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Archive for the ‘Chuck Klosterman’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: JOHN PRINE-Tiny Desk Concert #717 (March 12, 2018).

For all of the legendary status of John Prine, I don’t really know that much about him.  I also think I don’t really know much of his music.  I didn’t know any of the four songs he played here.

I enjoyed all four songs.  The melodies were great, the lyrics were thoughtful and his voice, although wizened, convey the sentiments perfectly.

The blurb sums up things really well

An American treasure came to the Tiny Desk and even premiered a new song. John Prine is a truly legendary songwriter. For more than 45 years the 71-year-old artist has written some of the most powerful lyrics in the American music canon, including “Sam Stone,” “Angel From Montgomery,” “Hello In There” and countless others.

John Prine’s new songs are equally powerful and he opens this Tiny Desk concert with “Caravan of Fools,” a track he wrote with Pat McLaughlin and Dan Auerbach. Prine adds a disclaimer to the song saying, “any likeness to the current administration is purely accidental.”

I thought the song was great (albeit short) with these pointed lyrics:

The dark and distant drumming
The pounding of the hooves
The silence of everything that moves
Late in night you see them
Decked out in shiny jewels
The coming of the caravan of fools

That song, and his second tune, the sweet tearjerker “Summer’s End,” are from John Prine’s first album of new songs in 13 years, The Tree of Forgiveness.

He introduces this song by saying that.  This one is a pretty song.  It might drive you to tears.  He wrote this with Pat McLaughlin.  We usually write on Tuesdays in Nashville because that’s the day they serve meatloaf.  I love meatloaf.  We try to write a song before they serve the meatloaf.  And then eat it and record it.

For this Tiny Desk Concert John Prine also reaches back to his great “kiss-off” song from 1991 [“an old song from the 90s (whoo)…  a song from the school of kiss off 101”] called “All the Best,” and then plays “Souvenirs,” a song intended for his debut full-length but released the following year on his 1972 album Diamonds in the Rough. It’s just one of the many sentimental ballads Prine has gifted us.

He says he wrote it in 1968…when he was about 3.

Over the years, his voice has become gruffer and deeper, due in part to his battle with squamous cell cancer on the right side of his neck, all of which makes this song about memories slipping by feel all the more powerful and sad.

“Broken hearts and dirty windows
Make life difficult to see
That’s why last night and this mornin’
Always look the same to me
I hate reading old love letters
For they always bring me tears
I can’t forgive the way they rob me
Of my sweetheart’s souvenirs”

The musicians include John Prine, Jason Wilber, David Jacques and Kenneth Blevins.

 

[READ: December 11, 2017] X

I really enjoyed Klosterman’s last essay book, although I found pretty much every section was a little too long.  So this book, which is a collection of essays is perfect because the pieces have already been edited for length.

I wasn’t even aware of this book when my brother-in-law Ben sent it to me with a comment about how much he enjoyed the Nickelback essay.

Because I had been reading Grantland and a few other sources, I have actually read a number of these pieces already, but most of them were far off enough that I enjoyed reading them again.

This book is primarily a look at popular culture.  But narrowly defined by sports and music (and some movies).  I have never read any of Klosterman’s fiction, but I love his entertainment essays. (more…)

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klosetrSOUNDTRACK: RHEOSTATICSFall Nationals The Horseshoe Tavern Toronto, ON. Night 1 of 13 (November 10, 2003).

This was the 1st night of their 13 night Fall Nationals run at the Horseshoe.  Rheostatics Live has recordings of nights 1, 3, 4, 5 and 7.

 The sound quality of this show is great, although it’s quite disconcerting how quiet it is between songs—must be soundboard with no audience pick up at all.

Dave chats with the crowd of course: “Always exciting on opening night—a tingle in the air.  We’re basking in the glow of David Miller’s victory tonight even if he doesn’t know the words to “Born to Run.”

David Raymond Miller is the president and CEO of WWF-Canada, the Canadian division of the international World Wildlife Fund. A former politician, Miller was the 63rd Mayor of Toronto from 2003 to 2010. He entered politics as a member of the New Democratic Party, although his mayoral campaign and terms in office were without any formal party affiliation. He did not renew his party membership in 2007.  After declining poll numbers, Miller announced on September 25, 2009, that he would not seek a third term as mayor in the 2010 election, citing family reasons.  He was replaced by Rob frickin Ford.

They play a lot of songs from their not yet released album (not until 2004, in fact) 2067.

They open with “The Tarleks” which is follows by 2001’s “Song of the Garden” and then back to 2067 with “I Dig Music.”  The new songs sound similar to the release but perhaps the words might not be solidified yet—there’s also no “too fucking bad” in “I Dig Music.”

Tim’s “In It Now” comes next with that cool opening riff.   It segues into one of my favorite Tim-sung songs “Marginalized” also from 2067.  I love the drums, the guitar riff, everything about it—although they are off-key as they start.

Dave says, “We’re surprising ourselves a little by playing new stuff.   But when Martin asks for requests and people say “Saskatchewan” Martin starts playing it (see, the squeaky wheel…).

“Fan letter for Ozzy Osbourne” (also from 2067)  it sounds a bit more spare and sad (with no wailing vocal at the end).  It’s followed by “a very old song we wrote in 1989, I think, but it still applies on this special occasion.”  He says it’s called “You can’t go back to Woodstock baby you were just 2 years old you, you weren’t even born.”

There’s a quiet “In This Town” that’s followed by a lengthy “When Winter Comes.”  This song features a remarkably pedestrian guitar solo (sloppy and very un-Martin like).

Dave says they were recording audio commentary from a show two years ago (for what?  is this available somewhere?).  He says that night wasn’t a very good patter night.  Good music night, though.

Tim says, “So we overdubbed good stage banter. … Till I sparked up a fattie and giggled like a moron.”
Martin: “till you sparked up a fattie and the ridiculousness of the situation became glaringly apparent.”
Dave: “Martin I can’t believe you just said ‘sparked up a fattie.'”
Martin: “The times they are a-changing.”

Martin introduces “Aliens” by saying “This would be a b-minor chord.  The whole thing seems a little weird–Martin does some odd voices and weird guitar noises—it almost sounds out of tune or like it’s just the wrong guitar.

Back to a new song with “Polar Bears and Trees” and they have fun chanting the “hey hey ho ho” section.

Dave calms things down with some details: We got some stuff planned over the next 13 days. Lucky 13.  Thursday there’s going to be 25 guest vocalists.  We’re gonna mail it in, basically.  And then on Saturday we have “Tim Vebron and the Rheostars.”  According to a review, this “band” is a goof: “Martin was wearing a lei and suspenders, MPW looked like an extra from THX1138.”   You can also get a pass to all 13 shows for $75.  For some good old live live Canadian shield rock.

Dave asks, “Tim did you get a contact high during aliens?  Some wise acre lit a marijuana cigarette.”  Tim:  “It’s just kicking in now.  I’m hungry.”

“PIN” sound great although in “Legal Age Life,” the sound drops out at 58 seconds and comes back on at 1:35.  During the song, Dave shouts G and they shift to “Crocodile Rock.”  It kind of clunkily falls back in to “LAL,” but it’s fun to see them jamming and exploring a bit.

Dave says “Crocodile Rock” was a very complicate dance, but it didn’t catch on.  I think the dance involved implements didn’t it. Tongs?”

“Stolen Car” starts quietly but builds and builds to a noisy climactic guitar solo.  Its pretty exciting.

During the encore break there’s repeated chants for “Horses.  Horses.”

You can hear Dave say, “‘Soul Glue?’ We’re not going to do that tonight, we’re going to say it for a special occasion.”  The audience member shouts, “the hell with you.” Dave: “Ok, bye. Yes I am going to hell.”

What song do you think cleans the palate for the song to come after it—A sherbet?

There’s some amusing commentary between Dace and the audience.  And then a little more local politics: “Did you think that was good speech by David Miller?  I didn’t. I don’t want to be a bad guy coz it’s his night but…”  Then Dave imagines a “David Miller ascension-to-power film starring Ed Begley Jr.”

The encore includes a rollicking “Satan is the Whistler” followed by a solid cover of The Clash’s “London Calling.”  Tim’s a little sloppy on the bass, but the guitar sound is perfect and Dave’s got the vocal sound just right.  As they leave you can still here that guy calling for “Horses.”

[READ: July 1, 2016] What If We’re Wrong?

I have enjoyed a lot of the essays I’ve read by Klosterman.  But I’ve never read one of his books before.  I saw him on Seth Meyers one night and this book sounded cool.  And then I saw it at work, so I grabbed it .

Klosterman is clever and funny and this book is clever and funny.  Although I found it a little long–every section of the book felt like it could have been shorter and it wouldn’t have lost any impact.  However, I loved the premise and I loved all of the examples.  I just got a little tired of each section before it ended.

So what is this book (with the upside down cover) about?  Well, as the blurb says, our cultural is pretty causally certain about things.  No matter how many times we are wrong, we know exactly how things are going to go. Until they do not go that way any more.  “What once seemed inevitable eventually becomes absurd.”  So what will people think of 2015/16 in 100 years?  And while some things seem like they may be obvious about how tastes change, he also wonders if our ideas about gravity will change.

This came out before the horrors of the 2016 election and I read it before them, so the whole premise of the book is even more magnified. (more…)

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grant12SOUNDTRACK: BELA FLECK, EDGAR MEYER, ZAKIR HUSSAIN-Tiny Desk Concert #70 (July 26, 2010).

belaBela Fleck is a rather legendary musician, and yet I realized I don’t really know that much about him.  And somehow I never knew he was a banjo player (that’s a pretty serious omission on my part).  I had never heard of the other two musicians, although they are apparently world-class masters of the bass fiddle and the tabla.

I also didn’t expect this Tiny Desk Concert to be so interestingly world-musicy.

This set is only two songs but each is about 7 minutes long and they are both very cool (and from the album The Melody of Rhythm).

Fleck’s playing is amazing, with a tone that is often unlike a standard banjo sound.  And I absolutely love the tabla–I am fascinated by this instrument.  The first song, “Bubbles” is an amazing demonstration of Fleck’s banjo.  About midway through he is playing in a decidedly middle eastern style (which works great with the tabla).  And when the bass starts getting bowed around 1:50, it adds an amazing richness to this already cool song.   There’s a cool bass solo (I love that the tabla pauses a few times during the solo).  The ending is just wonderful.

Before the second song, “Bahar” (which means “springtime”) they talk about being nervous, which is pretty funny.  This song opens with the bass fiddle’s bowed notes (including a very very high note).  This one seems to be a more solo-centered, with some elaborate work from Fleck after the introduction. And the tabla solo, while brief, is really cool to watch.  I prefer the first song, but the more traditional nature of the second song is a nice counterpart to the first.

[READ: August 24, 2015] Grantland #12

I enjoyed this issue as well.  This was mostly the spring and summer of 2014, which sounds so long ago, and yet so many things seem so current.

CHUCK KLOSTERMAN-“The Life and Times of Kiss”
I love this article about Kiss.  And I wrote about it back here.

WESLEY MORRIS-“Poison Candy”
This is about the disastrous state of female comedies.  It focuses on the movie The Other Woman which is ostensibly a female centered comedy but is entirely other.

BILL SIMMONS-“Sterling’s Fold”
A drumming down of Donald Sterling.  It’s hard for me to believe that this happened over a year ago.

ZACH LOWE-“Building the Brow”
An article about Anthony Davis of the Pelicans, who is proving to be better than anyone imagined. (more…)

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10SOUNDTRACK: FATHER JOHN MISTY-Fear Fun (2012).

fjmI can’t get over how much I’ve been enjoying this album for the last two years.  Father John Misty is J Tillman from Fleet Foxes.

This disc is a gentle folk album with vaguely country leanings.  The arrangements are spare and yet the verses and choruses are so great to sing along to. “Funtimes in Babylon” has this infectious chorus: “I would like to abuse my lungs, smoke everything in sight with every girl I’ve ever loved.  Ride around the wreckage on a horse knee deep in mud.  Look out, Hollywood, here I come.”  “Nancy from Now On” has a great propulsive chorus with oohs and tinkling bells and pianos and Misty’s engaging falsetto.

I was introduced to this album by “Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings” which opens with the super catchy line, “Jeeeeesus Christ, girl.”  I love the big crashing drum sound he has here.  “I’m Writing a Novel” is a fun romp, with the great line “I’m writing a novel because it’s never been done before.”  “O I Long to Feel Your Arms Around Me” introduces a great organ sound.  It’s a full song at only 2 and a half minutes.

“Misty’s Nightmares 1 & 2” opens with a slide guitar and turns into a stomping song with more Ooohs and a great chorus.  “Only Son of the Ladiesman” has a great chorus with the fun couple: “I’m a steady hand, I’m a Dodgers fan.”  “This is Sally Hatchet” has cool guitar blasts and a great bridge.

“Well You Can Do It Without Me” is a countrified 2 minute stomper.  “Tee Pees 1-12” is a big stompin’ honkey tonk song with fiddles and slide guitar.  The disc ends with “Everyman Needs a Companion” a slow ballad with a great piano melody and a fun to sing along with verse and chorus.

I love the lyrics on this album, especially the song “Now I’m Learning to Love the War” a slow ballad with a great story:

Try not to think so much about
The truly staggering amount of oil that it takes to make a record
All the shipping, the vinyl, the cellophane lining, the high gloss
The tape and the gear

Try not to become too consumed
With what’s a criminal volume of oil that it takes to paint a portrait
The acrylic, the varnish, aluminum tubes filled with latex
The solvents and dye

Lets just call this what it is
The gentler side of mankind’s death wish
When it’s my time to go
Gonna leave behind things that won’t decompose

In addition to all of the great music on here, the CD packaging is fantastic with that great cover, done in a cardboard gatefold sleeve including two huge books full of words and drawings and lyrics and everything.  I’m really looking forward to his next release.

[READ: September 14, 2014] Grantland #10

Despite my being in the middle of reading several other things, I was looking for a short article to read the other night and grabbed my Grantland 10.  And, of course, once I started, I couldn’t stop. I put everything else on hold and blasted through this issue.

And so all of my loves and hates are the same with this issue.  I never know how anything they talk about nearly a year ago turned out, which stinks.  And yet I get so wrapped up in the writing that I don’t care.  I’m not sure what it is about the writing for Grantland that i enjoy so much.  It is casual but knowledgeable.  Often funny but not obnoxiously silly. And I suppose that now I feel like I’m in on all of the secret stuff they talk about so I’m part of the club.  I fear that if I were to ever go to the website I would get sucked into a black hole and never emerge.

I often wonder how they choose what goes into the book.  This issue has some new writers and the surprising absence of some regulars.  I wonder what went on there.  And as always, the book could use some editing and maybe actually listing the urls of the links that were once in the online version.  But I think I’m talking to deaf ears on that one.

This issue covers October-December 2013 (that’s ten-twelve months ago!  Some of this stuff feels ancient!)

(more…)

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kissSOUNDTRACK: WICKED LESTER-The Original Wicked Lester Sessions (1972).

wicked Wicked Lester was the band that Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley started before they created Kiss. They recorded, but never released, an album (given Gene’s money grubbing needs, I can’t believe he hasn’t released this yet).  This demo version which floats around the internet may or may not be the album.  I’d be surprised if it were because there are four cover songs.  But whatever.

It’s a fun archive.  It has a very 70s vibe (including flutes and keyboards) and is much less heavy than what they would be releasing in just a year’s time.  Two of the songs from the demo made it onto Kiss records (strangely, one not until their third release).

“Love Her All I Can” sounds not too different from the Kiss version.  Paul’s voice is much deeper. The solo is lame and it’s funny to hear “do dooo” backing vocals (and a keyboard section).  “Sweet Ophelia” has a groovy 70s vibe and a feeling that is not too dissimilar to the sound of The Elder.  I love “Keep Me Waiting” has a what, tuba sound? for the riff.  The song also has an entirely new middle section, which is very early Kiss–they liked showing off creative chops back then.  I love this song.   “Simple Type” (the version I heard is lousy qality) is a rock and roll number with (I think) Gene on vocals.  It’s got a lot less of the psychedelic elements that the other songs have.  “She” (one of my favorite Kiss songs) has a wonderfully weird vibe here, (not to mention a flue solo which is very Jethro Tull).

“Too Many Mondays” has Gene on vocals and it is a very delicate song with gentle backing oohs.  It is probably the least Kiss sounding song of the bunch because they didn’t write it.  This is the first of several covers.   “What Happens in the Darkness” has a kind of disco sound (in the backing vocals) and Paul’s lead vocals have an interesting edge to them.  It’s fairly psychedelic, including the middle section sung by Gene and the slide guitar solo.  A band called Griffin has also recorded it (and their version is better).  “When the Bell Rings” is another cover.  Gene seems to be straining a lot on falsetto vocals.  “Molly” is a gentle acoustic ballad by Paul with falsetto and everything,  “Wanna Shout It Out Loud” is another Gene falsetto song.  It’s a cover of the Hollies song and not the “Shout It Out Loud” that Kiss would later record.

I can see them not wanting this released during their heyday or during their heavier moments, but it’s not an embarrassing collection by any means.  Definitely of its time, but some interesting stuff nevertheless.  Check it out:

[https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=busyMPHjKMA&list=PL2B518729242D8887]

[READ: April 9, 2014] “The Definitive, One-Size-Fits- All, Accept-No Substitutes, Massively Comprehensive Guide to the Life and Times of Kiss”

I’ve liked most of Klosterman’s writing.  I especially like his writing about music (although I have never read any of his books–some day).  But imagine my delight when Klosterman decided to write a huge article defending Kiss for all of the right reasons while at the same time loathing them for all the right reasons, too.

Kiss are very easy to dislike if you don’t know them–they are silly, they were costumes, they sing dopey pop metal about sex, and they just keep going even though they are ancient.  Kiss are even easier to dislike if you do know them–Gene Simmons is a greedy bastard who is intent upon taking as much money from his fans as he can (and is proud of that).  They keep releasing greatest hits albums with an extra song or two, they even keep making albums that are nowhere near as good as their best stuff.  As Klosterman puts it:

They inoculate themselves from every avenue of revisionism, forever undercutting anything that could be reimagined as charming. They economically punish the people who care about them most: In the course of my lifetime, I’ve purchased commercial recordings of the song “Rock and Roll All Nite” at least 15 times.

And yet…  And yet… (more…)

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  grantland8SOUNDTRACK: RALPH STANLEY-Tiny Desk Concert #31 (October 13, 2009).

ralpRalph Stanley is apparently a living bluegrass legend, although I’ve never heard of him.  He plays a clawhammer banjo (and apparently has for 63 years).

The concert lasted only 6 minutes, but in that time he sang three a capella songs: “Gloryland,” “Turn Back, Turn Back” and “Amazing Grace.”

It’s hard to assess a legend based on this performance.  I’ve no idea how good his voice was back in the day.  He sounds fine here, albeit understandably quite old.  I’d have liked to hear his banjo.

[READ: January 3, 2014] Grantland #8

It is becoming apparent to me that Grantland loves basketball.  Like, a lot more than any other sport.  This issue had a ton of basketball in it.  And, I have to admit I was a little tired of it by the end–there was a lot less pop culture stuff, too.  So, it felt especially basketball heavy.  I realize of course that the time frame covered was the playoffs, but still.

BILL SIMMONS-“Searching for a Superman”
A lengthy article about Dwight Howard, discussing the pros and cons of signing him again.

MARK TITUS-“How Did He Get So Good?”
A look at Paul George and Danny Green doing better than expected in the NCAA playoffs.

CHARLES P. PIERCE-“A Dark Day in Boston
Pierce wonders about Boston after the Boston Marathon bombing–he says the city will come back stronger. (more…)

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  grant7SOUNDTRACK: VOIVOD-The Outer Limits (1993).

voivodouterAfter Angel Rat, original bassist Blacky left the band.  That’s never a good sign.  After the tour for this album, original singer Snake left the band.  That’s an even worse sign.  I still can’t quite figure out exactly why Snake left (personal problems) but he went on to form the band Union Made.  For a very detailed history of the band, check out this very cool timeline at Voivod dot net.

The Outer Limits got a pretty big release.  I have an original copy that came with 3D glasses and all of the illustrations in 3D. But i was a little disappointed in Angel Rat and I don’t think I gave The Outer Limits much of a chance.  It was no Nothingface.  But the band was always morphing.  Since Angel rat went very commercial, this album brought things back into the prog realm (with a 17(!) minute song) but also had a lot of commercial songs.

The album opens with “Fix My Heart” which starts out much heavier than anything on Angel Rat. It’s also got some metal guitar pyrotechnics (squeaks and harmonics).  Snake’s voice isn’t quite as pretty as on Angel Rat either—he growls a bit, but maintains his nicer voice overall.  Nevertheless, “Fix My Heart” is a pretty commercial enterprise (as the title might even suggest).  There’s some good “spacey guitars sounds which bode will for the sci-fi angle of the album (and there’s some cool effects that reward headphone use).  “Moonbeam Rider” starts with a very classic rock sounding riff and then morphs into a kind of pretty, mellow verse.  But the interstitial guitar is all speed.  It’s a nice mix of fast and slow.  This song features some interesting bass work—nothing fancy but for the slow parts it is actually keeping the beat instead of the drums.  The bassist was a studio musician for this album.  There’s also what sounds like a bong during the pre-guitar solo section (the solo is fairly traditional).  “Le Pont Noir” is a mellow, slow guitar song with a very cool delay effect and Snake’s whispered vocals.  The bridge gets heavy with a wonderfully weird Piggy guitar riff.   It’s one of my favorite songs on the album.

Then the band’s second Pink Floyd cover appears. This time it’s the even more obscure “The Nile Song.”  They have rather heavied this one up with crunching guitars and Snake’s distance screaming filling in the void (although in fairness the original vocals are also screamed). It’s not as dynamic or exciting as “Astronomy Domine,” but it’s s till a cool cover.  “The Lost Machine” starts off heavy with Away’s double cymbal work (a noisy splash and a fast ride cymbal). Then Piggy’s guitars have a slight delay on them which makes the opening chords sound especially odd.  The bridge is a place for Piggy to show off some more weird spacey chords and some very cool guitar riffs. There’s even a spoken word narrator in the middle of the song that explains the “mission” “Time Warp” opens with a very bright and up beat sounding verse.  But it quickly disintegrates into (intentional) musical chaos as the narrator gets lost in space.

This all leads up to the 17 minute “Jack Luminous.”  If anyone doubted their prog rock leanings, this should dispel that immediate.  17 minutes, multiple parts, a sci-fi epic, it is prog (but heavy prog) at its finest.  There are some incredibly catchy parts as well as some less catchy parts, and sections seem to change every two minutes or so.  The slow down at 10 minutes is very cool—different guitar effects and the suspenseful bass line.  There’s repeated sections as well, which means if you like some guitar line (the spacey part near the end) it comes back!  It’s not quite as dynamic as say 2112, but it’s a very successful sci-fi epic.

“Wrong Way Street” returns to the normal and more conventional.  The bass that opens the song sounds great and the chords are fairly conventional –the chorus is even really catchy.  “We Are Not Alone” is a break-neck metal song, The drums are super fast, the guitars are relentless and the chorus even has an echoed “Hey!” that gets you to sing along.  The song also features a cool slow, almost jazzy bass and drum section that lets Piggy throw some soloing in before returning to the fast paced verses.

There’s lots of theories about what happened to Voivod after this album.  The success they had achieved earlier was now gone and the band seemed like they couldn’t decide to be metal or prog or is they should go for more pop music.  The problem of course is that they were too weird to get mainstream acceptance anyway.

So Snake left and then there were only two original members.  The next step would be a drastic one.

[READ: July 9, 2013] Grantland #7

This issue seemed to come hot on the heels of #6.  But I enjoyed it just as much.  A few notes: no Jeremy Lin in this issue.  Lots of LeBron James, three articles about soccer!  And a few pop culture moments that I had forgotten about.

REMBERT BROWNE AND DUSTIN PARKER-“The Jeopardy! Teen Tournament JUST. GOT. REAL.
Leonard Cooper didn’t know the final Jeopardy answer but he still won and he made a hilarious joke at the end (in cartoon format);

BILL SIMMONS-“Daring to Ask the PED Question”
Simmons talks a lot about PED’s in this forum.  Of course, to me PED is my initials.  For him (and sports fans) it is performance enhancing drugs.  He asks why sports doesn’t do more about it.  There are so many people who do it that every time we see someone who might be doing it or who suddenly has a good season, we assume they are doing them too.  It would be a service to the players and the fans to have rigorous testing or none at all.

CHRIS RYAN AND ROBERT MAYS-“The NFL Coaches Family Portrait By the Numbers”
A silly analysis of a photo of NFL coaches.

WESLEY MORRIS-“Jodie Foster’s Big Night”
What exactly did Jodie Foster say at the Golden Globes? (This was in January and everybody talked about it and now it’s September and I’ve completely forgotten about it—funny ephemera of pop culture).

JONATHAN ABRAMS-“Out of Africa”
A serious look at trying to bring basketball to Africa. How the culture and language problems make it very difficult to establish any real cohesion in the diverse country.  But there are a few examples of boys coming from Africa and benefiting from host families and then heading back to help those who love basketball back home.  The main focus is on a 15-year-old Alexis Wangmene who came to the States (and left his family!) to try to gain an education and basketball skills.  It’s a heartfelt story.

MOLLY LAMBERT-“Modern Love”
About the show Catfish which just goes to show we can sink even lower as a culture.

CHUCK KLOSTERMAN-“Mental Health Protocol”
About Royce White again.  Last time there was a lengthy look at him.  Now we get to hear that he thinks that everyone has some kind of mental health issue.

ANDY GREENWALD-“Eat Bray Love”
How cooking shows have gone from educational to crazy and annoying. He dislikes Top Chef and the new Anthony Bourdain show The Taste (which he says is awful) but he likes a decent show called Chopped.

ZACH LOWE-“The Fragile Science of Basketball Chemistry”
Sure the Heat were great this year, but it’s the way they evolved as a team, creating chemistry, that is so impressive.

RAFE BARTHOLOMEW-“The Pariah”
Timothy Bradley beat Manny Pacquiao in a disputed judges call.  Instead of rising to fame, he has been avoided like the plague.

BILL SIMMONS-“The All-Manti Te’o Mailbag
Remember that crazy story about the football guy with the dead girlfriend who turned out to be fake?  I never really understood the story and while they spend a lot of time talking and theorizing about it I still don’t get it.  Did they ever find out the truth about it?

CHRIS BROWN-“Speak My Language”
When you play for the Patriots, you learn their way of doing things—it is simple and efficient, a streamlined version of what other coaches try to do.

KIRK GOLDSBERRY-“The Evolution of LeBron James”
Using diagrams, we see how much of a different player James is in just the last few years with The Heat.  This article has made me want to watch James in a game while he is at his peak.  So, Heat vs Bulls at the end of October, you’re on my schedule.

SEAN McINDOE-“The Non-Hater’s Guide to the NHL”
Even people who hate everyone in the NHL (which is everyone) can agree that there are some players who are universally admired: Martin Brodeur, Pavel Satsyuk. Teemu Selanne, Jarome Iginla, Jonathan Toews, Martin St. Louis, Gabriel Landeskog, Patrick Elias (Devils get two!), Ryan Smyth, Steve Sullivan, Saku Koivu, Henrik Lundqvist.

ALEX PAPPADEMAS-“God Needs a Hobby”
A look at Dan Harmon and his podcast Harmontown.  Harmon seems like he might be a crazy alcoholic, but he’s also pretty darn funny.

MARK TITUS-“Duke’s Ignominious Son”
Everybody hates Christian Laettner, but that’s only because he’s pretty and he made The Shot

MARK LISANTI-“Three Days in Austin”
Dealing with the craziness of the South by Southwest film festival.  Sounds awful.

HUA HSU-“The Alien Has Landed”
Soccer legend Ronaldo returns to Old Trafford

BILL SIMMONS-“The Greatest Action Franchise That Ever Was”
Live blogging the Fast and Furious 6 trailer.  I admit I may have to see these films after reading this.

ZACH LOWE-“Lights, Camera, Revolution”
There’s some kind of new technology that will change the NBA forever.  I pretty much don’t care.

TESS LYNCH-“Nostalgia Bites”
Watching old Real World episodes shows how much things have changed in reality TV, but also how much certain behaviors are not new.

BRIAN PHILLIPS-“Maradona, Then and Now”
Maradona was an amazing kid—at 15 he was remarkable at his ball control.  Now at 52 he’s a crazy loon. What exactly happened in between?

ANDY GREENWALD-“From Big to Small, From Movie to TV”
Why not make Men in Black into a TV show—with some other film recommendations.

AMOS BARSHAD-“How Soccer Explains Israel”
I didn’t expect to enjoy this but I found it very interesting.  An Israeli soccer team has signed two Muslim players and it has caused incredible animosity and even arson.  How this look at a team is like a microcosm of the whole Israeli situation.

LOUISA THOMS-“Back to School”
Missy Franklin won a  ton of medals in the Olympics.  And then she went back to high school.  What’s it like to be on her team at Regis Jesuit?

WESLEY MORRIS-“Run, Frank, Run”
Frank Ocean apparently wasn’t as huge as I thought he was.

MALCOLM GLADWELL AND CHUCK KLOSTERMAN–“The Lies He Told”
More about Manti Te’o. This discussion was a bit more helpful about what happened and how crazy it is.

CHRIS RYAN AND REMBERT BROWNE-“A List of Possible Reasons for Rob Gronkowski’s Arm Infection”
Hypothetical humor.

JORDAN CONN-“The Invisible Man”
Marc Gasol is extremely respected by scouts and agents, but the fans all think of him as Pau Gasol’s chubby little brother.

REMBERT BROWNE-“French Quarter Lessons”
While in New Orleans for the Super Bowl, Browne decided to go to a bunch of used bookstores.  This is very funny and enjoyable.

JAY CASPIAN KANG-“Fiercely Disputed”
Mike Tyson’s one man show is weird and strangely affecting.

KATIE BAKER-“Do Svidanya to All That”
Several NHL players went to Russia’s KHL during the lockout.  And some don’t want to come back.

CHRIS RYAN-“The All-Star Circus”
NBA All-Star weekend is a crazy circus (and sounds worse than the above SXSW festival).

CHUCK KLOSETRMAN AND ALEX PAPPADEMAS-“The Nobituary”
There was a serious rumor that David Bowie was on death’s door.  Klosterman and Pappademas imagine writing his obituary.

DAVID SHOEMAKER-“Glenn Beck vs. WWE”
The WWE has always had racists as part of the act.  What happens when some goons start acting like the Tea Party?

DAVID JACOBY-“The Pure Heart Meets The Bachelor
Jacoby’s grandmother watches The Bachelor and he feels badly for her.

STEVEN HYDEN-“Is This It?”
The Strokes’ fifth album had just come out [really?].  It could be their last, but Hyden thinks their last two have been quite good.

BILL SIMMONS-“The Heat in Hindsight”
The Miami Heat came close to breaking the longest winning streak in the NBA.  Simmons looks at the fallout and who “wins” and “loses” in the effort.

CHARLES P. PIERCE-“Bleu, Blanc et Rouge
I had no idea that Charlie Pierce was a Canadiens fan!

KATIE BAKER-“The Ethics of a Family Plan”
Is it ethical to pretend that you are married to your roommate to get a family discount a ta gym?  Hell yes.

EMILY YOSHIDA-“A Dark Force”
J.J. Abrams is going to direct the next Star Wars films.  Why, when sci-fi is so multifaceted and so different is everything coming down to J.J. Abrams?

SEAN FENNESSEY-“The Case Against Justin Timberlake”
Timberlakes’s previous album was amazing.  Then he took years off to make (bad) film and (good) TV.  His star would only continue to rise if he stopped making music and only hinted that he would make another album.  But the release of his new album (which isn’t that good) can only hurt him.

BRYAN CURTIS-“Waiting for Bettman”
While many New Yorker’s didn’t care about the NHL strike, Canadian writers camped out waiting for Bettman to announce the strike was over.

WESLEY MORRIS-“30 Rock Landed on Us”
30 Rock was many things, but it dealt with racial issues (at least between blacks and whites) better than any show.

RANY JAZAYERLI-“Fall of the Evil Empire”
The New York Yankees look like they won’t make the playoff this year (this was written in March and as of my writing this they have a slim chance at getting the wild card slot).  It will be the firs time in a while, perhaps, just perhaps, it’s the start of a new drought for the Evil Empire.

BILL BARNWELL-“The Master Raven”
Ozzie Davis knows how to pick players for the Baltimore Ravens.

REMBERT BROWNE AND DUSTIN PARKER-The Best Chappelle’s Show Sketches of All Time”
Done as a series of cartoons (by Parker); Browne picks his eight favorites:

  1. Charlie Murphy’s True Hollywood Stories: Prince
  2. Wayne Brady’s Show
  3. Charlie Murphy’s True Hollywood Stories: Rick James
  4. Black Bush (especially now that Obama is president)
  5. Clayton Bigsby: Black White Supremacist
  6. Making the Band (P. Diddy)
  7. The Racial Draft (Tiger Woods Now 100% Black)
  8. The Niggar Family (uncomfortable and hilarious no matter how many times you watch it).

Once again, there’s another great issue of Grantland.  Once again, I wish they would follow up on some of their speculative stories.  But it’s fun to have a time capsule of events that occurred just a few months ago and yet which I have totally forgotten about.

And here’s the cover of The Outer Limits in non 3D style (which I haven’t see before)

voivodouter2

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grantldnSOUNDTRACK: VOIVOD-Killing Technology (1987).

killingAs I said, this album’s art looks much better.  And you can hear from the first notes that this album is better produced and is going to be a lot more interesting than the previous two.  It’s hard to know just how much of a leap this is from Rrröööaaarrr because that album was so muddy–maybe there were gems of guitar chords under all that noise.  Like the previous openings, there’s a sort of prologue to the album.  But unlike the previous album’s swirls, this one is beeping with a computer voice announcing “we are connected”

The opening chords are heavy, but man they sound clear—like they weren’t recorded underground.  You can also hear all of Piggy’s weird higher notes—he’s playing complicated chords, not just solo notes.  And when the chorus of “Killing Technology” rolls around, it offers stop and start rhythms and Snake’s voice even goes up an octave at the end.  But the first real indication that Piggy is on to something new comes in the bridge. Underneath the robotic voice, Piggy is playing some really strange-sounding chords.  The story is that he had been admiring Robert Fripp’s guitar work and so he added some of those King Crimson-y angular weird chords to his repertoire.  And he melds them perfectly with the heavy thrash that the band had been playing.

Lyrically also, this album has moved away from killing and headaches.  “Killing Technology” while having “killing” in the title is a very different subject:

The star wars have started up
The new invention is coming out
Making a spider web over the atmosphere
To make them sure that we can’t get out of here

Computers controlling your functions
Seems like we got electronic alienation
Trading children for a new kind of robot
Waiting for the old people to disappear

Quite a departure from Rrröööaaarr’s “Fuck Off and Die”

Stand up, right now, kill

No pleasure, the pain comes down here
No return, don’t look back, there’s no tomorrow
And if you’re a fucker and don’t believe it
I’d say fuck off and die, fuck off and die

“Overreaction” leans more towards the heavier side—Snake screams a bit more—but the subject (nuclear disaster) is thoughtful.  Then comes their first truly amazing song: “Tornado.”  Not only building like a tornado, this song allows them to talk about violent imagery without resorting to bloodshed. It’s even scientific:

Cumulonimbus storms arrive
Lightning flashes a hundred miles around
Electrical collision course
Creates the elephant trunk

But the best part is the chorus—it’s simple enough (just the word Tornado repeated) but it’s completely catchy and sing-alongable with bright major key chords.

“Forgotten in Space” features some great drumming from Away—he’s really quite underrated both in speed and technique—which explands even more on later albums.  “Ravenous Medicine” is another highlight—an interesting series of uncomfortable chords opens this track about scientific research.  It’s a pretty fast, heavy song.  Although not too complicated except for the occasional breaks as the story progresses.

“Order of the Blackguards” is another fast song, but this one has so many parts that if you don’t like one, just wait a few seconds for the next one.  “This is Not an Exercise” ends the disc proper.  The middle section has a great heavy riff.  But it’s the beginning of the ending sequence which is so perfectly sci-fi that really sets the tone of the album and looks towards the next one.  It’s cool to think of Piggy playing these spacey chords on his guitar.  And when Blacky’s bass rumbles in to resume the song, it’s quintessential Voivod.

By th way, this disc is a concept album as well.  There’s a “Killing Side” (the first three songs) and a “Ravenous Side.”  The strange thing about the CD though is that they have added two tracks from their Cockroaches EP which is nicockroachesce.  But they put one song at track 4 (the end of side one).  How odd to put a bonus track in the middle of a sequenced album.

The EP came out before the album and it has a slightly different feel from the album proper.  Although as a step towards Killing Technology it’s perfectly in sync.  “Too Scared to Scream” is heavy and has some interesting time changes—I love the way the song feels like it is crashing to a halt around 3:30.   “Cockroaches” feels like more traditional metal.  It opens with drums and Piggy playing a typical sounding metal solo.  Then the riffing starts and it’s very heavy indeed. Even the staggered section near the end sounds like a mosh section more than the prog time changes that Voivod uses on the album proper.  The song ends with Snake screaming as the cockroaches are coming.  A good ending to the EP and a pretty good ending to the disc.

The whole album has a very mechanical and robotic feel—the chords that Piggy plays just sound like mechanical failure, it’s very well constructed and foreshadows the music of their future.

[READ: July 9, 2013] Grantland #6

Grantland #6 covers from Sept 2012-Dec 2012.  Despite the short time frame, this is the largest issue yet.  And it maintains all the quality that I’ve come to expect from the book/magazine thing.  Which means, I love the writing (especially about people/sports I’m not that interested in).  And it also means that the editing is typically crap.  In this issue the editing was crap more because they simply forgot to remove mention of hyperlinks.  At least I assume that’s why sentences like “See here for ____” are included in any given article.  But yes, there are some very simple typos that Word would correct pretty easily.

But beyond that, I really enjoyed this issue.  And I’m finding it amusing how much certain people and shows crop up in a given time frame.  So this is a four month period and Kobe Bryant still dominates (there will never be an issue without at least one Kobe article).  But this time Homeland is the big show (since Breaking Bad has been on hiatus I gather).  Basketball remains the favorite sport here (even though they speak of football as being the most popular sport).

Chuck Klosertman and Charlie Pierce continue to write thoughtful (sometimes funny) articles.  And I like how there is still talk of Jeremy Lin even if Linsanity has gone away somewhat. (more…)

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grantlandSOUNDTRACK: The xx–Live at KEXP (July 25, 2012).

I xxkexphave casually seen The xx on a few shows and I’m intrigued by them.  I’ve never really given their albums any time though, so I can’t say anything much about them.

However, I really enjoy the sound they get live (which is funny since in the article below they talk about how much of a perfectionist Jamie, the studio tech guy, is about the recordings).

This set from KEXP (KEXP always has great audio quality) contains four songs “Fiction” “Reunion” “Sunset” and “Angels.”  And I have to say the band sounds amazing.  So close, so clean, so intimate.  Oliver’s voice is right there, whispering in your ears, and Romy’s guitars sound gorgeous–gentle vibrato, chiming chords; her voice is also beautiful.

The thing that throws me about The xx is how spare their music is.  Sometimes it’s almost like there’s no music at all. And I keep thinking of reasons why I wouldn’t enjoy such simple music (it’s usually not my thing). Or that it should only be experienced in a dark room by yourself.  But the melodies are so beautiful that I think they’ve made a convert of me.  I really adore these songs.  And I must have heard “Angels” somewhere because it is completely familiar.

I wonder if they sound this good on record.  You can watch the show here:

[READ: July 9, 2013] Grantland #5

Grantland continues to impress me with articles about sports that I don’t care about.  They style that the writers have (and the humor they impart) is wonderful.  And it goes to show that if you are passionate about something you can make it interesting to anyone.  So, even if I don’t know who some of the people who they’re talking about are, I can still enjoy what they say about them.  Plus, their entertainment coverage is really fun, too.

BILL SIMMONS-“Battle of the Olympic Heavyweights”
I really enjoyed this article which compares Olympic swimming and gymnastics to see which one “wins” in this battle for TV coverage and the hearts of Olympic fans (hint: it’s gymnastics, but Simmon’s categories are very good).

BRIAN PHILLIPS-“The Death’s Head of Wimbledon”
Phillips tries to cover Wimbledon and finds it very difficult to manage because it is all designed for TV, not in person coverage.

REMBERT BROWNE-“I Feel Like a Free Man”
The amazing decision of Frank Ocean to come out and how little it impacted his career. (more…)

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grantladn4SOUNDTRACK: PUBLIC IMAGE LTD-“Poptones” and “Careering” on American Bandstand (1980).

abThe Dick Clark article below alerted me to this bizarre gem–PiL “playing” on American Bandstand.   The article talks about John Lydon ignoring the lip synch, climbing into the audience and generally disregarding the show’s script. The video suggests something sightly less sinister (although maybe for 1980 it was outrageous–do you really cross Dick Clark?).

Dick Clark himself announces the band nicely, and then the crazy off-kilter bass and simple guitar of “Poptones” kick in.   Lydon runs into the bleachers with the kids (most of whom are dressed in New Wave finery not unlike Lydon).  They shriek with glee when he comes nearby (do any of them know who he is?  I have no idea).  When Lydon’s spoken rambling come in a little later you can’t help but wonder what the hell they are doing on AB.

Then, Lydon starts grabbing people from the audience and pushing them towards the stage–something I believe was unheard of on AB.  The fans dance around to the impossible-to-dance-to “Poptones.”  The song ends and Dick asks John if he wants the kids out there for song two.  Yes, song Two!  He does and John faux lip synchs through “Careering,” avoiding cameras at all costs and dancing with the kids–one of the most egalitarian performances I can think of from Lydon.

And listen for Dick asking Jah Wobble his name (reply THE Jah Wobble) and him saying, nice to meet you Wobble.  What a surreal moment–wonder what Dick thought of it.

Enjoy it here:

 

[READ: December 28, 2012] Grantland 4

Grantland continues to impress me with these books (and no, I have not yet visited the website).  My subscription ran out with this issue and I have resubscribed–although I take major issue with the $20 shipping and handling fee.  I even wrote to them to complain and they wrote back saying that the books are heavy.  Which is true, but not $5/bk heavy.  The good news is that they sent me a $10 off coupon so the shipping is only half as painful now.

This issue’s endpages were “hypothetical baseball wheel-guides created by JASON OBERG–they were pretty cool and a fun idea.  They look very retro, but use contemporary batters, pitchers and catchers.  I’d like to see them for real.

Each issue makes me like sports a little bit more, but not enough to actually watch  them.

(more…)

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