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Archive for the ‘Yuck!’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: MIGUEL ZENÓN feat. SPEKTRAL QUARTET-Tiny Desk Concert #814 (January 4, 2019).

When I saw that the artist was a quartet, I assumed this was classical music.  But then I saw that the main guy played saxophone.  So was this jazz?

In the end it doesn’t matter.  It’s glorious, modern instrumental music with instruments that at times fit so perfectly, you don;t realize there’s a reed in the strings.  And at times an instrument that stands out like its own unique thing.

Saxophonist Miguel Zenón is a big thinker — that much is clear from his recorded output, with its deep and inspiring connection to the folk traditions of his native Puerto Rico. But you also get that sense from his turn behind the Tiny Desk, where we can watch the concentration on his face and those of his adventurous band, the Spektral Quartet. This is life-affirming music with curious twists and turns, expertly performed by amazingly talented musicians.

The three songs work on mainly the same principle: fast, intricate string melodies with sudden time changes.  And a saxophone that either accompanies them or solos around them.

“Rosario” opens with the strings and sax playing an almost warm up sound before the pizzicato strings support the main sax melody.  There’s some very modern frenetic striking string music (with no sax) which is followed by the same strings with a lead sax solo over it.  The end of the piece features a delicately plucked cello and a lovely violin melody.

“Milagrosa” opens with everyone playing the same melody.  It’s fascinating how much the sax does not contribute–until it does.  But I’ll let the blurb talk about the amazing ending of this song:

There are two ways to marvel at the stunning unison playing that comes about three-quarters of the way through “Milagrosa.” First, listen with your eyes closed. The notes cascade at a such a fast clip, it can leave you breathless. Now, watch with your eyes open: It’s a joy to see Zenón and his band read the notes from the page, at times sneaking in visual cues with smiles just below the surface. It must be such a pleasure to make music like this.

The way the song starts and stops and starts again with such speed is really spellbinding.

He says that these songs were inspired by cultural and musical traditions from Puerto Rico.  Specifically, the final song, “Villabeño” alludes to a subgenre of Puerto Rican music–from the mountains

It is the quietest and lest intense song of the bunch.  The strings, even though they are largely playing staccato, are kind of hushed as Miguel plays the most jazzy solos of the set.  There’s a brief moment near the end where the strings come back to the fore, but it’s more as a supporting agent than a competitor.  It’s quite cool.

[READ: January 11, 2019] “Wrong Object”

I loved the way this story revealed the heart of itself.

It is written from the point of view of a therapist.  She writes that she has a new patient and he is very dull: “He is a nondescript man.”

He said his problem was himself–that his wife was thoroughly nice.  While she preferred a self-critical patient to a blamer, there was just nothing to him.  Usually her notebooks were full after a session, but she wrote very little about him: “Talks about wife, what a good person she is.  Annoying.”

She actually had to google him to find out even a little bit of information about him.  She felt bored by him.

She was about to suggest he seek a new therapist when he finally revealed what he had been holding back.

“I’m a pedophile,” he said. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: REN & STIMPY-Crock O’ Christmas (1993).

Certainly reaching the weird bottom of the list CDs in the Christmas collection here.

I’m not entirely sure why I even have this as I wasn’t a  huge Ren & Stimpy fan.  I assume I got it for free somewhere.  Anyhow, this is the kind of nonsensical disc that actually made me chuckle a few times as I listened to it again.  The songs are sort of parodies of actual classic songs.  But they’re not so much making fun of the Christmas song so much as using the Christmas songs to make up songs for their holiday Yaksmas.

If you know anything about Ren & Stimpy, you know that everything they do is gross, and this CD is just full of grossness.

The Wikipedia post about the disc is pretty thorough, so I’ll let it stand, with some of my one thoughts.

  • 1. “Fleck the Walls” – 2:51 – Stimpy explains to Ren that it is Yaksmas Eve to the tune of “Deck the Halls”.  [Stimpy’s untiring happiness is really just too funny. As is Ren’s hair-trigger temper.  This is a pretty funny and gross wait to start: “Come on everyone pit on a hat made of garbage and lets go Yaksmas caroling.”  The utterly over the top seriousness of the backing vocals is icing]
  • 2. “Cat Hairballs” – 3:27 – Stimpy sings about the gifts he can make out of his hairballs to the tune of “Jingle Bells”.  [Gross, but catchy].
  • 3. “We Wish you a Hairy Chestwig” – 3:04 – Ren and Stimpy sing about the “chestwig” they’ve gotten for Mr. Pipe to the tune of “We Wish You a Merry Christmas”, wishing him a “hairy chestwig and a bucket of beards”.  [No idea what this is all about but it’s a funny concept].
  • 4. “It’s A Wizzleteats Kind Of Christmas” – 3:51 – Stimpy sings a song about Stinky Wizzleteats, singer of the “Happy Happy Joy Joy” song; his “souped-up sausage cart” is the basis for the album cover.  [Stinky Wizzleteats is a wonderfully ornery character.  Not based on anything else, so it’s all about the bizarre words].
  • 5. “We’re Going Shopping” – 4:39 – Stimpy drags Ren into the mall to do some Christmas shopping.  {I was puzzled that they talk about Christmas here.  The disc follows a thread of the two of them all day, with everything having a narrative.  The Christmas just seems like a mistake.  Although the shopping items are pretty fun].
  • 6. “Yak Shaving Day” – 4:22 – Ren and Stimpy stumble on the secret gathering place of the Gilded Yaks.  [I love the voices of the Yaksm how serious and pretentious their voices are.  Plus the rocking guitars in the chorus totally rule].
  • 7. “What Is Christmas?” – 3:19 – Stimpy and his son, Stinky the Fart, recall the events of “Son of Stimpy”.  [I listened to this song and thought it was so treacly and un Ren & Stimpy-like.  And then I looked this up and saw that Stimpy’s son is a fart, and that makes everything different.].
  • 8. “Cobb To The World” – 3:08 – Ren and Stimpy sing the song of “good king” Wilbur Cobb, a senile senior citizen, to the tune of “Joy to the World”.  [This is just bizarre and creepy]
  • 9. “Happy Holiday Hop” – 3:48 – Ren and Stimpy attend TV star Muddy Mudskipper’s holiday celebration.  [This song is so peculiarly straight, that it could almost work outside of Ren & Stimpy, aside from the whole Muddy Mudskipper part of course]
  • 10. “I Hate Christmas” – 4:23 – While Stimpy goes to bed, Ren sings the blues about his personal disdain for the holiday.  [Again, with the Christmas.  This is actually quite a downer.  Poor Ren.  But surely Stimpy must get him over the blues].
  • 11. “The Twelve Days of Yaksmas” – 4:24 – Ren and Stimpy count down the Yaksmas gifts of Ren’s cousin Svën Hoek to the tune of “The Twelve Days of Christmas”.  [Everything that makes fun of this preposterously long song makes me laugh.  This one is especially gross, but they have a great time with the absurd lyrics.]
  • 12. “Decorate Yourself” – 5:26 – Ren and Stimpy sing an anthem in the style of “We Are the World” about decorating oneself for the holidays.  [This song soars and flies and is so catchy it could have been an anthem for the ages “Don’t deck the halls or burn boughs of pine, hang your mistletoe where the sun don’t shine!”].

Sometimes it’s wonderful to be silly for Christmas.

[READ: December 7, 2018] “A Qualitative Study of Our Father”

Once again, I have ordered The Short Story Advent Calendar.  This is my third time reading the Calendar (thanks S.).  I never knew about the first one until it was long out of print (sigh).  Here’s what they say this year

Fourth time’s the charm.

After a restful spring, rowdy summer, and pretty reasonable fall, we are officially back at it again with another deluxe box set of 24 individually bound short stories to get you into the yuletide spirit.

The fourth annual Short Story Advent Calendar might be our most ambitious yet, with a range of stories hailing from eight different countries and three different originating languages (don’t worry, we got the English versions). This year’s edition features a special diecut lid and textured case. We also set a new personal best for material that has never before appeared in print.

Want a copy?  Order one here.

And here’s a Q&A with Levin.

Like last year I’m pairing each story with a holiday disc from our personal collection.

This story is written in Levin’s words as “a kind of pseudoscientific research paper by a pair of siblings trying to make sense of their father via examining his behavior toward houseflies.”  It has epigrams from Shakespeare and Skinner.  The abstract, for of course there is an abstract, states that their father, a well-meaning human being likes to kill flies.  There;s nothing sexual or creepy about his desire to kill them, he just seems very placidly happy when he does. (more…)

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  SOUNDTRACK: THE RADIO DEPT.-Clinging to a Scheme (2010).

In this final book, Karl Ove mentions buying a record on a whim by The Radio Dept.  Given the timing of the book, I assume it’s this record.  So I’m going to give it a listen too.

I really enjoyed this record which has a feeling of a delicate My Bloody Valentine fronted by The Stone Roses.  The key word in all of this is delicate.  It’s a very soft and gentle record (except for one song).  It hits all the buttons of 90s Britpop and to me is just infectious.

“Domestic Scene” opens the disc with pretty guitars intertwining with an electronic thumping.  After the first listen I was sure the whole record was synthy, but this track has no synths at all, just like five or six guitar lines overdubbing–each opener just as pretty as the others.  The voice sound a lot the guys from The Stone Roses on the more delicate tracks.

“Heaven’s on Fire” opens with bouncy synths and a sampled (from where?) exchange:

People see rock n roll as youth culture.  When youth culture becomes monopolized by big business what are the youth to do.  Do you have any idea?
I think we should destroy the bogus capitalist process that is destroying youth culture.

Then come the jangling guitars and the introduction of synths.

“This Time Around” has a cool high bass line (and what sounds like a second bass line). I love the overlapping instruments on this record.  I couldn’t decide if it was a solo album or a huge group, so I was surprised to find it’s a trio.

“Never Follow Suit” continues this style but in the middle it adds a recorded voice of someone speaking about writing.

“A Token of Gratitude” has some lovely guitars swirling around and a percussion that sounds like a ping-pong ball or a tap dancer.   The last half of the song is a soothing gentle My Bloody Valentine-sque series of washes and melody.

“The Video Dept.” is full of jangly guitars and gentle blurry vocals while “Memory Loss” has some muted guitar notes pizzicatoing along and then what sounds like a muted melodica.

David is the one song that sounds different from the rest.  It has strings and synth stabs and drums that are way too loud.  Most of the songs don’t have drums at all, but these are deliberately recorded too loud and are almost painful.

The final two songs include “Four Months in the Shade” which is an instrumental.  It is just under 2 minutes of pulsing electronics that segues into the delicate album closer “You Stopped Making Sense.”  This song continues with the melody and gentleness of the previous songs and concludes the album perfectly.

I really enjoyed this record a lot.  It’s not groundbreaking at all, but it melds some genres and styles into a remarkably enjoyable collection.

[READ: September and October 2018] My Struggle Book Six

Here is the final book in this massive series.  It was funny to think that it was anticlimactic because it’s not like anything else was climactic in the series either.  But just like the other books, I absolutely could not put this down (possibly because I knew it was due back at the library soon).

I found this book to be very much like the others in that I really loved when he was talking conversationally, but I found his philosophical musings to be a bit slower going–and sometimes quite dull.

But the inexplicable center of this book is a 400 plus page musing on Hitler.  I’ll mention that more later, but I found the whole section absolutely fascinating because he dared to actually read Mein Kampf and to talk about it at length.  I’m sure this is because he named his series the same name in Norwegian.  He tangentially compares Hitler to himself as well–but only in the way that a failed person could do unspeakable things.

But in this essay, he humanizes Hitler without making him any less of an evil man.  His whole point is that in order to fully appreciate/understand Hitler’s evil, you have to realize that he was once an ordinary person.  A teenager who had dreams about becoming an artist, a boy who was afraid of sex and germs.  If you try to make him the inherent embodiment of evil, it’s easy to lose sight of the fact that he was a child, a teen, a young man who was not always evil.

Why Karl Ove does this is a bit of a mystery especially contextually, but it was still a fascinating read especially when you see how many things gibe with trump and how he acts and behaves–especially his use of propaganda.  It’s easy to see how people could be swayed by evil ideas (and this was written before trump was even a candidate). (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: BAUHAUS-“Bela Lugosi’s Dead” (1979).

This was Bauhaus’ first single–a nine minute ode to being undead.  It’s considered the foundation of Goth music.

“Bela Lugosi’s Dead” starts with noises and feedback–echoing guitar scratches and atmospherics.

After about a minute and a half the simple three note bass line begins–slow and menacing.

Another minute later the vocals begin–Peter Murphy’s low voice reciting the lyrics.

White on white translucent black capes
Back on the rack
Bela Lugosi’s dead
The bats have left the bell tower
The victims have been bled
Red velvet lines the black box
Bela Lugosi’s dead
Undead undead undead

The guitars are primarily high notes as the chords change and for a brief moment in the chorus, the three-note melody goes up in stead of down.

The remainder of the lyrics:

The virginal brides file past his tomb
Strewn with time’s dead flowers
Bereft in deathly bloom
Alone in a darkened room
The count
Bela Lugosi’s dead
Undead undead undead

Around five-minutes the song quiets down to just drums and echoing scratched guitars.  Around seven minutes, Murphy starts wailing “Bela’s undead.”  The last minute or so returns to the beginning with echoed guitars sounds and scratches.

Lo-fi creepiness.

[READ: October 29, 2018] “Uncle Tuggs”

Just in time for Halloween, from the people who brought me The Short Story Advent Calendar and The Ghost Box. comes Ghost Box II.

This is once again a nifty little box (with a magnetic opening and a ribbon) which contains 11 stories for Halloween.  It is lovingly described thusly:

The Ghost Box returns, like a mummy or a batman, to once again make your pupils dilate and the hair on your arms stand straight up—it’s another collection of individually bound scary stories, edited and introduced by comedian and spooky specialist Patton Oswalt.

There is no explicit “order” to these books; however, Patton Oswalt will be reviewing a book a day on his Facebook page.

Much respect to Oswalt, but I will not be following his order.  So there. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: DEAD KENNEDYS “Halloween” (1982).

This Halloween song is also about Halloween.  It comes from Dead Kennedys’ final album.

It’s breakneck paced, snarky and full of socio-political commentary, as you might expect.

Because you’re still hiding in a mask
Take your fun seriously
No, don’t blow this year’s chance
Tomorrow your mold goes back on
After Halloween, after Halloween
You’ll go to work tomorrow
Shitfaced tonight
You’ll brag about it for months
“Remember what I did, remember what I was, back on Halloween?”

The body of the song is pretty simple musically (although the guitar gets to go a bit nutty here and there).  But it’s as the song reaches the end that it gets pretty intense.

Much like the way Ministry’s “(Everyday is) Halloween” mocked those for conforming, this song takes it one step further.

Because your role is planned for you
There’s nothing you can do
But stop and think it through
But what will the boss say to you?
And what will your girlfriend say to you?
And the people out on the street they might glare at you
And whadaya know, you’re pretty self-conscious too?
So you run back and stuff yourselves in rigid business costumes
Only at night to score is your leather uniform exhumed
Why don’t you take your social regulations, shove ’em up your ass?

So yea, this one is a but less suntle than Ministry (who would’ve’ thought anything could be?)

[READ: October 28, 2018] “Abraham’s Boys”

Just in time for Halloween, from the people who brought me The Short Story Advent Calendar and The Ghost Box. comes Ghost Box II.

This is once again a nifty little box (with a magnetic opening and a ribbon) which contains 11 stories for Halloween.  It is lovingly described thusly:

The Ghost Box returns, like a mummy or a batman, to once again make your pupils dilate and the hair on your arms stand straight up—it’s another collection of individually bound scary stories, edited and introduced by comedian and spooky specialist Patton Oswalt.

There is no explicit “order” to these books; however, Patton Oswalt will be reviewing a book a day on his Facebook page.

Much respect to Oswalt, but I will not be following his order.  So there. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: RHEOSTATICS “Halloween Eyes” (?).

This song is somewhat legendary among Rheostatics stories.  I’m not really sure when they wrote it (a long time ago).  I’m not even sure if there’s more to it than this verse.  Every time I’ve heard it played it has lasted about a minute.

It’s a simple guitar riff with some quite ridiculous lyrics

Don’t look at me with your Halloween eyes Awhoooo
Don’t hit me with your pumpkin pies Awhoooo
Devil’s got horns, devil’s got a tail–666, gonna fuck you up
Some people say that he got scales—666, you’re a sitting duck
Awhooo Awhoo etc etc.

They play it live from time to time (as recently as 2017) and each time they play it they seem to add to the mythology

“These guys really were stoned when they wrote that.”

Is it scary?  Nope.  Is it safe to add to a party playlist?  Nope.  Is it dumb?  Yup.  Do they know that?  Yup.  Is it fun anyway?  Yup.  Sounds like Halloween to me.

[READ: October 20, 2018] “Gray Matter”

Just in time for Halloween, from the people who brought me The Short Story Advent Calendar and The Ghost Box. comes Ghost Box II.

This is once again a nifty little box (with a magnetic opening and a ribbon) which contains 11 stories for Halloween.  It is lovingly described thusly:

The Ghost Box returns, like a mummy or a batman, to once again make your pupils dilate and the hair on your arms stand straight up—it’s another collection of individually bound scary stories, edited and introduced by comedian and spooky specialist Patton Oswalt.

There is no explicit “order” to these books; however, Patton Oswalt will be reviewing a book a day on his Facebook page.

Much respect to Oswalt, but I will not be following his order.  So there. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: MUDHONEY-“Halloween” (1988).

Mudhoney recorded a cover of Sonic Youth’s “Halloween” just two years after the original was released.

Mudhoney, a deliberately noisy and abrasive band recorded a deliberately noisy and abrasive version of this song.  And yet at the same time, it doesn’t hold a candle to Sonic Youth;s version for deliberate noise and chaos.

On the other hand, in many respects the Mudhoney version is better.  It feels more like a “real song” with the guitar, bass and drums all playing along fairly conventionally.  It follows the same musical patterns as the original, with that same cool riff, but it just feels…more.

Mark Arm sing/speaks the lyrics more aggressively and less sensuously than Kim Gordon did.  In some way it helps to understand the original song a little more, as if they translated it from Sonic Youth-land into a somewhat more mainstream version.  Although it is hardly mainstream what with the noise and fuzz, the cursing and the fact that it lasts 6 minutes.

It feels like Mark emphasizes these lyrics more than the others although it may just be that the songs builds more naturally to them:

And you’re fucking me
Yeah, you’re fucking with me
You’re fucking with me
As you slither up, slither up to me
Your lips are slipping, twisting up my insides
Sing along and just a swinging man
Singing your song
Now I don’t know what you want
But you’re looking at me
And you’re falling on the ground
And you’re twisting around
Fucking with my, my mind
And I don’t know what’s going on

Happy Halloween

[READ: October 24, 2018] “From A to Z, in the Chocolate Alphabet”

Just in time for Halloween, from the people who brought me The Short Story Advent Calendar and The Ghost Box. comes Ghost Box II.

This is once again a nifty little box (with a magnetic opening and a ribbon) which contains 11 stories for Halloween.  It is lovingly described thusly:

The Ghost Box returns, like a mummy or a batman, to once again make your pupils dilate and the hair on your arms stand straight up—it’s another collection of individually bound scary stories, edited and introduced by comedian and spooky specialist Patton Oswalt.

There is no explicit “order” to these books; however, Patton Oswalt will be reviewing a book a day on his Facebook page.

Much respect to Oswalt, but I will not be following his order.  So there. (more…)

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