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Archive for the ‘Harvey Danger’ Category

blacaxeSOUNDTRACK: HAVE YOURSELF A SULLEN LITTLE CHRISTMAS–NPR (December 19, 2013).

charliebrown_wide-ac0b12e7fc8f83eb302cc221a37ba8592ccc2e63-s40-c85NPR Music’s Stephen Thompson and Travis Larchuk hop onto Morning Edition to talk about Christmas songs that are melancholy sad and downright sullen (which is quite a lot of them, if you really listen to the words).

They talk about some new(ish) songs that are depressing  Like David Mead’s “The Smile of Rachael Ray” (which would be bad enough, but that’s just a lead in to the bummer within), Harvey Danger’s “Sometimes You Have to Work on Christmas (Sometimes),” Garfunkel & Oates’ “Year End Letter” (which is quite funny) and the song “Dead, Dead, Dead” from the South Park holiday album Mr. Hankey’s Christmas Classics.

Of course, dark Christmas songs are nothing new.  There are plenty of dour holiday standards that originate in the 1940s “I’ll Be Home for Christmas,” “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” and “Blue Christmas”  are major downers.

When I try to compile Christmas mixes I try to leave off the bummer songs, but it’s really hard.

Stephen Thompson gives an excellent summary of the season: “Christmas is the one day a year when we’re all supposed to be happy, and so you’re hyperaware when you’re not.”  I hope everyone has a Happy Christmas this year.

[READ: December 10, 2013] Mouse Guard The Black Axe

This book features a preface by Terry Jones.  It doesn’t say a lot, but it’s worth a mention.

The Black Axe begins after the events of Winter 1152 (it is set in Spring, 1153), but the bulk of the book is a flashback to the origin story of the Black Axe.

As the book opens we learn that Lieam, one of the Mouse Guards has been missing for the last three months.  We also learn that even though the Winter was a dangerous time for the mice, the Spring proves to be equally treacherous as all of the predators are awaking from hibernation. But despite the current crises, Gwendolyn’s thoughts turn to Spring 1115 where the story of Celanawe begins.

We see Celanawe on an island building a house.  Suddenly a crow approaches.  On the crow is Em, a mouse who can communicate with the crows and who reveals that he she has been looking for him. (more…)

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zitaSOUNDTRACK: “WEIRD AL” YANKOVIC-Running with Scissors (1999).

Running_with_Scissors_(Weird_Al_Yankovic_album_-_cover_art)This is the first album Al released with is new look—LASIK surgery and long hair.  He looked quite different, but it didn’t diminish his song writing skills.  Running with Scissors is a pretty great collection of songs.

“The Saga Begins” is a genius parody taking the music of “American Pie” and merging it with the plot from Star Wars Episode I.  The way he retells the story is snarky and funny.  “My Baby’s in Love with Eddie Vedder” is a weird song—an accordion-based zydeco song about, well, a guy whose girl loves Eddie Vedder.  Vedder is kind of a weird person to pick (since he does make fun of him), although I guess it’s pretty mild abuse.  “Pretty Fly for a Rabbi” opens with a joke on a Def Leppard song (in Hebrew) but then moves on to “Pretty Fly for a White Guy.”  The original is pretty goofy and there’s not much Al could have done to it except this—changing it to being all about a rabbi. I like this version better than the original now.

The next track is the theme for The Weird Al Show.  It’s utter nonsense, but very funny.  And it packs a lot in to the 75 seconds that it lasts.  “Jerry Springer” is a parody of Barenaked Ladies’ “One Week.”  The original is pretty weird/funny, so this seems an odd choice, and yet Al’s specifics to the Jerry Springer show is pretty funny.  Of course I hate shows like that so I don’t love this song.

“Germs” is a style parody of Nine Inch nails (the song opens a like “Terrible Lie”, and then moves through some other songs).  The sound is uncanny in its soundalikeness (except perhaps the “microscopic bacteria” section which is a little too goofy sounding even for NIN.

“Polka Power” is one of the first medleys where the parodied songs seem utterly dated.  Like The Spice Girls, Harvey Danger, Backstreet Boys (which I only know because he says “Backstreet’s Back.” Smash Mouth.  Chumbawamba, Marchy Playground, and Semisonic.  Of course, there is also a Beastie Boys line (“Intergalactic”), but it’s a very era specific song.  “Your Horoscope for Today” is a ska song of horoscopes inspired by The Onion (which is hilarious).

Of course, nothing comes close to “Its All About the Pentiums,” Al’s first rap song about being a total dork  It is amazing—heavy guitars and lots of screaming.  It’s even more bad ass than the original.  And the smack talk is hilarious Asking about his computer: “You think your Commodore 64 is really neato.  What kind of chip you got in there, a Dorito?”).  I can listen to this song over and over.  It’s a wonderful precursor to “White and Nerdy.”  “Truck Drivin’ Song” has a remarkably deep voice for Al. It’s about driving a truck (as a transvestite).  The humor is childish but funny and with that voice it’s particularly so.  “Grapefruit Diet” is another series of jokes about being fat, but it works very well as a parody of “Zoot Suit Riot” with the jazzy horns and all.

That leaves “Albuquerque” an eleven, yes eleven, minute story song.  It’s a style parody of a song by The Rugburns which I didn’t know until recently (called Dick’s Automotive, but that song is much more “adult” than Al’s. The song is simple enough but the lyrics are wondrously absurd and very very funny.  And as it goes on and on and on you just marvel at the mind that created it.  And it’s catchy too.

Scissors is a great album which holds up quite well after 14 years.

[READ: June 23, 2013] Zita the Space Girl

I’d actually read the sequel to this book first, but I quickly found this first book and the family devoured it, too.

This is a charming and sweetly drawn series about a girl, Zita, who winds up in outer space.  As it opens, Zita is being a bit of a bully to her friend Joseph.  Not horrible but teasing in the way friends can do.  And when they find a giant meteor hole and a space-type gadget with a big red button on it, of course she threatens to push it in front to him,  He freaks out, but she does it anyhow.  And when she does, another dimension opens up and sucks Joseph away.  Oops.

So she pushes it again and winds up in the same place which she realizes is very very different from her own.  The thing that has Joseph is all tentacles in a diver’s helmet.  But that’s just one of the weird creatures here (as seen in Gilliam’s Guide to Sentient Species–which I take as a tribute to Terry Gilliam).  Like Strong-Strong, a large lumbering biped (who helps Zita), and a group of chicken creatures (who do not).  There’s also a man who plays a flute (called Piper) who may or may not be a friend.  She also meets a giant mouse named Pizzicato, but which Zita just calls Mouse.  Mouse is very sweet and communicates through a printer around its neck. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: The 90’s Are Back, Or Whatever… NPR.  (2011).

This is a 90 minute podcast about the music of the 90s.  And, of course, it opens with “The Dream of the 90s” from Portlandia.

I don’t listen to too many full discussions on the All Songs Considered site, but since the 90s were definitely my favorite era of music, I thought it was worth a listen.  Incidentally, it’s funny that the 90s are so meaningful to me when, really I should be a child of the 80s.  But in reality, my 80s music was mostly heavy metal, because I hated all pop radio then.

This radio show (available for free download here) features four NPR music geeks talking about the music they loved during the 90s.  There are some obvious points (“Smells Like Teen Spirit,” “1979,” “Song 2,” “Loser”), but some unexpected songs as well: “Grace” (Jeff Buckley), “Long Snake Moan” (PJ Harvey).  And of course, probably the biggest surprise: Sebadoh’s “Soul and Fire as “song of the decade.”

The hosts have a lot of fun with bad songs (severe bashing on Collective Soul or hilariously cueing up “Can’t Touch This” to punk one of the speakers when they are talking about Missy Elliot–yup, it’s not all alt rock, Missy Elliott and Lauren Hill crop up along with Johnny Cash and Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan).

But let’s not forget my perennial favorite from Cornershop: “Brimful of Asha.”  And, yes, My Bloody Valentine.

These days, when I do listen to the radio, I find that the stations I prefer tend to play a lot of 90s songs, but it’s surprising to me how infrequently they play some of these really big artists (I hear a lot of Harvey Danger, but no My Bloody Valentine).  It’s funny that one of the songs they talk about, Len’s “Steal My Sunshine” I actually heard coming out of a radio at a pool while on vacation in Florida this past January (!?!).

It’s a fun segment and makes me think that although I do like a lot of new music, I’m a gonna hafta retire to Portland.

P.S. Stay till the end of the show for the hilarious impersonation of Trent Reznor.

[READ: February 17, 2011] 3 book reviews

Zadie Smith is an author whose output I fully intend to ingest one of these days.  So I figured why not read a few of her book reviews, too.

Smith reviews three new titles: Harlem is Nowhere: A Journey to the Mecca of Black America, by Sharifa Rhodes-Pitts; My Prizes by Thomas Bernhard; and While the Women are Sleeping by Javier Marías.

I’m intrigued by her review of Harlem is Nowhere.  She seemed to be rather critical of the author, especially of her mannerisms: like calling James Baldwin’s “habit of speaking to Harlem folk, having experiences, and deriving from these encounters “a metaphor about all of black existence”–“The Jimmy.”  (where others might have simply called it “writing”).  Or the fact that the author describes herself as a “single girl” as if that has anything to do with anything.

The second half of the review concedes that once you abandon wanting to known anything precise about historical Harlem, it’s a lovely book.  Smith revels in learning about James VanDerZee, Raven Chanticleer and Alexander Gumby (and her enthusiasm makes me want to investigate this book, if not their own works).

So, despite initial criticisms, she ends the review very positively and gives a thumbs up to the work. (more…)

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