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SOUNDTRACK: DAVE BIDINI-The Upstairs, Sydney Nova Scotia July 26 2007 (2007).

Dave Bidini recorded three shows in 2007 in eastern Canada which are all available on the Rheostatics Live website.  They were acoustic shows and featured a reading from his then new book called Around the World in 57½ Gigs.

On this particular venue, he gives two readings (and the readings are very good.  His writing has grown even more engaging since this first book).

The songs he plays are a couple from the Rheostatics: “My First Rock Show” which sounds good in this format.  “Me and Stupid” which is almost made for this format and “Horses.”  Now “Horses” is a wild and raucous song, typically full of Martin Tielli’s amazing guitar pyrotechnics.  The acoustic version is much more mellow, but no less affecting.

He’s got a number of what I assume are new songs (I haven’t heard any BidiniBand songs yet, so I don’t know from whence they come).  “Song Ain’t Good” is a kind of jokey song about how the song itself isn’t any good.  Lyrically, the song grows on you as it progresses.   “The List” is indeed a list of people and things that are killing us now: Tim Hortons, Chad Kroeger, Stephen Harper etc.  It’s a protest song and is kind of catchy.

“The Land is Wild” is a more interesting song, musically.  Lyrically it’s about Bryan Fogarty, a dead hockey player.  And the final track is “The Ballad of Zeke Roberts” the story of a Liberian singer.

The other shows feature essentially the same songs (one of them includes “Fat” instead of “Horses”).

The difference with these new songs as opposed to the Rheos songs is that these are more pointedly about something.  They are quite message driven.  And one needs to care about the message I suppose.  Bidini does not have a great voice. Or, more to the point, he has a limited voice that works great for certain things, but it’s not always at its strongest in this acoustic setting.  Nevertheless, he has great rapport with the audience, and is a very charming performer.

I’m rather interested in hearing what the BidiniBand have to offer.  There’s an interesting interview with the Bidini here.

[READ: September 1, 2010] On a Cold Road

So Dave Bidini was in the Rheostatics.  This book is a chronicle of their tour as the opening act for The Tragically Hip on their tour across Canada.

The book offers lots of insights into the ins and outs of touring–the frustration, the loneliness, the elation, the confusion, the shattering disappointments, everything.  As a fan of the Rheos and the Hip, I found this to be a really interesting chronicle of a cross-country tour.

And what I found interesting about the book itself is that the main guys aren’t a small band struggling, nor are they a headlining megaband.  They’re a reasonably small band but they are successful, and are certainly well looked after on this  tour.  So it gives the feeling of being the underdog without actually working too much about pathos.

The Rheos are simultaneously jealous of the Hip, but also very grateful to them.   It makes for an interesting read. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: BLACK SABBATH-Master of Reality.

I recently reviewed this album.  And in light of this book I investigated some of the things that Darnielle’s character mentions.

First: according to Wikipedia, the US release of the LP/cassette DID have “extra” tracks on it.  When you listen on CD, and see the time settings of the songs, it’s kind of understandable what they are.

I have no idea what “The Elegy” is supposed to be (as part of “After Forever”) (unless it’s the intro part…no time is given in Wikipedia).  But “The Haunting” after “Children of the Grave” times perfectly to the “Ch Ch Children” part at the end of the song.

“Step Up” which, as he mentions, is a ridiculous name for a Sabbath song can be seen as the 30 second intro riff to “Lord of This World” as it is very different from that song.

The most unlikely “extra song”  is “Death Mask” as part of “Into the Void.”  The timing claims that it is the first half of the song.  The song changes at the 3 minute mark but it also reverts back to the original, so this “song” is specious at best.

But I do appreciate the book for giving some insight into the songs that I hadn’t considered before.

[READ: August 31, 2010] Master of Reality

When my friend Andrew told me about this book (and the series), I assumed it was writers (or musicians) writing about their favorite albums.  I had no idea it would be like this (and, I don’t know if they are all like this).

Darnielle has created a fiction (I assume) about a young man in a psych ward in 1985.  As part of his time there he is told to write in his diary every day.  After the first or second day (in which he just writes Fuck You!) he learns that Gary, the man in charge of him, is reading the diary.  And soon, he begins to use his diary as a way to get his Walkman and cassettes back (they were taken from him when he entered the ward).

Specifically, he wants Master of Reality back.   (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: maNga-“We Could be the Same” (2010).

I don’t know much about music from Turkey.  I also don’t know all that much about music from the Eurovision contest; however, I’m led to believe that the music is generally pretty poppy and treacly.  So I’m rather surprised that the second place winner is this alt metal rocker from Turkey (of course it was over 70 points behind Lena at number 1).  If this was 1983, this song would probably be riding up the American charts (of course, maNga throw in some turntable & hip hop scratches, so we know the song is at least circa 1993).  It’s got some pretty lite-metal guitar riffs and a big, loud chorus.

As with all Eurovision songs, it’s a plea for peace.  I think it’s a love song, too.  (Perhaps it’s a Romeo and Juliet deal).  Lyrically it’s suspect, but the video (with flags waving and men in balaclavas) is visually interesting.

The whole package is satisfying, and I’ delighted to see that they have two albums out already.

[READ: July 15, 2010] “The Young Painters”

The most interesting thing about this issue of the New Yorker (which is not to detract from the short story) is that there were 21 pages of ads for Canada.  I couldn’t get over how many maple leafs there were in here, especially since there was nothing in the issue itself (contentwise) that would suggest a Canadian connection.  Most of the ads were for doing business there.

Another interesting thing was the article about the Eurovision song contest, which took place a few weeks ago.  Since America’s not in it (hence Eurovision), we don’t pay any attention to it, but it’s a fun musical extravaganza, especially if you like ponderous songs sung in broken English (and who doesn’t?).

But on to the short story.  I found this story a little confusing to start with.  I think I was confused because the story begins with a woman saying that she is married to a man (named S.) and that they were invited to a party at a dancer’s house.  Then she describes her husband and then describes the apartment, all in a few sentences.   So at first I thought they were in their own house and I was confused that they had a painting she had never seen before.  Rereading the paragraph clarified things quickly, and it makes a lot more sense when you get the setting straight!

Otherwise, this was a fascinating story about a successful writer.  She and her husband went to the dancer’s house where they remarked on a painting.  The dancer reveals the fascinating story behind the painting to the entire dinner party.  The writer, being utterly transfixed by the story and feeling that it was not told in confidence, decided to write a short story about it. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: LENA-“Satellite” (2010).

The 2010 Eurovision song winner is from Germany and her name is Lena.  I can’t say that I’ve listened to the contests much in the past, but this year, I enjoyed the raging discussion about these pop gems.

“Satellite” is really darn catchy.  Lena’s voice is totally fascinating.  She affects a very broad English accent (although I can’t decide from where) while singing this insanely catchy song.  The lyrics are, by default, silly.  But the couplet “I bought new underwear, they’re blue, and I wore them just the other day” is pretty darn cute.

And Lena herself is adorable.  I didn’t see any of the live show, but her video is quite fetching.  What happens to Eurovision winners anyhow?  Will we ever hear from Lena again?

[READ: June 30, 2010] “The Peaches”

I read this piece because when I printed out the Barthleme story, I printed extra pages just to be safe, and how about that, I got whole other story.  I’d never heard of Ted Walker before, although it appears that he was quite well regarded in his time.

The thing that strikes me most about this story is that it was published the year before I was born, and it’s shocking how different of a husband and father he is just 40-some years ago.

In many ways I was so distracted by his attitude towards his wife (and her reaction to their life) that I never really got involved in the story.  I will say that the peach tree metaphor throughout the story is quite good, but it is especially powerful as the story nears the end. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: MASTODON-Leviathan (2004).

This is the CD that started it all.  Well, for me and Moby Dick- related music, anyhow. My friend Andrew asked if I would be reviewing it along with Moby Dick.  And, yes I am.

Leviathan is sort of a concept album about Moby Dick. I say sort of because it’s not entirely about Moby Dick.  The opener, “Blood and Thunder” features the chorus: “White Whale.  Holy Grail.  And it also features lyrics that seem to come straight from the book: “break your backs and crack your oars, men.”  There’s also the tracks “I am Ahab” and “Seabeast,” the latter features the lyrics: “Dear Mr Queequeg you have been informed your life’s been saved”

And yet, not everything is about Melville’s saga: “Island” bears no resemblance that I can see and the final track, a slow instrumental is called Joseph Merrick (who was the elephant man).

Musically the disc runs from bludgeoning metal (“Island”) to complex and intricate bludgeoning metal (“Iron Tusk,” which features a stereophonic drum solo opening).  “Blood and Thunder” has some great catchy riffs with some vocals that demand a lyric sheet for clarity.  “I am Ahab” features some extended vocal notes!  But there’s more to it than that.  “Seabeast” has a great slow intro guitar solo and features a two different vocalists to very good effect.

And the whole disc is chock full of time changes, crazy drum fills (how can he play so many different drums so quickly?).  “Megalodon” has a great odd guitar riff in the middle break section (and has nothing to do with Moby Dick at all).

As you near the middle of the album you get a couple of amazingly complex tracks.  “Naked Burn” features a great melodic middle section (coupled with really catchy vocals, too).  And the highlight is the thirteen plus minute “Hearts Alive.”  It begins as a very pretty acoustic guitar piece.  After about two minutes the heavy guitars kick in and there’s several different middle sections with varying degrees of melody.  By the midway point we’ve heard a few more very beautiful picked guitar sections, until it ends with some strong heavy guitar chords that slowly fade away.

So it’s a super heavy progressive rock/speed metal concept album for people who don’t like real concept albums (but who like their metal literate).  Who would have guessed it would have made so many best of the year lists?

[READ: Week of June 28, 2010] Moby-Dick [Chapters 111-End]

The end is here and BOY did I not see that coming.  I honestly had no idea how the book ended (how is it I knew the basics of the story but didn’t know the ending?  Talk about everyone agreeing to the spoiler alert!).  The other thing that surprised me was how damned exciting those last 70 pages were.  Now it could be a simple build up from the slowly paced early chapters–we were all lulled by the waves and the diversions–but man, when Melville wanted to, he produced the goods.  If you want young people to read this book, just assign them the last 70 pages.  I realize that all the art and such will be lost, but if they read just the end parts, they’ll come away with a much better perception of the book, and maybe they’ll want to read the rest later.  [I’m not a fan of abridged things of course, so I’d want them to read the original full text, just the end of it].

And I absolutely cannot believe [spoiler alert–okay the whole post is a spoiler, even if I didn’t know, the book is over 150 years old, so chances are you may have heard…] (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: FUCKED UP-Couple Tracks: Singles 2002-2009 (2010).

I knew of Fucked Up from a cover shoot on Chart Magazine. Clearly, they are aiming for major pop success and massive radio airplay.

Their live shows sounded amazing.  And, of course, everything about them seemed unpredictably wonderful.

This is a collection of singles (although not singles in the “pop chart” sense).  Fucked Up released more singles than anything else.  In fact their discography is borderline impossible to keep straight, they have so many small releases on so many small labels.

There is definite growth over these two discs (maybe not maturity, but growth).  The first track, “No Pasaran” is an ugly shouty noisy mess (pretty much straight hardcore). Over the course of these singles, Pink Eyes, the singer, refines his voice and he sounds a bit like Dicky Barrett of the Mighty Mighty Bosstones (still rough, but more melodic).  The music on the other hand pretty well stays in the hardcore mold.  But by the end (and it is most notable on disc two) the band’s energies branch out into guitar riffs and notable melodies.

The rest of the band includes Concentration Camp and 10,000 Marbles on Guitars, Mr Jo on Drums and Mustard Gas on Bass.

This collection of singles includes most of their shorter tracks (since they were on 7″ vinyl).  But on their 2006 release Hidden World (which I have not heard), most of the songs are over 5 minutes, with one reaching 9.  So they’re even fucked up by hardcore standards.  Cool.

This collection is definitely not for everyone, but it’s worth checking out if you like your core hard and weird.

[READ: May 27, 2010] Wet Moon 5

Holy cow!  This book ends on an amazing cliffhanger!  Beloved Trilby is put in mortal danger, and from what we see, I can’t imagine how she’ll survive.  Gasp!

By this time, Campbell is well on his way to a long, twisted epic series.  One only wonders how long he has this story arc planned out.  It seemed so simple at first: a buncha goth girls hanging around a college, with the worst thing that happens is someone puts up a flier about you or your cat goes missing.

Now the stakes are higher.  I’m not entirely sure that I like the path that this story is following.  I mean, don’t get me wrong it is super exciting.  I just don’t want Wet Moon to turn into Friday the 13th or some other kind of “crime & superhero” story.  What happens to Trilby is pretty intense.  I just hope it won’t destroy all of the characters. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: VAMPIRE WEEKEND-Contra (2010).

I absolutely loved Vampire Weekend’s debut album (and still do).  It was my favorite record of last summer and always makes me think of summer fun and hijinx.  Critics trotted out the “world/ethno/Paul Simon” vibe when discussing the album.  But I really didn’t hear it.  I mean, yes  I suppose it was there but the album felt more like a punky ska album of fun.

On this, their follow up, it’s as if they took all those critics to heart and decided to make the album that everyone was describing. This disc emphasizes all of the ethnic music sounds,  and downplays the guitars and more rock elements.  I was a little disappointed by this on the first listen or two.  However, subsequent listens showed me that the songwriting was still there and it was just as strong.

There’s still lots of rocking elements, it’s just that they are hidden under the other divergent influences.  But for the most part, the album is still bouncey and full of fun summer tunes.  There are three songs that slow down the pace, “Taxi Cab” and “Diplomat’s Son” (at 6 minutes, it’s a little long).  And the final song “I Think Ur a Contra” is a bit too divorced of beats (it works as an end to the disc, but I’d never listen to it on purpose).

The rest of the disc however, is very enjoyable, and I find that the 7 other songs work just as well as anything off the debut. “Horchata” is a delightfully fun world music treat (I hear Paul Simon, yes, although come on, Graceland came out 24 years ago!).  “White Sky” has delightfully catchy falsetto screams.  “Holiday” is practically classic ska and “Cousins” has a delightfully tricky guitar riff.

This feels like a band who has matured and experimented and yet not lost track of who they are.  I’m really looking forward to their next release.

[READ: Week of April 12, 2010]  2666 [pg 702-765]

Last week I concluded that

It almost seems as though Bolaño is saying that even Nazi Germany is better than Santa Teresa.

Oh how wrong I was.  Despite the fact that I found the bulk of this section enjoyable and fascinating (twisted and dark certainly, but fascinating nonetheless), the ending killed me.  The opening’s entire writers among writers, within writers, with communist party members and secret diaries was completely captivating.  And then it is all shattered by the reality of WWII. (more…)

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