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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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SOUNDTRACK: ADIA VICTORIA-NonCOMM 2019 Free at Noon (May 15, 2019).

I saw Adia Victoria do a Tony Desk Concert back in 2016.  I liked her and thought it would be interesting to hear her when she wasn’t holding back for a Tiny Desk.  And here she is rocking out.

her music is a little hard to pin down, she describes it as blues, but there’s a lot more going on:

her songs were structured like mainstream R&B hits, but in her most memorable moments Victoria turned away from the traditional styles of blues and soul, and turned instead toward something more macabre–like the moody trip-pop of Billie Eilish.

This sound is the direction she went in on her new album.

The set began with “The Needle’s Eye” as a pulsing synth morphed into a danceable rhythm (electric and acoustic drums).  Victoria sang in a breathy voice.  After the chorus, two saxophones provided a noisy distorted solo.  She sang “I’ve been a fool, I’ve been afraid, I’ve been asleep, but now I’m awake.”

She introduced herself “My name is Adia Victoria. This is my band. We done come all the way up from Nashville to play my blues for you.” Then, after a beat, “Lucky you.”

Her introduction for “Different Kind of Love” was brief and mirthless. “It’s about getting dumped,” she shrugged, without even a moment of heartache over the one who dumped her.

This song continues in that dark vein with rumbling drums providing most of the “melody” along with more sax.

Up next was “Bring Her Back,” which she called “a song for my ancestors.” This song used an organ to change the tone.

Victoria played “Heathen” at the Tiny Desk on an acoustic guitar.  I thought it would be better louder.  And it was.  Especially knowing its origins:

As she introduced her final song, “Heathen,” Victoria mentioned some of the frustration she experienced as a young woman with dreams of becoming a professional performer. “My little voice would break and my knees would shake, but I had this song and I made no mistakes,” she rhymed. Victoria explained that she wrote the song “after I realized that there were two sets of rules — one for men, and one for women. When it came time to gettin’ your freak on, I was very naïve. So I wrote this song. It’s a nice little ‘screw you’ to the patriarchy. We play it tonight for every single woman in Alabama right now who’s got these men trying to make moves on their body. We say, ‘That’s bullshit.’” Victoria had aimed her criticism at Alabama’s state legislature, which recently passed a highly restrictive anti-abortion bill…. “This song is called ‘Heathen’ and it’s about giving no fucks,” she declared before counting it off.

The song was much darker and more raw than the Tiny Desk version. It also felt a lot more bluesy than her newer songs (with a lot of sax blowing around the simple chord pattern).

She finished with a gritty chorus of improvised scatting; each syllable landed somewhere between a laugh and a snarl. Afterward, she addressed the Philadelphia crowd resolutely once more and gave a single deep bow. “Thank you, goodnight.”

Adia Victoria is an intriguing performer for sure and I’m curious how her sound will expand in the future.

[READ: May 20, 2019] “Taking Pictures”

Two days ago I posted a story about someone stealing pictures.  Now here’s the title “Taking Pictures.”  They are not related in any other way.

This story is about a woman who has just gotten engaged.  And her relationship with Sarah at work–the bitch.

Sarah is

a washed-out sort of strawberry blonde with fine bones and small features.  She is fading to white.  She is constantly insulted by men.

Sarah at work also has a personality problem

Which is to say her problem is that she does not like other people’s personalities.

The narrator is surprised that Sarah is seeing someone.  Sarah says he won’t “do Saturdays.”  Maybe he’s a bisexual. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: KING GIZZARD AND THE LIZARD WIZARD-12 Bar Bruise (2012).

12 Bar Bruise is the first full-length album from KGATLW.  It sounds even rawer than their EP.  But there’s no drop in intensity.  It’s an intense mix of punk, psychedelic blues, surf rock and boogie all filtered through a buzzing, fuzzy sound.  Distortion rules this album, but never enough to obscure what are remarkably simple but catchy riffs.  Most songs are just around 3 minutes long.

Once again, lyrics take a lesser place than great music. So “Elbow” has some bad words in it, but you can’t tell.  It’s more about whoops and tricked out guitar solos and chants of “ey ey ey.”  “Muckraker” introduces the surf punk elements and “Nein” has my favorite lyric thus far: “1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8, Nein, Nein, Nein, Nein, Nein”

“12 Bar Bruise” is the longest song on the disc at 3:47.  It is indeed a simple blues with muffled vocals.  “Garage Liddiard” introduces the concept of surf rock in a garage.  The guitar slides like a surf rock song but the whole vibe is garage with “ooh ooh” backing vocals and a harmonica solo that sounds like someone singing at the same time.

“Sam Cherry’s Last Shot” is the one very different song on this record.   It is played like a Western and it features spoken word.   Broderick Smith [of The Dingoes] is harmonica player Ambrose Kenny-Smith’s father.  He is an absolute Western nut so he narrated page 521 and 522 of the book “Our Wild Indians: Thirty-Three Years’ Personal Experience among the Red Men of the Great West” by Colonel Richard Irving Dodge, Aid-de-Camp to General Sherman.  This is certainly the set up for their next album, Eyes Like the Sky which is a full album of Western music with narration from Smith.

“High Hopes” is almost as long as “12 Bar,” but it has an intro of electronic drums and video game sounds before it switches back to the standard rocking sound.  There’s a lengthy, wickedly distorted harmonica solo.  “Cut Throat Boogie” features a different vocalist (I think Ambrose Kenny-Smith).  It’s a garage rock boogie.

Despite the title, “Bloody Ripper” is a slower, quieter less frenetic and really catchy song.  “Uh oh, I Called Mum” wins for best song title.  It opens with everyone chanting “mum” and lots of backing vocals.  The lyrics: “I bought a funny glob / I put it in my gob.”  “Sea of Trees” is the least distorted track.  It’s a catchy swinging song with a cool harmonica solo.

The disc ends with “Footy Footy,” a two-minute stomper dedicated to playing footy.  The chorus:
Footy footy, all I wanna do is
Footy footy, all I wanna kick is
Footy footy, they catch the ball, kick, play on!
Footy footy, footy footy footy!

But the verses are presumable great players:

Ang Christou / Che Cockatoo-Collins / Phillip Matera / Gavin Wanganeen / Gary Moorcroft / Aussie Jones / Bruce Doull, the ‘Flying Doormat’ / ‘Spida’ Everitt / ‘Spider’ Burton / Craig Bradley / The 1995 Carlton football team

and

‘Diesel’ Williams / Dale Kickett / ‘Sticks’ Kernahan / Darren Jarman / Chad Rintoul / Ashley Sampi / Mick Martyn / Dean [?] / Clint Bizzell / The Brisbane Bears / Aaron Hamill / Everyone

with the final line: “I hate what this game has become.”

It’s a lot of fun crammed into 35 minutes.

[READ: February 1, 2019] Checkpoint

This book was a pretty controversial work back in 2004.

Released before the re-election of George W. Bush, this book is, very simply, a dialogue between two men.

The topic?  Jay wants to assassinate President Bush.  Ben, his oldest friend, wants to talk him out of it.

There was a lot of discussion about the merits of this book–regardless of the politics–and I didn’t want to read it because of all of that.

In the real world, it’s fifteen years later and we are suffering through a trump–far worse than Bush could have even imagined being–although clearly Bush marched the Republican party off the cliff that had trump at the bottom of it.

So, how does one come down on this spicy subject fifteen years later? (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: STELLA DONNELLY-Tiny Desk Concert #819 (January 22, 2019).

Stella Donnelly has been generating some buzz lately, but I wasn’t familiar with her.  I didn’t even realize she was Australian.

She is adorable with her hair in two little nubs at the back of her head and a big smile most of the time.

She immediately won the office over with her broad smile, warmth and good-natured sense of humor. It’s the kind of easy-going, open-hearted spirit that makes her one of the most affable live performers you’ll see. While there’s no doubting her sincerity, she’s also got a disarming way of making her often dark and brutal songs a little easier to take in.

And indeed, she does not mince words when she sings.

“Beware of the Dogs” is a delicate song with Stella strumming her guitar with no pick and singing in a beautiful but soft voice.  There’s such a gorgeous melody for the chorus.

It turns out that this song and the other two are new.  Because she doesn’t even have an album out yet!

For this set, she performed entirely new — and, as of this writing, unreleased — songs from her upcoming full-length debut, Beware of the Dogs. Opening with the title cut, Donnelly smiled cheerfully through the entire performance while reflecting on the horrors that often lurk beneath the surface of seemingly idyllic lives. “This street is haunted like a beast that doesn’t know its face is frightening to behold,” she sings. “All the painted little gnomes, smiling in a line, trying to get your vote.”

As the song builds she gets more pointed:  “There’s no Parliament / Worthy of this country’s side / All these pious fucks / taking from the 99.”

She follows with “U Owe Me” which is “about my old boss at  a pub I used to work at back home.”

This song has a gentle guitar melody and some surprisingly soft vocals (including some vibrato at the end of each verse).   But the lyrics are straightforward and pointed (all sung with that disarming smile)

you put your great ideas up your nose /
and then try to tell me where the fuck to go /
you’re jerking off to the cctv /
while I’m pouring plastic pints of flat VB [or Foster’s or whatever].

At the end of the song she says, “He actually paid me a week after.  I was on the wrong week of my payroll.  It was very dramatic back then.”

She says “Allergies” is a run-of-the-mill breakup song.   “I’ve only got two of them and this is one of them.”  It’s a delicate, quiet song (capo on the tenth fret!) and once again, her voice is just lovely.

How can this Concert be only ten minutes long? I could listen to her all day.

Surprisingly, Donnelly chose not to play any of the songs that have gotten her to where she is in her young career — songs like 2017’s “Boys Will Be Boys” or last year’s “Talking,” two savagely frank examinations of misogyny and violence that earned her the reputation for being a fearless and uncompromising songwriter. But the new material demonstrates that her unflinching perspective and potent voice is only getting stronger.

I’m bummed that I am busy the night she’s playing a small club in Philly, as it might just be the last time she plays such a small venue.

[READ: January 26, 2019] Brazen

This is an awesome collection of short biographies of kick-ass women.  Bagieu has written [translated by Montana Kane] and drawn in her wonderful style, brief, sometimes funny (occasionally there’s nothing funny), always inspiring stories about women who spoke up for themselves and for others.  Some of the women were familiar to me, some were not.  A few were from a long time ago, but many are still alive and fighting.  And what was most cool is that the stories of the women I knew about had details and fascinating elements that I was not previously aware of.

What a great, great book.  It’s perfect for Middle School students all the way to adults.  I actually thought it might be perfect for fourth and fifth grade girls to read and be inspired by.  However, it skews a little bit older.  There’s a few mentions of sex, abortion, rape and domestic violence.  These are all real and important issues, but may be too much for younger kids.

Bagieu’s art for most of the pages is very simple–perfectly befitting a kind of documentary style but after each story she creates a two page spread that is just a breathtaking wash of colors which summarizes the previews story in one glorious image.  Its terrific. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: FLASHER-Tiny Desk Concert #770 (July 30, 2018).

I haven’t heard of Flasher, but the description of the band (noisy) makes me think I’d like them.  I’m also intrigued by the various guitar and bass lines.  The vocals are also really nice–wonder just how buried they are on record:

For its visit to the Tiny Desk, this young Washington trio set aside the distortion and worked up a semi-acoustic set of three songs — taken from its debut album, Constant Image.  Voices sometimes in unison, sometimes swapping leads, adding a shifting point of view to songs that, on record, give equal footing to a precise noise.

These three high school friends, Taylor Mulitz (guitar, vocals), Daniel Saperstein (bass, guitar) and Emma Baker (drums) have been bouncing around the D.C. punk scene of house shows and DIY venues for some time.

I rather got a kick out of this little “How Bob knows the band”

I’ve been aware of Taylor’s work for a while…in the potent D.C. band Priests; Daniel I’ve known (a bit) since he was a child, mostly from Hanukkah parties with his family (his mom was the executive producer at All Things Considered when I was the show’s director); Emma can be seen playing around town with another band, Big Hush.

I really enjoyed the stops and starts of “Pressure” I imagine it’s really fun when they rock.  It also has some really clever word play: “saving face / self-effacing / keeping pace / in a stasis.”  Most of the delicate harmony vocals come from the bassist (who is actually playing acoustic guitar), although when all three of them sing it sounds even better.

The interchange of electric and acoustic guitar works great on “XYZ.”  All three sing in tight harmony.

I love the way “Who’s Got Time?” seems to be constantly catching up on itself, like they are running out of time to finish the song–even though it never sounds like they are out of sync with each other.

Their overall sound is wonderful acoustic shoegaze.  At least at the Tiny Desk.

[READ: August 15, 2018] “A Refugee Crisis”

I didn’t love Wink’s last story (about killing cats), but I found this one fascinating because of how many elements were included here.

The narrator is a writer living in a place where one can cross-country ski regularly (Bozeman, MT).  The trail is mostly unused except for a guy who runs tours by dogsled–and there is plenty of dog shit on the trail to show where the sled went.

When he gets home, M is lying on his couch.  She says she let herself in since she knew the key was still under the mat.  She says she just came back from Serbia.  (She had been in Athens, Budapest and Frankfurt among other places).  The refugee camps there were really bad–people are trying to get across Hungary and the military is beating them, shooting at them.

She is twenty-three but looks forty and her personal hygiene is atrocious.  They have sex anyhow.  She says they can’t get pregnant because she already is–from a nineteen year old boy from Raqqa.  She didn’t tell the guy.  She is planning to get an abortion shortly. (more…)

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