Archive for the ‘Chris Schweizer’ Category

how you dieSOUNDTRACK: DIARRHEA PLANET-“Lite Dream” Live on KEXP (2014).

dpHow to pass up a band with a name like this?  Well, it’s pretty easy, actually.  Who would even want to say their name?

The name conjures images, no, let’s not go there.  The name conjures music that is just abrasive and rude–ten second punks songs.  But in reality, their music is pretty traditional old school heavy metal.  They have 4 lead guitarists after all! (There’s 6 guys in the band altogether, surprisingly, there’s no women).   One of the lead guitarists even plays with his teeth (for a few seconds).

This song is about heavy metal, although I’m not sure what about it.  There’s some big riffs, solos galore.  There’s even a classic 80s style dual lead guitar solo.  There’s big loud drums.  There’s feedback.  It’s everything you think of as heavy metal, with a seeming wink and nod thrown in.

This is basically a goofy feel good band, playing fast heavy metal.  Shame about the band name, though, really.

Watch it all here.

[READ: spring and summer 2014] This is How You Die

It is quite disconcerting to open a Christmas present from your wife and have the first thing you see be the words “This is How You Die.”  To then look at her confusedly and try to interpret the look of excited delight on her face as she wonders why you’re not excited.  Then she explains that it is a sequel to the interesting collection Machine of Death that you both had read several years ago (but which I evidently never posted about).  Sighs of relief and then Christmas can proceed with more merriment.

So over the course of the new year I read these stories and I enjoyed most of them quite a lot.

The premise of the book is that there is a Machine of Death.  This machine states how you will die, but it does not give you a time, place or real definition of what it means by hope you will die.  Statements seem obvious but may in fact be different in some twisted way.  As it says on the back of the book, OLD AGE could mean either dying of natural causes or being shot by an elderly bedridden man in a botched home invasion.  The book revels in the irony that you can know how it’s going to happen , but you’ll still be surprised when it does.

The way the machine works is that you insert your finger, it takes a blood sample and gives you a card with the way you die printed on it.  No matter how many times you do it you will get the same result.  These are the guidelines, and each author made a story with just that set up.

Pretty cool right?  The first collection was really great.  And so is this collection, done by writers and cartoonists that I had never heard of before.  There are 34 stories and 12 comic strips (it’s a hefty collection).  Because each story is basically about how a person dies, I had to think about how best to review the book–without giving away any twists.  So I think the title and a very brief plot will have to suffice.

There’s even a funny promo video for the book (at the end of the post). (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: BLUE ÖYSTER CULT-Agents of Fortune (1976).

After the release of their first official live album On Your Feet or On Your Knees, it’s unsurprising that the band would put a concert photo on the back cover of this disc (On Your Feet…was their first Top 40 disc).

What is surprising is the piano fueled second track “True Confessions” which is as delicate as the title suggests  (Eric Bloom even hits a falsetto note AND there’s a saxophone solo(!)).  Combine this with  “Debbie Denise” a tender (!) song about lost love (!) and you have quite a tender an un-heavy metal album.

Of course, the disc opens with “This Ain’t the Summer of Love” which is certainly a strong heavy track.  But that’s mostly it.  There’s a lot more piano/keyboard on “E.T.I. (Extra Terrestrial Intelligence)” although the guitars definitely come to the fore during the wailing solos.  And then, frequent contributor Patti Smith gets a vocal inclusion “The Revenge of Vera Gemini” (her voice works quite well with the spooky psychedelia of the band).  “Sinful Love” is an almost disco-ey dance track (the falsetto backing vocals are weird, to say the least!).

The later songs on the disc sound like 70s rock.  There’s rather little heavy metal involved at all.  In fact, “Tenderloin” comes close to sounding like Kansas.  That’s not necessarily a bad thing, it’s just kind of a shock coming from these heavy metal pioneers.

Oh, and I almost forgot, it also contains the biggest BOC song in the universe, “(Don’t Fear) The Reaper.”  [When my friend Lar saw a BOC Greatest Hits disc he asked if it was just this song 12 times).  Of course, you probably know the song, but if you haven’t heard in a long time, it sounds even better than you remember.  I have to assume that that track alone absolved the band of all the mellow tracks on this disc.

The bonus tracks on the remastered edition include a truly bizarro version of “Fire of Unknown Origin” and a demo of “Reaper.”

[READ: February 22, 2010] Crogan’s March

I enjoyed the first book in this series so much that I couldn’t wait for number two.  And how lucky for me that it was already available!

The premise of this series is that the Crogan family (who live in contemporary America) are a fairly normal family: happily married, two young kids who squabble a lot, etc.  This family aspect of the story bookends the main body of action (their father tells them a story about one of their ancestors to prove a point or make an argument).

In this case, a fight between the boys is summed up by their dad: “Some people believe that everyone should be given the freedom to make their own choice and others that everyone should be held to the same moral standards.”  So, let’s hear the story of Peter Crogan, member of the French Foreign Legion circa 1912.

When I was a kid, the foreign legion was this sort of mythical entity.  The phrase, “run away and join the foreign legion” seemed to be bandied about a lot as a means of escape.  I don’t know why it was, or why it seems to no longer be, but suffice it to say that I haven’t thought about the foreign legion in twenty years.

So, this story about a legionnaire was a welcome surprise from the get go. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: LES CLAYPOOL-Of Whales and Woe (2006).

Although I was a little disappointed with Of Fungi and Foe, I enjoyed it enough to want to track down Of Whales and Woe, since it seemed to be generally better received.  What’s interesting about this disc is that it sounds a lot like Primus, except that rather than guitar, other various instruments have been substituted to accompany Les’ bass.  And since one of the instruments is the saxophone, (and there’s no guitar) this album sounds (at times) like beloved Morphine (with a much funkier bass and completely un-sexy vocals).

On the first few listens, when I wasn’t listening very carefully, I really enjoyed the disc.  It reminded me a lot of Primus, although it had a lot of Les’ solo quirks.

However, once I started scrutinizing it a bit more, I found I didn’t enjoy it as much.  The first track, “Back Off Turkey” reminds me of some of the tracks on Fungi: wild and crazy sounding music but the vocals are so muddy it’s impossible to tell what’s up with the song.

On the opposite end from the Fungi-like bass heavy tracks, we have “Iowan Gal” a light -sounding and light-hearted romp about, well, an Iowan Gal. (There’s a lot of fun little quirks in there–Bow ditty bow bow).

And yet there’s some really great tracks on here: “One Better” is an amazing track, highlighting just how great Claypool is as a songwriter and arranger.  This song lasts pretty long but because there’s a lot of different things going on, it never overstays its welcome.

Most of the songs are stories about various bizarro characters.  And although I love Les’ characters, this turns into one of the downfalls of the disc.  In the great tradition of storytelling songs, the songs tend to be verses only with nary a chorus.  And that’s fine because most storytellers use the music as a background to accompany the story.  Les’ music is far too aggressive/innovative/interesting to be  background.  So when you get a great wild bassline, you’re attracted to it.  But when it lasts for 5 minutes with no changes, it’s exhausting.  And trying to listen to lyrics along with it is, well, I think your brain just shuts down (especially when they are recorded low in the mix and are hard to hear).  And so, the album feels a lot longer than it is.

Maybe I miss Ler’s amazing guitars.  I’m still unclear about why Primus has split, especially if Les is writing songs that are not unlike Primus.  Of course, having said all that, there is no denying the awesomeness of Les Claypool.  The funny thing is that even a reigned-in Claypool is still pretty out there.  I think maybe sometime he just goes too far out there.

[READ: February 7, 2010] Crogan’s Vengeance

When Sarah and I went to BEA, we spoke to the Oni Press guy who was praising this book, The Crogan Adventures, as a fantastic series aimed at teens, but really readable for the whole family. The premise is that the Crogan family (and there’s an extensive family tree on the back cover), all led exciting lives.  The stories about these men are being told to the youngest Crogan boy Eric, in present day.

This first book is about Catfoot Crogan, an honest sailor who was more or less forced into a life of piracy in the 1700s.  And the story is fantastic.  There is sailor talk, there is swashbuckling, a terrible storm, even a shark! (more…)

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