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Archive for the ‘Footstone’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: STUYVESANT-Jihad Me at Hello (2010).

Stuyvesant (one of the hardest band names to spell) is an amalgam of the defunct New Jersey bands Footstone and Friends, Romans, Countrymen.  And so, as you might expect if you know these other bands, they play noisy rock with a healthy dose of pop.

The opener, “Bi-Polar Bears” is a great example of their punky pop (complete with an unexpected horn section).  The second track, “Tape Hiss” sounds like Footstone (Ralphie’s voice is very distinct here) although the “do-do-do” harmonies are something new to the sound.

There’s more surprise from a major break in “Ode to Bish” which features a “waka jawacka” guitar and a horn solo.  “Liars Poker” also features some cool bass vocal harmonies (something of a rare treat in rock music).

Perhaps the biggest surprise is the slow opening of “Broken Red Wing.”  I was pleasantly surprised that after the slow opening, it did not jump quickly into a song that sounded like the rest on the disc.  Guitars kick in but they are not the same crunchy style.  The track shows an unexpected diversity on the disc.

While I have enjoyed both the Footstone and FRC releases, I think this conflation of the two makes for the best overall package.  It’s a great EP, and I’m looking forward to the full length.  This EP is available for free.  That’s right, for free.  So even if you hate it, you can still download it for free.  In any format, and then you can burn it to a CD, in the format that music is meant to be enjoyed.

[READ: September 8, 2010] “The Landlord”

Wells Tower is another 20 Under 40.  I’ve enjoyed the few short stories(although I haven’t read his collection yet) and the non-fiction he’s written for Outside magazine.

This story feels like an excerpt from a longer piece because there are a lot of different characters who seem like there’s more to them.

The main character is the landlord, Mr Pruitt.  He owns a lot of properties, but in the current market he has had to sell a number of them.  And, of course, his tenants are paying him less and less frequently.  As the story opens we meet one of those tenants, Armando Colón, who is three months overdue.  Armando has a solution to his problem which he presents to Mr Pruitt.  When Armando leaves, Mr Pruitt’s worker, Todd Toole mocks him for letting people fuck him over. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: FRIENDS, ROMANS, COUNTRYMEN-I am Spartacus (2010).

I’ve been aware of Friends, Romans, Countrymen for a number of years, but I’d never heard them.  The bio on the Dromedary site suggests that they broke up some time around 2003.  So, I’m not entirely sure if this CD was released back then or if this is the first time it’s seeing the light of day.

I’ve been streaming the disc all day (and yes, I will buy it as soon as can find my wallet, which, no is not in El Segundo–ooh, old school!)).  I don’t know if it’s my crappy work headphones but the recording sounds distorted in a way that makes me think it was recorded too loud.  Of course as I say it could be the headphones.

Getting beyond that, the band reminds me a lot of middle era Hüsker Dü.  They don’t sound like them necessarily, but the feel: noisy guitars, kind of sloppy (but cool) solos, smooth vocals (at times there is definitely a resemblance to Bob Mould) and harmonies, and fast, rocking beats.

The Dromedary site calls them “burly pop-core” and that’s a really apt description.  The opening song is a tribute to a fellow New Jersey band: “The Day Footstone Died.”  (Footstone’s releases have been covered here).  It’s got some great catchy guitars and a great bridge.  (And the live version that’s on the site sounds like the band never broke up).

There’s some really interesting guitar sounds on “Lee1Blu” (as well as some cool harmonies).  The rest of the disc is equally infectious, all the way down to the two closing instrumentals, “Warm” and, um, “Instrumental.”

So you get about 40 minutes of pretty fine, pretty loud alt-rock.  You can stream the disc (and buy it) here.

[READ: September 8, 2010] “The Science of Flight”

So this post really missed the point of the story.  If you read the comments below you’ll get more details.  Because of the comment, I have re-posted about the story.  You can read it here.

———-

Yiyun Li’s is one of the 20 Under 40 from the New Yorker.  This story (which I assume is not an excerpt) is about Zichen.  Zichen (whose name is unpronounceable to Westerners) emigrated from China to live in America with her then new husband.

As the story opens, we see Zichen at work at an animal-care center.  She is talking with her coworkers about her upcoming visit to England (this will be her first-ever vacation that is not to China).  The men are teasing her about the trip (why would she want to go to the ocean in the winter, she doesn’t know anyone there, etc).  The teasing is friendly, because they are friendly, although Zichen is very reserved around them.  Of course, of all the people she has known, she has opened up to them the most–which still isn’t very much. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: NOTHING SMELLS QUITE LIKE ELIZABETH compilation (1992).

This was Dromedary Records’ first big release: a statement of purpose if you will.  This is a compilation of unsigned Jersey indie bands.  I listened to this all the time as it was being compiled and mastered.  It’s been a while since I listened to the disc start to front.

It’s funny to hear some of these tracks now 18 years later, to see what stands up.

Melting Hopefuls’s “Gondola” has always been a favorite of mine, a weird intertwining vocals/guitars mix.  I’ve no idea what it’s about, but it sounds great.  Oral Groove’s “She’s Still Here” is okay.  The opening riff is pretty great, but the rest of the song isn’t all that memorable.

Planet Dread’s “What We See” is all over the place but manages to be a reasonably cohesive metal song. The time changes are still unexpected and are quite interesting.  This was a band who liked to throw everything into a song, so when the trippy middle section comes in, it sounds almost like a different band until that same crazy riff brings it back to metal territory.  The triangle at the end is a nice touch too.

When this disc came out, Eternal Vision was this huge buzz band, Jersey’s (specifically my home town of Hawthorne’s) up and coming Dream Theater.  And you can hear the talent in this song.  I have to say I much prefer the instrumental section to the parts with vocals.   Bassist Frank LaPlaca (who yes I played little league with) is now in the prog rock band 4front. His bass work has always been amazing and no doubt still is.

Footstone’s “Forbidden Fruit” is one of the poppier/groovier numbers here.  It’s always made me smile, as it’s about office furniture: “That’s not your chair.”  The unexpected funk freak out in the middle is just a bonus.  And cuppa joe’s “Meanings” is one of their lighter songs with some of my favorite lyrics on the disc.  When the song starts I think it’s going to be a bit too twee, and yet it always redeems itself wonderfully.

Ya-Ne-Zniyoo’s “The Man in My Dream” is as peculiar as the band’s name.  Jangly guitars, tribal drums, and cool vocal twists (nice background vocals in particular).  And, like a lot of these songs, there’s a wild middle section, this one with heavy groove guitars.  Ya-Ne-Zniyoo have a disc available on Amazon (at least I assume it’s the same Ya-Ni-Zniyoo).

Godspeed have a really raw, heavy sound on “Child Bride.”  When I was younger I always laughed at the “So soft, it makes me hard” line (that’s mixed quite loudly), but now it seems a little too silly.  However, it’s a good set up for the weird and almost jokey mosh section that ends the track.  I also enjoy any song with a coda that has nothing to do with the rest of the song.

Rosary was my friend Garry’s band. They were a really interesting band out of Hasbrouck Heights.  “Asylum”  holds up quite well.  The guitars sound great and the vocals at the end sound fantastic.  There’s something about the overall mix that’s a little muddy, which I think hides how good this song is.  The disc ends with Grooveyard’s “Child Bright” (huh, two songs with almost the same title).  It’s probably the most metal song of the bunch, even though it has a very jam-band guitar opening.  But with the heavy guitars and strong vocals, (and the “time to die” lyrics), this is easily the heaviest song on the disc.

So, 18 years later, this is still a fun compilation.  I’m not even sure how many of thee bands are still around.  You can hear a few songs on Dromedary Radio.  He might even have a few CD compilations left over, if you ask nicely.

[READ: February 18, 2010] “The Insufferable Gaucho”

This is the longest Bolaño short story of this batch.  This is a slow paced story following a man in his steady decline (or is it?) from urban lawyer to small town rabbit hunter.

As the story opens, we meet Héctor Pereda an irreproachable lawyer and caring father who lives in the wonderful city of Buenos Aires.  His son Bebe and daughter Cuca later accused him of sheltering them from life’s harsh realities.  But when Pereda’s wife died (the kids were 5 and 7) he wanted to respect her memory, so he never remarried (and he didn’t want to burden his children with a stepmother).

Cuca eventually married and Bebe became a very successful writer. Both kids eventually moved away.  And Pereda seemed to age prematurely.  Then the Argentinian economy collapsed.  He couldn’t afford to pay his cook or maid, so he decided he would move to his country house where he could be more frugal.

When he gets out to the country, he find the place to be desoltae.  His house is in terrible disrepair.  He tries to fix it himself, but he finds that he needs to call on the help of some lazy gauchos (who do, in fact, play guitar all day). He buys a horse, meets with people and slowly, slowly starts building a small farm.

By the end of the story he is unrecognizable: unshaven, dirty and dressed like one of the gauchos.  But the real question is, is he happy?

There’s some (to me) unbelievable parts of this story: rabbits attacking people on horseback?  But it occurs to me that Pereda may be going slowly crazy.  Surely his son (and writer friends) think so.

It’s a long story where not very much happens, but I still enjoyed it.  Despite the apparent lunacy, it was a very engaging portrait.

For ease of searching I include: Bolano

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SOUNDTRACK: FOOTSTONE-Lippy (1995).

This is the debut CD put out by Footstone.  Dromedary has made it available for download on their site. This disc jibes nicely with the songs the band was releasing at this time: kinda heavy, but mostly melodic indie rock (emphasis on rock).

Unlike some of the other dromedary releases, there’s not a lot of diversity on the disc.  And that’s not a bad thing, it’s 12 (well, really 11 if you discount the silly first track) tracks of first rate 90s rock. There’s a few surprises, like the cool bass break in “Supwerworld”, or melodic expanses on other tracks there, but largely you get loud rock songs.  And there is something creepily irresistible about the track “Watermelon.” I’m not exactly sure what it’s about but I can’t stop listening to it.  It reminds me vaguely of Mother Love Bone, but I think more in spirit than anything tangible.

Ralph, the singer, has a really strong voice.  He can hit a note and hold it which works really well with most of these choruses.  And the music is consistently solid.  There’s even a cover of the Juicy Fruit jingle!

The downloadable tracks make this available for the first time in 15 years.  And you can listen at Dromedary Radio at any time.

[READ: February 18, 2010] “Álvaro Rousselot’s Journey”

This story, translated by Chris Andrews,  starts out with a delightful bit of Bolaño dark humor.  “Keen readers of mid-twentieth-century Argentine literature, who do exist…”  It follows the life of Álvaro Rousselot, who published his first book in 1950 at the age of thirty.  It sold poorly but was eventually, surprisingly, translated into French.

A few years later, a French film came out which was petty clearly an adaptation of Rousselot’s book, although Rousselot’s name was never mentioned in connection with the film. He never addressed the issue directly with anyone, but lawyers suggested he take action.  He never did, besides, by then, he had written a second book, quite different from the first.  This was later followed by a collection of short stories and then a third novel.

Shortly after this third book came out and before it was even translated into French, Morini made a film that was clearly based on this book (again, Rousselot was unacknowledged).  This time he was enraged, but he remained passive, preferring to get on with his life, but always preparing for another shock.

But that shock never came.  Morini’s next film was wholly unrelated to anything Rousselot has done.  In fact, Morini seemed to move in a new direction for the remainder of his films.

Some time later, Rousselot was invited to Frankfurt for a literary festival.  Being so close to Paris, he couldn’t resist trying to track down Morini, just to talk to him.  The rest of the story concerns Rousselot’s long and winding journey in trying to track down this mysterious filmmaker.  He receives numerous leads, all of which lead him closer to his man.

This was a peculiar story which I enjoyed quite  bit.  It had all of the trapping of a thriller, but it was written with such a slow meandering pace, with so little in the way of suspense, that it was more of a road trip.  The ending was very strange indeed, unsatisfying in some ways and yet inevitable in others.

I’m really starting to enjoy these meandering Bolaño stories.  It seems so unusual especially when compared to his fast paced poetry.

For ease of searching I include: Bolano  Alvaro

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SOUNDTRACK: Make the Load Lighter: Indie Rock for Haiti (2010).

I mentioned this disc a few days ago because it’s a benefit disc for the people of Haiti.  I had encouraged people to order it ($10 to a good cause, eh?) but hadn’t fully listened to it yet.

Well, after playing the disc nonstop for the weekend, it’s time to chime in and say that this is a fantastic disc of indie rock, which spans the indie rock gamut from harder punk songs to beautiful heart-felt passionate tracks.  Each and every track is catchy, and most of them have a cool twist or hook to push it beyond being “just” an indie song

The first three songs are really fast and really heavy.  Footstone opens the disc.  I don’t know a lot by them, but this sounds to me like their heaviest song ever.  It comes across like a really hard edged punk song, but you know there’s a groove too.

Boss Jim Gettys (one of many wonderfully named bands) play a 2 minute punk metal blast that is notable for the cool guitar solo that breaks up the onslaught.  The third heavy song is by Dromedary stalwarts cuppa joe (!?).  “Taniqua” is a fast song with a rocking guitar intro.  It thuds along for 2 and a half minutes and then ends with a wonderfully upbeat chord that leads nicely in to the fourth song.  Moviola’s “Calling on the Line” is a poppy jangly college rock sounding song from the 90s.  It pretty well epitomizes the Dromedary sound.  The band has a bunch of records out which you can see here.

I wasn’t that impressed with Three Blind Wolves at first.  It seemed a little lacking.  But after about three listens I got it, and it’s now one of my favorite songs on the disc.  The singer’s voice is varied and wonderful, warbling over a fairly spare musical intro (the occasional high notes are totally cool).  But the chorus just rocks out wonderfully.  Three Blind Wolves is one of four Scottish bands from what I rather assumed would be a Jersey based compilation.

Paula Corino’s song is okay.  It’s my least favorite track on the disc, but only because it never really grabs me, and, while it’s a totally fine song, it gets a little lost amidst the rest of the tracks.  It’s followed by Wallendas’ “Adrianne” a delightful poppy song like a modern day Byrds.

The next song, The Neutron Drivers’ “All Around the Sun” doesn’t have an original second in it.  And yet it is easily the catchiest song on the whole disc. When you first hear the opening guitars you pretty much know exactly what the whole song (even the obvious guitar solo) will sound like.  It’s like the uber-rocksong.  And yet for all of its sounding familiar, it doesn’t sounds like any specific song. Amazing how they pulled that off.

The Dark Brothers’ “Knee Deep in Sin” is a weird and unsettling song in that it sounds like the singer from Social Distortion with a slide guitar.  It’s got a majorly country feel, until about three minutes in when you get a guitar solo straight outta Teenage Fanclub’s “The Concept” and suddenly this country song is a slow burning rocker.  Very cool.

The next two songs justify the price of the disc.  There Will Be Fireworks’ (Scottish band #2) “Foreign Thoughts” is a fantastic, amazing song.  It builds and builds with tension upon tension as the singer (with a wonderfully aggressive accent) spits the words over more and more instrumentation.  It’s followed by the utterly amazing Gena Rowlands Band’s “Fuckups Of the World Unite.”  This is like the great long lost American Music Club song.  It’s vulgar and yet completely un-profane.  It’s catchy, heartfelt and it blows me away each time I hear it, both lyrically and musically.  The simple guitar paired with the opening couplet is amazing in an of itself but it’s even better when it closes the song.

The Mommyheads come next with a remixed version of “Spiders” from Flying Suit.  I enjoyed the song on that disc, but it takes on a new life in this remixed version.  It feels fuller and even slighty creepier.

On like my third or fourth listen, Scottish band #3, Farewell Singapore’s “Blue” grabbed me and said “HEY THIS SONG IS FUCKING GREAT YA BASTARD.”  And man, is it ever.  I’ve been walking around all weekend singing “Scotland’s as dark as it’s going to be” over and over.  And I’ve no idea what it means.  The sudden breaks in the song sound like there’s something wrong with the track given the propulsive nature of everything else.  And the intense guitar solo that follows the glockenspiel bit is fantastic.  Oh and the male/female vocals sound great together.

Jennifer Convertible (a wonderful band name which gently rips a regional chain store, which seems to have changed its name to the far less inspired Jennifer Sofas and Sofabeds) has a very cool song that opens like a latter R.E.M. track but brings in some wonderfully atmospheric guitar noise to add a real sense of foreboding to the song.  The buzzing guitar solo is a nice touch, too.

lions.chase.tigers (4th and final Scottish band, with a downloadable EP on their website) sound a bit like an early Bob Mould track.  Which is pretty good in itself, but what I love about the song is that it’s a cool jangly indie rock song with a great martial drum sound.  And it bops along, in a minor key until we get a delicate guitar riff and then a rocking chorus.  But the really interesting part is yet to come: the gentle guitars come back but they’re accompanied by a voice screaming its lungs out (and yet mixed way down, so it’s no louder than the guitar).  And the song proceeds as if that isn’t a weird thing to add in.  Man, it takes guts to write a song like that, and it pays off.

The disc ends with Stuyvesant’s song, “Salieri.  It’s another slow builder, but it’s quite catchy and when the harmonies kick in in the last minute, it become quite the great song.  And it ends the disc on a good note.

So, in sum, order the disc.  It’s for a good cause, but even if you’re not into that sort of thing, you get some really great music for your money.  There’s literally not a bad track on the disc, and the bulk of them are outstanding.

Even the liner notes are interesting (and provide a look at why and how this disc came about).  My only complaint is that you get almost no information on the bands!  Now, I realize that in the world of online downloads, you’re lucky enough to get album art (and the photos are sad and beautiful) but I’d love to know more about these bands, where they’re from, who they are, and if any of them are have websites or other discs or whatnot.  But then, I actually read liner notes on discs!

Download the tracks, and the art, here.  Do it!  Now!

[READ: Week of February 15, 2010] 2666 [pg 231-290]

This week’s reading is the first half of the third Part: The Part About Fate.  And I have to say thus far it is easily my favorite part of the book.  I enjoyed it right from the start upon learning that the titular Fate is not an abstract Fate but a person named Fate.  A nice twist right up front.

This section also deals quite directly with matters of race.  Fate is black, and during his travels he is acutely aware of his color.  Plus, many scenes pop up in which race is definitely a factor.

Fate’s real name is Quincy Williams.  He is a 30 year-old reporter for Black Dawn, a magazine out of Harlem.  Quincy is known as Oscar Fate; everyone calls him Fate. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: FOOTSTONE-Wobbles from Side to Side EP (1994).

Footstone is like Dromedary’s punk brother of cuppa joe.  Their guitars are loud and heavy, their songs are fast and very catchy.  And yet, their vocalist almost feels out of place in such a heavy outfit: he’s almost soft spoken.  And this makes their whole sound very compelling.

This EP, available as a free limited time download here, was originally a 7 inch with two tracks. The download offers an extra bonus track.

“Mountain Man” is the a side and it opens with a blast of guitar heavy punk.  As it progresses, intertwining and harmonizing vocals add an amazing depth.  The b side, “Belly” opens with a wonderfully almost sinister guitar riff that is quickly discarded for some straightforward powerchord verses.  (Yes, the cool opening riff comes back at the end).   Although the band sounds in no way like R.E.M., I find the occasional backing vocal that pops up to be oddly reminiscent of Mike Mills’ great harmonies.

The bonus song, “Airbag” is 5 minutes of poppy guitar rock.  The opening chords remind me of Sabotage -era Black Sabbath, but the poppy bridge changes the direction altogether.  This song might do being a little shorter, but how can you complain about a free bonus song?

I have a hard time figuring out what any of these songs are about, although clearly in “Belly,” they don’t like something anymore, and there’s a very clear line about stuffing something back into his Levi’s, although exactly what is a mystery.

Footstone has a full length available from Dromedary too, and they put on a mean live show.

[READ: February 17, 2010] “Praise to the Highways”

This short story comes from the soon to be translated collection Antwerp. Natasha Wimmer (who translated The Savage Detectives and 2666) does the translation here too.

I’ve read a few of Bolaño’s short stories, and I have to say that as a group, I’m more than a little confused by them. Sometimes they seem to be about very specific incidents which I know very little about. Other times, they seem to be very abstract:glimpses of scenery that speed by and then vanish.

This story, which invokes highways in the title is one of these latter type of stories. It’s only two pages in the magazine and it is broken into 5 sections: “Cleaning Utensils,” “The Bum,” “La Pava Roadside,” “Summer,” and “Working-Class Neighborhoods.”  Each section is a paragraph. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: DROMEDARY RECORDS

My friend Al started Dromedary Records many many years ago (for the whole, in depth, history read here).  He released a number of cool indie rock CDs and then decided to put a halt to the proceedings.

Recently, he decided to resurrect the label, with mostly downloads as opposed to physical product (for the post about that, read this).  He’s currently offering a free EP download from the great Jersey band Footstone.  But more importantly, he’s gathered a number of cool indie bands who contributed a track for his new compilation called Make the Load Lighter: Indie Rock for Haiti.  Proceeds from the compilation go to Haitian relief.

Al has always loved music.  Dromedary was his way of getting great music out to people without all the bullshit that major labels were foisting on artists (this was all before internet music, of course).  And, Al has always been a really good and decent human being (even after owning a record label for a dozen years).  I’m delighted that he’s able to do a nice thing for people and still get music out to those who want it.

So, buy the download, support a good cause, and enjoy some great tunes.

[READ: February 2009] 52 Weeks Heads and Quotes

This is a day planner (sort of) and as such it doesn’t really qualify as a book I’ve read.  However, The Believer published this planner which included excerpts from the magazine, so it kind of counts.  Each week there’s a quote from an artist (usually a writer, but also actors and musicians) as well as a Charles Burns drawing of him or her (or even it in a couple of cases).

And since it is not tied to any year (you write in the month as you go) it has the delightful quote on the back: “You can start this planner anytime–it does not expire.” (more…)

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