo”
  • “Here It Is!”, “Drumbastica,” “The Percussor – (I) Binary Love Theme / (II) Steambanger’s Ball”

[READ: January 2020] Canada 1867-2017

In this book, Paul Taillefer looks at the most historically significant event from each tear of Canadian history.  And he tries to convey that event in about a page.  Can you imagine learning the history of your country and trying to condense every year into three paragraphs?

And then do it again in French?  For this book is also bilingual.

I can’t read French, but i can tell that the French is not a direct translation of the English (or vice versa).

For instance in 1869, the final sentence is:

This, in turn, signaled the start of the Red River Rebellion which would not end until the Battle of Batoche in 1885.

Neither Batoche nor 1885 appears in the entire French write up.  So that’s interesting, I suppose.  I wonder if the content is very different for French-reading audiences. (more…)

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[LISTENED TO: Summer 2019] Circus Mirandus

I checked out this book exclusively because Bronson Pinchot was reading it.  I will listen to just about anything that he reads.  So the fact that this story sounded even vaguely interesting (and age appropriate–Pinchot does tend to read a lot more adult books) meant I grabbed it right away.

This book is about Micah, a young orphan who is living with his sickly grandfather.  Taking care of Grandpa Ephraim is Ephraim’s sister Gertrudus.  Aunt Gertrudus is the meanest, most-horrible person ever.   She makes Micah drink bitter black tea, she makes him do all of the work in the house and she refuses to let him see his grandpa.

Micah loves his grandpa and he loves the stories that his grandpa tells.  It’s these stories that Gertrudus is trying to keep Micah from.

As the book opens we see the letter that Ephraim has sent to Circus Mirandus: (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: MANDOLIN ORANGE-Tiny Desk Concert #882 (August 23, 2019).

Mandolin Orange is one of my favorite new band names.  It’s funny and clever and tells you a lot about the band.

I so wish I liked them more.

In fact, their music is really lovely.  I guess it comes down to Andrew Marlin’s voice.  It really don’t like it.  Indeed, Emily Frantz’ backing vocals are delightful and if she sang lead I’d like them a lot more.

But clearly I am no judge, because their recent album (their sixth) was #1 on the following Billboard charts:

Heatseekers, Current Country, Bluegrass and Folk / Americana with Top 10 Entries on 5 Additional Charts.

So don’t listen to me.

Andrew Marlin and Emily Frantz made everything seem so easy, pulling a few acoustic instruments out of their car and, in no time, huddling around a single microphone behind the Tiny Desk. With that, Mandolin Orange was ready.

Interestingly, “Golden Embers,” the first song that Mandolin Orange plays, doesn’t actually have a mandolin in it.  Rather, Frantz plays the violin while Marlin plays guitar.  I couldn’t get past his voice so I didn’t really hear the words beyond “it’s like an old friend,” but apparently he

sang about his mom being carried away in a hearse.

Yikes.

It’s the second song, “The Wolves” that features Marlin on mandolin and Frantz on guitar.  I liked this one a bit more perhaps because he seems to be speaking more than singing and that’s more palatable to me.  This song

 is a story song that … tells a tale on an older woman’s life, the “hard road” she’s taken and that feeling of wanting to howl at the moon when all is finally right.

The last track, “Wildfire” comes from their 2016 album Blindfaller.  He sticks with the mandolin as he sings about Civil War.

The lyrics to this song are pretty great

 It’s a song with a wish that the Civil War would have left racism to rot on the battlefield, and yet it still rages like “wildfire.” It’s a sobering message presented with a gentle tone.

And so I love their name, their music and their lyrics.  I just can’t get past his voice.  But what do I know.

[READ: October 14, 2019] “Are You Experienced?”

The title of this naturally made me think of Jimi Hendrix.  And I was correct to think this.  For this story concerns hippies about to shipped off to war.

Although Billy doesn’t know he is soon to be shipped of to Vietnam.  In fact, as the story opens, he is dropping acid with his girlfriend Meg near Lake Michigan.  Billy had hung a “Keep On Truckin'” poster on the wall.  The poster eventually started dancing, trying to lure her in.

Billy was always full of schemes.  He told her about his Uncle Rex and Aunt Minerva who had been farmers but had moved to Lansing.  He knew that Rex had a box of cash in his attic.  Rex doesn’t have the heart to spend the money because it came from the soil and “he lost his farm a few years back and he’s still not over it.” (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK. COME FROM AWAY: Tiny Desk Concert #889 (September 11, 2019).

When I first heard about story of Come From Away, I was intrigued.  Could you make a musical–a musical–about the events of September 11, 2001?

At the end of this performance, the narrator says that this is really a story about September 12, 2001.  And that is true.  And the story is powerful and fascinating and really really interesting.  And yes, the music is fantastic.

So is this story about the attacks?  No.  The story is set

In the aftermath of the Sep. 11 attacks, 38 planes carrying thousands of passengers were grounded in remote Gander, Newfoundland in Canada for five days. The creators of Come From Away traveled to Gander 10 years later and collected the tales that make up the musical.

In Gander there’s an expression that, if you’re visiting, you’ve “come from away.” The people of Gander took in the come-from-aways, and their stories have resonated with audiences worldwide. The Broadway cast recently celebrated 1,000 performances and there are simultaneous productions running in London, Toronto, Melbourne and a national tour.

I listened to the soundtrack when it was streaming on NPR.  I was able to get through about half of it–the songs were great and the kindness shown was incredible.  I have yet to hear the end and I sort of imagine I might try to see the performance someday.  So for now, I’ll just enjoy these excerpts.

Sixteen performers from the Broadway production of Come From Away recently climbed out of a chartered bus in front of NPR and crammed behind Bob Boilen’s desk. They condensed their nearly two-hour show about the days following 9/11 into a relatively tiny 17 minutes. By the end of the diminutive set, there were more than a few tears shed.

In the show, the songs have full orchestration.  But here, the songs are played with great Irish instrumentation: keys, accordion (Chris Ranney); fiddle, fiddle in Gb; (Caitlin Warbelow); high whistles, low whistles, flute (Ben Power); bodhran, cajon (Romano DiNillo) and acoustic guitar (Alec Berlin:)

I don’t know who the lead vocalists are.  But two women take the majority of the songs.  And one of the men narrates the truncated version of the story.  The vocalists here include:

Petrina Bromley; Holly Ann Butler; Geno Carr; De’Lon Grant; Joel Hatch; Chad Kimball; Kevin McAllister; Happy McPartlin; Julie Reiber; Astrid Van Wieren and Jim Walton.

They sing five tracks:

“28 Hours/Wherever We Are” sets the stage–people were on the planes for 28 hours–just imagine that.

“I Am Here” is wonderful. The way the singer has to interrupt herself as if she were on a phone call–it’s a great performance.

“Me and the Sky” is based on an interview with Beverly Bass the first female pilot for American Airlines.  She was flying from Dallas to Paris when she was grounded.  It’s an amazingly personal story–I’ll bet she loves it.

“Something’s Missing” is a song I hadn’t heard before. It’s amazingly powerful–the reactions of people who returned to New York and New Jersey to see what they didn’t know anything about–and to see what’s left.  The most incredible line:

I go down to Ground Zero which… its like the end of the world.  It’s literally still burning.  My dad asks were you okay when you were stranded?  How do I tell him I wasn’t just okay. I was so much better.

They end with the uplifting “Finale.”

As one of the actors explains, “The story we tell is not a 9/11 story, it’s a 9/12 story. It’s a story about the power of kindness in response to a terrible event, and how we can each live, leading with kindness.”

This is a great tribute to not only Gander, but also to the victims of the attacks.

[READ: June 20, 2019] The War Bride’s Scrapbook 

Seven years ago, Caroline Preston created The Scrapbook of Frankie Pratt.

I summarized it:

it’s a biography of a lady named Frankie Pratt from the ten or so years after she gets out of high school.  She went to high school in Cornish, New Hampshire in the early 1920s; that’s when this scrapbook starts.  Over the decade, Frankie goes to college, gets a job in New York City, travels to Paris and then returns home.  That is the basic plot, but that simple summary does a grave, grave injustice to this book.

For Preston has created a wondrous scrapbook.  Each page has several images of vintage cutouts which not only accentuate the scene, they often move the action along.  It feels like a genuine scrapbook of a young romantic girl in the 1920s.

For this book, take that premise and move it forward twenty years.

This is the scrapbook of a woman, Lila Jerome, who was a bit of a wallflower, who then married a soldier just before he went off to World War II.  The book is structured in four parts: (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: Y LA BAMBA-Tiny Desk Concert #892 (September 20, 2019).

It used to be that no one was invited back to play a Tiny Desk Concert.  The rules have been relaxed somewhat as of late (I would have thought that maybe they’d wait until 1000 shows).

The blurb explains why they (she) was invited back though.

Luz Elena Mendoza has such a far-reaching creative spirit that it’s almost impossible to confine her to a single musical identity. Which is why she’s one of just a handful of artists who’ve been invited back to the Tiny Desk to offer a revised musical vision.

Y La Bamba was on back in 2011 and they played a more acoustic style of music–accordion, percussion, guitar and lot of singers.  For this show, lead Bamba, Luz Elena Mendoza looks quite different.  In 2011, her hair was black and long, here it is silver and short–the neck tattoo is the same, though.

When she was here last with the band Y La Bamba, it was a vocal-heavy, folk outfit. The band’s sound has always been about vocals and her music has become even more so over the years.

Back in May, Y La Bamba played Non-Comm and Mendoza was pretty confrontational.  She is less so here, allowing the music to speak for her.

And the music is quite different.  It’s almost all in Spanish this time.  There’s a second guitarist (Ryan Oxford), a bass (Zachary Teran), and a drummer (Miguel Jimenez-Cruz).  She also has two backing singers, Julia Mendiolea who also plays keyboard and Isabeau Waia’u Walker.

I knew that Y La Bamba was the project of Mendoza, but i didn’t realize she did everything herself:

Y La Bamba’s albums are meticulously crafted sonic treats with her vocals layered like a choir made with a single voice. But in our offices, she called on vocalist Isabeau Waia’u Walker to replicate their distinct sound.

There’s a great variety of styles in this Tiny Desk.

“Paloma Negra” (“Black Pigeon”) [also played at Non-Comm] benefits from the voices of the entire band in a high-energy mediation on rhythm and voice.

It’s got a groovy, funky bassline and some cool echoing guitars.  There’s a tension in the verses that is totally relieved in the super catchy chorus.

This song segues into “Rios Sueltos” which is a kind of rap–but sung.  It’s bouncy and catchy but I sense is probably not a happy song, despite the catchy “hey ey ey heys” in the middle.

The song ends with a rumbling from Mendoza’s guitar as she starts up “Bruja de Brujas” [also played at Non-Comm].

There is a bruja energy and spirit to their performance, and not in the negative connotation that is the Spanish word for “witch.” In Luz Elena Mendoza’s hands a brujeria spirit is all about conjuring the kind of magic that took place on this video.

The song opens with a cool bass line and a somewhat menacing feel.  It starts quietly, but when all three vocalists sing together it’s really lovely.

At the end of the song she sinks to the ground to play with her effects as the song fades out with trippy sounds.   She jokes, “And aliens came down.:

Then she realizes, “we forgot to do one more.  Sorry the aliens did come down… and took my brain.”

The final song is the fantastic “Cuatro Crazy” [also played at Non-Comm].  It is sweet and pretty and has echoing guitars and a vocal style not unlike a Cocteau Twins song.  It even ends with a lot of “dah dah dah dahs.”

I really enjoy their music quite a lot and should really look into their stuff more.

[READ: October 6, 2019] “Abandoning a Cat”

This essay is, indeed, about abandoning a cat.  The cat story has a happy ending (although another one might not).  But mostly the essay is about how mundane events trigger memories of our parents.

He says that when he was little, his family had an older cat and they needed to get rid of it.  “Getting rid of cats back then was a common occurrence, not something that anyone would criticize you for.  The idea of neutering cats never crossed anyone’s mind.”

His father took the bike and he sat on the back with the cat in a box.  They rode to the beach about 2 km from their house, put the box down, and headed back.

When they returned home, they opened the door and there was the cat “greeting us with a friendly meow, its tail standing tall.”  His father’s expression of blank amazement “changed to one of admiration and, finally, to an expression of relief.  And the cat went back to being out pet.” (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: NEGATIVLAND-Negativland (1980).

Negativland was (is?) a weird “band” who released absurdist sound collages.  Their purpose was culture jamming and they created quite a stor throughout their “career.”    The band was more or less created by David Wills (born 1954) also known as “The Weatherman”.. He was a cable repairman when he joined the group with a then-teenage Mark Hosler (1962) and Richard Lyons (1959-2016) also known as Dick Vaughn, Dick Goodbody, and Pastor Richard Seeland.

Their first record came out in 1980 and had twenty untitled tracks.  The “songs” were mostly sound effects, radio broadcasts and home recordings. There was some original guitar and drum machine, but mostly it is just collage.

About the tracks:

[SIDE 1]

1. You can hear a spoken word news announcer in the background as a guitar line comes in followed by a drum machine.  Then comes a woman (David’s mother, I believe ) reciting “This is Negativland.”

2. A ticking clock with a pretty guitar melody and then increasingly loud table saws (one in each ear)

3. A drum machine with a spoken word announcer.  This blurb comes from a fan on YouTube:

The man speaking, Mitch Werbell, worked for U.S. covert operations. At the time, (late 70s) there was a big problem with urban terrorism in Argentina. They had threatened to kidnap Coca-Cola reps in Buenos Aires. Werbell is explaining (on the ABC TV show 20/20) what he told the terrorists would happen if they tried, when he was hired to go help the executives escape the area.

4. Horns playing single notes.  It abruptly ends with ringing alarms

5. Guitars (electric and acoustic) playing and echoing.  This is the longest track at almost 5 minutes. Lots of spoken words among the trippy sounds and boopers.

6. Drum machines and noises and then after a violin line comes the most famous early phrase from NegativalndL “Seat Be Sate” (Play Black Sabbath at 78).  The “poem” is soon taken over by noise and a looped spoken word.

7. A menacing static noise and very sci-f sound effects couple with a German language instruction tape.

8. Static noises and de-tuned acoustic guitar strumming as someone sings a bit

9 A looping string of interesting sounds–booper, waves of sound and a clip o kids singing and then Don’s family speaking, all looped into a rhythm.  Finally a classroom rule about silent E

10. Drum machine with a whispered singing vocal and a catchy guitar riff with (of course) lots of distorted noises.

The lyrics:

Cara mia, why
Must we say goodbye
Each time we part
My heart wants to die
Darling, hear my prayer
Cara mia fair
Here are my arms
You alone will share

All I want is you
Forever more
To have, to hold
To love, adore
Cara mia mine
Say those words divine
I’ll be your love
Till the end of time

My cara mia
My cara mia
My cara mia

[SIDE 2]

11. French speaking and the an a loop of an older man saying “everything’s going fine, no trouble just get set and get going. Amen.

12. Warbled distorted vocals of a man and woman reciting the Hail Mary.

13. A family scene with people talking over a news broadcast (WCBS news time).  You can hear David saying “It’s not alive, Drew.”

14. Some more kids talking with all kinds of jammer sounds over them.  The final line has a woman saying “Reading the book by the seamen within would be very helpful.”

15.  Blues on an acoustic guitar (pretty well played) although by the end the solo is out of tune and crazy.

16. Boopers and outer space sounds.  Multiple radio broadcasts overlapping including one about a bedpans in hospitals.  And a joke ( I can’t guess the comedian, but he sounds a bit like Bob Goldthwait or Les Claypool, but it obviously isn’t) “I wouldn’t marry you if you were the last man on earth.”  The punchline is obscured then the laughter come in.

17. A slow drum beat and random noises on a guitar

18. A family scene David’s mother talking about the affordability of buying meat by the pound.

19. A low deep siren sound followed by this dire message from the Emergency Broadcast Network: “The office of civil defense has issued the following message “this is an attack warning” this is an attack warning.  An attack warning means an actual attack against this country has been detected.  Then there’s David inviting Everett to a barbecue that afternoon.  It’s followed by some audio from the American Airlines 191 plane crash from 1979.  This segues into a family scene where the dad is telling a joke about cannibals.  A man walked among cannibals with cases of Pepsi.  The cannibals drank the Pepsi and ate the man.  All except his thing.  When they were later asked why they didn’t eat his thing, they sang, “Things go better with Coke.”

20. The final track states, “Now hear how a real parakeet should sound.”  Then a woman says good morning and then a crazy raspy voice repeats here.  The album ends with this oscillator sound that my parents had in the 1970s–a kind of looping really fake bird chirping.  No idea why they had it.

This actual release of this record was accomapnied by all kinds of original magazine clippings and artwork. And the CD came with pins and other cool things.  It’s a weird artifact from the dawn of culture jamming.

[READ: April 20, 2019] “The Glass House”

I decided it would be interesting to go back to the year 2000 and to read all of the New Yorker stories up to the present.  I think as of now I have read through 2005.  By the time I have finished (next year, I’m sure) I’ll have 20 years of stories read.

This story is set during the Civil War.  The main character, Will, has just enlisted.  His brother, Sam, was killed at Bull Run and Will came to take his place.  His Captain was very happy to have him because Sam was a brave and well-liked man.  But Will, as he himself would admit, was neither of those things.

After Sam’s death, the Captain intended to go to Sam’s house personally to pay his regards to their family.  Had Sam’s mother seen the Captain, she would have spit on him.  But before that could happen, Will decided to enlist.  He forged his mother’s signature and didn’t tell anyone when he left. (more…)

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