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Archive for the ‘Michael Moorcock’ Category

thrilignSOUNDTRACK: ADIA VICTORIA-Tiny Desk Concert #545 (June 30, 2016).

adiaAdia Victoria has a rough, raw voice that goes well with her simple, exposed guitar sound.  The blurb says her music “carries the singular perspective of a Southern black woman with a Seventh Day Adventist upbringing, who never felt like she’d fit in.”

She sings three song, mostly in a great, raspy voice.  For “Stuck in the South” she actually seems to be gritting her teeth as she sings: “I don’t know nothing ’bout Southern belles / but I can tell you something ’bout Southern hell.”  When the first verse ends, and her band kicks in, it adds such interesting textures.  a distorted bass and a lead guitar playing quietly distorted sounds.  This song is really captivating.

“And Then You Die” with its swirling sounds and keyboards has a very distinctly Nick Cave feel–gothic in the Southern sense of the word.  Indeed, the first verse is spoken in a delivery that would make Nick proud. This is no to say she cribbed from Cave but it would work very well as a companion song  I really like the way it builds, but the ending is so abrupt–I could have used some more verses.

After the second song the band heads away and Bob says “They’re all leaving you.”  She looks at them and growls, “Get off the stage!” to much laughter.

She sings the final song “Heathen” with just her on acoustic guitar.  It is a simple two chord song.  It’s less interesting than the others, but again, it’s the lyrics that stand out: “I guess that makes me a heathen, something lower than dirt / I hear them calling me heathen, ooh like they think it hurts.”

I’m curious to hear just what Adia would do with these songs when she’s not in this Tiny format.  I imagine she can be really powerful.

[READ: November 23, 2016] McSweeney’s Mammoth Treasury of Thrilling Tales

For some reason or another I have put off reading this McSweeney’s volume for many years.  This is technically McSweeney’s #10, although it was also released in this printing from a  major publisher. Sadly for me, my McSweeney’s subscription had expired sometime around here so I’ve never actually seen the “official” Volume 10 which I understand has the exact same content but a slightly different cover.

One of the reasons I’ve put off reading this was the small print and pulpy paper–I don’t like pulpy paper.  And it was pretty long, too.

But I think the big reason is that I don’t really like genre fiction.  But I think that’s the point of this issue.  To give people who read non-genre fiction some exposure to genre stuff.

Interestingly I think I’ve learned that I do enjoy some genre fiction after all.  And yet, a lot of the stories here really weren’t very genre-y.  Or very thrilling.  They seemed to have trappings of genre ideas–mystery, horror–but all the while remaining internal stories rather than action-packed.

Which is not to say I didn’t enjoy anything here. I enjoyed a bunch of the stories quite a bit, especially if I didn’t think of them as genre stories.  Although there were a couple of less than exiting stories here, too. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: SURFER BLOOD-Tarot Classics (2012).

I really enjoyed Surfer Blood’s debut album.  This EP is a little stopgap until the next one. Although the sound is unmistakably Surfer Blood–poppy hooks and a very recognizable singing voice, the band sounds a little bit different here.  They haven’t lost any of their catchiness–there may be even more on the opener, “I’m Not Ready” (who doesn’t love when the guitar and vocals match each other?)  “Miranda” has that fun thumping chorus that is always fun to sing along to.

“Voyager Reprise” moves away from the surf-styled songs of their debut into an alt-rock of the 90s sound–when guitars were noisy (until they were quiet for a bit) and guitar solos happened between verses instead of as the third verse.  And “Drinking Problem” has a kind of early Depeche Mode (in vocals, not synths) feel–quite a departure from their debut.

In the way of EPs, the final two songs are remixes.  I’ve never been a fan or remixes and these don’t do much for me, but i do wonder if they will have any impact on their future sound.

[READ: June 14, 2012] “Olds Rocket 88, 1950”

All this time I thought there were only five of these short essays in this sci-fi issue of the New Yorker.  And yet tucked away near the back was the sixth one by William Gibson, a pioneer in science fiction.

Gibson’s recollection is of being a child and having everything seem like science fiction–something that is notably absent these days.  Like the chrome trim on his father’s Oldsmobile Rocket 88, the prevalence of spacemen and space-themed ideas everywhere.  Even the word Tomorrow was capitalized.

Then he recounts a personal incident.  He got in trouble with his parents for arguing with an Air Force man.  The man said space travel would never happen. But Gibson knew it would.  How could it not?  And science fiction shaped this worldview.  Not that he believed the stories would come true, but that his entire mindset was that in the future “things might be different…and different in literally any way you could imagine, however radical.”

What a wonderfully freeing notion.  To me, this sort of future-looking lifestyle accounted for the unprecedented achievements of post 1950 America.  Now that we no longer think of tomorrow with a capital T, we don’t seem as enchanted by the future.  Perhaps it was a naive outlook, but you need a certain degree of naiveté if you hope to do anything radically new.

Gibson ties in the sci-fi books he bought for a dollar to other fantasists: J.G. Ballard, Ursula K. Le Guin, Michael Moorcock, and how these thinkers weren’t all that far off from the likes of Kerouac and William S. Burroughs.  And he believes that without science fiction, he might not have been interested in what these other radical writers had to say.

It’s a short piece, but it really made me wish for more chrome and space-age technology in our lives–when people weren’t afraid to dram big.

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SOUNDTRACK: BLUE ÖYSTER CULT-Fire of Unknown Origin (1981).

This was the first BOC album that I bought.  The video for “Burnin’ for You” was all over MTV (although I don’t remember it at all, now).  And I was an instant convert to BOC.  I listened to this disc constantly.

It took going to college and meeting my roommate before I got any other BOC discs (he was a diehard fan).  And while I like most of their releases, this one still ranks as number one for me.  BOC had been getting poppier and lighter over the years, there’s no question.  But this album perfected this mix, making for a supremely catchy recording that still exhibited all of their metal trademarks: wild guitar solos, bizarro futuristic lyrics (although there’s no weirdo titles on this one) and heavy heavy chords.

The opener, “Fire of Unknown Origin” is a wonderful rocking song.  It sets the tone for the disc: keyboards, yes, but of the atmospheric/spooky variety, not the poppy/hit single variety.  “Burnin’ for You” seems like an obvious single, and so it was. It also screams early 80s to me, which I guess isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

But the album’s wonderful weirdness kicks in with “Veteran of the psychic Wars” written by Michael Moorcock. It was featured in the movie Heavy Metal, and is weird and creepy, propelled by thunderous drums and a great guitar riff: a sci-fi masterpiece.  “Sole Survivor” is in the same vein, Eric Blooms ragged voice and the awesome bass line really sell the song.

The middle track is “Heavy Metal (Black and Silver)”  It is heavy heavy heavy and it rocks like all get out with a screaming feedback solo.  It’s an awesome song that seems more than a little out of place on this rather light sounding disc (although even on their later discs, they have included an occasional heavy track).

“Vengeance (The Pact)” is a keyboard-fueled track.  But the greatness is that it’s Lanier’s spooky keyboards.  It also features an awesome middle section with heavy heavy guitars and dark lyrics.  “After Dark” is another wonderfully creepy keyboard song.  The underlying riff is sinister and cool, and the lyrics (and harmonies) meld the “band vocals” on some of their more “hit single” songs, with the oddness that keeps BOC interesting.

But by far the creepiest, most sinister and flat out weird song is “Joan Crawford.”  When I first heard this song back in 1982, I had no idea who Joan Crawford was.  Finding out later that she was a real person has messed with my head for my entire life.  I have never seen a film with her in it and am just convinced that she’s a scary, scary woman (the whispered “Christina…mother’s home” really did me in).  Interestingly, I don’t find the song spooky (although I do get chills if I’m paying attention), but I still find her spooky.  It opens with a pseudo-classical piano riff and then bursts out with menacing metal chords.  The chorus “Joan Crawford has risen from the grave!” complete with squeaky violins proceeds until and the break with sound effects that imply Crawford’s life, I assume: car crashes, race tracks, telephones, babies crying and the whispered “No.”   And it’s all catchy as hell.

“Don’t Turn You Back” ends the disc as something of a mellowing out after Joan Crawford.  It features a great solo and rather soothing choruses (despite the warning that you shouldn’t turn your back).  And it features the ever confusing line: “You use that special option in your car”  (what could that BE?).

Why on earth hasn’t this disc gotten a deluxe reissue from Columbia>?

[READ: March 3, 2010] Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter

I received this book as a prepub Advanced Readers Copy and hoped to have it finished before the book actually came out, but I was shy of it by a couple of days (rats).

So Grahame-Smith wrote Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.  His was pretty much the first in what has become an ever increasing series of literary mash-ups: using “classic” texts as a basis and inserting a seemingly random (usually horror) element.  The genre is already close to jumping the shark, although realistically, you never know when a combination is going to work wonders.

I wasn’t really that interested in the follow up to P&P&Z: Sense & Sensibility & Sea Monsters.  When I first heard of it I was intrigued, but watching the promotional video for the book actually turned me off of it.  I’m intrigued that a new title: Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: Dawn of the Dreadfuls is written by a different author, but I have to assume that it will be all original as there’s no prequel to P&P itself.  And I have to admit I like the title of the upcoming Jane Slayre (for Jane Eyre).

But the things about P&P&Z were that it kept the original text (mostly) intact, and there were a number of things in the original that actually led to inserting zombies into the text.

Plus, Grahame-Smith matched the tone of the original perfectly.  The forthcoming mashups will have a lot to prove but I think some cream will definitely rise to the top.

So, Grahame-Smith’s new book Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter is sort of a mashup.  Unlike P&P&Z, there is no source text to blend.  Rather, Seth Grahame-Smith, who is a character in the introduction of the book is given the “secret” diary of Abraham Lincoln, under provision that he write up the real story of our 16th president.  The secret diary reveals not only that our country was plagued by vampires but that Lincoln himself was personally impacted by them. (more…)

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