Archive for the ‘Late Late Show’ Category

This is not the right cover for the issue. I couldn't find it online!


I don’t often make lists of “Best” records or anything like that.  But I’m making an exception for this.  This was easily the best album that I had low expectations for.  That sounds like half a compliment but it’s not.  I really didn’t expect much from this album when Adam Goldberg promoted it on Craig Ferguson’s show.  But when I checked out the video for “Shush” I was really impressed.  So I bought the CD.

And I have to say that it is really, really good. 

I need to get this out of the way because it will influence the whole write up otherwise.  Adam Goldberg is an actor, a very good, very funny actor.  And this is just one of his music projects.  It was not an entirely solo affair, but Goldberg plays guitar, piano, harmonium, keyboards, key sitar and melodica.  And of course, he sings as well.  I was more or less expecting an at-home-sounding demo, maybe, or some standard rock-n-roll like many other side projects.  But the album is lush and full, complete with cool psychedelic effects on certain tracks and there’s even clever wordplay. 

Goldberg has a soothing, slightly feminine singing voice (I would not have expected that from his speaking voice).  And his backing vocalists really complement him well. 

The disc opens with “The Room” a simple acoustic guitar and a very nice complementary piano (which reminds me of some of Radiohead’s acoustic moments).  The long instrumental ending is quite intense.  “Mother Please (The World Is Not Our Home)” has questionable lyrics, but a really great sound.  There’s cool spoken words deep in the mix, which bring a creepy effects to the song.  It runs very long, but there’s lots of parts and a cool coda.

“Shush” is still outstanding after all of these listens.  It has a kind of Bowie/Beatles/90’s revival of same feel.  This kind of song only works if the production is right, and Goldberg’s is perfect.  “Don’t Grow” opens with cool fiddle strings and Goldberg’s slightly sinister whispered vocals.  It’s 7 minutes long (see, psychedelic) and features a really pretty denouement with tinkling pianos and everything.

“You’re Beautiful When You Die” is a weird little interlude–muffled piano and dark, dark lyrics.  I could probably do without it, but it’s only 2 minutes so I’ll deal.  It’s made up for by “Erik Erikson” a great rocking acoustic number that reminds me of The Smashing Pumpkins (in vocal style). 

“Third Person” returns to that Beatles-y style with a folk song with full instrumentation.  And “The Difference Between” has some cool backing vocals which elevate this simple piano based song into something more.  “Skin of the Patriot” is a slow piano ballad.  It’s not my favorite song on the disc, but it leads into the wonderfully upbeat ender “The Heart Grows Fonder” (which features a surprising and surprisingly effective melodica solo).  It runs about five minutes (of an 11 minute track).  The ending 90 seconds are a goofy riff on The Beatles’ “Revolution.” 

So overall this album is really enjoyable.  There’s one or two misfires and it could use a wee bit of editing, but man, am I glad I bought this.  And I can’t wait to see what Goldberg does next.

Watch the Ferguson bit here (wait for the hilarious awkward pause at 10:30)

Find out more at his wonderfully named website: Adam Goldberg Dillettante.

[READ: January 6, 2012] “Two Midnights in a Jug”

This is the final individual story that Karen Carlson recommended to me (the rest are all in anthologies that I’ll have to check out).  She writes: “Because it’s a grim, tough read, it might take a second read to get past the oppressive weight and find the delicate art. And it doesn’t hurt to look into the background of the writer a bit; he isn’t writing about these people by accident. A little Willie Nelson might work [for the soundtrack].”

Karen’s comments sound a little defensive!  But I admit I was pretty turned off in the beginning of the story.  I’ll also admit a personal bias of mine is that I don’t really like to read stories about the rural poor or folks in the Ozarks.  I know, it’s not very nice, but it’s true. 

So, this story is set there.  And it opens with just about every stereotype I hate about the region: single wide trailer that borders a hog farm, neon orange muumuus, coon hunting and a repossessed house.  Things are even worse than my stereotypes though, because the plumbing is unconnected and their toilet sits over a bucket.  Which they cover with lime after every use and which they have to empty daily.  Good god.

Oh and the hog farm?  They had so much hog shit that they decided to burn it.  Well, the fire has been raging for a month.  And the only thing worse than the smell of hog shit is the smell of burning hog shit.  And the only thing worse than burning hog shit is having the ashes from the hog shit fall onto your property and into your trailer every day for a month. 

Oh yeah, and Cordell, the man of the trailer, accidentally shot their hound, Trixie last time he was hunting.  She’s okay but had to have a leg removed.  Jee.  Sus.

I seriously almost stopped reading. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACKPEARL JAM-Austin City Limits (2009).

Pearl Jam records (and sells) most of their shows and they occasionally videotape them as well.  But they don’t do TV all that much (excepting the recent Late Late Show episodes).  There seemed to be something special, or at least different, about Pearl Jam on Austin City Limits.  Think of it almost like Unplugged Updated.

It opens slow with Eddie on an acoustic guitar and strings behind him.  In fact, the whole set seems less heavy than many of their sets.  But that’s not to say that the band doesn’t rock out, because they do.

The first six songs of the set come from Backspacer.   And then they bust out “Army Reserve” (which makes sense given who is in the audience, see below).  Then there’s a wonderfully raucous version of “Do the Evolution” (one of my favorite PJ songs).

After that riotous track, they bring the strings out for one more song.  It’s a rather funny little joke because it’s just the strings and Eddie on acoustic guitar playing “Lukin,” the 80-second song that is so fast you can barely hear the words.

For an extra treat, touring mate Ben Harper comes out to play slide guitar on “Red Mosquito” (which is always a treat).  And the set ends with an amazing version of “Porch” with a super long guitar solo in which Mike McCready really shows off his chops.  There’s even a moment where Mike and Stone are riffing off each other, classic rock style.
The set ends the Eddie talking about playing for the wounded veterans in the audience and how it was quite moving for him given all they have done for us.  Over the closing credits you see the band mingling with the veterans (including a guy who has lost a leg).  It’s all surprisingly touching for a rock show.

[READ: November 20, 2011] “Perchance to Dream”

A while back I read all of the Jonathan Franzen articles that were published in The New Yorker.  I thought I had read everything he’d published until I realized I had forgotten to read this piece (possibly his most famous) that was published in Harper’s.  It fits in well with this weekend’s theme because it was mentioned in Evan Hughes’ article that I talked about yesterday and because David Foster Wallace is mentioned in it.

As with most of Franzen’s non-fiction, it’s not easy to write about critically unless I want to argue with him, which I don’t necessarily want to do.  So instead, I’ll try to summarize.  Of course, this is a long and somewhat difficult article, so let’s see what we can do with it.

The first surreal thing is when you see the byline: “Jonathan Franzen is the author of two novels, The Twenty-Seventh City and Strong Motion, and is writing a third.”  It’s hard to imagine he got a huge article in Harper’s before he wrote The Corrections.

The second surreal thing comes in the text: It opens with “The country was preparing for war ecstatically, whipped on by William Safire (for whom Saddam Hussein was ‘this generation’s Hitler’) and George Bush, whose approval stood at 89 percent.”  And it is only a few paragraphs later when he mentions Patriot missiles that it clicked that this was written in 1996 and not 2001 and that he was talking about the 1991 Iraq invasion.  He mentions this as a prelude, saying that he was trying to sequester himself in order to start writing again.

Then he talks about Paula Fox’s novel Desperate Characters as a benchmark in terms of insight and personal conflict, even if it is so crazily outdated (that someone would throw an inkwell!).   He talks about this book quite a bit. I’m, not sure I found it compelling enough to want to read, but it’s always interesting to hear a fan write about a book I’ve never heard of.  He will return to this book throughout the essay. (more…)

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On July 25, I reached 90,000 hits.
It took me seven months to get from 60,000 (Dec 25, 2009) to 90,000.
It took me nine months to get my first 30,000 hits.

There are some obvious contributing factors to this improvement (not the least of which is links from referrers that make absolutely no sense whatsoever (and which are pretty clearly spam, but hey, numbers are numbers, right?)  But the most obvious is the huge outcry at the failure of Scholastic to continue publishing the Ulysses Moore series.

If you Google “Ulysses Moore” I am the first post (after the official Scholastic site, Amazon, and fantasticfiction).  I have received so many comments from people who are frustrated that the can’t finish the series. It is amazing that so many voices are ignored.  As you can see, this series has garnered me 4020 views.

At 60,000 views I posted some theories as to why I thought these posts were so successful.  Since very little has changed (mostly just a little shuffle of the top ten), I won’t bother repeating that.  But, there is one post (see the bottom, hee hee) which has absolutely skyrocketed in just a few short months.

1. 4020 views posted April 25, 2009 [was #1 at 60,000: 1663 views]
Pierdomenico Baccalario–Ulysses Moore series Books 1-4
SOUNDTRACK: PEARL JAM-Vitalogy (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: FUGAZI-13 Songs (1990).

I was so blown away by that first Fugazi disc that I immediately ran out and got this collection of their first two EPs.

The strange thing to me is that even though I enjoy the disc, nothing on it really stands out as all that memorable.  I feel like Repeater was such a strong release that these earlier tracks pale somewhat.

I’ve listened to this disc a number of times over the last few days and nothing really stands up and grabs me like Repeater still does.

I wound up buying two more Fugazi discs after this, but I’m pretty sure the reason I stopped buying their music was from this same feeling: the songs were all good, rocking, indie music, but there was nothing terribly memorable about them.

[READ: April 15, 2010] Stephen Fry in America

I first heard about this book when Stephen Fry appeared on The Late Late Show.  This book was very casually plugged as Fry’s attempt to visit every State in the U.S.  It turns out that this book is the companion piece to a six part BBC TV series of the same title (which I have not seen).  Although the TV series makes the existence of this document much more understandable.  Because although everyone wants to travel to every state in the union, the only way it would ever be accomplished in the fashion is for a TV show (even a book wouldn’t get quite this treatment if there were no TV show).

Stephen Fry was almost born in America (in New Jersey, in fact, where he believes he would have been Steve, rather than Stephen).  And he has always felt a connection to the States.  So, Stephen Fry, (in my head the quintessential Brit) brings a film crew and his classic British Big Black Taxi to see all of the States.  He begins in Maine and travels in an interesting manner, zig-zagging across the country.   He tends to visit the places/events/sites that each state is known for.  And, like any good TV show, he participates in the activities (he lobsters, he rides horses, his deals blackjack) and makes a tit of himself. (more…)

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A few weeks ago on the Late Late Show, Craig Ferguson began inviting his guests to engage in an awkward pause with him.  Awkward pauses have been somewhat de rigeur in popular culture for a number of years now.  In fact, Ricky Gervais has pretty much built a career on them–and we have him to thank for such brilliant fare as The Office and even Modern Family.

But those sitcom awkward pauses were scripted, designed as responses to someone saying or doing something so bizarre that no response was even possible.  Craig Ferguson, who says that being Scottish has given him a lifetime of awkward pauses, is doing something a little different.  He asks his guests (most of whom are actors) to sit, silently, awkwardly with him.  Never has silence been so funny.

I think the first person I saw do this with him was Adam Greenberg (a master at awkwardness).  There have been many more since, including the awesome Lauren Graham, Topher Grace (another awkward man) and most recently John Cusack.  With Cusack, nearly the entire interview was an awkward pause, and it was hilarious (see the clip below). (more…)

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Craig Ferguson mentions that the only concert he saw as a teen in America was Blue Öyster Cult.  My guess is that it would have been around the Agents of Fortune or Spectres tour (ie, around “(Don’t Fear) The Reaper”) so that must have been a killer show.

In honor of his book, I’m going to look at the lesser known early work of BOC.  Their first disc is a fascinating amalgamation of hard rock, blues, boogie and psychedelia.  All of that is coupled with the utterly perplexing lyrics that they came up with. In addition to the huh? factor of titles like “She’s a Beautiful as a Foot” and “Before the Kiss, a Redcap” we also get fascinating title like “Transamaniacon MC” (later on John Shirley would write a book called Transmaniacon as a tribute to this song).

The album isn’t heavy by today’s standards, but at the time, this was some pretty heavy stuff.  The rocking chorus of “Transmaniacon,” the blistering speed of “Stairway to the Stars,” and yes, the undeniably heavy riff of “Cities on Flame with Rock and Roll” let you know that this is no simple rock album.

And yet, they work so well with the fundamentals: Steppenwolf is clearly an inspiration.  This is classic rock that doesn’t quite fit the classic rock mode (which, frankly, makes it far more interesting).  There’s a lot to like here, and there’s more to come.

[READ: February 26, 2010] American on Purpose

I keep saying I don’t read memoirs but then I keep reading them. Yes, I’m a liar.

Well, in this case, I felt it was justified because a) Craig Ferguson is hilarious and I assumed his book would be too and b) he has already written a novel that I really liked (as well as 3 screenplays which I have not seen). So I figured it would be a well-written, funny book.  And, since it turned out I had two days off because of the “snow” I finished the book in a couple of days.

Right, so Craig Ferguson is the host of The Late Late Show, a show that Sarah and I fell in love with last year and then kind of forgot about it. And then we caught it again recently and have been enjoying some TiVo’d bits every now and then. Ferguson has a wonderfully warped sense of humor and his show veers into the bizarre more often than not.   But he is always enjoyable, and his celebrity interviews are worth watching for how funny and un-promotional they are.
But what about this book? This book basically details his life growing up in Scotland, moving to the States and becoming a “huge star.”

But the crux of the book is about his descent into alcoholism, how it destroyed his first marriage and several other long term relationships, as well as potentially his career. (more…)

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In addition to reading, Sarah and I watch TV, too.  In the past, I posted occasional updates to a Tab devoted to TV.  But I’m going to put new information in individual posts instead.  So I’m starting with this season’s TV.

Of course, in the last couple of years, TV has changed from working on an easy to summarize Spring/Fall schedule to having shows appear almost at random.   This really undermines the very idea of a “season,” so I’m including a show or two from the end of 2009 as well.

One surprising thing about recent TV is how I watch almost nothing on the CW or Fox.  These were my mainstays as recent as two years ago, but they’ve totally dropped the ball lately.  And I can’t believe how much I’m enjoying shows on CBS (isn’t that the old people’s network?).

And so, for 2010: (more…)

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