Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Wikipedia’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: PINK FLOYD-“Several Species of Small Furry Animals Gathered Together in a Cave and Grooving with a Pict” (1969).

I‘ve mentioned this song a few times here so I figured I’d talk about it itself.  This bizarre song comes from PinkFloyd’s bizarre album Ummagumma.  Back in high school we ranked albums by a very specific content rating and this one received the highest: SDI-seriously drug induced.

Disc One is a live album but disc two contains compositions by each of the band members.  They each received about thirteen minutes of time to do what they wanted.  And they really seemed to go to town.

Roger Waters created this track, and it is very, very weird.  I’ve always loved it, probably because it is so audacious.  Wikipedia gives us this:

The track consists of several minutes of noises resembling rodents and birds simulated by Waters’ voice and other techniques, such as tapping the microphone played at different speeds, followed by Waters providing a few stanzas of spoken word in an exaggerated Scottish burr.

The Picts were the indigenous people of what is now Scotland who merged with the Scots.

You can hear it in all its glory (and then marvel that the guy who made it later when on to make some of the most famous music ever released) in this video.

I also love that someone liked this bizarre thing enough to put it on a Pink Floyd compilation (Works) as well.

And the wind cried Mary.

[READ: January 25, 2012] “Terminator: Attack of the Drone”

I found a link to this story somewhere, I can’t recall where, now.  It was mentioned with excited breath that Moshin Hamid, who I don’t know, had written this exclusive short story for The Guardian.  Hamid has been shortlisted for the Man Booker prize and has written two novels: The Reluctant Fundamentalist (2007) and Moth Smoke (2000).

This story was not quite what I expected from the brief biography I’d read.  Because of the ominous title, I assumed it might have something to do with Iraq (I realize that this came out before the recent downing of the U.S. drone in Iraq, but it still seemed plausible).  Rather, what we get is a bit of sci-fi about smart machine that are on a murderous rampage.

The story is not really as sci-fi as all that, except that what I wrote is true. But it’s more about two boys as they try to deal with this new world of death, machines and heroism.

It begins with the note that “the machines are huntin’ tonight.”  (There’s an interesting dialect in the story, especially from someone who lives in Lahore, New York and London.  We get lines like “Sky’s light enough so’s we’d maybe see the machine but all’s quiet and it ain’t about,” which I register as Southern American.  And yet the characters are named Omar and Yousuf.  I can’t decide if that’s an attempt to show a future world of total integration or just a total disconnect.)

There aren’t many humans left–his Pa is dead, his ma got her leg blown off by a landmine.   But at least his sisters are still alive–that’s more than most people have.

The machines come thundering through, crushing everything in their sight.  They also fly–you can’t see them, but you can hear them.  No one has ever killed a machine. (more…)

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

SOUNDTRACK: NEIL HANNON-“A Lady of a Certain Age” (From the Basement) (2008).

[DISCLAIMER: This post was published on September 6th, see that post for details].

This video comes from the From the Basement series.  As I mentioned, the Radiohead live show comes from this series, but initially, rather than recording a whole album, more often that not they recorded a few songs.  The bad news is that many of the videos are no longer available on the site (there’s a DVD, but I’m unclear exactly what it includes).  But for each artist, there seems to be one streaming video.

This is a mellow song from The Divine Comedy’s Victory for the Comic Muse album.  It’s probably my favorite track on the album.  It’s a literate and clever song about an older woman.  This version is simply Neil and his acoustic guitar.  I tend to think of The Divine Comedy as being a heavily orchestrated band (their music is wonderfully symphonic) so it’s surprising for me to hear a DC song in this simple acoustic format. 

And yet, Neil’s voice is stellar and it easily holds up i this intimate setting.  Visually it’s not that exciting (it’s just Neil sitting, playing and singing), but musically it is wonderful. 

[READ: August 31, 2011] One Book Review

Unlike previous columns, Zadie only reviews one book in this one.  And she sets up her reading by talking about summer books.  I recently posted about Summer Books, and this would have been a nice addendum.  Zadie talks a bit about the fun and joy of Summer books.  Her assessment is that a summer book should really engross you: 

If every few minutes you find yourself laying it flat upon your chest and wondering about lunch then it is probably not a summer novel. 

Zadie’s summer book is a continuation of a series.  The author is Edward St. Aubyn and this third book is called At Last (the culmination of the confusing “Patrick Melrose Trilogy” Some Hope, Mother’s Milk and At Last–confusing because the first book of the trilogy (Some Hope) was actually released in England as three separate books–Never Mind, Bad News and Some Hope, making this the fifth book in the series)He has also written other books, but I’m not sure of any of them deal with the same family or not.

At last (and the series in general) is a semi-autobiographical story of a good family in name only.  There is an alcoholic mother, a pedophiliac father, and a main character, Patrick, who has shot heroin and chugged whisky and yet still manages to recite poetry.

Despite the darkness (and the fact that At Last focuses on Patrick’s mother’s funeral), the story sounds like a wonderful mix of dark humor and scathing wit.  Indeed, the previous book, Mother’s Milk was short listed for the Booker Prize in 2006 (he has written two novels in between). 

Zadie quotes extensively from the book and the quotes are really good: long  sentences that are well constructed and contain a bit of humor in almost every piece.  But it’s a subtle humor, and it seems like it takes a careful reading to make sure you get it all. (more…)

Read Full Post »

SOUNDTRACK: MOGWAI-Come on Die Young (1999).

Mogwai’s second full length record goes in a slightly different direction than Young Team. Although it is still full of somewhat lengthy instrumentals, for the most part, the loud and quiet dynamic that they’ve been mastering over their EPs and Young Team is dismissed for a more atmospheric quality.  There’s also a few vocal aspects that comprise some tracks.  One in particular is very puzzling.

The disc opens with “Punk Rock.”  The music is actually not punk at all; rather, it’s a pretty melody that plays behind a rant about punk rock spoken by Iggy Pop. It’s followed by “Cody,” a kind of  sweet slow song.  This one surprises even more because it has gentle vocals which are actually audible.  The track is surprisingly soporific for Mogwai.

And then comes the real puzzler, “Helps Both Ways” is another slow track. But this time in the background is a broadcast of an American football game.  The announcers begin by telling us about an 89 yard run that was called back due to a penalty, but the game stays on throughout the track.  And I have to admit I get more absorbed in the game than the music. After these few quiet tracks,”Year 2000 Non-Compliant Cardia” is a little louder (with odd effects).  It’s also much more angular than songs past.

“Kappa” is the song in which I realized that much of the songs here are more guitar note based rather than the washes of sounds and noise.  “Waltz for Aidan” is indeed a waltz, another slow track.  It’s followed by “May Nothing” an 8 minute track which, despite its length, never gets heavy or loud or noisy.

“Oh! How the Dogs Stack Up” changes things.  It features a distorted piano which creates a very eerie 2 1/2 minutes.  And it leads into the 9 minute “Ex Cowboy.”  Although the general feeling of “Ex Cowboy” is mellow, there are some squealing guitars and noises as well.  By about 6-minutes the song turns really chaotic, its “Chocky” is another 9-minute song (the disc is very backheavy), there’s noise faintly in the background as a simple piano melody is plucked out.  It’s probably the prettiest melody on the disc, and the noisy background keep its unexpected.  The disc more or less ends with “Christmas steps.”  This is a rerecording of the awesome track from the No Education = No Future (Fuck the Curfew) EP.  It is shorter but slower and it sounds a little more polished than the EP. I actually prefer the EP version, but  this one is very good as well (it’s honestly not that different).

“Punk Rock/Puff Daddy/Antichrist” ends the disc with a fun track sounds like a drunken Chinese western  It’s two minutes of backwards sounds and is actually less interesting than its title.

This is definitely their album I listen to least.

[READ: March 15, 2011] Icelander

It’s hard to even know where to begin when talking about this story.  So I’ll begin by saying that even though it was confusing for so many reasons, I really enjoyed it (and the confusions were cleared up over time).  This story has so many levels of intrigue and obfuscation, that it’s clear that Long thought quite hard about it (and had some wonderful inspirations).

The book opens with a Prefatory note from John Treeburg, Editor (who lives in New Uruk City).  The note informs us that the author of Icelander assumes that you, the reader, will be at least a little familiar with Magnus Valison’s series The Memoirs of Emily Bean.  As such, he has included notes for clarification.  He has also included a Dramatis Personae.  The characters in the Dramatis Personae are the characters from Valison’s series (not necessarily Icelander), and are included here for context.  He also notes that his afterward will comment on the disputed authorship of this very novel.

The Dramatis Personae lists the fourteen people who Valison wrote about inThe Memoirs of Emily Bean.  Except, we learn pretty early on that the The Memoirs were based directly on the actual diaries of the actual woman Emily Bean Ymirson.  Emily Bean died in 1985, but before she died she was an extraordinary anthropologist and criminologist.  She kept meticulous journals of all of her exploits, and Valison fictionalized it (to some people’s chagrin, but to general acclaim).

Emily Bean was also the mother of Our Heroine.  Our Heroine is, indeed, the heroine of Icelander, although her real name is never given.  We learn pretty early on is that Our Heroine’s friend Shirley MacGuffin has been killed.  MacGuffin was an aspiring author (whose only published work appears on a bathroom wall).  Her final text was meant to be a recreation of Hamlet.  Not Shakespeare’s Hamlet, but Hamlet as written by Thomas Kyd.  And, indeed, Kyd’s Hamlet predated Shakespeare’s.

There’s also a lot of excitement with The Vanatru.  The Vanatru lived underground, and had a serious quarrel with surface dwellers who worked hard at keeping them down. The Queen of the Vanatru is Gerd.  She controls the Refurserkir, an inhuman race of fox-shirted spirit warriors who appear literally out of nowhere.

Okay, so how confused are you now? (more…)

Read Full Post »

SOUNDTRACK: THERION-Theli (1997).

I bought this disc when I was living in Boston and I immediately fell for it.  I seem to recall I was doing a lot of driving at the time, and this mix of extreme metal, orchestral accompaniment and twinned vocals was very captivating.  It was also really fun to play very loud on a dark highway.

I’d read a very good review of this disc that claimed it was a big step forward in styles of thrash/black metal (and if you Google reviews for this album they are pretty universally great).  The disc is exemplified by the track “To Mega Therion” which is almost entirely a full choir singing what I guess is the chorus.  The verses are populated by a guy screaming in a guttural voice who is answered by an almost mechanically twinned voice which sounds great but is even harder to understand.  Follow this with a beautiful piano (!) solo not unlike something Randy Rhoads put together for Blizzard of Oz, and add a pounding double bass drum all the way through (truth be told the album could be a little heavier in the bass) and you get a crazy mix of styles which is catchy and creepy at the same time.

It’s hard to match a song like that.  And, admittedly, the band doesn’t quite manage to do so, but the rest of the album keeps up this orchestral death metal throughout.

Reading about Therion has taught me that this album is something of  touchstone for a new genre of metal, called variously symphonic or operatic metal (I suppose we have this to blame for the Trans Siberian Orchestra?).

In addition to the choirs and guitars there are a lot of keyboards. They are disconcerting when you’re thinking death metal and yet really they add an even fuller sound, even if at times they are not as grand or powerful as anything else.  At times the album seems cheesey, but that may have more to do with thirteen years distance than the music itself.

Anyone who has seen The Exorcist knows that choirs can be spooky.  And when you mix it with the heavy guitars and guttural vocals, you get a really cool sinister yet catchy (and possibly uplifting) album.  There are certainly a lot heavier albums, but this one is pretty stellar.

[READ: Summer of 2010, finished December 12, 2010] Lords of Chaos

My brother-in-law gave me this book for my birthday this year.  I was familiar with it as it is fairly well-known in heavy metal circles as a fascinating read.  And so it was.

This book is basically a history of black metal in Norway and how some bands’ antics went beyond music into burning churches and even murder.  The authors present a pretty neutral account of the story.  They let the main participants (criminals) have their say and the interviews don’t comment on their answers, they just let them tell their side of the story.  The authors also know a lot about the music scene.  Of course, in the end, the authors (thankfully) disapprove of the violence.  It makes for an interesting and somewhat conflicting read. (more…)

Read Full Post »

SOUNDTRACK: AZTEC CAMERA-“Jump” (1984).

This is a wonderfully twisted covered of Van Halen’s “Jump.”  VH’s version of “Jump” is bouncy, lively, fun, it makes you want to yes, Jump!  It was many years after the release of VH’s “Jump” that I heard the Aztec Camera version (even though it was released the same year).  The first time I heard it I assumed it was a joke.

I didn’t know much about Aztec Camera (and actually still don’t–looking at their Wikipedia page I don’t recognize the names of any of their singles).   But I have grown to love this cover of “Jump.”  In fact I prefer it to the original.

The opening chord structure makes me think it’s going to be the Rolling Stone’s “Waiting on a Friend” but instead of Jagger’s ooh oohs we get Roddy Frame’s deep voice practically whispering the lyrics that David Lee Roth made famous.  And it stays with this delightfully mellow acoustic style and pacing throughout.  The guitar work in the bridge is actually much more interesting than the bridge in the Van Halen version (ouch).

The chorus seems kind of odd with his very mellowly saying “jump” (although David Lee Roth doesn’t scream “jump” either, it’s the backing vocals that do the exciting part).  I feel like the original VH version hasn’t held up that well, but the Aztec Camera version shows that it’s quite a good song.

Check it out here.

[READ: Week of November 8] Consider David Foster Wallace [first three essays]

I lied.

I said that I wouldn’t feel up to writing posts about all of the articles in this book on a regular basis.  As it turns out, I don’t have a lot to say about these essays, but I had a few thoughts about each one.  Since there’s a group reading going on, I thought it might be fun to post these thoughts now while people were still speaking about the articles instead of waiting until the end.

Before I say anything about this articles, I want to preface that I’m not going to repeat things that were said in the group read (for a couple of reasons).  Everything here is going to be things that I felt about the article and maybe, if something another reader says really sticks with me, I’ll mention it as an influence on me.

Having said that, in one of the comments, author Clare Hayes-Brady says that her article is a part of a longer thesis.  I found this to be a very useful thing to know, and I assume that she is not the only one who had to compress her article because of size and time constraints.  With that in mind, I’m going to accept that if it seems like the author could/should say more about a certain thing within the article that there is probably a larger version of the piece.

And finally, because I don’t have a lot to say about the pieces, I’m only going to mention things that I found puzzling/confusing.  But be assured that if I don’t mention the vast majority of the article it’s because I found it interesting/compelling/believable.  I don’t feel comfortable paraphrasing the articles’ argument.  Besides, what would be the point of that?

(more…)

Read Full Post »

SOUNDTRACK: PETER, BJORN & JOHN-Living Thing (2009).

After the raging (relative) success of Writer’s Block, with their crazily catchy whistling song, “Young Folks”, PB&J could have gone in any direction.

And I was quite surprised when the opening song of this follow up (actually, there’s an instrumental disc in between) opened with single note and drum sounds and virtually a capella vocals.  But unlike a typical a capella song, the thudding notes were kind of dissonant and unpleasant.  And there wasn’t much more to the song than that.

Even the second song starts out starkly.  A single piano note plays a simple riff.  The verse kicks in with some simple electronic drums (and again minimal accompaniment).  And this sparseness is the main musical theme on the disc.

And I have to say it took almost a half a dozen listen before I really enjoyed what they were doing.  They are eschewing the pop structure that won them popularity and they’re shifting their melodies to the vocal lines rather than the instruments (I guess).  It’s a risky proposition, but it pays off.

Take “Nothing to Worry About.”   It opens with what sounds like a distorted children’s choir singing the chorus at full volume.  But then it settles down into, again, a simple drum and vocals song with just a hint of instrumentation.  (Did they get all their music out on the instrumental?  I don’t know I’ve not heard it).  Even the title track is sparse guitar noises and clicked drums.  But, man, is it catchy (it reminds me in a weird way of Paul Simon).

And then, continuing my contention that the best and catchiest songs always have curses in them, “Lay It Down” with the chorus, “Hey, shut the fuck up boy, you’re starting to piss me off” will stick in your head for days.

The end of the disc (the last three songs) are considerably mellower.  They’re less catchy, but they use the starkness very well.

Initially I really didn’t like this album.  It had none of the immediacy of the previous disc.  But I found myself really enjoying it.  I wouldn’t want all of their albums to sound like this, but it was an enjoyable twist on a good formula.

[READ: October 7, 2010] Garden State

I mentioned the other day that I just found out about this book when looking up information about Rick Moody.  I was so excited to read a book set in Haledon (two towns from where I grew up) that I checked it out and begin it immediately (it’s only 200 pages, so that helped too).  But I have to say I was really disappointed with the book (even if it did win the Editor’s Book Award).

My first gripe is about the supposed setting in New Jersey.  I have no problem with fictionalizing an area.  Writers do it all the time.  But Moody fictionalizes the area in two ways to suit his thesis, and as a lover of New Jersey and a former resident of the region, I found the lack of reality to be very upsetting.

The first minor, and I have to say really weird thing is that despite the real towns included (Haledon, Paterson, Paramus) he makes up towns nearby–Fleece, Tyre– and he makes up a river–The Dern River.  He also plays around with the names of the highways that run through the state, constantly referring to the non-existent Garden State Thruway.  Now, again, there’s no problem with making things up, but nobody in the story ever goes to Fleece or Tyre, the Dern River doesn’t come into play aside from being a river that people refer to (it’s not a renamed Passaic river, because that’s included in the story, too).  So, why make up random town names?  Why say that you drive from Haledon to the edge of Paterson near Boonton, when that is not geographically correct (or relevant to the story)?  It just seems like he didn’t have access to a map. (more…)

Read Full Post »

SOUNDTRACK: THE DUCKWORTH-LEWIS METHOD-The Duckworth Lewis Method (2009).

This is a CD released by the combined forces of Neil Hannon of The Divine Comedy and Thomas Walsh of Pugwash.  And if that weren’t enough of a sales pitch, the title of the band is a method of calculating cricket scores!  And even more…in concordance with that, this CD is largely about cricket.  Huzzah!  Buncha sellouts.

I don’t know a thing about cricket, but I know about great orchestral pop, and this disc has it in spades.  Some of the more obvious cricket songs are even understandable to non cricketers (the themes of “Jiggery Pokery” are familiar to anyone who has failed in a sport–and musically it sounds like a silent film soundtrack).

“The Age of Revolution” begins with an olde-fashioned soundtrack as well (jazz swing, including tap dancing) but quickly jumps into a dancey discoey verse (the two soundtracks blend surprisingly well in the chorus).  And the revolution?  Well, it has something to do with cricket.  Next, “Gentlemen and Players” is a wonderfully Divine Comedy-esque track complete with harpsichords.

“The Sweet Spot” is another discoey dancey track with some funky bass work (and innuendo whispered vocals).  And “Rain Stops Play” is a fun musical interlude.

“Mason on the Boundary” is the first track that seems distinctly Pugwash-y.  Hannon and Walsh have similar singing styles, and I find it hard to know who is who sometimes.  But this track is clearly Walsh’s and it’s very nice indeed.  Similarly, “Flatten the Hay” has that distinct Pugwash XTC/Beach Boys vibe and it’s quite good.

“The Nighwatchman” is also a very DC type song (it even sounds a bit like “The Frog Princess” but pulls away before being a repeat of that great single by introducing some very 70s sounding strings).  The rest of the disc follows in this same wonderfully orchestrated pop feel.  This a great record that, as far as obscure bands that get no statewide attention go, is top notch.

Oh, an it’s even more fun with headphones!

[READ: October 9, 2010] Skippy Dies

Wow, there’s a lot going on in this book.  It’s exhausting just trying to think of all the topics covered: boarding school life, failed romance (two big ones), life as a teacher, the appeal of pop singer Bethani, the Catholic priest sex scandal, drugs of all kinds, sneaking into a girls’ school, World War I, institutional cover ups, M-theory–which is pretty much the entire universe, and donuts.

But let’s start at the beginning.  Yes.  Skippy dies.  In the first couple of pages.  And what’s fascinating about this is that we don’t care.  I mean, in the scene where he dies, he’s not even the major character.  But then Skippy turns out to be more or less the glue of the book once the story proper begins.

Skippy resides at Seabrook school in Dublin (the best, most prestigious Christian academy in the country–sorry Gonzaga).   His roommate is Ruprecht (perhaps the strangest major character name I’ve read in a long time).  Ruprecht is a large boy who is incredibly smart (he will single-handedly raise the school’s average on the year’s final exams).  He is a computer geek who is obsessed with aliens and SETI.  And he hopes to be able to communicate with the other world by using techniques suggested in M-Theory.  The book does an admirable job explaining M-theory and string theory.  I’m not going to take up space here, but there’s a fine description at Wikipedia (or, if you don’t like Wikipedia, here’s an academic explanation that is written for the lay person).

Anyhow, Skippy and Ruprecht are two of a few dozen boys who reside full time at the school.  (Most of the other kids are day students).  And they have a cadre of half a dozen friends that they hang out with who make jokes at each other’s expense.  It’s a very realistically written entourage.  Mario is Italian and claims to have had sex with many many women (thanks to his lucky condom which he has had for three years).  Dennis is the ballbreaker.  He’s the abusive one (but by most standards, he’s not a bad guy).  And a few other hangers on.

This story of dorm life is a good one.  The boys are funny, their stories believable, even if they are all eccentric in their own way.  And then, one day, Skippy sees a girl playing frisbee at the girls’ school across the way (Ruprecht has a telescope which he uses for the stars, while eveyrone else uses it for the girls’ school).  And Skippy winds up becoming rather obsessed with the unknown “frisbee girl.”

This girls’ school plays a part in the story in another way too.  Carl and Barry are the Seabrook’s thugs.  When Barry hits upon the idea of selling ADD meds to the locals (as diet pills), it’s the girls’ school that he mostly preys on.  For yes, this story is also about drugs. (more…)

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »