Archive for the ‘WPA’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: RHYE-Tiny Desk Concert #727 (April 9, 2018).

Rhye is one of those bands that the guys on All Songs Considered just love.  But I find that his songs are completely insubstantial from his delicate falsetto to the restrained music.  It just puts me to sleep.

As such:

It seemed only fitting that when Rhye performed the band’s Tiny Desk Concert that it be at night, illuminated by flickering light. The music Mike Milosh sings and writes conjures the evening and a swaying, romantic vibe.

It was five years ago nearly to the day that we filmed Rhye by candlelight in New York City as the band toured for its enigmatic album Woman. Mike Milosh requested that Rhye’s members be filmed “only in silhouette, with the lights dimmed low” at Le Poisson Rouge show.

This time around the hundred or so flickering lights set the tone for the sextet of strings, keyboard, guitar, bass and drums to perform music from 2018’s Blood. The sound is warm and velvety, all the instruments gently pulsing, as Mike Milosh softly sings with that high-pitched yearn.

Tiny Desk Concerts are often awkward by nature — bands playing in the middle of an office in the daytime for musicians used to playing in the evening, with stage lighting. But there was a special transformation that took place at this Tiny Desk the moment the music kicked in. I’m a sucker for a vibe in music — that feeling when a sound completely shifts the mood of a room. This vibe was more like a house show than an office, which put me in a pensive, pleasant place. Sit back and enjoy.

“Please” is just so soft that it seems to float away.  The only cool parts are the guitar and bass lines.

“Taste” I like the instrumentation of this song, especially the violin and bowed upright cello.  And when the guitar solo comes out its like the loudest thing you’ve ever heard (in comparison). But when you think the song is over it’s still got about 5 more minutes of blandness to go.

“Song For You” is seven minutes of slow moodiness.  I like the trombone solo.  And the end is very pretty.   In fact, most of the songs are pretty if they were either shorter or if those songs were actually just the ending of a song.  Otherwise it’s all kind of samey.

[READ: January 5, 2018] Protect Yourself

This short book looks at the brief history of venereal disease posters that were created during WWII.  It was edited by Ryan Mungia with an essay by Jim Heimann.

The essay has the great title “VD posters: propaganda to the penis” is short.  Mostly this is just a collection of posters.

The premise is that commanders have had to fight venereal disease and the enemy simultaneously.  During WWI, 18,000 American military personnel were incapacitated with sexually transmitted diseases each day!  By WWII it was reduced to about 600 per day.

Protection certainly helped and graphic posters were there to spread the word. (more…)

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june9SOUNDTRACK: RODRIGO AMARANTE-Tiny Desk Concert #384 (August 23, 2014).

rodrigoI hadn’t heard of Rodrigo Amarante before this Tiny Desk Concert.  The photo of him–heavily bearded with a tiny guitar, simply didn’t prepare me for the beautiful rich voice this singer has.

Amarante is from Rio de Janeiro but now lives in Los Angeles (and has no discernible accent).  That tiny guitar is a ‘Harmony parlor guitar from the ’30s, known lovingly as “Butter.”‘

He plays four simply gorgeous songs (only marred slightly by the fact that he has to clear his throat a bunch of times).  Two songs are in English, one is in French and the fourth is in Portuguese.

The opening humming notes of “The Ribbon” are just beautiful and sound so lovely with “Butter” playing along.  When he starts singing, you simply get sucked into his warm enveloping voice.

“Mon Nom” is sung in French and the soft sound of the French sounds even better as he sings.  (Coincidentally, this song contains the word Aubergine, and a woman named Aubergine is the main character of today’s story).

Before the third song, he says he’s not used to these songwriter stools but declines a change.  “I’m Ready” sounds rather different from the other song in English.  He doesn’t sing radically different, but there’s something in his phrasing that changes the tone of the song.  I believe the end of the song is sung in Portuguese.

The final song, “Nada Em Vão” is sung entirely in Portuguese.  Before the song Bob asks if this is the most unusual place he’s played in, and he says he would “like to say yes….”  This song is much more quiet and subtle.  It’s also quite lovely.  And the way it ends is kind of a surprise too.

Amarante is a real find and seems like a super nice guy too. At the end of the show he stretches and says that it’s a nice way to start my day.

[READ: February 15, 2016] “The Prospectors”

I haven’t read much from Russell before so I was really surprised by a lot of things in this story.

It opens with a woman, Aubergine, on a chairlift riding up the side of a mountain.  The woman and her friend Clara were expecting to go to a party at the peak.  The two women had met a man calling himself Eugene de la Rochefoucauld.  They had waited for Eugene at the bottom of the chairlift for an hour, then (after dubbing him Mr No-Show) they set up the chairlift by themselves.

Imagine my surprise to find out a few paragraphs in that they are heading up Mt. Joy, the miracle of the New Deal.  This story is set in WPA times, and they are going up the mountain to see the beautiful new hotel. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: MC PAUL BARMAN-It’s Very Stimulating (EP) (2001).

So is this guy a joke? Well, he’s very funny.  Very funny, in fact.  But to my ear, not in a novelty sort of way.  He’s got the kind of rhymes that make you laugh but still work upon multiple hearings.  And, yes, Paul Barman is a squeaky, Jewish boy from Ridgewood, New Jersey (again!) and he really can’t rap on the beat and he really doesn’t have much in the way of rhythm, but got awesome skills in the lyrics department and he has production from Prince Paul (that’s the kind of credentials that anyone would like).

The theme of this EP is Paul’s utter failure to get with women (even in his fantasies).  He’s crass and vulgar and yet he’s also quite smart and rather witty (“I think about all the pube I got while reading the Rubaiyat“) .  The music is more or less inconsequential.  As Prince Paul noted, the craziness comes from the lyrics, so you don’t want to overkill the song.  But there’s some great samples and some solid beat work as well.  Nevertheless, we’re here for the words.  So, sample a few of these rhymes:

“The Joy of Your World”

It was time to copulate but we didn’t want to populate
So my bold groin reached for my gold coin proooophylactic
I unwrapped it, you can’t know how I felt
It wasn’t a gold coin condom, it was chocolate Chanukah gelt
The white part crumbled on her tummy and the rest began to melt
Foiled again…..

“School Anthem” or “Senioritis” (this song was renamed for the reissue of the disc it seems)

Homework is tell major lies or plagiarise encyclopedias, so boring
Fresh-faced teachers want to tickle ’em
but a test-based curriculum excludes exploring

I’ll let a mystery gas out of my blistery ass
Just to disrupt the misery of history class

“Salvation Barmy”

She said, “Go get a haircut”
So I showed her my bare butt
Pulled down my Carhartts put my moon in her star-charts

“I’m Frickin’ Awesome” ( I love this especially for the Lila Acheson bit)

It’s nice to be hypnotized by a man you don’t despise yet
He had a type of flow and I can’t quite label it
All I know it made me want to take off my cableknit
Sweater, Oh he better be hetero
I hope they don’t catch us in the Lila Acheson
Wallace Wing when Paulus brings the mattress in–rudely
He backlashed my booty
like I was Susan Faludi over the Grace Rainey Rogers Room rostrum

“MTV Get Off The Air, Pt 2”  (the first two lines are fantastic, but the whole thing is genius).

Smirkin’ jocks with hackysacks
in Birkenstocks and khaki slacks
I’m the hypest lyricist
while they’re like, “What type of beer is this?”

Just wait until the full length for the utter genius that is “Cock Mobster” (how can be s o smart and so stupid at the same time?)

[READ: October 10, 2011] E Pluribus Venom

Like most people, I learned the name Shepard Fairey because of his iconic prints for Barack Obama.   In addition to supporting Obama, I really liked the design of the prints–simple, bold, an easy iconic style (which has since been lifted, morphed and used everywhere).  I know that many of Fairey’s prints actually come from other people’s original photos.  He has a print of Muhammed Ali in this book, and he clearly didn’t take the original photo (I don’t know where it came from).  But since all art is theft, I’m okay with Fairey taking someone else’s work and making something new from it.  I’ve always felt that attribution should be enough if you modify the original enough to call it different (which I feel this print does).  [The fact that he didn’t acknowledge the source does bug me, of course].  But that’s neither here nor there because this book predates all of that.

This book documents events that occurred in 2007.  The E Pluribus Venom show was based largely around two images that Fairey designed to reflect the two sides of capitalism.  The image to the right really doesn’t do any justice to the work itself, but you can kind of see that he created two-sided faux dollar bills.  The front showed all the good things that capitalism can do.  The back showed all of the evils that capitalism causes.  The images resemble dollars, but the text is straightforward in its message.  As with a lot of what Fairey does, it’s blunt and obvious but pretty cool.

As far as I’m concerned, though, this is the least interesting image in the book.  Although I love that they made dollar bill sized prints of these faux dollars and left them scattered around in cities to promote the show.  They way they were folded made them look at a glance like actual currency.  Very cool. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: BLUE ÖYSTER CULT-compilations and live releases (1978-2010).

For a band that had basically two hits (“Don’t Fear the Reaper” and “Burnin’ for You”) and maybe a half a dozen other songs that people might have heard of, BOC has an astonishing number of “greatest hits” collections.

Starting in 1987 we got Career of Evil: The Metal Years (1987), Don’t Fear the Reaper (1989), On Flame with Rock n’ Roll (1990), Cult Classic (which is actually the band re-recording their old tracks (!)) (1994), and the two cd collection Workshop of the Telescopes (1995).  There’s even Singles Collection, (2005) which is a collection of their European singles & Bsides.

This doesn’t include any of the “budget price” collections: E.T.I. Revisited, Tattoo Vampire, Super Hits, Then and Now, The Essential, Are You Ready To Rock?, Shooting Shark, Best of, and the 2010 release: Playlist: The Very Best of).

The lesson is that you evidently won’t lose money making a BOC collection.

I don’t know that any of these collections are any better than the others.

The 2 CD one is for completists, but for the most part you’re going to get the same basic tracks on all of them.

And, although none of them have “Monsters” for the average person looking for some BOC, any disc is a good one.

Regardless of the number of hits they had, BOC was tremendous live.  And, as a result, there have also been a ton of live records released.  Initially the band (like Rush) released a live album after every three studio albums. On Your Feet or On Your Knees (1975) Some Enchanted Evening (1978) and Extraterrestrial Live (1982) were the “real releases.”

Then, in 1994 we got Live 1976 as both CD and DVD (which spares us nothing, including Eric Bloom’s lengthy harangue about the unfairness of…the speed limit).  It’s the most raw and unpolished on live sets.  2002 saw the release of A Long Day’s Night, a recording of a 2002 concert (also on DVD) which had Eric Bloom, Buck Dharma an Allan Lanier reunited.

They also have a number of might-be real live releases (fans debate the legitimacy of many of these).  Picking a concert disc is tough if only because it depends on the era you like.  ETLive is regarded as the best “real” live disc, although the reissued double disc set of Some Enchanted Evening is hard to pass up.  Likewise, the 2002 recording is a good overview of their career, and includes some of their more recent work.

If you consider live albums best of’s (which many people do) I think it’s far to say that BOC has more best of’s than original discs.  Fascinating.  Many BOC fans believe that if they buy all the best of discs, it will convince Columbia to finally reissue the rest of the original discs (and there are a number of worthy contenders!) in deluxe packages.  I don’t know if it will work, but I applaud the effort.

[READ: October 2009-February 2010] State By State

This is a big book. And, since it’s a collection essays, it’s not really the kind of big book that you read straight through.  It’s a perfect dip in book.  And that’s why it took me so long to get through.

I would love to spend a huge amount of time devoting a post to each essay in the book.  But, well, there’s 51 (including D.C.) and quite a few of them I read so long ago I couldn’t say anything meaningful about.  But I will summarize or at least give a sentence about each essay, because they’re all so different.

I’ll also say that I read the Introduction and Preface last (which may have been a mistake, but whatever).  The Preface reveals that what I took to be a flaw in the book was actually intentional.  But let me back up and set up the book better.

The catalyst for the book is the WPA American Guide Series and sort of Steinbeck’s Travels with Charley.  The WPA Guides were written in the 1930s as part of the Works Progress Administration.  48 guide books were written, one for each state.  Some famous writers wrote the books, but they were ultimately edited (and many say watered down) by a committee.  I haven’t read any of them, but am quite interested in them (and am looking to get the New Jersey one).  Each guide was multiple hundreds of pages (the New Jersey one is over 800).

State By State is written in the spirit of that series, except the whole book is 500 pages (which is about 10 pages per state, give or take).  And, once again, famous writers were asked to contribute (no committee edited this book, though).  I’ve included the entire list of authors at the end of the post, for quick access.

So I started the book with New Jersey, of course.  I didn’t realize who Anthony Bourdain was until I looked him up in the contributor’s list (I’m sure he is thrilled to hear that).  And his contribution was simultaneously exciting and disappointing,.  Exciting because he and I had quite similar upbringings: he grew up in North Jersey (although in the wealitheir county next to mine) and had similar (although, again, more wealthy) experiences. The disappointing thing for me was that Bourdain fled the state  for New York City (and, as I now know, untold wealth and fame (except by me))  I felt that his fleeing the state, while something many people aspire to, is not really representative of the residents of the state as a whole.

And that dissatisfaction is what I thought of as the flaw of the book (until I read the Preface).  In the Preface, Matt Weiland explains that they asked all different authors to write about states.  They asked some natives, they asked some moved-ins, they asked some temporary residents and they asked a couple of people to go to a state for the first time.  In reality, this decision makes for a very diverse and highly entertaining reading.  In my idealized world, I feel like it’s disingenuous to have people who just stop in to give their impression of an area.  But hey, that’s not the kind of book they wanted to compile, and I did enjoy what they gave us, so idealism be damned.

For most of the book, whenever I read an essay by someone who wasn’t a native or a resident of a state, I assumed that there weren’t any famous writers from that state.  I’ve no idea if that played into anything or not.  From what I gather, they had a list of authors, and a list of states (I was delighted to read that three people wanted to write about New Jersey-if the other two writers ever decided to put 1,000 words  to paper, I’d love to read them (hey editors, how about State by State Bonus Features online, including any extra essays that people may have wanted to write).

From New Jersey, I proceeded alphabetically.  And, I have to say that I’m a little glad I did.  I say this because the first few states in the book come across as rather negative and kind of unpleasant.  Alabama (written by George Packer) comes across as downtrodden, like a place you’d really have to love to live there.  Even Alaska, which ended up being a very cool story, felt like a veil of oppression resided over the state (or at  least the part of the state that Paul Greenberg wrote bout.)  But what I liked about this essay and the book in general was that the authors often focused on unexpected or little known aspects of each state.  So the Alaska essay focused on Native fisherman and the salmon industry.  Obviously it doesn’t do justice to the rest of that enormous state,  but that’s not what the book is about.

The book is meant to be a personal account of the author’s experiences in the state. (more…)

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