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Archive for the ‘Environmentalism’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: ART D’ECCO-“That’s Entertainment” (2021).

I saw Art D’ecco open a show a few years ago and I’ve become mildly obsessed with hi.  I’m delighted to see that he’s getting some promotion and success.

His new album In Standard Definition is a great synth pop retro dance infusion.  But in addition to that he has released two standalone covers.

This one, a cover of The Jam’s “That’s Entertainment” was a little concerning for me.  This song is one of my all time favorite songs and I’m always nervous when a song like this gets covered.

But Art D’ecco does a great job.  There’s acoustic guitars, a grooving bass line, cool harmony vocals and, best of all, he keeps the way the chorus offers the short “That’s” and the stretched out “en ter tain ment.”  He even does the falsetto note (of course).

But what’s most enlightening about is cover is D’ecco’s voice. He seems to be stretching out of his comfort zone a little and it really shows off how good a singer her really is.

[READ: April 21, 2021] Last Human

I’m not sure what got me on my recent Red Dwarf reading kick (finding out that they had just released a new series was certainly a spark).  I was sure I had read all of these books before and yet none of them were familiar to me at all.

The Grant Naylor team wrote two books and the second one ended on a cliffhanger.

Then for reasons I’m not willing to dig into, both Rob Grant and Doug Naylor each wrote a sequel to that book.  But neither book is like the other and they both go in very different directions.  Naylor’s book was really dark and very violent.  Grant’s was also dark and very violent, but in very different ways.

The previous book ended with an old Lister being sent to a planet where everything goes backwards so that he can de-age to about the same age he was when he was on the series.  They plan to meet him 36 years later at Niagara Falls.

In this book Naylor has the crew place Kochanski’s ashes on the planet Kochanski so she came back to life and she and Lister were able to live their lives backwards together for some thirty years.

But this book opens much further back–to the birth of the first humanoid. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: RHEOSTATICS-Jackson Triggs, St.Catharines, ON (August 12, 2017).

I have been catching up on the last few remaining recent (relatively) shows that the Rheostatics played.  These are all shows since the release of Here Comes the Wolves.

Great soundboard show from the beautiful Jackson Triggs Winery stage with Kevin Hearn on Keys/vocals and Hugh Marsh on violin. Very chatty show with one of the longest stretches of banter I can recall at over 8 minutes of straight comedy.

The show begins with the spoken introduction from Group of 7 “A tall white pine stands between me and the tree I’m trying to see … also a tall white pine.”  Then Martin starts a gentle “Northern Wish.”  It’s followed by “Legal Age Life” which has a wild keyboard solo.  Kevin continues to shine on a lengthy intro for Dave Clark’s fun new song “Supecontroller.”  It’s kind of a dopey song but it’s one of my favorites.

Kevin says to the audience, Say hello to Dave Clark.”  Dave says Jackson Triggs has treated us fine and gave us all kinds of good food.  (and plenty of wine).

A delicate “Music is the Message with lots of violin including a solo.  Kevin introduces Tim and Dave tells a joke about the difference between a piece of cheese and a piece of string that I don’t get (something about crickets).  And then someone talks about playing and there were crickets after every song–it was pretty rough.
After a boppy “Easy to Be with You,” Kevin plays keys like at an ice skating rink as a segue into a soaring “Stolen Car” with a lengthy solo form Martin and Hugh.
They thank the opening band  Common Deer and say that High and Kevin will be with them all summer long: Hugh Marsh Kevin Hearn Summer Experience.  Tickets: $5.99 at your local fairground.
They mention CDs and Martin in great, funny form says, we’ve lived through many formats.  The wax cylinder the vinyl disc, the compact disc (Tim: “they said they’d never skip but all mine skip now”). Martin: they skip in the most painful, digital…  the universe conspired to make it more annoying than previously existed.  When a vinyl skipped you’d go hmm, weird did they write that like that?  When a CD skips deh deh deh deh deh–a drill to the center of the mind.  Unless you’re a Squarepusher.  Hugh had many intentional skips on his recording–the king of the skip.
Don’t bug Hugh.  Hugh has no way to defend himself except for his instrument.  Sure he does, he’s the best looking dude in the band.  And he’s like 73.
DB says, from 2067 it’s “PIN.”  I really got my FM radio voce on tonight huh?
Dave you’ve always had a voice that is delightful on the radio as when you hosted Brave New Waves in the early sixties?
DB says Dave Clark influenced my life so much when he said “Do you want to be someone playing the bands on the radio or do you want to be the band?”
Martin: That’s very good advice Dave Clark and also demeaning to people who promote  our music and celebrate it.  My opinion of you has changed.  You told that story and now I hate you.  Dave Clark does not have that fulsome overtone.  DC: But Ii have a better personality.  My teeth would have been straight by now.  How does the teeth work into that? CBC benefits! CBC teeth.
That could have been you on Corner Gas.
Dave Clark says he has a show to pitch to the CBC.
Kevin: I have an idea for this show–play the next song.
Kevin plays in Barenaked Ladies and they talk a lot. Kevin was so excited to play with us here as a band who doesn’t go on talking about nonsensical things.
Kevin: You’re even worse.  Dave B: “way worse.”
Martin: Kevin before BNL you were in a band called The Look People   “5 is the number that makes me want to boogie.”
After “PIN,” there’s some scratching sounds and a Mr. Rogers intro into Michael Jackson.   Nice harmonies at the end.
Soaring keys swell for the intro to “California Dreamline.”  Martin gets a little wild singing in the dolphins part.  Keyboard washes segue into “Claire.”
Big shout to those who came down form St. Catharine’s a city that supports the arts.  When I think of Niagara Falls. i think of Dale Morningstar and his shenanigans.  Ron Sexmith
Can I tell you one of Ron Sexsmith’s original jokes?  Hey, did I just sit in maple syrup?  You bet your sweet ass you did.
Kevin: By the way I was told we’re good for time as long as we don’t do any more fifteen minute intros.  Man they run a tight ship around her.
DB to an audience member: Want to come up and model our new shirt?  No I’m not going to sign it now, I’m working.  It says nothing on the back.  You can write your own inspirational phrase on the back.
Kevin: Are you finished?
DB: Yes but I was selling merch it’s important.
MT: This is from Saskatchewan the Musical (that’s bound to be next).  Martin sings:
I don’t know what I’m doing here
I feel so different from everyone else in this town
Saskatchewan.”
Coming in the fall of 2025.
Then martin gets serious, and sings the song properly but sings the end in a slurry drunken way.
Then introduces: “This is Queer: The Musical.”
A jam in the meddle where Kevin plays nearly two minutes of keyboard fills before they jump to the bouncing ending.  It’s followed by a lively “Dope Fiends featuring a lengthy drum solo.
At the end as they sing “dark side of the moooooon,” Tim starts playing Pink Floyd’s “Money.”
After an encore break, Kevin comes out and starts playing pretty chords.  “Shaved Head” sounds very different with gentle keys.
It’s a great summer set and a very fun show.

[READ: April 21, 2021] Backwards

I’m not sure what got me on my recent Red Dwarf reading kick (finding out that they had just released a new series on DVD was certainly a spark).  I was sure I had read all of these books before and yet none of them were familiar to me at all.

The Grant Naylor team wrote two books and the second one ended on a cliffhanger.

Then for reasons I’m not willing to look into, both Rob Grant and Doug Naylor each wrote a sequel to that book.  But neither book is like the other and they both go in very different directions.  Naylor’s book was really dark and very violent.

Grant’s book is also dark but in very different ways.

The previous book ended with an old Lister being sent to a planet where everything goes backwards so that he can de-age to about the same age he was when he was on the series.  They plan to meet him 36 years later at Niagara Falls.

But this book opens with a prologue about Arnold Rimmer aged 7 and how he continues to fail in school.  His teachers suggest he be held back, but his mother interferes and that lets him move on.

Then the book starts properly with the crew of Red Dwarf: Rimmer, Cat and Kryten landing on Reverse World and trying to locate Lister.  Because everything goes in reverse (which takes some time to wrap your head around) all of your actions are predetermined.  And, essentially, if you do something dangerous, you know that if you’re not already hurt, you won’t get hurt because you would be hurt to start with.  What?  You’ve already jumped off the cliff, now, you’re doing it backwards.  But you already landed, so you’d already be hurt and going backwards would un-hurt you.

It also means that you un-eat food, good to sleep when you are refreshed, wake up when you’re tired.  And you don’t even want to think about going to the bathroom. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: CLIPPING-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert Meets SXSW: #190 (April 5, 2021).

Every year, NPR Music participates in the SXSW music festival, whether it’s curating a stage or simply attending hundreds of shows at the annual event in Austin, Texas. Last year, the festival was canceled due to the pandemic, but it returned this March as an online festival. We programmed a ‘stage’ of Tiny Desk (home) concerts and presented them on the final day of the festival. Now, we present to you Tiny Desk Meets SXSW: four videos filmed in various locations, all of them full of surprises.

clipping. is an intense band.  I had the pleasure of seeing them live opening for the Flaming Lips.  I was hoping to see them again before the pandemic hit.  This Tiny Desk doesn’t in any way replicate a live show because they play a little visual trick on the viewer–and they keep it up for the whole set.

Leave it to clipping. to innovate around the central notion of the Tiny Desk; to take the series’ emphasis on close-up intimacy and transport it to new heights of, well, tininess.

clipping is a dark, violent band

Producers William Hutson and Jonathan Snipes craft a bed of hip-hop, industrial music and noisy experimentalism, then set loose rapper Daveed Diggs, whose violent imagery summons ’90s horrorcore and a thousand bloody movies. The band’s last two album titles — There Existed an Addiction to Blood and Visions of Bodies Being Burned — offer up a sense of the vibe, but Diggs’ gift for rapid-fire wordplay also acts as a leavening agent.

That’s right, Daveed Diggs.

The guy won a Tony Award for playing Thomas Jefferson and the Marquis de Lafayette in Hamilton, and he still knows how to sell every word that leaves his lips.

So it’s especially amusing to see them have a lot of fun with the Tiny Desk (Home) Concert.  The video opens with a few scenes of tables and gear.  But when the show starts, Daveed Diggs picks up a microphone that’s about the size of a toothpick and starts rapping into it.

  And when William Hutson and Jonathan Snipes come in they are playing laptops and other gear that’s barely an inch in length. I have to assume that this stuff doesn’t actually work and yet they are taking their job very seriously–touching and sliding and tapping and looping on these preposterous toys.

“Something Underneath” starts quietly and then Diggs shows off some of is incredibly fast rapping skills.  Then the guy on the right (I’m not sure who is who) comes into the cameras and starts messing with his tiny gear.  After about 2 minutes the guy on the left comes in and starts making all kinds of distorted beats.  It starts getting louder and louder and louder until the noise fades out and its just Diggs’ voice looping “morning” as he moves the camera and he starts the slower track

The only movement in the video is Diggs moving his camera around to different angles for each song.

“Bout That” is fairly quite until a few minutes in when the song launches off.

Diggs shifts his camera and is finally fully on screen before they start the creepy “Check the Lock.”  It’s got clanking and scratching and pulsing noises for the line

something in this room didn’t used to be / he ain’t ever scared tough / but he check the lock every time we walks by the door.

Midway through the guy on the left starts cranking a tiny music box and he plays it through the next two songs.

It segues into “Shooter” [is there a name for this style of rapping–each line has a pause and a punchline–I really like it].

The music box continues into “The Show” which starts to build louder and louder, getting more an more chaotic.  It fades and builds noisier and chaotic once more until it reduces to a simple beat.  And the guy on the right drinks from his can of BEER.

Noisy squealing introduces “Nothing Is Safe.”  Daveed is pretty intense as he raps “death comes for everyone” pause and then full on sound as he resumes.

clipping is not for everyone–certainly not for people who want to see the guy from Hamilton (he was doing clipping before Hamilton, by the way).  But it creates an intense mood.

The blurb says that Chukwudi Hodge plays drums, but I didn’t see or hear any so i assume that’s a mistake.

[READ: April 21, 2021] Better Than Life

I don’t recall when I started watching Red Dwarf–some time in the 90s, I suspect.  I don’t even know of the show was ever very poplar here in the States, so it’s kind of a surprise that these two Red Dwarf novels even had a U.S. release.  But they did. And I bought them sometime when they came out.

So Grant Naylor is the cleverly combined names of Rob Grant and Doug Naylor–back when they were working together (I’m not sure why one of them left).   They penned two Red Dwarf books together, then they each wrote a Red Dwarf book separately.

This second book picks up from where the events of the previous book cliffhangered us.  There is a TV episode called “Better Than Life” and this book is kind of an super- mega-hyper-expanded version of that episode.  Except that the things that happened in the episode don’t even really happen in the book, either.

The basics of the episode are that Better Than Life is a video game that allows your deepest subconscious fantasies to come true.  And since everything is your fantasy, this game is indeed Better Than Life.  It’s easy to leave the game.  All you have to do is want to.  But who would want to leave a game when everything in it is better than what you’d be leaving it for?

As such, your body stars to wither and decay because you don’t eat, you don’t move, you just exist.  It’s a deadly game.

Rimmer’s fantasy at the end of the first book was that he had married a supermodel–a gorgeous babe whom every man wanted.  Except that she wouldn’t let him touch her for insurance reasons.  Rimmer has a problem or thirty with his self image.  But he was still super wealthy and women everywhere adored him. However as this book opens, he has divorced his babe and married a boring woman who also doesn’t want to have sex with him.  As thing move along, he loses his fortune and, ultimately his hologrammatic body.  He becomes just a voice.  Through a serious of hilarious mistakes, he winds up in the body of a woman.

One of the nice aspects of this book is that Grant Naylor have Rimmer see what a douchey sexist man he’s been all this time–believing all women were either his mother or a sex bomb.

The Cat’s scenario is pretty much all libido–Valkyrie warriors serving him and he gets to do pretty much whatever he wants–his clock doesn’t have times, it has activities: nap, sex, eat, nap, sleep, etc.

The one difference is that Kryten is there with him.  Kryten’s deepest fantasy is leaning, and so he keeps finding new things to clean in Cat’s world.

There’s another wonderful bit of anti-religion in this book (there’s always some anti-religion aspect in these stories).  In this one they talk about Silicon Heaven.

The best way to keep the robots subdued was to give them religion. … almost everything with a hint of artificial intelligence was programmed to believe that Silicon Heaven was he electronic afterlife….

If machines served their human masters with diligence and dedication, they would attain everlasting life in mechanical paradise when their components finally ran down.

At last they had solace. They were every bit as exploited as they’d always been, but now they believed there was some kind of justice at the end of it.

Lister’s fantasy is the same as it was before.  He’s living in the city from It’s a Wonderful Life and he’s married to Kristine Kochanski and he has two boys.  As the book opens there’s  a wonderfully touching moment with his family and his kids.

But it is abruptly demolished when a woman driving a tractor trailer crashes the truck in to Bedford Falls.  Literally all of Bedford Falls–every building is demolished or caught on fire.  There’s virtually nothing left.  And when the woman gets out of the truck dressed as  a prostitute and claims to know Lister, well, Kristine takes their boys and leaves him.  He has nothing.

It should come as no surprise that the woman is actually Rimmer.

What about Holly, the ship’s computer with an IQ of 6,000?  Can’t he save them?  Well, no.  He can’t get into the game, plus, he’s going a little crazy from being alone for so long.  So crazy in fact that he decides to start talking to Talkie Toaster, a gag gift that Lister bought for $19.99.

The sequence with the toaster is hilarious on the show (it only wants to talk about bready products!) and it translates perfectly to the book as well.  Essentially, Talkie Toaster encourages Holy to increase his IQ (which has been slowly leaking away) at the risk of shortening his life span.  Unfortunately, things go a little awry and Holly’s IQ eclipses 12,000. But his run time is cut to a number if minutes.

So he need to turn everything off if he wants to stay alive. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: VOIVOD-Lost Society (2020).

Voivod have been around for over 30 years.  In that time, they’ve releases only four lives albums.  The first one was from the period when their original and current singer had departed, so that doesn’t really count.  In 2011 they released Warriors of Ice, a live album that featured the reunited original lineup minus deceased guitarist Piggy.  The third was a limited release from the 2011 Roadburn Festival.

Thus, we have this new release to acknowledge the excellence of their 2018 album The Wake.  This show was recorded at Quebec City Summer Fest on July 13, 2019.  I saw them on this tour on April 5, 2019.  The setlist was largely the same, although they played more in their hometown (and I would have loved to see “Astronomy Domine”).

Being in front of a hometown crowd has the band fully energized.  It also allows Snake to speak French to the audience, which is fun.

Most of Voivod’s music is really complicated and difficult (the chords that Piggy and now Chewy came up with are pretty hard to imagine).  And yet they play everything perfectly.  There’s not a lot of room for jamming when the songs are this tight and complex, but it’s clear the band are enjoying themselves anyway.

Since this is touring their new album, the majority of songs (4) are from it with two more songs from their 2016 EP Post Society.  The rest of the set is pretty much a song from each of the albums prior to 1993 (excluding the album with the best name: Rrröööaaarrr).

They interfile the new songs with the older ones, and it feels really seamless.  This shows how much of a student of Piggy new guitarist Chewy turned out to be.

The few times that Snake speaks in English, he says that Angel Rat’s “The Prow” is “time to dance time to party have fun” something one wouldn’t expect to do at a Voivod show, but compared to their other songs, it is pretty dancey.

My favorite Voivod album (aside from The Wake, which is really outstanding) is Nothingface, so I was really excited to hear “Into My Hypercube” and to hear that Rocky’s bass sounded just right.

Their older stuff is a little less complex and proggy so a song like 1987’s “Overreaction” is a bit heavier and straight ahead.

One of the more entertaining moments is during the opening of “The Lost Machine” where Snake stands between Chewy and Rocky and waves his arms to strum the chords first guitar, then bass, then guitar then bass, etc.

It is strange to think that this is only one-half of the classic line up.  In fact, drummer Away is the only person to have never left the band.  I assumed that when Piggy died, there was no point in continuing, but these replacements were really great.

And, Snake makes sure we never forget Piggy.  They end every show with the song that has the same name as the band.  And before they play it, he starts a chant “Piggy! Piggy!”  In this live recording, you can hear the audience screaming along to “voivod,” a nonsensical word that remains strong thirty-five years on.

The setlist for the album is at the bottom of the post.  I sure hope they tour around here again someday.

[READ: April 20, 2021] Infinity Welcomes Careful Drivers

I don’t recall when I started watching Red Dwarf–some time in the 90s, I suspect.  I don’t even know if the show was ever very poplar here in the States, so it’s kind of a surprise that these two Red Dwarf novels even had a U.S. release.  But they did. And I bought them (and read them, I think, although it’s all new to me 30 years later) sometime when they came out.

So Grant Naylor is the cleverly combined names of Rob Grant and Doug Naylor–back when they were working together (I’m not sure why one of them left).   They penned two Red Dwarf books together, then they each wrote a Red Dwarf book separately.

This first one is basically an expanded version of some of the episodes from the first and second season.

Most of the jokes from the episodes are present here–so it’s easy to picture the characters saying the lines.  But there’s also a ton of new stuff.  Much of it fleshes out things that happened in the show, but still other things are brand new.

The book starts with the death of a Red Dwarf crew member.  He is now a hologram and rather than being excited about being alive, he is horrified to think of all the things his wife will get up to now that he is dead but aware of what is happening.  We also meet another man who is about to die–this time by suicide.  He is in debt for a lot of money and decided it was better than being beaten to death by the men he owed money to.

Turns out, this man outranked the first man and since the Red Dwarf mining ship could only support one hologram, this man was brought back at the expense of the first one.  A lot of ground is covered in these first two chapters and we haven’t even met any of the main characters of the show yet.

Dave Lister comes along in Chapter 3.  For those unfamiliar with the show, Dave Lister is the main character and also the last human being alive.  In the show he is three million years into deep space.  But he had been in stasis so he is only 27 when he is brought out and told the news that everyone is dead.

But as the book starts, Lister is miserable on a planet Mimas.  He got really drunk at his birthday party in Liverpool and, by the end of the night, he was on a planet very far from home with no money to get back. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACKNORA BROWN-GlobalFEST Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #136/148 (January 14, 2021).

Nora BrownGlobalFEST is an annual event, held in New York City, in which bands from all over the world have an opportunity to showcase their music to an American audience.  I’ve never been, and it sounds a little exhausting, but it also sounds really fun.

The Tiny Desk is teaming up with globalFEST this year for a thrilling virtual music festival: Tiny Desk Meets globalFEST. The online fest includes four nights of concerts featuring 16 bands from all over the world. 

Given the pandemic’s challenges and the hardening of international borders, NPR Music and globalFEST is moving from the nightclub to your screen of choice and sharing this festival with the world. Each night, we’ll present four artists in intimate settings (often behind desks donning globes), and it’s all hosted by African superstar Angélique Kidjo, who performed at the inaugural edition of globalFEST in 2004.

The third artist of the fourth and final night is fifteen year old banjo player Nora Brown.  Nora was born and bred in Brooklyn, but she has a huge affinity for Appalachian banjo music.

30 feet below the surface in Brooklyn, 10th grader Nora Brown brings incredible, surprising depth to the Appalachian music she plays. Over the course of her Tiny Desk Meets globalFEST concert, surrounded by innumerable globes and instruments, she infuses new life and energy into the traditional songs of Addie Graham, Virgil Anderson and Fred Cockerham. Nora weaves together songs and storytelling, speaking of the great history of the music that came before her and at which she excels.

Nor plays three songs. “The Very Day I’m Gone” is an Addie Graham song.  Graham was a singer from eastern Kentucky.  It is a slow piece that is primarily a bass riff with some high notes and very soft singing.

Her dad made the banjo she is playing.  As the song ends you can hear the shuttle train that runs back and forth about every seven minutes.

Nora has her school stuff on her tiny desk, since she’s been doing remote school learning.  And she’s a high school student which means she ends her sentences with, “So yeah”

“Miner’s Dream” is a Virgil Anderson tune.  He is from the Kentucky/Tennessee border and brought a bluesy touch to his banjo playing.  This one is a faster instrumental played on a snake head Gibson banjo, the bowl of which is over 100 years old.

“Little Satchel” is by Fred Cockerham.  The banjo she is playing is from John Cohen’s of the New Lost City Ramblers.   Roscoe Halcomb would use it when touring with John.  John recently passed away and the banjo is on its way to the Library of Congress.   The song has fast playing with a cool lyrical melody.  It’s my favorite of the three.

[READ: February 10, 2021] 5 Worlds Book 4

I had actually forgotten about this series, and was quite happy to see this book at the library.  This is book 4 of 5 (5 due out in May).

The book does a nice job of bringing us back up to speed in the first few pages–reintroducing everyone and reminding us what is going on.

Of all the books, this one was the most straightforward.  There’s not a lot of travels and we understand most of what’s going on by now.

Oona, Jax, An Tzu and Ram Sam Sam land on planet Ambrine in the town of Salassanra (where Ram Sam Sam is from).  They receive a mixed welcome.  Since they have lit 3 beacons things have not been great on all the worlds.  (The task is not completed, and the process is a little rocky).  Oona is met with some hostility although the planet people love her (she brought water to them after all).

But this task (to light the fourth (amber) beacon) seems pretty easy. The beacon is in a pyramid.  It’s right in front of them and they meet little resistance.  As Oona begins to dance she realizes this beacon is encrusted in indestructible amber.  She can’t break it, but old runes pop up and most likely lead to a clue. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: GARCIA PEOPLES-Hear Here Presents (2020).

Sometimes it takes a band you like to introduce you to something you didn’t know about.

Like Hear Here Presents, a non-profit studio in Wisconsin that records bands in a small setting with great audio quality.  And there are some fantastic bands (and yes, many many more that I haven’t heard of) on their page.

The band just released their session from this live show on bandcamp.

Back in January, Garcia Peoples went into the studio at Hear Here Presents for a session.

I’m not sure how long the sessions usually are, but this one runs about 35 minutes and consists of two songs.

Up first is what they are calling “Hear Here Jam.”  It’s 12 plus minutes of  a jamming instrumental.   It’s impression how tight these guys are that they can improv for 12 minutes and not only not step on each others toes, but actually make a composition that sounds interesting.

There’s a raging guitar section at around three minutes and an impressive build to a peak around 8 minutes before finishing up a few minutes later.  Having the three guitar of Tom Malach, Danny Arakaki, and Derek Spaldo allows for terrific interplay and a depth of sound.

That depth of sound is really evident on the second song, which opens with the introduction to “One Step Beyond.”  Of course, before they start that, there’s some tuning to be done, with some snippets of recognizable riffs:  Close Encounters of the Third Kind, “Hey Joe,” “Sweet Child of Mine.”

But once everyone is ready, it’s down to business.  It’s fun picking out which guitars are playing what in the complex intro to “One Step.”  It’s impressive the way the three guitars can keep the looping melody original and changing while bassist Andy Cush more or less take a lead role.

It’s also important to keep an eye (or an ear) on drummer Cesar Arakaki because he can keep a beat and keep it from being dull as well.

Then after nine and a half minutes of intro, the band shifts gears into the rocking “Feel So Great,” a terrific song with a fantastic musical bridge.  Ringing guitars and a super cool bass line propel the song before the chill chorus.

Not content to let a short, catchy song end their set, they proceed to stretch of “Feel So Good” starting around 15 minutes.  Multi-instrumentalist Pat Gubler trades his keyboard for flute as the psychedelia commences.  After some raging guitar work up until about twenty minutes, the band slows things down to ring to a close.

The only thing disappointing about this set is that when the song is over, you can hear them talking and someone says, “we can do another one,: just as the audio cuts out.  What else did they play????

[READ: September 24, 2020] We All Die Naked [an excerpt]

During the COVID Quarantine, venerable publisher Hingston & Olsen created, under the editorship of Rebecca Romney, a gorgeous box of 12 stories.  It has a die-cut opening to allow the top book’s central image to show through (each book’s center is different).  You can get a copy here. This is a collection of science fiction stories written from 1836 to 1998.  Each story imagines the future–some further into the future than others. As it says on the back of the box

Their future.  Our present.  From social reforms to climate change, video chat to the new face of fascism, Projections is a collection of 12 sci-fi stories that anticipated life in the present day.

About this story, Romney writes

[In 1896] Svante Arrhenius first calculated the increase in Earth’s surface temperature caused by increases in industrial carbon production — what we now know as the greenhouse effect. …  As far as I know, James Blish is the first science-fiction writer to imagine an apocalypse caused by climate change due to carbon dioxide emissions.  It’s a biting satire, simultaneously bleak and gregarious, that catches the characters on the brink of catastrophe through climate change.

To me, this story felt a little preachy.  But then, I’m reading it after fifty years of this kind of story already existing.  I imagine it was pretty impactful back in the era of Silent Spring (if sci-fi ever had an impact on anything).  And, indeed, it’s still pretty impactful given how many things he gets right.

The protagonist, Alexei-Aub Kehoe Salvia Sun-Moon-Lake Stewart, Sa. D., is forty and set in his ways.  He is the General President of Local 802 of the International Brotherhood of Sanitation Engineers.

Blish was eerily prescient to 2020 in one aspect of the story

Adjusting his mask–no matter how new a mask was, it seemed to let in more free radicals from the ambient air every day–he put the thought aside and prepared to enjoy his stroll and his lunch.

But some things are more grim.  The roads around Times Square, Wall Street and Rockefeller Center are all canals. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: DECLAN McCKENNA-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #79 (September 14, 2020).

I really only know Declan McKenna from his Tiny Desk Concert.  (His song “Brazil” was a hit, although I’d never heard it anywhere else).

At that Tiny Desk he was solo, but here he’s got a band, and they sound great.

Declan McKenna and his band rock their Tiny Desk (home) concert. Their “home,” in this case, is The Foundry, a neighboring studio in North London. Declan is decked out with glitter, channeling a more flamboyant side of rock than I’ve seen from him before. He’s still immersed in complex storytelling with characters on the fringes, alienated for reasons of class and politics.

It’s hard to believe he was a teenager when he released his first album–although he does sound older now for sure.  He’s got a new album out.

Three of the songs are from Zeros, his brand new album recorded in Nashville with producer Jay Joyce. It’s been a wild three-year ride since the release of his teenage smash debut What Do You Think About the Car? He’s now 21.

Opening the set with “Daniel, You’re Still a Child” McKenna sits at the keybaord playing the piano-sounding chords.  There’s a deep bass sound from William Bishop anchoring the song which has a surprisingly 70s sounding synth riff from Nathan Cox.  There’s some excellent guitar riffing and soloing from Isabel Torres (including a scratching wah wah section).  I enjoyed that there’s a pause after the line “outside the shop that sells your favorite drink” and drummer Gabrielle Marie King hits a drum pad that sounds like a beer can opening.  King also plays some really great fills all the way throughout.

A nifty bass line (including an unexpected harmonic note) opens “The Key to Life on Earth.”  Declan plays guitar on this one including a suitably fuzzed out guitar solo.  Although I think Torres is a better guitar player, he does get a cool sound from his instrument.  The song is catchy but especially so as it ends.

For “Beautiful Faces” Torres plays a raw a slide guitar riff that follows the vocal line. Once again, he uses some falsetto in the synthy chorus to throw in a little hook.  Declan plays a ripping fuzzy guitar solo.

For the end, Declan performs his best-known song, “Brazil,” a tune steeped in politics and sports, and the enthusiasm has him atop a tiny desk in the end.

“Brazil” has a catchy guitar riff followed but a catch bass riff. And even though I’ve only heard the song here, I still can’t get it out of my head.  (Even if I can’t exactly figure out what it’s about–grizzly bears, football, Brazil).  McKenna gets another ripping solo–but I’d like to have heard more from Torres.

McKenna is an interesting character and I like his song more each time I hear them.

[READ: September 14, 2020] Our Times in Rhymes

This is a short book in which Sam Leith (who I don’t know anything about) summarizes 2019 in verse.

Leith summarizes the major news each month.  Leith is British so most of the news he talks about is British (especially Brexit), but he does have plenty of stanzas devoted to the person occupying the White House.

It’s interesting reading this near the end of 2020, which has been such an incredible shitshow.  It’s hard to believe we cared about dumb things that happened then.  But it’s also hard to believe that tRUMP is still an asshole, that Boris Johnson is even more of a liar than it seemed, that Brexit hasn’t been finalized yet, and that anybody in either country actually supports either of these bozos.  What the hell is wrong with people? (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: WIRE-Tiny Desk Concert #976 (May 27, 2020).

I feel that it is something of a failure on my part that I never really got into Wire.

Although I don’t know why, I will never forget that their 1988 album is called A Bell is a Cup … Until It is Struck (I was working at a radio station when it came out and “Kidney Bingos” was a minor hit).  But I never really followed through with them.

Bob Boilen, on the other hand, is a huge fan.

For me, it was beyond surreal to watch Wire performing at my desk, in broad daylight, in 2020. I spent many an evening over the past 40 years, listening to their original, artful bursts of noise and imagery, seeing them in dark clubs in the ’80s and beyond. From the time I first heard them in 1977, few bands have encapsulated my musical aesthetics like Wire.

There have been some hiatuses for Wire since their debut in 1977 (from 1981-1985 and 1993-1999) but each time they reunited, it was the original four person lineup.

It was only ten years ago that guitarist Bruce Gilbert officially left the band.  But at the Tiny Desk,

there they were, with three original bandmates: Colin Newman, singing his enigmatic poetry, and those driving rhythms of Graham Lewis on bass and Robert Grey (aka Robert Gotobed) on drums. Matthew Simms was the “new” bandmate, having now played with the band for the past 10 years.

Thankfully, Wire plays four songs (they still only play for 15 minutes and they are Bob’s favorite band).

What’s most remarkable is how the sound of songs such as “Cactused” from their 17th album, Mind Hive, sit so well next to “French Film Blurred” from their 1978 album — and one of my favorite records ever made — Chairs Missing.

“Cactused” has a cool chugging rhythm and bass.  Newman sings in his deadpan, almost spoken delivery.  Newman plays the little guitar leads while.  It stops on a dime.  This band is tight.

“Be Like Them” is also new.  I love this song.  It’s got a slinky guitar riff which is  accompanied by three loud thumps (drums and bass) to accent the verses.  Simms plays a really cool noise-filled “solo” (really just some noisy chords) in the middle of the song.  Newman is once again kind of deadpan reciting his lyrics.

“French Film Blurred” is from 1978. It’s got an unusual riff and Newman sings a bit more than speaks, although he is still restrained.  They make great use of the two guitars with Simms adding all kinds of sounds while Newman plays the main melody.

Everyone tunes and then Newman says they’re going to play “an obscurity from the 80s that we revived into the current set.”  “The Offer” is from 1989’s ITABA.  It’s slower and rather quiet.  There’s even some gently picked guitar parts from Simms. But as it nears the end the song gets louder and louder with Sims adding a distorted and a flanging guitar.   The songs seems like it’s over, but while everything is ringing out, Newman pays a few ending chords.

Try and imagine your favorite artist today, playing a concert in someone’s office in 2062 and still having an emotional impact with extraordinary new songs. As I said, it’s beyond surreal and genuinely thrilling.

Wire played their Washington DC show on March 9, so that’s probably when this concert occurred (and therefore MUST have been the final Tiny Desk Concert before the quarantine].  Wire were playing Philly on March 10.  I had considered going but I had a lot of other shows to see in March so I didn’t want to overload.

This set was so good, I wish I had gone to see them. Maybe they’ll be back in 2021.

[READ: May 20, 2020] Five Years #10

This is the final issue of Five Years (I think).

It was supposed to be released during the Coronavirus epidemic.  But Abstract Studios offered a special cover (so I don’t know what the proper cover looks like yet).

NEWS: We’re going to release a tiny print run of Five Years #10 for subscribers, & anyone who wants one really. This is for those reading the single issues who don’t want to wait months to read the final chapter. If not a subscriber, you can pre-order a copy in our store now. Just CLICK HERE.

The rumor is Diamond Comics will reopen this summer and we will be able to stagger release issue 9 and 10 to the general public then. 9 is sitting in their warehouse, waiting like a rodeo bull. For the small number hooked on the single issues, we feel you deserve 10 now, because without your monthly support the series couldn’t have happened at all.

So I bought the limited edition cover because I wanted to finish the series.  I didn’t think he could possibly end the series with this issue as it seemed like there was too much up in the air. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: LANKUM-Tiny Desk Concert #975 (May 18, 2020).

At some point “new” Tiny Desk Concerts are going to stop being released to the site.  Given what the blurb says, it’s possible that this is the last one they recorded.

The band is super tight musically and I really enjoy the way they play traditional Irish music with a slight modern twist.

Bob Boilen loves this band and if it was the last Tiny Desk Concert for awhile, it seems like it was a good one for him to end on:

All of this was a build-up to a Tiny Desk concert I’ll never forget. I, too, am a massive fan of the drones from the uilleann pipes, harmonium, concertina and the stunning voice of Radie Peat. The Livelong Day to my ears has as much in common with Irish tradition as it does to electronic music, though everything they do is acoustic.

“The Wild Rover” is a nine minute song that builds slowly from its opening melody.  Daragh Lynch plays a repetitive quiet guitar chord high up on the neck and Cormac MacDiarmada plays a slow fiddle.  Radie Peat sings (in her very Oirish accent) while (I guess) playing the harmonium (although she doesn’t seem to be pumping it).  Ian Lynch adds an occasional note from  baritone English concertina.   After each verse (about drinking) all four of them sing the harmony chorus.  And after each chorus the song gets a bit louder–more concertina, louder fiddle.

Then surprisingly at 5 minutes after building so much, all the music drops out except for Lynch’s quiet guitar high notes as all four of them sing in close harmony.   Then MacDiarmada plays a fiddle solo and by the 7 minute mark the band starts playing with real discord as the harmonium and fiddle start playing slightly askew notes at the end of each line–adding yet more tension.

The song feels like it has taken you on a journey of its own.

Ian Lynch tells everyone that they are from Dublin (what a strong accent) and that they had lots of problems getting here.

Lankum’s journey from Ireland to the Tiny Desk was a wild and bumpy adventure. First, visa problems forced them to cancel their late February date. A week later, much of the world is more worried about COVID-19, though daily patterns here hadn’t changed. They arrived in New York, hopped in their van to Washington, D.C., only to have that break down. Finally, after all that, some good news: While in their new van heading to the Tiny Desk, the Dublin quartet received news that its brilliant album The Livelong Day had won Ireland’s Choice Music Prize Album of the Year!

The next song “The Young People” sounds very different.  It feels very traditional.  Daragh Lynch switches guitars and plays without a capo.  The sound is so deep compared to the previous song.  Daragh and Ian sing this slow, quiet song. I think Cormac MacDiarmada is playing the viola.  Mid song, Ian Lynch plays a brief uilleann pipe solo while Peat plays the harmonium.

The final song is an instrumental.  They remove the stand that Radie’s harmonium is on and she begins the song with a fast traditional melody on the baritone Irish concertina.  MacDiarmada plays a similar melody on the violin while stomping on a box.  Daragh Lynch bows the guitar at the start.

Then Radie puts down the concertina and sits on the floor at the harmonium.

After a couple of minute there’s the slightest pause of silence as the song shifts gears into a very catchy middle section complete with uilleann pipe solo.  The song flows through to the end with this very pretty melody.

Bob sees a lot of concerts each year.  This was his last of 2020 (so far).

A week later I saw Lankum in concert. It was the last one I attended in a real venue and the world was rapidly changing. Their journey home, I trust, was frightening. The idea of getting on a plane was so very different from just a few weeks before. I know it was tough, but I’m ever so grateful for this life experience and grateful to be able to share it here.

His last show was four days after my last show (Destroyer on March 8).  I was supposed to go to a show on March 12, but decided it wasn’t safe.  In retrospect, I should have gone, if only to get in one more show before music went away for awhile.

[READ: May 20, 2020] Five Years #9

This issue makes me think that either this series isn’t supposed to end in ten issues or he’s planning another series to continue this story after issue 10.

Because, boy howdy, there’s no way he can wrap this up in one more issue.

This book continues with the opening voice over.  Although this one is from one of the guards that Zoe has just stabbed. He is dying and he hears the voice of an angel.

The “angel” is Zoe (uh oh).  Zoe is on a mission and needs the weapon that she’s stuck in the guy’s chest.  Talk about a darkly comic opening. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: CLEM SNIDE AND SCOT AVETT-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #26 (May 23, 2020).

I’ve never given a thought to Clem Snide.  Well, my thought is that he was a country guy that I didn’t want to listen to  Turns out, Clem is not a guy but a band founded by Eef Barzelay, who had a solo Tiny Desk back in 2010.

I do know Scott Avett from The Avett Brothers (although I never really know which brother is which).

Barzelay and Avett not only maintained social distancing throughout their set, but also rigorously enforced it with the aid of a visible tape measure.

This is my favorite Tiny Desk Home concert so far since it is done in a barn–and the sound is great!

Recording a Tiny Desk concert at home naturally subtracts a lot of familiar elements…. But when Clem Snide (the three-decade-old project of singer-songwriter Eef Barzelay) and special guest Scott Avett (the Avett Brothers co-founder who produced and performs on Clem Snide’s latest album, Forever Just Beyond) performed together in Avett’s barn, they added a few new features you’ve never gotten to hear at the Tiny Desk — most notably a noisy flock of birds and the unmistakable cries of a nearby rooster.

We’ve had a few disruptive animals at the Tiny Desk over the years, from the occasional dog to Bob Boilen himself, but this had to be our first rooster.

Their voices blended warmly as they tackled three spiritually searching songs from the (great) new record, Forever Just Beyond.

For the “The Stuff of Us” they both play guitar.  Eef’s is a full size while Scott’s is a smaller one (I can’t tell how many strings).  Avett sings the rather impressive high notes.

After encouraging everyone to brew their own fermented ginger beer for the immune system.

He introduces “Jews for Jesus Blues” by saying “A doubtless faith is a dead faith.”  The song from Clem Snide’s 2005 album End of Love, is a bouncy folk number.  Avett plays banjo.  The lyrics are interesting: “Now that I’m found, I wish I was lost” and “now that I’m saved, I wish I was dead.”  When the song’s over, Eef says, “not too offensive.”

Before “Some Ghost” the roosters start crowing.  Clem jokes, tell them chicken to shut the hell up.  Avett plays a full sized guitar and even sings some lead vocals.  Their harmonies are wonderful, too.  As the song ends, the rooster crows: “chicken go it right that time.”

Clem picks up a different,smaller, guitar for “Roger Ebert,” a song based on Ebert’s actual dying words: “This is all an elaborate hoax.”  Avett provides only percussion and vocals on this lovely song.

[READ: May 22, 2020] Five Years #8

Terry Moore seems like a very nice guy.  He draws people in love so wonderfully.  He draws adorable children and he specializes in a mischievous grin.

It’s easy to forget that he can be incredibly violent.  Well, I don’t know about him personally, but his art sure can be.

This issue has two violent deaths in it.  One is bloody, the other is not.

The one that is not is Stephanie.  The woman who wrapped Katchoo up in the mystery.  In several pages of wordless panels, Stephanie breaks into a secure building. She walks through a series of rooms activating secret panels.

She gets what she came for and heads out.  But when she steps outside, an unkindness of ravens swarms on her.

She drops her satchel and one of the ravens picks it up and flies off. (more…)

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