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Archive for the ‘Bill Cotter’ Category

47_2_(1) SOUNDTRACK: MARY MARGARET O’HARA-Christmas E.P. (1991)

marymarMary Margaret O’Hara is a fascinating recluse.  She released a cool, weird  album in 1988 then did nothing for three years when she released this Christmas EP.  Since then she hasn’t really released anything (except for a soundtrack).

O’Hara’s voice is her most notable feature (she warbles and swoons and is almost otherworldly–sometimes crazily so).  She is the backing shrieker in Morrissey’s “November Spawned a Monster.”  So one expects a pretty weird Christmas album from her.

 But it’s actually fairly conventional and I have to admit a bit dull.  “Blue Christmas” is just too slow for me.  O Hara’s voice doesn’t have any oomph here.  The cheesy violin solo doesn’t help either.  “Silent Night” is, I feel, too pretty of a song for O’Hara’s voice which wobbles in weird ways for this track.  “What Are You Doing New Years Eve?” suffers from the same as everything else on this disc–it’s too slow and languid.  I know this song can be wistful, but I need this to be faster.  “Christmas Evermore” fares the best on this disc because it isn’t familiar (to me).  The music is a bit more uptempo (if still eccentric).  And you don’t have other version to compare it to.

So, overall this proves to be a somewhat disappointing EP.

[READ: December 5, 2014] McSweeney’s 47

I love McSweeney’s issues that come in boxes with lots of little booklets.  It somehow makes it more fun to read the stories when they are in little booklets with individual covers.  In this instance, all of the booklets look basically the same–ten different cool pencil (and red) drawings on the cover done by Carson Murdach and a red back cover.  The outer slipcase art is by Jason Polan.

There are ten booklets.  One has a few letters and the rest are short stories.  There’s even a surprise in here–the very exciting discovery of two lost Shirley Jackson stories.  But there’s also the slightly disappointing realization that two of the books contain excerpts from McSweeney’s books (which I already own).

LETTERS: (more…)

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peach6SOUNDTRACK: FOO FIGHTERS “Overture” (Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, 2013).

ffhofOn April 19th, Rush was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.  I don’t particularly care about the Hall of Fame, but I love to see Rush celebrated.

And I love to see Dave Grohl celebrate with people.  So, as only Dave and co. can do, they donned white kimonos and wigs and set out to rock the HoF with a great cover of 2112’s “Overture.”  They didn’t get into “Temples of Syrinx” (I was curious to see if Dave would try that falsetto), but they were joined by the original trio for the end of the song with Geddy stating that the meek shall inherit the earth.

FF do a great job, they sound heavy and they got all of those odd time signatures down right.  Dave does an admirable job with Alex’s challenging solos.  All in all, it was a pleasure to see.  Evidently this will be broadcast officially on May 18, but for now there’s a shaky cam version floating around the web.  I found it on Stereogum.  You can also see Dave Grohl’s very cool induction speech there too (although the picture no longer seems to be on cameltoe.org).

And check out the commitment (even with Tyler’s moustache) and the real set behind him.

ffhof2

[READ: April 21, 2013] “The Tandoor”

An unexpected title for this story in which the tandoor plays a very small role.  The story felt like there could have been a lot more to it, for while there was a lot of backstory and the story did feel complete, I could have read a lot more (which I think is a great complement).  It starts out in a rather mundane fashion with a girl in the backseat of a car being belligerent because her mother took away the iPad (so she could do Sudoku).  The family is driving to Texas to see the Hole.  Before we learn what the Hole is, we learn more about the family.

The husband and wife are fighting (as usual).  The daughter has taken the father’s side because he’s the underdog.

It turns out that the father has opened another restaurant (this is the fifth one, the other four have failed).  It is also not doing very well and the wife resents not only the failing business but also the fact that he has been given money to try five businesses.   She also resents the woman that he husband admitted he lusts after (at least he admitted it in his sleep).  And she seems to have taken that as an invitation to sleep with someone else as well.  (There’s a lot more to it and the details are wonderful). (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: VIC CHESNUTT-At the Cut [CST060] (2009).

Vic Chesnutt died in December.  I have limited exposure to him, although I really enjoyed his previous Constellation release North Star Deserter.

This release (his second to last) shows him playing with much the same line up as North Star.  And it is just as harrowing and passionate as the other.

It opens with the fantastic “Coward” in which, stating how courageous it can be to be a coward her proudly sings “I am a Coward!”.  This track is one of the rocking ones on the disc, which is split pretty evenly between cacophonous rockers and slow moody acoustic pieces.  Another great rocker is “Chinaberry Tree.”  The lyrics are simple and the chorus is just the words Chinaberry Tree, but it is fantastic.

My preferences run to faster music, so I enjoy his noisier tracks to the simpler, acoustic ones.  And yet, lyrically, his songs are so moving that I easily get sucked into the narratives.  The most notable song on the disc is “Flirted with You All My Life” which is about death, specifically about his past suicide attempts.  It’s really moving.  And even the seemingly simple “Granny” is a well-written mood piece.

Chesnutt had all kind of physical problems (when he was 18 he was in a car accident and had been mostly paralyzed) and he had been in pain most of life.  It’s a shame he felt compelled to end his life, but we still have his music to enjoy.

[READ: March 27, 2010] Fever Chart

About half way through this first-person book, the narrator has a mental breakdown and tries to bite his hand off.  That should tell you right off the bat whether or not you want to read the book.  (Add to that that the narrator also has terrible bowel problems).

I had received an excerpt from McSweeney’s over the summer, and of all three books in the sampler, I enjoyed this one the most.  Little did I know how utterly surreal the story would get once that excerpt was over!

The cover of the book shows a man walking down the street with blood dripping from his hand.  This seemed like an odd choice to me.  However, for the bulk for the story, the narrator seems to be walking down streets with blood dripping from his hand (the one he eventually tries to bite off) so it perfectly encapsulates the tone of the book.

The story opens in the middle of a series of events from the narrator’s past (the first few sections are written in a wonderfully disjointed way that keeps the reader off balance).  Jerome Coe is currently living in an Apartment in Boston.  It has no heat.  His toilet is frozen solid and he is sleeping between his mattress and box spring to keep warm.  After ages of complaints to his landlord, one day the heat kicks on.  Full blast.  And Jerome cannot turn it off.  Soon, wallpaper is peeling of the walls and steam is flowing from his windows.  He is naked in his apartment and is preparing to run outside into the freezing weather just to escape the heat.

While he is standing outside, half-naked, a car pulls up and the driver, a woman named Tommy, asks him to jump in. (more…)

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31SOUNDTRACK: THE REPLACEMENTS-Hootenanny (1983).

hootThis is the second full length from The Replacements.  For a band that just released two punk albums (one’s an EP), naming your new one Hootenanny is pretty ballsy.  As is the fact that the first track sounds like, well, a hootenanny (even if it is making fun of hootenannies.)

However, the rest of the album doesn’t sound like hootenannies at all.  In fact, the rest of the album is all over the place.  I don’t want to read into album covers too much, but the design has all 16 titles in separate boxes in different colors.  It suggests a little bit of stylistic diversity inside.

Just see for yourself:  “Run It” is a one minute blast of some of the punkiest stuff they’ve done. (It’s about running a red light).  Meanwhile, “Color Me Impressed” marks the second great alt-rock anthem (after “Go”) that Westerberg has put on record.  “Willpower” is a sort of spooky ambient meandering piece that, at over 4 minutes is their longest piece yet.  “Take Me to The Hospital” is a punky/sloppy guitar song.  “Mr Whirly” is sort of an update of the Beatles’ “Oh Darlin.'”  “Within Your Reach” is technically the longest Replacements song to date.  It starts with a cool flangy guitar sound that swirls around a fairly mellow vocal track (this song was featured in the end of Say Anything.  John Cusack cranks the song up past the red line).  “Buck Hill” is an (almost) instrumental.  “Lovelines” is a spoken word reading of personals ads over a bluesy backing track.  “You Lose” is the first song that sounds like another one…a sort of hardcore song.  “Hayday” is a fast rocker like their first album.  And it ends with “Treatment Bound” a sloppy acoustic number that sounds like it was recorded in a tin can.

As you can see, this album is all over the place, and almost every song sounds like they may not make it through to the end.  Yet, despite all of the genres represented, the band sounds cohesive.  The disc just sounds like a band playing all the kinds of music that they like, and the fact that there are a couple of really lasting songs on the disc makes it sound like more than just a bar band.

I feel as though not too many people even know of this disc (it was the last one I bought by them, as I couldn’t find it for the longest time).  But in reading reviews, I see that people seem to really love this disc.  I enjoyed it, and, like other ‘Mats discs, it’s certainly fun, but I don’t listen to it all that often.

[READ: June 9, 2009] McSweeney’s #31

The latest issue of McSweeney’s has a totally new concept (for this journal, anyhow):  They resurrect old, defunct writing styles and ask contemporary writers to try their hands at them. I had heard of only two of these defunct styles, so it was interesting to see how many forms of writing there were that had, more or less, disappeared.

Physically, the issue looks like a high school yearbook.  It’s that same shape, with the gilded cover and the name of the (school) on the spine.

Attached to the inside back cover is McSweeney’s Summertime Sampler. As far as I know this is the first time they have included a sampler of multiple upcoming works.  There are three books sampled in the booklet: Bill Cotter’s Fever Chart; Jessica Anthony’s The Convalescent & James Hannaham’s God Says No. I enjoyed all three of the pieces.  Fever Chart has stayed with me the most so far.  I can still feel how cold that apartment was.  The Convalescent begin a little slow, but I was hooked by the end of the excerpt. And God Says No has me very uncomfortable; I’m looking forward to finishing that one.

As for #31 itself:

The Fugitive Genres Recaptured (or Old Forms Unearthed) include: pantoums, biji, whore dialogues, Graustarkian romances, nivolas, senryū, Socratic dialogues, consuetudinaries, and legendary sagas.  Each genre has an excerpt of an original writing in that style.  Following the sample is the modern take on it.  And, in the margins are notes in red giving context for what the author is doing.  I assume these notes are written by the author of the piece, but it doesn’t say.

I’m going to give a brief synopsis of the genre, but I’m not going to critique either the old piece or whether the new piece fits into the genre exactly (suffice it to say that they all do their job very well). (more…)

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30SOUNDTRACK: THE FLAMING LIPS-Fight Test EP (2003).

fightThe test begins NOW!

With the success of Yoshimi, the Lips put out a couple of multitrack EPs.  The first one was for “Fight Test.”  In addition to the title track, this EP features three great covers: “Can’t Get You Out of My Head” is a slow acoustic guitar/timpani version of the infectious Kylie Minogue hit.  Despite its slowness, the “La La La” part is still catchy!  Next is a cover of the Beck song “The Golden Age.”  It’s also an acoustic guitar version.  Finally is a cover of Radiohead’s “Knives Out.”  It’s not quite as manic as the Radiohead version but it’s still very good.

The next three tracks include a 9 minute dance remix of “Do You Realize??” which is fun enough, if you like that sort of thing.  “The Strange Design of Conscience” sounds like it could have been an outtake from Yoshimi.  It fits in quite well with the music and themes of the CD.  “Thank You Jack White (For the Fiber Optic Jesus That You Gave Me)” is a 3 and a half minute folk song relating the (presumably true) tale of a plastic Jesus that Jack White gave to Wayne.

It must be fun to be able to write a thank you song that thousands of people will hear.

Lots of times EPs aren’t really worth the time, but this is a very good one.  The covers are a lot of fun, and you’ll be La La Laing right along with Wayne.

[READ: February 24, 2009] McSweeney’s 30

This issue of McSweeney’s hearkens back to their initial three issues: a white paperback with words in a graphic design on the cover. The cover design is an homage to Obama’s presidency, and has some thoughtful as well as funny lines on it (You Can Take That Canadian Flag Sticker Off Your Backpack Now). It was also printed in Iceland once again (in a nice bid to help Iceland’s economy, which is actually worse than ours) by Oddi Printing.

The contents of the issue are also pretty straightforward: eleven short stories and some occasional art by Jason Polan which ties into the stories. (more…)

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